Saturday, December 29, 2007

Yes, Virginia, It CAN happen HERE

Naomi Wolf - (London) Guardian

Last autumn, there was a military coup in Thailand. The leaders of the coup took a number of steps, rather systematically, as if they had a shopping list. In a sense, they did. Within a matter of days, democracy had been closed down: the coup leaders declared martial law, sent armed soldiers into residential areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued restrictions on the press, tightened some limits on travel, and took certain activists into custody.

They were not figuring these things out as they went along. If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy - but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.

As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration.

Because Americans like me were born in freedom, we have a hard time even considering that it is possible for us to become as unfree - domestically - as many other nations. Because we no longer learn much about our rights or our system of government - the task of being aware of the constitution has been outsourced from citizens' ownership to being the domain of professionals such as lawyers and professors - we scarcely recognise the checks and balances that the founders put in place, even as they are being systematically dismantled. Because we don't learn much about European history, the setting up of a department of "homeland" security - remember who else was keen on the word "homeland" - didn't raise the alarm bells it might have.

It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable - as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here. And that we are further along than we realise.

The rest following the click ...

My comment: I know. I know! I harp on this topic a lot. But, wither you agree with Naomi Wolf or disagree, it's important to read what she has to say. To disagree is fine, but it entails a responsibility to point out where her case is weak, where it doesn't hold water and where she totally misinterprets reality. That in order to do that, you have to read what she has to say.

Personally, I think she's dead on right.

Great Moments In Presidential Speeches

or check out the video here.

It would be funny if it weren't for the consequences.

Friday, December 28, 2007

An unguarded truth

"Our enemies...never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

– George W. Bush

The Challenge

or watch the video here ...

Learning a Little from History

"The People's Army"

Allison Kilkenny on HuffPo

It was a time when a demoralized population was subjected to corrupt elections, the spineless press was censored and subsidized by muscled partisan agents, outrageous interest rates implemented by suit-wearing pirates bankrupted citizens, and unfair mortgages left people homeless and desperate. Meanwhile, land concentration forced poor people off valuable property and ensured corporate profits continued to balloon unregulated.

The poor kept getting poorer, the rich kept getting richer, and all the while an elite class fought to reinforce arbitrary divides between the working class to keep them - the angry masses - at bay and squabbling among themselves.

The year was 1892. From this systematic abuse of the poor arose the People's Party, or the Populist Party, one of the original third parties in the history of the United States. Mainly farmers, the Populist Party bridged a divide and united two groups that many politicians saw as hopelessly and permanently estranged: northern Republicans and southern Democrats, the city-slickers and good ole' boys - white and black. If you want to be crude about it: the intellectual north and ass-backwards south.

At the time, Republicans were the ones who were anti-slavery. The Democratic southerners wanted a return to the "better time" where lavish plantations lined verdant cotton fields. Republican northerners wanted an eight-hour week day and streets that weren't lined with feces. Naturally, blacks liked the Republican party because 99.9% of them were a little nervous the crazy Democrats would enslave them again.

Think: red state-blue state, but turned on its head. It feels only vaguely unfamiliar, like a dream. Except, it happened. It happened in this very country 115 years ago.

More after the click ...

My comment: The first mistake most people make is to confuse "Conservative" and "Republican". There have been times in history when Republicans were Liberal and Democrats were Conservative ... though it may be hard to imagine that from where we are today.

It's amusing to have todays Republicans, who consider themselves Conservative, point to Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt as icons of their party when the two of them were actually representative of Liberal trends in American politics.

Lincoln freed the slaves and was opposed to "states rights" as it was presented by southern (conservative) Democrats. Roosevelt is noted for supporting unions and for "trust busting" which many on today's right would consider quite "anti-business".

It's amusing to watch people who've not cracked a history book (or, in many cases, a book of any kind) since high school try to wrap their heads around the realities of history.

Fleecing the Flock

'Gospel of wealth' facing scrutiny

By ERIC GORSKI, AP Religion Writer

The message flickered into Cindy Fleenor's living room each night: Be faithful in how you live and how you give, the television preachers said, and God will shower you with material riches.

And so the 53-year-old accountant from the Tampa, Fla., area pledged $500 a year to Joyce Meyer, the evangelist whose frank talk about recovering from childhood sexual abuse was so inspirational. She wrote checks to flamboyant faith healer Benny Hinn and a local preacher-made-good, Paula White.

Only the blessings didn't come. Fleenor ended up borrowing money from friends and payday loan companies just to buy groceries. At first she believed the explanation given on television: Her faith wasn't strong enough.

"I wanted to believe God wanted to do something great with me like he was doing with them," she said. "I'm angry and bitter about it. Right now, I don't watch anyone on TV hardly."

All three of the groups Fleenor supported are among six major Christian television ministries under scrutiny by a senator who is asking questions about the evangelists' lavish spending and possible abuses of their tax-exempt status.

More after the click ...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wisdom From The Founding Rationalists

What Jefferson and Adams Might Tell Mitt Romney

By David Ignatius / Washington Post

My Christmastime reading of the Adams-Jefferson letters was prompted by this year's most interesting political speech but one I also found troubling -- Mitt Romney's Dec. 6 speech on "Faith in America." It was a fine evocation of our twin heritage of religion and religious freedom, until he got to this ritual denunciation of the bogeymen known as secularists. "They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America -- the religion of secularism."

Anyone who reads Adams and Jefferson -- or for that matter, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton or other voices of the American Enlightenment -- can make their own judgment about what the Founders would say about Romney's broadside against secularism. My guess is that their response would be something like: "That is bunkum, sir."

More after the click ...

You Must Remember This

By WILLIAM FALK / New York Times

It was a year of miraculous events. President Bush invited Al Gore to the Oval Office for a friendly chat about global warming. France elected a president who likes and admires Americans. Eliot Spitzer discovered the virtue of humility. In mid-rant, Hugo Ch├ívez was finally told to shut up. The cute little Canadian dollar — the “loonie” — became worth more than a greenback.

People rooted for Kevin Federline to get the kids. After electing 43 consecutive white male presidents, Americans seriously considered a woman, a black man and an Italian-American from New York on his third marriage.

Amid such strange occurrences, one could be excused for missing news of more subtle — but lasting — importance. Here are a few developments you haven’t heard the last of:

The rest after the click ...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Continuing War on Christmas

No!!! Wait!!! What's wrong with this picture?!?!?!

How to refute a Creationist with only a bucket of feces

MediaBloodhound's 2007 Fact or Fiction Challenge

The following are quotes and headlines culled from this past year at MediaBloodhound (keep in mind some were said/written prior to '07 but were noted here during the year). Some are real (fact) and some are from satirical articles (fiction) posted under "The Wounded-Courier." See if you can distinguish between the two. Take the 2007 Fact or Fiction Challenge:

1) "The real danger here for Democrats is looking overly beholden to the rule of law." - NBC's Tim Russert

2) “It was a bloodbath. I haven’t seen anything like it since Chevy Chase’s talk show.” - Anonymous reporter on Rich Little's White House Correspondents Dinner performance

3) "As I sit across from Barack Obama in his Senate office, I feel like Ingrid Bergman in 'The Bells of St. Mary’s,' when she plays a nun who teaches a schoolboy who’s being bullied how to box." - NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd on Barack Obama

Twenty seven more doozies following the click ...

King George XLIII

King George XLIII in George III's clothing.

by Dan DeWalt

To date, the most persuasive and productive arguments for impeachment have been based upon the Constitution, which is suffering most egregiously under this administration and Congress, and which expressly prescribes the remedy to be taken should these circumstances arise. And while these arguments are making headway in the halls of Congress, where impeachment must happen, the politicians who are supposed to represent us do not yet understand the depth and breadth of our disgust and dismay with their dereliction of duty. While a growing number have joined the call for impeachment, far too many are towing the identical Republican/Democratic party line of ignoring the Bush/Cheney administration's repeated constitutional violations.

When we last faced a King George who labored to: "subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution" by: "depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury: For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses," when we last found that "our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury", we knew what conclusion to draw: "A prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free people." These of course are quotes from the Declaration of Independence. And when this document was solemnly signed and made public, it had no legal standing whatsoever. It had no chance of succeeding against the world's greatest empire. It alienated the colonists still friendly to England. It drew a line that clearly demarcated the divide that already existed in colonial society. Those who signed it were branded as radicals and, in fact, made outlaws by virtue of their signatures.

The rest after the click ...

New Hapmshire Union Leader Undorses Romney

Another paper joins the undoresment lineup for Mitt:

And after a year of comparing Romney to McCain, of sizing up the two in person and in the media, Granite Staters are turning back to McCain. The former Navy pilot, once written off by the national media establishment, is now in a statistical dead heat with Romney here.

How could that be? Romney has all the advantages: money, organization, geographic proximity, statesman-like hair, etc.

But he lacks something John McCain has in spades: conviction.

The rest after the click ...

Political Rondup

McCain Campaign on Romney:

"Welcome to Mitt Romney's bizarro world, in which everyone is guilty of his sins. He didn't support Ronald Reagan. He didn't support President Bush's tax cuts. He raised taxes in Massachusetts by $700 million. He knows John McCain is gaining on him so he does what any small varmint gun totin,' civil rights marching, NRA endorsed fantasy candidate would do: he questions someone else's credibility. New Hampshire is on to you, Mitt. Give it a rest. It's Christmas."

On The New Republic.

My thought: Romney is in it for personal reasons and will say whatever he thinks will fly in order to get elected. He stands for everything (at one point or another in his career) and therefore stands for nothing. Clinton is accused of "triangulating" which, to my way of thinking, is simply a sophisticated way of pandering. Whatever the truth of that suggestion about Clinton might be, Romney doesn't raise to that level of sophistication.

Racial Undercurrent Is Seen in Clinton Campaign:

It has unfolded mostly under the radar. But an important development in the 2008 Democratic battle may be the building backlash among African Americans over comments from associates of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton that could be construed as jabs at Sen. Barack Obama's race.

These officials, including Clinton aides and prominent surrogates, have raised questions or dropped references about Obama's position on sentencing guidelines for crack vs. powder cocaine offenses; on his handgun control record; and on his admitted use of drugs as a youth. The context was always Obama's "electability." But the Illinois senator's campaign advisers said some African American leaders detect a pattern, and they believe it could erode Clinton's strong base of black support.

On The Washington Post site.

My thought: If it's part of a strategy, it's not working.

Rush Limbaugh takes on Huckabee:

"What was somewhat stunning about all this is that NO ONE in the GOP field, including advisers and staff, could possibly misread my 19-plus-year career the way Gov. Huckabee's D.C. supporter did," Limbaugh said. "Whoever said those things was essentially repeating the Democrat mantra of all these years: that I am just an entertainer, not an independent thinker, part of the Wall Street/D.C. axis. If it was someone on Gov. Huckabee's staff or support team, it was just silly, uninformed and thus curious."

On Politico.

My thought: "Thinkers" deal in ideas. Rush deals in ad hominem attacks, innuendo, invective, and vitriol. He has never had a "idea based thought" in his career. What ever he thinks about being a "thinker", he's an entertainer. Is he influential? Absolutely. So are gossip columnists is some circles ... but that doesn't make them "thinkers". Nor does it make their pronouncements worthy of consideration ... but that never cut any cheese with the "dittoheads" in Rush's fan club.

Firms that got big tax breaks gave bundle to Rudy Giuliani's campaigns:

Corporations that got multimillion-dollar sweetheart tax deals from former Mayor Rudy Giuliani have raised more than $1 million for his Senate and presidential bids, the Daily News has found.

When he was mayor, Giuliani doled out tax reductions to giant corporations far more aggressively than all other New York mayors since the city tax breaks emerged in the 1980s.

In numerous cases, Giuliani allowed corporations to move jobs to New Jersey or lay off large chunks of their workforce - and still reap the full benefits of sales tax exemptions, energy cost discounts and taxpayer-subsidized bonds.

from The Daily News.

My thought: Giuliani is all about the money, the money and personal power. Morals, ethics, the rule of law and the Constitution are all impediments to those goals as far as he's concerned. If you're surprised by supportable allegations of corruption on his watch, you just haven't been paying attention for the last 20 years. Presidential Polling Trends - Updated 24/7

All the pretty (and not so pretty) pictures here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Evangelical Rebellion

by Chris Hedges*

The rise of Mike Huckabee as a presidential candidate represents a seismic shift in the tactics, ideology and direction of the radical Christian right. Huckabee may stumble and falter in later primaries, but his right-wing Christian populism is here to stay. Huckabee represents a new and potent force in American politics, and the neocons and corporate elite, who once viewed the yahoos of the Christian right as the useful idiots, are now confronted with the fact that they themselves are the ones who have been taken for a ride. Members of the Christian right, recruited into the Republican Party and manipulated to vote against their own interests around the issues of abortion and family values, are in rebellion. They are taking the party into new, uncharted territory. And they presage, especially with looming economic turmoil, the rise of a mass movement that could demolish what is left of American democracy and set the stage for a Christian fascism.

The corporate establishment, whose plundering of the country created fertile ground for a radical, right-wing backlash, is sounding the alarm bells. It is scrambling to bolster Mitt Romney, who, like Rudy Giuliani or Hillary Clinton, will continue to slash and burn on behalf of corporate profits. Columnist George Will called Huckabee’s populism “a comprehensive apostasy against core Republican beliefs.” He wrote that Huckabee’s candidacy “broadly repudiates core Republican policies such as free trade, low taxes, the essential legitimacy of America’s corporate entities and the market system allocating wealth and opportunity.” National Review’s Rich Lowry wrote that “like [Howard] Dean, his nomination would represent an act of suicide by his party.”

More after the click ...

* Chris Hedges, who graduated from seminary at the Harvard Divinity School, was a foreign correspondent for nearly two decades for the New York Times and other publications. He was part of a team of reporters at The New York Times that won the 2002 Pulitzer prize for its coverage of global terrorism.

He is the author of:
War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning
Leaving Moses on the Freeway: The 10 Commandments of America

American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America

My comment: So ... we have Christian fascism on one hand and Corporate fascism on the other hand, in a power struggle to see who gets to be the favorite flavor of fascism to destroy the free world.

Personally, I'm for WHATEVER the F@$& is behind door number three ... WHATEVER the F@$& it is.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Fate of Our Nation

In a brief conversation with the kid at the counter at the local KFC:

Me: Gimme two of those one pound containers of cole slaw.

He: We ain't got no one pound size ... alls we got is the sixteen ounce size.

Me: (((rolling eyes))) Well ... OK ... of that's all ya got, gimme two of those ... and you might tell your boss that I think he should start stocking the one pound size ... I bet they'd move real good.

The Story of Stuff

with Annie Leonard

OK ... so you know how the materials economy works, or at least you think you do. You know about the cycle of extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal. That's the way its outlined in the text books, anyway. But maybe there's a little more to it than you think there is.

Have a look at The Story of Stuff. Perhaps you might not like what you see .... you might even disagree with it ... but if you disagree, aren't you obligated to point out where it's wrong? where it misses the mark? how it misinterprets reality?

Dickheads of the Year

My picks for the biggest assholes of 2007 by Bill Maher

My comment: It's only the top 10. I suspect it could have been run out to 100 without much effort ... but, what the hell ... there's a writers strike on.

My Christmas Gift to All

... or find the video here ...

Words - adapted from the bible, The Book of Ecclesiastes
Music - Pete Seeger as performed by The Byrds ...

Sing along if you like ... and make it loud!!

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to build up,a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear its not too late

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Why is it that Republicans rally for “states’ rights”

... until it actually benefits the states?

WASHINGTON -- The Environmental Protection Agency today denied a waiver that would have allowed California and at least a dozen other states to impose their own stricter vehicle tailpipe emissions standards under the Clean Air Act.

"The Bush administration is moving forward with a clear national solution -- not a confusing patchwork of state rules -- to reduce America's climate footprint from vehicles," EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson said in a statement.

The decision is a victory of sorts for auto makers, who opposed state-by-state regulations.

More after the click ...

To far to the Right even for Conservatives?

I hate it when I find myself agreeing with Pat Buchanan.

The front cover of his The American Conservative magazine suggests Rudy is a Nazi. My read is that Rudy may not be the goose stepping variety but he has an authoritarian streak and he has little use for the Constitution, laws, morals or ethics ... not necessarily in that order.

Just what the world needs ... another petty dictator.

A few things about Mitt from the next door neighbor

The Concord (NH) Monitor has a few things to say about the former governor of Massachusetts:

"If you were building a Republican presidential candidate from a kit, imagine what pieces you might use: an athletic build, ramrod posture, Reaganesque hair, a charismatic speaking style and a crisp dark suit. You'd add a beautiful wife and family, a wildly successful business career and just enough executive government experience. You'd pour in some old GOP bromides -- spending cuts and lower taxes -- plus some new positions for 2008: anti-immigrant rhetoric and a focus on faith.

"Add it all up and you get Mitt Romney, a disquieting figure who sure looks like the next president and most surely must be stopped."

It continues: "If you followed only his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, you might imagine Romney as a pragmatic moderate with liberal positions on numerous social issues and an ability to work well with Democrats. If you followed only his campaign for president, you'd swear he was a red-meat conservative, pandering to the religious right, whatever the cost. Pay attention to both, and you're left to wonder if there's anything at all at his core."

And it concludes: "When New Hampshire partisans are asked to defend the state's first-in-the-nation primary, we talk about our ability to see the candidates up close, ask tough questions and see through the baloney. If a candidate is a phony, we assure ourselves and the rest of the world, we'll know it.

More after the click ...

My comment: The word "phony" is the word that caught my attention.

It's Common Sense, Not Pacifism

by Charley Reese

I should clarify something during this season when everyone hopes for peace and good will: I am not a pacifist.

If war is forced upon us, we have no choice but to fight it. Ernest Hemingway said it well when he observed that there are several things worse than war, and they all come with defeat.

I have opposed and still oppose the war in Iraq because, knowing something about the Middle East, I knew it would be futile. I knew we weren't threatened by Iraq. I knew that the war would be a war of aggression on our part. I knew that no clear-cut victory would be possible.

Even though there has been some diminution in violence, the fundamental political problem remains. The Sunnis, the Shi'ites and the Kurds are not fond of each other. For a long time, the Shi'ites and the Kurds suffered under Saddam Hussein's primarily Sunni regime. Now that the Shi'ites and the Kurds are in control, they are not going to be easily reconciled. Furthermore, the Kurds don't especially like Arabs and want an independent country. The Turks don't especially like the Kurds and will react violently to any move on the part of the Kurds to declare independence.

So, the U.S. forces in the country have a wolf by the ear. We can keep the level of violence reasonably contained as long as we stay there, but neither the armed forces nor the U.S. budget can afford to stay there indefinitely. And to leave, we have to let go of the wolf.

The rest after the click ...

Mitt Speaks

"You know, I’m an English literature major as well. When we say, 'I saw the Patriots win the World Series', it doesn’t necessarily mean you were there — excuse me, the Super Bowl. I saw my dad become president of American Motors. Did that mean you were there for the ceremony? No, it’s a figure of speech.”

from Mitt on CBS News.

My comment: I'm sure glad we got that straightened out! But "Is our childrens learning? uh ... no ... that was the other guy ...

But like Mitt on Religion, there's always John Lennon ... "what do you see when you turn out the light? ... I can't tell you but I know it's mine."

I think I got that one straight.

The Year’s Most Laughable Political Antics

The late-night comedians may have made an early exit from the scene, but fortunately there was no shortage of political punch lines in 2007. From tapping toes and UFO encounters to prostitution scandals and $400 haircuts, it was a year in which politicians did their best to satirize themselves. As a salute to our nation’s fine public servants, here’s a look back at the year’s most memorable feats and foibles. The envelopes, please.

The Winnahs ... after the click ...