Archive for April 6th, 2006

Michael Hirsh of Newsweek has an interesting column up, called “Clash of Ideas,” ostensibly about the split among neoconservative “intellectuals” as their ideology falters in Iraq.

The odd thing about this questioning of neocon strategy is that it has taken so long to discount it. When I first heard of the neoconservative foreign policy ideology four years ago, and realized that their philosophy might actually be applied to Iraq, I realized then we were in trouble. There are some interesting points to the idea that our nation’s unilateral power should be used to spread democracy, but a military execution of that idea was doomed to failure. People don’t like invasions. Especially of their own country. The neocon worldview was simplistic and unrealistic.

And they consider these people “intellects.” Considering who’s in charge, maybe our standards for intelligence has slipped a little. A lot.

Enough of me. Here’s some Hirsh:

If Iraq erupts into full-blown civil war or breaks up, the war within the GOP will be effectively settled. The last ounce of credibility will be drained from George W. Bush's great revolution over the use of American power. The neoconservative program that Bush adopted will instantly become an odd historical footnote, going the way of the Know-Nothings and the Mugwumps. Bush will find himself lumped in the rankings with Warren Harding, or worse.

A lot of people – especially administration supporters and other contrarians – claim that Bush’s place in history can’t be known in our lifetimes. Hogwash! As mentioned in a recent New Yorker column by Steve Coll (“Deluded”), people in free societies know a f*ckup when they see one:

Particularly in free societies, botched or unnecessary military invasions are almost always recognized as mistakes by the public and professional military soon after they happen, and are rarely vindicated by time. This was true of the Boer War, Suez, and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and it will be true of Iraq.

Anyhoo, more Hirsh on the origins of the Bush administration glomming onto neoconservative thought:

The Bush administration's new idea was that, in a post-9/11 world, this was no time for old-fashioned conservatism. It was a time to be bold. And America had power to spare to be bold, or so they thought. And, lo, the neoconservatives were ready with a thought-out strategy: a robust marriage of power and principle that fused America's precision-guided ability to change regimes with an evangelical belief that the only right regime was democracy. If this neocon program often seemed disconnected from the task at hand—like finding and killing the sole perpetrators of 9/11, Osama bin Laden and his handful of confederates—that was because it long predated 9/11. Much of it emerged from a 1992 Pentagon policy paper, sponsored by Dick Cheney and produced by neocon Paul Wolfowitz's office, that made the case for American hegemony. That paper was deep-sixed by the "realist" Brent Scowcroft, George H.W. Bush's national-security adviser, and then ignored by Bill Clinton for eight years.

Got that? The invasion of Iraq fit into neoconservative plans, which were drawn up long before 9/11. The bombing of the WTC, then, was used as a prod for the American people to take up a radical and aggressive militaristic foreign policy. Which ties in neatly to the fact that the Bush administration manufactured or manipulated WMD intelligence in its case for invading Iraq.

It’s also important to note that one of the neoconservatives biggest proponents was Dick Cheney, who was advocating for an invasion of Iraq as soon as he was in office. In this picture of the administration and neoconservative ideology, the vice president was the mad scientist with his new foreign policy potion, untested, volatile, explosive. And he still believes in this thing. Insane? Ignorant? Narrow minded? You decide.

Bush, who had no other particular ideas about how the world worked (no surprise after a lifetime of shunning book knowledge and ignoring his father's dinner-table conversation), embraced the program like a true believer. The neoconservative vision—it was neo-Reaganism, really—provided a liturgy and a purpose to the president's Christian evangelical sense of destiny, and imbued his Texas tough-guy persona with a historic mission.

Pathetic. This is one of the things I dislike about our president. It’s all about him. Hello! It’s about us, d*mnit!

Hirsh still thinks history will play a role in deciding whether Bush will be viewed as a failure or not. Um…can anyone imagine Iraq having a happy outcome? Anyone? Does anyone still believe that, any time now, flowers will be strewn in the streets? If Iraq violence ends by the end of the decade, I guarantee Bush will have had nothing to do with it. I think it’s already clear Bush is a total and complete failure as a foreign policy leader.

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Ed Kemmick has a nice restrained "objective" post up about "l'affaire Morrison." I like it.

I haven’t said anything yet about l’affaire Morrison because I can’t really see what it all adds up to. It seems to have been one of those stories that percolated in political circles for so long that it had to be written eventually, but is the kind of story that is hard to summarize in a sentence or two.

Yup. And it's true that voters will probably remember only the maritial affair, and they'll judge Morrison's character because of a two-month fling he had eight years ago.

Over at Left in the West, Matt takes a crack at the scandal. See more here. Pogie has a wish I share, but doubt will come true:

I hope that this doesn’t become the focus of campaign coverage in the days and weeks ahead. It seems like scandal sells newspapers, and I worry that a campaign that should be about issues important to Montanans will become focused on decade-old family issues.

Already the freepers at What's Right in Montana are all over the news with the enthusiam of a caged man given a club:

It's a bad day for Montana Democrats. This morning, the news story in the Billings Gazette detailed Morrisons extra-marital affair, with the fiance [sic] of a man under investigation.

For a party trying (unsuccessfully) to take a stand on ethics this is a real punch-in-the-stomach, isn't it?

Of course, this was posted by Eric Coobs, actual human being. The borgs working out of Conrad Burns office (BigSky2006, e.g.) haven't said "boo." I imagine they're huddled with spokes-creep Jason Kindt trying to figure how to frame the issue. When they do post on Morrision, I'll bring it to you, ASAP, so we'll know how Burns is planning on running with this information.

But let's face it, on the surface, with the information we have now, this little dalliance of Morrison's doesn't come close to the indiscretions over in Conrad Burns' office.

First, it would appear that Morrison handled the situation professionally. He recused himself from the case, and refused to let his association with Suzanne Harding influence the proceedings against her fiancee, David Tacke. He's in jail where he should be. It would appear that the worst you can say about Morrision — barring further damaging information — is that he was a lousy husband, but he didn't let it affect the performance of his duties.

On the other hand, Conrad Burns repeadetly and maliciously abused the privileges of his office for monetary gain. He changed his votes on at least two bills I know of after donations from Abramoff clients. This is illegal. And it's bad government. In other words, not only is Burns probably a felon, he's incompetent to boot.

Yes, yes, this is supposed to be a "journal of Montana politics and culture," yada yada yada. Sue me! This is my blog and I'll post ridiculous things about fantasy baseball all summer if I want to!

Anyhoo…

The sports book of the summer is, supposedly, "Fantasyland." I'm going to buy it. If that recommendation isn't good enough for you, then check out this Q&A between the book's author, Sam Walker, and ESPN.com's Eric Neel (eat your heart out, Pete Geddis!):

What are your favorite lame song-and-dance lines when explaining to non-fantasy players why fantasy baseball is actually cooler than they think it is?

This is not an argument you can win very often. I once tried to explain my book to the Slovenian guy at the deli where I get my egg sandwiches in the morning. He didn't get it. I think he still thinks that I actually played for the Yankees in 2004.

But if someone seems like they could be persuaded, I tell them this: fantasy baseball is The American Way. Think about it: baseball may be our national pastime, but it's a totalitarian state. The owners are basically dictators and there's an antitrust exemption that shields them from market forces.

Being a fan of one team alone is sort of like being a vassal. You buy the overpriced gear, you pay $50 for a ticket to the megapark and, if you're really a "true" fan, cheer your little heart out no matter how many rockhead moves the GM makes. Your team could trade Albert Pujols for a cocktail waitress and a 1982 Pontiac Fiero and there's not a thing you can do about it. In return for this blind fealty, you're given a 1-in-30 chance your team will finish the season a champion.

If you have a Roto team, none of this applies. You're an entrepreneur with full executive powers. If one of your outfielders is dogging it? Trade him. If your late-round pitching sleeper wins the Cy Young? Take all the credit for yourself. If you play in a traditional league, you have a 1-in-12 chance of winning the title. And you don't have to walk around in the same stupid Tigers jersey all summer (not that I've done this). So that's the best argument I can think of. Fantasy baseball is capitalism!

Links…

Scooter Libby claims President Bush authorized leaks of intelligence information. Let’s hope he’ll follow through on his threat to fire whoever was the leak. (Andrew Sullivan thinks Bush is nailed. I think Sullivan hasn’t followed the news very closely.)

So much for Creationism. Let’s hope it dies an ugly death.

The world-famous one-eyed kitten, Cy, to go on display in a museum of oddities. "We didn't want Cy becoming a joke or part of a personal collection," [owner] Traci Allen said. Um…?

Man suspected of being a terrorist for listening to the Clash. Uh oh. I’m in big trouble.

David at Billings Blog has a nice, snarky observation about the Montana Nazi filing as a Republican: “…if Republicans are going to blame Democrats for how Hollywood actors vote, I guess it's fair for Democrats to blame Republicans for how Nazis vote.” Personally I’m not surprised about which party a Nazi feels comfortable in.

United Church of Christ can’t air its commercial anywhere because the church “doesn’t reject people.” I.e., it welcomes gays in their congregation.

Funny, but I bet we won’t see an appreciation of Howard Dean by Budge, even after Dean’s excellent performance on Hardball.

Why do Republicans hate democracy?

The real Republican family values. Hint: think the Borgia family.

Kevin Drum on why national Democrats aren’t as lame as you think. Now that’s a ringing endorsement.

It is the season for fantasy baseball, so why not fantasy Bush administration? John at Blogenlust has some tips on who to sell high.

Starbucks, cont’d

In a recent post on the new Missoula Starbucks, "Question" posed this question:

When we talk about the benefit/threat of companies moving in, we usually talk about concerns of the workers. I haven’t seen that argument here, I think most likely because Starbucks probably has a more generous pay-scale benefits package than many local coffeeshops. I understand working to level the playing field for small business (like the small business health insurance package passed by Brian Schweitzer and MT Democrats) but we don’t we have to admit that one of the ways that Starbucks threatens local coffeeshops is their ability to pay better with better benefits, and can we grudge them the fact that they put upward pressure on salaries and benefits?

That was a d*mn good question, and I vowed to answer it. So last night, when I took the kids out for burritos just two doors down from the new Starbucks, I poked my head into the store and asked an employee what the starting package for employees is.

Six-fifty an hour, full benefits at twenty hours.

Full benefits at twenty hours?? Holy smokes!

This seems to contradict Pete Geddis' comment on the same thread:

Walmart pays exaclty what it needs to to overcome the opportunity cost of a worker’s next best alternative.

No business sets price of its products nor the wages of is employees. That is done by the market process.

If no business sets the price of its products or the wages of its employees, why is Starbucks paying employees…what?…a dollar more than it needs to and giving them benefits at twenty hours? Starbucks could easily fill all of its positions offering minimum wage and no benefits. Like Walmart. In this case, Starbucks is clearly setting wages a reasonable level. And the offer of benefits…? Whoo-boy! Sign me up!

And here's an interesting twist in the WalMart story: the chain is now going to help its smaller competitors with financial grants, advertising, and some advice on how to compete!

Of course, Walmart is doing so because of the negative press it's received, which has accounted for 2 to 8 percent in drop of business, according to the report.

The point is, it's not unreasonable to expect big corporations to act like responsible members of our communities. Pete Geddis, in another comment on the previous post, pasted an article about Walmart employees:

Why would people line up to be exploited? Two answers come to mind. The first is these pitiful fools don’t know any better. They actually think it’s a good idea to work at a large, profitable corporation that exploits them paying them low wages with meager benefits. The second possibility is that for most or all of the people who work at Wal-Mart, working there is actually a good deal. Working there is as good or better than their next best alternative. There may actually be a few who actually believe that it’s a good idea to work at a profitable corporation because it raises the odds that your job will still be there tomorrow.

Written like an economist who's never worked a mininum-wage job. When he writes "working [at Walmart] is as good or better than their next better alternative," he ignores the underlying premise of that statement: that low-skilled or unskilled people are desperate for work.

People don't take Walmart jobs because the like working for Walmart, they take Walmart jobs because they have to. People might also want to work at Walmart because of hours or the cleanliness of the stores, or because they recognize the name brand. It does not mean that they wouldn't chuck the job in a flash if someone offered them the same job at an extra dollar and with benefits.

Meanwhile, all the problems and expenses associated with the working poor, like Walmart employees, are passed on to the rest of the community. Walmart employee, sans health insurance, gets ill? Who pays? Walmart employees need to work two or three jobs to make house payments? Who pays to take care of their children? Who pays for and deals with the crime and drug rates associated with low-income families? We do.

We subsidize Walmart indirectly by paying for the costs they don't take responsibility for.

Starbucks understands the meaning of community. They understand that doing business in a healthy community means more business for their stores. Walmart doesn't get this.

Anyhoo.

Yes, Starbucks pays more and offers a great benefits package, and this is also an element of competition that isn't accounted for in the articles and discussions…




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