Saturday, April 26, 2003

EDUCATION, FAIRNESS, AND DISSERTATIONS

My best friend, Barricades resident, and evil twin Kris Yates is finishing her research for her dissertation in educational psychology. As part of that research, she is asking folks to take an online survey on fairness in testing.

Kris is marvelous. Please go and take her survey. As an added incentive (I'm not making this up) if you take the survey, you will be entered into a drawing for three $100 VISA gift certificates.

Thanks on behalf of Kris.
ANOTHER GENERAL SPEAKS TO THE CHICKENHAWKS

"I am sick and tired of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have never fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more devastation. War is hell."

~ William Tecumseh Sherman
I can't add anything to that.

Friday, April 25, 2003

THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY AND THE FORGOTTEN AMENDMENT

I just got done watching Bill Maher's last Real Time episode for the season. His guests were D.L. Hughley, Clive Barker, and the object of my naughtiest fantasies, Ann Coulter. Of course the discussion turned to Ricky Santorum. All of the panelists seem to focus on whether the Constitution did or did not give us a "right to privacy."

It frustrates me -- and perhaps I have missed the Constitutional jurisprudence on this aspect -- that there seems to be a conspiracy to ignore the 9th Amendment, which states:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Immediately after that is the Tenth Amendment. It says:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
When I read those two amendments together, it takes little effort to understand that the people retain all rights not specifically delegated -- signed away -- to the government.

So just because, as Ann Coulter said tonight, the Constitution does not contain a specific right to "eat kumquats," by the same token, since the Constitution is not empowered to forbid me to eat kumquats, I retain the right to eat kumquats. I as a member of the people, retain all powers not given to the Federal government -- including the power and the right to eat kumquats.

More importantly, this amendment gives authority to the Supreme Court "finding" certain rights not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights -- such as the right to privacy. The 9th Amendment was written specifically to cover just such a contingency: remember that these rights were written into the Constitution to make it unequivocally clear what rights the people retained. They were not a list of the only rights we get.

When our thinking processes run in such a pattern that we believe that our rights are for the "government" to grant to the people, rather than that all rights and power come from the people , it's time for a refresher course in constitutional law and civics. In some countries, such refresher courses are called "revolutions." Here I don't think a revolution is necessary: a simple uprising by the people -- source of power in the state -- to reclaim their power would be sufficient.

BUSH LIED. POWELL LIED. IMPEACH THEM.

Colin Powell, the Secretary of State to George Bush, stood up at the United Nations and said:
Iraq declared 8500 liters of anthrax. But UNSCOM estimates that Saddam Hussein could have produced 25,000 liters. If concentrated into this dry form, this amount would be enough to fill tens upon tens upon tens of thousands of teaspoons. And Saddam Hussein has not verifiably accounted for even one teaspoonful of this deadly material. And that is my third point. And it is key. The Iraqis have never accounted for all of the biological weapons they admitted they had and we know they had.

They have never accounted for all the organic material used to make them. And they have not accounted for many of the weapons filled with these agents such as their R-400 bombs. This is evidence, not conjecture. This is true. This is all well documented.

There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more. And he has the ability to dispense these lethal poisons and diseases in ways that can cause massive death and destruction.

Second, as with biological weapons, Saddam Hussein has never accounted for vast amounts of chemical weaponry: 550 artillery shells with mustard, 30,000 empty munitions and enough precursors to increase his stockpile to as much as 500 tons of chemical agents.

If we consider just one category of missing weaponry, 6500 bombs from the Iran-Iraq War, UNMOVIC says the amount of chemical agent in them would be on the order of a thousand tons.

These quantities of chemical weapons are now unaccounted for. Dr. Blix has quipped that, "Mustard gas is not marmalade. You are supposed to know what you did with it." We believe Saddam Hussein knows what he did with it and he has not come clean with the international community.

We have evidence these weapons existed. What we don't have is evidence from Iraq that they have been destroyed or where they are. That is what we are still waiting for. (Colin Powell, Remarks to the Security Council, February 5th, 2003)
Now the Bush administration admits that it "overstated the extent of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." as Daily Kos summarizes the Administration's position.

Or, as most of us -- including the delightfully forthright Kos -- would put it, they lied.
Officials deny that Bush was captured by the aggressive views of neo-conservatives. But Bush did agree with some of their thinking.

"We made it very public that we thought that one consequence the president should draw from 9/11 is that it was unacceptable to sit back and let either terrorist groups or dictators developing weapons of mass destruction strike first at us," conservative commentator Bill Kristol said on ABCNEWS' Nightline in March.
The real reason is now out. And it's exactly what we on the left have been saying for months. We went to war in Iraq -- we killed thousands of Iraqis who had nothing to do with terrorism or weapons of mass destruction -- we sent hundreds of Americans and British to die and suffer -- to show that we are the biggest, meanest motherfuckers in the valley.

Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about a blowjob. Let George Bush and Colin Powell and Dick Cheney all be impeached for lying about why we sent our men and women to die and to kill.

UPDATE: FURTHER ANALYSIS REVEALS...

As I sit here and reread this piece and the enormity of the admission sinks in, one thought hits me: If the neocons thought that the best way to strike back at terrorism was to kill a few thousand ragheads in vengance, why did we bother with the whole charade of the UN at all? Why not loose a few cruise missles at a few bases in Iraq, hit a few big buildings in Baghdad, drop a few extra on Damascus and Teheran just for good luck, and call it good? That way there's no dead or missing GIs or Tommys, Geraldo is still on TV, and everybody's happy?

The next admission, of course, is that we will have to maintain a "strong military presence" in the region to maintain our security. Oh, and of course to guarantee democracy to the benighted Arabs.

Will there be anything else, Effendi?

MASTURBATE AND SWITCH?

Left Blogistan and a goodly portion of Left Pundistan has recently been preoccupied with the remarks of Rick Santorum, senator from the Radical Right. Now the Imperium has come out in support of him. The battle is over; Santorum is not going to be drummed out of office. The right wing fundamentalist base cannot be ignored that much. Homos bad; Ricky good.

We already knew all this. We knew that the right wants to patrol the bedroom. We knew the right wants to impose its values on everyone else. We knew that the Mighty Wurlitzer can and will churn up the Great American Mouthbreathers into a frenzy when we point all this out again to the public, who dare not actually recognize it for fear they are branded a (gasp!) liberal. None of this comes as a surprise.

While words are not a finite quantity (good thing, too), time is finite. Every hour writers and speakers spend on how terrible the right is in its bigotry against gays and its insistence in policing the bedroom is an hour we could spend hitting the Imperium where it is really vulnerable: its blatant lies about the war in Iraq, international diplomacy, Bush's personal lies about himself (when even my father the dittohead says "Wait a minute" when he reads AWOL Bush, you know you're on to something), and the economy, the economy, the economy.

The VRWC loves that we are all het up about Santorum and spending so much time writing and ranting about him. You can expect them to do as much as they can to keep us focusing on him. Expect other senators, representatives and functionaries to say "You know, he may not be all that wrong" in the next few days. Why? It keeps the public's eye off the economy. It's a magician's basic technique: look where I want you to look, not where I'm doing things. It's bait and switch.

It is truly right and just that we speak our outrage when a leader of the right articulates the right's desire to control our private lives and actively to discriminate against a group of our fellow Americans. But let us also remember that the best thing we can do to stop the right is to get them kicked out of town. To do that, we have to hit them where they are weakest. And right now, that is in the economy and the general area of truth. Even the Great American Boob can understand that he doesn't have a job, and can get pissed that H.I.H. George I wants to take from him and give to the rich. When Bush is ousted, his offensive ideas go with him.
A HOLISTIC PROGRESSIVE THINK TANK

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you've probably noticed -- and then ignored -- the link on the left to The Commonweal Institute. That's commonweal, not commonwealth. As in, for the common good. This is a think tank, relatively newly founded (2002, if memory serves me right), as the first "centrist - progressive" think tank to serve to further the broadly supported non-right wing valued. Here's their mission statement:
The Commonweal Institute is a communication, education, and research organization committed to advancing centrist-progressive principles - commitment to future generations, a balance between business and society as a whole, environmental protection, inclusiveness and fairness, separation of church and state, personal choice and privacy, and a comprehensive and nuanced approach to national security - through development and dissemination of information and policy proposals.


The Institute has the potential to be a clearinghouse for ideas for those of us who are opposing the Imperium. I am not for a moment saying that the CI should be the source for the Party Line; rather, this is one good source for well-thought out, well-documented factual information for the Mighty Casio (as Atrios so quaintly calls it) to oppose the Mighty Wurlitzer. Bloggers should be checking the CI's newsletters and news releases for useful information regularly.

Of course they need money. I know, I know, so do the rest of us. I'll just say that the Commonweal Institute goes on the list of folks who are deserving of the occasional dinar or two that we don't send to Kos, Atrios, the Watch, or your local food bank. (We on the Barricades are still looking for chocolate chip cookies or nudies of Ann Coulter).

Link to the Commonweal Institute. Read its news releases. Face it in the morning and bow to its interns. Send it money. Or at least let them know you care.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

THE BIGGEST, MEANEST, NASTIEST SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP: THE PEOPLE

Last night the candidates for Lincoln City Council District 3 (a/k/a/ the "Southeast District") met with a few of the people to talk about issues. Most of the discussion centered around the usual things: sidewalks, libraries, budgets, jobs, etc.

The two candidates are Jonathan Cook, the incumbent Democrat, and Jim Strand, a Republican. Strand scraped up what was (prior to Patte Newman's gift of $35,000) the biggest war chest for City Council in Lincoln history. It was a fairly commonly known thing that the GOP had targeted Cook along with the Lincoln mayoral office in its attempt to conquer Lincoln, the last Democratic stronghold in Nebraska.

But Cook surprised everyone, including himself, by pulling 60% of the primary vote over Strand, despite a "shock and awe" radio and billboard campaign by Strand. Now Strand's campaign has taken an ugly turn: he's running ads claiming that Jonathan Cook is in the pocket of "special interests." Here's what the Journal Star has to say about it:
Cook defended himself against radio and television advertisements in which Strand says his opponent has made hundreds of millions of dollars in commitments to special-interest groups.

Strand justified the assertions Wednesday by pointing to responses Cook gave in a questionnaire drafted by a consortium of neighborhood groups. In one question about officials phasing in a fiscally sound program to bury neighborhood power lines, Cook said he strongly agreed with such action; Strand said he agreed, but noted on a related question that it should be done when the practice is technically and fiscally sound.

A 1997 study, said Strand, noted it would cost about $200 million to bury many of the city's power lines.

"I've worked with City Council campaigns for eight years now, and I've never seen one candidate attack another like this, with made-up numbers, really ..." Cook said.

"I'm offended he continues to run these ads."
I've chatted about this issue with my friend and political sparring partner Bob Valentine (a loonie libertarian). Bob says that the special interests to which Cook has sold out are the neighborhood associations. One of the attendees at this function seems to agree:
Bob Norris, 56, small-business owner

Norris thinks neighborhood groups flex their political muscle at the expense of the community.

"The neighborhood groups have become more political, and that's unfortunate. Districts have been emphasized over the overall good of the community. ...

"How do you balance the district versus the good of the overall community?"
Now I don't know who Mr. Norris is; whether he is there on his own behalf or whether he's a shill for the GOP. But I do know that the accusation that the "neighborhood associations" are "special interest groups" is purely a divide-and-conquer maneuver.

Neighborhood associations, at least in Lincoln and probably in most other cities, are organizations, drawn pretty much along geographical or "neighborhood" lines, which are made up of the residents in the neighborhood and sometimes the small businesses in the same neighborhood. They almost never include the big businesses, industries, developers, etc. Membership in the organization is either free or extremely cheap. These associations do things like sponsor cleanups, build playgrounds, work with city councils to get street improvements, work with school districts to take care of kids -- lots of subversive things like that.

They are, in other words, people working together to take care of each other. They are people unified for a common cause. If that's not good old American democratic principles in action, then I got the wrong lesson in ninth grade civics

Nevertheless, Strand is using a GOP tactic to call the neighborhood associations a "special interest." He tries to put these democratic organizations on the defensive; to break them up; to make them go away. Once they are broken up, the well-funded (and unified) corporations can come in and sweep up the pieces.

Strand and the GOP need to look again at the fundamental American institutions they are attacking when they take on the neighborhood associations. This country was founded on people banding together for their common good. The moment that stops, this country as we know it is dead. Do the GOP and Strand really mean that to happen?

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

THE BLOGS, THEY ARE A-CHANGIN'

I'm in the middle of the changeover to a new server. If you got here via www.tothebarricades.com, you may not be able to do so the next time you try.

Please try again at http://barricades.blogspot.com. This url will get you to the current Barricades blogspot until the new, improved MT based blog is up this weekend.

I hope.
MAY 22: VIRTUAL MARCH TO SUPPORT THE TROOPS

Those of us on the left got accused of not supporting the troops when we questioned or opposed the war in Iraq. Now it's time we show that we support the troops.

The budget proposed by President Bush as augmented by the Senate proposes
to cut VA spending by $15 billion over 10 years, starting with $463 million slashed from next year’s budget. Legislators claim they’re cutting fraud, waste, and abuse. But Joe Fox Sr., head of Paralyzed Veterans of America, who calls the cuts “an in-your-face insult to the veterans of this country,” says the reduction will slam the poorest disabled veterans and cut GI Bill benefits for soldiers who are currently serving in Iraq. The plan could also mean the loss of 9,000 VA physicians in a shorthanded VA system, he says.
. . .
[Bush's budget] includes a $150 million aid cut to schools attended by military dependents and support for billions in VA reductions.
On May 22nd, the last real business day for Congress before the Memorial Day weekend, an unofficial, loosely-knit "Coalition of the Worried" (my term, not anyone elses) is encouraging a "Virtual March to Support the Troops." On that day, call, write, or email your representatives in Congress to repeal this cut in support for our troops, and to restore funding for the VA and for school for military kids.

Natasha and Mary over at The Watch (a.k.a. "Mars or Bust) originated the idea. In Natasha's words,
What you can do: If you know anyone at Move On, Win Without War, or whatever your local flavor of peace organizer goes by, get in touch with them. Ask them to spread the word about this to their membership. Also, get the word out to people you know, your friends, anyone you can find. Include the number to the Capitol switchboard with any announcements, and the numbers for your area representatives if you want to target the message to a particular location.

Tell everybody. Tell them if they can't get through the first day, try back the next.

Capitol Switchboard: (202) 224-3121

For local numbers, you can look them up at Congress.org. You can always call local offices when the main DC numbers are busy
I can't add anything to that.
SANCTUM SANTORUM

I don't have a strong opinion about Andrew Sullivan. I tend to ignore him; there are other writers who get my blood pressure going. But when Atrios, who professes to spit on Sully's shadow, agrees with him on the ongoing Santorum brouhaha, I had to sit up and take notice.

I haven't written about the Santorum interview and its anti-gay remarks (and they are anti gay, no matter what Santorum says) because they've been covered to death by everyone else from Atrios to Yglesias (pretty clever, huh? I couldn't find a blog beginning with "Z" who talked about Santorum -- -Ed)

But Sully hits the point that disturbs me more than Santorum's reprehensible anti-gay rhetoric: Santorum's remarks sanction government control of any private activity within the walls of my bedroom.

Society has a responsibility to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Therefore any activity, sexual or otherwise, that takes advantage of those who cannot make an informed decision -- the young, the mentally disabled -- is to be challenged. Thus, I oppose pedophilia regardless of the gender of the victim. The abuse of moral authority -- clergy over penitent, for example -- also is anathema to me. However, beyond that, where does the government's right to invade my bedroom stop? Sully finishes it up pretty well:
[H]omosexuality isn't the real point here. The point is that Santorum is proposing a politics that would essentially abolish domestic sexual privacy - for all of us, if we deviate from "correct" sexual practice. Many social conservatives, I think, may oppose same-sex marriage or gays in the military, but most don't want to send the cops into bedrooms across America to jail gay citizens. They may disapprove of adultery, but still not want the police investigating. They see the difference between what is publicly normative and what is privately permitted. They adhere, like the vast majority of fair-minded people, to the very American notion of live-and-let-live. Even Bill Kristol has publicly said he opposes anti-sodomy laws. But Santorum, in these remarks, clearly doesn't. What he disapproves of mustn't only be denied public recognition; it must be criminalized. If you think I'm exaggerating, read his full comments. They are not a relic of a bigoted past, as Trent Lott's were. But they are an expression of a bleak future, in which tolerance and privacy are subject to the approval of "moral" majorities and enforced by the police.
I can't add anything to that.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

GOING TO THE BULLPEN

I'm going to the bullpen and bringing in a southpaw. For the next few days, at least until I get the move to Moveable Type and a new server finished, Rennaisance Woman will be making a few posts from time to time just to keep the readers interested. I've known her for a few years and must say that she trained me in the fine art of thinking, arguing, and writing. Any complaints about the technical end of the blog go to me. Actually, any complaints period should go to me.

It's intriguing that right now, especially after the blogging frenzy of the war, a lot of bloggers are complaining of burnout and going to their bullpens: Atrios and Jeanne D'Arc have both written about feeling a bit worn out. The Watch and the inestimable Daily Kos both have several guest posters to help out. It's understandable that folks burn out, especially for those of us on the left. You get tired of battling the dragons and beating your head against the windmill every day. Fortunately, new Quixotes seem to arise as older bloggers tire out. I especially commend to your attention the first two posts by James R. McLean, the new member at The Watch.

The upside of this is that as we are retired from this game, we'll be rested and ready to get in for the big battle to take the country back from the Imperium.
MOVING UP

There will be a bit of an interruption in service over the next few days as the Barricades are dismantled and moved to a new location. I've decided that I want to change my system to Moveable Type, which will require changing servers from Blogspot to another server, and will also require moving the archives to the new server. For someone who has all the technical skill of wet lichens, this will be an adventure at best (my former spouse called me Stephen Doorslayer after a misadventure with a door, a new deadbolt, and a circular saw which resulted in a hole about 5" across). However, it will allow me to have better comments, better linkage to other blogs, and generally better technical stuff. Plus it's a new toy for me to play with.

However, as circumstances warrant (for example, if Dubya suddenly comes out of the closet) I'll be posting here until the changeover is complete. Just not as often.