Backtalk, November 21, 2008

Michael Moore’s Off-Color Draft Joke

Mr. Coleman,

Sir, as a former U.S. Marine and a Vietnam war vet, I agree with you 100%.

Old Mike Moore had best “rethink” his supposed joke. And he’d best do so damn fast. I enjoyed the description of the draft to the Pentagon like an alcoholic in a liquor store. It sure as hell fits. A draft is not funny in any way. We have had far too many imperial wars in my lifetime. Hell, I even “got” to participate in that one in southeast Asia. It was not fun, nor are the two we are currently sending our young people off to. No child should be sent to any imperial war, period.

As General Smedley Butler put it so well after serving in the Marines for 33+ years, there are only two reasons for war. One; to defend our homes. Two; to defend the Bill of Rights. All other reason for war are a racket. And this man had been awarded the Medal of Honor twice! Nobody could dare call him less than patriotic.

We need to end war, not start another draft. Maybe Mr. Moore ought to try working on that goal; he and the rest of us would be much better off were we to seriously work toward that goal.

I don’t have any children, but if I did and there were a draft, I’d seriously consider breaking their kneecaps to keep them out of any more imperial wars. Maybe Mr. Moore doesn’t have children and he feels he can say as he pleases as his children won’t be going to any war. I suppose I could feel the same, but I don’t. I have been in a war and do not wish for anybody else to go through that. It changes a person more than can be told. The scars, physically, heal, but the mental scars, well, they never go away. Call it PTSD, battle fatigue, whatever you choose, but the memories never stop or “go away.” War keeps on “giving” to those who are directly involved for a lifetime.

~ Charlie Ehlen, Glenmora, LA

Hey Sam,

I think that Moore’s point is that with a draft, the American citizenry would start to pay attention to the war party and its adventures in death. That the citizenry would take to the streets and the ballot box if their children were exposed. It is precisely the disinterest of the American people in the deaths of other people’s children that allows our government to continue down this path. Your focus on the likely demographic group and its lack of political power ignores the fact that each one of these draftees has parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings and cousins, all of who we could assume would not like to see their loved ones in the cross-hairs.

As with many of Moore’s jokes, this one isn’t a joke — it is deadly serious and right on target.

~ Todd Chapple

A Win-Win Situation for China

China does not actually have the ability to weather any storm the banking / economic crisis throws up. Its economic strategy has been highly dependent on the now-ebbing strength of the U.S. financial system and is probably unsustainable. This is because China does not have a well developed financial system, so borrowing to fund growth (which will become necessary) is not possible. This case is presented in more detail in “China: Victor or Victim?”

~ John Craig, Centre for Policy and Development Systems

Sascha Matuszak replies:

Thank you for showing me your work, I found it highly informative. I read through a lot of the links and sub-links and as I read I became more and more alarmed, because I have seen these conditions with my own eyes in China and often wondered to myself: how can this be sustained? And the only answer I had until now is that China relied completely and totally upon FDI and the American consumer. The “logical” next step for me was to believe that even though China’s system is hopelessly corrupt and seemingly spinning in the mud, the constant influx of hopefuls from abroad and China’s Forex reserves would see it through a crisis by making up for what can’t be had from a stone, i.e. the U.S. in recession until the domestic economy eventually pulled itself together and began to compete globally.

Now if I understand correctly, China’s savings have been dramatically overestimated and are not enough to make up for the loss of revenue from abroad, even if they matched the most generous estimates. And as its domestic economy and financial institutions are weak, a shortfall in revenue and going to the world for credit is impossible(?) because no one will lend to a corrupt barely solvent state-owned Chinese bank — meaning a slowdown bigger than the two to three minor hiccoughs China had just before Tiananmen and in the early 1990s — resulting in social instability.

I will look to your site often to see what else I can glean and I welcome a dialogue with you. I believe China’s cohesive nationalism, especially in this last year, penchant for blaming us (as we blame them!) and tight grip on the media, protests and the public agenda might see it through for a while — will the average Chinese rebel against a failing Party now, in the “final” stages of China’s great comeback? will China take advantage of this situation to create a diversion in Taiwan (via Ma the puppet?)? How will the CCP maintain power if what you say is true?

And in the conclusion to the article you linked, the prognosis was much less alarming than the facts in the middle of the article. What do you really think might happen? Will the bailouts work? Do you feel that a new Bretton Woods might actually help? As the world goes about its business, economists such as yourself are writing on the wall — its hard to see the future through a forest of info.

Thank you for your letter and I hope to talk with you more in the future.

President-elect’s Queries to Briefers

I just read your article and had a couple of things that I would want the next president to know as well:

* How much of what we are doing in Central Asia is motivated by the “War on Terror” and how much is jockeying for control of the world’s remaining oil reserves?

* To the extent that we are trying to monopolize the oil in the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea Basin, how much of that is for our national security and how much is strictly for the benefit of oil companies?

* How could Russia potentially retaliate for our efforts to take over the export routes from the Caspian Basin? Would it hurt our national security to leave that to the Russians in exchange for their traditional posture of leaving us the Persian Gulf?

* If we were Russia or China, how would we respond to the United States trying to take control of the two major oil producing regions in the world? Why should we expect Russia or China to respond differently than we would in that position?

* Which business interests are using our foreign policy apparatus to enrich themselves while enflaming animosity in other countries toward the United States? What would our foreign policy look like and how much would we save if we didn’t use our military and diplomats as their enforcers? How can we disentangle those business interests from our government and neuter their influence?

* What do we gain by leaving the Israel-Palestine conflict an open wound? Are we just the victims of the best lobbying effort ever, or are we getting something out of it like using Israel as the bad cop and possible having them as a scapegoat when things finally fall apart in the Persian Gulf?

* If a bipolar Cold War produced relative stability for decades, why can’t we have a stable multi-polar peace, that gave us, Russia, China, and Europe spheres of influence?

* For you generals and intelligence analysts old enough to have lived through the Cold War, can you tell me with a straight face that Iran or any other country would be stupid enough to use nukes on us or give them to terrorists who might when we have 10,000 warheads to retaliate with and are the only country who has demonstrated the willingness to use them?

* The same question on a smaller scale applies to Israel: how exactly would a nuclear armed Iran be a threat to Israel when Israel has several hundred nukes to respond with, a handful of which could take out all the major cities in Iran?

* What was in those classified pages about Saudi Arabia in the Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11’s report? Even without those pages being released, there is far more evidence of Saudi government involvement in 9/11 than either of the two countries we invaded, Iraq and Afghanistan. Why did the Bush administration let them off the hook?

* What are the various “off the books” covert activities involving American business and government operatives, whose interests do they serve, and how can we keep them from creating incidents to steer our foreign policy?

* To the extent that we have any real interest in strategic access to Iraq’s oil, how has the Bush effort to gain favorable terms for U.S. oil companies at the Iraqis expense hurt us there, and what can we do to gain the trust of Iraqis?

The frustration I have with all of these questions is that these are not part of the public debate, and instead we hear our elected leaders talk in childish terms of chasing terrorists, WMD (wasn’t the old NBC acronym more precise and less alarmist?), or spreading democracy. We ignore each of those three things when it suits our perceived interests. We don’t care about Saudi terrorists or their lack of democracy, and we clearly don’t care about nukes in Pakistan, India, or Israel. So other interests are in play that aren’t in the debate.

I guess American politicians keep doing it because it works on the American public, but it makes us, and even the politicians themselves, look retarded in the eyes of the rest of the world.

~ Professor Smartass, aka Mike Dixon

Hillary at Foggy Bottom?

Dear Justin,

Enclosed is the text of the e-mail I just sent the transition team. I will be encouraging my friends and family to send similar messages. In the meantime, I would appreciate it if you would reduce your tone of condescension when you talk about Obama supporters and their love of the “Dear Leader.” As someone who is excited and hopeful about this administration, yet who is also as cynical and watchful as any longtime reader of should be, I find your columns increasingly offensive. They signal a deep contempt for a large fraction of your readership.

You seem to hold the opinion that your readers who supported Sen. Obama will lose interest in the antiwar movement, or will discover a newfound taste for liberal interventionism now that a Democrat is doing it. I assure you that in my case this is untrue. I suspect it’s untrue of most of your readers. As I respect you as a writer of substance and thoughtfulness, kindly show your readers the same respect.

~ Rob Zacny


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