Sunday, August 31, 2008

Update on the post below

I'm so glad the Obama campaign listened to me on this. Clearly, they are smarter than I gave them credit for, and they should hire me to be David Axelrod's personal assistant.

Obama mobilizes the network to help with Gustav while McCain makes photo-ops!

The Stupidity of the Obama Campaign and Democrats in General

John McCain and his neophyte running mate Sarah Palin will go to Mississippi during the onslaught of Hurricane Gustav. Even if they are doing so solely for the photo-op (and I don't suspect otherwise), they are, in fact, going there. Similarly, Bush and Cheney, in a sudden attack of deathbed sensitivity, announced that they wouldn't attend the GOP convention this week, because of Gustav.

Meanwhile, in the "please stop doing us any favors" department, Michael Moore (whom I have defended in the past) went on MSNBC and said Gustav was a blessing from God, designed to make the Republicans look bad in an election year.

All of these gestures, as empty and meaningless as they are in the scheme of things, will effectively exorcise the specter of Bush's failure and McCain's birthday insensitivity during Hurricane Katrina. It will be seen as repentance and atonement. It will no longer be seen as "fair" to attack the Republicans concerning Katrina.

Obama and Biden will do no such thing. They are headed to Ohio and Michigan. Obama condescendingly sent out a statement urging the citizens of New Orleans to evacuate. Wow--the innovative wisdom of such a statement blows my mind.

Chalk this up as a win for McCain-Palin and as a guarantee that the Republicans will never have to answer for Katrina again. Chalk this up as a colossal, arrogant error on the part of Obama-Biden. I understand that it's ridiculous, objectively speaking, to believe that a visit by a candidate helps anyone besides the candidate; I understand that this whole moral pissing contest is disgusting, but for those of you on the left who want to play that game, your candidate is not playing it well at all. If you don't like the rules of the game, then walk away from the two-party gameshow sham. But if you're going to stick around, then you should be seriously disappointed in the way your golden boy is playing.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Examining Inequality, The Outspoken Women of Islam and More on Shared Sacrifice!

Find out why Shared Sacrifice is the hottest progressive radio show on the internet. Listen this Saturday, from 12:00-2:00 PM MT. Call in at (347) 327-9615.

Matt is back from Korea with interesting stories to tell (where he survived such adventures and misadventures as appearing on Korean television, and being hit by a car). Gary is back from the Democratic National Convention, thoroughly disillusioned with mainstream politics. Join us for an unprecedentedly exciting and provocative edition of the show:

Inequality as a threat to democracy: Gary and Matt interview Sam Pizzigati, editor of Too Much, an online weekly on excess and inequality, and an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. Mr. Pizzigati has written widely on America's economic divide, with op-eds and articles appearing in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, and a host of other newspapers and periodicals.

Shattering Western stereotypes: Matt interviews two female muslim debaters and debate coaches, Lin Kamaruddin and Adiba Shareen. Outspoken, critical of both the West and the Taliban, bitingly funny, these women will make you think twice about buying into the stereotype of women in Islam as silent or submissive.

(Sharmila Parmanand, Lin Kamaruddin and Adiba Shareen, Seoul, 2008)


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-LISTEN! Listen live, from noon to 2PM mountain time, every Saturday.
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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Humiliated Events

Human Events is one of the few magazines, online or otherwise, that continues to publish the screeds of Ann Coulter after she has managed to alienate all the reasonable conservatives in the world (seriously, I know a LOT of conservatives, and none of them like her; most are embarassed by her). Human Events publishes a lot of equally shitty material, from pieces by Bill O'Reilly to various nationalist manifestos by the increasingly irrelevant Pat Buchanan. But even by the already sub-basement standards of Coulter, O'Reilly and Buchanan, today the magazine sunk to a depth so low that its own readership absolutely freaked out.

They ran an audio spoof piece by Matt Fox and AJ Rice, writers and producers for Talk Radio Network. TRN broadcasts several right-wing haters, the most notable being Michael Savage, who, among other things, mercilessly attacked kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart on the air, and who called news anchor Diane Sawyer "a lying whore." The spoof is of little Sasha Obama, who told her father she loved him on live television last night following Michelle Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention. The spoof piece has her insulting white people, asking about Reverend Wright, and announcing her intention to go to PDiddy's champaign after-party. Sasha Obama is seven years old.

With tails between their legs, Human Events took the audio piece off the site, but left the empty shell of the link there, along with several dozen comments from shocked conservatives, wondering why their flagship rag had sunk to that depth (and a few comments calling for more attacks on Obama's children on the grounds that, since said candidate has children, and has allowed the media to photograph and interview those children, those children are therefore "fair game"). [UPDATE: THE SPOOF RECORDING IS BACK AT THE SITE. IT WAS EITHER TAKEN OFF IN ERROR, OR RESTORED. EITHER WAY, IT SEEMS NOW TO BE THE OFFICIAL POLICY OF _HUMAN EVENTS_ TO BROADCAST REPRESENTATIONS SPOOFING A SEVEN YEAR-OLD GIRL, IMPLYING ALL THE THINGS I LISTED ABOVE. THIS IS BEYOND DISGUSTING.]

The superintelligent and nuanced (that's sarcasm, folks) "Democrat=Socialist" web site still has the piece, and makes no apology for running it.

A big thumbs up to all the conservatives that are criticizing Human Events for running the spoof clip in the first place. I continue to be impressed by people who are willing to transcend party lines in order to do the right thing. But will those same conservatives swear off the votes McCain gets from racists? Will they swear off talk show host (and Ronald's son) Michael Reagan, who has repeatedly issued death threats on his show? I'm not holding my breath--and I'm not giving Democrats a free pass either--anyone who sends me information about Democrat house organs doing anything similar to what Human Events and TRN did to Sasha Obama will be rewarded with my publishing that information and condemning any such attack without hesitation. Bourgeois politics makes such attacks inevitable, since neither side can really afford to discuss the issues--the conclusions are too systemic to be comfortable or convenient.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

another fun McCain fact..."How many houses do you own, Senator?" ... "Um...ummmmmmm"

John McCain doesn't know how many houses he owns. This is both hilarious and enraging.
From "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in an interview Wednesday that he was uncertain how many houses he and his wife, Cindy, own. 'I think — I'll have my staff get to you,' McCain told Politico in Las Cruces, N.M. 'It's condominiums where — I'll have them get to you.' "

It's okay, really. He just forgot, that's all. Perhaps the Republicans should have chosen someone a little sharper...Fred Thompson, perhaps?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

potentially explosive news: McCain may have lied about his POW experience

If this is true, it could seriously undermine the McCain camp. The exposion of vitriol by the right (read the readers' comments in the linked article) in response to this allegation leads me to suspect it just might be true.

Why is this important? Because, in the words of Paul Waldman:
Many journalists decided long ago that McCain is just different from other politicians. They declare McCain innocent of all the sins they associate with other members of his profession, no matter how often he commits them. They testify that McCain is too modest to mention his POW experience in Vietnam, but McCain now brings it up all the time.

We will most certainly continue to follow this.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Real Olympic Memories: 1968

Already tired of the political sterility of the 2008 Olympics? The complicity with Beijing's slave labor and seemingly eager turn towards fascistic capitalism? The sad spectacle of American television commentators falling all over themselves? Take a trip with me to 1968...

If you're not altogether clear on the significance of this picture, read about it here.

That's Tommie Smith in the center and John Carlos on the right.

Lest you think that they paid no price for this...
Smith and Carlos were largely ostracised by the predominantly white U.S. sporting establishment in the following years and in addition were subject to criticism of their actions. Time magazine showed the five-ring Olympic logo with the words, "Angrier, Nastier, Uglier", instead of "Faster, Higher, Stronger". Back home they were subject to abuse and they and their families received death threats.

A forgotten hero in all this was Peter Norman, the Australian on the left, who wore a human rights badge (he knew it wouldn't be appropriate for him to raise his fist) to honor Smith and Carlos. Peter Norman may have paid the stiffest price of all.
Norman, who was sympathetic to his competitors' protest, was reprimanded by his Country's Olympic authorities and ostracized by the Australian media.[10] He was not picked for the 1972 Summer Olympics, despite finishing third in his trials. He kept running, but contracted gangrene in 1985 after tearing his Achilles tendon, which nearly led to his leg being amputated. Depression and heavy drinking followed. He suffered a heart attack and died on October 3, 2006. Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at his funeral.

"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what a people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress." ~Frederick Douglass

Sunday, August 10, 2008

"Liberal" Media Update

I'm blogging this so it doesn't go down the memory hole when Democrats do a postmortem and ask why Obama lost to the train wreck that is McCain.

The Washington Post, a newspaper labeled "liberal" by the right, headlines an article "Obama Tax Plan Would Balloon Deficit, Analysis Finds" even though the article itself contains, in a single paragraph, the fact that McCain would balloon the deficit even more. The headline doesn't mention McCain, the two plans aren't compared, and the entire article, except for that one paragraph and its minor detail (that McCain is worse on this question) is devoted to criticizing Obama.

Bradams at Daily Kos explains it all here. In short:
...we have Obama'a plan that according to the article would add $3.4 trillion and we have McCain's plan that would add $5 trillion. Yet the article contains a single sentence about McCain's tax plan and instead goes out of its way to imply that Obama is misleading voters.
The way the headline is written also has an obvious anti-Obama, pro-McCain bias. Even though the headline doesn't mention McCain, saying one candidate's tax plan is bad news for the deficit implies that the other candidate's tax plan is not. And that is the only message that casual readers, who don't read the entire article carefully, will walk away with.

I can understand progressives' frustrations with Obama. What I can't understand, and what someone can explain to me is why the so-called liberal media doesn't want Obama to win this election. I mean, I have ideas about that, but a lot of my white friends get angry when I bring them up.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

KBR, Rape and the Colonial Unconscious

On an earlier edition of Shared Sacrifice, my co-host Gary talked about the scandal involving non-grounded electrical components, causing the deaths of some U.S. soldiers in Iraq. The company responsible for those disasters is KBR. But KBR allegedly has more than one way of destroying people's lives.

Some background: KBR, Inc. (formerly Kellogg Brown & Root) is an American engineering and construction company, formerly a subsidiary of Halliburton. KBR employs 14,000 U.S. employees in Iraq, ostensibly to provide logistical support to the U.S. armed forces. In the past two years, several female employees of KBR claim to have been raped in Iraq by co-workers. They have further alleged that they have been instructed to "keep quiet" about the rapes, or otherwise prevented from, or threatened away from, pursuing remedies for these assaults. The most notorious case right now involves an alleged gang rape of Jamie Leigh Jones. in July, 2005. Jones was allegedly drugged and raped by her coworkers, then confined to a security container without food, water, or medical treatment for a full day before a guard gave her his cell phone and allowed her to call her father. Jones' father then contacted Republican Representative Ted Poe. Representative Poe approached the State Department regarding the matter and secured her release. Because of contractual restrictions, Jones was barred from suing her employer. However, in May of this year, a Federal judge ruled that Jones can take her alleged perpetrators to court, as well as their company. She has testified before the House Judiciary Committee--and you can watch it on You Tube.

As the Times Online reports: "After she reported the alleged assault, she said she was confined to a shipping container and told that if she left Iraq to seek medical attention she would not have a job on her return." This is similar to the story of "Dawn Leamon, an American paramedic working for a foreign subsidiary of KBR at Camp Harper, near Basra." Leamon "testified that she was abused by a soldier and a coworker after drinking a cocktail. She told The Times that KBR employees discouraged her from reporting the alleged rape and pressured her into signing a false statement."

Besides categorical denials, KBR's chief response to these allegations has been to ban its employees from using cell phones.

Predictably, the usual round of reactionary conservatives reflexively attacked Ms. Jones and defended KBR. The editorials from conservative bloggers and commentators that doubt her story, that accuse her of lying, are universally made by men (except for Michelle Malkin, who considers Bill O'Reilly to be her mentor). And there are, in fact, some questions involving finer legal discrepancies. But those discrepancies do not include the evidence in her rape kit, the fact that her father had to intervene to get her released, the bruises and wounds she suffered, or the fact that KBR banned cell phone use after she called her father on the cell phone. All those are undisputed facts.

To their credit and honor, a few conservative writers actually acknowledge that the evidence strongly supports a rape allegation. The smartest among them, attorney Ted Frank, even says:
If the implant rupture and other physical injuries are true, I’m inclined to believe that she was raped, perhaps even gang raped. (Machismo environments like fraternity houses and athletes’ dorms are responsible for a disproportionate number of gang rapes, which is why the Duke Lacrosse allegations had so much weight in the early going.) I’m inclined to believe that there was a hostile work environment, and that it was possible that KBR was not doing enough to correct that problem. I’m not currently inclined to believe that the criminal action was the employer’s fault, unless the employee in question had shown signs of criminal behavior while working for KBR. And it is entirely consistent with what I know about government if Jones’s allegation that the government botched the criminal investigation is true.

Still another level-headed conservative blogger writes:
Here's the truth, according to my friends: women who are working in the green zone, even non-contractors, are particularly careful to never walk anywhere alone. Not because they are worried about being bombed or attacked by the enemy: they are worried about the men who are there. Men who are supposed to be their fellow comrades and friends, who are supposed to treat them with respect, but instead are ever-present threats. So try for a moment to understand that not everything in Iraq is flowers and candy, and that sometimes American men do terrible things, and American companies let people slip through the cracks.

Now, what does this have to do with colonialism? Well, even the staunchest defenders of militarism will tell you that the mindset required to execute the duties implied in the occupation of a sovereign nation call for a mindset of brutality. But you can't turn that brutality on and off, and even though most of our soldiers are no doubt decent people, many of them are not. Occupation attracts people with an occupier mentality. And occupation instills a destructive, reverse-occupied mentality on those who might otherwise be nonviolent people. Franz Fanon, a revolutionary anti-colonialist author who died in 1961, concluded from his extensive analysis of the French occupation of Algeria, that occupation and colonization brutalize the colonizers as well as the colonized. Other critics of imperialism and colonialism have said the same thing. One of my favorite quotes in this context comes from George Orwell, in his extremely effective essay "Shooting an Elephant." Orwell writes:
when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy...He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it.

This is what has happened in Iraq, and Afghanistan. It's more likely to happen with the increased presence of private contractors too, since they are subject to considerably less discipline than their military counterparts. Predictably, the Bush administration exacerbates this problem. For example, the Bush administration has granted immunity to Blackwater guards in a mass murder case.

Imperialism creates victims on the outside, but it also colonizes itself on the inside. In so many ways, from hatred to divisiveness to violence to poverty and alienation, we are a colonized and brutalized civilization. The solutions must be found in our collective self-criticism, solidarity, and emancipation. And we must get out of Iraq and Afghanistan as quickly as possible--not merely because of the harm our presence does there, but because in order to survive a transition away from our status as empire, we need to learn humility. The strong possibility that Jamie Leigh Jones and other alleged victims of rape are paying the price for that lack of humility is an all-too-predictable tragedy.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Wal-Mart Pees Its Pants

Wal-Mart executives are terrified that an Obama victory will spark a nationwide unionization effort. They're so scared that they're warning their managers about it. This raises some very important, nuanced political questions. I will try to list them as eloquently as possible:

1. Can a corporation piss itself?
2. Are Wal-Mart's leading executives pissing themselves?
3. If Wal-Mart's leading executives are, in fact, incontinent, can they purchase adult diapers at employee discount rates?
4. Will a McCain victory embolden Wal-Mart executives to bash their workers in the head with baseball bats?
5. Will those baseball bats be purchased from Wal-Mart, at the employee discount rate?
6. Has Obama ever been inside a Wal-Mart?
7. Do they sell caviar at Wal-Mart? (trick question because I know the answer)
8. Will McCain piss himself just because?
9. If Obama promises to continue to sell out minorities by promoting the capricious, error-prone, racist death penalty, will Wal-Mart stock go up?
10. Would Obama like to open up a few Wal-Marts in Afghanistan?