Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fact checking a Jones Act wingnut

By Creature

More like this:

As Digby said: "See, it's really not that hard."

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Off with his hair!

By Capt. Fogg

Yes, it's hard to get behind anything the government of Iran does: stoning people to death, building nuclear weapons and all that, but to give credit where it's due, they do have the same lack of tolerance for certain hairstyles that I do and when it comes to demonstrating intolerance, Iran has few equals.

Yes, I'm all for freedom of expression, but there are limits and the mullet haircut is beyond that limit. As I'm concerned, ponytails on anyone over 60 and greasy spikes or Mohawks on anyone of any age are an abomination unto the Lord. So yes, I'd be right at home in the Islamic Republic and they certainly agree with me over there about what needs to be stomped out if the human race is to avoid divine retribution. Police in Iran can lop off that ponytail and that mullet can earn you jail time -- and rightly so. As I said, there are limits.

Of course, being a land of compassionate conservatism, Iran has provided an illustrated compendium of hairstyles that, according to Jaleh Khodayar, the man in charge of the government- backed Modesty and Veil Festival, are acceptable in light of "Iranians' complexion, culture and religion, and Islamic law." See for yourself:

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Friday, July 09, 2010

Drill Baby Drill!

By Capt. Fogg

Think 'Drill Baby Drill' has been set aside for the nonce while a bazillion barrels of toxic crude poisons the gulf? Think again. Think it's wise to re-examine the permits issued by a government agency that's been run the Oil producers for aver a decade now that we know they've been rubber stamping every request without bothering to asses the danger? Think again and remember our new national anthem: Drill Baby Drill.

Agree with the dittoheads that Obama is the problem? That if he had or hadn't done some nebulous thing we'll think of if we have to, that we wouldn't have had this mess? Of course you do even though his attempt to make sure we wouldn't have another blowout before we've stopped this one has been shot down by courts to the tune of Drill Baby Drill. It's a victory!

Yes, the real disaster is Barack Obama and we'll all smile and nod approval and even giggle when our friends tell us 2012 will be "the end of an error." 2012 - we can get back to calling people traitors for criticizing the government. We can restore the cap on BP's liability and teach those lazy unemployed people to eat tar balls and shut up.

Maybe we can take advantage of the new corporate personhood by electing Exxon as president; replace congress with the Shell Oil board of directors or even make Sarah Palin Chief Justice if we can count on her not cutting and running halfway through. The possibilities are endless.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Lady Blah-Blah

By Capt. Fogg

Contrived extrapolations from the trivial and inconsequential event to gross generalizations, sweeping condemnations and general non sequitur makes up so much of the right wing blather that I'm tempted to say that blissful silence would ensue if it were to stop, and inclined to pray for it.

What kind of "journalist" would pounce upon small children for giving away lemonade because they didn't truly understand the concept of profit? Lady Blah-Blah herself, Terry Savage, of course. Jumping from her car, she writes, she admonished them for not being capitalists and likely scared hell out of them. Of course that only constitutes being rude, self important and nasty and the verbal abuse of children. Yes, that's a prerequisite for being a Republican pundit, but what elevates her to the ranks of the truly despicable, is her blowhardian expose in the Chicago Sun-Times in which she rants about welfare, government subsidies for things other than oil drilling and the decline of America. She tilts at all the usual windmills with all the same old cliche arguments having nothing to do with the innocence of Kindergarteners and the righteousness of profits and all at the expense of some cute little kids who have yet to learn just how nasty, pompous, self-righteous, dishonest, stupid and bad at their jobs Right wing columnists can be.
"If we can't teach our kids the basics of running a lemonade stand, how can we ever teach Congress the basics of economics?"
The government does not exist to make a profit, and if, as you say, unemployment benefits will only impoverish the employed, you owe us an explanation of why your version of capitalism has done exactly that, why no new private sector jobs were created by it in 8 years and why each Republican administration has brought us ever increasing expense and debt and ever decreasing standards of living. Never mind tiny tots and lemonade -- explain that.

Sorry, Terry, perhaps some of the 6 quarts of botox you pump into your aging face every morning has leaked into the parts of your brain concerned with basic human decency and has totally paralyzed any notions of honesty. Yes, Terry, we can teach our children about economics - they're already learning thanks to your having driven us over a cliff. No Terry, these are just babies, and sorry, we all know what a profit is and no we're not having a recession because we try to help struggling Americans and keep them from the Dickensian hell you dream about every night.

We're suffering high unemployment because of your insistence that Giving the very rich a tax break will create new jobs, raise government revenues, reduce the tax burden on the middle and working classes; because of your insistence that businesses will resist cheating and corruption and fraudulent activities if we no longer test their claims, audit their books and make fraud itself legal. We're suffering not because some kid you made cry hasn't been reading Ayn Rand, but because you're still reading it while each and every one of your and her bogus axioms has been proven false over and over and over again. At least the girls you're exploiting are giving away real lemonade instead of the toxic and even lethal witches brew you're giving away.
"The Declaration of Independence promised "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." It didn't promise anything free. Something to think about this July 4th holiday weekend."

Stop me if I'm wrong, but it didn't say anything about subsidizing Oil Drilling or looking the other way while our resources are stolen; while we're sold fraudulent securities by fraudulent corporations, while the government starts wars for profit and gives away billions to friends of the Vice President either. It didn't promise corporate feudalism and it didn't suggest a Randian denial of responsibility or a great many other things you're trying to work into the discussion of a lemonade stand. If that's the best you can do, perhaps it's time to shut the hell up and send the RNC their check back.

A decent human being -- and by that I mean someone other than you -- would simply have given the girls a dollar and told them they would earn some money to replace their stolen bicycle by charging, but no, not you. You made it into a baseless condemnation, a sales pitch for calamity and a caustic attack on the innocence of childhood. You found it more important to bear false witness against your country than to protect the feelings of small children who will doubtless remember the nasty witch screaming NO! from her car for the rest of their lives.

If people like you can call our President Pol Pot and Hitler in the same breath simply for talking to them about making the future a better one, I can certainly call you worse for trying to perpetuate the same twisted economic madness that's brought us to our knees as it did in 1929 and screaming it at our kids. I can call you all kinds of things with a clear conscience but none can be so damning as the name you've made for yourself.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Top Ten Cloves: Possible surprises with LeBron James announcement tonight

By J. Thomas Duffy

News Item: LeBron James, ESPN to Air "The Decision": Obnoxious Summer of Me Reaches Climax

10. Shocking confession - It was he who had affair with Al Gore

9. Retiring ... Plans on running for President in 2012, on Tea Party platform - Will name Palin running-mate

8. Retro Ball-Busting - Just as James gets ready to say where he's going, ESPN cuts off to "Heidi"

7. Shocker! ...Deal worked out between USA and Russia, James traded for all the spys, leads Ruskies to Olympic Gold in 2012, rename country after him, all advertising carries his image, and then retired and put out to stud thousands of Little LeBrons

6. James taking year off ... Will apply all his basketball prowess to cleaning up oil in Gulf

5. Along with saying what team he'll play for, announces he's coming out, plants big smacker on Jim Grey

4. Staying with Cavaliers, moving, not just team, but the entire city to new state, renaming it "LeBronJamesville"

3. Announces not going anywhere until Lindsey Lohan is free

2. Says going to Knicks, contingent upon Dancing Harry coming out of retirement

1. Announces he's a new NBA franchise - Will play against league next season, all by himself

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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The Slippery Ski Slope Of Terrorism

By Carl
Norway? Really?

The sparsely populated and largely peaceful country was not used to being at the receiving end of either international or domestic terror threats.

But there has been much water under the bridge in the seven years since that threat, and Thursday's announcement of the arrest of three people on suspicion of preparing a terrorist attack - one of them a Norwegian citizen - has so far been met with less incredulity.


There are some, to put it politely, tangential reasons why Al Qaeda might target Norway for terror attacks. And I do mean "tangential." For example, Norway has provided a small number of troops under its obligation to NATO, to the conflict in Afghanistan. The cartoons that depicted and mocked Muhammed, created in Denmark, were also syndicated in some Norwegian newspapers.

Mostly, cuz, there are a fair number of Danes living in Norway, you see. I should note that Norwegian embassies in the Middle East were attacked in the wake of those cartoons, but so were French, German, Austrian as well as Danish embassies.

The biggest stretch of them all, tho, has to be that Oslo hosted a 1993 peace conference between Israel and Palestine. The so-called "Oslo Accords" provided for the creation of the split Palestinian state (the West Bank and Gaza strip), and recognized the Palestinian Authority. Attending the conference were, of course, Israel and the Palestinians, but also American and Russian officials.

Yet, Norway is somehow to blame for this advance in Muslim-Western relations? OK, I suppose the case could be made that Al Qaeda wants diametrically the opposite: a total state of war between the West and Islamic worlds. Too, the Oslo talks grew out of earlier talks in Madrid, which has also been targeted by terror, albeit nominally by Basque separatists...but who knows who supports them? It's possible Al Qaeda outsourced the train attack there.

It strains credulity, as the article infers, to blame Norway for anything to do with the Islamic struggles. However, there appears to be a growing Muslim community in Norway (in urban areas, particularly) and even radical and moderate Muslims have battled in the recent past. 

I get the sense of Al Qaeda that its kind of like the drunk in the bar who wants to fight. He tries to pick a fight with the biggest guy in the bar, who smacks him down and then resumes his own drinking. The drunk staggers to his feet, sees all the eyes on him, and decides he'll take on anyone and everyone, if he has to go pick a fight with random strangers. 

Starting with the quiet couple in the corner, of course. 

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)


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Turkish dislike: The need for a measured response

Guest post by Michael Lieberman

Michael M. Lieberman, a Truman National Security Project fellow, is an associate at Steptoe & Johnson LLP in Washington D.C., where he works on international regulatory and compliance issues. (The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Steptoe & Johnson LLP.)

Ed. note: This is Michael's third post at The Reaction. His first, on how climate change is a real national security threat, is here. His second, on al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Afghan War, is here. This post below was originally published at The Hill's Congress Blog.


While few individuals could make supporters of Israel miss Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is doing his best. In the wake of the Mavi Marmara raid, Turkey's rhetorical molotovs stopped short of saying Israel should be "wiped off the map." But statements like those Erdogan made earlier this week accusing Israel of "a planned terrorist attack to kill out of nothing but hostility," coming as they do from an ostensible ally, make the words bite all the more. Turkey's active efforts to undermine sanctions efforts against Iran have further fueled the embers. What, then, should the U.S. do?

Some in Congress, including House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) believe the U.S. should now pass the controversial Armenian genocide resolution, which Turkey vehemently opposes. The neocon right, which sees every new moon as evidence of jihadist ascendance, believes we should tag Turkey as the new leader of the Islamic front in a great civilizational clash. Some on this side have even suggested Turkey no longer deserves full NATO membership. Responses like these, however, are punitive -- not good policy.

Others reject any talk of "punishment," recognizing that Turkey's history with the West has had its historical ebbs and flows, that Turkey remains rooted in NATO and the G20, and that Turkey's domestic politics all but demand its current path. Yet explaining away Turkey's disturbing trajectory does little to help us deal with it.

Then there are those who argue that the rift has a silver lining. According to this logic, Turkey's recent activities should comfort Israel and its allies. "With Turkey as the central interlocutor between the Islamic/Arab world and Israel and the West," they believe, "Iran will increasingly find it harder to carry out its agenda of destabilizing the region and the globe." This view is attractive, yet over-optimistic. Iran relies on harder currency than public opinion to sow discord. Weapons, cash, and training for the likes of Hezbollah, Hamas, and even the Taliban enjoy a more favorable rate of exchange.

Turkey's eclipse of Iran would be a positive development only if it distinguishes itself by constructive behavior. What good will Turkey's enhanced role be if it calls for a one-state solution? Or if it recognizes a unilaterally declared Palestinian state? Or when, as it has already done, it acts to undercut new sanctions against Iran?

It is no gain to have a more influential and powerful Turkey pursuing causes detrimental to Western interests -- indeed, in this way Turkey's credibility in the Muslim world is a double-edged scimitar.

Turkey has not capitalized on its unique position, for example, by positioning itself as an honest broker between Israel and Syria. In fact, Turkey has taken a number of concrete steps to Israel's detriment. It has canceled official defense deals, threatened to sever diplomatic ties, and adopted a policy of denial on military overflights. This last step is yet another boost to Iran, weakening Israel's deterrent against its nuclear plans.

Despite this bleak picture, the U.S. and its NATO allies should not succumb to alarmist claims that Turkey is "lost" or seek to punish it through emotive, futile gestures. Yet Turkey's provocations ought not go unanswered. It is not "punishment" to remind Turkey of the need to act responsibly, and of the consequences if Turkey truly feels its interests lie so contrary to the West's. A proper answer to Turkey's erratic behavior is thus to remind it subtly of the logic of the security partnership underlying that bond.

On this view, the U.S. might consider re-raising the question of the need for NATO tactical nuclear missiles on Turkish territory. This idea is attractive for several reasons. First, the issue long precedes the current debate, and so could not be painted as a vindictive reaction. Second, it goes to the core of Turkey's security concerns, heightening the specter of a nuclear Iran. And third, it dovetails nicely with President Obama's broader nuclear agenda.

While this issue is part of a larger issue regarding U.S. tactical nukes in allied states, raising it could be warning enough. Along the same lines, the U.S. should veto NATO military exercises on Turkish soil so long as Turkey refuses to host Israel. In either case, the U.S. must not play into the hands of the ruling AKP's current tendency towards demagoguery by taking steps that undermine its secular, military-aligned opposition more than they serve notice on the government.*

While the U.S. must find a mature way to signal its displeasure and the repercussions that should follow Turkey's wayward path, it must avoid walking into the trap Israel did by recklessly precipitating the relationship's current predicament. Lest the U.S. convey acquiescence, however, answer it must.

(* Ed. note: The center-right AKP, or Justice and Development Party, is currently Turkey's dominant political party, with a majority of seats in the Grand National Assembly. Both Prime Minister Erdogan and President Abdullah Gül are AKP.)

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

MSNBC blacklists Kos: A tale of murder, Twitter, and media double standards

Did you know that in 2001, around the time Chandra Levy, an intern at the Federal Bureau of Prisons, disappeared and media attention focused on Democratic Rep. Gary Condit, with whom Levy, who was from Condit's district, had had an affair, there was another serious incident, if one that received far less attention, involving a young woman, one Lori Klausutis, who worked for then-Rep. Joe Scarborough, now a big-shot MSNBC host?

I didn't either, until I read about Markos "Kos" Moulitsas being blacklisted from MSNBC.

It's still not clear what happened, but the 28-year-old Klausutis died at Scarborough's office in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. The mystery surrounds how she died, and if anyone else was involved. Conspiracy theories abound that Scarborough himself was involved, but nothing, it seems, has ever come of them. Kos wrote about the incident back in 2005.

Well, as Kos writes, Scarborough was all over the Joe Sestak "scandal" (the allegation that the White House offered Sestak a job to keep him from challenging Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter in this year's Pennsylvania Senate race. (Sestak challenged and won the nomination.) Scarborough accused the media of neglecting to give the story, such as it was one, its due. In response, Kos tweeted: "Like story of a certain dead intern..." Scarborough fired back, accusing Kos of having "a long history of spreading lies" and of calling him a murderer. Kos replied that he had never called Scarborough a murder, noting that the issue was "media hypocrisy": "But he was Dem. You aren't."

Maybe there's nothing to the conspiracy theories, but Kos certainly wasn't pushing them. Rather, all he did was bring up the lack of media coverage of Klausutis's death. But that was enough to send Scarborough over the edge, and the upshot is that Kos has been blacklisted from MSNBC. As MSNBC head Phil Griffin put it in a statement reprinted (in full) by Kos:

Yes, after I became aware of the ugly cheap shot  you  took at Joe on Twitter, I asked the teams to take a break from booking you on our shows for a while. I found the comments to be in poor taste, and utterly uncalled for in a civil discourse.

I'm hoping this will be only temporary and that the situation can be resolved in a mature fashion, but until then I just don't know how one could reasonably expect to be welcomed onto our network while publicly antagonizing one of our hosts at the same time.

The DailyKos community has been among the most supportive of MSNBC, and we continue to appreciate that support.

Well, a lot of people antagonize MSNBC hosts. Are you not welcome on the network if you've ever criticized Chris Matthews or Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann? And, again, it's not like Kos called Scarborough a murderer. All he did was bring up a subject that Scarborough finds uncomfortable, one for obvious reasons he would rather consign forever to the dustbin of his own sordid past, far away from prying eyes.

What Kos is getting at here is that there appears to be a double standard, just as there was with the coverage of Levy/Klausutis, one driven by partisanship and ideology. And it's all about the media giving conservatives a free pass. It may not be clear-cut, and there may be exceptions to it, but that doesn't mean it isn't there.

Meanwhile, the Kos-Scarborough flare-up probably could have been handled more maturely, but it's really only Kos's first tweet that went a bit too far (if anything, he could have been more tactful). After that, it was Scarborough who lost it, throwing a "temper tantrum" and complaining to his boss (who "lets Scarborough call the shots" and so who was bound to side with his low-rated morning host).

Regardless, it's pretty stupid for MSNBC to blacklist a major progressive voice and new media icon like Markos Moulitsas. It would do well to rethink its priorities, and to think through its double standards.

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How rich

By Mustang Bobby

The latest trend in electoral campaigns is the super-rich running as an outsider. We're seeing it here in Florida with Rick Scott, a conservative who made a pile by running Columbia/HCA healthcare -- and dodging fraud charges -- running for governor, and Jeff Greene, another billionaire with some questionable dealings in his past, running in the Democratic primary for the Senate. Elsewhere we have Carly Fiorina, who was once the CEO of HP, running for the Senate in California along side Meg Whitman, who used to be the president of e-Bay, trying to replace Arnold Schwarzenegger. They're all over the place, including Wisconsin, where Sen. Russ Feingold, perhaps the most outspoken liberal in the United States Senate, has to run ads touting his conservative endorsements in his race to win re-election against Ron Johnson, who is -- you guessed it -- rolling in it and with the backing of the Tea Party.

Hey, this is America and anyone with enough lungpower and connections can run for any office they want. But it's interesting to see not only are the super-rich getting involved in politics, they're doing their best to try to portray themselves as just like you and me. Of course, they're not. As F. Scott Fitzgerald once noted, "The rich are different from you and me." To which Ernest Hemingway is said to have retorted, "Yes, they have more money." (The retort is a misquote, but it still rings true.) The idea of a rich person running for office -- usually for the first time -- as an outsider and just plain folks is one of those paradoxes that makes politics in America the maddeningly fascinating game that it has come to be.

Americans have a love/hate relationship with the wealthy. We admire them for their enterprise and their drive to accumulate massive sums of money, perhaps envisioning that somehow, some way, it could happen to us, and yet we hate them for their palatial homes and fancy boats and cars and $1,000 bottles of wine. We think that they have the secrets of success and we want it for ourselves, and yet we sneer at anything about them that hints at elitism, and love seeing them acting like one of us, which explains the booming business in celebrity gossip ("Look! Brad Pitt buys food at a grocery store!") That's why the super-rich running for office go to such pains to portray themselves as ordinary folks. That's why Sarah Palin can talk about being a hockey mom and going huntin' and trappin' and collect $100,000 and fly first class to deliver the talk about being just like you. That's why Rick Scott and Jeff Greene go around Florida trying to make it look like they're out there for the little guy, creating jobs and getting to work for us. They'll do anything to show that while they're rich, they're not elitists. Elitism is a charge that only works in the third person; we're rich, and that's great, but they are elites. Boo hiss. (Steve M. has a primer on the difference between being rich and being elitist.)

Of course the reality is that if you're rich in America, you're not an outsider. You worked the system, you know the people in power in places where knowing them helped you get rich. There's nothing wrong with that; that's how America is supposed to work. But let's not kid ourselves; no one running for office who is financing their own campaign with the couple of million bucks of loose change that fell out of their pockets can truly call themselves an outsider no matter how many beat-up pick-up trucks they drive or how many ads they film talking to farmers or ranchers or people of color. The only reason that it works is because they know that the people watching the ads are all thinking, "Hey, that could be me" in the same way they think that wearing Calvin Klein underwear will turn them into a well-muscled hunk or eating NutriSystem will turn them into a skinny runway model. And it works.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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The missing story

By Carl 

Today is the fifth anniversary of the London transit bombings.

Naturally, the British papers are full of references.

Oddly, the only references in American media are from the Voice of America and some short wire service pieces. Interesting particularly when you consider the Queen was visiting just yesterday, on the eve of the anniversary, and visited our ground zero.

I say "oddly" because what England suffered that day is what America is only now starting to see: home-grown terrorism. First British and now American citizens attacking their countrymen.

In America, though, those attacks could be militant Islamists, or militant right-wingers. There's the dirty little secret of the American media. This is a third-rail story possibly because if they were to report it fully, they'd have to report on the activities of the Eric Rudolphs in this nation: angry white men with grudges.

This would also require exploring why those angry white men are so angry, and here's the real story: they're angry because they feel their own country is against them.

It's easy to poo-poo those complaints. After all, old white men still have it the easiest in this nation. They're living longer, they have drugs to prevent erectile dysfunction which means they can have sex longer, they make the lion's share of money in this country, own the lion's share of property.

The problem with the easy answer here is, it's the wrong answer. It's not that angry white men are wrong to be angry. It's wrong that they're angry because they're white.

The real problem stems from the fact that society has put aside, for the most part, the racial divides. Instead, the problem lies within economic classes. So the angry white man has more in common with the working class black man or woman, or white woman for that matter, than he has in common with the concentration of wealth that has occurred over the past thirty years.

In the hands of rich (and not angry) white men. The United States has spent thirty years assisting those who need no assistance, at the expense of transmogrifying a thriving middle class into a society of poor and indebted. When you consider the fact that several tens of millions of Americans owe to banks and credit card companies more than the total value of their assets (i.e. are functionally bankrupt) and that two-income families, almost unheard of in 1980, are now the norm, it's no wonder that working class white men are angry, and that middle-class white men are not far behind. Who wants to live like that, knowing that a catastrophic illness, or a divorce, or a fire could wipe you out and force you to live on the streets?

That's not a fantasy. That's a reality, and that reality builds another reality where terrorism might be the blonde German-American frustrated that his wife left him holding the bag. In a dog-eat-dog world, the losing dog is going to look mighty tasty.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Suing Arizona

Years ago, returning from a visit to El Paso, we were booming along a lonely Texas road in my old Corvette, enjoying the breathtaking desert scenery on the way to Carlesbad, New Mexico. Seeing something on the side of the road a long way ahead, I backed off on the throttle and coasted down to something resembling the speed limit. "Damn" I said to myself as I saw a uniformed officer getting out of his car to flag me down. I thought perhaps I'd been snagged by an airplane and was going to get a ticket, but no, the very polite officer simply asked me where I was going and where I'd come from. "And you ma'am?" he said to my uncustomarily silent wife. "He wants to hear your accent, dear. Say something."

It was really no surprise. Returning from a number of trips abroad, someone from the government hanging around the baggage claim always has managed to inquire as to where she was born or something like that -- just to hear her speak. I'm used to being embarrassed by and for my country and its undying suspicion of non-European genetics. Now of course, in Arizona, the State we usually passed through on the way to visit her brother, a retired US Army Colonel, she would be required to furnish proof of citizenship to any officer who used any pretext to stop us. My home state is hell bent to emulate them.

That's not the sad or the unexpected part of the story. That would be the fact that a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. national poll conducted a month ago showed 57 percent of Americans support Arizona's unconstitutional power grab, an attempt that if it had been backed by Democrats would surely be compared with Adolph Hitler, Josef Stalin and Ted Nugent's favorite, Mao Zedong. Perhaps we can blame a lack of respect for citizens of foreign birth or for citizens with certain ethnic backgrounds or the appearance of it. Perhaps we can blame the smug attitude that "I'm blond, so what do I care?" Instead they're already trashing Obama for what they would have trashed him for had he supported it. 

The American people must wonder whether the Obama administration is really committed to securing the border when it sues a state that is simply trying to protect its people by enforcing immigration law, 

said Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain in a joint statement, as though any bad and illegal measure was justified by a legitimate problem. Representative Lamar Smith, Representative Ann Kirkpatrick, and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (Republicans all) piled on with the same arguments and attacks on Obama with all the enthusiasm of an 8th grade football team in response to the Justice Department's decision to sue.

Whether these gentlefolk really are so concerned with a real, but already decreasing problem or whether as usual, they're just trying to sabotage the Democrats even if it sinks the ship of state is impossible to tell, but of course I suspect the latter.

I do have to ask whether 57% of Americans would support the Federal Government's efforts in other important respects by allowing small town police to stop anyone and demand tax returns of anyone who appears too wealthy? I have to ask why the Tea Bag twits get away with insisting we're losing our freedom while supporting the loss. I don't have to get an answer however and I'm sure I won't. I'm also sure that nothing will ever induce me to visit that state again.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Hot, humid, exhausting -- plus, thoughts on the World Cup, the British Monarchy, and a few other things

Toronto is an unpleasant place to be when it's this hot and this humid, and I'm sure it's the same for many of you suffering through this heatwave in the U.S. northeast and central Canada.

I'll be back to blogging tomorrow... er, later today, as it's already past 1 am. I'm just too tired to write anything.

So stay tuned for more from me and the team.

But first, a few thoughts:

-- I'm really looking forward to Germany-Spain tomorrow. That, to me, is the final. (Sorry, Holland.) And I, who has long rooted against our two-time World War enemy of the last century, can hardly believe that I'm rooting for Germany. What an exciting team. And it helps that it's a genuinely multicultural team that reflects the new Germany and that has incurred the wrathful opposition of the neo-Nazi far right. For some reason I can really get behind a German team filled with Turks, Poles, and Brazilians.

-- The Queen (Elizabeth II, that is) was in Toronto yesterday, at Queen's Park of all places. I'm a Democrat in U.S. politics, but I'm definitely a republican up here. I'd like to see the monarchy abolished in Canada. It's pathetic to see so many Canadians on their knees, so grateful that she came to visit us on our birthday, so thankful that she seems to care about us, as if she blesses us with her presence, as if her very appearance here proves our worthiness. Sorry, but I don't care to be her "subject," and I think this country needs its own head of state, and not just a governor general who acts as the Queen's representative. If Britain wants to keep the monarchy, fine, and, as a British citizen as well as a Canadian one, I suppose I support keeping the monarchy there, but we need to move on. (Yes, the Queen is deeply popular with many Canadians, and it's not clear what could replace the monarchy (an elected "president," as in Germany?), but today's Canada -- diverse, cosmopolitan -- doesn't need her anymore, if it ever really did, and much of the popularity is directed at her personally, not at the institution.)

-- How hilarious, in a sad sort of way, is this? A BP offshore oil drilling board game from the '70s, featuring "hazard cards" that read, "Blow-out! Rig damaged. Oil slick clean-up costs. Pay $1million." Really, you can't make this shit up. (I wonder if Dr. Evil came up with the $1 million figure.)

-- John McCain, you have clearly become a hollow shell of a human being. And that's putting it nicely. Have you absolutely no self-respect left at all?

-- Washingon v. Arizona over the latter's draconian anti-immigrant law? Arizona will lose. And rightly so.

-- Sign already, LeBron. Somewhere. Please.

-- Just got my seat assignment for Roger Waters' The Wall in Buffalo in October. Thirteenth row! Awesome. I can't even begin to express my excitement. (Yes, I'm seeing him here in Toronto, too.)

Alright, enough. Good night.

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Bye Bye Miss American Pie

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not religious, that I do not believe in any sort of afterlife and that if there was a God, he would have found another planet to oversee a long time ago.

But in that mix of atheism, agnosticism, apathy and doubt, I do believe that a society (as opposed to just one person) is judged by how it treats the various members of that said society. Being that no society since the dawn of civilization (a term used very loosely) has even been so homogeneous to include just the privileged - that judgment will almost always manifest itself in how the weakest are acknowledged and cared for.

"Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members."
-- Pearl S. Buck, My Several Worlds [1954].

"A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization."
-- Samuel Johnson, Boswell: Life of Johnson

"The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities."
-- John E.E. Dalberg, Lord Acton, The History of Freedom in Antiquity [1877].

"...the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped."
-- last speech of Hubert H. Humphrey [November 1977]

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man"
-- Mahatma Gandhi 

The above quotes highlight five groups from which any society will be ultimately be judged based on how they are treated and integrated (in no particular order):
  1. Children
  2. Elderly
  3. Sick & Handicapped
  4. Needy & Poor
  5. Animals
Somewhere in the past 234 years we have come to believe that anyone who was weak and could not stand up for themselves was really a just a parasite and cancer on society. (I will go out on a limb at date the inception of that philosophy to January 20, 1981).

As spokesperson from the any of the 5 groups above will tell you - America in 2010 has failed or is failing on all five. If you are a rich white person with good health - you probably do not have a lot to complain about. But based on how our business, spiritual and political leaders have acted during the past 30 years, Judgment Day is not looking like a July 4th Celebration.

Again, anyone who knows me knows how cynical I have become about this great American Society. I have some very strong doubts about this country's long-term survival as a union of 50 states. The glue that holds a society together - a common bond for the good of all its citizens, a national purpose to better the entire society, and a way for those on the outside to be welcome on the inside - has come undone.

As things turned sour, instead of looking to ourselves for solutions (which ultimately means acknowledging mistakes), many Americans began to turn its back on the 5 groups above. The most hated group in the US today is not minorities, not immigrants, not gays, not Palin-worshippers, not atheists, and not doves - but the poor (although a disproportionate amount of the poor are minorities and immigrants).

The anger toward health care reform, the hateful talk about those collecting unemployment insurance, the indifference towards the ecological disaster in the gulf (the only disaster talked incessantly about on the right is the economic disaster, not the ecological), the trauma in passing S-CHIP, the resentment at immigrants (legal as well as legal), privitization talk about Social Security, the continuing choice of guns over butter - all prove beyond a shadow of a doubt how much this country hates poor people.

After all poor people are nothing more than a drain on society. For every dollar they contribute, they are pulling $3-$4 dollar out of the our pockets. The government is nothing more than a cash register for the needy. These are people who do nothing and would rather lie around watching American Idol than earn $7.15 an hour flipping burgers or unpacking crap made in China. Hard-luck stories or event beyond their control (like shipping jobs over to China to make the crap they don't want to unpack) mean nothing. Anyone on the government dole is a tumor that needs a strong dose of chemo.

If you read between the lines of Beck, Palin, Hannity, Limbaugh and especially the teabaggers - shipping these leaches off to a place like Poorschwitz would make this a better place - there would ultimately be more for society's most productive members.

Since hating the poor is not socially acceptable, Palin and the teabaggers have disguised their hate towards society's bloodsuckers with resentment towards groups that have virtually no voice and practically zero allies - immigrants, animals and the infirmed.

I really wonder how long any society can stay together when the commonality is rejection and hate as opposed to inclusion and betterment. And exactly who are Palin and Limbaugh going to hate when they get rid of the poor.

With the mass mainstream media continuing to drive the narrative that paranoia is the panacea ("how can the world hate us? but since the world does hate us, we just have to destroy everything that is making our lives so miserable) sure as I am sitting at this kepboard - you can expect that the threads that hold America together will continue to come undone - and the 5 groups that reside near the bottom of the ladder will suffer the most.

Why did I pick 1/20/81 as the day the music died?

"What we have found in this country, and maybe we're more aware of it now, is one problem that we've had, even in the best of times, and that is the people who are sleeping on the grates, the homeless, you might say, [are there] by choice."
-- Ronald Reagan [1984]

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Have a little tea with Ted

By Capt. Fogg 

Ted Nugent -- Where do I begin? Where does it end?

Obama is not only spitting on the Constitution, but the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule. It's hard to see the evidence and it's hard to know why he was silent about the unprecedented abuses during the Bush administration, unless we conclude that he's either psychotic, or a lying son of a bitch. The former seems certain, but of course much of it could also be attributable to ignorance. That he believes all Americans are commanded to worship Yahweh alone and keep a Kosher household and that the government is remiss in not enforcing this, can only be attributed to insanity - if indeed he believes or is even aware of anything he says.

I confess that I can't find any way to fit that old Golden Rule thing into the equation but for the fact that he's treating our basic institutions with extreme contempt while asking for something different than a government of laws and not of mobs for himself and his fellow tea heads. He certainly can't be saying that we shouldn't invade other countries or bomb civilians or overthrow elected governments because we don't want it done to us, because his favorite presidents are as famous for it as he is in being silent about them. Again, only rank insanity balances that equation.

With the Mao Zedong fan club in the White House, a clueless, rookie president hellbent on spending like a maniac as unprecedented debt piles up all around him, and every other imaginable indicator of an America turned upside-down, it comes as no surprise that this insane level of madness has metastasized into a Supreme Court where the Bill of Rights is being trashed by clueless, dangerously insulated old people intentionally disconnected from the real world, 

he says to Insanity Hannity about the dissenting vote on the Chicago handgun ban. I suppose he thinks Obama appointed those judges and that this hasn't been a contentious issue for a lifetime or two. But who knows what he thinks or if he thinks when he wraps himself in the flag and spews his tea at us. Surely it isn't often or deeply since he claims that Martin Luther King is his mentor and yet he's fond of shooting machine guns in his back yard.

Certainly it's more than hyperbole and more than just ignorance to call the administration a Mao Zedong fan club, certainly it's more than mere hypocrisy to blame Obama for trying to do what FDR did to ease the Depression and to ignore the fact that each and every Republican administration, at least from Reagan onwards, has set new levels of government size, expense, corruption, spending and borrowing while the Democrats haven't. But this is Ted speaking: Ted the flag waving teabagger who claimed to have been clean and sober all his life when talking to the Fox mob but to have dodged the draft by smoking Meth when talking to Rolling Stone -- and then tells us that he was lying to them but telling us the truth.

This is Ted blaming Obama for going after his massive arsenal of weapons when he didn't and the Court for banning them when it didn't. This is Ted telling us he is the will of the people, free elections and a majority vote to the contrary. This is the devil in a cowboy hat. This is horseshit wrapped up in a flag like some foul taco. This is just the failure they warned our founding fathers about.

Indeed, where do we begin with the Ted Nugent story when Ted Nugent himself says he's a liar and an addict and doesn't know MLK from Chuck Manson or Mao Zedong from a wishy-washy middle of the road conservative? I don't know. I don't know where the teabag story ends either but it certainly doesn't end in a free, democratic country.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Craziest Republican of the Day: Barry Wong

The hate for immigrants in Arizona continues:

Ratcheting up the debate over immigration in his state, a candidate for the Arizona utilities commission is threatening to cut off power and gas to illegal immigrants if he's elected.

"It is not a right. It is a service," Barry Wong, candidate for the Arizona Corporation Commission, told The Arizona Republic.

The Republican candidate argues that the policy would be a cost-saving measure for consumers.

Though it would cost money for power companies to check immigration status, he said it would ultimately save money because power companies would not have to build new plants to serve the illegal immigrant community, presumably passing on that savings to consumers. His plan, if elected to the five-person commission, would be to require utilities to check immigration status.

"There is a cost ratepayers shouldn't have to bear because of the illegal immigrant population," he said, while acknowledging the idea would probably attract "criticism about human-rights violations."

Um, yes. It would. And understandably so. So why is this idiot recommending it?

Though Arizona has drawn praise and criticism alike from all corners of the country for its new law making illegal immigration a state crime, support was hard to come by for Wong's proposal.

None of the other candidates for the commission would endorse his idea. The CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry also blasted Wong in a column in the Republic, accusing him of trying to "score cheap political points" while marking a "new low" in the state's immigration debate.

"To deny someone access to electricity based on his or her immigration status is not only a wrongheaded policy proposal, it's just cruel," Glenn Hamer wrote, calling the candidate's economic argument "absurd." 

It's certainly absurd, it's certainly cruel, it's certainly about scoring political points, and it's certainly one among many lows.

The argument, of course, is that these are illegal immigrants who shouldn't be in the U.S. in the first place. But it would be exceedingly difficult for power companies to identify who is documented and who isn't, and, lest we forget, we're talking not just about illegal immigrants here but about the children of illegal immigrants. The children would suffer, but so too would the sick and the elderly. It's a service, yes, not a right, but, broadly, it is a right not to be treated cruelly. This is simply no way, no humane way, no compassionate way, no effective way, to address the problem -- to the extent that you look at it that way -- of undocumented immigration into the U.S.

Thankfully, for now, it looks like Wong -- who might want to look into how Chinese immigrants, his own ancestors, were treated -- is on his own here. Even in Arizona, it seems, some ideas are just a little too crazy.

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NASA aims to reach out to Muslim world, but what about space exploration?

Conservatives are making a big deal of Byron York's report at the Washington Examiner on NASA's new mission to reach out to the Muslim world:

In a far-reaching restatement of goals for the nation's space agency, NASA administrator Charles Bolden says President Obama has ordered him to pursue three new objectives: to "re-inspire children" to study science and math, to "expand our international relationships," and to "reach out to the Muslim world." Of those three goals, Bolden said in a recent interview with al-Jazeera, the mission to reach out to Muslims is "perhaps foremost," because it will help Islamic nations "feel good" about their scientific accomplishments.

In the same interview, Bolden also said the United States, which first sent men to the moon in 1969, is no longer capable of reaching beyond low earth orbit without help from other nations.

Bolden made the statements during a recent trip to the Middle East. He told al-Jazeera that in the wake of the president's speech in Cairo last year, the American space agency is now pursuing "a new beginning of the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world."

On one hand, I don't see much of a problem here. NASA focuses on space exploration, of course, but it also has an educative purpose, or mission. Assuming that Bolden is telling the truth here -- and I have no reason to think he isn't, though I wonder if he might not have been emphasizing certain points in reaching out to a largely Muslim audience -- the president wants to see the agency engage positively with the Muslim world in order to highlight its scientific achievements and to bring it closer to the U.S. In other words, NASA would contribute to diplomatic efforts to forge bonds between the U.S. and the Muslim world while seeking to strengthen the latter's commitment to science.

And it is this last point that is key. It was science, after all, that liberated the West from the shackles of Dark Ages and Medieval Christianity and that continues to withstand efforts by religious fundamentalists, including Christians, to undo centuries of progress and return to theocratic ignorance and oppression. What Obama understands is that the Muslim world needs more science, that it needs to be reminded of its own glorious scientific past and encouraged to free itself from its own self-imposed bondage.

To that end, perhaps NASA can help. Engagement would likely bring much greater international cooperation in general and perhaps, just perhaps, significant progress and modernization in the Muslim world.

On the other hand, the new mission seems rather silly, and beyond NASA's traditional purpose. As my conservative friend Ed Morrissey puts it:

The problem Byron uncovers goes farther than just the Muslim outreach, though. NASA has always inspired children and even bolstered international relations, but not because that was its mission. It did those things by pursuing solid goals of exploration of space, which is why Congress funds the agency. Those esteem-boosters came as a secondary result of actual achievement, not as an end in itself. The Obama administration wants to turn this over onto its head by making NASA a bureaucracy dedicated to self-esteem which might at some point have a goal that has to do with exploration of space.

This is a recipe for failure on an expensive scale. Congress needs to either get the White House to redefine its mission for NASA or cut off its funds until the self-esteem party is canceled.

I wouldn't go so far as to call it a "self-esteem party" -- again, Bolden's comments were directed at a Muslim audience and were likely meant as an expression of respect directed at Muslims' sense of prideful self-identity -- but I think Ed's right that NASA might just be overstepping its bounds here. The focus really should be on working towards actual achievements in the area of space exploration, such as a manned mission to Mars or a near-Earth asteroid, not on being an organ of foreign policy and making Muslim countries "feel good."

Outreach here on Earth has a place, of course, and it's true that the U.S. can't go it alone in space, but NASA would do well to go back to what it does best, which is exploring new frontiers in space. And while the U.S. can and perhaps should support science in the Muslim world with the goal of modernization and perhaps liberalization, Obama would do well to get NASA back on track.

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Monday, July 05, 2010

Just how crazy is Sharron Angle? (4)

(You can find the first three parts of this ongoing series here, here and here.)

Just how crazy is she? So crazy that her people are trying to hide just how crazy by erasing her history of craziness:

Sharron Angle has resorted to an unusual maneuver to counter Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's attacks on her past quotes and positions, the Reid campaign has announced: A cease-and-desist letter, demanding that Reid no longer republish Angle's previous campaign website.

The short version of the story is as follows: After the former state Rep won Nevada's Republican Senate primary, Angle's campaign took down most of its website, and later replaced it with a relaunched version that in some ways toned down her right-wing rhetoric. But Internet pages are rarely ever forgotten -- the Reid campaign saved the old version, and put up a website called "The Real Sharron Angle," reproducing the old content.

Then, they say, the Angle campaign sent them a cease-and-desist letter, claiming misuse of copyrighted materials in the reposting of the old website -- which was, of course, being posted for the purposes of ridiculing Angle. The Reid campaign has in fact taken down the site, rerouting visitors to another website that goes after Angle's positions, "Sharron's Underground Bunker."

I'm not exactly an expert in copyright law, and she (and her campaign) may have a good case here. The Reid campaign, after all, has taken down the website that included verbatim content taken from her website. While this will perhaps be fought out in the courts, I agree with the Reid campaign: "While we do not necessarily agree with the Angle campaign's assertions, a point is made," said one campaign official. "Sharron Angle is hiding her views from Nevada voters."

To be fair, Angle's campaign is sane enough to realize that it has to whitewash her craziness out of existence, or at least to try to hide written evidence of her craziness from public view. Playing to the far right during the campaign, that is, directly appealing to the far right that controls the Republican Party at the grassroots level, as well as increasingly at the state and national levels, and doing so successfully, the campaign is retreating to, well, not to the center, nor even to the center-right, where the few remaining sane Republicans remain, but to the somewhat less far right. Even in Nevada, where a certain amount of political craziness sells, and even in a time of anti-incumbent bias, it's really the only way, barring a complete Reid collapse, which is possible given his unpopularity, for Angle to pull this off.

Regardless of what the Reid campaign posts and is allowed to post online, though, it is essential that the truth about Sharron Angle be known, and that Nevada voters know who and what she really is. So go ahead and check out Sharron Angle's Underground Bunker.

Angle can run from the truth, and her campaign can try to rewrite her history, but her craziness is there for all to see.

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The Odd Couple

By Capt. Fogg

No, not Felix and Oscar, but Joe and John: Lieberman and McCain. Putative Democrat and the Republican quondam candidate. Often appearing to be on the same side, their opinions drive us to confusion and not to any conclusion.

The right wing outrage machine has been like a chorus of vuvuzelas, blaring accusations that the classified rules of engagement instituted by General McChrystal on his own initiative were in fact forced on him by president Obama and his opposition, despite his sworn public testimony to the contrary, was the reason he was relieved of command. I suspect Joe Lieberman agrees, although I know he knows better.

The policy of trying to reduce the heavy civilian casualties so as to give the US less of the appearance of an invading horde bent on its own objectives and with no concern for innocent life or limb, is misguided says Lieberman; as though to say we shouldn't be concerned to appear as liberators with the best interests of Afghanistan at heart. We shouldn't care that people whose children we've cavalierly blown to hell aren't going to try to make our efforts any easier and so he's advising General Petraeus to shoot first and ask questions later. It's hurting our morale, says he as though 9 years of getting nowhere can be blamed on being the kind of nation we're supposed to be and more importantly as though it were president Obama's fault for worrying too much about worthless Muslim lives.

Perhaps John McCain's statement that even another ten years of war may not be too much to ask of our country, fits with Lieberman's disinterest in having the country we tell ourselves we're helping on our side. Ten more years of shooting up innocent families at weddings, on the streets, in their cars and in their homes will likely draw us into many more decades of war, and that McCain thinks this war is self justifying if not actually morally or functionally satisfying is not beyond conjecture. Another ten years, another 3, 4, 5 trillion dollars and who knows how many more dead: economic and moral collapse -- that should make the country crazy and enough to elect another Republican.

Pretty clever, and to think I thought McCain was an idiot.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Around the world: Poland, Mexico, Japan, and Nepal

With the U.S. celebrating its independence over the weekend, let's begin the week with a quick look at some interesting international stories (something we haven't done in quite some time):

1) Poland: Acting President Bronislaw Komorowski has moved ahead of Jaroslaw Kaczynski in what is a very close run-off presidential election -- at last check, it's 52.6 to 47.4. (The first round was held last month, but no candidate won 50% of the vote.) The election, needless to say, is taking place in the shadow of the plane crash, in April, that killed then-President Lech Kaczynski and many of the country's top political and military leaders.

2) Mexico: The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the socialist-cum-centrist de facto "state party" that controlled the country for over 70 years (under a few different names) -- until the center-right National Action Party (PAN) won the presidency in 2000 under Vicente Fox (and then again in 2006 under Felipe Calderón, when it also won pluralitis in both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate) -- looked to make major gains in yesterday's local elections, including most of the 12 gubernatorial races, positioning it well ahead of the 2012 presidential election. (The Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), the other of the three major parties, has also been strong, with Andrés Manuel López Obrador running a close second to Calderón in '06. It heads the Coalition for the Good of All, a left-wing coalition that won more Chamber seats than the PRI's Alliance for Mexico coalition in '06.)

3) Japan: The world of sumo wrestling has been brought low by a series of scandals involving drugs, match-fixing, and gangsters, and now the Japan Sumo Association has banned a top wrestler for life for gambling on baseball -- yes, baseball -- and for paying off a gangster who blackmailed him. This doesn't appear to be a Pete Rose situation, but, scandals piling up, a sport steeped in tradition appears to be unravelling.

4) Nepal: If you're looking for a black market in small arms, why not try Thamel, Kathmandu's central tourist district? "Most tourists spend at least a day here before heading out into the country to go trekking or rafting. But in recent years, the cafes selling banana pancakes and vegetarian food have been joined by strip bars and dance clubs, many of them employing underage girls who have been trafficked into the capital from the countryside." Sounds charming.

Okay, that's it for now.

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Sunday, July 04, 2010

Independence Day 2010

I meant to post something earlier today, but it was a relaxing day full of soccer tournaments and pool-side barbeques with friends -- well, one of each, actually -- and I'm just now sitting down at the computer, with an eye on Halos-Royals on ESPN (which we get here on TSN). So it was a busy Fourth of July for me, even here in Canada, three days after our own national birthday celebration.

I want to wish a very happy Fourth of July to all my American friends and family, to my wonderful American co-bloggers and contributors, to my American friends throughout the blogosphere, and of course to all of our American readers.

As a subject of Her Majesty the Queen -- I'm British as well as Canadian -- my feelings on this day are, as you might expect, somewhat mixed. But we're past all that, aren't we? No hard feelings? Besides, I really do love America -- I wouldn't spend so much time writing about it if I didn't care.

Anyway, I hope you've all had a great day. Be safe out there.

-- Michael

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Why I hate the World Cup

By Capt. Fogg

For the same reason I dislike the Olympics, of course and I dislike the Olympics for the same reasons I dislike McDonalds and Coca Cola and Nike and all the other rapacious multinational corporations that milk humanity like a herd of cattle while pretending it's a noble endeavour. Hosting this event costs huge amounts of money and it doesn't necessarily repay the investment, at least not to those out of whose hide it comes. With the hordes of foreign visitors being herded away from local vendors selling local food and African products; with long-time venues for those vendors being reserved for large, foreign sponsors, McDonalds and Coke will get the lion's share and the locals will have to forage like jackals for the leavings.

Will South Africa be a better place for South Africans after the noise stops and the clean-up begins? Does history hinge on whether or not a bunch of ball kickers from the Netherlands beat their counterparts from Uruguay and will international relations be more peaceful or tolerant because of anything that happens here? Will any of it matter ten minutes after it's all over? I have a hard time believing that the health or the wealth or the education of South Africans will see a benefit commensurate with all the noise and expense. Even the infernal Vuvuzelas are made in China.

It's true, I have little taste for watching men running around kicking things or for the feral screams of crazed viewers blowing into noisemakers as though anything happening in the arena was of any consequence whatever unless it was to the already huge profits of Nike or the sellers of beer and cigarettes -- or plastic horns. I have a greater distaste for the mass purveyors of opiates, even the real and quiet ones.

Panis et circenses, bread and circuses; it's a tried and true way to calm the animals in the feed lots and holding pens; to pacify the proletarii and the slaves while the emperors and the senators grew fatter. Gooooooooooooooal!

(Cross posted from Human voices)

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The Glorious Fourth

By Mustang Bobby.

When I was a kid I was very outgoing in putting up displays for the holidays -- Memorial Day, Christmas, the Fourth of July -- I liked the flags, the lights, the stuff. It was cool to make a big splash. But as I grew up I grew out of it, and today I don't go much for things like that. I don't have a flag to fly on national holidays, and the most I'll do for Christmas is a wreath on the door because it has good memories and the scent of pine is rare in subtropical Florida.

I suppose it has something to do with my Quaker notions of shunning iconography -- outward symbols can't show how you truly feel about something on the inside, and more often than not they are used to make up for the lack of a true belief. This is also true of patriotism: waving the flag -- or wrapping yourself in it -- is a poor and false measure of how you truly feel about your country.

There's an old saying that there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. As Benjamin Franklin noted, no country had ever been formed because of an idea. But when the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in 1776 and passed the resolution embodied in the Declaration of Independence, that was what was being done. To create a nation not based on geographical boundaries, property, tribalism, or religion, but on the idea of forming a new government to replace the present form because the rulers were incompetent, uncaring, and cruel. The American Revolution wasn't so much a rebellion as it was a cry for attention. Most of the Declaration is a punch-list, if you will, of grievances both petty and grand against the Crown, and once the revolution was over and the new government was formed, the Constitution contained many remedies to prevent the slights and injuries inflicted under colonialism: the Bill of Rights is a direct response to many of the complaints listed in the Declaration.

But the Declaration of Independence goes beyond complaints. Its preamble is a mission statement. It proclaims our goals and what we hope to achieve. No nation had ever done that before, and to this day we are still struggling to achieve life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness goes on with no sign of let-up.

That is the true glory of America. Not that we complain -- and we do -- but that we work to fix those complaints. To put them right. To make things better than they were. To give hope to people who feel that they have no voice, and to assure that regardless of who they are, where they come from, what they look like, who they love, or what they believe, there will be room for them to grow, do, and become whatever it is that they have the capacity to be. It's a simple idea, but the simplest ideas often have the most powerful impact.

This nation has achieved many great things. We've inspired other nations and drawn millions to our shores not to just escape their own country but to participate in what we're doing. And we've made mistakes. We've blundered and fumbled and bullied and injured. We've treated some of our own citizens with contempt, and shown the same kind of disregard for the rights of others that we enumerated in our own Declaration of Independence. We have been guilty of arrogance and hypocrisy. But these are all human traits, and we are, after all, human. The goal of government is to rise above humanity, and the goal of humanity is to strive for perfection. So if we stumble on the road to that goal, it is only because we are moving forward.

I love this country not for what it is but for what it could be. In my own way I show my patriotism not by waving a flag from my front porch but by working to make things work in our system and by adding to the discussion that will bring forth ideas to improve our lives and call into question the ideas of others. It is all a part of what makes the simple idea of life, liberty, and that elusive happiness so compelling and so inspiring, and what makes me very proud to be a part of this grand experiment.

Go forth!

(Originally posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof on July 4, 2005.)

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