Newfoundland geese, Nigerian bombers

Posted December 30, 2009 on 3:08 am | In the category Canada, U.S. Domestic Policy, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Mackenzie Brothers

Apparently the Canada geese that knocked that plane down into the Hudson river a few months ago were really from Newfoundland. Quick-thinking scientists did DNA tests on them that proved they were invaders from somewhere around l’anse aux meadows on the northern tip of the northern peninsula of the island where the Vikings once began the invasion of the Americas. For some reason this was met with a sigh of relief in certain quarters since it demonstrated that these weren’t American canadian geese. US geese apparently don’t do such things.

And now we have yet another shoe bomber/self immolator who strived mightily and unsuccessfully to commit suicide by killing 300 other folks in the process, and he too came from foreign shores. The result of this misadventure was total chaos in airports servicing the US market as security was tightened to the point of strangulation. The question is: what difference does it make where the wannabee killer came from, the result would be the same. Why have the greatest disruptions occurred at the US customs barriers at major European and Canadian airports, where security is surely better than at many domestic airports? Would the US Homeland security boss’s amazingly nutty statement some months ago that the 9/11 bombers came from Canada have anything to do with it? Canadians are amazed to still hear that urban myth when they visit the US and are even more amazed to discover Mme Napolitoni is still in charge of homeland security, though back then she had no idea how and where the 9/11 killers got on their planes.

In any case it is already clear that the only success that failed assassin will enjoy will involve the further isolation of the US because of border controls that are as useless as they are disheartening and ultimately counterproductive. Travellers are already looking around for some other place to visit and spend their money than in a place where a star-wars strip-search at the border has become a routine and legal procedure. Maybe the beaches of Cuba?


Healthcare Reform: Baby Steps

Posted December 20, 2009 on 1:18 pm | In the category Healthcare, Lieberman Watch, McCain, nelson, Politics, Republican Party, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

Watching the healthcare reform legislative process was like watching someone remove a huge splinter from my finger. Hurt like hell and made me mad. But maybe I will feel better when this particular splinter is out. Not really sure. The Senate bill that is finally about to pass eliminates the public option and the buy into Medicare for those over 55. It is basically an insurance reform bill that does little to control costs or to improve delivery. But it is all we could get due to Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson and all of the Republican Senators.

Theories abound as to just why Lieberman continued his evolution into one of the Senate’s worst obstructionists. Some think it is because he is not so bright; others that he was in the pocket of the insurance industry; for a few others it was more simple and basic – that his core values influenced his obstructionist behavior. But the explanation that may make the most sense is that he is seeking revenge on the liberal wing of the Democratic Party for having forsaken him. He ran for president and got nowhere, lost the Democratic nomination for his Senate seat and then had to run as an independent. Whatever the case – whether it is one or more or all of the above – I do hope the day will come when the Democratic leadership will finally tell him to go screw himself.

Ben Nelson used his opposition to mollify Christian right folk in his state of Nebraska (whose population is about .6% of the country) by reducing the separation between church and state to get stronger anti-abortion language in the bill. Curiously, the day before he agreed to support the Senate bill he was lobbied by three religious leaders in Nebraska to support the bill; one of those leaders was a Jesuit priest. The other payout he got for his fellow cornhuskers was a permanent increase in federal contributions to the cost of expanding Medicaid in Nebraska. The fact that other states did not get this – or require being bought off – is indicative of just how venal Nelson is.

As for the Republicans, they are as hypocritical as ever. They fell all over each other to support Bush’s criminal Iraq War that killed hundreds of thousands but cannot bring themselves to support a bill that will save people’s lives. Sam Brownback is crying over the continued existence of at least a shred of the separation of church and state; John McCain has supported wasteful wars his entire career but cannot find a way to stomach spending a dime to improve his constituents’ healthcare. Olympia Snow had a day or two in the spotlight only to disappear into the Maine woods and Judd Gregg continues to pontificate with self-serving charts and elegant ways of saying “no” to everything. But they have done their damage. We will have a bill that gives the health insurance companies a windfall and avoids the tough issues related to costs.

If the final bill actually gets passed some 35 million Americans will newly have access to health insurance, children under the age of 18 will not be denied insurance for “preexisting conditions” and, in time (2014) all Americans will have that protection. It is a baby step on the way to full maturity and compassion in the way we provide healthcare in this country. But it is a start.



Posted December 15, 2009 on 10:04 pm | In the category Lieberman Watch, McCain, Palin | by Jeff

Nominations are being taken for politicsandpress annual Cheney: Dick of the Year Award. With just a few weeks left Joe Lieberman is the frontrunner but certainly more nominations can be accepted. Ohio Congressman Boehner (pronounced bo-ner) remains in the running, and John Nutso McCain is a dark horse. S. Palin has been disqualified after failing the physical. But the race is still open. Final results will be announced in early January.

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Oh Canada, where did you dig up these leaders?

Posted December 14, 2009 on 8:37 pm | In the category Afghanistan, Canada, Environment, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

It used to be that Canada punched above its weight in foreign affairs, an honest broker that could be counted on to consider options carefully before dedicating itself to finding a just solution to a difficult situation, even if it meant sending in its troops. Thus Canada entered the Second World War within a week of the Nazi invasion of Poland, more than two years before the United States did and had already suffered many thousand casualties in places like Hong Kong, Singapore and the skies over Europe by the time the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour forced the US hand. After that awful war, nowhere captured more dramatically than in the on-the-spot sketches by Canuck war artists A.Y. Jackson and Alex Colville, Canadian Prime Minister Mike Pearson got a Nobel Peace Prize that was actually deserved, for his tenacious negotiations leading to an end to the Suez crisis.

Now that hard-earned reputation risks being eradicated by a government intent on doing nothing contrary to its economic interests which is more than satisfied to follow the dictates of the super heavyweights on matters like climate change, border controls and diplomatic independence. At the Copenhagen climate change conference Canada has received the fossil of the year award, on the Afghan file, it has received a letter signed by almost 100 of its former ambassadors protesting the treatment of one of its middle-level diplomats in Kabul, who was called before parliament and publicly demeaned by the Minister of Defence for having sent a number of reports to Ottawa warning them of something that was public knowledge – that prisoners passed on to the Afghan army by Canada and other western powers were routinely tortured by the Afghans – and which Canada for a lengthy period denied before its memory improved. In China Prime Minister Harper was publicly rebuked by the Chinese president for insulting Chinese sensibilities by taking too long to come and visit, for hosting the Dalai Lama and for not having attended the Beijing Olympics. Harper also had no plans to attend the Copenhagen Climate Conference until President Obama said he would be there. It is a long way from Pearson to Harper, and it seems safe to predict that it will take a long time for Canada to repair its international image so that it can begin punching, if not as a heavyweight, at least above the flyweight class it now occupies.

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Oh Afghanistan

Posted December 1, 2009 on 11:06 pm | In the category Afghanistan, McCain, Press | by Jeff

A. J. Liebling wrote about Afghanistan as the place the press wrote about when they had space to fill, no news to fill it, and a subject to write about that absolutely no one gave a shit about. So again time changes and we not so suddenly have to worry about Afghanistan, a place few of us has visited and even fewer of us really wish to visit.

President Obama has now presented his plan for our continued involvement in that country and it was a pretty slick presentation. The press is beating its collective something or other about it but basically he said it is over. We will send 30,000 troops there to fill in for the Bush-Cheney failure and then start to get all of them out of what has turned out to be a monster mess. The focus of the press after the speech has been on the selling of whatever he is doing to all the political players. John McCain, a man wrong about every major issue he has discussed is uneasy – that is a good sign for the Obama decision. Some Republicans think he should never had indicated we might actually be smart enough to leave in good time – I guess better to believe we are a bunch of morons.

But it was a refreshing speech that did not talk down to us, did not bullshit us through false patriotism from neocon chicken hawks and – for a change – did not lie to us about our safety and the strength of our enemies. The battle against terrorists remains in play but there is new evidence that we have leadership that is smart, sophisticated and unwilling to pander to the underbelly of American society.


Church and State: Together At Last?

Posted December 1, 2009 on 10:30 pm | In the category Uncategorized | by Jeff

When John Kennedy ran for president in 1960, he had to go to Houston, Texas to explain that his Catholic faith would not influence his decisions, but that they would be made in the best interest of all Americans. Well, times have changed and in recent weeks Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin of Rhode Island has been guilty of attempting extortion of Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy. The good Bishop basically tried to cram his theology down every American’s throat by threatening Kennedy with the loss of his rights to communion unless he ignored U.S. law AND voted to deny all Americans a reformed healthcare insurance program if it included coverage for abortions. The fact that many if not most Americans support a woman’s right to choose and that it is the law of the land had no impact on the Bishop who apparently believes that the church has the right to coerce politicians into turning the water of Catholic beliefs into the wine of U.S. law. Shame on the church for meddling in the world of Caesar, shame on politicians for caving in, bur kudos to Rep. Kennedy for upholding the family tradition of respect for the separation of church and state.

I would refer those who believe the church has the right to meddle in this way to what the church is doing to ban birth control in the Philippines as well as its apparent belief that banning the use of condoms in Africa is preferable to saving lives of potential AIDS victims. In fact the Pope seems to believe that use of condoms is responsible for increased deaths. For a description of the Church’s efforts in the Philippines see this article in the NY Times. For Pope Benedict’s comments on condoms and AIDS victims, see this NY Times editorial. Additional information on both situations is readily available in many serious news venues.

Finally, it is reported in the NY Times today that Senator Ensign (R-Nevada), under fire for having bribed the husband of his mistress by setting him up with lucrative government contracts, is resisting resigning his Senate seat because doing so would help Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) keep his seat. Ensign is relevant to this discussion as part of the group of Senators and Congressmen that live at the so-called “C St. Church”, an apartment that the group had identified as a Church to avoid taxes – an arrangement recently ended by the IRS. But the C St. apartment remains a bastion of right-wing religiosity where Republican politicians go to confess their sins, receive forgiveness, and plot the Christian takeover of not just the state, but also apparently the world. An entertaining piece on this “church” appeared on this issue of Salon. Its author, Jeff Sharlet has written a well-reviewed book on the C St. church, called “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power”. Makes the good Bishop and his Pope look like a couple of pikers.

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Thanksgiving Press/Media Turkey Wrap-Up

Posted December 1, 2009 on 1:47 pm | In the category Palin, Press | by Jeff

The past week has offered the press  several grand stories giving them the opportunity to downplay or avoid much of substance, and they have not disappointed.

First was the spectacle of the press falling all over itself to provide attention to a polo-playing, self-promoting couple from Virginia who managed to crash the White House state dinner held for the Prime Minister of India. Lost in the obsession with that banal, stupid escapade was the relative importance of much that is at stake with the U.S.-India relationship. The reasons for the importance of that relationship will be lost on most Americans as they hear non-stop about a couple of weird narcissists.

Following that story was the tale of a professional golfer driving into a tree at – gasp! – 2:30 a.m. – the morning after Thanksgiving. The press has been having a field day with this tale, wondering why he was out driving at that time of night? And could there be some domestic abuse involved? and, is he having an affair? And what will happen to his “brand”? And then covering their collective ass by going on ad nauseum as to whether the press was entitled to knowing everything there is to know about the golfer’s private life – having already speculated on that life without any real facts.

And of course there has been the mind-crushing coverage of Sarah Palin’s book which apparently will be bought by millions of Americans and perhaps even read by some of them, although one can hope the books mostly become doorstops. In any case the publishing event of the fall gave the press an opportunity to rehash some of the former VP candidate’s nutty comments and in its own way to help whip up interest in the book. So it goes.

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