Friday, July 31, 2009

Three Americans Arrested While Hiking in Iran

I wonder if one of them was Mark Sanford?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Who Would You Rather Have a Beer With?

What a farkin' waste of time.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Soylent Green Party Sez...

"Democrats are killing old people!"

What in an alternate non-Bizarro Universe would be laughed off as a tinfoil-hatted conspiracy theory smelling of Jack Kevorkian and evoking images of Terri Schiavo with "Nyuk nyuk nyuks" from coast to coast is actually gaining traction. So much traction, in fact, that the so-called "public option" that's at best a pitiful substitute for the single payer health care championed by Bernie Sanders and virtually no one else in Congress is losing traction at the same time and is basically on life support.

And Max Baucus, heading up the Neville Chamberlain Democrats, let's call them, is so eager to pull out the feeding tube from even this piddling concession to actual health care reform and to appease the GOP that he's willing to let them remove the single payer option, throwing gears and wires over their shoulders like a bunch of chimp mechanics.

And all because whackjobs like Virginia Foxx are promoting a meme about the Democrats secretly plotting to kill old people (who generally tend to vote conservative). This conspiracy theory has gotten so many people on board the Flaming Crazy Wagon that the President of the United States had to seriously entertain this concern from a caller during an AARP open house and still sound as if he was respectfully addressing her concern that she obviously got from Rush Limbaugh.

Psst. The Democrats are trying to kill all the old people. Pass it on.

The difference between Charlton Heston's character of Thorne and the Soylent Green Party in our Bizarro World dimension is that Thorne was absolutely right.

Update: Michael Collins at the American Politics Journal nicely deconstructs in layman's terms the myth of health care "rationing." A thoughtful worthy screed worthy of a thoughtful read.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Twenty Bucks, Same as in Town: Twitter Edition

Blogwhoring. You do it, I do it, we all do it. What have you been up to?

This edition was culled exclusively from links that I've seen on Twitter today. First up, Chris Clarke at Coyote Crossing gives us a hilarious rendering of the Gettysburg Address if it was written by Sarah Palin. A must see. Sample:
I am all about America enduring, enduring into the future and beyond. And unfortunately, that is the road that America is finding itself on in this field, a battlefield, on the land border of the boundary we share with our great neighbor to the South. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. That’s a heck of a lot more than a whole lot of Senators and Congressmen and Representatives have done for us in Washington...

Susan F at Pam Spaulding's House Blend relays a sickening story about an Idaho cop who stuck his Taser up a suspect's ass and threatened to stun his balls. That isn't even the most sickening part. Not only does this story go back to Valentine's Day, not only was this done in front of a three year-old child, but an ombudsman found that he sexually assaulted this guy within the letter of the law. In fact, this sicko is back on the streets and the DA's office never pressed charges.

Radley Balko at ReasonOnline is probably the first blogger to finally get it right regarding Professor Gates' ridiculous arrest in Cambridge last week. It shouldn't be a referendum about race as much as it ought to be one about police abuse of power. And abuse is still abuse whether its racially motivated or not.

While not exactly a blog, Money CNN's website goes beyond the reform bullshit and pinpoints five major freedoms you'd lose if both the Senate and House versions of the health care bill get ratified.

Hot Dogging It

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)

Before serving hot dogs under her mean little tent and otherwise acting as if she was running for political office instead of abdicating one, Sarah Palin had given her farewell address to the people of Alaska. It will not be remembered as being on a par with Washington's or Eisenhower's farewell addresses and it contained no surprises at all. In his farewell address, the father of our country warned against, among other things, a two party system, permanent foreign alliances, an overly powerful military establishment and public indebtedness. Eisenhower famously warned us about the rise of the military industrial complex.

The outgoing Governor's own farewell address was a typical Palin pity party, with the Klondike's Karen Valentine piously acknowledging the virtue of the First Amendment before saying in the next breath to just not be truthful when it comes to me and my own or my successor and his own. Or any Republicans, while you're at it.

Firing verbal panic shots at unnamed people, Palin lambasted the press that has only elevated and kept her on a national level regardless of her countless idiocies and certain Hollywood "starlets" like Ashley Judd. And nowhere in the mainstream media was it brought up that her all-too-obvious hypocrisy was made screamingly obvious by her still playing the part of the Ultimate Alaskan (Channeling some backwoods version of Descartes, she said, "We eat, therefore we hunt" as if the only meat she and her children eat was killed with her bare hands) while scuttling out of office to pursue bigger, better and greener pastures far beyond the Bering Strait.

Likewise, the mainstream media never bothered picking up on her even more glaring hypocrisy in calling out those who “seem to just be hell-bent on maybe tearing down our nation, perpetuating some pessimism and suggesting American apologetics.”

How soon Palin and the liberal MSM have forgotten the days when Palin and the First Dude belonged to a radical fringe organization called the Alaskan Independence Party, a group of America-separatist lunatics with which Palin and her husband didn't sever the final ties until after John McCain tapped her to be his running mate. But this is the same Blue Meanie press that's responsible for the partisan bitterness that led to her leaving office so she wouldn't be a lame duck Governor.

Barring some Svengali signal that's amplified by about a half a dozen communications satellites orbiting earth and beamed back down 24/7 to Wingnuttia, it's impossible to fathom Palin's appeal to an alarmingly large segment of the population. Ignorance alone offers few answers as well as the cult of personality. Cults are eventually discredited by their former acolytes when the truth comes out. Yet the MSM still follows this woman and every member of her immediate and extended family as if they're some Republican version of the Grateful Dead.

Part of the answer to her sick enduring popularity and illusion of relevance is that Palin, as during the McCain campaign, appealed to those xenophobic, gun-toting freakazoids and Christopaths from whom every major politician that's come down the pike can't seem to wean themselves. Fearful of incurring the wrath of the NRA and snake-charmers lobbies, McCain, Romney, Clinton and to an extent even Obama gingerly sucked up to these psychopaths and tried to present themselves as gun-toting Jesus lovers.

But these two lunatic fringes aren't as stupid as they look and they realized they weren't getting the real deal. Then Sarah Palin came shuffling out of Wasilla early last September and the minute she opened her lipsticked mouth, thirty odd sixes and twelves gauges were getting fired into the air and the canvas tent dwelling religious reformers knew they were getting the genuine article.

Little did they know way back last fall, however, that Palin would cut and run when it was politically expedient for her to do so after the press would yeast her up into this conservative superstar. While mealy-mouthing about the "Real America", Palin was busy plastering her well-toned, postpartum physique with designer outfits and shoes and cosmetics that would run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in the mercifully brief time she was actually attached to McCain's camp.

She's plainly a smalltown girl with more than Big City ambitions and the crowning irony is that her supporters who had seen her govern their state for barely two and a half years will be lucky to catch a glimpse of her while she pretends to promote Alaska and its interests, something she had a much better shot at doing while she was still its Chief Executive.

Essentially, she's a political Mary Tyler Moore, flinging her tuque in the streets of a bustling Washington, DC and singing how she'll make it, after all while being ignored by the passersby. And the local yokels who showed up to support her yesterday still haven't caught on that they're supporting someone who would've loved nothing more than to see Alaska secede from the Union and, failing her overarching ambitions, publicly scraped right under their noses the moose shit of Wasilla for good off her snow shoes.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Fed is Now Officially a Laughingstock

On July 21st, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) was taking the testimony of Fed Chairman Bernard Bernanke and his inquiries focused on the Federal Reserve's inexplicable largesse to several foreign banks. At one point, Grayson, who already had a mischievous smile on his face, asked Bernanke,
Grayson: "Well, look at the next page of your report, the very next page has the U.S. dollar nominal exchange rate, which shows a 20 percent increase in the U.S. dollar nominal exchange rate at exactly the same time that you were handing out half a trillion dollars. You think that's a coincidence?"

Bernanke: "Yes."

Grayson: "Nyuk nyuk nyuk nyuk!"

Personally, I would've started laughing when Bernanke confessed to not knowing the history of the banking institution that he purports to head, such as not even knowing the year the Federal Reserve Act was passed (1913, one of Woodrow Wilson's greatest failures and one for which he'd profusely apologized).

Bernanke's insistence that the 20% jump in the dollar nominal exchange rate and the Fed simultaneously handing out well over half a trillion dollars without any apparent oversight or traceability being a coincidence should've made everyone in the chamber howl with laughter.

If Alan Greenspan didn't provide the White House with an indelible reason for abolishing the Fed and overturning the Federal Reserve Act, then Ben Bernanke is giving it to us.

Working beyond any binding oversight by Congress or the White House, the Fed essentially makes up the rules as it goes along and is answerable to no one, conducting its shady business in absolute secrecy and all because a corrupt and misguided Congress from 96 years ago said they could.

The whole idea of the Federal Reserve, ostensibly, was to manage the national debt beyond political influence of either branch of government. But the reasons for that autonomy are made redundant when you really look behind the curtains and see who runs with whom and realize that they're all part of the same incestuous family that is dedicated to one ultimate goal: A one world government. Bernanke, Larry Summers, Tim "Erasorhead" Geithner, Paul Volker, and Obama himself, all of them, are all idiots who either belong to the Bilderberg Group, the Council on Foreign Relations or the Trilateral Commission or all three or are puppets for them (I'm speaking of Obama here).

And the artificial depression that's been brought about by the Bilderberg Group and hastened by Obama and his economic policies, the same financial crisis that we were fooled into thinking was brought about by the subprime implosion instead of the thoroughly corrupt derivatives market, is equally dedicated to ultimately crashing our economy after a skillful series of dips and rises. So our government and Fed will look like heroes for a few years once we "pull out" of this depression. Otherwise, if one world government wasn't the ultimate goal, then why the fuck is the Federal Reserve, the ultimate manager of our nation's debt, handing out $3000 in credit to every kiwi in New Zealand when there are millions and millions of struggling US homeowners and small businesspeople who need it more desperately?

If you have about an hour and 53 minutes to spare, I strongly recommend that you watch the video above, "The Obama Deception" by Prison Planet's Alex Jones. Regardless of what your opinion is of Jones (and I admit that he exudes that sweaty, loud and sour ambiance typically associated with conspiracy theorists), give him a fair hearing and pay especial attention to the news articles for which he provides screengrabs that make his points.

Then as I have confirm what you've just seen and heard, as Jones invites you to do at the midpoint intermission, and form your own conclusions. You'll realize that we are in much deeper shit than we ever were under George W. Bush. Look at all the campaign promises that Obama broke just in the first six months of his first term: Pulling us out of Iraq, closing Gitmo, stopping torture, extraordinary rendition and a separate tribunal for political detainees, transparency in government, barring lobbyists from his government, repealing NAFTA, etc (He sent Goolsby right after those remarks to assure jittery Canadian industrialists that he was just blowing smoke up our asses).

This video changed my entire outlook on this government and I'm more convinced than ever that JFK, as Jones says at the beginning, was the last real president we ever had and that Andrew Jackson had the right idea all along when, once he balanced the budget and erased our deficit, then abolished the central bank.

Open, widespread rebellion seems to be the only solution to getting us out of this mess and if that means overthrowing the government and physically locking and chaining the front doors of the Fed, so be it. But it's obvious that to get power back in the hands of the people, where it belongs, it's not going to be through polite, conventional means.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Absolute Perfection

Congratulations to Mark Buehrle of the Chicago White Sox for his perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays at home while his family watched. In Chicago's 5-0 win, perhaps the most dominant AL left hander earned his second career no hitter as well as a brief call from President Barack Obama, a noted White Sox fan.

It almost wasn't to be. In one of the few real scares of the day, former Red Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler hit a bomb to left center field in the ninth inning. Last minute defensive replacement Dewayne Wise then made the circus catch of the season, perhaps even the decade, robbing Kapler of a home run and keeping his pitcher's shutout, no hitter and perfect game intact.

Such plays bring home a little made point: That perfect games aren't pitched by individuals. Perfect games are played by nine men. When Buehrle threw his first no hitter, he bought all his starters watches. Lord knows how much it'll cost him to reward his teammates for today's flawless effort but one suspects he won't care about the expense.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Caption Contest

Is it really surprising to anyone that Arnie would take suggestions on how to cut and slash the state budget too literally?

Words Fail Me.

Snark isn't appropriate and no amount of rage or outrage can fully express the contempt that I feel for these people. In four and a half years of covering the Bush administration and chronicling its endless evils, I have never read such a sickening story of abuse in all my life. Even Yoo and Cheney would puke after reading this.

The boyfriend's defense is that he was asleep while this was happening to the infant but investigators discovered that this horrifying abuse was ongoing and longterm. If there was ever a nonfatal crime that should carry the death penalty, this is it. Don't read this story if you've just eaten. In fact, don't read this story if you're about to eat, either.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"Nothing out of the ordinary."

So what's business as usual, according to Sheriff Roger Mulch?
A sheriff's deputy zapped three children with a stun gun at an Illinois emergency youth shelter, threatening to sodomize one of them before choking a fourth child and throwing her in a closet, according to a federal civil-rights lawsuit.

Oh, and the four young victims named in this lawsuit weren't even the troublemakers that brought the police to this shelter, according to this AP article.

It's hard to judge what's more shocking: That such police brutality can be so casually dismissed by the sheriff as "nothing out of the ordinary", that it took so long to get to court (the incident happened on the 4th of July last year) or that litigation is only possible with a federal civil rights lawsuit because an internal "investigation" and another conducted by the Illinois State Police exonerated Deputies David Bowers and Lonnie Lawler.

No word, yet, on whether these two deputies are white and if any of the victims in this East St. Louis shelter are children of color.

Just the very fact that we have to settle for civil rights lawsuits instead of actual assault and battery charges is disheartening. We saw that in Mississippi back when those three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964. Since the police there, too, were acting in a klannish, collusive manner, no murder charges were possible and the federal government had to step in and file civil rights violations charges.

Four and a half decades later, we've come no closer to being able to even file simple assault and battery charges against rampaging police much less get any justice for the victims. We saw it with the Rodney King verdict and we've seen it recently here in Massachusetts with the arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., our nation's most eminent African American scholar, on trumped up disorderly conduct charges.

Yet whether or not this is racially motivated, it's disturbing and infuriating that time and again we hear chiefs of police and sheriffs blindly defending their men to the death and insisting that all protocols and procedures were met even in the face of staggering evidence proving rampages that involve beating, kicking and tasering of juvenile suspects. It's one thing to not prematurely judge your own people but it's another thing entirely to blindly defend their actions. During an ongoing investigation or litigation, it's just more prudent to shut the fuck up and to say No comment.

It's hard to take the events of July 4th, 2008 out of context when by multiple accounts, four children were assaulted by two cops answering a call that had nothing to do with the victims. Since when is tasering 11 and 12 year-old children until they piss and shit themselves, threatening them with sodomy and choking a teenaged girl until she vomits and throwing her in a closet not "out of the ordinary?"

Bowers and Lawler ought to be thrown off the force if found guilty of these charges. But of course, neither one of them will be regardless of the outcome. That's because civil rights will always be kept in the back of the bus in favor of white clannish police brutality.

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Magnificent Desolation."

(Picture courtesy of d r i f t g l a s s.)

Forty years ago today when I was growing up in Tampa, Florida, my mother crouched in front of our entertainment center and thought it would be a good idea to record man's first landing on the moon with our Polaroid. Being no photographer, she had no way of knowing that when the pictures developed minutes later they would show only a dark gray screen with a white blob in the middle. Yet at least her enthusiasm for this moment was indicative of a keen appreciation of the sheer historical impact of Apollo 11. Even at 10, I was very well aware of it. We as a nation were such lunatics that our family even got a write-up in the local paper because my father was stationed in Turkey for a year doing his small part to track two or three of the Apollo missions including 11.

Those too young to remember the Apollo 11 mission firsthand may perhaps be forgiven a lack of appreciation of the staggering amount of technology and training that was required to hurtle three men a quarter of a million miles into outer space, land two them on an alien world while the third circled overhead and then to get these men back safely and to accomplish this mission in just over a week.

Even to those of us alive at the time, despite the incessant coverage by Walter Cronkite and others, we still couldn't appreciate the backbreaking work that was necessary to its happy conclusion. All we knew how to do was to savor the achievement, that we beat the Russians there and that such technology and pioneering spirit was made even more miraculous considering our relative ignorance of the moon. One person even said on national TV that we didn't know what would happen when the lunar landing module touched down or even if the moon's surface was so soft that it would sink in. It was noble recklessness tempered with historical import.

Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, had gotten the historical and carefully-chosen first words out of the way and Buzz Aldrin was free to give off-the-cuff impressions. And one of Aldrin's first words on setting foot on the moon was "Magnificent desolation."

Indeed it was. The lifeless surface of the moon was a dull gray, the video images grainy and the camera lens didn't even offer a very panoramic view of our satellite. The moon's smaller surface made for a very short horizon and we couldn't even see much that lay beyond the base in the Sea of Tranquility. In a way, it was an anticlimax and even the magnificent color photos published later in the year by Life magazine did little to alleviate the moon's blandness.

But "magnificent desolation" it was and even then there were those who were asking why we were spending billions to send three guys to the moon over and over again while we were embroiled in a war in southeast Asia and millions were starving in Biafra and other Third World countries.

40 years later, we've still come no closer to satisfactorily answering that question as NASA is already making plans to send a manned mission to Mars, another magnificently desolate world equally devoid of life only much farther away than our moon, making the mission much more dangerous. In a way, it's like starting over again. Now, as usual, we're engaged in not one major military campaign but two, this time costing us trillions in the long run. Starvation is still a problem and we still haven't even cleaned up New Orleans nearly four years after Katrina.

All throughout its history, Mankind has demonstrated an inexplicable need to explore and colonize without first taking care of its worst problems on the home front. On a massive scale, colonizing a new continent or planet while leaving behind pressing responsibilities is a lot like leaving your house a mess with the basement flooded and bills going unpaid so you can go househunting and export your problems and shortcomings to a new venue.

To me, it's obvious that Congress had no right allocating billions to NASA for a manned mission to Mars while we already have desolation in this country, on this planet, a desolation that is rarely if ever "magnificent."

What a Cool Website

Sometimes aimless meanderings on the internet are worth it. Yahoo told me that I had a new follower on Twitter. I checked out her profile and found out she was sufficiently liberal (you'd be surprised how many right wing nut jobs I attract on Twitter that immediately get blocked). Checking out her blog, I saw a link to a site that will artificially age any photograph. For instance, here's a picture that I've already posted of Gavin:

A mouse click or two and this is the result.

Isn't that a cool retro look? Any modern color photograph can be prematurely aged and hurtled back into the 19th century, sort of like the modern day GOP.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Land of Confusion

(lyrics courtesy Tony Banks, Phil Collins and Michael Rutherford of Genesis, live cover by Disturbed)

I must have dreamed a thousand dreams

Been haunted by a million screams

But I can hear the marching feet

They're moving into the street

Now, did you read the news today?

They say the danger has gone away

But I can see the fire's still alight
They're burning into the night

There's too many men, too many people

Making too many problems
And there's not much love to go around

Can't you see this is a land of confusion?

This is the world we live in

And these are the hands we're given
Use them and let's start trying
To make it a place worth living in

Oh, superman, where are you now?
When everything's gone wrong somehow?

The men of steel, these men of power

Are losing control by the hour

This is the time, this is the place

So we look for the future

But there's not much love to go around

Tell me why this is a land of confusion

This is the world we live in
And these are the hands we're given

Use them and let's start trying

To make it a place worth living in

I remember long ago
When the sun was shining

And all the stars were bright all through the night

In the wake of this madness, as I held you tight
So long ago

I won't be coming home tonight

My generation will put it right

We're not just making promises
That we know we'll never keep

There's too many men, too many people

Making too many problems

And there's not much love to go round

Can't you see this is a land of confusion?

Now, this is the world we live in
And these are the hands we're given
Use them and let's start trying

To make it a place worth fighting for

This is the world we live in

And these are the names we're given

Stand up and let's start showing
Just where our lives are going to

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Middle America Loses Walter Cronkite

It's ironic that the consummate newsman of the television age would die at the lowest ratings point of a news cycle, which is a Friday night. It's also interesting that pioneering news legend Walter Cronkite, who died yesterday at age 92, was never as politically a polarizing figure in life as he is in death and over 34 years after the Vietnam war ended.

Ankle-biting, right wing nut jobs like Debbie Schlussel have no problem posthumously punching Cronkite simply because he predicted that we would fight North Vietnam to a stalemate, which of course we did. His Tet Offensive editorial of February 27, 1968 was one of the high points of television journalism and it allegedly made LBJ say, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America." A month and a half later, the 36th president announced his retirement from public service.

To the abovementioned ankle-biting right wing nut jobs, any war is worth fighting and any criticism or honest appraisal of its unwinnability is pure treason. In fact, to hear Schlussel talk, Cronkite was a war criminal who "had the blood of thousands of American men--some of them really just boys--on his hands."

In other words, Cronkite's honest appraisal of our chances in Vietnam was a self-fulfilling prophecy, according to Schussel. To even breathe the word defeat is to jinx it into being and the public officials and military who'd started, escalated and lost said war and 58,000+ American lives are immediately absolved. Sort of like Iraq. Sort of like Afghanistan. The liberal media runs every war and every soldier fighting overseas has access to a TV or radio and never misses a newscast and is demoralized by liberal activist partisans like Walter Cronkite.

There is so much that is wrong with this typical lunatic fringe right wing attitude that one hardly knows where to begin. But if it wasn't so tragic it would be hilarious that a supposedly educated American mind would still be fighting Vietnam when said war started before one's birth and at a time when we're still in the middle of two other militarily unwinnable wars.

Cronkite deserves obituaries untainted by right wingers or criticism of right wingers already tap dancing on his undug grave. Yet self-styled neoconservatives still fighting a war they'd never fought any more than they've fought in Iraq or Afghanistan are already trying to taint his reputation as one of the greatest newsmen ever, the only one, in my mind, that stands head and shoulders with his colleague, the great Edward R. Murrow.

Cronkite's reputation will easily deflect such onslaughts and he certainly doesn't need me putting my two cents in defend his reputation. But this is America, as Cronkite would've said, and everyone's entitled to their opinion.

Going to right wing blogs and Youtube since learning of Cronkite's passing last night, I am astounded at not only the virulence of some of the bloggers and commenters but also by the uniformity of the invective and ignorance that seems to sweep away Cronkite's decades-long achievements and to descend, instead, like a herd of beetles upon his one brief but indelible editorial on February 27th, 1968.

These are the same people who also faithfully watch and swear by Cronkite's idiot heirs apparent such as Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck, air conditioned partisan zombies who never accompanied our military to places such as Normandy on D Day or had soil from behind enemy lines sprayed in their faces during their newscasts and without the benefit of the relatively safe enclave of a Green Zone. Cronkite, don't forget, made his famous Tet Offensive editorial right after coming back from Vietnam. Far from killing morale among our troops, Cronkite merely reported that our troops' morale was already at low ebb.

Cronkite, of course, was too much of a newsman to pigeonhole himself to a political ideology and he would've been the first to say that he was never a liberal. However, we're reminded of Stephen Colbert's famous dictum of the truth having a liberal bias and it's a sly half joke that the right wing seems to have taken to heart or what passes for one.

Cronkite's intelligence and powers of concentration was legendary. It was said that he could listen to two audio feeds in both ears and still deliver the evening news without skipping a beat. His knowledge of English and his newscasts were almost always written and delivered with impeccable precision. The avuncular Cronkite was the perfect man for the perfect time, reporting on the entire Vietnam war, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the first manned lunar landing, the taking of the hostages in Tehran and the election of Ronald Reagan.

His passing, while timely and coming at the end of an amazingly rich, full and productive life, leaves America without a trusted uncle. And it's deplorable that right wingers who weren't even born during Vietnam are choosing that long-dead and historically discredited war as a cudgel with which to beat him. Cronkite ended the last golden era of journalism at almost the same exact time we were about to enter another era of military and imperial belligerence under Ronald Reagan. 28 years ago, Cronkite was forced to leave the CBS Evening News but secure in the knowledge that America was better informed because of him.

Cronkite once again leaves the public eye for good, a public eye that has been blackened and blinded with mud from five successive administrations and Cronkite's pale imitators. He leaves behind a nation with a media now run by five conglomerates in which actual news takes a back seat to vacuous and factually hollow commentary and infotainment. It's a sad commentary that Cronkite's staggering legacy, example and body of work would be buried, that he would live long enough to see himself become the bad guy and to have the outcome of an entire war dumped on his doorstep.

But that's the way it was on July 17th, 2009.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Pinheads on Parade

This is a clip of Glenn Beck, professional wouldbe Bill Maher, talking to a woman from my state of Massachusetts regarding health care. This lady may or not be a victim of Mitt Romney's abominable "health care plan" but she's adopting the populist position of universal health care.

Beck's reaction is to resort to name-calling and to hit the kill button while screaming and even shrieking for her to "get off my phone!" All she did was to give Beck the chance to qualify his position by asking him what he'd do to fix the health care system.

It's hard to follow his logic of Presidents, Prime Ministers and members of Parliament coming here to get the health care they can't get in their own countries while also claiming that foreigners can walk into a hospital or clinic in France, for instance, to get immediate and free health care.

First off, Presidents, Prime Ministers and members of parliament often come to the United States to see specialists whose expertise exceeds those in their native countries but I think we can take it as an article of faith that these statesmen enjoy a better health care plan than that enjoyed by many of us.

Secondly, Beck rails on about the Canadian health care system holding lotteries to see who gets treated and who doesn't. This is an unfortunate development in Canada but Beck doesn't go into the reasons for it. Canadian doctors, having been forced to accept higher volumes of patients, were forced to develop a lottery system to maintain a high level quality of health care for the patients that they could safely treat.

This is largely because of the doctor shortage in Canada. A recent study found that Canada ranked 23rd out of 30 nations in terms of its doctor to population ratio. There were only 2.2 doctors for every thousand Canadians.

Still, taking even this into account, the Canadian health care system is still far superior to our own and we're a nation in which there are roughly three practicing physicians per thousand. And their Canadian counterparts can devote a higher percentage of time to actual health care because they don't have to bother with insurance paperwork and battling HMO case managers second guessing them.

But Beck's response when asked what he'd do to fix our health care system is to hysterically shriek like a bitch getting his cherry popped in the prison shower. This is what passes for rational discourse in a "liberal" MSM that continues putting clowns like Beck on the air.

I've heard stories from Los Angeles and other places of people sitting on hospital steps in a gown holding their IV drip in their hands because their insurance ran out or people literally dying in emergency rooms or in transit to free clinics because they didn't have insurance. Plainly, something needs to be done but right wing bozos like Beck start shrieking hysterically about "socialized health care" that rich white fucks like him will then have to subsidize with higher taxes.

A Tale of Two Cities

This is a tale of two cities. It's also a tale of two types of wars. There are the wars that are waged overseas ostensibly in the interests of national security and there's the more low-key war still being fought on our shores after 450 years, one still waged by white people ostensibly in the interests of a national insecurity.

By now, I'm sure that many of you are very well aware of the racist incident that took place at the Valley Swim Club in suburban Philadelphia last month. Alethea Wright, the founder of Creative Steps, a summer camp dedicated to serving minority children and their parents in the Frankford/Oxford Circle area, was forced to do some hasty arrangements. Budget cuts had closed down their local pool and Ms. Wright had found another for the children at the Klein Branch of the Jewish Community Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Sundays were then taken care of when the Valley Swim Club in Huntingdon Valley accepted $1950 from Creative Steps to allow 65 multiracial children to enjoy their pool.

However, on their first and only visit to the swim club, which is protected by a chain link fence limned by barbed wire, they did anything but enjoy it. According to the Creative Steps children and the supervising adults, all the white children left the pool either arbitrarily or at the behest of their parents when the darker-skinned children entered the water. White adults, their arms crossed, were overheard making remarks such as, "What are all these black kids doing here?" Others had said they wouldn't go back to the swim club, as if the area had been contaminated and rendered uninhabitable a la Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

A pool attendant had even come out and told the Creative Steps adults that minorities weren't allowed in the club and that they had to leave.

In a hamfisted "apology", the club's president John Duesler tried to put a positive spin on it to make everyone happy and wound up alienating everyone. The community organization's $1950 was refunded, the doors were padlocked and the City of Brotherly Love was revealed once again to be a fraud, a disingenuous product of its own tourist billing. Creative Steps then decided to sue the Valley Swim Club.

This audio clip on NPR yesterday asks the question to whether or not Creative Steps ought to sue the Valley Swim Club for impinging on their civil rights. Incredibly, Annette John-Hall, an African American journalist who'd written about the incident for, thinks that it's wrong to sue the club. She's certainly entitled to her opinion but her reasons against the lawsuit's legitimacy are alarming.

John-Hall's assertion that the Creative Steps people ought to let bygones be bygones seems to be rooted in her apparent belief that the civil rights movement is dead and has since ossified into history. While acknowledging that civil lawsuits were a legitimate form of grievance for effecting change within the system during the civil rights movement, John-Hall seems to be afflicted with a belief that the Civil Rights movement is dead or that it can rest on its hard-won laurels and allow this latest racial outrage to coast.

Yet the very fact that a white suburban swim club could be so insensitive to the needs and dignity of inner city children of color proves that racism didn't die at Augusta and that it will still rear its ugly white head. It untidily resurrects a whole host of issues, such as the permanent mindset of the despicable "separate but equal" Supreme Court ruling upholding segregation and reflexive, deep-seated loathing of people of color even sharing water with white people. Incidents such as that witnessed at the Valley Swim Club proves that there is still need for a civil rights movement whether or not Ms. John-Hall thinks it still exists.

However, it's easy to see how one could be mollified into thinking that the civil rights movement was made a victim of its own success. After all, we have an African American president, several powerful African American lawmakers on Capitol Hill (although only one very temporary example in the Senate) and African Americans make up some of the most successful, influential and respected members of the scientific community, academia and the humanities. In a way, the decline of the influence of the civil rights movement runs parallel with that of the anti-war movement. Several anti-war organizations such as Code Pink still exist and from time to time peace rallies pop up for a few hours yet we're still fighting two wars overseas with no end in sight. It ought to be obvious there's a continuing necessity for both movements.

In her own story, she'd quoted John Flynn, obviously a white club member, who'd suggested, "As far as I know, all we recommended was to change the time that [the campers] came, from the afternoons to a nonpeak time. We never recommended to disinvite them." Without even challenging Flynn, John-Hall quoted this guy who basically came right out and said, "Perhaps we should let them in only after all the white people have gone."

To play Devil's Advocate for a minute, club president John Duesler is by all accounts a pretty decent guy and isn't exactly noted for racist behavior. However, his clumsy pseudo-apology was intended to cover for and mollify the white club members who are obviously his bread and butter as well as the real victims in this. False reasons such as safety and pool capacity were brought up but it was telling that he referred to the children "changing the atmosphere and complexion" (emphasis mine) of the pool.

When faced with the choice of sticking up for his white-based bottom line or for the people of color who would've used his pool for just one day a week for one summer, Duesler tried to make everyone happy and wound up making no one happy. Even a reinvitation for the children has thus far has remained unaccepted. Yet it's obvious that the Valley Swim Club has been made the sole bad guy in all this when the club members are at least, if not moreso, as responsible for the abominable behavior as the club's staff.

To acknowledge and to protest an injustice in civil court is not to merely adopt a victim mentality. Whether or not one sues for money, filing a class-action civil lawsuit of this nature, one is doing at least two things: Shedding light on racism (and there was little if anything subtle about the racism that was aimed at these poor children) and standing up for one's civil rights.

John-Hall quoted Barack Obama when the president said that it's time for us to unclench our fists and to move on, which is very much in keeping with Mr. Obama's desire to keep the evils and crimes of the Bush administration away from the prying, prurient eyes of the American public. But I would submit to Mr. Obama and Ms. John-Hall that it's impossible to unclench our fists and move on as long as white suburbanites and other bigots across white America refuse to unclench their minds.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Perception is Everything.

How left wingers see Obama.

How right wingers see Obama.

The truth, as usual, is to be found somewhere in the center, maybe a bit to the right.

"I'm Sure She Apologizes..."

Television viewers had not played witness to such a scandal since a drunken Groucho Marx on "You Bet Your Life" made "cocksucker" the secret word.

Marcy Wheeler, aka Firedoglake's emptywheel, saying "blow job" to make a good point raised the specter of the "angry liberal blogger" that we'd first heard about 4 years ago after the Washington Post's now-infamous hit piece on the largely-forgotten Maryscott O'Connor.

Note how these MSNBC talking heads are tripping over themselves putting words in Marcy's mouth for using the phrase "blow job." As if what Marcy was saying wasn't an old and oft-reiterated if true sentiment: That Republicans are happy to spend tens of millions of dollars over a five year period over a blow job while blanching about investigating the much more serious crimes of the Bush administration.

Immediately forgotten was Fox "News" contributor and professional assclown Bo Dietl who just two months ago said, "jerkoff" on the air without so much as a word of admonishment from Geraldo Rivera or anyone else.

And anyone who's ever listened to the filth spewed out into the airwaves by the likes of Melanie Morgan, Don Imus, Michael Reagan and other DSM IV chapters come to life can tell you that much more offensive content than the phrase "blow job" gets troweled out without condemnation or even acknowledgment. So stop falling on your fainting couch with the vapors, you hypocritical fucks.

If 2006 Was 2009

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)

"White collar conservative flashing down the street
Pointin' his plastic finger at me.
They're hoping soon my kind will drop and die
But I'm gonna wave my freak flag high... HIGH!
" - Jimi Hendrix, "If 6 Was 9."

One week ago, noted French academic Bernard Chazelle asked in Rue89, "Obama and Capitalism: Whither the American Left?" The article, originally written in French and ably translated by Truthout's Leslie Thatcher, while it may smell of cognac and Gaullois cigarettes stereotypical of liberal intellectuals nonetheless asks a very good question and reveals its author to be very conversant on trends, facts and the current players in our national discourse.

This brief 1000 word article neither promises nor delivers an all-inclusive answer but instead offers up facts and raises questions that make the thinking percentage of our population (that is, liberals and fair-minded independents) realize that Overton's Window is still very much at play.

It's unclear whether or not Mssr. Chazelle even knows of Joe Overton's window but it doesn't matter. Speaking with the subjectivity that geographical and ideological remove affords, Chazelle puts his finger squarely where we are on the political organizational chart. And it's firmly to the right of center.

While offering only a partial picture of the causes for the death of liberalism and one that hardly touches on race (an excellent companion piece would be E. J. Dionne's, "When Liberalism's Moment Ended", which offers a much fuller racial/social explanation that explicates where we now are and why), Chazelle traces this rightward drift even in supposedly liberal times to the beginning of Clinton's administration.

Without mentioning DADT, NAFTA, DOMA or the other, less-publicized evils of the Clinton years, Chazelle charts our right of center drift all the way down to the nascent Obama administration. It's easy to make an associative leap and to see that, far from electing a fiery liberal, all we've done is elect another Bill Clinton, a real first black president.

In his article, Chazelle mentions the age-old dichotomy of industrialized civilizations since early Victorian England: Should citizenship be made conditional? This is a question that had reared its ugly head, he reminds us, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and, to listen to right wing blowhards such as Rush Limbaugh, Neal Boortz and countless Republican lawmakers, the answer was a resounding Yes. If you're not wealthy enough to remain where you are in the Free Market capitalism Petri dish that we'd made of New Orleans, get the fuck out. If you don't have the money for a car, insurance, registration or gas, you deserved to drown. Stop whining that your own government won't save you and yours in a timely fashion.

Of course, the humanistic and liberal answer to the question as to whether or not citizenship should come with conditions is, Only with proof and conviction of criminal behavior. If you're convicted of a felony, you forfeit your right to vote, to bear arms and your right to move among free society.

Otherwise, the perks of citizenship may not be legally conditional but socially we're told a different story. We live in one of the few industrialized free nations on earth in which it is literally a crime and even a sin to be indigent. Those convicted of petty crimes are either ordered to pay fines or spend time in jail. The homeless are arrested for vagrancy. Municipal legal systems are forced to deal with the fallout of indigence and homelessness because government by and large would love nothing more than to wash its hands of it. If there are lobbyists for the indigent and homeless, it's a given they don't have money in sufficient quantities to flash in front of lawmakers to get their attention.

Chazelle's article does little if anything to dispel the growing unease now settling over the progressive grassroots that perhaps 2006 was no different from 2009. Our government is not only keeping its own secrets, it's also protecting the secrets and proof of evil from the previous administration. We're spending $800 billion a year on defense. Wall Street is still being rewarded for its greed and excesses, we're still renditioning prisoners to torture palaces, there's still a NAFTA, DADT and DOMA still in place, Infragard is still not only in business but signing up new recruits every day and that's only the start of what hasn't changed or even been addressed since the Bush years.

The only thing we've done is put a friendlier, shinier and happier face on torture, rendition, extralegal detentions and corporate tomfoolery. Obama even has his own army of brownshirted goons both in the government and in the blogosphere who bristle at the slightest suggestion that Obama may not be living up to his promises of lower taxes for the poor and middle class, transparency, universal health care and a whole haversack of populist campaign slogans.

We have in my own lifetime roundly and soundly rejected Democrats for not giving us results when we wanted them. We kicked Carter out of office after just four years because of Iran. We kicked them out of Congress from 1994 on because we were deluded enough to think that perhaps the Republicans had the solution.

And one suspects that even with the horrendous, Western Front-style decimation of the Republican Party in the '06 midterms and the '09 general election that the American electorate is momentarily dissatisfied with the GOP for failing them on a personal basis, because they have a loved one serving a fourth tour of duty in Iraq or their personal finances and investments are tanking under Republican initiatives.

Yet for decades, we Americans have yet to be able to wean ourselves away from a racist, race-baiting, greedy, homophobic self-absorbed party that holds most of its constituency and democracy itself in undisguised contempt despite being failed by conservatives and especially neocons for decades.

Jimi Hendrix's song from 1967, "If 6 Was 9", offers a bleak message of non-involvement. Even if the mountains fall in the sea, don't bother me. It ain't me. "Got my own world to live through / And I ain't gonna copy you." No one's asking anyone to copy anyone else but to nonetheless get involved enough to make well-thought out decisions. Because in a democracy, what we do or don't do affects everyone else. Your own world is the same world as mine and ours.

It's easy to see where and how we've drifted to the right of center and why Socialism and liberalism wide-brushed as Socialism is a four letter word on both sides of the Great Divide. What is impossible to understand is Why?

KindleindaWind, my writing blog.

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