The Emperor and the cuckoo bird

Posted July 28, 2007 on 9:37 pm | In the category Europe, Germany, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

Now let’s get this straight. A monumentally thuggish North African political regime, that blew up a British passenger plane not long ago and is trusted by nobody, arrests five completely innocent Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor, accuses them of infecting 400 children with Aids, who were actually infected by unhygienic hospital conditions, sentences them to death by getting confessions after medieval torturing, throws them in unspeakable jails for eight years, and finally decides it can use them to blackmail the European Union, which reluctantly negotiates an agreement costing 1 Million Dollars per infected child. These depressing negotiations are undertaken by EU officials over the course of a couple of years, and reach fruition during the presidency of Germany. Thus Angela Merkel is ultimately responsible for negotiating the agreement, which leads to the freeing of the six prisoners.

But who is it who shows up in Libya for the photo-op at the liberation of the prisoners? Why it’s none other than Cecilia Sarkozy, newly-crowned first lady of France, who has flown in on her husband’s private jet to revel in the glory at the liberation. Now she has played no role in all this, and neither has her husband or for that matter, France, other than its supposed membership in the EU. France’s former Minister to the EU, Pierre Moscovici, notes: “Sarkozy has taken on the strategy of the cuckoo, the bird who lays its eggs in other birds’ nests.”

Ariane Mnouchkine, France’s leading theatre person and the director of the Théatre de soliel, put it this way as she turned down the position offered to her to become the Chaired Professor of Theatre at the College de France, a call that she had received 8 months before, but which needed the approval of the President of France to become valid. When she received Sarkozy’s document, which made it seem like he had annointed her, she wrote the following:
“Nicolas Sarkozy has turned us into collaborators by attempting to curry favour with anyone played up by the media – artists and others. That is unacceptable. Therefore I must turn down the offer of this position, which had pleased me so much…. The whole world saw what happened with the Bulgarian nurses; they tried to make us believe that it was the President of France who had engineered this agreement when every one knows that the diplomats of the European Union had been working at it for years. It’s high time that Sarkozy stops trying to make us believe that he’s the one who makes things happen.”

Oh yes one more thing. On the day after his wife flew to Libya, the President himself showed up there, shared a brotherly kiss with the Libyan leader, and announced that France would supply Libya with a nuclear reactor to be built by French engineers on the coast near Tripoli. It turns out he does make things happen.

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Socialism, U.S. Style

Posted July 28, 2007 on 1:05 pm | In the category Press, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

Bill, a friend of this Blog, writes the following after mistakenly turning on the “O’Reilly Factor”:

My Economics Professor at Rutgers once commented that in America, it was “socialism for the rich and the corporations but capitalism for the rest of us”. Nothing has changed; recently Bill O’Reilly was bashing universal healthcare as socialism. Yet when we socialize the cost to general electric for polluting a river, or Halliburton for delivering shoddy work in Iraq, or farmers for not growing crops, or Big Pharma for taking drug designs from the NIH – not a word is spoken. But the Bill O’Reillys of the world continue to pull out the same tired, cheap and shallow arguments. Just amazing that they do it and that people continue to tune them in.

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The Campaign: Style Over Substance

Posted July 26, 2007 on 8:49 am | In the category Politics, Press | by Jeff

“Democracy is coming

To the USA”- Leonard Cohen

If the summer seems longer and hotter than usual, requiring huge intakes of adult beverages, you may have been following the presidential campaign too closely. The latest example of vacuity pretending to be seriousness is the introduction of YouTube into the debates. This has led to news outlets throughout the country devoting large amounts of airtime and ink to the fact that there are “real people” (as opposed to journalists who apparently are not “real”) with “real questions” in the country and isn’t it wonderful that technology allows them to ask the questions in styles waaaay more interesting than the straight-forward question.

The day after the Democrats answered questions from “real people” including a man disguised as a snowman, PBS’s Lehrer Report devoted ca. 20 minutes to a discussion of how the use of YouTube made for a much more personal relationship between the voters and their would-be Kings or Queen. On this and other TV news programs there is almost no discussion of the issues that could resemble intelligent analysis. The focus remains on style and ephemeral issues like the cost of candidates’ haircuts, the size of one’s war chest, whether a particular religion is good or bad for a candidate, and whether they have crafted their standard responses cleverly enough to avoid being pinned down to a real commitment. For analysis stations go to either the same tired talking heads or in a fit of derring-do go to the tried and true Man in the Street technique in which all sides of an issue are given equal time – Sally Mae discusses why we need to stay in EyeRaq and Doug makes the case for leaving.

It is indeed turning out to be a Long, Hot Summer. Now back to the fridge for some relief.

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The Brits bring Culture to the Primitive East

Posted July 21, 2007 on 2:07 am | In the category Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

Ryan Air and its copycats have made it possible, and now its easy for anyone to leave the British Isles and travel to continental Europe for next to nothing to demonstrate to the local bumpkins the state of British culture in the twenty-first century. No sooner have eastern European countries, long neglected under the Soviets , restored their finest urban centres to something approaching the splendour of pre-Soviet days, than British hordes book dirt-cheap flights for their stag parties, descend drunkenly with the hens, as they call their mademoiselles, on the restored centres of cities like Bratislava, Krakau, Riga, or Talinn, and do their best to demolish them. It used to be the British football fans who were the chief hooligans, but recent failures at west European events like last year’s peaceful and heavily-policed football World Cup in Germany have convinced the lads to test lesser security forces to the east.
Spectacular Prague was the first to fall, long since having lost its innocence to what the Süddeutsche Zeitung calls “the locusts from the islands”. Now Prague must close down its famous and beautiful Karlsbrücke for a long time as it tries to repair the damage done to it, which includes heavy-duty vandalism of the centuries-old statues that line the bridge. Prague police have also been confronted with Clockwork-Orange inspired beatings by howling British drunks of Czech beggars. But Prague is already old hat and now the cities being invaded are further east and even more vulnerable since the police are not prepared for such hooliganism.
My brother and I can still clearly remember the British gentlemen who were sent out to bring civilization to the colonies in places like India, Kenya and Canada. They may have seemed a bit eccentric on foreign turf, but they were certainly not loutish, dangerous drunks. This current version of those Colonel Blimps makes the old group seem almost charming.

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Murdock’s Outrageous Outage

Posted July 16, 2007 on 4:28 pm | In the category Uncategorized | by John

Two weeks ago Bill Moyers saved a bit of time on his weekly PBS show, Bill Moyers’ Journal, to blast Rupert Murdock and his proposed take-over of The Wall Street Journal. As Moyers stated,

“[Murdock is] not the first to use journalism to promote his own interests. His worst offense with FOX News is not even its baldly partisan agenda. Far worse is the travesty he’s made of its journalism. FOX News huffs and puffs, pontificates and proclaims, but does little serious original reporting. His tabloids sell babes and breasts, gossip and celebrities. Now he’s about to bring under the same thumb one of the few national newsrooms remaining in the country.”

Well, just this Friday, Rupert Murdock got Moyers back – at least that’s my sneaking suspicion. Moyers’ Journal began normally enough this past Friday. It comes into my home via DirecTV which, like FOX, is owned by Murdock. Less than five minutes into Moyers’ show, my screen went black. Then DirecTV put up an announcement on screen warning viewers not to call DirecTV – that our local station was having technical difficulties.
Now, understand that DirecTV provides great video service. It fails occasionally during a heavy rain or snow storm when the satellite signal may be blocked, but in the 10-12 years I have been a subscriber to DirecTV I cannot remember a time when a single station went dark. I was suspicious immediately because I watched Moyers blast Murdock two weeks ago – and because the subject of Moyers show this night was the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Rupert Murdock is a great supporter of Bush and was one of the loudest supporters of Bush’s invasion of Iraq, claiming that the greatest thing to come out of the war would be “$20 a barrel for oil.”
I immediately thought Murdock’s DirecTV may have dumped Moyers’ show from the air. Luckily I had a tv in the house that used an antenna to pull in signals off the air. With the cause of the blackout, according to DirecTV, local tv station technical difficulties, I wasn’t sure Moyer’s Journal would be viewable on my other tv set but I gave it a try. Lo and behold, I could watch Moyers’ show on my 2nd set – apparently the “local tv signal difficulties” did not extend beyond DirecTV. I learned subsequently that cable subscribers did not lose service either – just Murdock’s DirecTV subscribers like me. That night, on Moyers Journal, Bruce Fein, a conservative Reaganite, and John Nichols of the Nation magazine put forth the argument that impeachment was necessary to pull the country back from the illegalities and excesses of this Administration. It was an excellent show even if you may not agree with the arguments of the two program guests [note that one was conservative and one liberal – for all the criticism, Moyers’ programs are exceptionally balanced].
Bill Moyers has had a lot to contend with just to bring his ideas to tv. First it was Bush appointee Tomlinson and his actions as Chief of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Now, it appears Murdock has Moyers in his sights. But this is not just a concern of Bill Moyers – everyone should think long and hard whether someone like Rupert Murdock is good for this country. Can we really afford to have so much media power in the hands of a single individual – particularly a single individual like Rupert Murdock?

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Canada goes to war

Posted July 13, 2007 on 2:01 am | In the category Canada, International Broadcasting, Iraq, Russia, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

Sixty-six Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan. The death of each one of them has received front-page coverage in leading Canadian papers, and the CBC runs the risk of becoming repetitive with its films of funerals and returning coffins. Sixty times as many US soldiers have died in Iraq, but in total their stories have probably not been told as prominently, movingly and dramatically as have those of the dead Canadian soldiers in their home media.
The US effort in Iraq now surely seems doomed to catastrophic failure, at least partly because, as Senator Joe Biden recently put it, Americans have lost any desire to keep sending their kids to their deaths in the meat grinder of Iraq. At the same time the Canadian armed forces are having no trouble finding record numbers of recruits, despite the daily scenes of violence and death in Afghanistan. There is certainly some opposition to the war in Afghanistan. The socialist NDP Party wants the troops brought home immediately, the opposition Liberal Party wants a withdrawal at the end of the current mandate in 2009. But in general there is a perhaps surprising amount of general public support for the sudden display of Canadian military strength in what is considered a just cause.
Prime Minister Harper announced this week that Canada would design and build, at a cost of 3-4 billion dollars, 6-8 frigates with moderate ice-breaking capabilities to patrol Canada’s increasingly threatened Arctic water routes, particularly the Northwest Passage. For the first time, a Canadian submarine will be present in the Arctic this summer and Harper has promised to build a deepwater port in the Arctic. Critics of Harper’s announcements demanded more not less for the Arctic, including the 3 full icebreakers he had claimed he would build. These are enormous expenses for the world’s second-largest country, with one-tenth the US population, caught in the Arctic between the first and third largest, both of whom have shown they can afford nuclear ice breakers. But it seems to be an expense that Canadian citizens are willing to pay and that’s at least partly because the Canadian military has managed to begin to regain something of the stature it once enjoyed as a result of its powerful presence in both the First and Second World Wars. It may not yet be punching above its weight, as it did back then, but it seems at least to be returning to the weight class to which it rightfully belongs

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