Moyers: Bring Back the Draft

From Bill Moyers Journal, Oct. 30:

Watching the CBS Evening News on Afghanistan this week I thought for a moment that I might be watching my grandson playing one of those video war games that are so popular these days. Reporting on the attacks that killed eight Americans, CBS turned to animation to depict what no journalists were around to witness. This is about as close to real war as most of us ever get, safely removed from the blood, the mangled bodies, the screams and shouts.

October, as you know, was the bloodiest month for our troops in all eight years of the war. And beyond the human loss, the United States has spent more than 223 billion dollars there. In 2010 we will be spending roughly 65 billion dollars every year. 65 billion dollars a year.

The President is just about ready to send more troops. Maybe 44 thousand, that’s the number General McChrystal wants, bringing the total to over 100 thousand. When I read speculation last weekend that the actual number needed might be 600 thousand, I winced.

I can still see President Lyndon Johnson’s face when he asked his generals how many years and how many troops it would take to win in Vietnam. One of them answered, “Ten years and one million.” He was right on the time and wrong on the number– two and a half million American soldiers would serve in Vietnam, and we still lost.

Whatever the total for Afghanistan, every additional thousand troops will cost us about a billion dollars a year. At a time when foreclosures are rising, benefits for the unemployed are running out, cities are firing teachers, closing libraries and cutting essential maintenance and services. That sound you hear is the ripping of our social fabric.

Which makes even more perplexing an editorial in THE WASHINGTON POST last week. You’ll remember the “Post” was a cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq, often sounding like a megaphone for the Bush-Cheney propaganda machine. Now it’s calling for escalating the war in Afghanistan. In a time of historic budget deficits, the paper said, Afghanistan has to take priority over universal health care for Americans. Fixing Afghanistan, it seems, is “a ‘necessity'”; fixing America’s social contract is not.

But listen to what an Afghan villager recently told a correspondent for the “Economist:” “We need security. But the Americans are just making trouble for us. They cannot bring peace, not if they stay for 50 years.”

Listen, too, to Andrew Bacevich, the long-time professional soldier, graduate of West Point, veteran of Vietnam, and now a respected scholar of military and foreign affairs, who was on this program a year ago. He recently told “The Christian Science Monitor,” “The notion that fixing Afghanistan will somehow drive a stake through the heart of jihadism is wrong. …If we give General McChrystal everything he wants, the jihadist threat will still exist.”

This from a warrior who lost his own soldier son in Iraq, and who doesn’t need animated graphics to know what the rest of us never see.

So here’s a suggestion. In a week or so, when the president announces he is escalating the war, let’s not hide the reality behind eloquence or animation. No more soaring rhetoric, please. No more video games. If our governing class wants more war, let’s not allow them to fight it with young men and women who sign up because they don’t have jobs here at home, or can’t afford college or health care for their families.

Let’s share the sacrifice. Spread the suffering. Let’s bring back the draft.

Yes, bring back the draft—for as long as it takes our politicians and pundits to “fix” Afghanistan to their satisfaction.

Bring back the draft, and then watch them dive for cover on Capitol Hill, in the watering holes and think tanks of the Beltway, and in the quiet little offices where editorial writers spin clever phrases justifying other people’s sacrifice. Let’s insist our governing class show the courage to make this long and dirty war our war, or the guts to end it.

Thanks to for the transcript.

Antonio Scaliia is a Dishonest Moron

Antonio Scalia is the biggest blowhard in government. He has invented a phony theory of jurisprudence, Originalism, and he blows hard at any opportunity to prove its validity. The theory ignores most of the history of American law but  (Originalism fits neatly his narrow understanding of how things are.   (It’s worth noting that nothing in Originalist Doctrine would grant the Supreme Court the right to intervene in a state-mandated process of counting ballots.  But he did that, gave the Y2K election to the loser (in more ways than one) and now brags that he did it because he could.)

His latest bloviations involve his cursing of Plessy v. Ferguson, in which he declares he would have dissented; and Brown v. Topeka BOE, which he claims he would have concurred with.  White of him on  both counts.

Still, he maintains that there is no Constitutional right to privacy. Abortion is not a Constititutional right because he (and his Catholic masters) don’t like it, despite the fact that abortion was commonly practiced for centuries and allowed under American law on the theory that until a fetus “quickened” it was not a person. If you read Roe v. Wade, you will see that quickening happens at the end of the first trimester.

Scalia said in a 2004 speech at the University of Vermont, “Judges should not read rights into the Constitution that aren’t spelled out in the document itself.”  (The reporting here relies on the Associated Press. Reporters’ recorders are usually confiscated at Scalia speeches, so the quotes may not be exact.)  A singular irony is that this position makes Scalia, himself an invention of the Federalist Society, the guy the original Federalists warned us about.

There is a concept in law called “includio unio, excludio altero.” It means that if you make a list of things in the law, you exclude anything not on the list. Thus, a transportation law that regulated trucks and vans and golf carts but did not list cars would be presumed not to have included cars.

The framers of the Constitution were fully aware of this concept when they wrote up the first 10 amendments. They had made a list of eight freedoms reserved to the people. These are Freedom of Speech, The Right to Bear Arms, No Quartering of Soldiers, Freedom from Unreasonable Search and Seizure; The Right to Due Process, Right to a Speedy Trial, Trial by Jury, and Freedom from Cruel and Unusual Punishment. The Federalists, natural progenitors of people like Antonio Scalia, wanted to kill at all costs amendments that guaranteed the people greater control over their lives and the political process. They voiced many objections to the enumeration, in particular they claimed that listing some rights would mean others not on the list would be excluded.

James Madison resolved the debate, which nearly sunk the First Ten, by writing No. 9. It says:

“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

In other words, if it isn’t in the list of protected freedoms, it doesn’t mean it is not protected. ARE YOU LISTENING ANTONIO?

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has never seen fit to elevate the Ninth beyond the status of curiosity.   Justice Douglas, whose majority opinion in Griswald v. Connecticut (whether the state could make use of birth control by married people illegal) has been frequently and correctly criticized (he claims that privacy is one of the “penumbras, formed by emanations” from the Bill of Rights) has more or less dismissed The Ninth out of hand. Scalia pretends it does not exist at all. But Justice Goldberg explained it correctly when he made it the basis of his concurring opinion in Griswald. Goldberg wrote:

“The Ninth Amendment to the Constitution may be regarded by some as a recent discovery and may be forgotten by others, but since 1791 it has been a basic part of the Constitution which we are sworn to uphold. To hold that a right so basic and fundamental and so deep-rooted in our society as the right of privacy in marriage may be infringed because that right is not guaranteed in so many words by the first eight amendments to the Constitution is to ignore the Ninth Amendment and to give it no effect whatsoever. Moreover, a judicial construction that this fundamental right is not protected by the Constitution because it is not mentioned in explicit terms by one of the first eight amendments or elsewhere in the Constitution would violate the Ninth Amendment, which specifically states that [381 U.S. 479, 492] “[t]he enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

Litigation over basic human freedoms have been many and frequent. The interest of politicians, preachers and pundits in regulating our thoughts, criminalizing our behavior and brutalizing our private lives is mysterious but powerful. The Framers knew that and gave us the Ninth Amendment as a tool to help us fight demagogues. Failure of someone who claims to be wedded to the “original” view of the Constitution to recognize the Ninth and its application is intellectually dishonest.

Truth to Morons, Re: Hate Crimes Legislation

You’ll hear it all day today, from the morons, in light of President Obama’s historic signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act today: I don’t know why the queers need their own special protection under the law, blah, blah, blah, there are already laws on the books to cover that, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

It’s issues like this that really bring out the stupid. So let’s examine a few truths regarding this landmark legislation.

#1. American justice traditionally factors intent in its consideration regarding violent crime. That’s why you have “manslaughter” and varying degrees of murder. Why shouldn’t “because he hated homosexuals” be considered as a degree of intent?

#2. Violent crime against a homosexual is not often merely perpetrated against an individual. It is often perperated to send a message, to, oh, what’s the word…TERRORIZE. That’s right, kids. “Hate crimes” can be boiled down to its own little version of parochial terrorism. As I recall, the federal government is kind of interested in that kind of thing.

#3. Youse guys do understand that race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, and sex have been covered under hate crimes legislation since 1994. Right?

Not that any of these sound points will make a difference to someone who’s rabidly against this legislation. So, let’s add a fourth talking point just to be safe.

#4. What are you, soft on crime?

Holy Crap

Thom Hartmann has just pointed out to me one great advantage to pushing “Medicare for Everyone” instead of the “Public Option.”

“Medicare Part E” could more easily qualify for the reconciliation process.

He did qualify it with “I’m not the Senate Parliamentarian,” of course. But a bill that seeks to expand an existing entitlement would be more strictly relevant to the budget process than any other proposal I can think of.


It's Electrifying!

There was a lot of good coverage yesterday on Obama’s announced goal to pour $3.4 billion into the nation’s electrical grid.

Not much rememberance, though, that the previous Preznit promised as much in 2003.

Remember? When all the power went out in the Northeast and Midwest? And then out came Gorge Dubya to, once again, react to a crisis? And then when later on we found out that the blackouts were due just as much to Pigs in Ties as to a rotting infrastructure?

August 15, 2003:

I view it as a wake-up call. I think this is an indication of the fact that we need to modernize the electricity grid … make the electricity system have the redundancy necessary so that if there is an outage, like there has been throughout our history, that it doesn’t affect as many people as it did in the past.

I know I spill a lot of ink here swatting at the previous administration. But I think it’s worth remembering and realizing that, not only was the Bush Administration made up of sadistic tyrants, it had the added bonus of being staffed with feckless thieves. It’s also worth well observing the contrast.

The World's Foremost Authority

A confluence of policy and the absurd occurred yesterday at the funeral of funnyman Soupy Sales.

Professor Irwin Corey had to be removed from the podium after his eulogy turned into a diatribe about health-care reform, in which he insisted that Soupy—along with Odetta, Eartha Kitt and Miriam Makeba—died prematurely because of inadequate treatment.

Way to pull a Marlon Brando there, skippy.


If we do have another Great Depression, can’t we just treat it with a Great Zoloft?

Uh…Don't Blame Me. I Voted Moran.

The Virginian-Pilot today eviscerates the two morons who have been jockeying for your vote for Governor of the Commonwealth:

By the time Virginia’s new governor takes his oath of office, the state’s long-term road and transit budget will be $4.6 billion poorer than it was last spring. Virginia is dismembering not just its transportation future, but its economic future at a pace few voters will comprehend until the damage is irreversible.

In braver days, the crisis might have transformed the 2009 election into a season of renewal and resolve. Instead, the two gubernatorial candidates have twisted it into a season of equivocation and insipidity.

This is an excellent editorial that somewhat reluctantly endorses Deeds. I also like how the first graf encapsulates the insane position this state puts itself in. Thanks to Mama Bonk for the catch.

MSNBC's Other Bias

On Friday, Rachel Maddow conducted a nice rebuttal to the idea that Fox “News” is just a regular news channel, just like all the others. She argued that Fox had crossed a line when it became an activist network this past summer, directly coordinating rallies against the U.S. government. The only problem I have with the argument is that it has always been clear that Fox “News” is nothing more than a conservative babble box, long before the hot, stupid month of August 2009.

It is clear that MSNBC is the home of liberal punditry on “the cables.” Having said that, it must be said also that liberal punditry is categorically different than conservative punditry, as contemporary liberalism is far different than contemporary “conservatism.” Liberals are concerned with good government. We are convinced that government can do good things. Conservatives merely want to drown it in a tub. Therefore, I argue that liberals are more willing to actually understand how public policy works and how to make it work, while “conservatives” are more inclined to simply understand how to make it go away.

But to all-out shellack the network “liberal” is innaccurate, because it ignores another genre that MSNBC is fond of exploiting. It claims alliteratively to be the “place for politics.” But MSNBC has also become the place for “true crime” stories.

Right now, MSNBC airs a program called “When Forensics Fail.” At 3 p.m., “Cult Killer” will examine a cult leader called David Berg who “used his religious views and cult to murder.” At 5 p.m. is the story of Josef Fritzi, accused of imprisoning his daughter for 24 years and fathering her seven children. At 6 p.m. is “Caught on Camera,” an expose of teens gone wild. 9 p.m. is a special treat, with “Lockup,” which tonight profiles the Los Angeles County penal system.

And, we mustn’t forget the network’s constant promoting of its documentary about Waco, and about Charles Manson, and that MSNBC is home to the “Predator” series.

Let’s just say that if MSNBC were only concerned with attracting a liberal audience, it probably wouldn’t be so steeped in law-and-order programming all weekend long every weekend. No, for a network to be considered completely biased toward the liberal side, this is a strange programming choice indeed.