Friday, January 30, 2009

Parrot Humor

by DM

Three parrots are for sale at a pet shop.

They are priced $5,000, $3,500, and $75.

A customer asks why one parrot is so cheap.

"It used to live in a whore house, and has a rather colorful vocabulary," explains the shopkeeper.

The woman giggles and buys the $75 parrot, thinking it might be fun to have in her home.

When they arrive home, the parrot says, "F**k me, a new whore house!"

The woman giggles.

The two daughters come home, the parrot says, "F**k me, two new hookers!"

They all laugh.

The husband come home and the parrot says, "F**k me, Harry, I haven't seen you for weeks."









Thursday, January 29, 2009

United States Senators - Kirsten Gillibrand

by Dick Mac

On January 23, 2009, New York Governor David Paterson appointed Kirsten Gillibrand to fill the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton, who became the United States Secretary of State.

Although conservative whack-jobs are very well-represented in the Senate, and the nation relies on the population of the Northeast and West to elect actual thinkers with open-minds and political forethought, Gov. Paterson thought it would be a good idea to appoint a pro-gun, anti-abortion, tax-cuts-for-the-rich, anti-immigrant 42-year-old Upstater.

Although considered a "centrist" (which in my home means "right-winger"), Gillibrand can hardly be compared to Hillary Clinton in the intellect and public-policy departments.

Gillibrand may be more supportive of LGBT issues than Clinton (although that wouldn't take much), but gay-marriage and other LGBT issues are not federal issues to be addressed in Washington, D.C. So, her gay friends will be thrilled to know she will not vote against them in a venue that has no real power to fix the problems the LGBT community face.

Clearly, Paterson used the Gillibrand appointment to appease Upstate New Yorkers in hopes of gaining their support in the next gubernatorial election.

I think he chose poorly. Alienating New York City liberals to appease Upstaters who would probably never vote for a black guy seems short-sighted.

I certainly hope that Patersson didn't appoint Gillibrand because he thinks she was the best person available. There are many New Yorkers with a far superior resume; but, they live where smart people live, Downstate.

It will be easy to unseat Paterson. He is black, but not bright and attractive like Obama. He is generally thought of as a Downstate liberal. He is a Democrat. These qualities make him very unattractive upstate, and he has alienated a percentage of downstate voters with the Gillibrand appointment. If he is not dethroned in the Primary, I suspect the next governor will be a Republican.

Following that, I suspect that Gillibrand will be unseated by a Republican in her reelection, because she does not have Downstate support, and the Republicans are very strong Upstate and on the Island.

So, Paterson has sold-out the Democrats of New York, in hopes of extending his personal political fortune.

The Democrats become more disgusting by the day, and I am seeing Green!






Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Now I Understand

by Al Falafel


NOW I UNDERSTAND WHY THEY HATE US: How a middle-class white guy came to accept the evil embedded in American political and military might

I had never heard of David Hilfiker until this week. This remarkable essay is cross-posted at Alternet.com where I was so moved upon reading it that I feel compelled to do whatever I can to help spread his story and analysis.

Though we are obviously very different people in many ways, I can relate to Hilfiker's experience and conclusions. I'm betting that others who may have their own differences with him may find some clarification of their own troubled feelings about what the militarization of America has done to us.

Early in his article Hilfiker describes how he grew up in the 1950s which would make us about ten years apart in age. Like I suspect most Americans who came of age during that post-war era he was instilled with a sense of pride in his country as savior of the world and exemplar of all that is good about civilization. By the 1960s and early 70s of course, the direction in which our leadership had taken us was already eroding the truth in any basis of such a claim while the grandiose self-image imprinted on our collective consciousness was defiantly enforced and guarded.

Hilfiker articulates a viewpoint that verifies one of the major differences between his contemporaries and many of us coming of age in the 60s and 70s. Rather than awakening to a world of exuberance over conquering an enemy of the world our experience was defined by mass confusion, at best, owing to the contradictions between that guarded, high-minded image and reality.

I, for one, have never understood how any impressionable young American could survive into adulthood unaffected by disillusion having lived through the tumultuous era of the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War uprisings. The struggles that were waged then happened right in our living room TV sets if not in our neighborhoods and we absorbed images of the bloody executions of one president, a number of the greatest social leaders of our time along with the suppression and countless murders of activists who may as well been any of us.

Still, so many of us continued to buy into the outmoded image indelibly imprinted on our collective consciousness as a nearly infallible good and moral people despite the horrible shenanigans our government has been up to since then - that continually contradict that hardened image.

Only now, after a half a century or so of denial and exploitation of that denial, the reality behind the image impressed on all of us has perhaps begun to bring us to a humbling position where denial is no longer a reasonable - or even sane - option.

Hilfiker describes how he opted out of involving himself consciously in the events of the 1960s and 70s that were formative years for many of us. I suspect that this is how many of us justify our recent awakening to the ills inherent in our system: by opting out, if only in our minds for those of us who lived through it.

The last two decades of the Twentieth Century saw much less overt trouble than the two decades before. But this does not mean that the ills of that time were resolved. It does, perhaps, explain why Americans who were born or came of age during the 80s and 90s were instilled with an attitude more like those of Hilfiker's era. It was another age of prosperity and Reagan-inspired egotism all built on a false, manufactured image.

For the one millionth time, I will repeat what has been said by everyone alive: 9/11 changed everything. Unfortunately, with George W. Bush at the start of his reign of error, the change it brought until recently has been wrong-headed in the same ways that it was in the fifties: notably with the exploitation of the moment for purposes of those holding all the power.

After eight years of the disastrous Bush regime, however, maybe we are lucky this time since so many of us from all possible coming-of-age eras realize that we are all in the same boat.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What's Left, Doc?

by Al Falafel


Not that I would ever try to claim it as an original idea but I have ranted here before on the lopsided political mind-scape in this country and the lamentable lack of a true Left Wing perspective in our political discourse. Unlike us, other democracies in the Western World respectfully embrace a wide spectrum of viewpoints including those on the far Left which balance ideologues on the Right and far Right.

In America, however, "conventional wisdom" promulgated by the mainstream media has long held that there shall be zero tolerance for voices coming from any further than just a tad left of the political center.

In fact, the fourth estate has been at least complicit - if not even more culpable for this than either major political party. Vilifying the Left has been de rigueur for the press even before the Republican Party propaganda machine known as Fox News became the standard-bearer for all news organizations with a nation-wide audience.

Media Matters takes note of this in a current article concerning the various health care proposals under consideration in Congress.

In the United States, slavish adherence to "moderate" positions is often construed as exhibited "pragmatism" that's in distinction to the more "ideological" views of people with less centrist views. In fact, moderation can reflect ideology every bit as much as extremism can.
If political "moderation" assumes a point of equilibrium between Left and Right, ideology is still reflected in a "Centrist" position because the American "Center" is in truth only "Center-right."

These parameters are set by the media in the interest of ratings and audience share. Unpopular points of view are given short shrift, though they may represent the most practical solutions, because unpopularity does not produce advertising revenues. Under the guise of "pragmatism" then, the media declines to give serious consideration to any Leftist point of view even when it is objectively more appropriate, workable, or potentially more effective to a situation than a centrist or right-wing proposal.

"Ideology" is a negative word when used in conjunction with the Left. It is seldom used to identify Right-wing points of view that are in fact equally ideological. The Media Matters article makes the point that the best proposal now on the table is the one that is decidedly from the Left-most end of the spectrum. As such it stands little chance for passage simply because it is considered "extremist" by the media that sets the parameters. Scary allusions to Socialism will be raised loudly by Right-wing ideological critics, giving the best proposal a stigma that will be difficult to overcome. It will be the irrational ideological reaction that will be considered newsworthy because those who are predisposed to buy into it uncritically will eat it up.

Notice too how Obama's announcement of his intention to create a new position of Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change has also rankled ideologues on the far Right who have been screaming that his appointee for the position is - gasp! - a Socialist!

Carol Browner, who will serve in that high-level position is the longest-serving administrator in the EPA. The UNITED STATES EPA. She ran the Environmental Protection Agency under President Clinton and then served on the board of directors for the National Audubon Society, the League of Conservation Voters, the Center for American Progress and former Vice President Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection.

She earned her alleged single Socialist credential as a member of the Commission for a Sustainable World Society, an international action group on climate change convened by Socialist International: an umbrella group for many of the world's social democratic political parties such as Britain's respected Labor Party of which Bush's former lap dog, Tony Blair was the leader.

The Commission has issued statements that urge the entire developed world to reduce consumption and commit to binding and punitive limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

The Obama transition team said Mrs. Browner's membership in the organization is not a problem and that it brings experience in U.S. policymaking to her new role. With predictable moronic virulence Right-wingers have seized on Browner's involvement with the international commission in order to regurgitate their baseless and thoroughly discredited attempts to brand Obama himself as a radical Socialist. And news organizations such as the Washington Times have dutifully reported their claims with little criticism of the source and with no sense of irony at all.

"The Commission for a Sustainable World Society includes world leaders from a variety of political parties, including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who succeeded Tony Blair in serving as vice president of the convening organization," Obama transition spokesman Nick Shapiro told the Washington Times in an article headlined "Obama climate czar has socialist ties."

Of course, this is the same ultra conservative newspaper owned by Korean Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church ("Moonies") that angered its conservative readership last year when it announced its editorial decision to cease enclosing the term "gay marriage" in quotation marks in their news articles.

"Carol Browner was chosen to help the president-elect coordinate energy and climate policy because she understands that our efforts to create jobs, achieve energy security and combat climate change demand integration among different agencies; cooperation between federal, state and local governments; and partnership with the private sector," Mr. Shapiro said according to the Times (Obama climate czar has socialist ties, 01/12/09).

The appointment does not require Senate approval which is fortunate on the one hand, since it averts any attempt to derail it or to waste time by Republican ideologues who would love to obstruct the new Administration as it starts working on their recovery and reclamation of the catastrophes wrought by eight years of Right-wing extremism under Bush. On the other hand it is potent fodder for the idiotic pundits who still peddle the laughable lies their devotees still buy into about Obama's secret plan to install a Soviet-style oligarchy in Washington.



Obama is no Socialist ("not that there is anything wrong with it"). And socialist ideology is, in fact, no more inherently un-American than is capitalist ideology. In fact, the basic socialist idea of deriving authority from the will of the people is transparently more conducive to democracy than the brand of capitalism we are familiar with in this country. We the people do ourselves a great disservice by allowing the Right-wing to engender fear of socialism in general: it is only to the advantage of the moneyed class to keep us ignorant of how socialism may serve our own best interest.

The image of socialism dredged up by the Right wing invariably hearkens to that scary ear of the corrupt and detestable Third Reich Nazi Party. What Americans are not allowed to understand is that the National Socialist Workers Party (Nazi) was not socialist: it was merely a vehicle for the egomaniacal Hitler regime to exploit for ends totally at odds with the true tenets of socialism. The Bush Administration's commandeering of the Republican Party and its devastating effects on our democracy can be more reasonably equated to Hitler's regime than any imaginary brand of socialism that may be said to pertain to Obama.


Bush's rise to the presidency and the Republican Party's resurgence in the 1990s came about on the strength of a concerted exploitation of fundamentalist Christian ideology in a manner similar to Hitler's appeal to the base feelings of superiority and entitlement packaged as German patriotism. We must not forget that Hitler was democratically elected although the ballots that put him in office were no less suspect than the two elections that stole the Presidency for Bush.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Chinese New Year

by Dick Mac

Happy New Year!



Today is Chinese New Year, the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar, and 2009 is the Year of the Ox. Those born in this Year of the Ox, also share the elemental sign of Earth.



Those born in a year of the ox are said to be "responsible, dependable, honest, caring, honourable, intelligent, artistic, industrious, and practical," while suffering from the all-to-human traits of being "petty, inflexible, possessive, dogmatic, gullible, stubborn, critical, intolerant, and materialistic." (See, attributes, at wikipedia.org.)

Xin nian yu kuai!









Friday, January 23, 2009

Explicit: Another California Tragedy

by Al Falafel

Dec. 31, 2008 Oakland, CA: On this New Year's Eve, 22-year old Oscar Grant was shot execution-style by transit police officer Johannes Mehserle. He was shot in the back while lying face down on a subway platform, unarmed and restrained by other officers.

The shooting was caught on film by commuters waiting on the BART platform. The video presented here is EXPLICIT.

The gun shot that killed Mr. Grant is recorded at 01:26 on the counter.



Despite such damning video evidence, it took nearly two weeks for the District Attorney to arrest Mehserle and charge him with murder.

In 14 years as Alameda County District Attorney, Tom Orloff had never before charged a police officer for an on-duty shooting. And when asked, several legal experts were unable to come up with any examples of officer-involved shootings becoming murder cases in California.


The DA admitted that it was only due to massive public pressure that he moved even at that pace, pressure that included more than 20,000 people speaking up after this video was distributed via email by the organization, ColorOfChange.org.

Johannes Mehserle's arrest is important, but it's only the first step. In cases like this, history has repeatedly shown that as soon as the public eye turns away the prospect of justice fades.

Oscar Grant's family and survivors deserve to see justice carried out. Making sure the prosecution does its job and pushing for much-needed reforms requires all of our voices.

Add your voice here: http://www.colorofchange.org/oscar_update/?id=2515-253960

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Who Decides If You Can Have An Abortion?

by Dick Mac

Not you, that's for sure!

As we move deeper and deeper into a conservative America, an America where Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are considered liberals, access to reproductive health care (abortion and birth control) continues to come under attack.

It is up to each of us to ensure that we keep access to abortion legal and safe.

Today is "Blog For Choice" day, sponsored by the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL). As a blogger, I take seriously my responsibility to inform people of what is going on.

Abortion rights are still under attack, and the Supreme Court is still in the hands of men and women who would be happy to do away with a woman's right to her own reproductive decisions.

I support NARAL, and you should, too.

Find out what's going on in your state.

Take action!





Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Just One Copy, Please

by Dick Mac

An associate was leaving the law firm at 6pm when he found a big-shot partner standing in front of a shredder with a piece of paper in his hand. "Listen," said the partner, "this is important, and my secretary has left. Can you make this thing work?"

"Certainly," said the associate. He turned the machine on, inserted the paper, pressed the start button, and the shredder did its job.

"Excellent, excellent!" said the partner as his paper disappeared inside. "I just need one copy."







Tuesday, January 20, 2009

How Cool is Our New Prez?

by Al Falafel

Having sat through the last (LAST!) insufferably weird and awkward TV appearances of the totally lame George W. Bush, a new tone of cool has already been set for the new administration of Barack Obama and his Posse. The opening event of the three-day inaugural celebration featured a free rock/soul/country/folk concert at the Lincoln Memorial that had people recalling the 1969 Woodstock festival with a lot more vibrant color and less mud (not sure about how the quality of available drugs compared).

Seriously, though, if there are any doubts about the smartness of Obama and the people he has surrounded himself with, this event should do a lot to dispel them. In short, THIS huge musical event is exactly what was needed right now - in the days between our last good riddance to Bush and the necessarily staid swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday. The artists appearing truly derived from the widest range of styles, genres and generations that could be expected to headline any event. The political messages were upbeat and unifying with passages read from past significant speeches by Kennedy, Lincoln, Roosevelt and even Reagan. There was just enough religious and spiritual content to satisfy those who adhere to religion while not alienating those of us who are duly tired of the gross religiosity that has come to pervade so many governmental functions like this. If there was not something for everyone it was not for lack of trying.

The highlight of the program for me was the always fabulous Stevie Wonder crooning his funky-licious 1973 hit "Higher Ground" that pulled the Obamas out of their forced "oh so adult" presidential shell and got them up on their feet shakin booty like a couple of kids for just a few minutes.



I am always surprised by my reaction to Country Pop star Garth Brooks whenever I happen to catch a glimpse of his live performances. If I had to pick a representative from the CW genre to bring cool to the stage I might have to go with somebody like the Dixie Chicks but old Garth is pretty cool (and total bear eye-candy). With his rendition of "Shout!" you just can't avoid resurrecting the spirit of John Belushi dancing on his back, shaking hands & feet in the air... Party on, Garth!



Of course, there was the obligatory appearance by Bono and The Edge bringing a hint of Irish pop star U2 rebellion to the show while also reinforcing every other allusion to the bygone days of America's Camelot the spin meisters are making (Kennedy? Irish-American? Duh.) Auctung, Baby!



With all this feel-good, fun-filled, inspirational inclusiveness and hope does anybody else start to feel a wee bit nostalgic for the bad old days when the most fun we got to have at an inauguration was hurling vulgarities at the Commander-in-Thief as he slinked past the angry mobs gathered in protest along the parade route?

Well, just so we never forget what we are saying good riddance to, let us preserve a couple of videos from Bush's inauguration festivities...





Ah, good times huh? May we never have to go THERE again.

Coming back to the future now, imagine how different yesterday's concert might have been if, God forbid, John McCain had won the election. From his list of favorites this might have been the scene on the Mall...



Of course, we would just have to have a Youngbloods tribute band leading the alternative inauguration concert bringing back the spirit of the Hippie From Olema

Well I’m proud to be a hippie from Olema
Where we’re friendly to the squares and all the straights
We still take in strangers if they’re ragged
We can’t think of anyone to hate

We don’t watch commercials in Olema
We don’t buy the plastic crap they sell
We still wear our hair long like folks used to
And we bathe often, therefore we don’t smell

Well I’m proud to be a hippie from Olema
Where we’re friendly to the squares and all the straights
We still take in strangers if they’re ragged
We can’t think of anyone to hate

We don’t throw our beer cans on the highway
We don’t slide a man because he’s black
We don’t spill our oil out in the ocean
’Cause we love birds and fish too much for that

And I’m proud to be a hippie from Olema
Where we’re friendly to the squares and all the straights
We still take in strangers if they’re Haggard
In Olema, California, planet earth


In the real world, though, yesterday's concert for the future closed with an appreciative bow to the ancient but ever-cool Pete Seeger (turning 80 this year) leading the Jersey Shore's Bruce Springsteen in Woody Guthrie's folk classic anthem, "This Land."



Of particular note was the surprise (to me) inclusion of Washington DC's Gay Men's Chorus, uncredited as all the back-up ensembles were. But if your gaydar failed to identify them as gay (I had no problem at all) the 100 male singers provided a helpful clue: each one wore a red AIDS ribbon on his lapel when they sang "My Country Tis of Thee" behind Josh Groban and Heather Headley.



All in all, the concert was a pretty good start on washing out that bitter after-taste left in our mouths still burning from the ultra-toxic uncool Bush years.

It is incredibly smart to use musicians and popular music to convey the message of unity. If for no other reason, it is smart to put on such a show because even celebrity musicians, if they possess any amount of serious musical artistry, tend to be innately inclined to appreciate the artistry in other serious musicians despite their ethnic cultural or racial differences. It was a very effective symbolic example of example-setting for those in this country who still hold irrational prejudices on those bases.

On a very deep level, even the most reasonable and enlightened of us still crave symbolism and meaningful rituals in our lives. But these human necessities are too often subverted by the enforcement of empty dogma such as that which brought us the despicable Bush regime and his religious-right fundamental crusaders. American popular music in its many divergent styles that appeal to distinct audiences almost always finds a way to meld in various kinds of fusions while also acting as vehicles for new informal rituals and communities around the music, not necessarily supplanting religious fellowships but providing adjunct relationships where identities are established and propagated.

Presenting this concert as part of the initiation of a new era was a stroke of genius.

Our long national nightmare is over - Rock on to the future!

Rock on, Barack! Rock on!.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Reverend and the President-Elect

by Dick Mac

The most important similarity between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack Obama is not the color of the skin, even though that is the primary reason that I or anyone else would compare them, but the fact that they were both community organizers.



As you may remember, community organizers were denigrated by Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin last Autumn. They forget that people like John Adams, Jeanne d'Arc, and Jesus Christ were community organizers.

During the last election, the slime that has overtaken the Republican Party (Giuliani, Palin, and the rest of the morning talk-show types) had nothing, so they poked fun at those more sophisticated, smarter, harder-working, better-looking, and more patriotic than them. (Has there ever been a less patriotic lot than the 21st-Century Republicans?)

Well, today is Martin Luther King Day in the United States, and tomorrow is the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States.

I have written about the two of them before: Sen. Barack Obama and The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and I have written about King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech. This is how the speech ends:

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Free at last, King exclaims. You can tell that 1963 was a simpler time.

Freedom is intrinsically connected to economic policy.

Twenty years after King's speech, Americans made a decision to subscribe to supply-side economic theory. We were promised by the supply-siders that freedom would ring through our economy. Personally, I insisted the opposite would happen, that it was all a house of cards, that it would lead to corporate slavery for all Americans. Some of us did speak-out against Reagen, and now we have a nation of middle-aged (35-45) people who think Reagan was a good president and that he saved our economy and that all the problems are because of the liberals.

Today, a conservative like Martin Luther King, Jr. would be silenced by fake conservatives (fascists?) like Giuliani, Palin, Rupert Murdoch, George Bush, Dick Cheney, and the other unAmerican criminals who've dismantled the Constitution and left our economy a shambles.

King would be branded a liberal, and community organizer, and probably a socialist, and the media would not air his speeches, they would focus on his sex-life and his alcohol consumption, and they would smear his name to stop his ideas. His ideas of freedom and equality.

Thank God that Dr. King had his time to speak, because today we would silence him. Although he was a conservative, his ideas would interrupt the notions of supply-side economic theory and that is not acceptable to those who would wrangle our nation's resources for themselves and their small coterie of friends.

Is Obama's election a logical extension of King's legacy? No. Not really. They both had brown skin, and Obama's alleged liberalism is similar to King's mid-Century conservatism, but Obama's adherence to supply-side economic theory is the antithesis of King's hope for freedom and equality.

I will not be participating in Obama's inauguration tomorrow. I have too much work to do, I know too many homosexuals who are still denied equality by people like Obama, and although I am thrilled that a man with brown skin has been elected, I am not so happy about his ideas for our economy (if, actually, he has any ideas beyond continuing the current mess).

Happy birthday, Dr. King.

You can see a transcript of King's "I Have A Dream" speech here.








Friday, January 16, 2009

New York City

by Dick Mac



A few years ago someone said: "You're a New Yorker, Dick Mac," and it was a New Yorker who said it to me. I was thrilled to hear it! It's an honor to be considered a New Yorker by a New Yorker, because I am not from New York City.

I do not deny my roots as a Bostonian, nor do I reject any of the cultural imperatives that make me distinctly a New York transplant. Simply put though: I get it. I get New York City. I get the self-aggrandizement that New Yorkers seem to have been born with. I get the 'scene' and the thrill of it all. New York City is the center of the Universe. There are probably more songs written about New York than Paris; and that's saying something!

New Yorkers are a proud lot.

Madison Square Garden, although it is a grossly unpleasant place to see any kind of event, is cherished all over the world as a shrine to sport and entertainment. Radio City Music Hall, a venue that deserves the esteem in which it is held, is a jewel. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a spectacular museum with an amazing collection. The Empire State building, like Madison Square Garden, does not necessarily merit the esteem in which it is held, but is likely the most famous skyscraper in the world. The Museum of Modern Art has, arguably, the most comprehensive collection of modern art in the world. Grand Central Station, Tammany Hall, Broadway, Central Park, Rudy Giuliani, the George Washington Bridge, the Rockefeller Family and Rockefeller Center, the Yankees, Times Square, Coney Island, the Statue of Liberty, and other cultural and political institutions are bigger and more famous because they are in New York.

And New Yorkers are a proud lot.

The events of September 11, 2001, brought the whole world together; and the destruction of the World Trade Center towers will likely stand as the universal symbol of terrorism for many years to come.

New Yorkers were amazing in the days, weeks, and months following that incident, and the entire world looked proudly on New Yorkers for their toughness, resilience, and fortitude. Sure, there were blowhards like Giuliani and George Bush who attached themselves to the incident, and built international careers on the episode; but, all-in-all, the images that humans recall of that event are firefighters, cops, construction workers, regular Joes, you and me, covered in grime and sweat, wet with tears and laughter, digging out from the rubble and emotional wreckage of 9/11.

New Yorkers are a proud lot, and they have earned their pride.

Yesterday afternoon, a jet took-off from LaGuardia airport in Queens, flew through a flock of geese, lost power in both engines and had to make an emergency landing. The pilot managed to get the jet over to the Hudson River and ditched.

Miraculously, nobody died. Everyone on board survived. Some broken and bruised, but alive. They got out of the airplane within 90 seconds and were huddling on the wings and in rafts in the frigid river. Drowning seemed to be the next likely scenario. Within minutes, however, ferry skippers and other boatmen maneuvered their vessels around the site and began rescuing the passengers.

New Yorkers did it again! Known for their self-centeredness and huge egos, New Yorkers stepped-up to the plate the moment they were needed.

New Yorkers are a proud lot, and I love New York!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

All Stars For Hope

by Dick Mac

Arsenal defender, Mikael Silvestre, has organized a benefit soccer match to raise money for schools around the world. The All Stars For Hope event is scheduled for Sunday, June 14, 2009, at Giants Stadium.

Silvestre has lined up an impressive roster of players including some of my favorites, Thierry Henry, Patrick Viera, Nicolas Anelka, Didier Drogba, Bacary Sagna, Claude Makelele, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy, Manuel Almunia, Ousmane Dabo, and Ryan Giggs; and some other amazing players I don't like so much, like Cristiano Ronaldo, Frank Lampard, and William Gallas.

A little Arsenal-centric you might say. Not Arsenal-centric enough is my response; but with no fewer than nine current and former Arsenal players in the line-up, this is as close as I am going to get to a match at the Emirates Stadium in the coming years.

I have put in my request for tickets already, and I recommend you do the same. The official site is accepting pre-sale reservations here.

Here is the most recent promotional video:










Wednesday, January 14, 2009

1. WRONG Response! -- 2. Right Response.

by Al Falafel

Max Blumenthal is a senior writer for The Daily Beast and contributor to outlets including The Nation, Al Jazeera English, Salon.com, Alternet, the Huffington Post, and the Washington Monthly. A winner of the USC Annenberg Online Journalism Award for his investigative print journalism, he has produced numerous widely-recognized video reports that have garnered hundreds of thousands of views on Youtube. His book, "Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party," will be published by Basic Books in 2009.

On January 11, Blumenthal covered a rally in front of the Israeli consulate in midtown New York that drew an estimated 10,000 people in support of Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip. The rally, which was organized by UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York in cooperation with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, featured speeches by New York’s most senior lawmakers. 

While the crowd was riled to righteous anger by speeches about Hamas evildoers, the event was a festive affair that began and ended with singing and joyous dancing.

But as Blementhal shows in the video below, provided courtesy of www.Alternet.com, the deep animosity of the participants toward the Palestinians, and their total indifference to their suffering - even the bombing of schools and hospitals in Gaza, and the humanitarian crisis their attack has brought could barely be contained. 



In the words of these fired up demonstrators, their belligerent, hateful attitude is based on an ingrained delusion of superiority over their Palestinian neighbors as if ordained by God. If this is permitted to represent the American response to the complex and detestable aggression the State of Israel has exercised against the people of Gaza in recent weeks, it does not bode well for the future of this planet. It is high time we break ourselves from the knee-jerk bombastic tendency to go along with -- much less support -- disproportionate military action overriding diplomacy. The attitude and actions of Hamas and the entire Islamic World against Israel have been egregious for sure. But do Israel's leaders actually believe that their jughead response to the persistent missile assault on their territory will do anything other than strengthen Palestinian resolve and that of their allies who deny their right to exist in the first place? 

Where do Israel's obstinate leaders get the idea that the US will back them up militarily as they provoke their enemies and irresponsibly escalate the kind of terror and hostility that has already brought so much shame and divisiveness to America within our country and in our relationships with the rest of the Western World?   

2. RIGHT Response

Rep. Dennis Kucinich sent the following letter to his colleagues in the US House of Representatives. 

January 9, 2009

Dear Colleague:

As the number of causalities in Gaza continues to climb to well over 750 deaths and more than 3000 injured in just two weeks, it is imperative that we focus on the humanitarian crisis that is growing every day.  I ask that you support a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire and unrestricted humanitarian access in Gaza.

The Washington Post and New York Times have reported that aid agencies such as International Committee of the Red Cross and Medicine without Borders are unable to reach even the most desperate victims.

The United Nations has been forced to suspend all aid operations in Gaza following attacks on its facilities and personnel who were trying to provide aid.  The UN is reporting that more than one-third of the deaths are civilians and that 1000 of the 3000 injured are children.  One day after the bombing of a UN school that killed 42 civilians, at least 30 people–including children–were found dead four days after a house where they were told to seek shelter by Israeli Defense Forces was bombed.

Nearly the entire population has had no access to water or electricity since the beginning of the blockade in February of 2006. As of January 2, 2009, hospitals in Gaza have been without electricity, forcing them to run on back-up generators that are reportedly on the verge of collapse.  Not only are doctors unable to cope with the number of injured, but these hospitals also lack the most basic necessities, such as gauze and medicine.  Access to medical supplies and food is protected by the Geneva Conventions.

We should oppose Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israel. And we should oppose Israel’s military response.  But we should, first and foremost, stand for an end to the humanitarian crisis this conflict is creating.  If you would like to be an original cosponsor of the resolution, please contact Diala Jadallah in my office
.  A draft is included below.

Sincerely,

Dennis J. Kucinich

RESOLUTION 

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives concerning the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Whereas over 95 percent of the deaths incurred since the escalation of violence in Gaza beginning December 27, 2008, have been Palestinians;

Whereas over 50 percent of the population of Gaza is under the age of 14;

Whereas on January 7, 2009, the United Nations found that one-third of the Palestinians killed in Gaza were civilians, while over 1,000 of the injured are children;

Whereas on January 6, 2009, 40 civilians were killed and 55 civilians were injured when the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) bombed two United Nations facilities, including a school, where Palestinians were seeking shelter;

Whereas nearly the entire population of Gaza has no access to potable water or functioning water systems, and sewage and wastewater systems have seized due to lack of water and electricity, causing sewage overflows in some residential neighborhoods, creating a public health crisis, according to the World Bank;

Whereas since the beginning of the Israeli imposed blockade in February 2006, approximately 262 Palestinians in Gaza have died due to lack of access to medical goods and aid, according to Mustafa Barghouthi, the Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative;

Whereas on January 7 and 8, 2009, the International Committee of the Red Cross found a total of up to 65 bodies in two separate locations, both of which included a number of emaciated children , in houses bombed in the south of Gaza after four days of lack of ambulance access;

Whereas the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and the International Committee of the Red Cross have completely halted all aid shipments, following the death of two United Nations aid truck drivers; and

Whereas Articles 55 and 56 of the 4th Geneva Convention require ”ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population” and ”ensuring and maintaining…the medical and hospital establishments and services, public health and hygiene”:

Now, therefore, be it Resolved

That the House of Representatives calls on the Government of Israel and representatives of Hamas to implement an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and to allow unrestricted humanitarian access in Gaza.

3. What YOU can do.

Write your Representative and tell them to support Rep. Kucinich's Resolution.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bush Economic Success

by Dick Mac

Did you know that George W Bush inherited a recession in January, 2001, and he is leaving office in a recession, but everything in-between was seemnigly OK.

There were over 500,000 created during the housing boom that is the cornerstone of Bush's economic miracle. Since the collapse of that house of cards, however, more than 2,600,000 jobs have been lost (the most since WWII).

Bush did inherit a huge tax surplus, which must have been a terrible burden to him. He decided to make our nation a better place, and squandered this money by issuing tax cuts to the wealthy. How's that working for you?

Rachel Maddow had a field day with yesterday's Bush press conference (essentially his last as President), in a series titled "Lame Duck Watch Special Report." Here is an excerpt about the Bush Economic Successes.


My favorite part of her show last night was her repeated use of the word "quackatude," which I think sums up the current American President's mental condition quite accurately.

George W Bush and his buddies destroyed America. The Bush legacy will not be complete until he or his buddies are imprisoned or hanged for treason.







Monday, January 12, 2009

Fighting Words: From Cold War to Culture War in the Age of Irony

by Al Falafel



The War in Iraq is officially OVER!

As reported by the Daily Beast and elsewhere, the Iraq war ended unceremoniously with the expiration of authority Congress spinelessly granted Bush in 2002 permitting him to use force against that country. Bush did not bother to ask for renewal of the mandate so it expired at the stroke of midnight on December 31st, 2008.

It has been six years since the infamous lie of "Mission Accomplished." With this latest definitive news how about we just let it end now?

Please.

The war is over, Bush is done. Let us not allow our very lame duck ex to enlist us emotionally in any kind of Middle East "Cold War" as he is wont to do. 

As the swan song of his disastrous Presidency - and totally true to form - Bush has signed the "Status of Forces Agreement" (SOFA) with the Iraqi government in blatant defiance of the US Constitution.

Isn't that just SOFA-King Bush-like?

It is imperative, lest we repeat the mistakes of the past, that We the People now do all we can to resist buying into the language of a new "Cold War" between us and an imaginary enemy from the Arab world who also exists among us at home. 

History tells us that going along with such a concept can only derail the burgeoning movement away from the Bush-era war obsession and engender a long-term festering of a belligerent national attitude that will consume us, both domestically and in our international relations.

It happened once already - after the end of World War II with the unprecedented selling of the cold war concept which we adopted, hook, line and sinker. 

In no small measure, our wholesale buying into the first cold war is what eventually enabled the poisonous "Culture War" that has been ripping at the spiritual fabric of our nation in recent years. With hopes running high on the eve of President Obama's inauguration, our future is still very much threatened by such underlying reactionary forces.


I believe we can do a lot to nip a new cold war in the bud by simply refusing to adopt any such language, no matter how fitting it may seem. 

Even if they cannot keep the Iraq war going for a hundred years as they had hoped, the cold war concept will be meted out to us in some form by those right wing hawks and politicos newly in retreat. Now more than ever, they only stand to profit by exploiting such internecine conflicts in our hearts and minds -- if we let them.

If we can keep that from happening, however, we would also very likely see a de-escalation in the current "Culture War" raging in the minds of many today.

Consider history.


By all accounts it was Herbert Bayard Swope (1882-1958) who coined the concise term "Cold War" to sum up the relationship between the world's two emergent superpower nations following WWII in 1947. Immediately, this deceptively simplistic concatenation was absorbed into the American vernacular. Its endurance to this day stands as a testament to Swope's mastery of his craft, which had also earned him earlier distinction as the first recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for reporting (1917). It is hard to imagine a more succinct, emblematic and readily fathomable summation of America's deep trepidation about the M.A.D. standoff that had quickly developed between rival nuclear powers, the USSR and us.

When Swope, a war corespondent and political speechwriter, first stuck the word "cold" (frosty, frigid, inhospitable, cold-blooded, unsympathetic), together with the word "war" (conflict, strife, bloodshed, hostility, combat), he could hardly have known how durable his neologistic invention would prove to be.

Nor how potently malignant would be the mind frame he induced with it into the 20th Century American psyche, impressionable as it was.

As with most known carcinogens, the deleterious effects of this advancing linguistic tumor would remain undetected for decades as life went on as usual.

Even at the end of World War II, when the US Department of War was officially abolished in favor of the new improved Dept. of Defense, We the People continued to indulge in the usage of the all-too-convenient oxymoronic "cold war" as part of our casual discourse ("melts in your mouth; not in your hand")

The "Age of Irony" having not yet arrived, we had little means of appreciation for what the concept of a cold war meant... nor for how much it mattered.

What did it hurt?

It was just two little words, a nifty turn of phrase: just words really... that hit the nail right on the head, it seemed ("builds strong bodies in 12 ways"). So what if  hostilities had cooled down and treaties were signed? So what if we still sucked up and regurgitated this bit of militaristic jingoism after the end of the real war? 

There is no denying that we were being force-fed this cold war guck through the news in print, heard over the radio waves and, not insignificantly, experienced in a new dimension through the innovative medium of broadcast television. It was just too convenient a short hand slogan, going hand in hand with other catch phrases of the time like "baby boom" and "truth, justice, and the American way."  

Sure, you could "See the USA in your Chevrolet," but this "cold war" phrase was more than a misnomer. It was a lie, actually, that we, as a nation, bought into part and parcel with that conglomerate of terms that branded our postwar identity. 

Whatever the mood, temperature or climate, the truth is that WWII really was over when it was over. If we had known where it would lead us, the cold war may have ended as well, before it ever got started.

"A little dab will do ya..."

Like all wars before it, World War II had a beginning and it did have an end.

We have never, in fact, experienced a real war that did not have an end. Even World War I - the so-called "War to End All Wars" - had been given its last rites at Versailles in 1919. Maybe we were so chastened by that gross overestimation that it would be too embarrassing not to remain on a war footing long after. 

But in the case of WWII, the shooting stopped in 1945. The bombing had stopped. Troop movements and strategic battle planning ceased at last when the US wiped two Pacific Islands off the map that year.


The nationalistic feelings whipped up during WWII were like nothing seen on this continent since the American Civil War. Exploiting those intensities was obviously irresistable to the red-baiting McCarthy-era hawks. To their misfortune and to our temporary relief, however, they pushed too hard too fast - tipping their hand too early in the game and losing big.

It is understandable, after what the world went through during those horrible years from 1939 to 1945, that the powers who brought a close to such a planetary nightmare may have felt the need to distract the public while they stayed on guard in case the truce among nations failed to hold. It is even forgivable that the gullible public, the millions of Americans who had suffered so many personal losses during the war, would still feel the need to fortify themselves, emotionally, against any chance that it could happen again while basking in the glory of being part of the alliance that had saved the world.

Keeping the war alive in our minds kept our lost loved-ones alive but that is just one effect of the complex mental conditioning that redefined our world from top to bottom. Another is the unprecedented American internalization of war, driven so deep into our imagination that it was hard for a long long time to have another actual war in the traditional sense.

Any military actions we engaged in during the cold war were called maneuvers, skirmishes or "peace-keeping missions." It was a "police action" in Korea and a "conflict" in Vietnam. We invaded Grenada and intervened in Kosovo but never officially engaged in war. 

There was also that long, drawn-out hostage crisis in Iran. 

All of these bloody involvements could have easily turned into wars, and in other times probably would have. But the word "war" was cautiously never applied in any official reference to those bloody crises. 

Our political leaders often went to great lengths, in fact, to deny that there was anything warlike about dropping bombs, shooting up villages and getting up to more than a million of our own troops slaughtered and leaving even more of them maimed and shell-shocked in the process. It was as if war had been removed exclusively from our real world experience into the realm of imagination. It could not exist in two places at once.  

The napalm that laid waste to Vietnamese jungles and burned many people alive was most definitely hot but by then we had been led to believe that war could only be cold. The only real war was the one smoldering in our hearts. 

Maybe we were reserving the label "war" for that inevitable conflict with our number one rival on the planet and every other act of armed aggression was considered a prelude to that feared eventuality. Or perhaps other conflicts just did not merit such an estimable reference, no matter how many of our young people and foreigners were killed in the fighting.


The cold war hawks did shoot themselves in the foot early on with their outrageous commie witch-hunts as the 1950s came to a close. Unfortunately, however, there was no disciplined alternative to their extremism. 


What emerged in that cultural vacuum was the 1960s "flower child" era soaked in the drunkeness of our sudden liberation from those out-moded mindsets, hyper-powered by the new phenomenon of recreational drugs. The Peace Movement was quickly subsumed into that giddy experimental culture, thanks to our escalating involvement in Vietnam's civil war and, moreover, by the concurrent existence of a military draft in the US.

Against this backdrop, it was the effort of a well-intentioned Democratic President who gave the still subdued movement toward the coming "Culture War" an inadvertent boost. At the height of the Vietnam folly that had once again given war a deservedly bad name, Lyndon B. Johnson announced his "Great Society" program, a large scale campaign to address the inequities of race and class in the United States: a noble undertaking indeed.


In an unfortunate linguistic miscalculation, LBJ chose to invoke the language of war in order to distract attention from Vietnam while instilling a sense of urgency and generate headlines for his effort to eradicate the injustices due to poverty. 

Notably, Johnson's "War on Poverty" was the first in a progression of instances when our national leaders would apply the three-letter word to any large-scale non-militaristic social policy.

Too bad Johnson could not have made his analogy to something more humanitarian, like an urgent reclamation effort to clean up after a devastating natural disaster: an earthquake or flood, for example. At best an incomplete analogy it was the first war declared by this nation that did not indicate an actual enemy. Decidedly avoiding any call to "spread the wealth around" Johnson's war on poverty was not a war on the rich. The war on poverty was the first war on an fundamentally abstract human condition.

It was not without its successes, among them ushering in at last, the golden age of irony. 

With a deadly and expensive conflict raging in Vietnam, where we butted against a proxy for our Super Power enemy, we were asked to buy into a more palatable idea of a war at home with no enemy at all. 

Later, in 1971, an embattled Richard Nixon would put his own spin on the idea of conceptual war turning it against something more frightening than poverty to middle class Americans - the "war on drugs." This was seen as based in a moral judgment against the deviant hippie drug culture as much as against the supplier cartels of South America.

By 1979, Vietnam was remembered as a tragic mistake but Jimmy Carter would make an even worse miscalculation than his Democratic predecessor Johnson had by urging us to adopt the "moral equivalent of war" during the energy crisis: explicitly linking morality and nationalistic pride, still in the absence of any named enemy (Ironically, a few months after Carter's speech, Iran stepped up to claim the title of enemy by taking 52 Americans hostage just months after the "moral equivalency" speech and held them long enough to doom Carter's re-election bid).

By then, the idea of war as a concept rather than reality had taken root so deep in the American psyche that we had grown much more accustomed to it than we were to any real war. But some of us had also become frustrated being constantly ready to do battle but lacking any real enemy. 


The only step left, then, to set the stage for a "Culture War" with a real home-grown enemy was to regain political power and credibility in a well organized campaign that would exploit the existing inclination to engage in conceptual warfare.

Finally they could name an enemy - something they had not dared since pinpointing commies back in the 50s. Lavender became the new Red as queers and their sympathizers would draw the bulk of fire in this culture war. And now they could label it a "war" outright. No more need to disguise their intense loathing of this detestable bunch of deviants. After all, their very existence threatens to destroy the fundamental building block of society, according to the movement's propaganda. 

By 1992 the reactionary Republican right had found religion big time and on drummed up fear and hatred toward marriage-seeking homos, they won back power after a 40 year exile, taking over both houses of Congress on the strength of their subversive "Contract on America" 

With 9/11 and a new Republican President squarely aligned with the cause, The Age of Irony was over and all Hell was let loose.

With the installment of a Republican President hell-bent on restoring war as a ruinous reality on the world stage we would eventually come to realize more than ever the horrific effects of sustaining battles on multiple fronts, both real and imaginary.
 
In the waning days of this calamitous administration, with the reactionary forces who would thrust us into a new cold war defeated, we are apparently fortunate enough to have a great deal more discipline than we did heading into the 1960s. 

With a bit of luck and determined caution against repeating our linguistic mistakes along with other errors from history, we have a much better chance today to finally dispel the notion of perpetual war - beginning with how we talk about it.

With a bit of luck and determined caution against repeating our linguistic mistakes along with other errors from history, we have a much better chance today to finally dispel the notion of perpetual war - beginning with how we talk about it.


Here's one more thing you can do - totally symbolic if you are into this sort of thing: take Yoko up on her invitation in memory of John: take the vow of non-violence at the Alliance for a New Humanity Website. It doesn't cost a dime and it only takes a few seconds.

"You'll wonder where the culture war went when you brush off Bush as President."

Friday, January 09, 2009

Pat Boone: "Hate is hate, in India or America"

by Dick Mac

Pat Boone supported Proposition 8, and opposes the notion that homosexuals should be treated fairly under the law. He recently published a diatribe in which he likens American taxpayers who protest for fair treatment under the law with the terrorists who attacked Mumbai, India.

Boone thinks that tax-paying, church-going, law-abiding, American taxpayers who exercise their First Amendment rights are terrorists.

Boone, of course, is promoting some wacky brand of Christianity that has no basis in Christ's teachings, nor in the fundamental dynamic of every religion: love. We should start referring to Boone's brad of religion as Americanism, because this brand of Christianity practiced by right-wingers, er, wrong-wingers really has taken on a uniquely American bent: loaded with politicism, electoral jingo, and hate. Just like the American wrong-wing has been spewing since the 1950s; and it has little resemblance to actual Christianity.

When I lived in Florida in the mid-1970s, it was popular for wrong-wingers to display the bumper sticker "Kill A Queer For Christ" on their vehicles. Pat Boone's brand of Americanism promotes this sort of behavior, and this sort of behavior leads to violence against homosexuals.

Pat Boone is a menace to American freedom. His brand of hateful Americanism is bad for all living things. These wrong-wingers who wrap themselves in the flag and the christus do as much to hurt America as Saudi-funded terrorists and supply-side theorists.

Boone's brand of hatred promotes violence against those Americans least able to defend themselves, and anti-homosexual rhetoric over the centuries has led to thousands of deaths of people who should be left alone to live their lives in peace.

Boone can say he opposes violence, but his words of hate and intolerance promote violence in every way.

I hope more famous Americans like Brad Pitt, whom Boone denounces in his hateful article, will speak-out in support of the rights of homosexuals.

You can read Boone's article Hate is hate, in India or America, if you like.