Partisanship in America: A Commitment to National Failure?

Posted September 9, 2011 on 1:01 pm | In the category Election 2008, Republican Party, U.S. Domestic Policy, Uncategorized | by Jeff

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

–Leonard Cohen

Having (barely) survived the nonsense of the Republican-generated debt ceiling fiasco we are now looking at two new opportunities for partisanship to screw the majority of Americans: the deficit reduction Congressional Committee and the attempt to produce more jobs in America. And right out of the chute we are seeing the lines drawn and the vapid sarcasm of the likes of Eric Cantor leading us again toward the edge of the cliff.

None of this should surprise anyone. From day one President Obama faced a lunatic fringe questioning his birthplace, his religion, comparing him to Hitler etc. This fringe was aided and abetted by so-called national political leaders in the Republican party while so-called “moderate” Republicans like Senators Scott Brown, Susan Collins, and Olympia Snow forced a reduction in the stimulus bill and refused to consider a single payer health care approach. Obama and the Democratic Senate rolled over and accepted tepid progress when radical approaches were needed.

But that was then and now is even worse as the Republicans begin their final assault on the Obama presidency regardless of its effect on the country they say they serve. We are in a leaderless world with Europe breaking down over its inability to manage the Euro zone and the US looking for rational policy development from people who are unable to agree on the simplest things, never mind the tough ones. This is looking like a very painful yearlong run for the presidency with an increasingly likely chance that the people who ruined the economy in the first place and then refused to help fix it will get the reins once again.

For a discussion of President Obama’s job plan by Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman in today’s NY Times, click here.

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Reflections on the Inauguration

Posted January 26, 2009 on 2:34 pm | In the category Bush/Cheney, Election 2008, Inauguration, Obama, Uncategorized | by Jeff

“George W. Bush did enormous damage to America’s standing in the world and its strength at home. Yet the vitality of the US system resurfaced, and American voters have chosen in Barack Obama a man of vision and statesmanship. It now falls to him to renew the confidence and restore the reputation of the American republic.” Financial Times editorial, January 18, 2009

The inauguration was a blast –for many reasons: it was the end of the Bush/Cheney era; it was a symbolic period at the end of a long sentence of overt and then nuanced racism; it was the end of a generation of conservative mis-rule of America’s treasure; and an opportunity for people to celebrate possibilities and for a few days put aside the worries produced by the destruction of the Bush years.

As someone who tends to avoid huge crowds I felt some anxiety as I headed for the mall with my friend John for the Sunday concert. Joining some 800,000 people between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument turned out to be a glorious event – full of great music, thankfully brief speeches (has Joe Biden ever before spoke for less than five minutes?) and a huge crowd of happy and grateful citizens. No one complained about the cold or the relatively brief wait to get through security. John and I began our hike back to his car as the President-elect spoke, thinking the concert was over but were brought up short as the recognizable voice of Pete Seeger came loud and clear singing Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is My Land”.  Stopped us in our tracks.

Following a festive dinner Monday night, Tuesday began with an early morning trip to the security point to get to a law office on Pennsylvania Avenue to which a friend’s brother-in-law had gotten invitations for us to view the afternoon parade.  My wife and I then spent three hours in what the press later called a “line” but which was actually a mob. The National Park Police and DC police had efficiently managed Sunday’s security, but on Tuesday we were under the control of the Secret Service. It is enough to say that after 2.5 hours in a “line” two-plus blocks long and 15-20 people across in frigid weather, moving at a dead snail’s pace, we were confronted by a DC policeman who declared a medical emergency and ordered everyone to disperse. This turned out to have no effect; the crowd simply surged forward threatening to crush the people in front against the metal cage security gates. Imagine a Brazilian soccer crowd on an acid trip and you get the drift. So we bagged it.

We gave up standing in the bitter cold for the comfort of seats at a friendly bar at Dupont Circle two feet from a flat screen TV and Bloody Mary mix. The bar was full for the actual inauguration and people drank, wept, cheered and totally ignored Bush and Cheney when they were introduced. Someone wondered whether old white guys would tear up when Obama took the oath. The answer? Yes we can.  Yes we can.

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Parliamentary democracy in action – the return of Michael Ignatieff

Posted December 1, 2008 on 3:14 pm | In the category 2008, Canada, Election 2008, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

A couple of years ago, my brother Doug and I predicted that the next Prime Minister of Canada could be a very high level intellectual and genetic aristocrat, (his grandfather was the last minister of education in tsarist Russia) Harvard guru, BBC talk show star and prize-winning author (for both fiction and non-fiction) Michael Ignatieff, returning from years of voluntary exile to show Canada how to do it. We were wrong in the short run. Ignatieff ran into too much resistance in his own party because he had been away for too long, and failed to win the party leadership position. Instead he settled for second place behind compromise candidate Stephane Dion, who then went on to fail miserably in the election that followed only one month ago. But Ignatieff did win a seat in parliament, became deputy leader and put in his time in the trenches. And now it seems that we will be right in the slightly longer run as a singularly uncanadian (unprecedented in great white north history) event seems destined to take place within a week.
Prime Minister Steven Harper, having set up a minority government with only about 1/3 of the vote, amazingly failed to note that he was not in a strong position of power and had to rule with the opposition in mind. With breathless arrogance he announced a political programme in his first act of power in the new session, that failed to address the economic crisis but did include a number of issues that were unacceptable to the socialist, liberal and separatist opposition parties. The result was the seemingly impossible agreement of the 3 opposition parties to vote against the ruling conservatives in the vote of confidence that goes with such a government bill, and thus bring down the government and state that the opposition parties were ready to rule in coalition. Such a coup d’état by parliamentary means may be familiar to Italians, Austrians and others but it is unheard of in supposedly stable Canada, and has many flocks of geese flapping around wildly. But it does seem now that it will happen within two weeks, and either Stephan Dion, who has already said he will step down as party leader in May, or heir-apparent Michael Ignatieff will be catapulted into power. Ignatieff and Obama would be an interesting pair as Ignatief sometimes pops up to the right of Obama on key issues, such as the invasion of Iraq that Ignatief as head of the appropriate Harvard Institute showed sympathy for because of the Iraqi government’s history of war crimes against the Kurds.

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A Tale of 2 Joes: The Plumber and The Turncoat

Posted November 8, 2008 on 11:58 am | In the category Election 2008, Lieberman Watch, McCain, Palin, Politics | by Jeff

Joe’s with us today. Joe, where are you?” McCain called into the crowd, “Where’s Joe? Is Joe here with us today? Joe, I thought you were here today…”

In the post-election haze it is easy to bask in America’s victory over racism and the incompetence of the McCain-Palin campaign. Or to relish the schadenfreude of the ongoing mud slinging between the McCain and the Palin camps. But a couple of annoyances remain to be addressed.

John McCain introduced us to Joe the Plumber and used him as an emblematic American workingman for the last few weeks of his bizarre campaign. The man is a certifiable ignoramus who misrepresented himself as a potential purchaser of a plumbing business, is not a licensed plumber, does not pay his taxes, believes social security is a “joke” and compared Senator Obama to Sammy Davis, Jr.

Well, surprise surprise: this Joe has a new “watchdog” website in which he will “bring together individuals who want to help others, while at the same time ensuring our government keeps answering our tough questions.” You can get what is called a “Freedom Membership” to the website for $14.95. This will include a copy of his book due out in 6 weeks which makes him Joe the Speedwriter. One more reason to thank Senator McCain.

Joe the Turncoat is, of course Joe Lieberman, certainly one of the most unctuous, pious, arrogant men to ever grace the U.S. Senate. The only visual more disturbing than poor Cindy McCain standing forever frozen in place behind her husband at every campaign stop was the ghost of Banquo in Joe Lieberman drag smirking while his pal John continued to throw shit at his opponent’s good name.

Now Joe wants to come back to the Democratic caucus and keep his Chairmanship of the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee. This after attacking the Democratic ticket at the Republican convention, on the campaign trail, and at virtually every opportunity on radio and TV. The fact is that Lieberman did nothing for McCain – the Jewish vote went for Obama at a higher rate than it went for Kerry four years prior and his state of Connecticut came through with only 37% of the vote for McCain. So maybe Lieberman was actually working for Obama…….

But Democrats have to ask themselves whether they really need Lieberman whose career has four more years before the Connecticut voters finally puke him out of office. We shall see.

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The Lost Honor of John McCain

Posted November 3, 2008 on 11:39 am | In the category Election 2008, McCain, Obama, Palin | by Jeff

For many if not most Americans the presidential campaign has gone on far too long, been characterized by too much ignorance and character assassination, and is ending with the passing away of an American hero’s honor. This passing can best be characterized as a political suicide, committed out of desperation, with a lack of respect for the American political process, and lust for power. Among its collateral damage is the loss of respect for science, rational thought, truth, and civil discourse.  When 23% of Texans believe Obama is a Muslim, when white voters in Pennsylvania express worry that a President Obama would enslave white Americans, when a significant number of voters allow themselves to believe that Obama is “palling around with terrorists”, and when elements of the press present ludicrous formulations by candidates as legitimate grist for the campaign mill, then we are all cheapened.

When faced with questions regarding some of the nastier slurs of their campaign, McCain advisors always refer to the fact (sic) that they are only doing what the Obama campaign has done. Anyone who has watched the campaign over the past few months knows this to be untrue. Obama has been accused by McCain and his know-nothing running mate from Alaska of being a terrorist, of being a socialist – (perhaps even a Marxist!) – of being ready to raise everyone’s taxes, of supporting total sex education for kindergartners, and aiding in voter fraud. None of these charges is true and of course they know it but in the ultimate insult to the American people they peddle the accusations over and over again in the hope that enough confused or ignorant voters will fall for one or more of them. And of course they are right to a degree.

I have never been a fan of the “man-in-the-street” interview because it makes it too easy for journalists to avoid trying to analyze what is real and what is not and it typically gives airtime to airheads like Joe the Plumber. But it does, after all, expose the quality of thought that is out there – the woman from Pennsylvania who said she feared Obama would  “enslave the white race”, or the poor souls who believe that Obama is a Muslim and – ergo – not fit to live in American let alone be president. OR the people who rant about Obama’s tax plan without bothering to know what the plan actually is, and et cetera.  This points to a larger problem than the venality of people like McCain and the ignorance of people like Palin. In our headlong flight away from elitism into the dark recesses of ignorance we are creating a culture in which people are too lazy to do the work of a democracy; too lazy to read, too lazy to think, too scared to explore differences, and too satisfied with the mediocrity of so much of American politics and culture. McCain’s choice of Palin is a vivid reflection of that mediocrity and either a harbinger of things to come or merely the last shovelful of dirt on the grave of John McCain’s honor. Regardless of who wins this election there will remain the question of just what McCain thought he meant by his slogan, “Country First”.

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Death of the Straight Talk Express

Posted October 22, 2008 on 5:02 pm | In the category Election 2008, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics | by Jeff

“Here is a Communist Daily Worker of March 9, containing seven articles and a principal editorial, all attacking McCarthy. And the same issue lists Mr. Murrow’s program as — listen to this! — “One of tonight’s best bets on TV.”…. Now, this is a question which can be resolved with very little difficulty. What do the Communists think of me? And what do the Communists think of Mr. Murrow? One of us is on the side of the Communists; the other is against the Communists, against Communist slavery.”
–Senator Joe McCarthy on Edward R. Murrow 1954

Our opponent … is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country,”… “This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America, We see America as a force of good in this world.”
—Governor Sarah Palin on Senator Barack Obama – 2008

I suppose it was inevitable that the McCain/Palin campaign would sink to new lows as their poll numbers went south. While it is difficult to find a silver lining in the way they have run their campaign of smears and lies perhaps there will be one if American voters provide a strong enough signal that they will not be dragged, scared or bullied into the sewer.

There are two weeks left for McCain/Palin to flood the country with mindless personal attacks on Senator Obama and it appears that, having nothing useful and substantive to say, they will do just that. Two years is a long time – too long for many – to have to put up with a presidential campaign. But ironically, it is that extended campaign that has allowed the country to watch the decomposition of the old McCain and his party’s morphing into a reincarnation of the Know Nothing party of the 19th century. Sarah Palin is a near-perfect example of that with her witheringly ignorant rants on issues foreign and domestic and McCain’s selection of her places him at the helm of what has become the Strait Jacket Express.

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A Tale of Two Elections

Posted October 11, 2008 on 2:42 am | In the category Canada, Election 2008, McCain, Obama, U.S. Domestic Policy, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

The Canadian election was called 6 weeks before the vote on Oct. 14. the day after Thanksgiving, and has provided journalists and media types with plenty of largely vacuous material to keep them employed for the period. Among the specialties of the Canadian six-weeks are the two debates among the now 5 major party leaders, one of whose parties has never had anyone elected, first in French and one night later in English. The spectacle of 3 native English-speakers attempting to use their various levels of high-school French (from pretty primitive to B plus) to outargue two very smart native French speakers provides a certain amount of sadistic humour, but wears thin after 15 grueling minutes. And then vice versa on the next evening, since amazingly none of these five leaders is as bilingual as thousands of kids attending French schools in Vancouver, not to mention many scores of thousand bilingual Chinese speakers. In the long run, it seems clear that this election, despite all its energy and windbag rhetoric, will not change the makeup of parliament very much at all, and there will be another minority government.

The US election with a set date, on the other hand, has gone on seemingly forever and cost scores (hundreds?) of millions of dollars, something which does not seem to have been mentioned in the current financial crisis, where that money might have been used for something more useful, like hiring more inspectors and controllers of financial institutions. But for all its own brand of windbagging rhetoric, a huckstering media performance, and sideshow shenanigans like a vice-presidential debate, the US system does allow the main candidates to give some indication of what they are really made of, something hard to argue for the Canadian system. It is an exhausting process and a youngster like Obama should have a real advantage over an old warrior like McCain, but the old soldier seems to be hanging in there quite admirably and ultimately the vote should come down to which of the two convinces more people of the superiority of their view of the world, assuming they put functioning ballot boxes in states like Ohio and Florida, and that the Palin fiasco doesn’t lead to comicall voting patterns. You’d have to be gambler to bet against Obama but at least the game seems to have been played on a level field.

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Another Province Heard From on Palin

Posted October 6, 2008 on 5:48 pm | In the category Canada, Election 2008, Palin, Press | by Jeff

Our leading source for innuendo, Fox News, is reporting that one Heather Mallick, analyst and columnist for the CBC has morphed into Canada’s left wing Ann Coulter. Writing about Senator McCain’s VP nominee Sarah Palin, Ms. Mallick has said in recent columns for the CBC and The Guardian the following nasty bits:

“A Mighty Wind blows through Republican convention…” noting that Republican VP nominee Sarah “…”added nothing to the ticket that the Republicans didn’t already have sewn up, the white trash vote, the demographic that sullies America’s name inside and outside its borders yet has such a curious appeal for the right.”

“The semiotics are pure Palin: a sturdy body, clothes that are clinging yet boxy and a voice that could peel the plastic seal off your new microwave.”

“…red states vote Republican on social issues to give themselves the only self-esteem available to their broken, economically abused existence.”

“We share a 1,500-mile border with a frontier state full of drunks and crazy people, of the blight that cheap-built structures bring to a glorious landscape. … Alaska is our redneck cousin, our Yukon Territory forms a blessed buffer zone, and thank God he never visits. Alaska is the end of the line.”

And, et cetera. It is easy to dismiss Ms. Palin as not up to the job of Vice President without stooping to a level that diminishes the impact of the argument and anything that gives Fox News an opportunity to cry “foul” is a disservice to the real debate. Ms. Mallick provides a great example of smugness gone awry.

We leave it to our intrepid Canadian correspondents Bob and Doug MacKenzie to determine if Ms. Mallick is really Canadian?

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Emergency Call for Palinectomy

Posted October 4, 2008 on 4:47 pm | In the category Election 2008, McCain, Palin, Politics, Press | by Jeff

“Take Sarah Palin…… please.”
Henny Youngman (paraphrased)

On a fairly regular basis the American press loses its collective mind over some nonsense. The current nonsense is named Sarah Palin and it is time to put it where it belongs – in the comics page or the news of the absurd section. From the moment she was put on the GOP ticket it was obvious that she lacked any semblance of the intelligence, background and skill set needed to be Vice President, the proverbial heartbeat from the Presidency. Nothing that has happened since her nomination acceptance speech has changed that reality and yet we are now being pummeled with all kinds of analysis about whether Palin cleared a hurdle in the debate – a debate in which she distinguished herself by not answering the questions asked of her, by mimicking Senator McCain’s vacuous sarcasm, by making countless factual errors (lies?), by re-enacting her days as beauty queen contestant and by playing to whoever the hell is Joe Six-pack. She is Tracy Flick, the Reese Witherspoon character in “Election”.

I could go on, but it would be counter to my point. We have seen and heard more than enough of Palin –put us out of our misery; take her away. Please.

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Hockey Mom Kneels at Feet of War Criminal

Posted September 23, 2008 on 9:10 pm | In the category Election 2008, Obama, Palin, Press, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

If you put lipstick on Henry Kissinger he would still be a pig.

Sarah Palin has decided – or been ordered –to learn something about the world and who better to teach her than Henry Kissinger. He has been a lead player in almost every major American debacle since he leeched onto Richard Nixon in 1968.The record is one of stunning mistakes, arrogant denials and a supine press licking his backside.

So, Sarah Palin, hockey Mom, nutty evangelical, and would be Vice President went back to school today with a private tutor with the following qualifications:

– In 1970 Kissinger organized the assassination of Chilean General Rene Schneider to facilitate the removal (and death) of Chilean President Salvador Allende because apparently President Nixon did not want Allende to be president of Chile;

– Over 20,000 American soldiers died in Vietnam while Kissinger waited for a “decent interval” before calling it quits AFTER he had declared a “secret peace plan\” during the 1968 election campaign;

– Ordered secret and illegal bombing on Laos and Cambodia in 1969 for nor good purpose. The bombing led to an estimated 600,000 civilian deaths;

– In 1974 Kissinger worked with Turkey to invade Cyprus and assassinate Cypriot President Archbishop Makarios.

– Kissinger’s support of Chilean government terrorist organizations led to the assassination in Washington DC of Chilean dissident Orlando Letelier and American co-worker Ronni Moffitt in 1976;

– The Indonesian government launched its bloody invasion of Portuguese East Timor in December 1975 with the concurrence of President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. It led to over 100,000 civilian deaths.

The list could go on, but what is truly amazing is that this tired, self-promoting criminal continues to be treated seriously and respectfully by the press. If you want a reason for the world’s distrust of America you could look no further than Henry Kissinger. And he is the man chosen to instruct the naïve, silly, empty vessel Sarah Palin. You could not make this up.

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