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Friday, October 31, 2008


 

No on Proposition 8!


Samuel L. Jackson's narration says it loud and clear:


 

Trick or Treat!


Building on my post from last year (where you can read some of the history of the songs), four treats for Halloween, since you rang my virtual doorbell:


And for a real Halloween special, a weird live version video of the last song, Screamin' Jay Hawkins doing "I Put a Spell on You."


Thursday, October 30, 2008


 

Rachel Maddow interviews Barack Obama


No doubt every viewer will take away from this interview what they will. I'll just say it was the best interview I've seen of Obama, in terms of the questions asked. Of course that doesn't say much about the sad state of American journalism or the "debates" which took place earlier. I don't want to comment too extensively without a transcript, but, just for example, as far as I know this is the very first time, six days before the election, that anyone has asked Obama about his exit strategy for Afghanistan (spoiler alert: he pretty much has none). And don't miss his cheap shot at the U.S. Post Office, among other things.

Anyway, I may say more if and when there's a transcript, but in the meantime, it's worth watching (you can skip to 3:15 where the actual interview starts).

Update: Transcript is now available; I don't have time tonight for a detailed analysis.

Part 1:


Part 2:


Wednesday, October 29, 2008


 

CNN vs. FOX


An interesting development and interesting comments from an unexpected source - Israel:
Many in Israel are striving to follow the internal processes in the United States election campaign. However, due to the cable company's unwillingness to continue paying for the right to broadcast CNN, as well as the indifference of the public which responded passively when CNN was taken off the air, about half of all television viewers in Israel do not have access to the station.

The result is that most of Israel's citizens - those who are interested in information beyond the crumbs served up by the local stations - have no choice but to make do with Fox.
Imagine (I'm talking to U.S. readers here) if your only choice was FOX News. Ugh.

However, the author of the article has no illusions in CNN:

Fox is tainted by its vulgar presentation and lacks a basic respect for facts, and comes dangerously close to expressing the basest prejudices and instincts. Even Republicans, whose ideology Fox promotes, are increasingly objecting to the evangelistic and populist message that the network expresses so prominently.

CNN is far from perfect. It does not come close in quality to either the BBC or the American public broadcasting system PBS, and I do not intend to praise it here. Nevertheless, in comparison to Fox, CNN appears balanced and factual.
As for me, for real news, aside from the Internet and radio shows like Democracy Now! and Flashpoints, I remain grateful that my local PBS station broadcasts BBC World News every evening. BBC is far from perfect (particularly when it comes to former British colonies like Zimbabwe, for which the frothing at the mouth is particularly evident), but it's far above CNN or any other American organization.


 

The blockade of Cuba


I referred to this two years ago, but it's worth repeating to make sure everyone fully understands what the U.S. blockade of Cuba is all about. This is from a 1960 U.S. State Department document, and there's no reason to believe it doesn't still represent the attitude and objectives of the U.S. government, 48 years later:
"The majority of Cubans support Castro. The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship. It follows that every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba. It should be the result of a positive decision which would call forth a line of action while as adroit and inconspicuous as possible, makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government".
Any time you hear U.S. politicians shedding crocodile tears about their concern for "the Cuban people," remember those genocidal words - "bring about hunger [and] deperation." That's what it's all about.


 

Obama praises Communism


Today, speaking of McCain's attacks:
"By the end of the week, he'll be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten."
Um, isn't sharing toys a good thing? That's what my mother always told me. Is there some reason sharing things is good for kindergartners but not for adults?


 

What do they have to do to lose your vote?


Asked and answered by Matt Gonzalez, who recaps everything that is wrong about Barack Obama and the Democrats.


 

See Report no evil


The BBC reports on the latest news from South Ossetia, which will hardly come as a surprise to those who were paying attention at the time:
The BBC has discovered evidence that Georgia may have committed war crimes in its attack on its breakaway region of South Ossetia in August.

Eyewitnesses have described how its tanks fired directly into an apartment block, and how civilians were shot at as they tried to escape the fighting.

Research by the international investigative organisation Human Rights Watch also points to indiscriminate use of force by the Georgian military, and the possible deliberate targeting of civilians.

Indiscriminate use of force is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, and serious violations are considered to be war crimes.

The allegations are now raising concerns among Georgia's supporters in the West.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has told the BBC the attack on South Ossetia was "reckless".
Why is the title of this post "report no evil" since the post is about a BBC report? Because so far neither the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, nor any other major American paper has reported this news. It simply doesn't jibe with the accepted "story line." Will this news cause Barack Obama or John McCain or anyone in the American political establishment or media to rethink their full-throated support for Georgia and condemnation of Russia? Not if they never hear of it (and, sadly but needless to say, not even then).


 

World to U.S.: Leave Cuba alone!


Last year:
It's getting harder and harder, but the United Nations General Assembly just set another record in voted to condemn the U.S. "embargo" (blockade) of Cuba. Last year the vote was 183-4 with 1 abstention; this year it inched up to 184-4.
And amazingly, this year the vote increased again:
The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to urge the United States to lift its 46-year-old embargo against Cuba in a resolution adopted for the 17th consecutive year.

The resolution entitled "necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba" was passed with 185 votes in favor, three against and two abstentions.
No details yet on who was #185 (although it may well have been Iraq - we shall see shortly), but I'm sure we can all have a good guess about the three against. Although actually, with only 3 against, since we know one of them was Israel, that means either the Marshall Islands or Palau refused to succumb to U.S. pressure and abstained.

Sadly, the giant middle finger of the United States remains firmly raised in the direction of the rest of the world, with both Barack Obama and John McCain committed to keeping it there.

Quick update: The abstainers were Micronesia and the Marshall Islands. That still leaves my guess standing that Iraq joined the rest of the world as the 185th country to vote to condemn the blockade.

Update: I was wrong, the addition was Albania!


 

Morning interlude



Silicon Valley from above

The beauty of an early-morning run on a foggy (at least, down below where the people are) morning (click to enlarge).


Tuesday, October 28, 2008


 

Mock the Vote


Every political junkie is, or should be, a Gilbert and Sullivan fan. I periodically tout (e.g., here and here) the annual "gala" of the Lamplighters, San Francisco group which is the premiere G&S group in the country. The gala, of which there are only one or two performances each year, is an incredible display of topical song-writing, done by members of the group using tunes from a variety of G&S musicals, combined with a corny story. Think "Mamma Mia!" but with songs on current, political topics.

If you're in the San Francisco area, you owe it to yourself to go (it's this weekend); the details are here. This year's story line, as you can see from the poster, is the upcoming election, with Candidates Mildred Fillmore and Taylor Zachary battling for the White House (I said it was corny). And, just for the record, I not only have no financial interest in this (it's a non-profit group anyway), but I don't even know any members of the troupe. I'm just a very satisfied patron of these particular arts. See you there!


 

Quote of the Day


It's that time of year again:
"The US Government simply can’t tolerate that there is a place like Cuba that defends solidarity and the values that the world needs for the survival of the human species.”

- Father Miguel D'Escoto, Nicaraguan diplomat and current president of the UN General Assembly, condemning the U.S. blockade of Cuba.


 

Frank and Ernest read Left I on the News?


Frank and Ernest echo something I wrote after the last debate:


Monday, October 27, 2008


 

How you know the bailout had nothing to do with "socialism"


The bailout was sold to the public as a means to "unfreeze the credit market," although since only the tiniest fraction of the public even knows what that means, mostly what you heard about on TV was how this was all about jobs. Companies routinely borrow money to make payroll, we were told (they do? funny I never heard a single statistic backing up that claim, by the way), and so we have to give money to the banks so they can lend it to companies or jobs will be lost.

So what is the bailout money actually going for? Read it and weep:

Bankers might instead use the money to buy other banks, pay dividends, give employees a raise and executives a bonus, or just sit on it.
That "might" might lead you to believe this is all hypothetical, but it most assuredly is not:
PNC Financial Services Group Inc. was approved to receive $7.7 billion [of the "bailout" money] in return for company stock. At the same time, PNC said it was acquiring National City Corp. for $5.58 billion.
And you remember how proud the Democrats were that they rewrote the initial blank check 3-page bill into a 70-page bill filled with details? It appears they left a few things out:
Other planned uses of the bailout money have lawmakers protesting, although it is only fair to note there is nothing in the law that they just wrote to prevent those uses.
"Bailout"? "Giveaway" would have been a better title for the bill.

And, just to make your blood boil a little more:

Five straight quarters of losses and a 70 percent slide in its stock this year haven't stopped Merrill Lynch & Co. from allocating about $6.7 billion to pay bonuses.
Update: I should have pointed out that that banks buying other banks isn't just an outrageous use of taxpayer's money. It's also a guarantee of losing jobs, precisely the thing we were told the plan was designed to save.


 

Secret SOFA - Did McCain spill the beans?


One reason Iraq is resisting signing a "Status of Forces Agreement" (SOFA) with the U.S. lies in the difference between colonialism and neo-colonialism, as exemplified by this headline: "Maliki sees signing agreement as “political suicide."

But there may be even more reasons that we don't know about. Just as the grossly misnamed "Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba" contains secret provisions, Al-Jazeera reports today on alleged "secret provisions" of the SOFA agreement, which, although obviously unconfirmed, are significant enough that I'll reproduce them here at length:

Although "the secret provisions" would have more adverse consequences for Iraq in terms of the country's sovereignty and independence, a majority of Iraqi lawmakers have been kept entirely unaware of them.

Based on those provisions, the US would be granted the permission to build military bases, camps and prisons inside Iraq. The scope of the immunity from legal prosecution for the US forces--the most controversial provision of SOFA-- would also be extended to include all US security, military and civilian firms as well as the US army's contractors.

Under the terms of SOFA, Iraqi officials would be prohibited from meddling in operations carried out by US forces or limiting their authority. The US would also be allowed to attack any country, which "represents a security threat to Iraq" from the country's soil. [Ed. note: sound familiar?]

After signing the deal, Baghdad would be obliged to ask for Washington's approval before concluding any regional or international agreements with third countries.

According to the Okaz report, SOFA would bring the Iraqi key ministries of defense and interior under US control for 10 years to facilitate "the training of the Iraqi forces."

The Saudi newspaper also claimed that under the secret provisions, no timetable would be set for the withdrawal of US troops form Iraq and any pull-out would depend on several conditions.

The conditions for any US withdrawal include the readiness of Iraqi forces, the success in fighting terrorism, the removal of "the neighboring countries' security threats", national reconciliation and a consensus among all Iraqi political groups on the issue. Washington would be entitled to stay in Iraq, if even one of those conditions were not fulfilled.
John McCain, in a recent interview with Wolf Blitzer, insisted that the SOFA agreement for withdrawal was "conditions-based," despite the publicly-available information that it is not. Is McCain privy to the contents of the secret provisions of the SOFA, and was he inadvertently spilling the beans? And if so, does that provide added credence to this report of the other secret portions of the proposed agreement?


 

The words you never thought you'd hear on TV


American TV, anyway:


Sunday, October 26, 2008


 

U.S. on a rampage


Syria:
An unnamed US military official has confirmed the attack on the Syrian border town of al-Sukkariya earlier this evening, which killed at least eight and wounded 14 others...Syria summoned the Charges d’Affaires of both the United States and Iraq to protest the attack, which it condemned as “serious aggression.”
Pakistan:
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani publicly condemned the “intolerable” series of unilateral US drone strikes launched in North and South Waziristan in the past two months at a press conference today...The most recent strike came earlier today, when a US drone attacked a village in South Waziristan Agency, killing at least 20 people...This is the second reported US drone strike in the past few days, and the 12th in the past 10 weeks, with a strike on Thursday morning on a North Waziristan Agency religious school killing 10.
Afghanistan:
US forces called in an air strike in Ghazni Province to fend off a Taliban attack on guards for a road construction project. Now, provincial officials say they are investigating reports that the air strike killed 24 guards...This is the second major report of friend-fire casualties caused in a US air strike in the past few days. On Wednesday morning, a US air strike in Khost Province leveled an Afghan army checkpoint, killing nine soldiers.

 

Palin: She was for government before she was against it


Yesterday:
"Higher taxes, more government, misusing the power to tax leads to government moving into the role of some believing that government then has to take care of us."
The previous day:
Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin pledged Friday to shift billions of dollars to programs for children with special needs.
Oh wait, I get it. Government taking care of us, bad. Government taking care of her, good.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again. I have major disagreements with Democrats, but for unmitigated gall and unmatched hypocrisy, the Republicans really are in a class of their own.


Saturday, October 25, 2008


 

Whole Milk


I've long been interested in the story of assassinated gay politician and icon Harvey Milk, not least of all because a distant cousin of mine was the director of the seminal film about Milk, The Times of Harvey Milk. Now a new movie, entitled simply Milk, is on its way to theaters, starring the powerful and progressive Sean Penn in the title role.

If you're looking forward to the release, as I am, this very lengthy article in San Francisco Magazine makes for a fascinating read. It's the long, convoluted tale of the making of the movie, along with a second movie, The Mayor of Castro Street, which is also headed to theaters. As the article notes, when Milk was assassinated in 1978, it was shortly after the successful campaign, in which Milk played an important role, to defeat the Briggs Amendment, a California ballot initiative that would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in California schools. 30 years later, the homophobes are back, no longer able to push such reactionary measures, and even having to concede that same-sex couples should have "equal rights" via "civil unions," but reduced to arguing that same-sex couples should be prevented from marrying because that would require "teaching gay marriage in the schools" [to young children]. The irony, of course, is that more young children have "learned about gay marriage" thanks to hearing ads on TV from supporters of Proposition 8 than have done so in the entire five month period since gay marriage became legal in California (or in the four and a half years since it's been legal in Massachusetts).

As a homemade "No on 8" sign down the street says: "Save marriage? From what?" The simple fact is that capitalism is probably the biggest threat to marriage in this country, with its close cousin imperialism that sends young men and women off to war a close second. Gays with a framed marriage certificate on their wall? They're strengthening marriage in this country, not threatening it.


Thursday, October 23, 2008


 

Political Humor of the Day


Poor Alan Greenspan, forgot to read Marx when he was in graduate school:
Badgered by lawmakers, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan denied the nation's economic crisis was his fault on Thursday but conceded the meltdown had revealed a flaw in a lifetime of economic thinking and left him in a "state of shocked disbelief."
I don't know a single Marxist who is currently in a state of "shocked disbelief." Shocked belief, maybe, but not shocked disbelief.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008


 

No on Proposition 8!



If you live in California, it's the most important vote you'll cast on Nov. 4. And, having just taken a walk around the block, it appears my neighbors agree, as this sign far outnumbers any others. Four "No on 8" yard signs (and there'll be one more as soon as I get hold of one), plus one car parked in someone's driveway with a "No on 8" bumper sticker. That compares to one "Yes on 8" sign (technically two, but at the same house), one Obama sign, and one for a local politician.

For a very much on-point treat, this video of my single favorite Queen song (which is saying something, given the competition), "These Are the Days of Our Lives," which just happens to be the last song Queen recorded before the death of Freddie Mercury. As I listen to this song, it's a paean to the pleasures of spending a life with another person, looking back at the past ("those were the days of our lives") while also appreciating the present ("these are the days of our lives"), all the while valuing the continuity of a long-term companion ("those days are all gone now, but one thing is true, when I look, and I find, I still love you").


Am I a "proponent of marriage"? Not particularly. Everyone has to make their own decision on that. But I am most definitely a proponent of the right to marry, for all people, straight or gay.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008


 

Withdrawal from Iraq


All that nonsense about how the U.S. can't possibly withdraw "safely" from Iraq in less than 16 months? It's all bullshit:
Washington does not want to alter a draft security pact with Iraq, despite demands for change from Baghdad where the document failed to win support from Iraqi political leaders, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday.

"This is not just kind of a paper exercise. The consequences of not getting an agreement are very real," he added. "We basically (would) stop doing anything."
So according to the U.S. Secretary of Defense [sic], if the U.S. doesn't get its way, they could suspend operations immediately. Not in 16 months. Immediately.


 

News you can't believe


But nonetheless, a very dangerous development. The Israeli press is reporting:
Senior Tehran officials are recommending a preemptive strike against Israel to prevent an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear reactors, a senior Islamic Republic official told foreign diplomats two weeks ago in London.
Ri-i-ight. Iran is not only thinking this, but is blabbing about it to "foreign diplomats." Sure they are.

By the way, how on earth would a strike by Iran on Israel "prevent an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear reactors"? In reality, rather than preventing such an attack, it would not only make it 100% likely, but it would also make it 100% likely that U.S. forces would be part of that attack.


 

The American "justice" system


The U.S. military abruptly dropped charges against five Guantanamo Bay detainees...But despite the decision, announced Tuesday, there are no plans to free the men. (Source)
Sure, after all, why should they be any different from the tens of thousands of people imprisoned by the U.S. without charges not only in Guantanamo but also in Iraq, Afghanistan, and unknown other secret prisons around the world.


 

SOFA Fatwa


This is big news:
A senior Shia cleric has issued a religious decree prohibiting Iraqis from signing a controversial security agreement with the US.

Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Kazem al-Husseini al-Haeri issued a fatwa (decree) against the US-proposed Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

The cleric said that the agreement was in violation of the Islamic law, calling it a humiliating pact that would undermine Iraq's sovereignty.
And, just in the way of piling on:
Lebanon's top Shia cleric has warned the Iraqi government against signing a deal to 'legitimize' the presence of US troops in the country.

"No authority, establishment, or official or nonofficial organization has the legitimacy to endorse the occupation of Iraq, legitimize or extend it," Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah said on Tuesday.

The Shia cleric said that any security pact with the United States "should call for an imminent and unconditional withdrawal of US forces from Iraq."


 

"Democracy and capitalism are antagonistic entities"


Our oligarchic class is incompetent at governing, managing the economy, coping with natural disasters, educating our young, handling foreign affairs, providing basic services like health care and safeguarding individual rights. That it is still in power, and will remain in power after this election, is a testament to our inability to separate illusion from reality. We still believe in “the experts.” They still believe in themselves. They are clustered like flies swarming around John McCain and Barack Obama. It is only when these elites are exposed as incompetent parasites and dethroned that we will have any hope of restoring social, economic and political order.
...
Democracy is not an outgrowth of free markets. Democracy and capitalism are antagonistic entities. Democracy, like individualism, is not based on personal gain but on self-sacrifice. A functioning democracy must defy the economic interests of elites on behalf of citizens. This is not happening.
Read the whole essay by Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times journalist Chris Hedges here.

Monday, October 20, 2008


 

Levi Stubbs on the power of prayer


I didn't do Levi Stubbs justice the other day, so I'm posting my own digitized tune which you won't find on YouTube or anyplace else on the Internet, from the 1966 album "The Four Tops Live!", recorded at the Roostertail in Detroit. It gives a great feeling for the Tops in live performance, plus this great line from Stubbs, reminiscent of Jimmy Cliff in "The Harder They Come":

"I was told a long time ago by my father, he said 'Levi', and that's my name, he said 'son, if you ever want your prayers answered, you get up off your knees and do something about it.'"


 

Stop the foreclosures!


A demonstration yesterday (and again this morning) in San Francisco at the convention of the Mortgage Bankers Association, with video by me and coverage on four different TV stations. Contrary to the statements on the TV coverage, there were not "a dozen" protesters nor "50", but rather 125. Picture from the SF Chronicle here.


Saturday, October 18, 2008


 

Cuban rafters


Steven DeCinzo is a cartoonist for local weekly papers who tends to be on the reactionary side. Even he's been affected by recent events, however:


Friday, October 17, 2008


 

R.I.P. Levi Stubbs


The Four Tops and the Temptations. The Temptations and the Four Tops. It was kind of like Ginger vs. Mary Anne. I loved both the Tops and the Temps, but I was always partial to the Tops. Levi Stubbs, their powerful lead singer, who died today, was probably the main reason.

This video, of their 1966 hit "Reach Out I'll be There", conveys some of that power. 1966, by the way, was a year I saw the Four Tops perform at the Asbury Park (NJ) Convention Center (a venue where I also saw the Rolling Stones perform that same year, incidentally, but I digress).


Thursday, October 16, 2008


 

Forget Joe the Plumber


Meet Joe the mechanic in this powerful video shot near last night's debate site, from American News Project, who has many others to check out:

Note: I've now "unembedded" the video because it insists on loading every time you reload the page, which is a real bandwidth hog. To view the excellent video, click here.


 

Hope springs eternal


Even in Cuba, where people hope, despite the objective facts of his stated policy, that Obama will bring change to U.S.-Cuba relations. No doubt they think that under McCain there is no chance for such change (although, as I always remind people, it was Nixon who went to China), so that even the slimmest of chances that Obama will bring change is better than nothing.

Anyway, a fascinating segment from MSNBC of Cubans talking about the U.S. election.


 

"Coalition forces make every effort to prevent the injury or loss of innocent lives"


So they say, repeatedly, whether it be in Afghanistan, Iraq, or elsewhere. So if that was already the case, how is it that we can read this today?
Brig. Gen. Richard Blanchette, NATO's chief spokesman in Afghanistan, said commanders are now under orders to consider a "tactical withdrawal" when faced with the choice of calling in air support during clashes in areas where civilians are believed to be present. The goal of the order is to minimize civilian casualties, encourage better coordination with Afghan troops and discourage overreliance on air power to repel insurgent attacks, Blanchette said.

"We'll do anything we can to prevent unnecessary casualties, and we'll ensure that we'll have safe use of force. That includes not only airstrikes but ground operations," Blanchette said.
So evidently they weren't "making every effort" beforehand, since now they concede there's a lot more they can do (not including actually stopping the war, needless to say).

And how are those new "orders" working out? Not so well:

At least 25 civilians including women and children have been killed in an air strike by US-led forces in volatile southern Afghanistan, reports say.

A BBC reporter said he saw the bodies of women and the children - ranging in age from six months to 15 in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.
John McCain spoke last night, of how he is "proudly pro-life." Do you suppose he'll be condemning this butchery of human life, not of unborn fetuses but of actual human beings as young as six months? Don't count on it. Not that you'll be hearing condemnation from Barack Obama or anyone else in the U.S. "leadership" either, mind you.


 

Why single-payer health care is not the answer


I've written about this before (e.g., here and here), but last night's debate and a story in today's news prompts a review.

Let's start with the debate. One of the more interesting exchanges was this one:

McCain: Sen. Obama wants to set up health care bureaucracies, take over the health care of America through -- as he said, his object is a single payer system.

If you like that, you'll love Canada and England. So the point is...

Schieffer: So that's your objective?

Obama: It is not and I didn't describe it...
The transcript can't convey the horrified look that came across Obama's face with the thought of being associated with that dreaded concept known as "single-payer" - he wanted to get away from that as fast as possible.

The news today was this:

Health care premiums soared five times faster than increases in salaries in California from 2000 to 2007, according to a report released Wednesday.

From 2000 to 2007, health care premiums increased 95.8 percent for employer-based group coverage, from an average of $6,227 annually per worker to $12,194 annually.

Moreover, workers aren't only shouldering a greater burden in paying for health care premiums, but they're also paying a higher share of health care services, due to higher deductibles and co-payments, or reduced maximum allowable benefits.
Anyone out there think you're getting twice as much, or twice as good, helath care now than you were in 2000? Didn't think so.

Getting back to the debate, the question which started this section was this:

"Given the current economic situation, would either of you now favor controlling health care costs over expanding health care coverage?"
And while both candidates talked about such things as putting health records online and claiming that would reduce medical costs, and Obama talked about the obvious (but still not in place, thanks to business opposition) idea of "negotiating with the drug companies for the cheapest available price on drugs," neither candidate would address the elephant in the room, the one which was posed by an audience member in the last "debate" - "should health care be a marketable commodity?"

That's why the title of this post is "single-payer health care is not the answer." Because no matter who's paying for it, the fundamental problem in the United States is the profit system - doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, and drug companies and even, as I've noted before, medical education. Because until a government, a socialist government like Cuba, is responsible for all those aspects of health care, and not just footing the bill for the doctor and hospital, health costs will continue to involve profit, and health care will continue to suffer.

Both Obama and McCain talked about such things as (McCain in this quote) "We need to have more community health centers. We need to have walk-in clinics. We should have physical fitness programs and nutrition programs in schools." McCain, of course, is a complete hypocrite, since he doesn't even think the government should be involved with these things (two paragraphs later came his "Sen. Obama wants to set up health care bureaucracies, take over the health care of America"), and if he does, why does he think these things are a job for the federal government, but that abortion should be left to the states? Obama says, among other things, "We are going to invest in information technology to eliminate bureaucracy and make the system more efficient," but the real savings by "eliminating bureaucracy" would come from eliminating the bureaucracy of the entire health insurance system, the same insurance system which forms the centerpiece of Obama's health "care" proposals.

Single-payer health care, by eliminating the insurance companies (or should I say if it eliminated the insurance companies), would without any question be a major forward step. But without changing the entire profit system, and recognizing that a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" has to run all aspects of the system - the research, development, and production of drugs, the education of doctors and other health care professionals, and the administration of health care (including those "walk-in clinics" McCain was talking about), real gains in health care cannot be achieved. Just as public education forms the bulwark of the educational system in this country, so must public health care form the bulwark of the health care system. Few outside of the extreme right-wing would question the centrality of public education; why do even liberals like Obama resist so strongly the necessary centrality of public health care?

There's another article in the news today which provides a nice footnote to this discussion:

The United States dropped to 29th in the world in infant mortality in 2004, the latest year that data are available from all countries, tying with Poland and Slovakia. The year before, it was 27th. In 1960, it was 12th.


 

Joe the Plumber - Reader of Left I on the News?


Right after the last "Presidential" debate, I wrote a post entitled "(Tap) Dancing with the Stars," about Obama and McCain tap-dancing around the answer to the question "should health care be a marketable commodity?" Well, perhaps "Joe the Plumber" (if you didn't watch last night's debate and haven't heard of Joe, you soon will) is a reader of Left I on the News (or, more likely, he came up with the obvious analogy on his own), but last night he said this to Katie Couric:
Obama came to my neighborhood and my son and I were outside tossing the football, and all of a sudden he showed up, and there went our football tossing for a while. And, you know, neighbors were outside asking him questions, and I didn't think they were asking him tough enough questions, so I thought, you know, I'll go over there. You know, I've always wanted to ask one of these guys a question and really corner them and get them to answer a question of--for once instead of tap dancing around it. And unfortunately I asked the question but I still got a tap dance. Do you - almost as good as Sammy Davis Jr.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008


 

"Hands-off" Henry


One of the key arguments Henry Paulson uses to defend the partial nationalization of U.S. banks is to disavow any desire to affect the decisions of the banks; we're just going to hope that whatever decisions they do make trickle-down and benefit the people they claim this is all about. Dave Lindorff takes on this "hands-off" concept rather nicely:
It [participating in the decision-making process of the banks] would amount to public ownership of the means of loan production. And we all know where that would lead: to decisions by bankers that might actually benefit the common good.

And we cannot have that! That’s not what America is about. America is about rugged capitalism, where hard-nosed executives make decisions based upon a rigorous cost-benefit analysis that magically ends up putting capital to its most productive use. That’s why we in America have, um, well, that’s why we have car companies that only produce giant, gas-guzzling SUV’s, muscle cars and trucks, cities that are entirely composed of hotels and casinos, houses that are big enough to hold four families, collapsing transit systems, failing schools, and a hollowed-out economy that hardly produces anything the rest of the world wants to buy.


 

Quotes of the Day


"The program is designed to preserve free enterprise, not replace free enterprise." [Ed. note: God forbid!]

- George Bush
"Government owning a stake in any private U.S. company is objectionable to most Americans, me included." [Ed. note: But not that objectionable, evidently, when profits and the possibility of revealing the underlying fraud of capitalism are at stake!]

- Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson


 

Sarah Palin Joke of the Day


(No, in this case I didn't omit a comma after the first two words of the title; that would be a different post :-) )

I hereby offer this original joke (you'll be the judge of that) to Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Jay Leno, and/or David Letterman, only requiring credit (or blame, as the case may be):

The Constitution calls for the President (and, presumably, the Vice-President) to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed." Why is it I have the suspicion that Sarah Palin thinks that guns are involved with that part of the job?

And, possibly, helicopters.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008


 

The "$79 billion surplus"


Barack Obama: "We're spending $10 billion a month in Iraq at a time when the Iraqis have a $79 billion surplus, $79 billion."

Joe Biden: "We're spending $10 billion a month while Iraqis have an $80 billion surplus. Barack says it's time for them to spend their own money."

The Democrats have been doing their best to pin the "blame" for the "failure" in Iraq on the Iraqis for quite some time; the current attempt to turn their "antiwar" [sic] position into a "the Iraqis should pay for the war" position is just the latest variant. But now the Iraqi finance minister has come along and punctured their balloon:

The Iraqi finance minister said reports of a billion-dollar budget surplus amid massive U.S. spending on the war effort are misleading.

Speaking with the Council on Foreign Relations, Iraqi Finance Minister Bayan Jabr Solagh said August reports of a budget surplus of as much as $79 billion through 2008 fail to take into account the true nature of the Iraqi financial system.

"The surplus or the excess in money that people talk about is money that was not spent (in August)," he said. "We are spending it now through the budget process."

The minister said the budget surplus is at the Iraqi Central Bank and not the development fund for reconstruction in New York. Solagh said the Central Bank deposits, which total no more than $30 billion, are used to back the Iraqi currency.

"It is not surplus; it is the federal reserve," he said. "It is the reserve of Iraq. That means we cannot have a fixed currency without it."

He noted further that U.S. officials are not spending American taxpayer money in support of the Iraqi people, but funnel most of the money toward military support.

"Americans, they don't give the Iraqi budget or the Iraqi government any money directly. They spend it on their own military salaries, weapons. This is the money; it's not going to the government," he said.
Sorry, Democrats, you'll have to find another bogeyman. Or else actually oppose the war and occupation.


 

War criminals and their media collaborators


On CounterPunch today, Robert Richter, political director for CBS News from 1965 to 1968, discusses a topic oft mentioned here - John McCain as war criminal - and informs us that Gen. Telford Taylor, chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, "strongly supported the idea of trying the U.S. pilots captured in North Vietnam as war criminals" and said "that he would be proud to lead in their prosecution."

That was notable enough. But if you get to the very end of the article, you find this:

When I passed along Gen. Taylor's comments to my network superiors the program was scrapped: too hot to handle. Instead Air War Over the North was telecast, about “precision bombing” North Vietnam military targets by U.S. pilots. A few years after that broadcast, a Pentagon public information executive gleefully told Roger Mudd in The Selling of the Pentagon that he, the Pentagon official, not only had persuaded CBS to produce Air War Over the North, he even chose those to be interviewed and coached them about what they should say. This unethical collaboration and intercession by the Pentagon in the news media is sadly all too familiar a tactic repeated in the Bush-Cheney years.
Needless to say, that collaboration continues to this day, and is quite independent of the odious Bush and Cheney.


Monday, October 13, 2008


 

The end of an era


The indispensable Cursor, the single-best daily news summary on the web, is closing its doors.


 

"We just can't afford..."


Chris Floyd states the obvious (but does so very well) - the decades-long claim that "we just can't afford..." (fill in the blank with anything useful for humanity) was and is a lie:
The money was there all along.

Money to build and generously equip thousands and thousands of new schools, with well-paid, exquisitely trained teachers, small teacher-pupil ratios, a full range of enriching and inspiring programs.

Money to revitalize the nation's crumbling inner cities, making them safe and vibrant places for businesses and families and communities to grow.

Money to provide decent, affordable and accessible health care to every citizen, to provide dignity and comfort to the elderly, and protection and humane treatment for the mentally ill.

Money to provide affordable higher education to everyone who wanted it and could qualify for it. Money to help establish and sustain local businesses and family farms, centered in and on the local community, driven by the needs and knowledge of the people in the area, and not by the dictates of distant corporations.

Money to strengthen crumbling infrastructure, to repair bridges, shore up levies, maintain roads and electric grids and sewage systems.

Money for affordable, workable public transport systems, for the pursuit of alternative sources of energy, for sustainable, sensible development, for environmental restoration.

Money to support free inquiry in science, technology, health and other areas -- research unfettered from the war machine and the drive for corporate profit, and instead devoted to the betterment of human life.

Money to support culture, learning, continuing education, libraries, theater, music and the endless manifestations of the human quest to gain more meaning, more understanding, more enlightenment, a deeper, spiritually richer life.

The money for all of this -- and much, much more -- was there, all along. When they said we couldn't have these things, they were lying -- or else allowing themselves to be profitably duped by the high priests of the market cult. When they wanted a trillion dollars -- or three trillion dollars -- to wage a war of aggression in Iraq, they found it. Now, when they want trillions of dollars to save the speculators, fraudsters and profiteers of greed in the global market, they suddenly have it.

Who then can believe that these governments could not have found the money for good schools, health care, and all the rest, that they could not have enhanced the well-being and livelihood of millions of ordinary citizens, and helped create a more just and equitable and stable world -- if they had wanted to?
There is something we can't afford. It's called capitalism. And not just "greed".


Sunday, October 12, 2008


 

Shame on The New York Times


Politics? War? Nah. The Sunday crossword puzzle. :-)
8-Down: Precision
Answer: Accuracy
Arggggghhhhh!

I solved the entire puzzle in 10.21345 minutes. That statement provides information with great precision. It's also completely inaccurate.

Accuracy and precision are not synonyms.

Update: I should add that this is not just a pet peeve, although it is that as well. It is in fact an issue which arises literally every day. We read unemployment statistics specified with a precision of the nearest 0.1%, which helps to make us forget that the the number is very much inaccurate, with the real value far outside the implied 0.1% precision. Likewise, we daily hear about polls telling us that a candidate is leading by some percent, again almost always specified to the nearest 0.1%, and almost always with an accuracy (and I'm not referring to the standard deviation) that is far outside the implied precision, thanks to the myriad of systematic errors which can plague such estimates.


Saturday, October 11, 2008


 

The Coal Miner's Daughter


Just yesterday I wrote about the abomination called capitalism, the only economic system under which an abundance of a commodity (housing in this case) could be called a "problem." Then last night, I heard someone recount the tale of the Coal Miner's Daughter (or perhaps it was the Coal Miner's Dilemma or the Coal Miner's Paradox, it really doesn't matter), apparently a classic illustration of this same principle:

A coal miner's daughter (let's call her Loretta) comes to her father. "Daddy, why is the house so cold?" she asks. "Because we're out of coal," he answers. "Why are we out of coal?" she asks. "We can't afford it because I lost my job." "But why did you lose your job?" "Because they closed the mine." "And why did they close the mine?" "Because there's too much coal."

Thus endeth today's lesson.


Friday, October 10, 2008


 

Mouths sputtering, heads exploding


Over lunch I heard not one but two different news people, Kyra Philips on CNN and Brit Hume on FOX News, say virtually the same thing when the subject of the "nationalization" of banks came up: "But...but...we're capitalists! How can we do that?" You could see that the idea that capitalism might be failing, or might not actually be the best system, never crossed their minds.
"The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas."

- Karl Marx
One of them, or someone else, also sputtered about how this was the very thing the U.S. is always castigating Latin American and other third-world countries for doing. At the very least, if nothing else good comes of the current crisis, perhaps this will take the wind out of the sails of such criticisms for a few years at least. OK, given the memory span of Americans, I'll settle for a few months.

On a related subject, I had to laugh listening to someone on TV yesterday talking about how supply and demand in the housing market were out of balance, that there was too much supply and not enough demand. No, there's plenty of "demand"; what there isn't, as I wrote the other day, is enough people with enough money who can act on that demand.

Update: Tee-hee. I'm reminded that that "someone on TV" I heard talking was George W. Bush. And actually, what he said was even more than I said, and rather curious:

With these actions to help to prevent foreclosures, we're addressing a key problem in the housing market: The supply of homes now exceeds demand. And as a result, home values have declined. Once supply and demand balance out, our housing market will be able to recover.
First of all, regardless of the point I made above (that there's plenty of "demand" for housing), only under capitalism could it possibly be a "problem" that the supply of housing or anything else exceeds demand. But secondly, if home values are declining (actually there's no "if" about it), wouldn't that increase demand ("demand" in the sense of a demand people could actually afford to act on), and subsequently equal out supply and demand? And while it's true that preventing foreclosures prevents an increase in the supply of available housing, it certainly doesn't decrease the supply, so if there's an "oversupply" (by capitalist definition) of housing, preventing foreclosures isn't going to solve the problem.


Thursday, October 09, 2008


 

Hold that dictionary reprinting


...the definition of "chutzpah" has just been revised once again!
Palin pre-empts state report, clears self in probe
Well, she may not make a good Vice-President, but she sounds like a natural to work for the U.S. military!


 

Follow-up questions we'd like to hear


But never will from the likes of Tom Brokaw (or Keith Olbermann or Jon Stewart for that matter):

Sens. McCain and Obama, you both have claimed that America is a "force for good in the world." Considering that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis (the best scientific estimate is over one million) died as a result of the U.S. invasion, and an undisputed two million Iraqis have been forced to flee their homeland and another two million internally displaced, and considering that Sunnis and Shias in Iraq used to intermingle and intermarry and are now almost totally separated into ethnic communities separated by huge walls and checkpoints, please explain how that "force for good" is working out for the Iraqis. And if, contrary to the evidence, you still hold to this "force for good" theory, please explain what right the U.S. had to inflict this "good" on the Iraqi people who, apart for a few con men like Ahmad Chalabi, didn't ask for our "help"?

Sens. Obama and McCain, you both have talked about the Holocaust, and the need to prevent a second one. Please explain why you think that the Palestinian people, who had nothing whatsoever to do with the first Holocaust, should be the ones who should have paid and continue to pay the price for that event by having been displaced from their homeland.

Sens. McCain and Obama, you both continue to maintain that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Considering that the latest National Intelligence Estimate, the best judgment of the U.S. intelligence community, reached precisely the opposite conclusion, please tell us what evidence you're basing your conclusion on, and how it is that you're in possession of evidence which the intelligence community evidently is not.

Just askin'!


 

The last word on the "Presidential" "Debates"


From Wiley Miller's Non Sequitur:

Presidential Debates 2008

Update: For another "last word," there's Alexander Cockburn's "Imbecilic Tedium." The debate was "tedium," and from the listener's point of view, "imbecilic." Both of the speakers, however, particularly Obama, were hardly imbeciles. They knew exactly what they were doing with their vigorous tap dancing around any controversial answers, or any actual answers at all in many cases.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008


 

Hockey Moms & Joe Six-Packs: A Left I reader survey


We've all heard the terms "Hockey Moms and Joe Six-Packs" more in the last few weeks than probably in our entire lives (and way more than we wanted to hear them). I'm not actually familiar with the term "hockey mom," being from Northern California, but I'm certainly familiar with the analogous "soccer moms," and as far as I can tell, that's a positive phrase, just a way people (or just women I guess!) who spend a lot of time chauffeuring their kids to soccer practice and games (and hopefully being proud of their kids' performance) describe themselves.

But "Joe Six-Pack," to the extent I'm familiar with it, is a very different term - a pejorative phrase describing people (men in this case, although Sarah Palin seems to use it to describe herself) who sit around in the undershirts drinking beer, probably watching baseball or football on TV, and not actually doing anything remotely productive. As far as I know, most people who might fit the description would never actually describe themselves as "Joe Six-Pack," and describing someone else like that is an insult, not a compliment.

So here's my question for readers: what do you think? Am I wrong about this, and Sarah Palin right? Or is she as full of it on this subject as on everything else she has to say? And by "full of it," I'm not referring to beer.


Tuesday, October 07, 2008


 

(Tap) Dancing with the Stars


OK, I admit it, I'm a fan of Dancing with the Stars (this season pretty much sucks, but that's another story). The performances that they produce out of the "stars" (a term used very loosely in this context) at dances like the Viennese Waltz, the rumba, the paso doble, the jive, and so on, can be truly remarkable.

Tap dance isn't one of the categories. But if it were, the duo of Obama and McCain would have scored three "10s" tonight when asked a very simple question by an audience member - "should health care be a marketable commodity?" Because they danced and wiggled and tapped and hemmed and hawed, but always dancing as far away from that question as possible, as if were composed of toxic waste.

We do not need "improvements" in the health insurance system. What we need, as I'm sure the questioner was getting at, is improvements in the health care system. And the prospects of getting that under either McCain or Obama appear fairly slim.

At the very end, Obama did claim that he viewed health care as a right. But the only "right" his actual plan protects is the right of insurance companies to keep making a profit at the expense of our health.


 

Iraq: the silver lining?


Could it be the occupation of Iraq has a silver lining?
Washington will not allow an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities while US troops are in Iraq, Israeli diplomatic sources claim.

According to a Monday report on Israel's Channel 10, unnamed Israeli sources said the presence of US troops in Iraq spoils chances of an Israeli strike on Iran, arguing that any military action would leave US forces stationed in Iraq vulnerable to Tehran's retaliation.
Needless to say, that silver lining, even if it exists, wouldn't be remotely enough to compensate for the death and destruction wrought by the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The Iraqi people didn't volunteer to sacrifice their lives to protect Iran, any more than they agreed to sacrifice their lives to allow "us" to fight "them" "over there" in Iraq instead of here in the U.S.


Monday, October 06, 2008


 

Ralph Nader on C-SPAN


Recently Ralph Nader spoke (was interviewed by a moderator, which, in the common parlance, qualifies as a "debate") at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, and this weekend C-SPAN carried the 1-hour 7-minute program. It's on the web in Real Player format here. Well worth listening to. To amuse yourself, just imagine Nader on the stage with any of the "real" candidates ("real" in the eyes of the corporate media), from Barack Obama to Sarah Palin. Or perhaps you won't be amused, only depressed, when you realize the kind of support a candidate like Nader could receive if the American people had equal access to his ideas as to the "ideas" of the others.

If only the Commonwealth Club and C-SPAN would devote equal attention to other equally deserving candidates, like Gloria La Riva of the Party for Socialism and Liberation and Cynthia McKinney of the Green Party.


Sunday, October 05, 2008


 

The Israeli poker game: Obama antes up


US presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama is committed to increasing foreign aid to Israel, should he be elected in the November ballot.

Obama would honor existing agreements concerning aid to Israel and would work toward "increasing aid to Israel to USD 30 billion over 10 years," a spokeswoman for Obama told Israeli business daily Globes. (Source)
Will McCain call or raise? Stay tuned.


 

McCain: A worse war criminal than I thought


I've written before (and I think I'm actually the primary source on the web) how John McCain was shot down over Vietnam while bombing a civilian target, a lightbulb factory. And I've also written, and commented, how there were of course more serious war criminals than pilots obeying illegal orders, from the colonels and generals who gave the orders to the Presidents and Secretaries of State and Congresses who sent them there in the first place.

Today I was browsing in a bookstore and picked up a copy of Micheael Moore's Guide to the Elections, and, I swear I am not making this up, the book opened to the page where McCain's wartime history was being recounted, and specifically the larger context of that lightbulb factory bombing:

John McCain flew 23 bombing missions over North Vietnam in a campaign called Operation Rolling Thunder. During the bombing campaign, which lasted for almost 44 months, U.S. forces flew 307,000 attack sorties, dropping 643,000 tons of bombs on North Vietnam. Though the stated targets were factories, bridges, and power plants, thousands of bombs also fell on homes, schools, and hospitals [Left I note: Moore writes as if factories and power plants are not also civilian targets]. In the midst of the campaign, Defense [sic] Secretary Robert McNamara estimated that we [sic] were killing 1,000 civilians a week. That's more than one 9/11 every single month - for 44 months.
Ah, but McCain was still just a pilot following orders, right? Well, not quite:
In his book, Faith of Our Fathers, McCain writes that he had been upset that he had been limited to bombing military installations, roads, and power plants. He said such restrictions were "illogical" and "senseless."

"I do believe," McCain wrote, "that had we taken the war to the North and made full, consistent use of air power in the North, we ultimately would have prevailed."
So McCain was not just a war criminal. He was, and is, a vocal proponent of war crimes.

By the way, I don't know if it's significant, but Moore's book claims McCain was shot down bombing a power plant. I've seen that claim before, but I don't know where it comes from. If you take a look at the link above, which is a 2000 newspaper article based on an interview with the man who rescued McCain from the lake in which he landed, it is clear the target was a lightbulb factory, not a power plant. Has the power plant story been invented to make the target seem slightly more legitimate? I don't know, but I'm sticking with the original source material and the claim of a lightbulb factory unless someone can provide another, equally definitive, source.


Friday, October 03, 2008


 

Who needs diplomacy when there's blackmail?


Washington has threatened to seize Iraqi assets and oil money if Baghdad rejects a controversial US-proposed security pact, Iraq says.

Upon arrival in Iraq from Washington, President Jalal Talabani told reporters that he is concerned over Washington threats.

"Washington threatened to use any means to seize Iraqi assets if we do not support the security pact," Marsadiraq quoted Talabani as saying. (Source)
See? It's not "all about the oil." It's all about the oil, money, and power.


 

The "debate" on the Middle East


Of course everyone noticed how in last night's debate there was a rush to the alter to see who could blow the "I love Israel" shofar the loudest. But there was actually more to it than that. Palin called for building the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, a statement which went completely unremarked on. But it was Biden's statements that were really telling (or would be, if you didn't already know). First this:
"The president...insisted on elections on the West Bank, when I said, and others said, and Barack Obama said, "Big mistake. Hamas will win. You'll legitimize them." What happened? Hamas won."
As I'm sure I've written before, these "Democrats" wouldn't know "democracy" if it hit them over the head. A point which Biden then went on the emphasize (implicitly!) in his next statement:
"When we kicked -- along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, 'Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don't know -- if you don't, Hezbollah will control it.'

"Now what's happened? Hezbollah is a legitimate part of the government in the country immediately to the north of Israel."
Now at first I didn't know what the heck he was talking about, but my friend Richard Becker suggests that he really meant "we kicked Syria out of Lebanon," so let's just chalk that up to a slip of the tongue and take a look at what he had to say given that assumption.

First, the idea that "we" (along with France!) had some kind of "right" to "kick Syria out of Lebanon," as if Lebanon doesn't have the right to manage its own affairs, and "we" have a perfect right to intervene. Of course, on that logic, Iran (or Russia or Venezuela or Cuba or pretty much anyone) would have a perfect right to "kick the U.S. out of Iraq," a country whose government has supposedly "invited" foreign troops to occupy its territory, not at all dissimilar to the Syrian troops in Lebanon, except for the minor difference that the Syrian troops weren't actually killing Lebanese on a daily basis, and they were actually invited to be there by the Lebanese government. No matter what fig-leaf is in place to claim the current presence of U.S. troops is by "invitation," the original presence (the invasion) clearly was not.

Then, after praising the removal of foreign interference in Lebanon, Biden then turns on a dime and talks about how "we" should have followed that up by sending NATO troops in. Not, mind you, to replace the Syrian troops in any way, but to make sure Hezbollah didn't take "control." Just one little thing...Hezbollah is Lebanese!!! So what Biden was advocating was sending in NATO troops to make sure the Lebanese people didn't establish control over their own country.

And, sure enough, in his last sentence, there's Biden complaining that "Hezbollah is a legitimate part of the government." Imagine that! Well, harumph, harumph, we can't have that! People in another country having a government we don't like - what were they thinking?

And that is what Biden labeled an "abject failure" by the Bush Administration.

As I said, these "Democrats" (and Republicans, needless to say) wouldn't recognize "democracy" if it were headed directly at them on a one-way street.


Thursday, October 02, 2008


 

"Working class" rears its head


Out of the mouth of Sarah Palin in the Vice-Presidential debate. Twice.

Update: As with the previous debate, how much better a "debate" this would have been had there been one, or multiple, third party and independent candidates participating to actually offer different points of view, instead of mildly nuanced variations of fundamentally the same point of view. Or, for that matter, a moderator who might even challenge such absurdities as the description of Ahmadinejad as a "dictator." Or even a moderator who might ask challenging questions like "why are we in Afghanistan?" "What is the meaning of 'victory' in Iraq, and if we're 'so close' to it, why are the generals in charge not asking for the reduction of a single troop through all of next year?"

A person can dream. But hey, at least I got to hear the words "working class" out of the mouths of a politician for the first time in ages, maybe ever.

Update 2: My nomination for quote of the night, from Palin:

"Patriotic is saying, government, you know, you're not always the solution. In fact, too often you're the problem."
Really? I say that all the time, and people don't call me "patriotic," they call me "anti-American." Of course, my idea of a "problem" and Palin's are quite different. Probably diametrically so.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008


 

What's happening at the IAEA


Two stories out of the IAEA that you're unlikely to hear much about in the Western press:

#1: "Brazil rejects NPT redefinition":

"Brazil's envoy to the IAEA has criticized the West for trying to redefine the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) for its own agenda.

"Any country that fulfills its obligations is entitled to enrich uranium (for civilian purposes)," said Antonio Jose Vallim Guerreiro, the Brazilian ambassador, in an address to the International Atomic Energy Agency board meeting in Vienna on Wednesday.

Guerreiro also criticized countries that already possess nuclear technology but seek to halt the progress of other nations toward peaceful nuclear technology attainment.

"Any new definition of the NPT is unacceptable," Guerreiro declared.
#2 (and 2a): "Israel irked by IAEA move on its nukes" and "West moves in support of Israeli nukes":
An initiative by Iran and Arab League member states to put the Israeli regime's nuclear activities under scrutiny has irked Tel Aviv.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) agreed on Monday to put the issue of "Israel's nuclear capabilities" on the agenda of the UN body's annual meeting upon a request by Iran and several other countries including the Arab states.

Based on the initiative, the IAEA would pass a resolution calling for a nuclear weapon free Middle East.
...
Western nations are reportedly trying to foil the bid in a politically charged vote called no-action motion.

A no-action motion may be tabled if a member state believes the subject-matter of a proposed resolution falls outside the competence of a UN body. If successful, it would halt the debate on the resolution altogether.

If successful, this would be the third time that the Israeli nuclear program is protected from inspection.
This is just one more manifestation of the phenomenon I wrote about the other day in a post entitled "We are the world (and other lies)," noting that, contrary to the opinion of American politicians and pundits and media, "world opinion" is not synonymous with "U.S. ruling class opinion."


 

What's behind the financial crisis?


There may or may not even be a "real" financial crisis; for all I know it's been completely manipulated. But for sure there is a real foreclosure crisis, and obviously that has in turn caused some problems for those who did the lending. So the question is, what's behind that? Michael Moore says it's the lack of universal health care, and that also may or not be true. But even if it is, behind that we ultimately get to the root cause - not the banks, not subprime mortgages, not health care, but manufacturing.

John McCain, George Bush, and a host of other capitalist boosters have repeatedly told us over the years that "the fundamentals of the economy are sound." But that was, and is, nonsense. It's only a bit of a caricature to describe the average American city as a collection of cookie-cutter malls filled with identical stores in which we sell each other clothes, electronics, and fast food. But that's not a self-sustaining system! Somewhere, someone actually has to be mining, growing, sewing, assembling, and otherwise producing all those things; just selling them or at most cooking them and selling them isn't enough. And, with millions of manufacturing jobs lost in industry after industry, it should be clear that the fundamentals of the American economy are far from sound.

And this leads us directly to the current crisis. Because with millions of people unemployed, millions more underemployed, and many millions more underpaid or uninsured even though working, of course there are millions of people who can't afford houses, can't afford health care, or can't afford anything beyond a Happy Meal. And until the system which allows employers to troll the world looking for the most desperate workers who will work for the lowest pay is ended, any short-term fix like the proposed bailout will remain just that - a short-term fix. No "changes in the rules" for lending and such can possibly fix the underlying, long-term problem - the severe crisis of manufacturing.


 

Schwarzenegger channels McCarthy


The governor wielded his veto pen against a measure that would have eliminated references in state law to communism as cause for dismissal of school, community college and other public employees.

"Many Californians have fled Communist regimes, immigrated to the United States and sought freedom in our nation because of the human rights abuses perpetuated in other parts of the world," Schwarzenegger said in his veto message. "It is important particularly for those people that California maintains the protections of current law.

"Therefore," his message said, "I see no compelling reason to change the law that maintains our responsibility to ensure that public resources are not used for purposes of overthrowing the U.S. or state government, or for communist activities."
"Communist activities." That would include agitating for civil rights, women's rights, immigrant rights, the 8-hour day, and every other progressive idea of the last century.

By the way, can you really overthrow a state government?


 

Laugh out loud Political Humor of the Day


From an interview this morning on NPR:
"I've turned to her for advice many times in the past. I can't imagine turning to Sen. [Barack] Obama or [Sen. Joseph] Biden because they've been wrong. They were wrong about Iraq. They were wrong about Russia."

- Sen. John McCain, referring, yes, you heard right, to Sarah Palin
By the way, a ceasefire had been signed in South Ossetia before John McCain had even met Sarah Palin. Then again, Sarah Palin never participated in any "trade missions" with Russia, nor is there any chance whatsoever she was "hearing about [Joe Biden's] Senate speeches since [she] was, like, in second grade." None. I'll be waiting for Gwen Ifill, or anyone else in the media, to ask her how exactly that was possible.


Why stop here? There's more...

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