Hardly News: Two House Democrats Support The Draft


After today’s discussion of blog rolls, here’s a good example of why some blogs stay on the blog roll and some do not. Liberty Papers is running this video with a comment giving the impression that this represents the position of liberal Democrats.

I’ve previously criticized on Rangel’s proposal to restore the draft. The proposal was opposed by the Democratic leadership and most House Democrats (as well as Republicans). Even the military is opposed to a draft.

Rangel proposed the draft to make a point, and subsequently urged his fellow members of Congress to vote against it. The draft lost by a vote of 402 to 2, with only Murtha and Stark voting for it. The support of two members of Congress, including a conservative member such as Murtha, hardly suggests that this is the position of liberal Democrats.

Besides Liberty Papers, the false claim that liberal Democrats support the draft is being spread by Eric Dondero, the far right winger who opposes basic civil liberties while claiming to be a libertarian. Those who have followed the comments to recent posts know him well!

Ultimately this is another example of what we see so often. Faced with being wrong on the issues, right wingers like Dondero must fall back on distorting the views of their opponents rather than engaging in an honest debate on the issues.

Correcting the Timeline and Setting The Universe Right

The past six years have felt like a Star Trek episode where one thing in history is made to occur differently than intended, and the whole timeline is changed in terrible ways. In The City on the Edge of Forever, one seemingly small change led to the Nazis winning World War II and the entire Galaxy was different until the timeline was restored. At times it feels like George Bush becoming President is an anomaly which has changed our timeline for the worse. Some of the sentiment for a Gore run could be seen as buyer’s remorse, or perhaps as a feeling that this is how we set the time lineback to how it was meant to be.

When Al Gore guest hosted Saturday Night Live he gave a humorous look at how things could have been different (transcript here). FireDogLake presents a scenario of what could have happened if Sandra Day O’Connor had predicted the consequences of George Bush taking office and had voted to allow the Florida recounts to continue. While overly optimistic in some areas, there is no doubt the country and the world would have been much better off.

Battlestar Galactica Writer on The Finale

Wizard Universe has an interview with Mark Verheiden, writer of the Season 3 finale of Battlestar Galactica. He is careful not to reveal much, but he gives a second source of verification that the four who heard the music really are Cylons. When asked about the four newly revealed Cylons, he answered:

They are Cylons. No, this will not be a “Dallas” dream episode where you wake up and go, “We’re not Cylons!” Without getting into any kind of spoiler territory, we will be exploring what that means as we go into Season Four, but they are Cylons. So, harbor no hopes that it’s some kind of dream or nightmare. When we do something like this, first of all, it’s not without considerable thought and planning, and second of all, we don’t do it so that we can pull the rug out from under the audience and say, “We were kidding.” Not with this one anyway.

He evaided questions that would reveal much about Season 4, but did give these insights into the writing of Lee’s speech delivered at Baltar’s trial:

That was a culmination of something that Ron Moore really wanted to do. The entire idea of the trial of Baltar was to explore the concept of guilt or innocence within the fleet, and also to suggest that this is a fleet that only had an ad hoc justice system. We’ve never really seen the justice system in the fleet, and I think internally we always assume that the captains of each ship always dealt with whatever issues came up on a summary basis. So we were interested in just trying to explore how you create justice in this world.

The second question, which is the one that Lee attacks in his speech, is “What is justice?” What does that mean in this particular world, where we’ve basically been reduced to 38,000 people and vengeance and attempts to get retribution for things in the past might not be as valid as they would, say, in a different circumstance. It was also fascinating, I think, that Baltar was the elected president of the 12 colonies and found himself in an untenable position. Lee’s speech was an attempt to address the practical realities of the situation that they found themselves in, and pull us out a little bit from us screaming for blood. That’s where the impulse for that came from. And again, one of the great things about working on a show that has such a rich background as “Battlestar” is that you’re able to pull from a lot of events that happened in past shows to demonstrate how the fleet’s justice system or sense of justice has been tested or not tested, or how forgiveness has been the rule of the day.

Internally, we thought one of the more interesting moments pointing out that [President] Laura [Roslin] had pardoned everyone, so we’re not quite sure why that pardon didn’t manifest itself all the way to Baltar. How come he got excluded from that when we forgave everyone else who may have actually done more heinous crimes than him? Of course, the horrible thing is that Baltar, in fact, is at least complicit in the genocide of the whole civilization, if you go back that far, but that’s kind of one that we can’t really prove. I’m sure that he would have a very facile argument as to why he wasn’t to blame. “It wasn’t me!”

The finale ended with a glimpse of earth, but that shouldn’t be taken as meaning that the goal is in sight:

I don’t know if the goal is in sight, but certainly the goal of the fleet is to find Earth. That [shot] was a really wonderful sort of wish of the fleet, to be there. That’s how you can take that. You’ve seen Earth. What Earth is and what it might be is stuff that’s still up in the air, but the goal of the fleet is still to find Earth. Obviously, we’re going to be exploring that. When Kara comes back and says something like that, it’s not a thread that will be dropped. Let me just put it that way.

A List Envy

B-List BloggerI thought the uproar had quieted down, but talk of blog roll purges continues in the blogosphere, such as at The Republic of T and NewsHog. Many bloggers are concerned that the bigger, A List bloggers tend to link only to themselves, and therefore keep the blog traffic (and ad revenue) to themselves. They fear that whether they have links on the A List blogs will determine the amount of traffic they receive.Listings on blog rolls are easy and cost nothing, so I will freely exchange them with most blogs within reason, but they are far from the most major source for readers. A listing on a huge blog such as Daily Kos might bring in more traffic than I usually receive, but for the most part I fear that the odds of receiving many readers off of a long list of blog names isn’t that great. Again, that’s not to say I don’t appreciate it. Even if I only get a handful of hits from a particular blog, some people will return regularly, and perhaps recommend the blog to still others. I did go ahead and add The Repubic of T and NewsHog to the blog roll here in the hopes they will reciprocate.

Besides the actual blog rolls, a link to a specific post on an A List blog can bring in a flood of traffic for a couple of days. While generally less effective than being linked in a post, track backs and comments with a link will often bring in readers who are interested in a topic discussed on another blog.

There are also many sources for readers beyond the A List blogs. There are far more B and C List blogs, and their total readership exceeds that of the A List political blogs. There is also a huge blogosphere beyond the politcal blogs, and many of the readers here come from science blogs and blogs dealing with the arts or entertainment. This is increased somewhat by having a number of entertainment posts here, but often nonpolitical sites will drift into politics and link here.

Besides blog rolls, there are many other sources of traffic. Blog aggregators will often include posts from Liberal Values, even if they are ignored most of the A List blogs. Many hits come from links in discussion forums, which can generate significant traffic even if they are ignored by Technorati. Perhaps the most interesting link was after I had this post on a cancer society refusing money from strippers. Following the links back I found a link to the post on a forum for professional strippers. Google and other search engines are also responsible for several hundred additional hits here per day. Google seems to love blogs since they are update frequently.

While bloggers can obsess over their stat counters, I no longer even see them as the best measure of success. It might be different for the larger blogs which get thousands of visitors per day, but for myself I believe that the subscribers through RSS feeds is a more meaningful measure of readership. Liberal Values recently broke 2000 readers per day through Feedburner. This isn’t an exact number as some probably read the site through the original RSS feed before I joined Feedburner, and Feedburner doesn’t count all RSS readers, but knowing that over 2000 people may be reading this in their RSS reader, on top of hundreds more per the stat counters, is more important than whether I’m listed on a blog roll.

The World Explained by Seinfeld

The Financial Times finds that US foreign policy is following the principles of George Costanza. In an episode of Seinfeld, George came up with the idea that his luck with girls would improve if he did the opposite of what his past experience tells him he should do. They found many examples of how the policy in Iraq fits the opposite principle:

The Iraq policy pursued by the Bush administration satisfies the Costanza criterion: it is the opposite of every foreign policy the world has ever met…

First, military and diplomatic resources are finite and should be directed towards your greatest priority. An example of the opposite approach would be for a country that has been attacked by a non-state terrorist group to retaliate by removing a state regime that had nothing to do with the attack.Second, take care not to weaken your intimidatory powers through poor military performance. Aim for short, sharp victories (such as that in the 1991 Gulf war) that get your adversaries worrying about the extent of US power. The opposite would be to launch a war of choice involving the drawn-out occupation of an Arab country – the kind of thing that gets your allies worrying about the limits of US power.

Third, you get by with help from friends. Although the powerful are sometimes tempted to go it alone, international support helps determine the perceived legitimacy of an action, which affects its risk and costs. Building this support requires discussion and compromise. The opposite would be to spurn real negotiations, slough off your allies, bin multilateral agreements you do not like and declare that you are not bound by the rules that govern everyone else.

Fourth, state-building is hard. Few of the international efforts at state-building since the cold war’s end have succeeded. Luckily there are numberless reports identifying lessons learnt. The alternative would be to do the opposite of what those reports recommend, for example by deploying insufficient troops and dismantling any extant national institutions such as the army.

Fifth, democracy is a blessing that requires patient nurturing. The opposite approach would be to seek to impose democracy by force of arms on a population traumatised by decades of vicious and totalitarian rule.

Sixth, politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. If two dangerous states are struggling for dominance of a strategic region, maintaining a balance between them may be the least worst option. The opposite would be to emasculate one of them, thereby greatly increasing the relative power of the other.

Finally, historians often cite the need for prudence in international relations, quoting the physician’s dictum: “First, do no harm.” The opposite would be: “Don’t think too much, just chance your arm and see what happens!”


Giuliani Reconsiders Flat Tax

As I noted recently, flip flopping has become a major problem for the three major GOP candidates. Rudy Giuliani has come under attack for yet another flip flop. In 1996 Giiuliani said that the flat tax “would be a terrible mistake for urban areas.” Now that he has the support of Steve Forbes he is considering it.

In recent years Republicans have portrayed flip flopping as the greatest evil, and then distorted statements from Democrats to create false impressions of a change in views. In John Kerry’s case, most of the charges of flip flopping were total fabrications of the right wing noise machine. His views on issues such as the Iraq war were totally consistent if you look at his actual views as opposed to the distortions presented by the right wing media. Of course there were a couple of areas in which Kerry did change his mind. As terrorism became a greater concern, he changed his views on the death penalty to allow for the execution of terrorists. After NAFTA was in effect he supported analyzing the effects and possibly revising the policy. These seemed quite reasonable changes in opinion.

In the case of the Republican flip flops, some are more reasonable than others. Romney’s change from a social liberal when running in Massachusetts to a social conservative when running for the GOP nomination appears politically motivated as opposed to a true change in views. However sometimes it makes sense to reconsider a position one has taken. It might take time to accept a radical change in how things are done. In consideration of this, I’m willing to give Giuliani a pass on the flat tax.

If the goal is to have a tax plan which brings in the most revenue with the least pain, as opposed to simply soaking the rich, the flat tax might be worth considering. The complexity of the tax laws adds thousands of dollars in business expenses to my office which might be eliminated if the tax code wasn’t so complicated. A fortune is spent every year on tax shelters, reducing the pool of taxable money.

There are potential good points to a flat tax but I also look at it with some skepticism, wondering if it isn’t yet another scheme to get lower taxes for the wealthy while exaggerating the benefits. To really evaluate the flat tax we need good information on what rate would be necessary in order to raise current levels of revenue without creating increased hardship for those with lower incomes.

A problem with obtaining an analysis of this type is that political biases enter into the equation. Having Rudy Giuliani back the flat tax makes it more of a possibility than when Steve Forbes ran while backing the change. Perhaps this will lead to a more objective evaluation so that we could decide once and for all if this is really a good idea.