Sunday, August 7, 2005

Sunday Reading

  • Fred Grimm points the finger in his column in the Miami Herald.

    These losses are on you.

    Fourteen Marines died in Iraq last week when a roadside bomb exploded near their AAVP7A1 troop carrier. Designed to travel through surf, traverse, hit the beach and carry troops inland at maybe 20 mph, it was definitely not designed to withstand the most-effective weapon in the insurgency’s arsenal.

    And that’s on you.

    U.S. Marines, 500 miles from the Persian Gulf, are being bused around in lightly armored amphibious landing vehicles. And you won’t get off your ass and raise hell.

    These troops were among 34 killed by roadside bombs in the past two weeks. In May and June, 73 American soldiers died in Iraq from explosions near their inadequately armored troop carriers. Mostly Humvees. Some outfitted with Army-supplied bolt-on armor kits that don’t protect the undercarriage. Others rigged by soldiers themselves with scrap metal and sandbag carpeting. ”Hillbilly armor,” they call it.

    Since May 2003, roadside bombs account for nearly half our dead and wounded in Iraq.

    You knew this. Couldn’t have missed it. So many stories about hillbilly armor in newspapers, TV news, on 60 Minutes, in news magazines. Surely one or two must have seeped through when you tuned in for the latest on Michael Jackson.

    And you must have read local stories about young soldiers from Florida blown up in their Humvees: Pfc. Nathan Clemons, Sgt. Javier J. Garcia, Sgt. Carlos J. Gil, Lance Cpl. Marcus Mahdee, Spec. Robert Allen Wise, Michael Woodliff.

    You probably remember the Tennessee National Guardsman who embarrassed Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld in December. He asked Rumsfeld why he hadn’t procured armor to protect his troops.

    The real answer: Because you didn’t make him.

    Read the rest. Please.

  • David Brooks is all chirpy today because he sees signs of moral self-repair going on here.

    To put it in old-fashioned terms, America is becoming more virtuous. Americans today hurt each other less than they did 13 years ago. They are more likely to resist selfish and shortsighted impulses. They are leading more responsible, more organized lives. A result is an improvement in social order across a range of behaviors.

    The decline in domestic violence is of a piece with the decline in violent crime over all. Violent crime over all is down by 55 percent since 1993 and violence by teenagers has dropped an astonishing 71 percent, according to the Department of Justice.

    The number of drunken driving fatalities has declined by 38 percent since 1982, according to the Department of Transportation, even though the number of vehicle miles traveled is up 81 percent. The total consumption of hard liquor by Americans over that time has declined by over 30 percent.

    Teenage pregnancy has declined by 28 percent since its peak in 1990. Teenage births are down significantly and, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the number of abortions performed in the country has also been declining since the early 1990’s.

    Fewer children are living in poverty, even allowing for an uptick during the last recession. There’s even evidence that divorce rates are declining, albeit at a much more gradual pace. People with college degrees are seeing a sharp decline in divorce, especially if they were born after 1955.

    I’d just like to point out that all of this moral uplifting and drop in crime and domestic violence took place in the 1990’s — when the dreadful awful amoral Bill Clinton was president. I’m sure that he’s already trying to figure out a way to credit the Republicans for this. Of course, one other factor at the time was the booming economy that resulted in a huge budget surplus. Mr. Brooks knows that his buddies over at Focus on the Family will not admit that things are getting better because if they did, then they’d have nothing to rail against and they’d go broke.

  • If it works for the Republicans: the Democrats try for the long-term moneybags.

    At least 80 wealthy liberals have pledged to contribute $1 million or more apiece to fund a network of think tanks and advocacy groups to compete with the potent conservative infrastructure built up over the past three decades.

    The money will be channeled through a new partnership called the Democracy Alliance, which was founded last spring — the latest in a series of liberal initiatives as the Democratic Party and its allies continue to struggle with the loss of the House and the Senate in 1994 and the presidency in 2000. Many influential Democratic contributors were left angry and despairing over the party’s poor showing in last year’s elections, and are looking for what they hope will be more effective ways to invest their support.


    Alliance chairman Steven Gluckstern, a retired investment banker, said that President Bush’s victory over Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) last year after millions of dollars had been poured into pro-Democratic “527” groups caused many contributors to think that a dramatically new approach is needed.

    “It wasn’t only the failure to win, it was the question ‘What does it take to win?’ ” Gluckstern said. “Among the lessons learned was that to bring back the progressive majority in this country is not just a periodic election investment strategy.”

    The one thing that works against the Democrats is the basic structure of the party. In the last eighty years the Republicans have become the political front group for corporate America and the self-serving rich; after all, it was Calvin Coolidge who said, “The business of America is business.” They’ve structured themselves as a branch of the corporation empire since the New Deal. Corporate structure is their way of life. The Democrats, on the other hand, have become a loose confederation of disparate interest groups who have come together on rare occasions to win an election as a response to the excesses of the Republicans. So this idea of a long-term alliance that lasts beyond one election cycle may take some getting used to.