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Archive for July, 2010

DK Hirner at Peoria Drinking Liberally – 7/27/10

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As is my custom on alternate Tuesdays. I attended last night’s meeting of Peoria Drinking Liberally. While I am more of a green Wobbly than a liberal or a democrat, I will at least cop to being a progressive. I find the discussions at these affairs both stimulating and bracing and I have grown very fond of the dozen or so that attend as regularly as I.

Last night, we were joined by the 2010 Democratic candidate for the Illinois 18 Congressional District, D.K. Hirner (accompanied by her husband Chuck). I must admit to being impressed with Ms. Hirner as a candidate and as a person. She seems intelligent, articulate and down to earth, aware of the issues and the problems many voters face in this mess of an economy the wealthy have imposed on us.

That does not constitute an endorsement and I am not sure who, if anyone I will vote for this year. I am more than a little disappointed with the performance last year and this of the national Democrats. In particular I deplore the performance of President Rahm Emmanuel – er I mean the other one. Obama.

The stimulus was too small, health care and wall street reform legislation was too timid, and the escalation in Afghanistan was too big. Other than that, the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats are doing a heckuva job.

I could vote Green, but Sheldon Shaefer, the Green candidate in Illinois 18, cannot earn my support until he gives up being an anti choice forced birther. Too bad, because in many ways Sheldon is a very fine candidate. Anyway, in the absence of a Labor or Socialist or Social Democratic party here, I might vote for other Green candidates.

But there are plenty of Democrats to admire in both the House and Senate: Grayson, Kucinich, Franken, Schakowsky. Pelosi and Durbin immediately spring to mind as skilled legislators whose heads and hearts are in the right (or left) place. It is regrettable that there aren’t 50 or so Bernie Sanders’, because he has the whole government thing totally figured out.

So I was eager to engage Candidate Hirner in a discussion of the issues to see whether she is enough of a progressive to overcome the stigma of being a Democrat, the party of Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln, as well as all those good Dems mentioned above. I have to admit, she did not disappoint. The Hirners spent a good part of the evening with our little group. DK did not just show up to give a 5 minute speech and ask for our votes. Rather, she and Chuck settled down for a pleasant evening at the pub (Kellehers on Water Street btw) and had a beer or two and a little bit of Irish fare.

The discussion was wide ranging and Hirner had one on one’s with several individuals, including me. She said the right things when I asked about the issues. She agreed that it’s time to start withdrawing from Afghanistan. Unemployment is her number one priority. She favors a public option (dang, I should have asked about single payer).

Hirner’s strategy involves attacking the incumbent, Aaron Schock, at every opportunity, and he provides plenty of those. The attacks are on policy and records, nothing personal, which is refreshing these days. For example, Schock votes against unemployment insurance extensions when they come up, and he routinely votes against job creation measures. The challenge is to make swing voters aware of Schock’s record with little or no assistance from the local corporate media (including NPR).

As I said, I was impressed. I may come around to support eventually. There is one disturbing piece of Hirner’s bio that is on her campaign website. from 2005 to 20009 She was Executive Director of
Illinois Environmental Regulatory Group. Sounds green and Earth friendly, doesn’t it. but the IERG is an industry group formed to present a united negotiating front when negotiating environmental regulations with the state government. Does that make Hirner a Blue Dog? Not necessarily. She is endorsed bu unions like the UAW and IBEW.

As I said, I was impressed. I may come around to support eventually. But for now, I am holding out for a firmer commitment to progressive government from Hirner and her party.

Wilco: Hummingbird

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Here are Jeff and the boys sounding a lot like post Rubber Soul Beatles. I don’t know who did the animation, but it works with the music I do believe.

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July 26th, 2010 at 9:50 pm

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Shirley Sherrod Affair: Weak White House v Racist Right

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Like Duncan said, what Digby said:

Shirley Sherrod is the former (and future?) USDA official who was fired because she allegedly, according to Andrew Breitbart and Fox News, confessed to not helping a poor white farmer in 1986 when it was within her means to do so.

Trouble is, the more facts about Sherrod and her speech are revealed, the better she looks. And the more it becomes apparent that the crazy right is actively race baiting. Hey, is there an election this year or something?

Then, as Digby said, the Obama Administration “panicked like a bunch of frightened little children” and made sure that Agriculture Vilsack fired Sherrod. The White house says it was Vilsack’s call and he back them, up but in the absence of any corroborating evidence I don’t believe it.

Once more, as Digby said:

Breitbart had edited the video, of course, and he refuses to release the whole thing, naturally. But that didn’t matter in this case any more than it mattered in the ACORN case. It’s nothing but a play to America’s racist lizard brain.

And today the wife of the farmer went on CNN to say that this woman had been instrumental in helping them keep their farm and that she considered her a good friend. I suppose it would have been too much to ask that the administration at least checked that much out before they hung this woman out to dry.

After ACORN and now this, I really have to wonder if the Democrats and Brietbart aren’t actually working together on a whole Sistah Soljah campaign. It’s a little bit hard to see why anyone over 10 years old would fall for the same ruse over and over again. (Hey, maybe their focus groups show that simply alienating liberals isn’t going to impress those swing voters so they need to alienate the black vote too…)

But I also have to wonder if they know what the optics of this are. If two-bit sociopathic wingnuts can scare them to this extent with obviously doctored videos, what happens when they see a real threat? Are they going to flap their arms like penguins and run around in circles screaming “they’re coming to get us, run for your lives!!?” At this point, that doesn’t seem entirely ridiculous.

Seriously, this shows tremendous weakness. Andrew Brietbart is a con artist and and right wing entertainer whose antics should always be met with a cynical laugh and a shake of the head. To fall for his schtick more than once is political malpractice.

I agree that this is yet another occasion on which the Obama Administration demonstrates a near complete lack of conviction and disdain for its own supporters. But I have a feeling that this story is about to run away from both the racist right wing media and the White House. The race baiting will no doubt work on those predisposed to respond to it positively, but if there are any fair minded Americans of whatever dermal hue, they must be or will become disgusted with this latest high tech lynching. But this latest flurry of right wingers stalking supposed black racism has a whiff of desperation to it. It’s almost as if the right senses that it will take more than just attacks on Democrats to win the elections this fall.

Maybe Fox and Breitbart have gone just a little too far for their own and the GOP’s good. Fingers crossed anyway.

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July 20th, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Open Left: Our 10000 Year Struggle Against Aristicracy

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Gislebertus, at Open Lefttackles a big subject I have been wrestling with for decades. One property which distinguishes civilization as we know it from earlier or less advanced forms of social organization is the tendency of civilization to be hierarchical. This results in inequalities of all kinds and diminishes the quality of life for millions (not to mention the needless loss of millions of lives).

So what is the alternative? Marx, I believe, had some thoughts on the matter, and Gislebertus provides us with a similar but more high level view.

In early human civilizations, a small ruling class of people controlled society. The ruling class was composed of military leaders and priests, and wealth and power were concentrated in their hands. This ruling class directed the vast majority of people, who made a living as farmers and tradesmen.

Babylonian, Assyrian, and Egyptian societies were all structured this way. This sort of aristocracy appeared wherever civilization sprang up, not only in the Fertile Crescent, but in Asia (the Shang dynasty) and the Americas (the Olmec empire).

Gislebertus’ analysis continues to the present.

I don’t necessarily agree with every historical point made here, but I recommend the article as brain food and encourage everyone to read the whole thing.

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July 18th, 2010 at 1:32 pm

K’naan: Wavin’ Flag

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Been soooo busy chasin ultra bucks lately, no time for fresh posts for you, dear reader.

To make up for my absence how about a nice little musical tid bit from K’naan.

This song makes me cry. But from hope, not sorrow.

Here’s the full production studio version.

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July 15th, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Posted in Music

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The Nightwatchman: The Road I Must Travel

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Ah, nice pleasant folk music from The Nigtwatchman (Tom Morello).

Notice how Morello (rhymes with mellow) plays a classical guitar. Just like Segovia.

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July 8th, 2010 at 9:50 pm

Layton, NDP Question Toronto Police G20 Actions

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Received an email from my pen pal Jack Layton today in response to my message to him and the NDP about a lack of NDP response to police misconduct during the Toronto G20 meeting.

In part, Jack said, and I quote:

Thank you for your previous email outlining your concerns over the recent G8/G20 Summits in Toronto.

New Democrats feel that these meetings failed to deliver concrete action on the most important issues facing the world. Instead, Prime Minister Harper fought to keep subsidies flowing to oil companies and taxes low for the big banks.

The G20 meetings fell short on several fronts, offering no movement to allow African nations to have a formal voice at the table, providing none of the anticipated new commitments on nuclear disarmament, and failing to adopt a strategy to curb abuses in speculative markets to protect our economies from future economic crises. The only real announcement was an agreement by the G20 leaders to reduce their annual deficits by 50 per cent by 2013.

It didn’t have to be this way. Prior to the meetings, we outlined sensible, pragmatic steps that the Canadian government could take to show leadership in helping eradicate poverty, tackling climate change, and reforming the global economy. I invite you to read our proposals at this link: http://www.ndp.ca/New-Democrat-priorities-for-G8/G20.

Now that the summits are over, many questions remain. Not least of which questions about the implementation of security plans including:

- Why did the federal government ignore the concerns and suggestions of the local government in holding the summit in downtown Toronto on a weekend?
- Who requested the temporary suspension of basic civil liberties for the duration of the summits? Moreover, why was this done in secret?
- What role did federal officials play in the Integrated Security Unit in policing the summit?
- Will the government compensate Toronto for the damage that Harper’s summits have caused?

We take these questions very seriously. We want the House of Commons Public Safety Committee to get to the bottom of these lingering questions and develop a post-summit accountability report on both the spending and operations sides of the summits.

First of all, I am very grateful to the party for responding to me I vote New Dem 99.99% of the time when I live in Canada – I could not vote for a candidate like Bev Desjarlais, for example, if I am aware of their positions – but I am not there right now so they don’t have lot to gain by being nice to me.

Of course, Layton did not write to me personally. It was a mass mailing to (among others) people who contacted them with the same complaint I had. I, and many others I am sure had complained that the NDP was not taking a strong stand on a critical human rights issue, namely the right of everyone in Canada to assemble freely and demonstrate peacefully. It appeared at the time that the New Democrats were reacting to and maybe even pandering to the understandable revulsion of the public and right wing media to the violence in Toronto. Much has been written and said about exactly how and why that violence occurred,but I won’t go into that here.

I am glad to see my old party finally addressing (however tepidly) the out of control police behaviour in Toronto that G20 weekend. And again, I think it is clear that the lack of response to the crackdown had become a problem for Layton among NDP members and supporters. But it should not come as a surprise t anyone that if there is one thing that all NDP voters and activists agree on it is that the party needs to at all times stand on guard for human rights. To not do so invites cynicism about the party which is supposed to be more idealistic than the Libs and Tories.

Of course, Layton and the New Democrats are also quite rightly criticizing the Shock Doctrine agenda of the G20 summit, which is what the demonstrations were supposed to be about. Good for them.

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July 7th, 2010 at 9:04 pm

RSA Animate – Crises of Capitalism

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Food for thought on the current Depression found at Firedog Lake:

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July 5th, 2010 at 8:52 am

Posted in Economy

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DNC v Michael Steele

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Check out this piece by emptywheel about the DNC’s response to the Michael Steele comments about the war in Afghanistan:

A number of people have taken the DNC to task for its Rovian attack on RNC Chair Michael Steele for comments suggesting we might fail in Afghanistan (Glenn Greenwald, Greg Sargent, Adam Serwer). The only thing I would add to their comments is to note that not only a majority of the Democratic caucus in the House–as Glenn points out–but also two-thirds of Democrats in polls are ready to end the Afghan war, most of them strongly. Is the institutional Democratic Party trying to score political points on an issue that a solid majority of their party opposes? Really, we’ve gotten that stupid?!?

But what really demonstrates the stupidity of the move is how it puts us in ideological and political partnership with Liz “BabyDick” Cheney–who has called for Steele’s firing over his comments.

There’s more.

I like the way Wheeler calls Liz Cheney “Babydick”. Somebody should copyright that phrase.

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July 4th, 2010 at 9:49 am

This Land is Your Land…

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Happy 4th of July everybody!!

Bruce:

Bruce and Pete:

Steve:

The Man in Black:

Los Lobos with Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir:

The Author:

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July 4th, 2010 at 9:20 am