Saturday, March 29, 2008

A hatemonger exposed

Here's a great example of how hatemongers are often more interested in being martyred than actually being heard. Not surprising, since we all know what would happen should their blatherings be subjected to rational scrunity.

Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, who heads an anti-immigrant party, decided to make a short anti-Muslim film entitled 'Fitna' (strife). The purpose of the film was to argue that Islam was inherently violent and barbaric and to show the Koran as being fascist.

Mainstream Dutch channels refused to show the screed, which certainly played into the free speech martyr image that Wilders hoped for. An image that fit perfectly with the 'all Muslims want to silence criticism' thesis of his film.

But a Dutch Muslim broadcaster threw a curveball. It decided to call Wilders' bluff and offered to show Fitna unedited on its channel.

Wilders refused this wide exposure and released it on the internet.

In doing so, it exposed what many already knew. Wilders was nothing more than a cheap hatemonger who was more interested in pretending to be a victim than to advancing any kind of civilized dialogue.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Follow the money

Upon reading the comments of an acquaintance on another blog, I decided to take a look at the contribution pages for the campaigns of both Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Each of them has a series of conditions you have to agree to. Such as being of a minimum age, donating your own money, etc. Most of the conditions were similiar between the campaigns except for two.

Obama's campaign required you to swear that...

-This contribution is not made from the funds of a political action committee

and

-This contribution is not made from the funds of an individual registered as a federal lobbyist or a foreign agent, or an entity that is a federally registered lobbying firm or foreign agent.

Hillary's campaign had no problem accepting money from political action committees and lobbyists for corporations or even foreign agents.

Is anyone really shocked?

But it's certainly something in plus column for the Obama campaign.

Update: His foreign policy mindset is worth a look too.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Don't waste your vote

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader (along with running mate Matt Gonzalez) asks why the liberal intelligentsia continues to give their unconditional support to the Democratic Party, despite their continued refusal to act on causes most dear to liberals.

When they came to power, Democrats told us that impeachment would 'off the table' because they have more important things to do.

Like what? Help get us out of Iraq? Extend access to health care to all Americans? Dismantle America's foreign empire?

It turns out that the critical issue that the noble Democrats have been spending their valuable time on, such that they can't address these other issues? Steroids in baseball.

... and Nancy Pelosi strikes out looking.

After over a year in control of Congress, the Democrats have shown no indication that they will get us out of Iraq... or even that they will lead us in that direction. This, despite the fact that most Americans believe the war has been an unmitigated disaster.

Democrats won't advocate universal health care, despite the fact that nearly 2/3 of Americans support guaranteed health insurance for all. At best, Democrats want to nibble around the edges, even though 90 percent of Americans think the health system needs either 'fundamental changes' or 'to be completely rebuilt.'

Democrats won't tackle the bloated 'defense' budget, a budget that's mind-boggingly wasteful even if you exclude the two interminable wars of choice that are undermining our national security.

Democrats won't tackle corporate ownership of government, because they are controlled by corporate money as much as Republicans.

So if the Democrats are too cowardly to take positions on key issues that the majority of Americans support, why exactly should I vote for them?

Why should an anti-war citizen vote for a party that's enabled a disastrous war of aggression?

Why should an anti-militarist vote for a party whose main candidates have not ruled out future wars of aggression against non-threatening countries like Pakistan and Iran?

Why should someone who wants universal health care vote for a party whose candidates wants to make the insurance companies even more powerful?

Why should someone who oppose militarism and an imperial foreign policy vote for a party whose candidates continuously fund these projects?

Why should someone who believes corporate ownership of government has subverted our democracy vote for a corporate-owned party that subverts democracy?

My suggestions are simple. And it's based on a simple question. Do you hold your beliefs in theory or do you actually want them to become reality as soon as possible? If it's the latter, then the suggestions aren't exactly rocket science.

If you're anti-war, vote for a candidate who opposes the war(s)... in action. Don't vote for a candidate who's acted to perpetuate the war(s).

If you support universal health care, vote for a candidate who wants to implement access to health care for all Americans.

If you oppose militarism and empire, vote for a candidate who hasn't enabled it.

If you oppose corporate ownership of government, then vote for a non-corporate owned candidate.

If you really think about it, none of these suggestions are particularly radical. Nothing more than common sense.

For years, liberals and progressives have continually voted against their beliefs in the hope that, despite all evidence, the Democrat nominee would betray their recent record.

At the same time, conservatives and militarists have continually voted in support of their beliefs. They don't pick anti-militarist candidates like Ron Paul. They flogged John McCain back in 2000 when he was anti-theocracy.

In the last decade, which approach has been rewarded at the polls nearly every time?

If you waste your ballot on a candidate who opposes your beliefs, then you'll end up with exactly what you voted for... or worse.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cheney spits on troops

It's well-known that Vice President Dick Cheney is the most arrogant public figure in this country. But despite his legendary pomposity, his gall continues to astonish even those observers who thought they had gotten use to it.

Cheney started off by insisting that the biggest burden of the Iraq war was carried by George W. Bush. A man who lives in an air-conditioned mansion with taxpayer-funded four-star chefs, with the greatest security detail of any man alive, who jaunts around the world in a luxurious jumbo jet and who will retire comfortably to his ranch in 10 months time.

According to Cheney, Bush carries a far greater burden than the soldiers braving roadside bombs and suffering in the 120 degree heat or their spouses back Stateside trying to raise families alone or veterans maimed in combat vaillantly trying to rehabilitate themselves.

If poor Bush ever feels the burden is too much to handle and wants to get some rest and relaxation, he should feel free to swap jobs with a GI in the Sunni Triangle.

Cheney also pooh-poohed complaints by soldiers who are being deployed repeatedly to Iraq and risked being burnt out. They should really just shut their yaps because it's a volunteer army. Besides, they probably wanted to be sent back to the hellhole three and four times.

In a previous essay entitled 'The astonishing arrogance of the clueless privileged,' I referred to President Bush as a twat, a word I'd never used before in this blog. And yet both that title and that description could just as easily apply to the vice-president.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A nation of infants

Here's something I doubt the folks who bemoan 'political correctness' will say much about. Because according to popular fairy tale, 'political correctness' is only used against conservative ideas.

A Queensbury (NY) resident named Chris Schmidt was recently arrested for a second time for holding up a protest sign in neighboring Glens Falls that read 'Down with the fascist' on one side and 'Fuck Bush' on the other.

The man was cited for disorderly conduct.

I'm certainly no advocate of swearing being part of the political discourse. It's tasteless, demeans a serious debate and says more about the person uttering it than about the object of the invective.

But I've been an anti-war protests when 'fuck you' was one of the more mild insults hurled our way and those people weren't arrested.

Nor should they have been.

Sure such language may have offended some people. But unfortunately political speech will offend people sometimes. That's one of the hazards of democracy.

I'm offended by bumper stickers that read 'Nuke em all and let Allah sort em out.' I'm offended by bumper stickers that read 'If there hadn't been Pearl Harbor, there wouldn't have been Hiroshima.' I'm offended by bumper stickers that imply opposing Bush's policies is a slap in the face to the troops. I'm offended nearly every time Bush opens his mouth.

But I'd never say this kind of speech should be banned. And I'd never say these people should be arrested.

If you can say 'fuck' (or worse) against anti-war protesters, why you can't you say 'fuck' on a sign? Why are the two forms of political expression treated differently? Why is such language permitted on bumper stickers but not on a political sign?

But the thing most upset me was the remark by an observer.

"Language is a very powerful tool," Glens Falls resident David Smith told The Post-Star.

This is absolutely right, which is why I disagree with the use of such language in political discourse.

However, Smith added, "If you're going to use that kind of language, you're asking for people to get violent."

This is absolutely dumbfounding.

The irony is that such comments illustrate the protester's point. Infantilizing the population, saying they need to be protected from uncomfortable ideas, these are key traits of fascism. In fact, at the very root of fascism is the fearmongering proposition that dissent inherently leads to disorder such it must not be tolerated.

It reminds me of how some fundamentalist Islamic societies treat women. They claim that men are so out of control so women must keep their faces or heads covered at all times. They claim that the mere fact of a woman showing her face will provoke uncontrollable men to rape them. It treats men as infants (although it's the women who are made to suffer because of it).

David Smith thinks that Americans are so childish that the mere fact of one person insulting the president is going to incite them to violence. They are unable to control themselves in the face of political words.

I'd like to give Bush supporters more credit. I'd like to think that they are not so immature and out of control to 'get violent' just because someone doesn't like their man.

But if they really are that fanatical or inherently violent, then it's they who need to be restrained, not Chris Schmidt.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

After five years of "Liberation," Iraqis are leaving their country in droves because Americans won't

Five years after the launching of the Iraq Aggression, our fearless Leader declared the invasion a "major strategic victory in the broader war on terror."

But Bush's propaganda is belied by reality.

It's easy to be fearless when you're making such declarations from the safety of the Pentagon. But whenever Bush or any of his cabinet members go to Iraq, they have to slink in under cover of darkness because it's so dangerous.

I've already detailed the many ways in which the Aggression has been a disaster, both for Americans and Iraqis. And how it's been a great triumph for the theocrats in Iran.

And a recent poll of Iraqis showed that while many feel that some things are better now than under, still 57 percent want all foreign troops to leave the country immediately. Additionally, 81 percent of non-Kurdish Iraqis view Americans as occupiers, not liberators.

And most to the point: only a third of all Iraqis believe that the Occupation is doing more good than harm.

Only 11 percent felt the Occupation forces were doing enough to restore basic services like drinking water and electricity, services that were taken for granted under Saddam's regime.

This is echoed by the Red Cross. The resolutely, sometimes frustratingly, neutral organization called the situation in Iraq one of the most dire humanitarian emergencies in the world.

And while far right ideologues will call into question the integrity of one of the most respected organizations in the world, just as they do to anyone who isn't a blind apologist for this Disaster, reality continues to smack us in the face... none more so than the Iraqis themselves.

There's one fact that screams for attention.

The number of Iraqis seeking asylum in 2007 nearly DOUBLED as compared to 2006.

If things are getting better, then why are people fleeing at an unprecedented rate?

This in 2007, after five years of US control of Iraq.

The Iraqis obviously aren't sure how much more "Liberation" they can take.

And here's one more fact, after half a year of the vaunted Surge.

35 percent of Iraq's pre-war population remain either refugee in other countries or displaced within Iraq.

These are facts that speak clearly to the situation because they are actions taken by people not to save their jobs or what's left of their integrity, but to save their lives. As such, they speak with much more authority than some ideologue pontificating from a keyboard in a comfortable American suburban living room.

Or from the White House.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Fundraiser for Iraq vets' org

Matt Funiciello passes along information on the following fundraiser that will benefit Iraq Veterans Against the War. The film will be shown tomorrow at 7:30 at the Rock Hill Bakehouse Cafe in Glens Falls.

Wed Mar 19
7:30 pm
** FILM FUNDRAISER **
Donations will be taken, 100 % of which will go to Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW)
Suggested donation is $5.00 dollars. We will pass along every cent to aid the IVAW in its current "Winter Soldier" hearings in Washington.

WINTER SOLDIER (1972)
Vietnam Veterans Against The War
96 min.
RT Rating = 100 %

In 1971, with the My Lai massacre still vivid in the public consciousness, 109 Vietnam War veterans gathered in a hotel in Detroit and, in front of news journalists and a collective of young filmmakers, spoke frankly about their experiences in Vietnam. They called themselves the Winter Soldiers and their testimonials are devastating: women raped and disemboweled, children murdered, prisoners thrown from helicopters, ears severed, villages burned, and families slaughtered.

Almost instantaneously, a pro-war backlash set out to discredit the veterans and their stories, and though their brave confessions were hailed by many senators and congressman, the news media never aired any of the footage. The filmmakers who were present, including Barbara Kopple (HARLAN COUNTY U.S.A.), masterfully edited the three days of interviews into a single 96-minute presentation.

Almost as harrowing as the accounts themselves are the haunted looks and the trembling voices of the young men as they speak openly of becoming debased monsters who were willing to commit atrocities. Though the film seemed to be inexorable evidence that Vietnam war crimes were commonplace rather than anomalous, the film received scant screenings, and the stories never reached the majority of the American public.

During the 2004 presidential election, the Winter Soldier Investigation resurfaced in regards to John Kerry's involvement with the Vietnam Veterans Against the War and his role as a pivotal organizer of the event. A group of veterans, indignant over any supposed defamation of soldiers and their actions, set out to attack Kerry's wartime credentials, and to paint the Winter Soldier stories as spurious and fabricated.

In 2005, more than 30 years after it was made, WINTER SOLDIER received general distribution, and the film remained as unsettling and pertinent than ever. The charges that the men were imposters seem ludicrous in the face of these blistering and self-crucifying descriptions.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

And the winner of the Iraq Aggression is...

What does it say that every time G. Walker Bush or R. Bruce Cheney or J. Sidney McCain or the War Secretary of the day goes to Iraq, it's secretive, unannounced and cocooned by a massive security detail.

But when the nutjob in charge of Iran pays a visit to Baghdad, it's a very public, grandiose state visit.

How is this possible?

According to some, the "Surge" has made the country a near paradise. One has to ask: the country or the Green Zone?

Those who actually risk their lives to go to Iraq see a different picture than the ideologues.

So not only has this Aggression been disastrous in human terms (mostly Iraqi, of course), in terms of the physical destruction of Iraq's infrastructure and in terms of the defraying of Iraqi society, but the Aggression has destroyed our own influence and credibility (even in the eyes those we claim to have 'liberated') while dramatically increasing the influence and credibility of those we call not just the Enemy, but Evil.

Anyone with an ounce of understanding of human nature knew this was always going to be the case. But such people have not been running this country for some time.

Ahmadinejad can have a grandiose state visit. Bush has to slink in and out under cover of darkness. Does this sound anything like the portrait of a 2008 Iraq that the militarists presented us back in the day? I thought they'd be giving Bush flowers and kissing his feet.


5 years.

Over 500,000,000,000 of our tax dollars wasted.

Nearly 4000 American soldiers have lost their lives to help accomplish all of the above.

And oh by the way, an estimated 150,000 Iraqi civilians have died during the "Liberation." Some estimates are much higher. But there are at least 80,000 that have actually been documented.

What have the results been?

-The myth of a Saddam-al Qaeda link has been discredited;

-Saddam never had weapons of mass destruction, just like pre-war critics such as the much-smeared Scott Ritter and Hans Blix insisted. (You'll remember that all the 'evidence' of the WMD program presented by the militarists in 2003 dated from 1998 and earlier);

-The Middle East is now far more unstable because of the refugee crisis provoked by the Aggression;

-The number of acts of and deaths from terrorism has skyrocketed since the Aggression was launched in 2003. In fact, the rate of deaths due to terrorism has gone up ten-fold since the Aggression was launched;

-The massive flow of refugees out of Iraq into countries like Jordan and Syria demonstrates that living conditions in Iraq are more desperate than even under a genocidal autocrat.

And ultimately, this is the most damning fact of all because it represents the decisions made by people who are most affected by what the US government has done, by the forces it's unleashed. It represents decisions made by people whose lives we claimed we wanted to improve.

Millions of Iraqis have made the agonizing decision to leave their homeland because of the mess we've created.

Despite the b.s. coming out of some people's mouthes, many hundreds of thousands of people have concluded that they feel safer in an Outpost of Tyranny than in 'Liberated' Iraq.

After all this, it's clear that aside from this country's biggest welfare recipients ("defense" contractors), the biggest winner of the Aggression has clearly been Iran.

And it's even clearer who the losers have been.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The astonishing arrogance of the clueless privileged

I'm pretty sure I've never used this blog to refer to President Bush as a 'twat' but it seems the most appropriate word that came to mind. Or at least the most appropriate that I'd publish here.

Our esteemed Leader has expressed his jealousy of the soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

"I must say, I'm a little envious. If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed," puffed the Decider.

It's hard to imagine how much unmitigated gall you'd have to say that. But at least he had the guts to look them in the eye and say it to their faces.

Well, not really.

He said it via video link.

England's King Richard I was a fairly old* 41 years when he rode off to personally lead his troops into battle during one of the Crusades.

(*-The life expectancy in England in the late 1200s was 35 years. And Richard died three-quarters of a century earlier.)

Instead of being 'envious,' maybe Bush ought to prove how Lionhearted he is and follow Richard's example. After Bush's jet landing during the now infamous "Mission Accomplished" photo op, we know the military has a uniform that fits him!

Salon.com seems to remember a war Bush supported and that he could have participated in if he finds war so romantic. We also seem to remember him avoiding that particular war. But then, maybe that's just us.

I suspect a few of the soldiers on the other end of the video link probably wondered the same thing.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Silencing dialogue, 'the weapon of dictators'

Every year, Paris hosts a salon du livre (book festival) based around a country. The Salon hosts discussions on literature and with authors from that particular nation. This year's honored country was Israel.

The choice was widely criticized in the Arab world. Critics included not only the predictable ones like the Organization of the Islamic Conference and Arab governments but also Arab-language publishers and writers and even a few prominent Israeli literary figures. Many called for a boycott of the Salon.

The prominent French paper Le Monde ran good editorial on the topic. The daily, hardly an apologist for the Israeli government, blasted these boycott calls.

It noted that it was not the country that's being honored at the Salon but its writers and its literature. The paper also pointed out that these governments weren't in any position to talk, as the Arab world has some of the worst records on respect for freedom of the press and of expression.

It pointed out the assinine illogic of demanding a boycott of a festival where 'most of the Israeli authors who are participating are among the strong advocats of the cause of a viable and independent Palestinian state, next to the state of Israel.'

The French daily condemned as 'absurd' and 'shocking' these attempts to 'hold literature hostage to politics.' Boycotting books, the paper concluded, 'has always been the weapon of dictators.'

Thursday, March 13, 2008

An anti-terrorist interrogator speaks on torture

An addendum to my piece on Bush's pro-barbarism position...

Adirondack Musing points to this interesting video on the website of Foreign Policy magazine.

A former FBI special agent who interrogated members of al-Qaeda speaks about torture, its ineffectiveness and its unnecessity. He adds that in his quarter century as an interrogator neither he nor anyone he worked with encountered the mythical 'ticking time bomb' scenario often contrived by proponents

The insular world of the yapping head

Jack Cafferty is a commentator who gives lame analysis on CNN. Essentially, he's the channel's resident curmudgeon. He tries to portray himself as some visionary who sees through b.s. and tells it like it is. But he's little more than a schmuck who has a chair next to Wolf Blitzer.

Like most media pundits, he's tremendously self-important.

For example, he was part of a panel that was yapping about the resignation speech of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. While the other pundits offered bland, but benign commentary, Cafferty whipped out his modus operandi: righteous indignation.

The problem with Spitzer's speech, sniffed Cafferty, was that he didn't seem sincere enough.

Eliot Spitzer's promising political career is in tatters. He lost the governorship. He may lose his family. He may lose his freedom.

Is the CNN yapping head so pompous, so self-referential that he actually thinks Eliot Spitzer gives a rat's behind whether Jack Cafferty thought his speech was sincere?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A corrupt capital sinks even lower

Jim Tedisco is the head of a tiny group of Republicans in New York state's Assembly so he doesn't have much to do. As a result, he often picks a fake issue to get all grandstand about. It's a great way to get himself in front of TV cameras that would normally ignore a minority leader, especially one as hostile to rational thought as him. The general rule of thumb in New York state politics is that when Tedisco gets all hysterical in favor of something, it's probably a terrible idea.

But the law of averages states that even someone as sleazy as Tedisco is going to be right once in a while. And the minority leader was right to call for Gov. Eliot Spitzer's resignation for his apparent involvement in an interstate prostitution ring. And there are also questions about the legality of how the Democratic governor paid for the high priced hookers.

When you make ethics the centerpiece of your campaign, your own ethics must be above reproach. A former prosecutor and state attorney general who busted a prostitution ring himself has even less excuse to not know better.

When Spitzer resigns, Lt. Gov. David Paterson, a widely respected former state senator, will become the first blind governor in US history.

Tedisco even threatened to launch impeachment proceedings against Spitzer if the governor did not resign within 48 hours. If Spitzer's actions are impeachable, it makes you wonder about the future of Tedisco's buddy and fellow Republican Joe Bruno. The Senate majority leader, a sworn enemy of Spitzer, is under FBI investigation himself for allegedly shady business dealings.

Perversely, when Paterson becomes governor, the lieutenant governor position will not be filled permanently as per the state constitution. The ethically challenged Bruno will double as acting lieutenant governor... and thus acting governor when Paterson is out of state.

Then again, when you have a rigged and gerrymandered electoral system that eliminates accountability, this desperate state of affairs is what you get. New Yorkers thought that after decades of permanent gridlock, a capital held hostage by lobbyists and one on-time budget in the last quarter century, things couldn't get any lower....

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bush's pro-war crimes stance disgraces America

"Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God." -Thomas Jefferson

Waterboarding, according to Human Rights Watch, dates back to at least the Spanish Inquisition, and has been used some of the world's cruelest dictatorships, including the Chadian regime of Hissène Habré, the genocidal Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and the imperial Japanese during World War II.

Hissène Habré is facing charges for war crimes, something the Bush administration applauded.

The US government sought war crimes trials for senior Khmer Rouge members.

US military commissions prosecuted several Japanese soldiers for war crimes for waterboarding American troops during World War II.

In fact, these Japanese soldiers were EXECUTED by US officials after their conviction for waterboarding.

US soldiers were court martialed for waterboarding prisoners during the Vietnam War and during the guerilla war in the Philippines in the early 20th century.

This means that waterboarding has been considered a war crime not only by international standards, but by US standards as well.

Now, President Bush decides to overtly support the use of waterboarding torture.

Bush officially supports a form of torture used by Spanish Inquisitioners, Axis of Evil North Korea and Pol Pot's minions. He supports a form of torture that the most evil regimes of our time have used.

It can be unambiguously stated that the supposed beacon of civilization has a president who is officially on record as supporting actions that several generations of Americans have considered torture.

We have a president who is officially on record as supporting war crimes.

Maybe the Vermont towns of Brattleboro and Marlboro have it right.

Just click your heels and intone, "They hate us because we're free."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Health care

Two interesting health care stories.

'Socialized medicine' has long been a boogeyman in this country that the insurance industry has used to scare people. But an LA Times piece (republished here) reports that the phrase is losing its scare power.

A study from the Harvard School of Public Health reports that...

-Of the respondents, 67 percent said they understood what "socialized medicine" meant. Of those, 79 percent said the term means that the government makes sure everyone has health insurance. Only 32 percent said it means that the government tells doctors what to do.

-Of those who said they understand the term, 45 percent said that if America had socialized medicine, the health care system would be better, while 39 percent said it would be worse.

-Not surprisingly, opinions differed according to respondents' politics. Among Republicans, 70 percent thought socialized medicine would make the health care system worse. Among Democrats, 70 percent thought it would make things better.


Universal health care (as 'socialized medicine' is called in countries that have it) is in place in, I believe, every other western country. Not surprisingly, the World Health Organization regularly ranks the US as having one of the least healthy populations in the western world... the latest report has the US ranked unhealthier than every western country except New Zealand and below such countries as Costa Rica, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

Lack of access to decent, affordable health care by millions of Americans is not the only factor in this unhealthiness, but certainly it's one of the biggest.

After all, the ranking includes many factors including not just quality of health care, but cost of and access to health care.

In this country, access to health care is like a lottery.

In Oregon, it is a real lottery.

Let's hope that the discourse focuses on providing all Americans access not to health insurance but to health care.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

How the Defeatest Dems surrendered on Iraq

Rolling Stone has another interesting political piece on 'The Chicken Doves.'

It explores how the Democrats rode to control of Congress on a wave of anti-war support. And how they proceded to betray the anti-war movement by not doing anything about... the war.

This turn of events shouldn't have surprised anyone. Readers of this blog know that during the 2006 campaign, I warned that Democrats were more interested in APPEARING anti-war than actually DOING SOMETHING anti-war. I saw this locally, with fake anti-war Congressional candidate Kirsten Gillibrand. And I saw it nationally with fake anti-war Democratic 'leaders' Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

And so it has proven to be the case in power.

The RS piece examines how the Democrats take non-stop verbal shots at evil President Bush but when push comes to shove, they don't actually do anything to stop him, or even slow him down.

Now, there probably are some Democrats in Congress who really want to do (as opposed to just say) the right thing.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a fellow caucus member, says Democrats should have refused from the beginning to approve any funding that wasn't tied to a withdrawal. "If we'd been bold the minute we got control of the House — and that's why we got the majority, because the people of this country wanted us out of Iraq — if we'd been bold, even if we lost the votes, we would have gained our voice."

The Democrats came to power with a mandate to at least draw down our participation in Iraq's civil war. But while President Bush was more than willing to use every last ounce of his non-mandate in the first term, Democrats refused to use their real mandate.

The Democrats' so-called leaders love nitpick at Bush's prosecution of the war, but they've always found excuses not to truly challenge him on it.

I'm not sure if the 'leaders' of the Democratic Party really want the war to end. If it did, they would lose it as a fake issue. Just like I doubt Republican leaders really abortion to become illegal, for the same reasons. How can you tell?

Republicans never criminalized abortion when they controlled Congress. And Democrats de-funded the war now that they control Congress. Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words.

The end of the war would mean the Dems lose a way to blackmail left-of-center voters into voting for the lesser of two evils. They would lose a major way of smearing people who vote for Nader or for other smaller party candidates; the 'a vote for a smaller party candidate is a vote for the Republicans' bald faced lie is more effective when the Republicans are running a war.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe deep in what passes for their hearts, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and their minions really do want the war to end. But they might be surprised to learn that the catastrophe is not just going to magically stop. The only way it's going to stop is if people make it stop. The only way it's going to stop is if people stand up to Bush.

Pelosi and Reid can make it stop not by wishing, not by hoping and certainly not by cowering. They can make it stop only by taking action. And Pelosi and Reid and their delegations have far more power to actually make it happen. Does God decree that hundreds of billions of American tax dollars be wasted on this human disaster? No. It's the Congress that does that. And it's the Congress can stop it.

Anti-war folks have been repeatedly betrayed by the Democratic Party. Yet many keep sticking with the party despite these betrayals. I don't want to offend anyone but in many ways, it reminds me of the battered spouse dynamic.

John Kerry was the quintessential example of this. A party whose rank-and-file was overwhelmingly anti-war nominated a man whose platform was essentially, "The war was a superfantastically awesome idea, just badly run."

And anti-war Democrats all rallied behind the pro-war Kerry in the hope of... ending the war. They raged against any anti-war person who wanted to vote for a candidate who was actually... anti-war.

In 2006, it was very similar. The Democratic line wasn't "The war is a bad idea. We're going to end it." Their line was, "We're too chicken to take a strong position on the principle, so we'll bitch and moan about the details."

In 2008, one of the Democrats remaining is taking a position almost identical to Kerry while the other isn't talking about it much at all. Taking a strong position, we're told, would hurt the Democrats' chances.

It's about time that anti-war voters tell the Democrats that their chances will be more hurt by continuing to be cowards on this hugely important issue.

It reminds me a lot of gay rights. Democrats want to be associated with pro-gay rights without actually taking actions that advance the cause of gay rights. Most gays are content with the Democrats being pro-gay rights in theory, but not in action. Yet if you look at the other side of the coin, most gay bashers insist that their politicians (mostly Republican) take bigoted ACTIONS, cast bigoted votes, push bigoted referenda.

Many gays continue to give their blind support to action-less Democrats not so much out of hope but out of fear. And many anti-war folks do the exact same thing.

The difference between voting Democrat and voting Republican is the difference between the country going downhill at 50 mph and it going downhill at 75 mph. The ONLY way to change the fundamental direction of the country is to vote for and get involved with a smaller party, such as the Greens. Only when the Democrats realize that inaction has consequences will there be even the most microscopic hope of the party reforming itself. And since most ordinary voters can't give millions in campaign bribes, the only way they can punish the Dems is to refuse to hand them their vote.

The Democrats have proven that they are either unwilling or unable to end our participation in Iraq's civil war, despite its irrelevance to American national security and despite their own control the purse strings. Even if they haven't completely ended our participation in Iraq's civil war, how much closer are we to that objective since they took power in Congress? Not one step.

Sure, there's a little more oversight. There are hearings about things that have embarassed the president and his cronies. But in the end, that's the only thing the Demcorats are concerned about: embarassing the president and his cronies. Because when it comes to bringing to an end our participation in Iraq's civil war, having the Democrats in power hasn't made one iota of difference whatsoever.

We complain a lot about politicians. We complain about unrepresentative politics. But if voters don't have the guts to do the right thing and act on their conscience, why should their politicians be any different? Maybe the problem is that our system is too representative. Maybe Jefferson was right: we do tend to get the kind politicians we deserve. If we want politicians who take action, we need to do the same.

Update: Noam Chomsky has his own thoughts on why withdrawing from Iraq's civil war is a non-issue in the Democratic race. Chomsky is not my favorite writer, but this piece is very much worth a read.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The peril of too many pints

I guess there's not much to do in Britain

Just in the last five months, there have been stores in The Telegraph about British men facing charges for having public sex with...

-a vacuum cleaner (he was "vacuuming his underpants")

-a fence

-a bicycle

Me thinks the Brits should lay off the alcohol a little bit...

Friday, March 07, 2008

$245,000

There's been widespread criticism of both South Glens Falls hockey players because of the hazing scandal I wrote about earlier and of parents because of their reaction to it.

But it's not all bad south of the bridge.

Last weekend, South High students raised over $245,000 for various local charities, and people in need. That's an astounding amount for a school of only 1000 students.

Their annual marathon dance has raised nearly $1.9 million for local causes in its 31 years of existence.

Let's hope the South High community spends less time on hockey piss parties and more time doing good stuff like this.

Kudos to the kids and to the people who donated money.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Journalism back in the day

When I was growing up in the late 80s and delivering the daily, The Post-Star was a decent paper. Not a great one, but a decent one. I've written before about how the paper has deteriorated sharply in recent years. Particularly in terms of lower quality writing and a profilication of cheesy graphics and of huge photos designed to distract from the lack of text.

In Crandall Library's temporary digs in the Godnick's Building, they had a framed photo of The Post-Star from March 19, 1956. The main relevance was the reporting of a fire that burnt down that building.

But a closer look crystallized the differences between The Post-Star of 1956 and the modern-day version.

The typical Post-Star front page today has maybe 5 or 6 stories and at least one huge photo and/or graphic. And of those stories, there's at least one fluff piece on topics like a bridge in Scotland that dogs like to jump off or people who eat insects for dinner.

The issue from 1956 had a full 13 (thirteen!) different stories on the front page, as well as two small pictures of the fire. Several of the stories were international, including ones on Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's Secret Speech denouncing Stalin, an independence rally in the then-British colony of Singapore and an assassination in the capital of Cyprus. All the pieces were hard news.

There may well have been fluff pieces in that issue but standards were higher back then when such stories weren't put on the front page.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Are you ready for some hockey?!

Every year, the New York state high school ice hockey championships (semifinals and finals in two divisions), aka 'states,' are held in Utica. I wonder why the Glens Falls Civic Center doesn't bid for this tournament.

It would fit perfectly into the Civic Center's calendar. Hockey states are held the week after basketball sectionals and the week before basketball states, when the venue is usually vacant.

And the tournament would likely have good local representation to help attendance. Hockey is fairly big in this area. Either Glens Falls or Queensbury has made it to hockey states 7 times in the last 9 years. Area schools like LaSalle (Albany) and Shenendehowa (Clifton Park) also regularly advance far.

Glens Falls' biggest selling point would have to be that it's not Utica, a dumpy, crime-ridden city. The Troy of Central NY, if you well. The Civic Center is both bigger and nicer than the Memorial Auditorium in Utica.

Since the AHL unfortnuately isn't going to return permanently to tiny Glens Falls, especially when it's struggling in much bigger Albany, Hometown USA would do well to bid for this tournament.

... and there was much rejoicing

I was pleased to read that one of the most vile, hatemongering 'leaders' in the western world is retiring from politics. I'm sure other civilized people will join me in wishing good riddance to Ian Paisley, one of the leading enablers of terrorism and opponents of humanity in Northern Ireland. I hope he doesn't let the gates of Hell hit him on the way in.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Democracy in action

I was listening to a BBC World Service report on the presidential campaign and they were interviewing a Hillary Clinton supporter. When asked about Barack Obama, this is basically what the supporter said.

"Obama's a bit like JFK. He's exciting. It's like 1960 again."

Does this mean that Hillary Clinton is Richard Nixon? Well, that's already been established.

Then this guy stammered a bit, as though he'd just remembered that he was a Hillary supporter and said something like, "He has charisma but um... it's different. Like... in 1960, we didn't have things to do. We have things to do now."

Blacks still sat at the back of the bus, when they weren't being lynched. Much of the country languished under grinding poverty. Rampant sexism. Space exploration. Thousands of Soviet missles pointed at the US. Most Americans were treated as second (or third) class citizens in their own land.

Yea, there wasn't much to do in 1960.

If you live in Texas or Ohio, just remember to vote. Someone needs to cancel out this guy's ballot.

24 Somali casualties as US targets one terrorist

This essay is part of an occasional feature on this blog that presents compelling 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, IsraelStine, Iraq, North Korea and Iran.

Despite what you might think, Iraq and Afghanistan are not the only countries that the United States is meddling in militarily. President Bush felt that American national security would be harmed if he didn't order a bombing raid on a small village in southern Somalia.

The target, according to a Bush spokesman, was a 'known al-Qaeda terrorist.'

A terrorist (singular).

The raid killed four and wounded 20.

It is unclear if any of the 24 casualties were actually the alleged terrorist (singular) in question.

This is at least the second US bombing raid against Somalia in a year.

The situation in Somalia had stabilized a bit after the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) took control of most of the country in 2006.

But the humanitarian situation deteriorated significantly since an US-backed Ethiopian aggression overthrew the UIC in late 2006.

An occupation which, the Ethiopians promised, would only last a month or two.

Last month, the UN called Somalia the worst place in the world for children.

But it's hardly surprising that Ethiopian-occupied Somalia is a disaster, since the Addis Ababa regime stands accused of Darfur-like atrocities in its own territory.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The real winner of the Iraq invasion

Who's the real winner of the US aggression against Iraq? According to most observers including The Christian Science Monitor, the winner was Iran, a country routinely condemned by the Bush administration as a threat to every planet in the cosmos.

An illustration: when President Bush goes to Iraq, it's usually secretive, slinking in under the cover of darkness and never leaving the relative security of the Green Zone. Usually these visits are short, because of security fears. This despite the fact that US forces and its allies supposedly control the country.

Iran's president was given the very public pomp and circumstance traditionally associated with state visits. The Iranian leader even felt comfortable enough to travel overland to Baghdad's airport to the presidential palace, a trip that nearly all other dignitaries take by helicopter.

The standard line is that the United States 'liberated' Iraq from tyranny. But if that's really the case, how come Iraqis aren't more grateful?

Or maybe Iraqis know what Americans, well-known to be willfully ignorant (or self-deceptive) about human nature, choose not to see: the main thing that's happened in Iraq is the swapping of one form of tyranny for another.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

"If you jail a prisoner you at least give him food"

"Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God." -Thomas Jefferson

I've written before about Israel's criminal starvation of Gaza. And Gaza has often been called the world's largest prison. However, the BBC intreviews one Gazan who contends that making Gaza into a prison would be an improvement. He notes, "If you jail a prisoner you at least give him food."

Update: To the shock of no one with a rudimentary understanding of human nature, Israel's attempts to starve Gaza into submission has only made violence worse by increasing resentment. Young men who were once busy laboring in Israel were rendered idle, hungry and angry. And anyone with a basic knowledge of history knows that this is the worst combination of circumstances for reducing violence. So the potential solution? Invade Gaza. It seems to me that if you don't understand the most basic premise of human nature, you don't deserve to run a supposedly respectable state like Israel: when you treat people like savages, this is exactly how they are going to act.


Further update: Apparently the Israeli people are more sane than their leaders. According to a poll published in Haaretz, one of the country's leading papers, nearly two-thirds of Israelis support a truce with Hamas as the only way to stop rocket attacks. CBS News' correspondent in Jerusalem points out that although talks with Hamas would once have been considered taboo, "recently radio talk shows have featured some former defense officials who say the only way to stop the rocket fire is to talk to Hamas about a truce.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Hillary: bigot or power hungry at any cost?

I've never liked Hillary Clinton and I've never quite trusted her, but I've never loathed her. But I'm starting to. My senator seems bound and determined to eradicate every last shred of respect progressives have for her.

It's bad enough that she's a corporate tool, the favorite candidate of lobbyists and special interests. But now, she's apparently lowered herself to exploiting Islamophobia.

CNN reported that a photo's been circulating of Barack Obama in traditional Somali Islamic dress. This was from a trip the senator took last year to east Africa.

The Obama camp accused the Clinton camp of circulating the photo. The Clinton camp offered a tortured smokescreen but refused to deny the allegation.

Obama is Christian but his father was Muslim. Both the far right and Hillary's camp are keen for this to be more widely known. This is why the Obama camp rightly accused the Clinton camp of hate mongering, of pandering to Islamophobia.

Maggie Williams, Hillary's Karl Rove, offered this lame obfuscation: “Enough. If Barack Obama's campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed... This is nothing more than an obvious and transparent attempt to distract from the serious issues confronting our country today and to attempt to create the very divisions they claim to decry."

You can easily envisage a Bush-esque smirk on her face as she's saying this.

Now this diversionary huffing and puffing begs the question: if a photo of Obama in Islamic clothing during a visit to an Islamic country is a non-story, then WHY DID THE CLINTON CAMP CIRCULATE THE PHOTO?

It's really no different than the far right fearmongers who insist on using Barack Obama's middle name (Hussein). And then when challenged, they accuse critics of being Islamophobic saying "Gee, why do you object to his full name?" This, when they don't use the middle name of any other candidate....

(Let's bear in mind that if Rush Limbaugh or someone of his ilk had circulated a photo of First Lady or Senator Hillary in Islamic garb, they would've gone ballistic, raged about the right-wing smear machine and whipped out the martyr card yet again)

The mere fact that she's so power hungry that she'd pander to hatred and bigotry to obtain it should automatically exclude her from presidency.

We've spent the last eight years with a divisive, corporate-owned, fear mongering president with a gargantuan sense of entitlement. The last thing we need is another eight years of it.

The counterreaction to fear mongering torpedoed the Rudy Giuliani campaign. Hopefully it will do the same to Hillary's.