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Department of Peace vs. more pure baby sausage steps

On NPR the other day, I heard about the town of Fairmont, MN where the City Council passed a resolution advocating a department of peace.

And after hearing the vitriol, the fear, and the hate in the voices of the wingers who got the proposal unpassed toot sweet, I'm beginning to think it might be a good idea. (Yeah, Kucinich, who advocates it, is marginalized. But change begins at the margins.)

Here's the wingers were saying about it:

"I just couldn't believe it," Kortuem said. "These communists are trying to do it again." Kortuem, who served as a Navy bomber pilot in Vietnam, worried that if Congress were to create a Department of Peace, Americans would become "a bunch of wusses," he said.

"The frightening thing about this whole thing is, it's a humongous push to get the United Nations' foot in the door. And their total goal, if you study up on it all, is to take away our sovereignty," warned resident Peet Moeller.

The good news is, that even though the town is majority Republican, the vote to rescind was 3-2.

Now, an idea isn't automatically good because it causes a winger's head to explode. Policy-making isn't an intellectual splatterfest, after all (no matter how much the VRWC would like it to be so).

But the idea of a Department of Peace might have merit, and here's why.

It's the Overton Window again -- which imprisons the entire Beltway 500, without exception. (In fact, you might even say that it's their job to keep Overton Window's glass buffed, and the mullions painted, and in general make sure the weather outside never gets in. Well and good, but you can take these things to far.)

Take a random example from Salon. Under the promising headline, How Bush helped the GOP commit suicide, we get this flaccid tranche of BCW:

Which could lead to a fascinating intra-party debate about whether the Democrats should play it safe by nominating the candidate with the most centrist appeal (presumably Hillary Clinton, although that is sure to be contested) or capitalize on having a rare head start in the polls by going with a glamorous but risky newcomer like Barack Obama.

Well, there you have the bounds of acceptable discouse. The right side of the Overton window is defined by Hillary Clinton (as indeed it is). The left side is defined by Barack Obama. And those are the bounds of acceptable discourse. The benchmarks for redeployment permathread has exactly the same parameters. Dionne in WaPo today:

Last week's narrow House vote imposing an August 2008 deadline for the withdrawal of American troops was hugely significant. The vote is only the first of what will be many difficult roll calls potentially pitting Congress against the president on the conduct of war policy. It confirmed that power in Washington has indeed shifted. Bush and his Republican congressional allies had hoped Democrats would splinter and open the way for a pro-Bush resolution of the Iraq issue. Instead, antiwar Democrats, including Web-based groups such as MoveOn.org, discovered a common interest with their moderate colleagues.

Fuck. And -- to immediately put this post outside the bounds of acceptable discourse -- again Fuck.

What would have been "hugely significant" would be a headline like "[Democrat's name TBA] calls for reconsideration of America's imperial role", with a deck like "We just can't afford it. And it's wrong." And it's our job to shove the Overton window left so a headline like that can happen.

Now, I do think that post with a headline like "Beltway call for more pure baby sausage steps" would be an entirely appropriate critique of Salon and Dionne are writing, and what the Dems are doing (and not doing).

But a critique is not an alternative. And ideas like a Department of Peace are alternatives--you should have heard the venom in the winger's voices as they spat that word out.

And now the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) that's been driving our imperial role since 1946 has started to cannibalize itself: the Republicans--reminding us of the old joke whose punchline is "it's my nature"--have looted their own base along with everything else. You just can't "lose" $8.6 billion from Iraq, botch armoring the troops, build schools--and what about those schools--that rain piss and shit on the students and end up with an effective imperial war machine. Na ga happen.

And the beauty part: The last few generations of Republican dominance have concentrated the MIC infrastructure where Republicans have electoral control. (That's one reason why blue states subsidize the red states.) But the Republicans have now reduced themselves to a rump party from a single region (guess which).

So--from the more pure baby sausage steps perspective--there's no percentage for the majority in maintaining the MIC. Sure, the MIC is bad for the country, but that's hard to get people's minds around. But when the MIC is clearly taking away your grandmother's nursing care, and not providing any jobs in your district, or anywhere near your district, the MIC beast may finally be vulnerable.

So, we need to unstick the Overton Window and shove it left. New alternatives like a Department of Peace--a more palatable name might be the Department of Imperial Transition--are a way to do that. And they can work, even from the "pragmatic" perspective.

NOTE Not to flog my own hobbyhorse, but the death penalty for corporations that murder is another idea that shoves the Overton window left. I don't like the game because it produces bad outcomes for those I love. So why not change the rules? I realize that, two generations ago, a half a dozen winger billionaires thought the same thing, and changed the rules their way, but why should I accept their greed as a basis for running the country?

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Submitted by xan (not verified) on

Seriously. Story in today's Post Gazette about a dude who is doing precisely that:

But what's most unusual about Mr. Kovalik's office is the type of law that is being practiced there. As a lawyer for the United Steelworkers, the 38-year-old Mr. Kovalik is using an obscure law passed in the 1700s to target pirate ships in order to sue American companies for alleged crimes committed overseas.

"It's really quite a unique statute, and it wasn't used for over 200 years," said Douglas Branson, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh who was involved in a previous case against an American company brought under the law, known as the Alien Tort Claims Act.

Mr. Kovalik's most prominent case, against an Alabama coal company accused of being complicit in the murders of three labor union leaders, is on route to being the first such case to go to trial.

Pirates are not cute, sexy, well-made-up, romantic nor egalitarian in aim. Pirates are evil. Kinda sounds like some corporations we know, dunnit?

Worth looking into anyway. I could be wrong but this may be the law under which the US won some great whacking claims against Great Britain after the Civil War, for building ships they knew were going to be used by either the Confederacy, persons operating under letters of marque issued by the Confederate "government", or blockade runners. (I used to have a book on the subject of the trial but gave it to a friend who was writing a series of novels about naval combat of that era.)

Maritime law is cool. And also a form of international law which predates the League of Nations/UN by ...I'm not sure, definitely decades and possibily centuries.

Having grown up in small town Minnesota, I can attest to the ingrained wingnuttery that only seems to show itself when things like this pop up. My hometown nearly broke out in a riot when the school board approved a high school class that taught themes of "diversity"--a sort of race, class, and gender curriculum which many concluded would bring about teh ghey, along with the downfall of modern American society.

shystee's picture
Submitted by shystee on

Xan: don't be shy, that's my job! That corporate piracy story is verry interesting. Everyone loves pirates. Except you I guess.

Lb: JMM has an update on the Mitchell Wade / Brent Wilkes "Corruption Industrial Complex" story.

- Victor "Dusty" Shystee

Submitted by lambert on

Unless, of course, the furnitive cover story was the cover story for the mail scanning cover story, which was a cover story for... What?

Presumably Shooter's bunker has defense in depth, yes?

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

Submitted by xan (not verified) on

Something's been puzzling me. First of all I've bought office furniture, and even considering that they probably didn't have to assemble it themselves, $140 grand would buy a shitload of stuff.

Where is it? The White House is an incredibly crowded building and not really very big. What happened to the old furniture it replaced?

But also...if somebody paid $140 grand to somebody else, for providing a quantity of goods (the office furniture), presumably at least some of that, hopefully a majority, went for the actual product, so the amount left over (profit) should be a lesser sum. But then somebody connected to that second somebody went out and bought another object, let's say hypothetically a boat, also for the remarkably similar sum of $140 grand.

Someone of suspicious mind and irresponsible tendency to speculate might wonder if there ever WAS in fact any furniture purchased, or if this was just a straight payoff with an invoice phonied up to "explain" the expenditure.

Wonder how anyone would go about checking this? It would have to be somebody with a layout of the West Wing handy and access to Before and After photos of the areas in question. Wonder how we might find such a person.....?

Oh DAAAAnnny...Mr. FROOOOmkin sir? Pickup on line 3 wouldja?

That is first time I have heard that! I agree! The crux of the biscuit right there. Let's push extreme left and watch the ensuing Reichwing frenzy, and load up on popcorn. What an entertaining idea.

Submitted by lambert on

Although there aren't that many concern trolls that express their concern through sarcasm. Thanks for making my day!

What do you mean, Undeniable Liberal? Can you explain?

(Incidentally, the word "extreme" is a dead giveaway. It's a Republican talking point that BOTH AQ and any liberal to the left of Genghis Khan are extremists.)

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi