Monday, September 29, 2008

More spin than Karl Rove in a G Force machine

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

Check out the first segment of the most recent episode of the Media Project, from WAMC public radio.

In it, a listener (myself) asks the following:

Given the results of a recent Zogby poll in which 44 percent said they "believe the United States' system is broken and cannot be fixed by traditional two-party politics and elections," doesn't this discredit the corporate media's rationalization that they ignore "third party" candidates because no one is interested in them?

Listen to Times-Union editor Rex Smith's response to this. He claims that it's not the media's job to drum up support for smaller party and independent candidates. He doesn't say what IS the media's job though. I naively thought it was to provide the public the information they needed to make an informed choice at the ballot box. And Smith can't quite figure out why newspaper sales are tanking.

It's hard to listen to this segment without wanting to puke... or to laugh hysterically. It contains more spin than Karl Rove in a G Force machine.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman

Paul Newman passed away on Friday from cancer. Though more famous for being an actor, Newman spent much of his time over the last two and a half decades as a philanthropist, particularly for charities related to sick kids.

Newman was a frequent visitor to this area because the Double H Hole in the Woods camp for seriously ill children that he co-founded in Lake Luzerne.

Please consider making a donation in his memory to Hole in the Woods camp.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bipartisanship or democracy?

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

There may be a presidential debate tomorrow, if Republican candidate St. John decides to participate. But I won't watch it. It won't really help me make an informed decision because it will exclude most of the candidates.

There are at least five candidates that I know of with a mathematical chance of winning. By mathematical chance, I mean they are enough state ballots whose electoral vote totals combine to at least 270.

Those five candidates are St. John, Democrat Barack Obama, Libertarian Bob Barr, independent Ralph Nader and Green Cynthia McKinney. I strongly suspect there are at least one or two more. But of those 5-7 candidates, only 2 have been invited. Why?

The presidential debates used to be run by a non-partisan group called the League of Women Voters. The LWV still sponsors many debates at state, local and Congressional levels. In the mid-80s, the two-party Duopoly decided they wanted to seize control of the debates and decided to stop cooperating with the widely respected LWV. The League argued that a change in sponsorship that put control of the debate format in the hands of the two dominant parties would deprive voters of one of the only chances they have to see the candidates outside of their controlled campaign environment.

But the Duopoly persisted and created the the Presidential Debate Commission.

The commission is bipartisan entity created and controlled by the two corporate parties. Its two co-chairmen are former heads of the Democratic and Republican National Committees. Most of its members are former Democratic and Republican elected officials, appointees or money men.

Befitting its control of the two corporate parties, the debates have over several corporate sponsors.

So the corporate party-run and corporate-sponsored debate commission excludes candidates from non-corporate parties. The Democrat- and Republican-controlled commission excludes candidates who aren't Democrats and Republicans.

This isn't exactly shocking, but it is disgusting.

Imagine if baseball's rules on payrolls were written by the Red Sox and the Yankees.

The corporate debate commission has two objective criteria for which candidates they allow. The first is constitutional eligibility. The second is whether they have a mathematical chance of winning an electoral college majority, as I described above.

These objective criteria should be the only criteria.

But if this were it, then people might actually be exposed to the ideas of non-corporate candidates. And we can't have that.

So the bipartisan, not non-partisan, commission arbitrarily decides to restrict participation to candidates who have received the arbitrary figure of an average 15 percent support in five arbitrarily chosen polls.

The corporate media blackout on non-corporate candidates essentially prevents them from getting anywhere near 15 percent in the polls, unless they can buy their own media coverage. How can candidates like Nader, McKinney, Barr and others gain widespread support in the polls if citizens are never exposed to their ideas through the media?

Non-corporate candidates are being told that they won't be given a forum until they prove they are popular... which of course is almost impossible if they're never given a forum. The corporate candidates buy their forum with the huge campaign bribes they receive (from corporate America of course... see how it's all one giant circle).

Smaller party and independent candidates don't get these huge "donations" and are ignored by the media. So how can they effectively get their message across to the masses?

The only non-corporate party candidate ever admitted by this commission was Ross Perot, who bought the poll numbers with his own money.

When smaller party and independent candidates ARE given something close to a fair shake, they often do well. Green Matt Gonzalez (now Ralph Nader's running mate) came within a whisker of winning the runoff to become San Francisco's mayor after getting a fair amount of media coverage.

Independence Party candidate Jesse Ventura was at a few percent in the polls for Minnesota governor. But after his participation in the debates, which apparently were done fairly because he was invited, his numbers skyrocketed and he eventually won the election. At first, no one supported him because no one had heard anything about him. People don't support unknowns. But as soon as he participated in the debates and people were exposed to his ideas, they liked what they here.

This is democracy.

This is what Democrats and Republicans are desperately trying to prevent.

The Duopoly will use all kinds of excuses. They will say that huge debates will be unworkable. Canada's upcoming elections will feature a pair of debates that include five party leaders. The last mayoral election in my city had debates that also included five candidates. They sky hasn't fallen yet because of this.

The Duopoly will say people aren't interested in smaller party and independent candidates. This is a lie. According to the polls they venerate so much, 44 percent of those polled agree that "the United States' system is broken and cannot be fixed by traditional two-party politics and elections."

The Duopoly will say that these are nothing more than "fringe" candidates with whacky ideas. Of course, if they were that far on the extreme, the Duopoly would have nothing to fear in allowing their participation. If anything, the Democrat and Republican would look moderate by comparison. But in reality, they know that these candidates have some good ideas.

Basically, they think you're too stupid and unsophisticated to handle more than two choices at once.

The excuses presented by the two corporate parties are based in nothing more than self-interest. Their self-interest, not yours. Really accountability is the last thing they want.

This collusion is nothing less than crooked. This collusion is nothing less than the rape of our democracy. And I'm sorry to tell my well-intentioned, but sometimes blinkered liberal friends that the Democrats are just as guilty in this rape as the GOP. Even the major party names are fraudulent. The Democrats' leadership believes in plutocracy, not democracy. The Republicans' leadership believes in the empire, not the republic.

All debates should invite every candidate with a mathematical chance of winning. It's fair. It's democratic.

The viability of each candidate should be decided on election day by the voters, by no one else and at no other time.

Let people decide who they're interested in hearing and who they don't care about. Let the citizens hear everyone's ideas and make up their own minds. Don't let the closed shop make this decision for you.

There are other things that need to be done as well. The biggest being the reform of rigged electoral laws in many states. As The Post-Star put it in an editorial: Up until the 1880s in this country, there were no obstacles keeping candidates from getting on the ballot. But as third-party candidates racked up victories against the major political parties of the day, those parties, which were in power, introduced more and more stringent ballot requirements, such as requiring a large number of signatures or an entry fee to qualify.

These two things, combined with a sane campaign finance system, are essential to restoring American democracy.

But for now, it's fair to say that if Americans are presented 10 different brands of white bread on the supermarket shelf, then surely they deserve more than two presidential choices.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The corporate fleecing of America: it's not just for Washington anymore

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

Adirondack Almanack blog has a great editorial on corporate welfare and how the ingrateful recipients of it are now biting the hands that once fed it. So, for example, taxpayers in Ticonderoga, NY subsidized the destruction of main street locally-owned business by the corporate behemoth Wal-Mart only to see that corporate behemoth (most recent annual profit $3,500,000,000) raise holy heck about $30,000 in town taxes.

Save money? Live better? Not quite.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Support our volunteers

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

There are many ways to give service to your community by volunteerism. Be a mentor. Join the PTA. Help a literacy program. But in my opinion, two of the most noble and important activities are those of the volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians (EMTs).

The Post-Star had a good editorial on the importance of retaining volunteer firefighters.

I am a huge fan of, and have a great deal of respect for, volunteer firefighters and EMTs. These volunteers really are the backbone of many rural towns here in upstate New York and, no doubt, across the country. In an era when people are so mobile, it seems fewer and fewer people are connected to or really care about their communities... except when there's a problem that directly affects them. Volunteer fire companies and EMS's are truly a part of their community and comprise people who want to better the place where they live.

The thing that makes me particularly respect these two professions even more than the other noble forms of service is that volunteer firefighters and EMTs are saving people's lives and homes, and often risking their own lives and exposing themselves to horrific scenes... all in the knowledge that they won't receive a dime for what they choose to subject themselves to.

So if your local volunteer firefighters or EMTs hold a fundraiser, please help them out. They deserve your support.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

Multiparty democracy now!

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

Canada is going to have general elections next month. Apparently, the debates are going to include five national party leaders. Canadian debates regularly include four or more leaders and the sky hasn't fallen on northern democracy. In fact, their real multiparty democracy probably functions better than our version.

Last week, independent and smaller party candidates gathered in Washington in what was described a 'display of unity'.

Though from differing parts of the political spectrum, the candidates agreed on the following policy points:

Ending the Iraq war as quickly as possible.

Strengthening privacy and civil liberties.
Reducing the national debt.
Auditing the Federal Reserve.

All of which puts them on the opposite side of the two corporate parties. These real differences with the Establishment Talking Points are why they are all completely ignored by the corporate media.

With 44 percent of Americans believing that America's problems can't be fixed under the current two-party system, the excuse that the public 'isn't interested' in smaller party candidates no longer holds water, not that it ever did.

This editorial in the local daily explains some of the other barriers blocking 'third party' candidates. The biggest one being electoral laws rigged by the two corporate parties for their own benefit.

Up until the 1880s in this country, there were no obstacles keeping candidates from getting on the ballot. But as third-party candidates racked up victories against the major political parties of the day, those parties, which were in power, introduced more and more stringent ballot requirements, such as requiring a large number of signatures or an entry fee to qualify.

If America wanted to be a real multiparty democracy, it would eliminate these restrictions and make it easier for citizens to get involved in the political process. But the duopoly wants to protect its interests. And as long as liberals and people think they're progressive given the Democrats a free pass for not being democrats, this situation will never change.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Financial sanity burnt at altar of the gods of bipartisanship

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

Sens. Obama and McCain are both engaging in posturing over the Bush administration's repeated bailouts of failing corporations. As NPR reported, Obama has raised over $10 million in legalized campaign bribes from Wall Street while St. John has netted over $7 million. So excuse me if I don't buy into their faux populism.

St. John has called for a commission to study the problems. There is already a commission that's supposed to deal with some of these problems. It's called the Securities and Exchange Commission.

This is exactly what happens when corporations are given the protection of being backed by public (taxpayer) money without any restrictions whatsoever to protect the public interest. If you want the protection, accept regulation. If you don't want regulation, assume all the risk yourself. Pick your poison. These most gargantuan of corporate welfare handouts give the market the worst of both worlds: risk without responsibility.

I guess the 'free market' is free for the corporations, certainly not for the taxpayers.

But the meltdown in the insurance and financial sectors is not entirely the fault of Republicans. The deregulation that produced this risk without responsibility was the fruit of that most sainted of Washington concepts, one that is teflon to any and all criticism: (drum roll please) BIPARTISANSHIP.

In 1999, a bill was passed that completely gutted regulations on financial institutions. It was passed by a Republican Congress (with plenty of support in the Donkey Party) and signed by a Democratic president. Just read this CNN report from the time and count how many times you read some form of the word 'bipartisan.'

Many Americans think bipartisanship is automatically a panacea to any ill. In too many instances, it's merely a case of the two major parties colluding to protect the interests of their corporate sponsors. This is precisely why we need try multipartyism in the United States, like every other western democracy has.

"The bill is anti-consumer and anti-community," said one public figure quoted in that CNN report. "It will mean higher prices and fewer choices for low-, moderate- and middle-income families across the nation... Personal privacy will be virtually eliminated" under provisions allowing affiliated businesses of the newly merged companies to share customers' personal financial data as they offer one-stop shopping.

If we had multipartyism, then that public figure might've been a Congressman from a smaller, non-corporate party on the floor of the House. But since we don't have that, the public figure was consumer advocate (and 2008 presidential candidate) Ralph Nader.

This prediction was made in 1999. Does any of it ring true today?

But Nader, like Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich or anyone else who goes against the corporate parties' consensus, was burnt at the altar of the gods of bipartisanship.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Constitution Day

Today is Constitution Day.

And in honor of George W. Bush's least favorite holiday which honors a document he doesn't acknowledge, Nader/Gonzalez For President offers:

a five question Constitution Day civics quiz for you.

1. Which candidate opposed the snoop enabling FISA law and the immunity bailout for the telecom companies -- Obama, McCain or Nader?

2. Which candidate called for the impeachment of George Bush and Dick Cheney for all of their crimes from the illegal war in Iraq to illegal wiretapping of unsuspecting Americans -- Obama, McCain or Nader?

3. Which candidate opposed passage of the Patriot Act and calls for its repeal -- Obama, McCain or Nader?

4. Which candidate opposes the death penalty -- Obama, McCain or Nader?

5. Which candidate would work to repeal corporate personhood --- and shift the power from the corporations back into the hands of the people -- Obama, McCain or Nader?

The answer to each of those questions is Ralph Nader.

So if you support a progressive agenda, then support a progressive candidate.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Is that what McCain learned at Annapolis?

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

When John McCain graduated from the Naval Academy, he finished 5th bottom in his class, 894th out of 899. I don't presume to know for sure what caused this low ranking but recent actions lead me to wonder if he had trouble with their honor concept.

A concept which includes the injunction: They tell the truth and ensure that the full truth is known. They do not lie.

Perhaps there were other factors at the time that explain his low ranking, but St. John has had a quite a bit of trouble with the honor concept lately.

It's pathetic enough that St. John, with the corporate media's complicity, made the campaign for the highest office in the land spend a week arguing about lipstick.

The reality, of course, is that Barack Obama's 'lipstick on a pig' remark was aimed at the economic policies of McCain and Bush. But that didn't stop St. John from running an ad accusing Obama of calling GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin a pig and trying to whip up faux outrage on trumped up charges of sexism. Never mind that McCain made the same 'lipstick on a pig' comment in relation to the health care plan of Hillary Clinton (who also happens to be a woman).

Then earlier today, St. John admitted that he had actually lied in the ad. He conceded that Obama had NOT in fact called Palin a pig.

So to recap:

Last week, McCain whips up faux outrage by whining that Obama called Palin a pig.

Today, he quietly flip flops and admits that Obama didn't really call Palin a pig.

Just as damningly, long-time Bush spinmeister Karl Rove said some of McCain's ads were not truthful and both sides should cool the attacks.

As much as St. John wants to distance himself from Bush, he seems to have picked up the incumbent's steadfast opposition to telling the truth.

It's bad enough that St. John has whored out his military service and POW experience to prop up popularity.

Polls Numbers First.

But when you run ads that are too deceitful even for Karl Rove, you know that 'honesty' is no longer part of your vocabulary.

It's not that uncommon for politicians to 'stretch the truth,' to use the euphemism. But it's pretty rare for them to admit it when they lie and even rarer when they can wave away the controversy without even a fake apology and suffer no consequences.

So we have the amazing spectacle of a politician whose entire reputation is based on honor and integrity OPENLY ADMITTING to lying about his opponent and there's virtually no public backlash from the large group of voters whose support is based primarily on his now discredited honor.

Where I come from, telling lies (and not even having enough shame to apologize, fake or sincere) does not represent honor or integrity, even if you're a retired military officer.

ESPECIALLY if you're a retired military officer.

But maybe people have in different perception in 'devout' middle America.

It must be nice to be a saint.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hell has officially frozen over (with correction)

The town of Queensbury has done the taken the most unbelievable, implausible, out of character action I could have possibly imagined.

They did something to benefit pedestrians and bicyclists!

Those of you who didn't faint at reading these must not be aware that Queensbury is far and away the most hostile municipality in this area toward non-motor vehicles.

Prior to this amazing act, the Queensbury town government had seen biking as something only done inside the fitness center and walking as something down between the fitness center door and the car in the parking lot.

Amazingly, Queensbury built sidewalks on both sides of Route 9 from the Great Escape (or Six Flags Whateveritscallednow) all the way down to the town line where it hooked up with the city of Glens Falls' extensive sidewalk network.

This historic act allows walkers and bikers to transport themselves (you know, to places like THEIR JOBS) without risking life and limb and it increases the amount of sidewalk in the town by approximately 3 million percent.

Correction: I don't publish unsigned comments however an anonymous commenter informed me that the sidewalk work was done by New York state and that (unsurprisingly, I suppose) the town had no role.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

An immodest proposal

I've written several times about the plummeting standards at the Glens Falls daily Post-Star ever since Ken Tingley took over there as managing editor. But this one is pathetic even by their collapsing standards.

Recently, the paper started publishing two free weeklies. One is named The Glens Falls Leader. I can't remember the Queensbury one. They are mailed to every household in the two municipalities. Essentially, these are nothing more than two lame advertising vehicles.

I've had my issues in the past with the weekly Chronicle's editor Mark Frost. I think it could be a much better paper than it is. That said, I respect Frost's integrity and recognize that his paper tries to be a part of the community, not apart from it.

Ultimately, The Chronicle is an independent paper owned and run by local people. And most importantly, it publishes points of view that The Post-Star won't. Simply put, it's another venue for voices in the community to be heard, without miniscule word limits and arbitrarily enforced guidelines. It's a venue that the chain daily (Frost's favorite term) wants to silence.

Simply put, these advertising vehicles are yet another attempt to try to suffocate The Chronicle out of business by siphoning away all the weekly advertising revenue. The daily's weeklies have a few fluff pieces and ads. Lots of ads. Far more than The Chronicle, which has no shortage of ads. The second half of The Leader is entirely classified ads.

Anyway, the most recent issue of the The Leader took local school districts to task for sending out district calendars to every household. They said it was a waste of taxpayer money.

Personally, I think a better solution would be to promote the district's online calendars and only distribute paper calendars to the few people who would specifically request one. But the Post-Star/Leader's comment is not unreasonable...

... until the unsigned opinion, modestly entitled 'A good idea,' went on to offer its solution. The editorial (?) selflessly suggested that districts provide the calendar info to The Post-Star so that its advertising vehicles can publish the calendars instead.

That way, their transparent argument explained, the calendars can be paid for by advertisers not taxpayers.

But guess who conveniently pockets the difference if this disinterested 'good idea' is implemented?

To slam local districts for not providing the paper with material it can monetize is brazen even by whatever standards The Post-Star still has left.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Happy (belated) Labor Day

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

I am remiss for having neglected to post an entry on Labor Day. Here's a belated acknowlegement...

Radio Netherlands' excellent The State We're In program had an interesting segement on the right to unionize and Wal-Mart's concerted efforts to block people from exercising that right. Not surprisingly, the corporate behemoth refused to subject itself to journalistic questioning on their labor relations' practices.

RNW also pointed out that the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights' Article 23, Section 4 states: Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Additionally, the New York state constitution's Bill of Rights (Article I, Section 17) ensures: Employees shall have the right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing.

If we had a government of, for and by the people instead of a government of, for and by the corporations, then maybe these enshrined rights might actually be respected.

Fortunately, there is a presidential candidate who actually recognizes both the importance of unions and the danger of corporatacracy.

Hint: He's not a Democrat.

Perhaps this is why Ralph Nader is at 6 percent in the polls in the heavily unionized state of Michigan, despite being completely ignored* by the, you guessed it, the corporate media.

(*-I'm referring to the real definition of ignored, not the manipulative fake definition put for by St. John and his GOP allies)

This is why neither of the two corporate parties want Nader, Bob Barr, Cynthia McKinney or anyone else in the debates. They KNOW that if smaller party and independent candidates may actually become competitive if their views actually get heard by a mass audience.

How do the corporate party candidates know this? They just look at the numbers.

In a recent Zogby poll, people were presented with the following statement: I believe the United States' system is broken and cannot be fixed by traditional two-party politics and elections.

44 percent of respondants answered Yes, the two-party system is inadequate; and that to address our nation's problems, we need true multipartyism like is found in every other democracy in the world.

The discontent is out there. Despite a media blackout against smaller party and independent candidates, people are still gravitating toward them.

Imagine would what happen if unions started endorsing candidates who actually supported policies that benefited workers!

Imagine if workers actually demanded accountability by refusing to vote for candidates and officials who pushed anti-worker policies.

Imagine if voters actually took advantage of all the electoral options available instead of self-limiting to bad and hideous.

An informed workforce is an empowered workforce. The corporations know this and they make sure the politicians they control know this. So it's up to the citizenry to inform themselves because the corporate media isn't helping them.

Ralph Nader/Matt Gonzalez, independent
Cynthia McKinney/Rosa Clemente, Green Party
Bob Barr/Wayne Root, Libertarian Party

Note: if you know of any other national campaign websites, please leave them in the notes section and I will add them.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

God Bless everyone... no exceptions

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

Today is the seventh anniversary of the attacks on Manhattan and Washington. Well over 100,000 civilian deaths have been documented as a result of the 9/11 attacks (sources: a, b plus c). Many believe thatthe actual death toll is several times higher.

On the anniversary of this tragedy and its resultant tragedies waged in its name, please take a moment to remember civilian victims of war and the destruction war inevitable causes on the lives, families and homes of innocent people who simply want to live their lives in peace. ALL civilian victims of war.

As an acquaintance of mine says, "God bless Humanity... no exceptions." She says it's the Christian thing to do.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Russia relentlessly provoked conflict with Georgia: former Putin deputy

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

The conventional wisdom among my friends on the left is that Georgia is primarily responsible for their conflict with Russia over South Ossetia and Abkhazia. If G. Walker Bush condemns the Russian intervention, then the Pavlovian response must be that Georgia deserves what they get for being friendly with Bush. Oddly, they do not apply such logic to the genocide in Darfur, which Bush has also deplored.

The left-wing conventional wisdom is that Georgia launched an unprovoked military action in what is internationally recognized as their sovereign territory and they did so just for shits and giggles. Conventional wisdom further states that Russia was a disinterested, neutral party until this point and launched Operation South Ossetian Freedom for the sole purpose of protecting South Ossetians.

No word on why Russia continues to occupy undisputed Georgian territory long after the truce. No word on Russia's fairly explicit desire for regime change in Tblisi, including comments by the Russia's head of state referring to Georgia's president as a living corpse. No word on Russia's fairly explicit militaristic desires, which resulted in Russia's head of state bragging that the Georgian invasion showed that Russia was a country to be reckoned with.

To many on the left, occupying a sovereign country is bad when the US does it but someone else's fault when Russia does it.

Trying to impose regime change on another country is bad when the US does it but someone else's fault when Russia does it.

Militarism is bad when the US does it but someone else's fault when Russia does it.

I've heard outrageous apologias for the Russian aggression, such as "When you mess with the bull, you get the horns."

I can imagine R. Bruce Cheney saying the exact same thing to Saddam. (Sure, Saddam never did anything to America. But neither did Georgia ever do anything to Russia)

I've heard ethnic cleansing trivialized. The only bad thing about burning villages and expelling people, apparently, is that it's a waste of perfectly good lodging.

I can imagine Slobodan Milosveic saying this to his militias.

These deplorable comments were not made by far right militarists but by members of the left.

One of the consistent lines is that while Russia might have overreacted just a tad (a remarkably restrained definition of 'just a tad'), Georgia threw the first stone. So if Russia wants to emasculate Georgia as punishment, then Tblisi deserves what it gets. They deserve whatever Russia unilaterally imposes, because Georgia started it. After all, Russia has the right to tell its former colonies who they can and can't be friends with and what political and military alliances they can and can't join.

But this premise, that Georgia launched this unprovoked action in South Ossetia just for the heck of it, even true?

Not according to the man who was once a close ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Russia's de facto leader and architect of its new imperialist foreign policy.

Mikhail Kasyanov was named Russian prime minister, shortly after the Putin became president in 2000.

Far from Georgia being the primary aggressor, Kasyanov claims that Putin and Russia "relentlessly provoked the conflict in every way."

And when the Georgian leadership 'gave in' and took Russia's bait, the Kremlin, '"instead of fulfilling its peacekeeping mandate, started a large-scale war against the independent sovereign state of Georgia. Not only the disproportionate use of force, but in fact a full-scale war."

Putin's former deputy added that "it was obvious that the Russian authorities were amazed by the reaction of the civilized world... That is why it's crucially important that countries of the civilized world act in unison."

He also pointed out how Putin's regime is relentless whipping up nationalist hysteria to support its militaristic policies. "The propaganda streaming today from television screens and newspaper pages is, in a simplified way, calling on the nation to rally together and to protect the motherland. Hinting that war is on the threshold, that the enemies are knocking on our gates and that Russia is surrounded by enemies who want to break Russia into pieces... They want to cover the problems they've created in the last few years . . . by alleging that evil forces surround Russia and dream of its destruction."

Remember, these aren't the opinions of Mikhail Sakashvilli or of some Georgian nationalist or of some Russophobe. It comes from the mouth of the man who used to be the number two to Russia's current strongman. Maybe he's saying something worth taking into consideration.

The interview with The Los Angeles Times is a very interesting perspective from someone who once worked closely with Putin. The full interview can be accessed here

Monday, September 08, 2008

Convention of whores

I listened to a little of St. John McCain's speech at the Republican National Convention until my blood started boiling. After watching his and other speeches from Minnesota, I came to a conclusion. My dad is a better man than St. John. So is my brother.

The convention ramped up the party's recent tradition of canonizing soldiers... provided that they are or support Republicans. Democratic candidates have always been exempt from this canonization, even if they were wounded in service. Just ask John Kerry or Max Cleland.

I heard Mike Huckabee do this. I heard 9/11 Giuliani do this. I heard former mayor Palin do this. It was non-stop.

I get sick and tired of this crap. I get sick and tired of watching a bunch of ambitious, self-interested political whores having the audacity to lecture Americans on selfless service.


And that's why I'd never in a million years vote for St. John, even if he weren't the most militaristic major party candidate for president in decades.

My brother and father both served in the military. So did my late grandfather. My father and grandfather both chose to enlist during wartime. My brother tried to re-enlist during wartime.

One of the big differences between my family members and St. John is that my family members aren't constantly about their military service, nor did they ever get others to brag on their behalf. They are bringing it up all the time to show how much better and more patriotic they are than everyone else. They have more decency and honor than that.

The reason for this is that, whatever their various reasons for joining, they believe the point of any kind of service is to serve. A good deed is its own reward. My dad has run for public office twice and I don't recall him ever mentioning his veteran status. Maybe it might've helped him gain a few votes. But he was better than that.

St. John isn't. It doesn't bother me that he spoke of his military service and prisoner of war time. I'm sure it was a very important in shaping the person he became. But the amount of time that he and his minions in Minnesota spent shoving his 'selfless' service down our throats was repulsive. According to one analysis, St. John invoked his being a former prisoner of war in 43 sentences of his convention speech. He spoke of his quarter century-long record as a Washington politician in only 8 sentences.

That's whoring out your service for votes.

That's electoral pandering first, not country first.

That's not honor.

My family members occasionally tell stories about their time in the armed forces but it's always been in a reminiscent way and not in a superiority complex way. They never acted like they were better than me because they served in the military and I didn't. I remember my dad saying he envied me because I had the opportunity to serve in the Peace Corps.

Probably the most important difference, and this is what I loathe about the mentality that St. John panders to, is that my family has always valued ALL kinds of public service. They respected my service in the Peace Corps or my sister's service as a teacher and crisis counselor just as they respected my brother's service in the Marines. They respected my service in Big Brothers/Big Sisters just as they respected my brother's service in the Boy Scouts. My mom was a social worker. My dad taught church school. We've given back to our communities and country in many ways, none of which were trivialized.

And ultimately, this is what I resent most about this mentality. There are many ways to serve this country. That includes military service, but St. John and the militarism he represents prop up the idea being a soldier, sailor, airman or marine is the ONLY way to serve your country.

I know this is politically incorrect but soldiers do not have a monopoly on service nor on honor. It's very dangerous when we present soldiering as the only way to contribute to this country. It devalues other, equally crucial, kinds of service.

There are many other ways to make important contributions to this nation. Be a teacher. Be a volunteer firefighter or EMT. These people are the backbones of small towns across this country, both in self-sainted Middle America and the apparent fake Americas on the coasts.

Be a Big Brother or Sister. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Join a literacy program. If you belong to a church, they probably offer social service programs that you could help out with.

Laud those who serve.

Laud ALL those who serve. But don't leave the improvement of this country to other people. If it's so important, so noble, so worthy, be a part of it yourself.

And if you do so, have the decency and honor to not whore out your service to advance your political career. To do otherwise dishonors that very service.