Friday, September 28, 2007

Limbaugh slanders troops; Senate silent

I didn't realize that conservative windbag Rush Limbaugh was still around. I thought illegal use of drugs was usually punished harshly with prison. But maybe it's only reserved for serious criminals, like those who smoke a joint in their living room.

Anyway he apparently still has a radio show. In it, he recently launched a verbal attack on the integrity of soldiers who disagreed with President Bush's Iraq policy.

A man whose only experience with combat is berating callers from his plush radio studio had the gall to refer to such troops as 'phony soldiers,' in contrast to the 'real soldiers' who agree with Bush.

Several of the 'phony' soldiers who recently published an op-ed in The New York Times criticizing Bush's Iraq non-policy suffered REAL deaths in REAL combat

The windbag who dodged military service in Vietnam because of hemorrhoids also said that soldiers shouldn't whine about Bush's idiotic decisions because after all, the soldiers "joined to be Iraq."

That's odd... for the last five years, he and his ilk claimed that the role of soldiers was to (hold hand over heart) protect our freedom, not 'to be in Iraq.'

Adirondack Musing wonders who is going to hyperventilatingly demand the US Senate pass a resolution condemning the windbag's comments, like they did with MoveOn.org.


Update: Adirondack Musing notes one GOP Congressman actually had the audacity to introduce a resolution PRAISING Limbaugh for raising troop morale (by calling them phonies, apparently). My head hurts now.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

In solidarity with the Burmese martyrs

This essay is part of a (more or less) weekly feature on this blog that presents interesting stories from elsewhere in the world, particularly Africa, that are little reported in the American media. It's part of my campaign to get people to realize there is a lot going on in the world outside the US, Israel, Iraq, North Korea and Iran.



Today is the tenth day of protests in Burma (also known as Myanmar). The military dictatorship in the country is widely acknowledged as one of the three most repressive regimes in the world. The protests against deteriorating living conditions in the isolated nation were led by Buddhist monks but demonstrations grew to many tens of thousands as the days went on.

The military, in power since 1962, ordered soldiers to fire on the peaceful protesters. At least nine were killed in the massacre with more injured. Additionally, the forces of disorder went on the rampage, as truckloads of troops in riot gear also raided Buddhist monasteries on the outskirts of Yangon [the capital, also known as Rangoon], beating and arresting dozens of monks.

Observers fear that the bloodshed could get worse. In 1988, the military butchered thousands of peaceful anti-government protesters. And there's no reason to think that the desperate despots wouldn't resort to such barbarity again to preserve their power,

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A bottom feeder sinks a little lower

It's no secret that I can't stand Rudy Giuliani. I reserve some of my utmost contempt for shameless populist demagogues of all ideologies. The former mayor of New York certainly fits that bill.

It's important to look at the policy positions of candidates in an election. But you can also tell a lot about a candidate's character by how he (or she) campaigns and how and to whom they pander. Giuliani panders to the worst in people: fear, hatred, anger. He offers no positive agenda, only irrational hysteria.

So it's not surprising that one of his supporters came up with the slimeball idea to hold fundraiser parties where an admission would be charged. The rate of admission: $9.11.

Giuliani's campaign disavowed any knowledge of the fundraiser. But the tone was set long ago. When you base your entire campaign on 9/11-themed fearmongering, it's to be expected that supporters would take that to its logical conclusions.

The firefighters' union trashed the idea.

"It is nothing short of disrespectful to the legacy of the thousands of civilians and 343 brave firefighters who died at Ground Zero," said Harold Schaitberger, IAFF president.

However, such disrespect is his trademark. Giuliani has been shamelessly exploiting Sept. 11, 2001 for his own political ends since... Sept. 12, 2001.

He is so divorced from reality that he even had the audacity to claim he was a de facto rescue worker hero. A claim which was denounced by real rescue worker heroes.

Rudy thinks he personally owns 9/11. So it's not the least bit surprising that his supporters think they do too.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Contrived hysteria about Ahmadinejad's visit

Militarists were cackling with glee about the visit of Iran's president to New York for a United Nations' meeting. They were ecstatic because it gave them an excuse to ratchet up their demonization of the "Hitler of the Middle East" (this week's version) to unprecedented levels.

Their incessant attacks against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, punctuated by waves of manufactured righteous indignation, are the latest effort in laying the ground work for the military attack against Iran that the militarists have for several years longed for.

Some like to disingenuously claim that progressives are in love with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It probably doesn't help that leftist icon (in some people's eyes) Hugo Chavez has gotten in bed with the Iranian leader. That an atheistic socialist can make nice with a theocratic hyperconservative says as much about the shallowness of their ideological pretenses as their egomania.

But for the most part, the moderate left recognizes that a theocrat is a theocrat and that they are all a threat to rational societies.

I hear people in this country say stuff like, "Nuke 'em all and let Allah sort 'em out." There isn't a dime's worth of difference between people with that mentality, some of whom hold high ranking positions in this administration, and Ahmadinejad's calls to wipe Israel off the map.

Make no mistake about it, Ahmadinejad is a populist demagogue. Does he bearing watching? Absolutely. Should his calls for Israel's annihilation be condemned? Without question. Is he "Hitler of the Middle East"? Give me a break.

Militarists went into full-scale contrived hysteria mode when Columbia University invited Ahmadinejad to speak there. Originally, I thought it was a good idea. President Bush can say Ahmadinejad is a loon but few people are going to believe him because few believe anything Bush says anymore.

Best let the American people hear the loon in his own words so they can draw their own conclusions. Give Ahmadinejad enough rope to hang himself.

Then I saw reports on the speech and became even more convinced that not only was Columbia right to invite Ahmadinejad, but that they should invite more autocrats.

"You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated," one audience member taunted the Iranian leader.

The president of Columbia University denounced Ahmadinejad as a 'cruel dictator' and called him 'simply ridiculous.'

Can you imagine anyone daring to say that to Ahmadinejad's face back home? Imagine how he boiled with rage.

Here you had the head of a religious totalitarian state facing tough questions from a hostile audience. There were people calling him on his b.s. There were people jeering his ridiculous responses. There were people mocking his denial that homosexuality existed in Iran. He had to run the gauntlet of angry protesters to and from the hall. For once, he was subjected to a situation where he didn't have absolute power.

(To give him a microgram of credit, at least Ahmadinejad accepted to speak at Columbia under such circumstances. I'd like to see President Bush speak there. It would be revealing to see how he faced questions from an audience that wasn't packed with specially chosen sycophants, in sharp contrast to nearly all of his events with the public.)

Far from attacking Columbia, I think the university should invite more such leaders. Invite Mugabe. Invite Putin. Invite the head of the Burmese junta. Let them face the tough questions and scorn that they brutally repress with such cowardice at home. Allow Americans the chance to tell these megalomaniacs to go to hell.

Hitler was an evil genius. Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia made him look like the rambling idiot that he is.

And that's precisely what militarists were afraid of.

It's easy to whip up war hysteria against an evil genius. But selling a war of aggression against an incoherent buffoon is a much harder task.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Bush to veto child health bill

While President Bush never met a "defense" spending bill he didn't like, he's drawing the spending line on something he views as far more objectionable than the bloated military-industrial complex.

Congress is debating a bipartisan bill that would expand a state-federal partnership to provide health insurance for kids. President Bush has promised to veto the bill.

His objection?

Bush has attacked the compromise bill because it would expand [health insurance] coverage to some middle-class families....

SHOCK!

HORROR!

[A]s health-care costs soared, states began to grapple with knowing that many families - especially in urban areas where the cost of living was higher than average - had trouble paying for private health insurance even though they earned more than twice the poverty level.

Despite Bush's objections, the bill has cross party support.

Utah Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, a conservative Republican who was one of the creators of the program, says that is well short of providing what the White House says it fears: government-financed health care for the middle class.

Bush likes to brag about how GIs are building hospitals in Iraq. It would be nice if he shared the same concern for the health of American children that he pretends to have for young Iraqis.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

NPR, AP name at-risk 12 year old

Recently, I've both heard a story on NPR and read one from the Associated Press about the upcoming movie The Kite Runner. In the movie, based on the book of the same name, one of the key scenes is a young Afghan boy being raped by a bully. Both the NPR and AP stories talked about how the 12 year old actor and his family, who live in Kabul, are afraid of potential recriminations.

Rape victims are shunned in Afghan society. "The people of Afghanistan do not understand that it's only acting or playing a role in a film. They think it has actually happened," explained the father to the AP. The boy expressed fear that schoolmates would taunt him.

Both NPR and the AP quoted experts stating that the boy and his family's concern for their safety as a result of the film scene were genuine.

Yet despite this, both NPR and the AP included the name of the boy and his father in their pieces.

Let's hope the film makers are less irresponsible than these news organizations and omit the actor's name for the credits or use a pseudonym.



Update: Since I didn't link to either piece (for obvious reasons), there is some key info missing. Excerpts from the AP piece...

The boy's father said, "When we argued, they said 'We will cut this part of the film. We will take it out of the script. This part will not be in the film.'"

[...]

But the boy with an endearing, crooked smile said he would never have taken the role had he known (the boy) is raped. The family said they found out about the scene only days before it was shot.


[...]

"They didn't give me the script. They didn't give me the story of 'The Kite Runner.' If I knew about the story, I wouldn't have participated as an actor in this film," (the boy) told the AP

Friday, September 21, 2007

How Senate Republicans support our troops... or at least one of them

I'm already on record as criticizing MoveOn.org's obnoxious 'General Betray-us' ad. But at the same time, I'm annoyed to see that the US Senate wasted time debating and passing a resolution to that effect.

President Bush spouted, Most Democrats are afraid of irritating a left-wing group like MoveOn.org - are more afraid of irritating them than they are of irritating the United States military,"... somehow ignoring the fact that resolution passed the Democrat controlled Senate by an almost 3-to-1 margin.

The vote came on the same day that Republicans blocked a bill that would've provided longer leave to troops serving in Iraq. The bill proposed by Sens. Jim Webb (a former Republican Navy Secretary under Ronald Reagan) and Chuck Hagel (a Republican), both military veterans, received 56 votes in favor, but short of the 60 required.

I imagine this might've caused a bit more 'irritation' in the ranks of the US military than a newspaper ad.

In the eyes of Senate Republicans, condemning some left-wing activist group is a higher matter of national importance than giving a break to the men and women fighting in Iraq supposedly for our freedom.

Soldiers are stuck in Iraq's hellhole ad infinitum with no plan from the White House and no demand of one from Congress. But at least some people have a plan... even if it's to score cheap political points while our soldiers and innocent Iraqis continue to die.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Israel's attack on Syria

Adirondack Musing reports on something the mainstream media in this country seems to have missed: Israel's military attack against Syria. So reports both The Washington Post and the Rupert Murdoch-owned Times of London.

The Post speculates that it might have been a dry run for an attack against Iran.

You'd think the broadcast media might be able to cut a minute or so of their OJ Simpson coverage to report on this serious event, but their only responsibility as corporate conglomerates is to 'give people what they want.'

Monday, September 17, 2007

Republican follies

Remember the furor over Sen. Larry Craig's incident in the Minneapolis bathroom regarding which he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor? Remember how so-called conservatives fell over themselves to condemn him while feigning to portray themselves as merchants of righteousness? Remember how they insisted it wasn't "a gay thing" but a "morality thing."

The whole saga over the sexual dalliances of Louisana Sen. David Vitter, another Republican, makes a mockery of these claims.

The difference: Craig was accused of soliciting another man. Vitter is accused of regularly seeking the comfort of women prostitutes.

The result: Top Republicans fell over themselves to crucify Craig and drum him out of office. Their silence of the hypocrites over Vitter has been deafening.

***

House Minority Leader John Boehner recently stuck his foot in his mouth, which is apparently an acceptable body part for the morality brigade. He recently said that the 3780 US military deaths (and counting) were "a small price to pay" for stopping al-Qaeda and stabilizing the Middle East.

I suppose he might not think it was a small price if he had a son in Iraq right now.

Or in a coffin returned from Iraq.

Then again, Republicans in Washington have spent most of the last six years showing callous indifference toward human life. So Boehner's comments are within that tradition.

His comment might be slightly less outrageous if the US aggression against Iraq weren't so evidentally encouraging al-Qaeda and destabilizing the Middle East.

***

Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign bus was called the Straight Talk Express during his 2000 run against Gov. George W. Bush. He's renamed it to something else, which I suppose is appropriate since the old motto clearly no longer applies. I think Tool Time would have been a more appropriate name given how his personna has morphed.

On one hand, he struck back at those who want to promote sectarianism in this country by insisting that his particular demonination is not as important as his overarching Christianity.

But only a few days earlier, he launched a contemptible attack on the Democratic activist group MoveOn.org. Not so much on the liberal group, but on the 1st Amendment.

MoveOn themselves ran a vile attack on Gen. David Petraeus. The ad, which ran before his testimony to Congress, called the Iraq commander "General Betray-Us."

This 'if you disagree with me, you're traitor' filth is something we've come to expect from the far right. It's sickening to see a left-wing organization adopting these disgusting tactics.

It would have been fair to criticize the general's comments, in less inflammatory language, if MoveOn had bothered to actually wait until the general testified. Instead, the smear ads ran BEFORE he even said a word to Congress.

But McCain, pandering to a VFW crowd, reportedly called for MoveOn to be "thrown out of the country."

(Raw video here)

It's bad enough that MoveOn has adopted the 'dissent=treason' line. What's worse is that a potential future president of the United States wants opponents to be exiled.

I assume this is just an emotional McCain pandering to his audience. But it doesn't say much for the judgement of a potential future commander in chief, especially one who'd follow someone who's already seriously undermined the Constitution.

Or perhaps is says a lot more McCain's judgement than he might like.

As they say, a 'gaffe' is what you call it when a politician accidentally speaks his mind.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Misunderestimating your audience

I've probably ranted before about how much I can't stand commercial radio. Their DJs engage in unending spats of vapid babbling about something which they are the only person in America who thinks is the most hilarious or fascinating comment ever made.

Ever since the 1996 Telecommunications Act allowed a couple of media giants to own most of the radio stations, commercial radio has gone into the toilet faster than Larry Craig on Viagra.

That's why I'm happy to shell out $13 a month with Sirius Satellite Radio to avoid this crap and to be able to listen to (shock! astonishment) actual music when I turn on the radio. It's not the commercials on commercial radio that bother me. I just want to shoot all the DJs.

Sirius' DJs usually don't talk for more than 30 seconds and even then, it's often about the actual music or musician, which I don't mind. Once in a while, they slip though.

One DJ today was talking about how the upcoming song was featured in the controversial new CBS series Kid Nation. According to him, the premise of the show was stupid. These kids were completely alone, he said sarcastically, except for the producer, director and camera crew people that were watching their every move. "It's not like it was Lord of the Rings," he said.

If you don't know the difference between Lord of the Rings and Lord of the Flies, then maybe you stay away from literature and stick to music.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The lights are on but is anyone home?

I don't mean to sound nasty but does anyone copy edit the editorials at The Post-Star?

I don't care how many fancy awards they win, I'm not a fan. The style of their editorials is usually very curt and flip, casual often to the point of insulting. Not quite as pompous as Ken Tingley's columns, but a bit grating and sometimes not exactly coherent.

Compare the style of The Post-Star's editorials with the editorials in any major daily newspaper and you'll notice the difference immediately.

I remember one editorial that began, "In the neighborhood we grew up in..."

The editorial is supposed to be the collective opinion of the editorial board. Did every editorial board member grow up in the same neighborhood? I doubt it.

And then you have today's editorial. The intent of the editorial is noble: preventing youth injuries on bikes, skateboards, etc.

It began:

Whenever he spots a teenager riding a bike without a helmet or sees a kid riding a motor scooter on the main road, he gets a sick feeling in his stomach.

He has personally endured every parent’s nightmare: watching a child lie in a hospital bed with a head injury, not knowing whether that child is going to live or die.


So you're waiting with baited breath to find out the identity of this mysterious 'he'? A child safety advocate? Some dad with a personal tragedy to tell?

I have no idea.

The following 32 paragraphs of the editorial did not contain one mention of who this mythical 'he' is.

I'm sure there's the occasional spelling or grammar error in my essays, but no one copy edits my work.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Being 'respectful' of 9/11

Yesterday, I initially posted an essay regarding the history of US foreign policy, pre-9/11. I received a critical note most of which was the usual tripe. But it did make a comment that maybe the essay wasn't the classiest thing to do on that day. After reflection, I agreed and decided to take down the post and replace it with something a little more respectful, but no less sincere.

There was nothing in the text of the post that I regretted. But maybe the timing wasn't the best. Besides, most of the stuff in that essay, I'd said before anyway.

So I went to the critic's blog to let him know and I came across this screed.

This is a guy who criticized my lack of class in being disrespectful to the dead of 9/11 by exploiting the day for my own political agenda. And what is his blog entry on that supposedly sacred day? Was it "We remember the dead"? Was it "We feel sorrow for their families"? Was it a humble memorial listing the victims like Jim Sullivan did?

No.

His way of respecting the dead of 9/11 was to ignore them altogether, except as springboard for an anti-Islamic rant calling for an orgy of death and destruction.

His way of respecting the dead of 9/11 was to demand that we destroy 'their' (Muslims') countries. The murder of our innocent civilians must be answered with the murder of their innocent civilians.

His way of pacifying the Islamic world, radical and moderate alike, is to "Take a page from General Sherman." Because we know that Sherman's march to the sea created humane conditions in the south without an ounce of resentment. And that resentment certainly didn't build up and lead to more violence and instability.

He would have us destroy their countries, bully them into carrying our water and then demand the Islamic moderates to denounce the radicals. Because as 9/11 demonstrated, we all know that a siege mentality empowers the moderates.

That's his way of being respectful to the 9/11 dead.

I will be taking no more lessons from him.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Remember

Number of (mostly) American civilians killed on 9/11/01 terrorist attacks: 2,974.

Number of Iraqi civilians killed in war essentially launched in response to 9/11/01 terrorist attacks: at least 72,000 and counting.

Remember them all.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Anglicans' gay obsession

Openly gay Episcopalian bishop Gene Robinson has hit back at critics and compared the stance of some senior African members of the Anglican Church, who have accused homosexuals of bestiality, with that of American racists and slavers in years gone by.

Robinson's consecration as bishop has caused a split in the worldwide Anglican communion (of which the US branch is called the Episcopal Church) with many of his co-religionists in very homophobic Africa and some in the west fiercely opposing the ordination of gay clergy.

"It's very painful for me," Robinson said. "Coming out of the experience of the United States, where we treated people from Africa as less than human, where we used scripture to justify their slavery and their continued bondage ... it's very very painful to have those people in Africa in some sense using the same thinking against gay and lesbian people and against me."

Anti-gay sentiment is still prevalent in most forms of Christianity and Islam, but increasingly, many are beginning to reject the notion that a gay person can not serve God. Some note that while the CHRISTian prophet Jesus CHRIST spoke at great length about treating people with decency, he said not a word about homosexuality.

The ex-Anglican archbishop of Capetown Desmond Tutu concurred with Robinson. The black former anti-apartheid activist called his co-religionists to stop another form of bigotry and put an end to their 'obsession' with gays and same-sex marriage.

"There are so many issues crying out for concern and application by the church of its resources, and here we are, I mean, with this kind of extraordinary obsession," the Nobel Peace Prize winner said.
"Certainly there's not been anything like the same standing up to the evil and exercising the prophetic ministry that one would have expected from the church - and that has been very ... distressing."

Friday, September 07, 2007

Bush: the modern-day Sakharov

I know presidents have to make a thousand decisions every day. I certainly don't expect President Bush to remember what he had for dessert after lunch on January 12, 2004. I don't expect him to remember the name of the captain of the 2005 WNBA champions who visited the White House after the victory. But when it comes to why he made probably the most momentous/disastrous decision he's taken on Iraq besides the invasion itself, I do expect him to have some clue about why he did that.

Yet apparently, he can't recall why he made the critical decision to disband the Iraqi army following the US invasion.

Bush may gallingly try to pass himself off as a courageous dissident against a State Department that realizes that when militarists make a mess, diplomats are the ones stuck with the task of cleaning it up. But the president's disgraceful attempt to compare himself to courageous dissidents risking their very life against US-sponsored autocrats recalls Rudy Giuliani's pathetic efforts to equate his preening before the cameras with the truly heroic efforts of the 9/11 rescue workers

That he can't recall the reason for one of the biggest decisions of his presidency is still more fodder for those who believe that Bush isn't actually making any key decisions. But perhaps his judgement in comparing himself to gutsy human rights advocates should make us glad if he isn't.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Why the American health care system is the best in the world

I was having a debate with an acquaintance about health care in this country. He was arguing that any government involvement in health care would constitute (insert menacing music) SOCIALIZED MEDICINE. He said we must never institute the universal health care systems of Canada and nearly every other major developed country. Why? This would be a grotesque assault on our freedom. Those who want health care to be more accessible are in cahoots with al-Qaeda apparently. He also brushed aside complaints that our system was too expensive and grotesquely inefficient (average overhead costs of private insurers: 30 percent; average overhead of government Medicare: 3 percent). Complaints about costs are overblown. He explained...

"You can walk into any ER in the country and they'll serve you and the next day you can file Bankruptcy and never have to pay a penny of your bills."

I was left speechless.

I am rarely left speechless.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Health care rally in Glens Falls tomorrow morning

Matt Funiciello reports on a health care rally to be held in Glens Falls tomorrow sponsored by the Statewide Council of Health Care Coalitions. The rally will coincide with the first in a series of public hearings of a health care commission appointed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Want Affordable Single-Payer Health Care? Come to the Rally in Glens Falls this Wednesday Sept. 5th at 9:00 am at the Glens Falls Civic Center! Let the media and our elected officials know how we feel!

On September 5th, the New York State Department of Health and Insurance will conduct the first in a series of public hearings to solicit input on how New York can provide quality affordable health care to all. Let?s show our support for health care reform by coming to the rally prior to the start of the hearing and making our voices heard!

Bring your signs, bring your t-shirts and buttons, and bring your enthusiasm! Let's show New York's elected officials that we want health care reform and we want it now.

Sponsored by Statewide Council of Health Care Coalitions... for more info: 518 434-7371 ext 1#

"Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane." -Martin Luther King Jr.