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Archive for January, 2007

Thanks, Molly

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I try to post here on a regular basis (never mind how many hits I get each day).  I like to read political blogs and visit dozens of them each day. All because I like being part of a discussion about what’s happenig in the world today,  why things happen the way they do and how things came to be as they are. It started when I was young and engaged in discussions with relatives (some of whom are so crazy right wing you wouldn’t believe) and staying up all night with high school, university and  bohemian friends, solving the world woes and forging incomparably witty remarks.

Long before the internets came along, I got part of my discussion fix from writing letters to editors and reading newspaper and magazine columnists. One of my longtime favourites has been the late and truly great Molly Ivins. I hope her columns can be collected and published, either electronically or by killing trees. She combined a fluid and colourful style with sharp analysis and rib threatening humour.

America and the world is poorer for her loss. She deserves to have the flags lowered in her honour at least as much as any dead president.

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January 31st, 2007 at 10:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Canadian Class – From a Conservative

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Stephen Harper, Canada’s right wing Conservative Prime Minister, has apologized to Maher Arar and promised him $10.5 million CDN ($8.9 million U.S.). Canada.com syas, “Arar, a Canadian engineer born in Syria, was detained by U.S. authorities at a New York airport in 2002 and deported to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured.

“A judicial inquiry led by Justice Dennis O’Connor found the RCMP mislabelled him as an Islamic extremist with suspected ties to al-Qaida. It also concluded the sharing of that misinformation with U.S. authorities likely led them to deport him.”

PM Harper is quted thusly:

“We cannot go back and fix the injustice that occurred to Mr. Arar. However, we can make changes to lessen the likelihood that something like this will ever happen again,” said Harper.

The prime minister also delivered a measured reproach to the United States for keeping Arar on its terrorist watch list, despite Canada’s insistence he does not represent a threat. “The government of Canada has every right to go to bat for one of its citizens when the government believes a Canadian is being unfairly treated by another country.”

Wow. If the right wing Conservative Prime Minster is compeled to talk this way, imagine  how normal Canadians feel.The same article quotes the U.S. ambassador to Canada to the effect that Canada has no right to ask the U.S. government to take Arar off the  airport watch list. I guess he’s really dangerous now that he has $10.5 million Cdn.

Surprisingly, neither Bush nor Cheney have called Arar to either apologize or congratulate him on getting a bunch of money.

Bt some U.S. statesmen are critical of the Bush administration approach to torture. Watch this video I picked up at Crooks and Liars, in which Senator Leahy disembowels Attorney General Gonzales over torture.

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January 30th, 2007 at 12:40 am

Posted in Uncategorized

What Time Does the Mutiny Start?

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The News Blog pointed me to Sir, No Sir, a site which documents the various ways in civilians and military personnel resisted the war in Vietnam. Consider the page about riots and rebellions, which includes the following:

1967

May 13
Fort Carson – On-base riot .

July 15
Fort Dix – Stockade rebellion.

October 3
Fort Hood – On-base riot.

1968

March 6
Fort Benning – On-base riot.

April 11 – 12
Fort Campbell – On-base riot.

June 14
Fort Jackson – Stockade rebellion.

July
Long Kanh Province, South Vietnam – Reported fragging.

July 4
The Presidio – Stockade rebellion.

July 23
Fort Bragg – Stockade rebellion.

August 16
DaNang Brig, South Vietnam – Stockade rebellion.

August 18 – 19
DaNang Brig, South Vietnam – Stockade rebellion.

August 29 – 30
Long Binh Jail, South Vietnam – Stockade rebellion.

September
Vietnam GI reports that someone cut safety wires and backed off several nuts on one of the hot dog General’s choppers. “Fortunately” , the crew chief discovered “the problem” before the General took off.

October
Fort Dix – Stockade rebellion.

November
Long Binh Jail, South Vietnam – Stockade rebellion.
Fort Ord – Stockade rebellion.
Camp Crockett – On-base riot.

November 7
Camp Pendelton Brig – Stockade rebellion

There’s much more of course.

As I have stated before, the war in Iraq is an imperial war, as was the war in Vietnam. Someday,  historains can compare and contrast the two wars and note the similarities and differences.

Here is one critical similarity: soldiers, marines, etc.  in Iraq are serving under extremely stressful conditions. I’m not there. I don’t know what it’s like for them, but I have begun to wonder how long it will be before military discipline becomes a serous issue.

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January 28th, 2007 at 11:55 pm

Posted in Iraq,Vietnam

Washington Spring? Part II

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Change must come, because our (the nation, the species) survival depends on it. And there is a seemingly sudden openness and pent up demand in the United States for change. This new attitude benefitted the Democrats last November and will continue to do so if they continue to address real problems, and as long aas the Republicans continue to only represent a minority of U.S. citizens and voters.
The empire is still doomed, however. Either the United States will continue to advance its interests throught the use of force and go broke, or it will embrace a more rational destiny as a powerful and influential nation, but not the world’s only superpower.

I am trying to not be too sanguine about the political conditions in the U.S. right now. Still, it seems that th right is on the run. Fox Nothing Channel and talk radio diminish in ratings and influence daily.

In 1968, Czechoslovakia tried to establish some distance between itself and the Soviets. The desire for change created an atmosphere that was named the Prague Spring. In this country, after many years of resistance to change, the United States is apparently ready to take offits heavy coat and dance, just a little.

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January 26th, 2007 at 1:12 am

Posted in Uncategorized

NPR Blows It

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I don’t know why, but NPR is having this series about how divided Americans are, and how that’s a terrible thing. as part of that series, they did a piece today about Rush Limbaugh, or as Olberman refers to him, comedian Rush Limbaugh.

The piece focussed on Limpbrain’s partisanship, and questioned whether or not he is divisive. Rusty was unapologetic about
it, and for once I agree with the old fart.

I don’t mind that Limpy is opinionated and partisan. Good for him. Democracies are supposed to include strong
differences.  There is a reason why the distance between the governmnet and opposition benches in the Westminster
parliament is two sword lengths. We have elections because its better than shooting at each other, and vigorous debate is a welcome alternative to combat.

I have two grievances against Dumbo. First, he lies. You want an example, listen to his show for five minutes or consult the archives at Media Matters. He claims in the interview that one of his goals is to inform his audience, but telling people stuff that isn’t true is not informing them. NPR made a passing reference to that issue, but all they really care about is that we all get along.

Crap to that. This country faces serious problems that aren’t going to get solved by masking the truth for the sake of comity. And if one side in a debate is wrong, the media, who are supposed to provide accurate information,  should say so.

In this case, reporting on Limberger should include an easily documented exposition of his, shall we say,  ambivalence about objective truth.

The other charge i would make aganst Rott is his nasty habit of calling people  nasty names. Specifically, he habitually uses racial slurs and ad nominem attacks. Examples ? Sure.

Feminists are feminazis. Obama is a halfrican. I could go on.

And then they had the bigot Glenn Beck come on and attack Rutty for being rude!!! Glenn Beck,  slanderer and serial racial name caller himself.

Heckuva job, NPR. Next funding drive, I got yer donation, right here.

Written by slothropia

January 25th, 2007 at 10:41 pm

Posted in NPR

Washington Spring? Part I

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“Progressive solutions are becoming inevitable” I wrote last night. Ha ha. Silly moi. Nothing is inevitable in politics and culture. But trends are real and can last a long, long time.

Like the trend to the right in the U.S. over the last 40 years or so. That’s a pretty long lasting trend, and when Bush wsa reelected in ’04, while retaing majorities in both houses of Congress, it seemed almost permanent.

But sharp eyed observers (like me) have long been aware that the fundamental problems plaguing the U.S. have been allowed to fester with only token efforts made to address them (rarely, inconsistently only when Democrats are in power). The list includes but is certainly not limited to matters such as:

  • Access to health care
  • Energy
  • Unequally distributed wealth and power
  • Trade deficits
  • Fiscal deficits
  • Crappy schools
  • Third world neighbourhoods
  • Climate change
  • The highest incarceration and execution rate in the world
  • Wars that are too frequent and worse than costly

Some of these by themselves can destroy this or any nation, but taken together, they are certainly deadly.  And they have been ignored.

Oh, the right has policy fixes for some of these, but the biggest reason the Republicans lost the Congress and stand a good chance of losing the White House is because they have done such a lousy job of responding to problems like those listed above.

And so I sense a williingness on the part of the American electorate and population to try something different.  People know,  for example, that the way the nation uses energy has to change. They know that individual behaviour will need to change, but they also know that collective action will be required. And finally, they know that change must come because of both environmental and economic reasons.

More tomorrow, boys and girls.

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January 25th, 2007 at 1:12 am

Bush Blues

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I read somewhere (online of course) that the last week of January haas been deemed by some social scientist or other as the most depressing week of the year. This past Monday is the true nadir of the year, per this theory, backed by who knows how much and what kind of research.

I must say that I feel it too. Not that I’m depressed, but I’m not doing cartwheels either. It’s a kind of boredome that afflicts me. And now I have suffered, with the other 300 million residents of the U.S., the latest State of the Union expectoration from president Bush.

I won’t analyze it here, because as far as a proposed direction for the country,  it is dead, kaput, pinin’ for the fjords. Nothing new about Iraq, of course, and yet nothing else really matters.  The policy proposal that struck me the most was a feeble nod i the direction of universal health insurance. Read his lips, no new taxes, but Bush pretends that tax deductions – not even tax credits – will make a dent in the problem of 4o million or so uninsured. Well, it won’t. As Mr. Duncan Atrios suggests:

You could just sign everyone up and pay for it out of taxes one way or another. I’m flexible about how exactly it’s implemented after that, but the biggest absurdity in all of these plans it that you have to add additional complexity to the tax code, and a ridiculous additional layer of adminstration/bureaucracy. If you want everyone to sign up, don’t “mandate” that they “buy in” to the program. Just, you know, sign them up and take it from their paycheck. If they don’t have a paycheck, they’re still signed up.

Yeah, that’s the way you do it. Sorta like Canada.

I am cheered somewhat by the fact that the need for a universal heath care/insurance program is now accepted by even the flatulent gas bags on the cable news programs. Except for Fox. The point is, that health care is a problem that this and all previous administrations have failed to deal with,  but which they can no longer ignore.

Even more joyful is the sense I have that politics have changed,  and that progressive solutions are becoming inevitable.

Must sleep now, but I will try to develop these thoughts tomorrow.

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January 24th, 2007 at 1:10 am

Washington ‘Snubbed Iran Offer’ – It’s a Wonder they (Bushies) Can Even Feed Themselves

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This week the BBC reported that way back in ’03, the Bush administration rejected submissive overtures from Iran. Specifically, it was Cheney’s office that said no.

Is Cheney and his nominal boss (GW) that stupid? I guess no. They rejected peace not out of incompetence, but through malice. They would prefer to have open warfare in the Middle East, I think I have a right to conclude.
And yet, the White House gets all pissy when Speaker Pelosi talks about their behaviour in rushing toward the latest escalation:

“The president knows that because the troops are in harm’s way, that we won’t cut off the resources. That’s why he’s moving so quickly to put them in harm’s way,” Pelosi said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

The administration’s response was:

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino retorted that lawmakers are involved in a “sound bite war” against Bush, counter to Democrats’ promises of bipartisanship.

“Those particular comments were poisonous,” Perino said. “I think questioning the president’s motivations and suggesting that he, for some political reason, is rushing troops into harm’s way, is not appropriate, it is not correct, and it is unfortunate because we do have troops in harm’s way.”

Poor dears. They get so upset when someone calls their bullshit.

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January 19th, 2007 at 11:58 pm

Posted in Iran,Iraq

Support for Iraq Funding Cutoff?

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The following is taken from a Polling Report roundup of polling on Iraq. It is from a CNN/Opinion Research poll.

“Congress may consider several different resolutions on President Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq. Some resolutions would take steps to prevent this, while other resolutions would express opposition to the plan, but not attempt to block it. Suppose Congress considers a resolution which would take specific steps designed to prevent the U.S. from sending more troops to Iraq. What would you want your members of Congress to do? Should they vote to allow the U.S. to send more troops to Iraq or vote to prevent the U.S. from sending more troops to Iraq?”

.

Allow Prevent Unsure    
% % %    

1/11/07

36 61 3    

And yet, Howard Fineman was on Countdown tonight saying the Democrats were afraid to cut off funding for Iraq because the polling is opposed to doing so (I will update when the transcript becomes available).

Now, on the same Polling Report page are other polls that are more closely divided on this question. But this poll and others measuring the President’s job approval, both on Iraq as well as generally, may indicate that opposition to the escalation is growing along with a desire to see the Democratic Congress take stronger action than just a nonbinding resolution.

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January 17th, 2007 at 9:53 pm

Is “24” Propaganda?

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Seriously, is the Pope Catholic?

Olberman did a piece this evening about how some folks, like tonight’s interviewee, Robert Greenwald, think there may be a didactic component to the Fox throat grabber. Raw Story was good enough to capture the video. View and decide.

I am in no position to analyze, criticize, praise or condemn 24 because I have only watched one or two episodes of the series, and these were in the early, pre 911 days. It seemed like propaganda to me then, but of a very broad type. It was promoting an attitude to law and order and defense that I have no trouble characterizng as right wing. But what they have been up to lately, je ne sais quoi.

There is a certain irony about the show. How many of my bazillions of American readers know that Kiefer Sutherland is the grandson of Canadian politician and Baptist preacher, Tommy Douglas, the first socialist leader of a government in North America. His father of course is Canadian born actor Donald Sutherland, and his mother is Tommy Douglas’ daughter, Shirley Douglas, herself an accomplished actor who was married to Donald from 1966 to 1970.

Here is some of what Kiefer’s grand dad accomplpished during his two decades as premier of Saskatchewan:

  • the creation of the publicly owned Saskatchewan Power Corp., successor to the Saskatchewan Electrical Power Commission, which began a long program of extending electrical service to isolated farms and villages;
  • the creation of Canada’s first publicly owned automobile insurance service, the Saskatchewan Government Insurance Office;
  • the creation of a large number of Crown Corporations, many of which competed with existing private sector interests;
  • legislation that allowed the unionization of the public service;
  • a program to offer free hospital care to all citizens—the first in Canada.
  • passage of the Saskatchewan Bill of Rights, legislation that broke new ground as it protected both fundamental freedoms and equality rights against abuse not only by government actors but also on the part of powerful private institutions and persons. (The Saskatchewan Bill of Rights preceded the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations by 18 months).

In 1964, Tommy Douglas became leader of Canada’s socialist/social democratic/centre left New Democratic Party (NDP). He never came close to federal power, but universal health insurance eventually was adopted by the Canadian fedreal government.

One of Tommy Douglas’ most challenging moments came in 1970, when he and the NDP opposed the imposition of the War Measures Act in response to the October Crisis. This lost votes for the NDP in English Canada with no discernible reward gained in Quebec.

So Kiefer has a genuine left wing heritage, and not just from Tommy. His mother, Shirley Douglas, has a long history of activism. With Kiefer and her two other children she and Donald Sutherland moved to California in the 60’s. They divorced in 1970. Shirley became active in the civil rights and anti war movements and was part of a group called Friends of the Black Panthers. On one occasion, she and other members of that group were arrested on weapons charges that were later dismissed. Despite her innocence, Shirley Douglas was denied a work permit and returned to Canada with her children.

Apparently things have been smoothed over because Shirley got to play Madeleine Albright in last year’s ABC propaganda flick, The Path to 911(!!!).

Also on Countdown tonight, a story about Lehrer’s interview today with W.

As I have said many times, it’s great for his opponents whenever Bush tries to sell anything (howz that Social Security provatization coming, anyway?). So if I want the troops to come home, it’s a good thing when Bush tries to promote the surge/escalation/augmentation.

Among the President’s goofy utterances this day,  he was asked whether he had called upn the American people to support the war effort.  He said in response (and I am paraphrasing) taxes are bad, mmkay? So he is oppoesed to raising taxes to pay for the war. He also said that people sacrifice when they have to watch all that icky war violence on teevee. Don’t believe me? Roll the video and see for yourself.

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January 17th, 2007 at 12:55 am