Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Media coverage of 3rd party candidates

The following comes from a letter I received recently from the Nader campaign. He's probably used this line before, although I hadn't heard it:
Ralph Nader met recently with the editors of the Washington Post, who told him the reason the paper wasn't covering his campaign was because he had no chance of winning. Ralph shot back – then why are you covering the Washington Nationals, the team with the worst record in Major League Baseball?
I do have to note that Nader scores no points from me for actually knowing (or caring) who has the worst record in Major League Baseball; doesn't he have more important things to occupy his time? Well, ok, I'll cut him some slack, after all, he's got all that free time because he's not allowed in the debates.

By the way, the headline is a bit inaccurate. I wish Ralph Nader were a "3rd party candidate." His history proves he has no interest whatsoever in trying to build a serious 3rd party movement that transcends himself. That's not to say, as Democrats like to do, that he is an "egotist," but it is to say his only interest in 3rd parties is using existing ones to get on the ballot in different states. If it were left to the effort he puts into them, they wouldn't even exist for him to take advantage of.


Did lack of universal health care cause the current financial "crisis"?

Michael Moore says "yes":
This so-called "collapse" was triggered by the massive defaulting and foreclosures going on with people's home mortgages. Do you know why so many Americans are losing their homes? To hear the Republicans describe it, it's because too many working class idiots were given mortgages that they really couldn't afford. Here's the truth: The number one cause of people declaring bankruptcy is because of medical bills. Let me state this simply: If we had had universal health coverage, this mortgage "crisis" may never have happened.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Ludicrous (and dangerous) liberals

Writing in The Nation about a meeting between Ahmadinejad and representatives of the U.S. peace movement, Robert Dreyfuss writes:
He specifically said that Iran is opposed to nuclear weapons, adding: "The time for nuclear weapons has come to an end. Those who want to build a new generation of nuclear bombs are politically backward, period!" Of course, the idea that Iran would risk world isolation, sanctions, UN Security Council actions, and the threat of war in order to have a peaceful nuclear energy program seems quite ludicrous to me. Clearly, Ahmadinejad is one of those "politically backward" ones.
Yes, the idea that someone might actually take a principled stand rather than selling out to the highest bidder, or cave in to pressure from the biggest bully, is "quite ludicrous."

As with practically every liberal, Democrat, or Republican, Dreyfuss writes about how "real power rests with the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei," but neglects to mention that Khamenei has issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons. Wouldn't want to make his own writing appear "ludicrous."

Of course, this isn't just a question of what is or is not ludicrous. Because underlying it all is the continuing attempt on the part of the entire U.S. political "establishment" to build a justification for, and thus lay the groundwork for, an attack on Iran. After all, if Ahmadinejad is "one of those 'politically backward' ones, that means that he "wants to build a new generation of nuclear bombs," and we can't have that, now can we?


"Middle class" = "Working families" ≠ "Working class"

The other day I wrote:
Why do politicians always use the phrases "working families" and "middle class," but never "working class"?
And Saturday along came Barack Obama to reinforce that question:
"Through 90 minutes of debate, John McCain had a lot to say about me, but he didn't have anything to say about you. He didn't even say the words 'middle class.' He didn't even say the words 'working people.'"
And two words for sure that neither he nor Obama said: "working class." God forbid.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Obama "against" the war in Iraq

I've written about this many times before, but in the debate Friday night, Sen. Obama had a pretty concise statement summarizing his "opposition" to the invasion of Iraq:
"Six years ago, I stood up and opposed this war at a time when it was politically risky to do so because I said that not only did we not know how much it was going to cost, what our exit strategy might be, how it would affect our relationships around the world, and whether our intelligence was sound, but also because we hadn't finished the job in Afghanistan.

So I think the lesson to be drawn is that we should never hesitate to use military force, and I will not, as president, in order to keep the American people safe. But we have to use our military wisely. And we did not use our military wisely in Iraq."
It wasn't "wise" because it might cost too much and last too long and the downside might be bigger than the upside, plus we were busy fighting another war. As I've said before, a "cost-benefit" analysis to whether the U.S. should fight war. Legality? Morality? Justice? The fact that any cost, even one dollar or one life, would be too much to justify an unprovoked attack on another country? Nothing to do with it.

And why might this be relevant? Because, NIE notwithstanding, Obama is still beating the "Iran is developing nuclear weapons" drum, even louder than ever:

"[The Iranians] have actually accelerated their efforts to get nuclear weapons."
Unintentionally humorous comment of the debate goes to McCain:
"The Iranians have a lousy government, so therefore their economy is lousy."


"Duh" moment of the day

The chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, a longtime proponent of deregulation, acknowledged Friday that failures in a voluntary supervision program for Wall Street's largest investment banks had contributed to the global financial crisis, and he abruptly shut the program down. (Source)
Yeah, who'da thunk it?

Funny they've never suggested voluntary payment of taxes, eh? Only the rich get "voluntary compliance with the law." Dictatorship of capital, remember?


NPR: Unclear on the concept

On NPR's "On the Media" today (not the be confused with FAIR's superior but less widely distributed "Counterspin"), interview Amy Goodman about the arrest of journalists at the RNC. This caught my ear, as NPR's host Brooke Gladstone more or less suggested to Goodman they shouldn't cover the demonstrations anyway:
"Is every march, every protest a story that deserves a full media complement? These are, in effect, designed to attract media attention. Do the media have to take the bait?"
Goodman gives a more or less neutral answer, starting with "I think it's our job to cover all of it." Here's my answer: "What the hell do you think the Republican and Democratic conventions were, other than events designed to attract media attention?"

There was one good line from Goodman:

"Reporters have to be able to put things on the record without getting a record."

Friday, September 26, 2008


Obama v. McCain (v. the people of the U.S. and the world)

The debate doesn't start for a few hours, but I'm about to be incommunicado until Monday. So, talk amongst yourselves when the time comes. :-) Extra credit to anyone who can spot actual differences between the candidates.


The Sarah Palin Chronicles

A lot of attention has been paid to Katie Couric's interview with Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, particularly the the parts in which she veers from inane to downright incoherent, such as when she talks about Vladimir Putin "rear[ing] his head and com[ing] into the air space of the U.S." in Alaska as part of her "foreign-policy credentials." But there were two things that have received less attention that caught my eye.

One wasn't actually a Palin answer, but a Couric question. Strangely enough, however, although I will swear in the best Dave Barry tradition I am not making this up, I cannot find it in the video or transcript [bonus points and a hearty handshake to anyone who can find it online]; it's been replaced by a generic "Next, Couric asked about the $700 billion government bailout of bad debt - and whether she supports it." But what she actually said, quoting from memory, went like this:

"The government is proposing a $700 bailout for the banks. Why shouldn't we take that money and spend it on health care, housing, and similar direct needs, and let people spend the money and get it into the economy that way?"
What's interesting about that isn't the answer, which is 100% blather, but how that question comes almost out of left field (pun intended). Aside from myself, others on the left, a tiny handful of progressive Democrats like Dennis Kucinich, and rarely cited economists, no one in the "mainstream" is talking about the solution Couric asks about. Yet here she was asking about it. Needless to say Palin wasn't prepared to answer that specific question, and didn't.

The second comes when the discussion turns to "nation-building" and "spreading democracy" around the world, which is in the video here (but, curiously, is not part of the CBS transcript):

COURIC: What happens if the goal of democracy, Gov. Palin, doesn't produce the desired outcome? For example, in Gaza, the U.S. pushed hard for elections, Hamas won.

PALIN: Yeah. Well, especially in that region, though, we have got to protect those who do seek democracy and do seek protections for the people who live there. And, you know, we're seeking in the last couple of days here in New York, a speaker, a President of Iran, Ahmadinejad, who would come on our soil and express such disdain for one of our closest allies and friends, Israel, and we're hearing the evil that he speaks.
Note how the question itself assumes that the result of the democratic election in Gaza wasn't democratic, and how Palin goes immediately to another subject without even pretending to answer the question. But note also how her answer (about Ahmadinejad having the nerve to "come on our soil" and speak his mind) parallels almost exactly what Barack Obama had to say on the subject. She's not remotely as informed or articulate as Obama, but their actual positions are virtually identical.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Sarkozy: unclear on the concept

French President Nicolas Sarkozy:
"The crisis is not a crisis of capitalism," he said. "It is the crisis of a system that is far from the values of capitalism and has betrayed capitalism."
Evidently M. Sarkozy has a dictionary which, aside from being in French, is quite different than mine, because as I read things, we are looking precisely at the "values of capitalism."

Sarkozy continues:

"The idea of an all-powerful market without any rules and any political intervention is mad," Sarkozy said. "Self-regulation is finished. Laissez faire is finished. The all-powerful market that is always right is finished."
But it's not a "crisis of capitalism." Right. Nice try, Monsieur.


We are the world (and other lies)

In a recent post, I quoted extensively from Iranian President Ahmadinejad's interview with Larry King. I'd like to quote one more section, because the point Ahmadinejad makes here is a point that could be repeated over and over, from Iran to Cuba to North Korea to Venezuela, i.e., with respect to any country in the sights of the U.S.:
KING: One of the big fears the United States has -- the world has about Iran -- is nuclear weapons.

AHMADINEJAD: You say that the world is afraid of Iran and concerned about it.

I ask you, which part of the world are we speaking of?

Is it the case that the U.S. government is the equivalent of the entire world and makes the case for that world?

Is it the case that the U.S. government and a few of its allies can be considered as the whole world?


Let me tell you -- well, you see, if you're talking about the Western states, I have to say, their concerns about us are not new. They've always been concerned. They were the ones who inspired Saddam to attack Iran and to get us involved in an eight-year war. The terrorist groups that killed our president, prime minister, our officials, are now freely active in the Western countries.

But let me tell you, 118 member states of the NAM, the Non- Aligned Movement, have actually supported our peaceful nuclear pursuits. Fifty-seven member states of the Organization of Islamic States have also given their support to us in this regard. And there are many other organizations -- multilateral organizations that have supported our endeavor and efforts.

So it's not the world exactly that's concerned about us.
Any time you hear anyone in U.S. public life - Administration, Congress, media, etc., talk about "world opinion," ask yourself, "what 'world' are they talking about?" For bonus points, ask yourself why they are happy to invoke "world opinion" when it suits them, but when real world opinion, as expressed by literally millions of people in the streets of every major country in the world prior to the invasion of Iraq, is opposed to the actions (or, in that case, the impending actions) of the U.S., they're perfectly happy to ignore it. [By the way, just to clarify the "we" in the title of the post refers (hopefully obviously) to the United States. It most definitely does not refer to the readers of this blog!]

Of course, it isn't just the words "world opinion" that get thrown around lightly; "dictator" is another. In "Sarah Palin's" undelivered speech at the U.N. ("Sarah Palin" in quotes since there is little to no chance she wrote a word of it), she would have said:

"We gather here today to highlight the Iranian dictator's intentions and to call for action to thwart him."
But as an article at Press TV today points out,
Plagued by fevered imaginations, upper echelons in Washington have been laughed out of their own court in recent years but have never been so entertaining.

Perhaps by 'dictator', she thinks Iran is still under US rule? After all, an oil-seeking Washington did restore monarchy to Iran after their 1953 overthrow of the democratically-elected Iranian prime minister of the time, Mohammed Mosaddeq, who sought to nationalize the country's oil industry.

President Ahmadinejad may be under fire at home over high inflation, but he has been democratically elected and enjoys immense popularity in Iran and among Muslims around the world.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Going Down to Cuba

Also from last night's Colbert Report, a new song from Jackson Browne, entitled "Going Down to Cuba," denouncing the blockade and the travel ban. It's not the best song I've ever heard, but hey, the message is right:



Stephen Colbert addresses the unseemly urgency of "fixing" the nation's [sic] financial problems. Well worth the Emmy award.


Presidential debate

John McCain wants to pull out of Friday night's debate. I suggest we all write to Obama and urge him to continue, only to invite new, more worthy, opponents, such as Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney, Gloria La Riva, and Bob Barr, all of whom will have far more interesting (and, from Obama's point of view, challenging) things to say than John McCain anyway.


Talk to Iran? Obama doesn't even want to listen!

Barack Obama distinguished himself from Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primary, and continues to distinguish himself from John McCain, by claiming he would "talk with" Iran (indeed, I just heard Joe Biden making a major point of this in a talk this morning). But his idea of "talking with" someone must be different than mine, because, as it turns out, he doesn't even want to listen:
I strongly condemn President Ahmadinejad’s outrageous remarks at the United Nations, and am disappointed that he had a platform to air his hateful and anti-Semitic views. The threat from Iran’s nuclear program is grave. Now is the time for Americans to unite on behalf of the strong sanctions that are needed to increase pressure on the Iranian regime.
Yes, we wouldn't want to let the elected leaders of other countries speak at the United Nations. What did he say there? He called out the U.S. on Iraq ("Millions of people have been killed or displaced, and the occupiers, without a sense of shame, are still seeking to solidify their position in the political geography of the region and to dominate oil resources. They have no respect for the people of Iraq and disregard any dignity, rights, or status for them."), Afghanistan ("The people of Afghanistan are the victims of the willingness of NATO member states to dominate the regions surrounding India, China, and South Asia"), denounced the oppression of the Palestinian people ("In Palestine, 60 years of carnage and invasion is still ongoing at the hands of some criminal and occupying Zionists."), denounced U.S. interference in Latin America ("In Latin America, people find their security, national interests, and cultures to be seriously endangered by the menacing shadow of alien domineering governments, an even by the embassies of some empires"), and so on. All things Obama no doubt didn't want to hear and thinks were "outrageous."

The claim of "anti-Semitism" undoubtedly stems from this passage:

"The dignity, integrity, and rights of the American and European people are being played with by a small and deceitful number of people called Zionists. Although they are a minuscule minority, they have been dominating an important portion of the financial and monetary centers as well as the political decision-making centers of some European countries and the US in a deceitful, complex, and furtive manner. It is deeply disastrous to witness that some presidential or premiere nominees in some big countries have to visit these people, take part in their gatherings, swear their allegiance and commitment to their interests in order to attain financial or media support."
Yes, talk of "Jewish bankers" through the ages has oft been a mask for the most virulent anti-Semitism. But when you read the entirety of this passage, and think back only a few weeks to Sarah Palin, having her very first meeting following her nomination be with leaders of AIPAC, and of course further back with Obama and Clinton duly genuflecting on their altar (weird metaphor, eh?), it's not hard to see where Ahmadinejad is coming from, nor to see why Obama feels it necessary to express his "outrage."

Believe it or not (not, if, like me, you're not a big fan of Larry King), there was a very worthwhile interview of Ahmadinejad with Larry King last night (transcript). Worthwhile because, among other things, King believes in letting his guest actually answer the questions he asks, instead of spending the whole time arguing with them, as a Wolf Blitzer would have done.

Let me just highlight his discussion of nuclear weapons, none of which is new, but it sure would be nice if Obama (and McCain and Biden and the media and every other part of the U.S. "establishment") would actually listen:

Regarding the question of the bomb. We believe, as a matter of religious teaching, that we must be against any form of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. The production and the usage of nuclear weapons is one of the most abhorrent acts to our eyes.

In addition, we also believe that the atomic bomb has lost its use in political affairs, in fact. The time for a nuclear bomb has ended. Whoever who invests in it is going the wrong way.

Was a nuclear bomb able to help keep the Soviet Union intact and prevent its downfall?

Was it able to bring victory for the United States either in Afghanistan or Iraq?

Can it be used to that end?

Can the nuclear bomb save the Zionist regime?

The time for bombs of that nature has ended. It is a time of thought, a time for culture and reason to prevail.
Ahmadinejad discusses Palestine, anti-Semitism, the holocaust, gays, the invasion of Iraq, and more. Needless to say I don't agree with him on everything. On gays, for example, he basically says his religion says homosexuality is a sin and that it's "against human principles." Obviously I disagree. But a smarter political answer would have been to note that Iran is no different than many other Muslim countries (e.g., U.S. ally Saudi Arabia) in this regard, and, for that matter, no different than the U.S. was not that long ago, either in its laws or in reality (e.g., Matthew Shepard). On the Holocaust, he talks about people disagreeing about its extent, which, as I've written before, is absurd, but hardly less absurd than Bush and the corporate media disputing (by an order of magnitude or more!) the death toll in Iraq. Regardless, I recommend the interview to all readers, and to Barack Obama too. He might learn something.



I'm increasingly convinced that the events taking place in Washington around the financial "crisis" are a complete charade. Yesterday, for example,
In blunt terms, Mr. Bernanke warned the senators that if they failed to pass the $700 billion plan, they risked causing a recession, increasing joblessness and pushing more homes into foreclosure.
Oh please. We're already in a recession, even if they don't want to call it one, and Bernanke is well aware that increased layoffs and foreclosures are going to happen no matter what. This is sounding more and more like an exercise in blame (and blackmail). "Give our rich friends money or we'll blame you (Congress) for the layoffs and foreclosures which are going to happen anyway (and if you do give us the money, and they happen anyway, we'll blame it on your not giving us exactly what we asked for; if only you had given Henry Paulson complete, unchecked authority then our plan would have worked)."

I've posted the last few days in general terms about what $700 billion could be used for. But there's no need to be generic. Today, for example, Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the California budget, after first using his line-item veto to eliminate $510 million in spending from the budget. $510 million, less than one-tenth of one-percent of the proposed $700 billion bailout. And what could California have done with an extra $510 million? Among the items slashed by Schwarzenegger - "more than 10,000 workers laid off around the state this summer will not be hired back." So instead of hoping that bailed out financial firms would now have money to loan to hypothetical companies who might ask for a loan so they could hire more workers (a rather unlikely scenario in this economy in any case), very real workers could have been given their very real jobs back for a fraction of the money. The scenario is repeated in state after state, city after city. The city of Oakland, with a $30-$50 million budget shortfall (that's one-hundredth of one percent of the bailout fund), is also preparing for layoffs, which means more jobs which could be saved.

Wall Street is always talking (laughably) about "pay for performance." Here's my proposal. Let Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke set goals for the number of jobs that are going to be created by their bailout. For every job shortfall in reaching that goal, each of them has to pay a dollar into the Treasury. 100,000 jobs less than they predict, they pay $100,000. A million jobs less than they predict, they pay $1,000,000. Let them put their money where their mouth is. Let's see how many jobs they predict will be created with this hanging over their heads.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


What could $700 billion do?

Attempting to ratchet up the scare factor:
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke bluntly warned reluctant lawmakers Tuesday they risk a recession with higher unemployment and increased home foreclosures if they fail to pass the Bush administration's $700 billion plan to bail out the financial industry.
"Risk" a recession? Open your eyes, Ben.

As far as that "higher unemployment," let's do some math, elaborating on a point made in a post below. $700 billion, divvied up into modest but decent salaries of $50,000 (enough to help someone make a mortgage payment!), pays for 14 million jobs. In reality, it does far more. Because if you give $50,000 to a working person (or a formerly unemployed person, more to the point), they're likely to spend every penny, on groceries, rent, gas, whatever. Meaning that every cent goes back into the economy with a "multiplier effect," producing even more jobs.

A "flow-up" plan rather than a "trickle-down" plan. Needless to say, it won't be considered.



Ya' gotta' love the guy:
Throughout Bush's speech, hard-line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has vowed that Iran's military will "break the hand" of anyone targeting the country's nuclear facilities, sat in his seat and smiled and waved to people in the chamber. At one point during Bush's 22-minute talk, Ahmadinejad turned to someone at his side and gave a thumb's down.
Actually, with Bush calling the "Russian invasion" of Georgia a "violation of the U.N. Charter" and talking about "the equal rights of nations large and small," it's a miracle the entire chamber wasn't LOL and ROFLM[T]AO.



Back in 2003, during the last Presidential contest, I wrote this:
A belated quote from Thursday's Democratic Presidential debate:
"Greed and selfishness can kill this great democracy and ruin capitalism." -- Dick Gephardt
Gee, that's funny, in my dictionary under "capitalism" it says "an economic system based on greed and selfishness." OK, I admit you have to read between the lines. :-)
An article today at pslweb, entitled "Capitalism: Something more than greed," expands on that theme. It's well worth reading the entire article, but here are just two paragraphs I thought particularly well formulated:
The fact of the matter is that what the ruling class labels "greed" during an economic crisis they celebrate as "genius" when everything is running smoothly. The ability to cut costs and wages, to squeeze the consumer for every possible buck, to pass off financial risks, to expand as quickly and as far as possible, to buy low and sell high, to find the loopholes that allow a company to turn profits into super-profits—these are the traits necessary for any successful capitalist.
This crisis, in other words, is not an example of "casino-style capitalism" gone wrong, as Ralph Nader suggests. Capitalism itself is always a casino—in which the lives of workers are wagered, the game is rigged, and the house always wins.
Whether human beings are "naturally greedy" or not isn't the question or the problem. The problem is a system in which greed is encouraged and rewarded. That system is capitalism. Oversight and regulation can only go so far to restrain that system; they will never make it into a system which allocates resources according to human needs, not profit.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Just say no!

Well, that was quick (click to cast your "vote"):

One easy way to look at the proposed bailout is as just another form of "trickle-down economics," which should be known by the more accurate name, "piss-on economics." How is this bailout being justified? Because a failure on Wall Street will hurt "Main Street." For example, a Congressman on TV just explained how if these firms fail, it will be harder for students to get loans to go to college. Hey, here's an idea. Let's take the $700 billion, and instead of giving it to Wall Street bankers, let's loan it directly to the students! Big companies won't be able to borrow money to create jobs? No problem, let's take part of the $700 billion and create some jobs of our own, by reviving the concept of the WPA and putting people to work rebuilding America, starting with New Orleans and Galveston.

Trickle-down/piss-on economics? Just say no!


Quote of the day

Tommy Smothers, receiving an honorary Emmy last night, 40 years after pulling his name from the list of writers of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour to increase its chances to win an Emmy by dissociating his "controversial" self from it:
"It’s hard for me to stay silent when I keep hearing that peace is only attainable through war. And there’s nothing more scary than watching ignorance in action,” he said, dedicating his award to “all people who feel compelled to speak out, and are not afraid to speak to power, and won’t shut up and refuse to be silenced.”
Keep swinging, Tommy. Your mom may have always liked Dick best, but the rest of us always preferred you.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Terrorism, racism, anti-communism

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. comments on Sarah Palin's acceptance speech:
Fascist writer Westbrook Pegler, an avowed racist who Sarah Palin approvingly quoted in her acceptance speech for the moral superiority of small town values, expressed his fervent hope about my father, Robert F. Kennedy, as he contemplated his own run for the presidency in 1965, that "some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow flies."
Pegler, as we learn in the oft-maligned but quite invaluable Wikipedia, also called for the assassination of Franklin D. Roosevelt. But no matter, quoting advocates of terrorism is perfectly ok when then targets are Communists or "communists."

Palin (or, more accurately, George Bush's speechwriter who wrote the speech) wasn't just quoting a rabid racist though. Because her quote - "We grow good people in our small towns" - is an implicitly racist statement. Because the clearly implied corollary of praise for "small-town values" and the "good people" of small towns is that there is something very different about "big-town values" and the people of big cities. And who lives in big cities? Blacks. Latinos. Muslims. Jews. Gays. Immigrants. All those "suspect" groups. The groups Palin and her ilk would like to make the scapegoats for the problems of America, just as racists like Pegler and Buchanan and Dobbs have done through the years.


Need $700 billion? Problem solved.

The government is about to spend $700 billion of our money buying up all the risky mortgages in the country. How much is that? AP helpfully points out:
The $700 billion sum is roughly what the Pentagon expects to spend in the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, including the costs of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And of course you're thinking exactly what I'm thinking, right? We really don't have another $700 billion, but we know precisely where we can get the $700 billion for the bailout. And, as an added benefit, make the world one heck of a lot safer to boot, once the scourge of U.S. terrorism is removed, at least for a year.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


(Belated) Freedom of the Press

The headline reads:
St. Paul dropping all misdemeanor charges for journalists arrested during RNC
But the gem is the Mayor's rationale:
"This decision reflects the values we have in Saint Paul to protect and promote our First Amendment rights to freedom of the press.”
Exactly. And what says "freedom of the press" more than arresting a reporter while an event is going on, and releasing them after it's over?

In case you've forgotten (or didn't know), one of the things that the St. Paul police did while arresting (and brutalizing) Democracy Now! producer Nicole Salazar was to "protect and promote her First Amendment rights" by removing the battery from her camera so she couldn't continue filming.


Karl, Abe, and "Dictatorship"

I mention in the post below this one something I called a "harsh-sounding" phrase: "Dictatorship of the Proletariat." The two problems with the phrase are rather obvious. First, people associate the word "dictatorship" with a single, usually brutal, power-mad, and self-serving person. And second, it's hard enough finding anyone (in the United States, anyway) willing to use the words "working class"; "proletariat" just sounds way too 19th-century (incidentally, a momentary digression - why do politicians always use the phrases "working families" and "middle class," but never "working class"?)

Anyway, there's really a much better phrase for Americans to describe the same concept, one originated (in its final form, anyway) by a well-respected American hero - Abraham Lincoln. And that phrase, of course, is "government of the people, by the people, for the people." Clearly, that phrase doesn't apply to the United States. "Of" the people? A country where at least 40 Senators are millionaires, and where Joe Biden and his wife, with an income (not wealth, income) of $319,853, is one of the "least wealthy" people in the Senate but still richer than 99% of all Americans. "By" the people? Not when money is called "free speech" and hundreds of millions of dollars are required to run for office. "For" the people? Not when the government can spend hundreds of billions of dollars on war or bailing out Wall Street, but when it comes to rebuilding New Orleans, or providing health care, or a thousand other things, you're on your own waiting for the "free market" to solve your problems.

There is a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" not far away, and their response to hurricanes is just one of many pieces of evidence of that. 23 people dead in ten years in Cuba, a remarkable record, but one which is matched by a similar record in health care, education, and other human needs. That's what a "dictatorship of the proletariat" - a government of the people, by the people, and, most especially, for the people, can accomplish, even with the meager resources of a blockaded Caribbean island. Just imagine what a government of the people, by the people, and for the people could accomplish in the United States or other wealthy countries.


Money for jobs, not for war!

It's a popular chant at antiwar marches, along with "money for health care, not for war," "money for housing, not for war," "money for education, not for war," and other variants. Which brings us to this from an article on the latest use of "government" (i.e., the people's) money from today's New York Times:
Voters might well wonder why perhaps a half-trillion dollars — about the same amount spent so far in Iraq — is suddenly available to help Wall Street when promises to address issues like health care insurance have gone largely unkept for years.
Well, some might wonder. There's a very harsh-sounding (to many ears) phrase used by the Marxist movement to describe governments in transition to communism: "Dictatorship of the Proletariat." But the fact that the government will spend hundreds of billions, even trillions of dollars, at almost the drop of a hat, either for war, or to prop up Wall Street, while letting the needs of the masses of people go unmet, makes very clear that we're already living under a dictatorship - the Dictatorship of Capital (or, if you prefer, the "Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie").

Some of us (millions around the world, actually) were right about the invasion of Iraq (and Afghanistan and the assault on Yugoslavia and countless other acts of imperialist aggression, but let's hold those thought for the moment), and it only took a few years and a million deaths for that viewpoint to be proven correct and embraced by the majority of people. Some of us are also right about the absolute necessity of socialism, and the ultimate truth of the phrase, "Socialism or barbarism." Unfortunately it is taking much longer, and the deaths worldwide of many more than a million people, for the majority to recognize the validity of that world view.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Don't let the National Park Service privatize the inauguration route

On March 20, 2008, a judge declared unconstitutional the practice of the National Park Service of exempting the Presidential Inaugural Committee from the ordinary permit process in order to give that private political advocacy organization exclusive rights to exclude the public from along the Inaugural Parade route. This meant that the public would actually be allowed to protest at the next inauguration. The horror!

To prevent this affront to democracy plutocracy, the National Park Service has re-written its regulations to set aside prime swaths of the Inaugural Parade route for the exclusive use of the corporate donor friends of the incoming administration. The period for public comment closes in a few days, September 22, and the more of us that protest this outrage, the better. To do so, go here (where you can also read more details) and scroll to the bottom where it says "Here is how you can send your comment" (ignore the link further up the page, which doesn't work). You actually have to type your own comment, but it's the sentiment that's important, not exactly what you say. Just say "no" to the regulations, "yes" to leaving the streets and sidewalks for the people, not big donors.



Two weeks ago I asked where was the "democracy" when the Administration can just unilaterally decide to send $1 billion to Georgia. Now the stakes are up to $85 billion with the bailout of AIG. Did I miss the debate and vote in Congress, which, the last time I read the Constitution, still holds the "power of the purse"? Since when does George Bush Henry Paulson Ben Bernanke Wall Street (who gives the marching orders) get to decide to spend $85 billion of our money?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Economic humor of the day

In my mail today, a junk mailing soliciting my business...from AIG. :-)

Uh, thanks, but no thanks.


Free the Cuban Five!

A bit more about what I've been up to lately, in this video I made of the action I was part of in Washington, D.C. on Friday, September 12, the tenth anniversary of the unjust imprisonment of the Cuban Five.

Incidentally, I just discovered something about YouTube; I don't know how new it is. I've always been dissatisfied with the generally poor quality of many YouTube videos. It turns out that if you go to the YouTube site itself (instead of looking at an "embedded" video like the one above), sometimes right under the video (I think only when you have a high-speed connection to the Internet) there's a link that says "Show high-quality version" (or something like that). When you click on that, the quality is much better. If you want to try it with this video, here's the link. There are a half-dozen or so more videos I made of different aspects of the action here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Political Humor of the Day

While the financial house of cards was collapsing yesterday, I got a bit of gallows humor out of this in yesterday's New York Times:
The merger would combine Bank of America’s banking and lending strength with Merrill Lynch’s wealth management expertise.
"Wealth management expertise"? A company whose stock fell from a value of $100 billion to $50 billion in one year? I don't know about you, but even though my wealth isn't in that neighborhood, I'd like it "managed" a little better than that!

Not to worry, though. The "fundamentals" of "our economy" are "sound." I keep hearing that, so it must be true. Too bad the "sound" is "crash!"


Hot, Flat, and Crowded

That's a description of the unairconditioned gym where I went to hear Tom Friedman speak last night about his new book, coincidentally entitled "Hot, Flat, and Crowded," subtitled "Why we need a green revolution - and how it can renew America." Listening to someone I have little respect for isn't in my normal course of affairs, but I'm visiting my mother for a few days, and she had tickets, and there I was.

Friedman, the evangelist of "entrepreneurship" as the savior of the world, no, strike that, make that the savior of America (his concern for the rest of the world is rather less), thinks that America has "lost its groove" and that "GT" (get it? his clever play on "IT") is how "we" will get our "groove" back (and fix the economy and save the world etc. etc.).

Well, I had a chance to read the first chapter of the book before the talk, and when the floor opened for questions, I was second at the mike (not bad considering there were 1500 people there!). I had a lot of things to choose from, just from having read the first chapter, but here's what I said (quoting from memory of course):

"I was surprised to read on page 20 of your book, and I'm quoting, 'The strong and competitive sectors of our economy are as strong and competitive as any in the world.' Other than Google, just which sectors of the economy did you have in mind exactly? Manufacturing? Banking?"
Before I get to the rest of my question, I have to tell you a bit more about the book. Friedman being Friedman, even though the book is about energy and the green revolution, "Islamic terrorism" is never far from his mind (or his pen). So he starts by talking about how low the opinion of America has fallen in the world (part of the "groove" we've lost). And the anecdote he starts with is about how the U.S. consulate in Istanbul used to be downtown, but after 9/11 it got moved out of town, and now looks like nothing less than a maximum security prison, complete with 15-foot walls, barbed wire, etc. It's described as "so well guarded they don't even let birds fly there." So Friedman points out that this means that the locals can no longer just drop in, the Americans are more isolated, and that (and similar things like fingerprinting visitors to the U.S.) are why "they" don't like "us" any more.

So I continued:

"And I was also surprised to read in the first chapter, which I admit is the only one I've read so far, that when you talk about the increasingly negative opinion that the world has of the United States you mention such things as the new fortress consulate in Istanbul, but there isn't a single mention of the invasion of Iraq or the invasion of Afghanistan, or the deaths of hundreds of thousands, probably more than a million, Iraqis, thousands of Afghans, not to mention nearly four million Iraqis forced from their homes, as well as many dead Somalis, Pakistanis, and others."
About when I got to the Somalis he cut me off (politely), and said (again, quoting from memory),
"We [I think he meant people in general, not he and I] have differences in opinion about the war in Iraq, and I don't want to refight those arguments, but thank you for getting that off your chest, and if you want to discuss it further after you've finished the book, I'll be glad to give you my phone number."
A complete and utter ducking of the two questions, not to mention completely missing the point of the second question, which wasn't to reargue the justification for the invasion of Iraq (or Afghanistan) [by the way you can read his thoughts on the subject here, which are truly repugnant], but to question his explanation for why people think so little of the United States.

After the talk finished, I quickly (I'm not usually a pushy guy, but when the occasion warrants...) jumped up and got to the podium before he even left to go sit at a table to sign books (where there were several hundred people in line). I handed him a card on which I had written: "The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil," and told him this was a documentary (my review here) very much on point to his lecture and book and he really should see it. He seemed genuinely interested, and did give me his phone number. :-) Not that I expect to be using it.

Let me share one of the things I didn't ask him about, which really didn't hit me until I thought about it later. He concludes (both in the book and in his talk) the anecdote about the U.S. Embassy in Turkey with the "upside" of the moving of the Embassy out of center city:

"But here's a hard truth. Some U.S. diplomats are probably alive today thanks to this fortress. Because on November 20, 2003...Turkish Muslim terrorists detonated truck bombs at the HSBC bank and the British consulate in Istanbul, killing thirty people including Britain's consul general, and wounding at least four hundred others. The bomb-ravaged British mission was just a short walk from [the former site of the U.S. consulate.

"One of the terrorists captured after the attack reportedly told Turkish police that the group had wanted to blow up the new U.S. consulate, but when they checked out the facility, they found it impregnable."
Now you have to think about what he's saying for a second. Because the only way this is any kind of counterpoint or upside to the loss of contact of the Turkish people with the U.S. consulate, is if British lives and Turkish lives are worth less than American lives. Perhaps Friedman doesn't think so consciously, and would deny it if asked. But really, that's the only way what he writes makes sense. And of course it is precisely the defining principle of U.S. foreign policy as manifested virtually every day in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, and anywhere else, where, as I have written many times, a small chance that there might be a "terrorist" (by which they mostly mean an opponent of U.S. occupation) someplace, the U.S. is perfectly willing to bomb without having a clue how many innocent civilians might be in the way, and if there is the slightest chance that a U.S. soldier's life might be at stake, they'll open fire and mow down as many Iraqis or Afghans as are in the way, no matter who they are. This is quite simply the logic of occupation.

There's lots more I could write about Friedman's talk, such as his claim that what we are doing now (replacing incandenscent bulbs with CFLs, buying Priuses, etc.) is just a "party," because everyone's happy, and you can't have a "revolution" unless people get hurt (a point on which we absolutely concur), but then completely ducking the question of where that "hurt" is going to come and basically positing that some brilliant entrepreneurs are going to come up with clean, cheap energy and solve all our problems. But let me stop there, and refer readers to my thoughts on the solution to the energy/climate crisis, with the title "We all live in a crowded theater."

The Tom and Eli show, coming soon to a theater near you. :-)

Sunday, September 14, 2008


10 years (and counting) for stopping terrorism

I'm sure you've noticed posting here has been light, very light. That's because for the last week I've been consumed with the work of putting on another action in Washington, D.C. demanding freedom for the Cuban Five, five Cuban heroes who on Sept. 12 passed into their second decade of unjust imprisonment in the United States for the "crime" of trying to stop acts of terrorism (and, even worse from the point of view of the U.S. government, succeeding). Their real crime was that that terrorism was U.S.-based terrorism against their homeland of Cuba, and that their homeland has been in the sights of U.S. imperialism for nearly 50 years.

I don't even have time now to write more extensively about it, but you can read about what we've been up to, and see some of the videos I've been making (many more to come) about the action, at the website of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five. And, once you do, the answer to your question is, no, I wasn't one of the five people arrested for the "crime" of trying to present George Bush with the signatures of 102,000 people around the world who demand the freedom of the Five.


The "Free market" religion

It's the unofficial religion of the United States - the "free market." Those of us who don't worship at that church undoubtedly got a good laugh from this front-page headline in the Washington Post a couple days ago:
Financial Rescues Show That Faith in Free Market Is Shaken
Was your faith shaken? I know mine wasn't. Because the only "faith" I have in the "free market" is that it will operate every day, in every way, including using "government" (i.e., the people's) money to bail out failing corporations, to help the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And that's not something I'm praying for.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


The California budget absurdity

The California state budget is now 71 days overdue. No problem for those who like to rant about "big government." For others - not so much:
Children are being forced from state-funded child care centers - derailing their working poor parents' tenuous link to the workforce. College students lacking loan funds are dropping out. And non-profit agencies that have scrimped and hobbled through August face layoffs and closures in a September with no budget in sight.
Here's the absurdity - the California budget requires an undemocratic 2/3 supermajority to pass, which means that a minority of legislators (Republicans in this case) can hold the majority hostage.

What absolutely astonishes me is that I have not once during those 71 days, not from a newsperson, not from a politician, not from a pundit, not from a newspaper editorial or op-ed, seen anyone questioning the undemocratic nature of this situation, and calling for a legislative (constitutional) solution to this problem. The absurdity of the situation is simply taken as a given. People talk about "locking the legislators in a room until they reach a compromise," though why 64% of the legislature should "compromise" with 36% is beyond me.

Well, it turns out that four years ago there was such a proposition on the ballot, but it failed. Assemblyman Mark Leno gives a very good explanation of the history of this situation, and a discussion of that vote, here. Congress passes its budget with a simple majority vote. California is one of just three states in the nation, Rhode Island and Arkansas being the others, which requires a supermajority vote of 66 percent to pass its budget. It's bad enough that new taxes require such a supermajority. But a budget? The idea is absurd, and, as noted, completely undemocratic. Until that law is changed, the situation in California, even if temporarily resolved with a compromise, will remain a long-term problem.


The check is in the mail

...and, somehow, the troop pullouts from Iraq are always sometime in the future. Although that didn't start a local newscaster from starting a sentence, "While troop levels in Iraq are decreasing..." No, they are not. They may, sometime in the future.

Meanwhile, George Bush says an increase in troops in Afghanistan (U.S. and members of the coalition of the billing) is a "quiet surge." I'm not sure how much of that "quiet" the Afghan people can stand.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


The unbearable hypocrisy of being...a Republican

Lord knows (and so do my readers) that I have plenty of problems with Democrats, but the Republicans really are unbelievable. And I'm not referring just to the absurdities like the ones highlighted by Jon Stewart last night - Karl Rove denigrating Democrat Tim Kaine as being an unqualified and "intensely political choice" for Vice-President (had he been chosen) because he was only the former mayor of Richmond, VA (population 200,000 - "105th largest city in America," per Rove, "smaller than Chula Vista, CA, Aurora, CO, ...") and Governor of Virginia, population 7.6 million ("only for 3 years" according to Rove), while one month later touting Sarah Palin, the 20-month-long Governor of Alaska (population 670,000, 3 1/2 times larger than Richmond and 1/10th the size of Virginia) as obviously qualified because she was the former mayor of the "2nd largest city in Alaska" [actually the 4th or 5th largest, and, for the record, the 5680th largest city in the United States]. Or Bill O'Reilly castigating "the parents" of Jamie Lynn Spears as being primarily to blame for her getting pregnant because "they obviously have little control over her," while denouncing those judging the Palin family and pontificating about how teen pregnancy is a private family matter.

No, I'm talking about the larger issues. Sarah Palin talking in her first public talk the other day about "smashing the glass ceiling" and extolling Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro, and then the audience erupting in wild applause. As if they weren't the group that was the main opposition to women's rights over the years, including the Equal Rights Amendment, abortion rights, equal pay for equal work, and so on. Or the audience erupting in cheers last night when Palin referred to her husband as a "proud member of the United Steelworkers Union," as if the people in the hall weren't the principle opposition to unions in this country, both in the legislatures and in the corporate board rooms. And, last but not least, Palin shamelessly exploiting her Down's Syndrome baby to make an appeal to that "interest group" (parents of special needs children) and claiming that she would be their "friend and advocate" in the White House, as if the entire Republican philosophy was not to cut any kind of government assistance and to eliminate any possibility of universal health care, both of which would benefit such people.

It's almost enough to make you vote for a Democrat.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


God save us from religious people

Not really a surprise:
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told ministry students at her former church that the United States sent troops to fight in the Iraq war on a "task that is from God."

In an address last June, the Republican vice presidential candidate also urged ministry students to pray for a plan to build a $30 billion natural gas pipeline in the state, calling it "God's will."


News Flash

John McCain was a P.O.W. I thought you might not have heard.

I swear that every single time I have turned on the Republican convention, that's what they've been talking about.

The fact that he was shot down while committing a war crime, bombing a lightbulb factory? That, not so much.


Israel threatens Iran, U.S./U.N. look the other way

Threatening military action against another country is against international law. But don't expect to hear any outrage (much less sanctions in the U.N. or charges brought in the World Court) over this:
"The time is still for diplomacy and sanctions, but much more effective sanctions. We keep saying that we do not remove any option from the table. I propose to others not to remove any option from the table as well. But when we say it, we mean it," [Israeli Defense Minister Ehud] Barak said [referring, obviously, to Iran].
Democratic activists like those at Daily Kos have an expression: IOKIYAR - "It's OK if you're a Republican," meaning that things which would cause an outrage were they done by a Democrat pass unnoticed when done by a Republican. I'd say we need a new counterpart - IOKIYAI - "It's OK if you're an Israeli" (or the "I" could stand for "Imperialist" - the expression would still be just as accurate).


There's pork, and there's the whole hog farm

John McCain's hallmark, criticized here on more than one occasion, is going after "pork" - things he considers wasteful spending. The famous Alaskan "Bridge to Nowhere" was one of the largest of such projects (which Sarah Palin was for before she was against). It's cost? $223 million.

The real wasteful (and that's about the nicest word I can use, since a lot of what is "wasted" is people's lives) government spending? The U.S. military, spending (everything considered, including VA expenses, etc.) more than $1 trillion each year. That's $2.7 billion every day. $114 million every hour. Making the "Bridge to Nowhere" the equivalent of two hours of military spending, and most of the "pork" criticized by McCain (typical targets include some scientist's research grant of a few hundred thousand dollars) measurable in seconds' worth of military spending.

But in yet another case of "hoist by their own petard," this won't be a line of argument being taken up by Barack Obama and Joe Biden, since their platform calls, almost astonishingly (but not really), for an increase in the size of the military.

Cut the military budget and fund human needs? Not while the pro-war, pro-corporate Republicans and Democrats remain in office.

Update: And, just in case McCain is on the lookout for more wasteful spending:

President Bush said Wednesday the U.S. will send an extra $1 billion to Georgia to help the pro-Western former Soviet republic in the wake of Russia's invasion.
You know, they (American politicians and media) mock Russia's "democracy," but I don't recall reading about a vote or even a discussion on sending $1 billion of our money to Georgia. Do you? Apparently that's just "walking around money" the dictator President gets to dispense at his pleasure.

There are no details of what the money is for, but I'm guessing a good portion of it will end up right back here in the U.S. (if indeed it ever leaves), in the pockets of the war profiteers who will be sending weapons to Georgia to defend against the next "Russian invasion." You know, the one that will occur right after Georgia launches an unprovoked attack and kills another 1400 Ossetians. Who will also be instantly forgotten by the "free press" of the West.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Israel, Egypt imprison activists in Gaza

Most of the activists who arrived in Gaza by boat and broke the blockade left by boat, vowing to return and set up a regular blockade-busting route. But apparently four of them stayed behind, thinking they could get home another way.

Think again:

Four foreign nationals from the UK, US Ireland and Australia, who helped peacefully challenge the siege of Gaza by traveling through international waters, are now effectively imprisoned in Gaza at the order of the Egyptian and Israeli authorities.

Attempts were made on August 29th to peacefully, exit Gaza through Israeli controlled Erez crossing. Israel denied the exit.

On August 30th and 31st further attempts to exit Gaza through the Egyptian controlled Rafah crossing were also denied.

Among the internationals are Irish activist and former Hawaiian Legislator Kenneth O'Keefe, British journalist Lauren Booth (sister in law of the Middle East envoy Tony Blair) and Dr. William Dienst, a family and emergency room physician from the USA.
Booth summarized the situation nicely:
"Thanks to Israel for letting us feel a real taste of Gazan life."
Fortunately for her it's only been a taste, at least so far. Hopefully neither she nor the others will develop life-threatening medical problems, or they might meet the fate of hundreds of Gazans who have died under the heel of the blockade.

Monday, September 01, 2008


Video note

There are two very good videos of the protests in Minneapolis up on the front page of the Los Angeles Times here (Go to the "Politics" section under "More"); the one that is 2:18 long is particularly good.


Amy Goodman arrested for "conspiracy to riot"


Apples and oranges, socialism and capitalism

[Updated; see below]

Following up on a post from a few days ago, here's where we stand today with Hurricane Gustav:


Gustav earlier killed 81 people by triggering floods and landslides in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.
HAVANA - Cubans returned from shelters to find flooded homes and washed-out roads Sunday, but no deaths were reported after a monstrous Hurricane Gustav roared across the island and into the oil-rich Gulf of Mexico.

About 250,000 Cubans were evacuated before Gustav made landfall on Cuba's Isla de la Juventud, then again on the Cuban mainland in the region that produces much of the tobacco used to make the nation's famed cigars.

It was just short of top-scale Category 5 hurricane with screaming 140 mph (220 kph) winds as it moved across the island, toppling telephone poles and fruit trees, shattering windows and tearing off the tin roofs of homes.

A Cuban television reporter on the Isla de la Juventud said the storm had felt like "the blast wave from a bomb."

"Buildings without windows, without doors," he said. "Few trees remain standing."

Cuban Civil defense chief Ana Isa Delgado said there were "many people injured" on the island of 87,000 people. Nearly all the island's roads were washed out and some regions were heavily flooded.
And yet - no deaths. Not one. When New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Katrina, it was only a Category 3 storm. More than 2000 lives were lost. We all certainly hope the experience isn't repeated in a few days. We really don't need another lesson in the differences between socialism and capitalism. Quoting Barack Obama, who like many Democrats is perfectly capable of talking a good game if not following through, the operative phrase governing this country has been "the ownership society" - you're on your own.

Update: The death toll elsewhere in the Caribbean has risen to 94. In Cuba, an astonishing total of 86,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, and 80 electricity towers were downed across the island. And despite that ferocious assault, only 19 Cubans were injured, none gravely.

Second update: For more perspective, Hurricane Gustav hit Cuba with sustained winds of 149 mph with gusts up to 186 mph. Indeed, a Cuban record was set with winds measured up to 211 mph. And still not a single life lost.

Why stop here? There's more...

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