Security bordering on oppressive

Posted May 29, 2015 on 2:58 pm | In the category Canada, U.S. Domestic Policy, U.S. Foreign Policy, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

Congratulations to the Boston Globe for publishing an article with the above title that underlines a festering problem which has only begun festering more in the 6 years of the Obama regime. It is yet another disappointment for those who thought Obama would bring in a fresh breeze after the Bush years, which is when the border problem began festering. But Bush did have a desperate security problem on his hands after 9/11 and clamping down on border crossing was a reasonable, if apparently, temporary, step. Instead as The Globe put it:
“Since the 9/11 jihadist attacks, the 5,525-mile-long border between Canada and the United States has been transformed from the world’s friendliest to a high security zone marked by fortified crossing points, thermal “body detectors,’’ swiveling surveillance cameras, and the occasional low-skimming Blackhawk helicopter or spy drone.”
Anyone who got stuck in the four-hour long waits at the US/ Canada crossing at the so-called Peace Arch on the Victoria Day long weekend was surely asking why and how this could happen in a century in which no such border checks interrupt the flow of economic, regular and tourist traffic in all of western and central Europe. You can drive from the UK to the Ukrainian border without encountering a single checkpoint but if you drive from Vancouver to Seattle you could well be stopped after 40 minutes for four hours by a checkpoint which costs many millions of dollars in economic terms and more than that in lost friendliness, while serving no real purpose. What is now called the mexicanization of the Canadian border will be a legacy of the Obama years. Let’s hope someone now comes in to put an end to the increasingly hostile border, before it’s too late, and grounds the drone planes which continue to spot no terrorists but many moose crossing a border in the wilderness.

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Where Juniors become Seniors

Posted January 5, 2015 on 7:59 pm | In the category Canada, Sports, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Mackenzie Brothers

In the great world of men’s ice hockey, the results in the World Junior (Under 20) Championship that is now going on in Toronto and Montreal both confirm and rattle the previously  understood natural order of things among elite national teams.    While it is true that three of the four teams that will meet in the semifinals  have long belonged to that elite (Sweden, Canada, Russia), it is the surprising rise of new entrants to the quarter finals – Denmark, Slovakia, Switzerland –  and  the quick exit  of former occasional pretenders to the throne  that has  hockey fans reflecting on the future.  There seems to be no obvious reason other than ongoing decline for the collapse of last year’s champion, Finland, as well as formerly perennial challengers, the  Czech Republic  and the USA in this tournament that can be used to predict the future of the upcoming men’s national teams..   Suggestions   by veteran US hockey commentators that  the Yanks, who were quite easily knocked out in the quarterfinals for the second straight year by a pretty  unconvincing Russian squad, may have been  because the largely college-based players   felt sorry for their Russians because of the sad state of their country at the moment must be taken with a grain of salt.  The more likely reason is that the attempt to turn hockey in the US into a college-based minor league, much like football, playing out of  hockey-mill colleges, particularly in the Boston area, is a failure for obvious reasons.  Hockey demands well-trained team work and students at Boston College, Boston University, Tuffs, Harvard, etc  (which seem to make up a serious percentage of the US payers), can’t spend all of their time practicing,as football players can .

The Russians traditionally play unpredictably in early relatively unimportant matches (they tied Denmark), but not in the ones that count against Sweden or Canada.  So don’t be surprised if the Russians  look like a different team against Sweden in the semi-final and face a Canadian squad in the final that has been untouchable so far.  Most commentators still believe that Canada has too much depth  to be considered an underdog to Russia this time, but it is a virtual guarantee that this final would be one of the best hockey games played this year.  And don’t put too much  money against Russia.  If Sweden meets Slovakia in the bronze-medal game, don’t be surprised if the totally undervalued Slovaks, who have the best goalie in the tournament and have been playing with great passion, don’t upset the rather  lackadaisical-seeming Swedish squad.

Who would have thunk it?

 

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POLICE: FRIEND OR FOE?

Posted December 3, 2014 on 10:49 pm | In the category Police, Police brutality, U.S. Domestic Policy, Uncategorized | by Jeff

“Always Remember… Once You Give Up Your Rights, You Can Never Get Them Back. Once You Turn On That Police State, You Can Never Turn It Off.”
― Ziad K. Abdelnour

America is caught up in an all too familiar argument about the relationships among young black males, mostly white police departments, the press, politicians and the general public. And it would be a real dandy if it addressed the reality of what has happened in America in recent years. This is the case especially since the 9/11 attacks that have contributed to a level of free floating existential fear, furthered by a host of American politicians, aided and abetted by a mediocre – or worse – media..

The Michael Brown killing in Ferguson, Missouri subverted the discussion by directing it to the narrow and away from the broad. The narrow allowed people to argue that Mr. Brown was a “thug” because he pushed a convenience store employee and stole some cigarillos. It allowed people to argue that he was a very big and very black and ergo a very scary guy. Therefore for some, he deserved to die. The narrow also allowed the discussion to accept as truth the carefully scripted grand jury testimony of the policeman without any questioning by – for instance – the prosecutor – at the grand jury proceedings. So be it. The dice were loaded, the game was fixed. Few of us were surprised.

The police in America have way more power than they should or that they deserve, given past behavior. They work for us and we do not expect them to play dress up in Camo duds to come out and scare us. We expect them to be on our side and that does not include killing people because the are big and black. But the problem – while largely one suffered by young black males – is not and will not be restricted to them. We are giving the police in America powers they do not need, do not deserve, and that in the end will haunt us all.

Michael Brown was one in a long line of victims of criminal police action. Tonight a grand jury refused to indict a NY policeman who choked an unarmed black man to death with the help of three or four additional cops – on video. No indictment from that grand jury. Last week a 12 year old black child in Cleveland was shot for holding a toy gun. The excuse? The yellow tag that identified it as a toy had been removed. The reality? The cops arrived, waited less than 2 seconds and blasted him into the history books. But these well-reported cases are the tip of the iceberg. From May 2013 to today over 1450 people have been killed by American police. Some were no doubt bad people – perhaps deserving to die – but there is simply too much evidence in the public domain to ignore the fact that the people we hired to protect us have become one of our major threats. In 2013, 111 police were reported to have died in duty 46 died in traffic accidents; 33 by gunfire and 14 by heart attack, the rest by various means. So a total of 33 by gunfire (although the report does not indicate whether it was friendly fire or suicide – neither uncommon).

The basic issue sits out there. How afraid are we? 9/11 happened 13 years ago; can we please get over it? Apparently not. But why would we foster the development of a police state that infringes on all of our freedoms and that becomes more dangerous than the so-called enemy and provides no real increased protection? The police work for us. We pay them more than we pay our teachers while requiring less training and background. Then we give them guns and a badge and they become a national nightmare. And then we give them tanks and assault weapons and camouflage uniforms. And then they begin to believe that they are all powerful and can get away with murder. And guess what? They can and they do.

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THE 2014 REPUBLICAN “SUCCESS”

Posted November 9, 2014 on 12:05 pm | In the category Economy, Election, Obama, Politics, Press, Supreme Court, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

The Republican “long game” of demonizing the President which began immediately after Barak Obama was elected president in 2008 has finally crossed the finish line. Vowing to do anything to destroy Obama’s presidency, the Republicans and their Tea Party sub-contractor began the process of character assassination that culminated in this week’s midterm elections. The strategy put the political future of the likes of Mitch McConnell and John Boehner ahead of the needs of the country and therefore out of necessity had to ignore anything positive that might attach itself to the Obama presidency.

It is not surprising that much of the press largely played along with the story line, broadcasting Boehner and McConnell’s daily banalities after having given credibility to political hacks like Michelle Bachman, Donald Trump, Rick Santorum and pizza maker Herman Cain in 2012.

But hapless Democratic candidates were complicit in their own downfall by running away from Obama and simply ignoring anything positive in his record.

When Obama’s presidency began the United States was a living horror show, largely produced by Republicans. The country had wasted up to $3 trillion on a war fought over weapons of mass destruction that did not exist; it had allowed investment banks to run wild while bringing the American economy to its knees; the American stock market lost 54% of its value in the 2007-08 crash; unemployment soared to over 10% and thousands of homeowners lost their homes through foreclosure – or by simply walking away from suddenly wildly overvalued property. President George Bush’s last budget – for FY 2009 had a deficit of $1,412 billion. After six years of the Obama presidency the annual budget deficit ($483 Bn) is less than a third of Bush’s last deficit, unemployment is at a rate less than half of the 2009 rate, the stock market is at record highs, the housing market has largely recovered, housing foreclosures are at historic lows and the American economy has recovered better than any other Western country’s.

So why have the Democrats suffered such a huge loss?

MONEY: When the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people and that their money is a form of free speech an already lopsided election funding process became a game of craps played with loaded dice. It has become almost impossible to gauge the amount of money spent on elections but one estimate is that some $4B was spent on the 2014 midterms. Anyone trapped in front of a TV in October must have believed that they were faced with voting for either a swine or a hog.

SUPREME COURT: the U.S. Supreme Court has managed to play a powerful (and perhaps inappropriate) role in politics with its Citizens-United decision opening up funding of election campaigns to corporations and unions, and has decided that protection of voting rights is no longer needed despite the efforts of Republicans to make voting more difficult by requiring photo IDs at the polls despite virtually no evidence of voter fraud in the past.

THE PRESS: The American mainstream press has always been susceptible to the temptations of closeness to power, giving us what amounts to a courtier press. The Sunday talk shows wheel out the same tired lineup week after week: John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Peggy Noonan, Reince Priebus, etc. and they become insider clubs with little difference between the reporters and the politicians. Print journalists have become an endangered species and cable news stations are uniformly tedious – even stupid – , pumping up non stories like the so-called ebola threat and refusing to do the hard work of journalism.

DEMOCRATS’ INEPTITUDE: The Democrats seem to have drunk the Republicans kool aid. They ran away from Obama’s (and their own) accomplishments, refused to defend the Affordable Care Act, never developed a positive message, ignored the positive economic record of Obama’s administration, and did not force the Republicans to defend economic policies that have favored the wealthy at the expense of the poor and middle class. They allowed the Republicans to determine and control the narrative and refused to risk losing on Democratic party principles. Turns out they could hardly have done worse and could at least have looked at themselves in the mirror the day after the election had they stood strongly for something positive.

OBAMA’S PASSIVITY AND ADMINISTRATIVE INCOMPETENCE: The President’s noted rational approach to governing could only work if it was supported by energy or, better yet, passion – for what he is trying to accomplish. His inability- perhaps unwillingness – to sell the Affordable Care Act to his clients (all of us) is an example of a failure of politics. The ACA has been vilified by the Republicans largely by their lying about it. Death panels, free abortions, increased deficits, etc. ad nauseum. The administration never fought back effectively and in fact, by losing control over the development of the ACA website, created a nightmare for themselves – to say nothing of the people who tried to sign up for health insurance. The apparent unwillingness to play the hard politics that end up being a necessary part of the job contributed to giving the Republicans control of the narrative for the election.

VOTERS’ GENERALiZABLE ANGER: Americans are understandably pissed off. They saw their lives seriously disrupted by the recession of 2008-9, then saw bankers bailed out with taxpayers’ money, bank executives raking in record multimillion dollar rewards for incompetence while they were losing their jobs and homes. The rich do indeed get richer and the poor do indeed suck wind. So they looked around and – helped enormously by Republican money and ads demonizing Obama – decided to blame the President. Is that stupid? well yeah. Is it unexpected? well no. The hard work of figuring out what actually happened in the absence of a strong and honest press turns out to be beyond the capabilities of the American people. Or at least – so it seems.

So we come to the future and as our friend Leonard Cohen says, “I have seen the future brother: and it is murder”. And so it will be: possibly death to health care for all, more insane U.S.wars in places with little or no relation to our national interest; greater wealth to the oligarchs; less for the poor; no hope for immigrants; and a fundamental national commitment to all that works agains the interests of the vast majority of the American people. It is our democracy. Love it. Embrace it. Or work to change it.

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Obama: Everyman’s Whipping Boy

Posted July 28, 2014 on 11:37 pm | In the category Canada, Germany, Obama, Republican Party, U.S. Domestic Policy, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

O-Bama, O-Bama, Wherefore Art Thou?

That is the question that many of us ask, but when we do we must also ask: what kind of country has the U.S. become and why are we unhinged in so very fundamental ways.  The previous entry on this blog by my pals from the friendly North is representative of what seems to me to be a lack of understanding (or empathy? God help us) of just what it is we are suffering through down here in the arid, thought-deficient South.

But let’s begin with our Northern pals’ comments. Right out of the chute (a Calgary rough rider reference, we should note) they wonder whether Obama is the least trusted president in recent memory. As my old Mom would have said, “are you kidding me? have you gone bonkers?” There was for instance “W” and his merry gang of thieves and eejits, led by the estimable Vice, Cheney. All they did was torture people all over the planet, with the help of countries like Germany – just to name one-  start a war on a lie (aided in a somewhat clumsy perhaps accidental way by German Intel), kill ca. 4500 NATO troops (most American but also Canadians, Germans etc.), kill ca 100,000+++ Iraqis, send 200,000+ Iraqis into refugee status, and empower a Shia dictator-to-be to screw Sunnis and Kurds in  whatever way he can thus producing a seemingly perpetual civil war which we are now – too late again – recognizing as a – well, problem.  I could go back further to Reagan and his criminal work with the Contras and Iran, or even Nixon – remember him? Trustworthy guys, eh?

Then we have the concern that Canada – our best friend to the north of us – supposedly moving away from us with the indisputable fact that our ambassadors are not top drawer. Without making a huge point of it, Bush appointed former Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci as ambassador and frankly his best strength was his wife, a bright, articulate librarian at Boston College before she agreed to sacrifice a life in a real city for duty in Ottawa. Fact is that Canada has not had a real U.S. Ambassador for over thirty years and even then they got a guy with blood on his hands. And I do not here discuss the Keyspan pipeline, aka, the Pipe of American Death and Canadian Profit.

And yes, we are reluctant to build a bridge from Detroit to Windsor – but is Obama to blame? I remind those who live in a Parliamentary political system that we have a system of “checks and balances” which has ensured in this time that nothing can ever happen. We live in a Kafka novel.  It is not fair to blame Obama for the failures of a Republican party that has decided not to participate in governance. I know not whether it is because he is black or a democrat or just whether the republicans have drunk the kool aid — what i know is that nothing happens, nothing can be done, and every bad fking thing that happens in the world is presented as the fault of the black American Democrat – and democratically elected – – president.  When considering anything that involves expenditures of federal money always look at congress and specifically the House of Representatives.. They have broken my country and are traitors to the core interests of our country.

Now, onto the unpleasant fact that we are listening to everyone’s phone calls and reading everyone’s emails, including Frau Merkel’s….On one level it is simple to say that of course we spy on Germany  – they are an important player – and that is what intel services do. Alas there are issues of trust – and issues of competence.. When i read about the spying on Merkel I thought that – well – ok, but why are you listening to MY calls and reading MY emails? Obama has clearly been sucked into the security organizations’ thinking and that is not a good reflection on his judgment. The CIA has – at best – a questionable record and that a President with a background in constitutional law would do what he has done is more than very troubling.

But for we who live in this country the mood of the people is more troubling. There is a strange and nasty beast out there and it is ignorant, stupid, lazy and ugly and it blames Obama for everything wrong in its  world. So more of this in the future. More on President Obama’s failures, Congress’s complicity, and the failure of the American people to grasp and deal with reality. It is, alas, a rich subject.

 

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America’s Road to Oligarchy

Posted November 12, 2013 on 12:11 pm | In the category Chris Christie, Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clintom, Politics, Press, Supreme Court, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

Chris Christie was all over the Sunday talk shows and the national press/media after his re-election as Governor of New Jersey, supposedly all but ensuring his nomination – or anointment – as Republican nominee for President in 2016. Time Magazine went so far as to put him on the cover under the oh-so-clever title: “The Elephant in the Room”. Then a piece in the New Republic comes along pursuing the possibility of Elizabeth Warren capsizing the USS Hillary in the race for the Democratic nomination. But, it seems to me to be waaay premature to be worrying about the candidates for 2016; too much can happen between now and then and in some ways the 2014 congressional elections may be more important, especially for domestic policies.

While Christie will have his detractors – both within and outside the Republican party – Clinton and Warren would likely be presented as polarizing figures. But it seems that any candidate for the Democratic party inevitably becomes a polarizing figure because the system  is broken.

We are a country moving in an almost inexorable way toward oligarchy with the help of the current Supreme Court, people like the Koch brothers, major financial institutions and international corporations.  While Bill Clinton was able to raise a lot of money from Wall Street his presidency was under the most vicious kind of attack from day one of his presidency, with the complicity of a mediocre press and a well-financed right-wing hate machine. The same has happened to Obama and would most certainly also happen to Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren.

The combination of an electorate unable to identify their own interests let alone vote for them, a courtier press unable to extricate itself from the ordinary thinking that dominates political discussion in America, the corrupting influence of money and the breakdown of Americans’ commitment to the common good has led to a broken country. Warren understands this and her candidacy would be welcome simply to get some very basic political issues on the table. But first, let’s see if the Democratic Party can figure out how to win back the House of Representatives in 2014. Not that I am especially hopeful.

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Canucks cruise into offshore power

Posted October 13, 2013 on 1:27 am | In the category Canada, Immigration, Obama, Tea Party, U.S. Domestic Policy, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

September was one of the finest months for Canadians to demonstrate their rising power in the arena of foreign politics. The US government has shut down through the monty pythonish behaviour of  the so-callled pillars of democracy. John Cleese, where are you when the Ministry of Silly Walks would represent a  a crucial place  of stability and order in the otherwise dysfunctional pecking order of Washington D.C.?  I’ll tell you where you could ussefully demonstrate your walks.   Take a stroll  on the floor of the US Senate for 25 hours with Canadian-born Senator Tom Cruz, an expat Canadian currently living in Texas.   You could follow him as he paced about telling  you everything he knows about the awful socialist, maybe even Commie health care system in his northern  homeland, where every citizen – even Cruz, should he ever visit his homeland  – has the absolute right to free medical care, no matter who they are and what they earn.  And amazingly, he seems to know absolutely  nothing and says he didn’t even realize he was a citizen of another country, which disqualifies him from becoming US president.  He also says that he is ready  to replace President Obama, but looks like foreign affairs won’t be his strong suit.  Instead he rambled on about everything under  the sun except the tiny little step towards some sort of sanity that Obamacare would bring to the  the US medical system, which  as it is is adequate  for most of the middle and great for the upper class and non-existent for something like 45 million US citizens, who have no insurance at all if  they have any medical problem.

Meanwhile in another election in a far-off universe, the people of the Republic of Austria went to the polls, and gave a new party named after and led by Canadian auto-parts magnate Frank Stronach almost 10% of the vote.  His main strength  seemed to lie in the feeling that anybody from  a place like Canada would have to be a better leader than anyone currently involved in the chaotic dysfunctional political climate of the splendid imperial city of Vienna.   As if to prove the point, the major  right wing party received 21 % of the vote in Austria while the one with similar views on immigration and the European Union in Germany   received an almost invisible  percentage of the votes in last month’s German election, coming nowhere near the 5%  needed for entering parliament. So what do we make of it.  In a single month  a Canadian wins the Nobel Prize for Literature, another one  becomes a political force to be reckoned with in Austria, and a third one is a major mover and shaker  in the self-inflicted shutdown of the US government and considers himself to be a dark horse shot for President.  Watch out!   From Vienna to Stockholm to Washington D.C.  The Canuck are coming, the Canucks are coming!  If only they would take on Ottawa next.

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What’s the Matter with Maine?

Posted February 25, 2013 on 9:45 pm | In the category Healthcare, Politics, Tea Party, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.” — Herman Melville

The short response to the question above is: Governor Paul LePage and the members of Maine’s Tea Party. They personify the political dynamics in Maine that led to the election of a governor who is now doing serious long-term damage to not only the people of the state. but also to the political culture of the state.

Lepage’s 2010 election was the result of the support of Maine’s Tea Party and, Maine’s historic pride in being strongly ‘independent.’ LePage garnered less than 40% of the vote in his election but since the majority of the vote was split between Independent and Democratic candidates, it was enough. So the people of Maine have a governor, elected by 38% of the voters, who is committed to an “ideology” created by Tea Party fanatics who have a slim grip on cause and effect reality and a demonstrated non-existent learning curve.

Among LePage’s antics:

  • removing  serious historic works of art depicting workers from the states Department of Labor building because of a written complaint from a “secret admirer” and complaints from unnamed business owners. Among the inflammatory works was one portraying Rosie the Riveter;
  • promising that when elected he would “tell Obama to go to hell” ;
  • hiring his wet-between-the-ears 22 year-old daughter to a $41,000 job with $15,000 worth of benefits AND a $10,000 housing allowance while she lived in the Governor’s mansion;
    hiring his brother-in-law to a $68,000 state job;
  • resisting the banning of BPA in baby bottle and other plastic containers because heating up plastic bottles only causes it to “give off a chemical similar to estrogen. So the worst case is some women may have little beards…”
  • pushing legislation that would allow public funding of religious schools despite state constitutional issues;
  • and, offending many with his characterization of the Supreme Court decision to allow the Affordable Care Act to proceed as a decision that “has made America less free. We the people have been told there is no choice. You must buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo — the I.R.S.”;

He did a sort-of apology for the use of the term “Gestapo”

According to a recent report in the Boson Globe, he has joined those Republican governors who refuse to accept federal funding for an expansion of Medicaid; an expansion that would provide medical care to a significant number of uninsured citizens of Maine. This most recent step by LePage plays to his base of Tea Party fanatics in a state in which – unlike most states – unemployment is growing.

LePage’s leadership has resulted in Maine’s ranking last among all states in personal income growth and – again, according to the Globe – Maine’s median income is less than $48,000 and 27% of the state’s residents are already enrolled in Medicaid – compared to the national average of 20%.

The Globe provided examples of those who will lose benefits due to LePage’s actions and it is not pretty. The victims are the usual mix of the elderly, the uninsured seriously ill who cannot afford insurance, the working poor, etc. .

So one result of the Maine commitment to its treasured image of being populated by “rugged Independents,” is a political system that has allowed only 38% of the population to elect a Governor of tremendous mediocrity – even crass stupidity. It is their democracy and they can cherish it, but they will pay for this in many ways that will show up in very human terms while the Tea Party continues to work against their fellow citizens.

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The Slandering of Chuck Hagel

Posted February 17, 2013 on 11:33 pm | In the category Iran, Iraq, Israel, McCain, Politics, U.S. Domestic Policy, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

The United States Senate, once known as “the world’s greatest deliberative body”, has become a stage for narcissistic Republican poseurs and clowns. The Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on former Senator Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Secretary of Defense has produced one of the most embarrassing episodes in the ongoing saga of the dumbing down of the Republican Party.

The rookie, Deb Fisher, a Sarah Palin pal from Nebraska who finds Hagel; “too extreme – far to the left of Obama” – whatever that means.. (Her refusal to refer to “President” Obama a pathetic reminder of her connections to the Nebraska Tea Party). That Hagel had the good sense to endorse her opponent, Bob Kerrey, in her election campaign apparently fueled her ire but so what? This is about the Secretary of Defense not about Fisher’s feelings.

Noted global warming denier and biblical scholar Senator James Inhofe (R from Oklahoma) found that Hagel was an “appeaser” without specifying why other than to refer to a statement by the Iranian Foreign Minister describing Hagel as someone with whom they might be able to talk.

Noted Chicken Hawk Saxby Chambliss, Republican Senator from Georgia and previously a slanderer of Senator Tammy Baldwin who had lost both legs piloting a Blackhawk helicopter in Iraq, found that Hagel’s commitment to the concept of international negotiation was really simply a commitment to “appeasement” – again, whatever that means.

Senate newcomer and Tea Party pet Ted Cruz of Texas decided to become the reincarnation of Joe McCarthy, raising the suspicion that Hagel has been paid by enemies of the United States for speeches, questioning the patriotism of a battlefield decorated marine with a mythical list hidden away in his pocket.

But the main attractions in the early hearings – before Inhofe and Cruz pushed the process over the Crazy Cliff – were Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Noted poor loserJohn McCain got all red-faced with anger when Hagel refused to concede that McCain had been right in his support of the Iraq War “surge”, the grand strategy that delayed the inevitable U.S. withdrawal from a war that almost no one ended up supporting. His emotional, post-adolescent demand that Hagel agree that McCain was right and Hagel wrong on the surge was a sad display by a once admired Senator known now chiefly for his unwillingness to accept that he lost an election.

As for Senator Graham, what can be said about his obsession that Hagel is soft on support for Israel, or that he once said “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here, I’m not an Israeli Senator I’m a US Senator, this pressure makes us do dumb things at times”? Or that he is somehow responsible for telling us what went wrong with Benghazi?

It is depressing enough to see a major political party sink into a cesspool of gratuitous innuendo verging on slander without watching the national press serve as a largely unquestioning conduit of cheap shots, distortions and outright lies. Where is Edward R. Murrow when we need him?

How long will we have to avoid the Sunday talk shows as they wheel in McCain so they can help him lick his wounds from a defeat that is now 5 years old? Or watch the likes of Dick Gregory sidle up to Lindsey Graham without calling him on what has become a bizarre personal vendetta against one of the few Republican Senators to have had the good sense and political courage to admit that President George W. Bush’s Iraq war turned out to be a bad idea, poorly implemented.

As for the soft on Israel charge? Do we elect Senators to act in the national interests of the United States or of Israel? When they come in conflict – which they occasionally do – can we have an adult conversation in the press – as they do in the Israeli press? Or do we continue to put up with a national press unable or unwilling to consider the real implications of blindly following the lead of a foreign leader like Benjamin Netanyahu?

As the Republican Party moves toward reconsidering their “message” after a serious defeat at the polls last November, will they finally – at long last – have the decency to accept that President Obama is indeed the President and that the American people expect them to behave with respect to the office and to the national interest?

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God, Guns and the Press in Newtown

Posted December 15, 2012 on 11:26 pm | In the category U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

There is little to add to all that has been written or talked about in the media. The killing rampage in Newtown, Connecticut is a transcendently horrible tragedy, almost impossible to comprehend. But of course there are always fanatics to make it worse.

Former Republican presidential candidate and current Fox TV Analyst Mike Huckabee did not disappoint, saying, “Well, you know, it’s an interesting thing. We ask why there is violence in our schools but we have systematically removed God from our schools. … Maybe we ought to let him in on the front end and we wouldn’t have to call him to show up when it’s all said and done at the back end.”

I guess the Reverend Mike’s point is that 20 innocent children are dead because we didn’t let them say Christian prayers in school.

But perhaps an even better example of how incredibly stupid people can be is the comment from the Executive Director of Gun Owners of America, Larry Pratt: “Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combined to ensure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered. This tragedy underscores the urgency of getting rid of gun bans in school zones.”

So our choice is to blame the framers of the Constitution for separating religion from politics, or gun control supporters, for the  assault weapon murder of 27 people. We are not to consider the lack of effective controls over the availability of assault weapons of semi-mass destruction as relevant. Nor are we to consider inadequate and antiquated mental health systems as relevant. Or that Huckabee’s version of God is really only his personal fantasy.

There are over 300 million guns in American households; they account for ca. 48,000 deaths each year, more than half by suicide, but thousands by homicide. Our country used to be able to address national problems but in the world and time of Tea Party ignorance, Koch Brothers money, Roberts Court sycophancy and a House of Representatives inhabited by a large number of people 6 eggs short of a dozen, we seem to be totally screwed by the forces of ignorance, stupidity, and greed. So for those of us wishing for a rational approach to downsizing the violence we can only hope against hope.

From time to time this blog tries to hold the press to some standards of truth. The work of the press during this slaughter of the innocents has reminded me of the incredible damage the internet has done to journalists’ efforts to report the truth. In the race to be first with “breaking news” the following non-facts have been reported by so-called “reputable” news sources over the last couple of days.

The prime case was the rush to name the killer as Ryan Lanza.. It was his brother.

The killer was allowed into the school because they knew him..Wrong, he broke a window and forced his way in.

The killer’s mother was a teacher at the school. Not true..

The killer shot his mother in the school where she was a teacher—wrong on both counts – not a teacher and not killed in the school.

An investigation in New Jersey led media to announce that there was a death there – one source said it was the father of the perpetrator, none of this was true.

The semi automatic rifle was in the trunk of the car and the perpetrator had only two pistols when he entered the school. Wrong again.

At one point media reported that the killer’s father was one of the killers.

All of this is an  example of what happens when the Internet and Twitter take over; no actual reporting, no control, no truth.

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