Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Threats to Adirondack water

If you support a progressive agenda, then support a progressive candidate.

Adirondack Almanack has a piece on the Adirondack Council's report on The Biggest Threats to Adirondack Water Resources.

Some of them have been at least moderately covered by local media, such as: acid rain, mercury, aquatic invasive species and of course, global climate change.

Others haven't really been covered by the local media at all or in a case-by-case, rather than systematic, way. These include: inadequate sewage treatment, suburban sprawl and the increased water pollution it causes, the diversion Adirondack waters abroad by for-profit companies and the water pollution caused by road salt.

Almanack's piece is particularly important as organizations around the world have been warning for several years that access to water will increasingly be a source of international tension.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A kinder, gentler Empire

This year's version of the empty 'vote for the lesser of two evils' blackmail is that a McCain administration would be Bush lite and soooooo much worse than a Clinton or Obama adminstration, especially in international affairs, that we have to vote for Democrat no matter what.

Turns out foreign policy experts disagree with this 'conventional wisdom'.

They echo the Naderite contention that while both Democrats might tweak foreign policy around the largely inconsequential edges, neither would change it in any fundamental fashion.

Sweeping oratory aside, a President Barack Obama or a President Hillary Rodham Clinton -- let alone a President John McCain -- might chart a course in the world that's surprisingly similar to that of George W. Bush in his second term, summarizes Washington Post writer Michael Michael Abramowitz.

As I've mentioned in this blog before, neither Democrat offers any substantive challenge to the American empire's core tenet. They merely offer the same old militarism but with a more charismastic face. They'll meddle in other countries' internal affairs for the benefit of the multinationals that own them, but at least they'll do it with a smile!

Philip Zelikow, a University of Virginia professor who served for two years as counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, echoed that thought. Obama and Clinton's "critique in general of the administration, aside from Iraq, is we are going to be more competent and collegial," he said. "They don't really debate many of the underlying premises of the administration's current policies."

This shouldn't come as any surprise. Both John Kerry in '04 and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid in '06 made the basis of their campaigns the premise "Bush's foreign policy is fundamentally right. It's just the execution that needs work."

Sadly, many desperate, self-described progressives bit on this hook, line and sinker.

A kinder, gentler empire is still an empire.

Reminder: if you support a progressive agenda, then support a progressive candidate.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Patriotism: something you say or something you do?

If you support a progressive agenda, then support a progressive candidate.

When I posted my previous essay in another forum, a friend of mine left a note that read: one of the residents at her work, a Holocaust survivor, believes in the pledge of allegiance and I disagree with it.

I used to say the Pledge of Allegiance. I would omit the words 'to the flag' because I believe it's morally offensive to be asked to pledge allegiance to a piece of cloth. I don't believe in cloth. I believe in values.

Americans, from the Founding Fathers to the GIs of World War II, did not sacrifice their lives for a piece of cloth. They did so for the values Americans claimed to hold dear.

But lately, I've stopped saying it. The main reason is that it's become something of no meaning to most Americans. Too many Americans intone it and claim to revere it but don't take its words seriously.

If one says one believes in one nation, then why do so many Americans treat other Americans like traitors because they disagree with them politically?

If one believes in a republic, then why do so many Americans support decisions that make us an empire?

If one believes in liberty and justice for all, then why do so many Americans support policies that deny their fellow Americans (and folks abroad) liberty and justice because they happen to have the 'wrong' skin color, political views, religion, ethnic background or socioeconomic status?

This is yet another example of how 'patriotism' has been twisted into empty gestures of cheap symbolism completely devoid of substance. Patriotism has become nothing more than closed-minded, insular nationalism. Patriotism has become something you say, not something you actually do.

Patriotism has become completely separated from civics. Saying you pledge allegiance to one nation, to America the republic and to liberty and justice for all means NOTHING unless you actually DO something to preserve and advance those values.

Talk is cheap. If you claim allegiance to these things, prove it. Put up or shut up.

Write letters to the newspaper. Organize or volunteer for a civic group. Attend a local government meeting. Run for office or help someone who is. Speak out. Expect things of your elected officials, because when you expect nothing, that's what you'll always get.

Is the Pledge of Allegiance something you truly believe in and want to put into action? Or is it just another ideological wedge in the petty culture wars? Is it something you just intone just because it's politically correct, because that's what everyone else does? Or does it express a set of values you're actually willing to put into action?

I think it's about time the silent majority takes back patriotism from those who've perverted it to ends contrary to commonly held American values. If you claim to be patriotic, then act like it.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

When did decency become un-American?

Adirondack Musing had an interesting essay entitled America: the greatest country in the world. Here's my rant about it...

Around here, I've seen more than a few bumper stickers on pickup trucks that read 'The Power of Pride.' And it's spot on. Pride is a very powerful thing. Pride is necessary for healthy development. You can't do much good without a little self-belief. But pride also goeth before the fall. Excessive pride leads to downfall.

For the most part, the people most likely to brag loudly about the US being the best country in the world are the people least likely to have actually been to other parts of the world... and thus actually informed enough to make the comparison.

I have been to other parts of the world. And whether the US is the #1 or #2 or #7, it's certainly near the top. There are a few other countries I could see myself living in but not very many.

And one of the reasons it's near the top is because patriotic citizens are constantly trying to make it better, to fix its flaws. The real patriots, not the fakes who think that wearing a lapel pin or putting a flag on their porch absolves them from actually DOING SOMETHING to make their country better. Not the egomaniacs who think the country is perfect or that being great means standing pat. Not those who confuse empty symbolism with real patriotism.

Patriotism means love of country. In any love affair, symoblism is useful in small doses. People give their significant others flowers from time to time. But the key here is time to time. Any gesture is rendered meaningless if it's overdone. If it's too common, how can it be special? Don't you think something like the national anthem is demeaned by being played before things as ultimately trivial as boxing matches and rodeos? Isn't it a bit insulting to ask something as holy as 'God Bless America' in between loud, drunken tirades about how the Red Sox suck?

A love affair can not be solely based on these symbolic gestures. A fundamentally broken relationship will not be solved with a romantic dinner. Love affairs take hard work, not just fancy words and nice symbolism. Love of country is no different.

The Founding Fathers of this country knew that the US wasn't perfect and never would be. But they also knew that making and keeping it great required the constant commitment of people trying to make it better, of never being complacent. That's why the Constitution's preamble doesn't begin "in order to form a perfect union" but rather "...a MORE perfect union."

I love my country. I don't say it that often because to me, it seems implied. I am engaged in my community via socially useful (hopefully) volunteerism. I am engaged with it via politics.

But most tellingly, I think it's implied because I choose to live here. Although I think I could get an EU passport via my grandparents and could probably get a work visa for Canada, I choose to live in the United States. I choose to live here because it's my home. I choose to live here not by default, but because I want to live here.

I don't say I love my country that often because it seems braggart. It seems unnecessary. I prefer to let my actions speak for themselves.

Some people are so insecure that they need everyone else in the world to shout how great America is. I don't. My belief in this country's potential is not going to be shattered because someone in Paris or Damascus says meanie things about the US of A.

The biggest reason for anti-Americanism is not because the US is a great country. They don't 'hate us because we're free,' as the self-delusional myth goes, no matter who 'they' is. They hate our government's policies... as do many Americans, of course. They hate our arrogance. They hate our meddling in other countries' affairs.

And that's not even getting into the massive hypocrisies involved in US foreign policy and the so-called war on terror. The anger at these hypocrisies illustrate that far from rejecting American values, many people around the world EMBRACE our values so much that they get angry when Americans and our government turn our backs on what we claim are our core values.

For far too many Americans, it's not good enough to think that we're the best country in the world. We're not content with that belief. We have to be universally canonized for that greatness. We have to rub people's noses in it. We have to break our arms patting ourselves on the back. Thanks is never good enough. We demand other people get on their knees and lavish regal praise on our benificence. And if they dare question a single policy decision made by our government, they are thrown in the trash bin with the other cheese eaters.

I don't know what it's like in sainted 'Middle America' but people here in upstate New York are not crude, brash, in your face, chest thumpers. I was taught to have pride in myself and my actions, but in a quiet, decent way. I was taught that I should let actions speak louder than words. I was taught that a good deed is its own reward. I was taught to be humble, not arrogant. I was taught that you treat people decently not because of some expectation of future, perpetual subservience but because it was the right thing to do. I was taught that you treat people decently because the whole functioning of society is dependent on civility.

When did these become un-American values?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Humor of the week

You know, I'm really not interested in policies that are long on rhetoric and short on results. I think the taxpayers, as well as the people we're trying to help, need to know our strategy is well-defined, with clear goals, and we hold people accountable. -President Bush

No need to shoot fish in a barrel on this one.

Friday, April 25, 2008

World Malaria Day


Today is World Malaria Day, a day designed to publicize international efforts to combat one of the world's leading (non-man made) causes of death.

Click here to learn more.

On a personal note, I fortunately never contracted malaria when I lived in West Africa but I knew many people who did. Fortunately none of them died, but it's a very debilitating condition and pretty much renders you useless. Even if it doesn't kill the infected, it can severe brain damage if untreated.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I'm not touching this one!

I wonder what it says that the top two most emailed stories at this moment on Yahoo News are... Penis theft panic hits city and Masturbation may prevent cancer.

I guess we have a pretty good idea of the predominant demographic of readers of Yahoo News.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Liberté, égalité, racisme

I'm not sure if it's reassuring or troubling that small-minded anti-Islamic bigotry isn't unique to the United States. The French daily Le Monde reports on the case of a 9 year old boy who was denied a place on a children's game show solely because of his first name: Islam.

"You must understand that the name of your child makes reference to a religion that the French don't like very much," the casting director told the boy's mother. "It could shock people."

The show even urged them to have the boy use a pseudonym instead, which the family refused.

Naturally, after the story went public, the show called invited the boy back on the show and 'apologized' (the usual 'this goes against the values of the production company bla bla bla'). The family declined, seeing through this transparent attempt at PR damage control.

Rejecting a child because of something as trivial as his first name is something you might expect on an elementary school playground. Imagine this boy's parents having to explain why so-called adults would do such a thing.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Fanatics: they're not just for Republicans anymore

Hillary Clinton has decided to prop up her floundering coronation march by trying to out-Bush John McCain. The New York senator recently promised to 'obliterate' Iran if they tried 'launching an attack on Israel.'

"I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran," AFP quoted the senator.

No, she doesn't specify what kind of attack would meet her standard. Would bombing raids on Tel Aviv and, say, kidnapping an Israeli sailor at sea both meet Clinton's threshold for launching a nuclear holocaust?

And yes, that's the same Israel that has a nuclear arsenal of its own as well as the region's most powerful and well-funded military.

But heaven forbid you criticize Clinton's militarism or anything else about her slimy campaign. It's okay to attack McCain's fetish for perpetual war as reckless and a frightening trait in someone in charge of this country's nuclear arsenal. But apparently it's sexist to ask the same question of Clinton.

Guess where I'm NOT spending my summer vacation

While visitors to the upcoming Beijing Olympics might not be subjected to official state repression (providing they're not wearing a monk's robe), but they may not be immune to lynch mobs.

Way to dispel the criticisms about brutality in China!

This is the country that's been tapped to propogate the supposedly enlightened, enobling values of the Olympic "movement."

I'm sure we'll be doing this all over again in a few years when the 2014 Winter Olympics are held in Russia.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Well isn't that special

IRS audits of large corporations is down to its lowest levels in 20 years, according to The Syracuse Post-Standard and other sources.

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse said only 26 percent of corporations with $250 million or more in assets were audited in fiscal year 2007. That's less than half the 64 percent audit rate for large corporations in 1988, the report added.

It noted that the audit rate of smaller corporations has skyrocketed.

For each hour spent auditing large corporations, the IRS uncovered on average ten times more in unpaid additional taxes than for smaller corporations.

It pays to have friends in high places. Literally.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Scumbag of the week

Given that this award is named after Dick Cheney, it's appropriate that this week's winner is our vice-president's ideological twin.

Benjamin Netanyahu, long one of the most despicable characters in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, made headlines recently. The former Israeli prime minister and current opposition leader talked about how fantastic the 9/11 terrorist attacks had been for his country.

"We are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq," he said, noting that events had "swung American public opinion in our favor."

I'm really glad for the always opportunistic Netanyahu that not only has the mass murder of American civilians has given such a fantastic boost to his political career but that he's comfortable publically bragging about it.

Then again, this is a man who's made his career by exploiting for his own political benefit the murder of Israeli civilians, so I suppose this isn't such a great leap.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Why is Obama dodging questions about his refusal to use American flag-embossed salad forks?

I know most 'serious' political junkies don't care for Jon Stewart. He's a funny man so obviously he has nothing serious to say. 'Serious' types like to mock people who watch Stewart as unsophisticated consumers of infotainment. Of course, the corporate establishment media trivializes news far more than Stewart, The Onion or other satirists.

Stewart's The Daily Show is without doubt one of the most informative shows on television. The reason is because Stewart connects the dots in a way that you don't get from mainstream media journalists obsessed with access and schmoozing. The most damning pieces on The Daily Show are almost always snipets of politicians or journalists IN THEIR OWN WORDS.

Stewart was first that I saw, but not the only, media observer to to rip ABC News for their disgraceful handling of the Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama debate a few days ago.

The moderators Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous wasted the first 50 (FIFTY) minutes of the debate on inane questions about pastors, lapel pins, elitism, old friends, sniper fire and other contrived non-issues of zero interest to most Americans with real problems to worry about. They were so silly that Stewart even chided them for stealing his material!

It took nearly an hour into the 'debate' before the Fourth Estate representatives got around to asking a question that non-elitists might actually care about. And Stephanopolus started that question, "Number one on people's minds is the economy..."

If it was number one on people's minds, Stewart wondered, why the heck did he wait until the 16th question to ask it?!!

I perfectly understand why Ralph Nader and running mate Matt Gonzalez want to get into the presidential and vice-presidential debates. They know that their vote total would sky rocket if people were made aware of their progressive agenda, if people could hear the two in their own words. This is why the Democrat- and Republican-controlled corporate debate commission won't let them.

But I'm left to wonder... even if they were allowed into the debates, would they actually get a chance to talk about their solutions for the serious issues facing Americans or would they be bombarded with questions about their steadfast refusal to wear American flag boxer shorts?

Recommended reading: 'Merchants of Trivia'

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Joke of the week

The current joke of the week award goes to Los Angeles Galaxy forward Landon Donovan*.

(*-the name Landon Donovan comes from the Latin for "If you need four goals from the penalty spot against Guam, I'm your man but don't expect me to show up at all against anyone half way decent.")

Landycakes, as he is derisively referred to, came out in the press this week and declared that his club were the "giants" of Major League Soccer.

This came after Donovan's side were humiliated by Toronto FC for only the Canadian team's second away win in its two-year history.

Here are the last three overall regular season finishes for the 'giants' of MLS...

2007: 11th of 13
2006: 9th of 12
2005: 9th of 12

This year, they are tearing it up at tied for 10th of 13.

Though in fairness to Donovan, being in Los Angeles has probably afflicted him with Lalasitis. One site describes the pathology as: a chronic infectious disease, caused by a excessive hyperbole, delusions of grandeur, and cognitive dissonance, usually verbal in origin but often congenital, and affecting almost any club or team in MLS that Alexi Lalas is General Manager of [presently, the Los Angeles Galaxy]. In fact the disease was named after footballer, Alexi Lalas. Symptoms first appear in brain, mouth, genitals, and nerves.

Lalas has declared Los Angeles as MLS' 'Superclub.'

As great as he is at self-promotion, it's too bad that he's a crap at his actual job. The last two teams he's general managed have been garbage. The previous one left town during his tenure.

I fully expect hype machines Donovan and Lalas to be hired consultants on the new Phoenix Cardinals' 'giants of the NFL' campaign.

Or by ESPN.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

World's most prominent pro-war and pro-peace advocates meet

So I see there is going to be a meeting between President Bush and one of the most prominent critics of the Iraq Aggression in particular and US imperialism in general. I know Bush is far too arrogant to open his mind to anyone, let alone the world's most influential Christian. But I still wouldn't mind being a fly on the wall there...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ralph Nader to visit Glens Falls

The Tri-County Greens, Adirondack Almanack and Matt Funiciello all report that presidential candidate Ralph Nader will be visiting Glens Falls later this month, surely the only one to do so this year.

Nader will be in town on Saturday April 26. There will be a dinner fundraiser at 6 PM followed by an appearance at the Charles R. Wood Theater. The Wood Theater event will feature a showing of the excellent documentary 'Awake From Your Slumber,' which will start at 8 PM. The film will be followed by a question and answer period with the citizen activist. Click here for more details on both events.

While he doesn't offer empty rhetoric nor is he a corporate tool nor does he support an ad infinitum Occupation of Iraq, Nader will almost certainly be the only candidate on the presidential ballot who's actually taken a strong and correct stand the most important issues facing this country, in stark contrast to the major parties.

He argues in favor of:

-a single-payer, Canadian-style, private delivery, public health insurance system

-cutting the bloated, wasteful military budget, cutting off the corporate welfare kings - and using the savings to rebuild the nation's infrastructure

-cracking down on corporate crime

-reversing U.S. policy in the Middle East and ending the military and corporate occupation in Iraq

...issues that have widespread support in this country, particularly (but not exclusively) among self-described liberals and progressives.

And he notes that Sens. Obama and Clinton, to say nothing of McCain, are all on the wrong side of these issues. And he wonders why so many self-described liberals and progressives will yet again vote for a candidate who's on the wrong side of issues they themselves claim to consider so important.

Many Americans agree with Nader's agenda. The question becomes will such people vote for someone who will advance what they believe in or harm their interests. How can the progressive agenda ever be implemented if progressives refuse to even consider voting for one?

Memory refresher of the week

"The reason (President Bush's tactic) works so well now is that you have all these economically insecure white people who are scared to death." -Candidate Clinton, Sept. 1991.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Odds and ends (pt. 2)

Note: Continued from previous entry

KNOWLEDGE IS... DUMBERER: A good book review in The New York Times explains how American society is not merely apathetic to logic and knowledge in the political process but downright hostile. This op-ed in The Washington Post also bemoans the dumbing down of society.

FREE TUITION FOR NNYers?: A local legislator from New York's northwestern St. Lawrence County is pushing an intriguing proposal to provide significant tuition assistance for all students in the county provided they attend one of the county's several four-year colleges. He hope to get funding via the state lottery which is now a slush fund for the general coffers but originally conceived as a way of better funding education. Good luck with that!

THE POLITICS OF FEAR: Spencer Ackerman has a great column urging Democrats to take a stand against the politics of fear. The Republicans have set the fear-mongering agenda and Democrats will only succeed if they change the paradigm. He points out that Obama has been fairly vocal in this regard, although he's been not nearly bold enough in opposing either militarism in general or Iraq in particular where it most counts: funding and timetables. To no one's surprise, Hillary "I'm not sure if I'm a hawk or a dove today... let me check the polls first" Clinton has been worthless in this regard.

MUSCULAR MEDIA: It's not much of a secret that advertising and the media contributes to poor body image among many girls. Now research suggests that it does the same for many boys too.

SIMPSONS BAD FOR KIDS, BAYWATCH GOOD: You might not think busybody conservative Christian groups in the US would found any common cause with the Bolivarian revolutionary Hugo Chavez regime in Venezuela... but you'd be wrong.

HOW SOCCER EXPLAINS OUR ELECTIONS: You may have heard about the very excellent book How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization. Well it turns out that they also may explain US elections. It's not an entirely new theory that in the US, "soccer" types tend to be more diplomatic, internationalist and likely to vote Democratic or left-wing while "gridiron" types (sometimes referred to by the more accurate term throwball) tend to be more forceful, parochial and like to vote Republican or right-wing. Definitely not surprising considering the nature of each sport, but interesting nonetheless.

THE RISKS OF LOWERING CRIME: North Country Public Radio has a long piece on something I want to explore in more detail myself at some point: how decreasing crime is harming communities in northern New York. The dependency of many North Country communities on the prison-industrial complex was always going to be risky. When you pin your future on something the rest of society wants to eliminate... although this shows the economic desperation many Adirondacks' communities face.

JOHNNY FOREIGNER: One potential way to spur economic development in this region might be more foreigners. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York offers this analysis of the foreign-born population in upstate New York. It concludes that foreigners contribute to the region’s human capital in important ways. This population boasts a greater concentration of college graduates than either the region’s native-born population or immigrants downstate... the more highly educated appear to be entering skilled occupations—in medicine, science, and research particularly—that complement those of native-born residents. Of course, a lot depends on how upstate New York is defined. But one thing is clear. Whether it's Bosnians in Utica or Eastern Europeans in Lake George's tourist industry or Mexicans and Central Americans on the dairy farms of northern New York or in the horse stables of Saratoga, upstate is certainly seeing an increase in cultural diversity.

ON MY CHRISTMAS LIST: Guess whose gonig to bye one of these shirts' off there back's!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Odds and ends (pt. 1)

This is the periodic odds and ends entry I write when my bookmark of articles to blog about gets too long...

RACE AND ECONOMICS: In the wake of Sen. Barack Obama's much-discussed speech on skin color, Shankar Vedantam wrote a fanastic op-ed piece in the Washington Post about the topic. He points out that while many whites feel that black complaints about inequality are rooted in past injustices, the most troubling inequalities are in the present. The average black person in America is 447 percent more likely to be imprisoned than the average white person, and 521 percent more likely to be murdered. Blacks earn 60 cents to the dollar compared with whites who have the same education levels and marital status. The black poverty rate is nearly twice the white poverty rate. Blacks tend to die five years earlier than whites; the infant mortality rate among black babies is nearly 1 1/2 times the rate among white babies. And because of long-standing patterns of inheritance, blacks and whites begin life with substantial disparities in family wealth.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING: WAMC Northeast Public Radio had a story on the problem of human trafficking in New York's Hudson Valley.

CENSORSHIP: In another skirmish in the Bush administration's ongoing battle against science and knowledge (a part of its wider war against reality), a US Agency for International Development-funded organization is now blocking searches on the word 'abortion' from its massive database. It's one thing to ban government funding for abortions themselves. But to use funding to intimidate medical organizations into banning any discussion of the practice is pretty brazen, even by the standards of the day.

CAFFEINE ADDICTS UNITE!: You know how some coffee-addicted people get crazy when they don't get there daily fix? Turns out there might be a medical reason why.

HEROIC RAPISTS: This op-ed piece originally from The Los Angeles Times illuminates the rather disturbing statistic that female US soldiers are more likely to be raped by a 'comrade' than killed by enemy fire in Iraq. Doctors at a Veterans' clinic in West Los Angeles reported that 41 percent of their patients were victims of sexual assault and 29 percent raped... while serving in the US military. Could someone please remind me how gays would ruin the military...

HOW PREDICTABLE IS CONFLICT?: Can computers predict wars? A Radio Netherlands report explores the matter.

HILLARY'S WAL-MART YEARS (cont.): Sen. Hillary Clinton has based her campaign against Barack Obama on her supposed edge in experience. The non-partisan Center for Public Integrity has a closer look at the much-touted experience of a woman that blue collar unions are inexplicably falling over themselves to endorse.

HYBRIDS IN THE MOUNTAINS: Adirondack Almanack blog hosts a good discussion (both in the original essay and in the comments) of hybrid cars and their use in the Adirondacks.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Dr. King's real agenda was controversial... and remains so

When a great many Americans think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., assassinated 40 years ago last week, they associate him almost exclusively with efforts to bring down the apartheid-esque Jim Crow laws. The struggle to end government-imposed racism.

Many Americans are simply aware of this because the establishment wants his legacy to begin and end with the "I have a dream" speech. The standard modern narrative of King is "He won civil rights for blacks and then he was killed. The end." He was made into a secular saint based on this narrow view which is now, thankfully, uncontroversial.

The reason for this historical revisionism is because the agenda of King and his colleagues was much broader than legal equality for blacks, which was important but only a first step. King's goals were fundamentally about human dignity and the war against the poor.

In the later years of his life, he displayed this by his strong opposition to the US Aggression in Vietnam. An Aggresion of which poor and working class people, both American and Vietnamese, were bearing the human cost almost exclusively. The situation is little different in today's Aggression. So King is reduced to his "I Have a Dream" speech to make sure the masses don't draw any parallels.

King is a person whose anti-establishment agenda has been whitewashed by the establishment so they could bask in the reflected glory of something saccharinized. Much has been done to Muhammad Ali.

And let's not forget that the whole reason King was in Memphis on that fateful April 1968 day was to fight a form of oppression against darker-skinned human beings that may not have been state-mandated but was no less nefarious.

A good supplement is this piece from The Los Angeles Times. It points out King's increasing frustration with white America. A white America that expected blacks to lick their boots in gratitude after they were promoted from third-class citizens to second-class.

And after state segregation started to be dismantled, some of the greatest hostility toward blacks was found as much in the north as in the much reviled south.

The LAT notes: After the grand victories of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, King turned his attention to poverty, economic injustice and class inequality. King argued that those "legislative and judicial victories did very little to improve" Northern ghettos or to "penetrate the lower depths of Negro deprivation." In a frank assessment of the civil rights movement, King said the changes that came about from 1955 to 1965 "were at best surface changes" that were "limited mainly to the Negro middle class." In seeking to end black poverty, King told his staff in 1966 that blacks "are now making demands that will cost the nation something. ... You're really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then."

In other words, non-southern whites may have had no problem in blacks gaining equal de jure political rights, because northern blacks largely had that anyways. Nothing changed. But once blacks started to demand a humane wage or move into 'white' neighborhoods or 'infiltrate' white schools, northern whites wouldn't be so calm and King knew it.

Much of the social tension of the 70s, from fair housing laws to busing, bore ought King's predictions.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Olympian shame

Isn't ironic that a regime that murders its own citizens among the countless other ways it wages war against its own people has decided to take extraordinary measures to protect fire...

Gen. Colbert?

Truth is the first casualty...

This morning, my brother sent me an email entitled, "Ethno-sectarian competition."

When I say the subject line, my first thought was that it was a rant about the Olympics.

Turns out it was actually a politically correct euphemism by Gen. David Petraeus to describe the civil war in Iraq.

It's sad when our miltary leaders dishonor themselves into spouting the same mealy mouth obfuscation as ordinary self-serving politicians. Petraeus' tortured explanation is more worthy of something from the satirical site The Onion than of a high-ranking general.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Taking care of your loved one: worse than terrorism

For most of the last decade, conservatives have controlled the presidency, the Congress and because of that, increasingly the judiciary. And let's not forget the regulatory (or deregulatory in this case) agencies of the executive branch. So since they control the governmental levers of power, they need to contrive boogeyman in order to keep their base scared and thus engaged.

The activist's second worst enemy is the perception of victory. This is because the perception of victory creates the activist's worst enemy: lethargy.

Some of those boogeyman pre-dated this most recent period of governmental control. The 'liberal media.' Hollywood. The ACLU and other segments of the anti-theocracy crowd.

One of the more strange obsessions of conservatives is with homosexuality and the so-called 'homosexual lifestyle.' Of course, there really is no such thing as a 'homosexual lifestyle' (singular) any more than there is a 'heterosexual lifestyle' or a 'white lifestyle' or a 'left-handed lifestyle.' There are many different versions of each. But hard core ideologues rarely let nuance get in the way of their stereotypes. Reality just needlessly complicates things.

(It goes without saying that these dynamics apply to all sides of the ideological circle and that activists on the left have their boogeymen too)

Many view this mythical 'homosexual lifestyle' as part of the broader hedonistic, sinful culture that the 'liberal media' and Hollywood are supposedly pushing. Though many do not share this view of, say, hedonistic corporate consumer culture.

Some take this to an extreme.

Recently, a member of the Oklahoma legislature said that gays were a bigger threat to America than terrorists. Apparently, two guys who love each other are a greater threat to this nation than people who want to commit mass murder.

To most sane people, this seems just as fanatical as anything al-Qaeda spews. But to a minority fringe, it makes perfect sense. In their eyes, we can defend against al-Qaeda because they are outsiders. Just throw a dart on the map, bomb that country into oblivion and everything will be ok.

But they see gays as being far more dangerous because they... (insert menacing music) walk among us. Because they are us. Because they are us, not them. Gays don't want to destroy our culture. They want to do something even more insidious: change it.

What most bothers the Theocracy Brigade is not so much that gays exist. What really bothers them is that many no longer practice their 'lifestyle' in secret. That many want legal recognition for their relationships.

Legal recognition implies some form of social acceptance. And that's really about the only thing that both the pro- and anti-equal rights movements would agree on.

Some argue over the terms 'gay marriage' and 'civil unions.' To me, the semantic difference is meaningless. The point should be that gay couples should be afforded the same legal protections as straight couples. What the state chooses to call it is irrelevant, so long as they are equal in every other way.

Many folks that that those who support gay rights want gays to have special rights. That they want to force poor, persecuted American Christians to celebrate these immoral sinners.

Of course this isn't true. I do not support bigotry, but I do support the equal free speech rights of bigots.

Many say that if sexual orientation is not anyone else's business, why do these relationships need state recognition? If it's private, why can't it stay private?

Here's why.

As The Human Rights Campaign points out:

In every paycheck you've ever received, you've been contributing to Social Security. Imagine knowing that, should you die, your partner won't receive the survivor benefits you've paid for.
Or imagine moving to another state, only to find that your partner will be kicked off of your health care plan.

Situations like these happen every day to GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender] people across the country.

It's a sad state of affairs when wanting to make sure your partner has financial security or access to health care is treated as worse than terrorism.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Rwanda: remembrance day

Note: I am remiss for having neglected to publish this on Sunday.

14 years ago, a plane carrying the leaders of Rwanda and Burundi was shot down, killing both men. The event was used as the pretext to carry a pre-planned genocide in Rwanda. At least 800,000 people were murdered in the slaughter.

A few years ago, I marked the 10th anniversary of the massacres' start with a series of essays and analyses exploring the genocide more deeply as well as addressing many myths surrounding its causes and implementation.

As i wrote in my introduction back in 2004:

Ten years ago today, the airplane carrying the leaders of Rwanda and Burundi was shot down, killed both. This was the pretext used by a group of extremists to execute a pre-planned genocide against the minority Tutsi community. It also targeted Hutu political opponents, most of whom were moderates in favor of a power-sharing deal with the Tutsis, a deal opposed by the regime's hardliners. In the slaughter, around 800,000 people were killed in only 100 days -- approximately 5 1/2 murdered every single minute of every single day for over three months. It is widely believed to be the most "efficient" mass murder in history. And far from being secretive or in the fog of war like previous genocides, this was unique in that it was broadcast around the world live and in color on CNN and the BBC.

Pieces in the series can be found:
-Pre-genocide history of Rwanda
-How the genocide unfolded
-Myths and realities about the genocide (part 1)
-Myths and realities about the genocide (part 2)
-The genocide's orphans
-Hate media and its role in the genocide
-International and American law on genocide
-Post-genocide justice
-The post-genocide government
-Lessons and conclusions

Please take a moment from your day to remember the dead.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


I was in one of my small city's four Stewart's shops this morning and I noticed the woman in front of my was my county's district attorney buying a coffee and a tabloid. And it made me wonder why a smart, well-spoken moderate Republican was spending money (let alone time) on The New York Post.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Hillary: working class hero

One of the key tenets of Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign is how she's glomming on to her husband's legacy. That her 'service' as First Lady makes her ready to lead on day one in a way that Barack Obama isn't. Forget for a second that the only official policy role she had ended with a hideously complex plan that failed miserably to gain public support. Let's just go with this idea that she'll head the Restoration of the House of Clinton. Let's go with the idea that she was virtually co-president during the 90s.

The first Clinton administration effectively ushered in the end of American manufacturing. It was already in decline to some extent, but its death knell was the NAFTA and WTO agreements put it on life support. The House of Clinton (of which Hillary claims to have been an integral part) essentially completed the Reagan Revolution. The House of Clinton and the afforementioned agreements completely dismantled both public and workers' health and safety protections in the name of the mythical panacea known as 'free trade.' Or at least, whatever hadn't been previously been annhilated by Reagan-Bush I.

Even aside from the fact that she's far and away the most corporate-owned candidate left in the race in either party, this legacy she's leeching on to makes me truly at a loss to figure out why her strongest base of support is from none other than... blue collar workers.

Why is someone claiming this record, someone who was on the board of one of the most infamously anti-union corporations in this country (Wal-Mart)... getting so much support from unions? Why is someone who claims to have been an integral part of an administration that emascualted worker protections so strongly supported by the working class?

I am truly mystified with this is the case. Can anyone offer me some insight? Even speculation or conjecture is fine. I'm really at a loss trying to wrap my mind around this. Of all the candidates for the working class to attach themselves to, why her?

Especially when you have a candidate like Ralph Nader who's done the exact opposite, who's based not just his campaign but his whole life advocating on behalf of public and workers' health and safety issues.

Thanks for the heads up!

How very kind of the US government to warn us that visitors to this summer's Beijing Olympics not to expect any privacy and they might be subjected to surveillance.

This is the same US government that has demanded the 'right' to spy on its own citizens arbitrarily and without any oversight whatsoever (in order to 'protect their freedoms'). The same US government that protects its own citizens' privacy by making private information on passport applications fair game to any Tom, Dick and Harry that feels like snooping... because such work is shipped out to private contractors with apparently less-than-rigorous controls.

And the consensus is that the most spied-on country that's a likely destination for US tourists is not China, but Britain.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

"We don't make news. We just report it" and other fairy tales (pt. 233)

I've written countless times before about how the corporate media's coverage of politics deifies trivia over substance. Here's yet another example.

Guess what the latest tempest in a teapot has the insular little world of yapping heads in a tizzy.

Fox News [sic] taunted Chelsea Clinton for explicit refusing to answer questions about her father's affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Apparently, the corporate media feels that the ten-year old story has been ignored, swept under the rug, not at all dealt with by the political class.

And while it's easy to pick on Fox News [sic], the 'story' was also harped on by CNN*, which may stink but remains the least bad TV news broadcaster in the country.

(*-That's the always disappointing CNN Domestic, not the fairly decent CNN International)

Why should the corporate media focus on trivial stuff like the threat of stagflation and skyrocketing food prices when there are juicy sex scandals to titilate the public with?