Monday, November 27, 2006

The hummers are hanging in. BK photo. Posted by Picasa
Iraq, Civil War and the Draft

Today the TV talking heads were debating the decision by NBC and a few other news corporations to defy the Bushites and call the Iraq violence "civil war." The Bushites have resisted this for more reason than their usual taste for obsfucation. Obviously they would prefer the news media to stick with "Operation Iraqi Freedom." But the implications of civil war are that the mission for U.S. troops would change, and in a practical sense their presence would lack a rationale.

As for the accuracy of the term, I found one of the talking heads, from Time Magazine I seem to recall, persuasive in saying that it is BOTH a civil war (Shia against Sunni Arab with power struggles within each group) AND an insurgency (just about everybody against the U.S., and many against the current government because of its U.S. ties.) It's two wars, two wars, two wars in one.

The push for a timetable, for "redeployment," which all means withdrawal, is becoming overwhelming in the media as in the Congress and the country. But such is the frustration with the insensibility (way beyond insensitivity) of the neoncon Bushite faction still holding the Executive--specifically with the John Kerry question of how do you ask someone to be the last one to die for a mistake-- that some progressives are falling off the deep end by calling for a draft.

Charles Rangel has made this proposal, and other liberals and "progressives" in the blogosphere agree. They say the burden falls unequally on the working or lower or lower middle class, and minorities, who join the all-volunteer army to finance school. They say the Republicans who support this war haven't served in the military, and none of their children do. (Not precisely true but mostly.) All good points. So they say let's make it all fair, spread the burden, and make sure America as a whole feels the consequences of war--by reigniting the draft.

To which I say, with all due deference, YOU ARE OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MINDS. Here's an idea that is just as practical--why don't you charge upper income white kids college tuition proportional to their family income, so a year of college costs maybe a million bucks. And give them the same deal--the Army will pay for their schooling if they join up. Great idea, huh? And one that will really, really work. Just as well as the draft.

First of all, the proponents' sense of Fairness is that they will structure the draft so that this time, nobody will get out of the draft because they are rich or powerful. I'm sorry, but I can't understand how anyone who has observed Washington or politics in this country can believe this is even remotely possible. Because it's utterly and completely though bitterly laughable that there ever would be a draft (or a draft law) that took rich kids who didn't want to go, or whose parents didn't want them to go. Short of a war that the entire country believed in anyway, enough that everybody was lining up to volunteer. That's the only time a draft can possibly work fairly--when it's just a way to manage the volunteers. And then it works by encouraging the well off and well educated to join up to become officers instead of waiting to be drafted as a lowly grunt.

Then there's the argument that if there had been a draft, Bush would never have gone into Iraq because the American public wouldn't have allowed it. To which I say HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH ETC or in Internetese, LOL to the power of 100. Believe that, and I've got some WMD in Iraq to sell you a war with.

Please: with a draft, we would not only be in Iraq now, but Bush and John McCain would be arm in arm, announcing a new draft call to put another million soliders into Iraq and Afghanistan, to settle things down. And to get ready for the invasion of Iran.

Honestly, were you all comatose during Vietnam? When we had a draft? Our longest war? That in one way or another deformed an entire generation of men, and ruined countless families?

I simply can't believe that anyone who was alive during the last draft could possibly believe that we would have a draft that was "fair," that it would do anything other than provide maniacs like Bush and Cheney with more cannon fodder; that there would be meaningful exemptions for conscientious objectors (handed out no doubt by the folks that brought you Guantanamo and reports on Quaker meetings saying they were a threat to the military), or that there would be a "national service" in which young people could choose to serve in a non-military capacity (tell it to the National Guard, please.)

Some of the proponents want simply to debate the draft proposal, because it would bring home the true cost of this war, or of future wars. I've got a better idea--why don't you just bring home the true cost of this war and future wars, and forget about the stupid draft? Let's get serious and focused. An unworkable system of involuntary servitude and a larger war (and anti-war) culture is not the way to do it. How about funding educational opportunities for everyone, paying soldiers decently so their families don't have to go on food stamps, give them good medical care for the rest of their lives and, by the way, equip them adequately when they are in harms way; and then how about dedicating some of the bucks a draft would cost to developing and nurturing the skills of peace that might actually help global civilization survive? That might be difficult, but at least it isn't insultingly insane.
Corporate Science and School Censorship

In a Washington Post oped Sunday, Laurie David (National Resources Defense Council trustee and founder of wrote that as co-producer of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth movie, she'd heard lots of requests from parents that the film be made available to schools. So she offered to donate 50,000 DVDs to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) for distribution across the country. They said no.

Is it because they perceive the content--approved as accurate by every climate scientist asked so far--as political, as taking "sides," and therefore as not something they should distribute? It has always been absurd that the Climate Crisis was a political issue. But largely because of a few giant global corporations and their political minions, it was. So if NSTA's position was that it had to remain neutral, or especially if it refused on principle to accept materials that could be in any way construed as propaganda from a source that might have a political or ideological agenda, I could respect that completely.

But that's not really why they turned down 50,000 DVDs, even though it was one of the reasons they offered. Another was much more telling: "Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place "unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters." One of those supporters, it turns out, is the Exxon Mobil Corp." Exxon contributed some $6 million in a recent campaign; and an Exxonista sits on NSTA's board.

The National Science Teachers Association not only gets bucks from Exxon and other oil companies, they distribute their "educational materials"--that is, their corporate propaganda. As for a political agenda, theirs has been clear. An internal American Petroleum Association memo leaked in 1998 said it all: Informing teachers/students about uncertainties in climate science will begin to erect barriers against further efforts to impose Kyoto-like measures in the future."

Let me quote again from Saturday's Washington Post: 'We have to deal with greenhouse gases," John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Co., said in a recent speech at the National Press Club. "From Shell's point of view, the debate is over. When 98 percent of scientists agree, who is Shell to say, 'Let's debate the science'?"

Either NSTA hasn't gotten the memo from their corporate overlords (Shell is another big contributor) or it's all just part of a Shell game, but two things are clear: there is no debate over the science, and corporations with a massive self-interest will continue to work the issue to whatever advantage they can get. Corporations have also partnered with so-called conservatives who cut funding to schools and school programs, so they would be more dependent on the "private sector," i.e. corporate propaganda and control.

Some corporations, especially companies needing to build new power plants, need regulation, so the future is predictable and the playing field is leveled. But corporations are also still trying to manipulate public perception, to get the best possible deals for themselves. Apparently it's not enough to go after voters. They're going after children.

Laurie David makes the analogy to Big Tobacco's promotion of cigarettes to teens and children, symbolized by Joe Camel. Once again, the corporations are going right to the kids. The analogy is more than an analogy. As George Monbiot discovered, the leading Climate Crisis denying lobbying organization was begun by Philip Morris as a tool to deny the hazards of smoking, and especially of second-hand smoke. Many of the same people, using the same techniques and websites, have gotten big money from Exxon to engineer the so-called controversy over the Climate Crisis, where in reality none has ever existed. (Although until recent years, some scientists in the relevant fields wanted more data before they committed, there was never opposition, and today there is virtual unanimity.)

What isn't clear is what America's science teachers are going to do about this. Is teaching Climate Crisis denial any less anti-scientific than teaching Biblical creationism as science? Is it really worth the free glossy propaganda? No doubt science teachiers need more disinterested state funding for their science teaching. But maybe they should show some character first.

UPDATE: On his Countdown program, Keith Olbermann named the president of the
National Science Teachers Association as today's Worst Person in the World.