Archive for March 2009

The secular fundamentalists pt.1

March 30, 2009

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Bill Maher is a bright, funny guy with an HBO show which manages to periodically rise above the mundane each week.

Maher usually has a panel of smart guests on to deal with the issues of the day. as one can imagine the economic meltdown is usually at the tgop of his list.

Last week he sent a message to Obama:

Why do we have our troops in some many foreign lands, why over 100 bases, Why 50,000 troops in Germany.”I got news for you—the war is over.They can come home.”

Last week he had three guests—two of whom were insufferable in their Islamophobia, Salman Rusdie the writer and Christopher Hitchens the ex-Trotskyite who has morphed into a tired and simplistic God basher. Both of these bright people were actrually calling for a western jihad against Islam! They actually believe that Iran who is years away from getting a bomb is hankering to wipe out the West! ”Get them first!”

Now the great surprise wsa the rapper-acrtor Mos Def who the other two eggheads could barely tolerate as he hid under his baseball cap.

The man was brilliant suggesting that maybe America should lead by example, instead of pointing the fiunger at every nation (but Israel( who is developing nuclear, maybe the USA should lead ny example and get rid of nukes themselves.

More on Maher next time.

The Slacker Uprising

March 25, 2009

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Slacker Uprising” traces Michael Moore’s 62-city tour of the swing states during the 2004 Presidential election and records the thrilling — and frightening — response he received across the country.

Moore, whom I have described as America’s most effective  Catholic, has made three of the five top-grossing documentaries of all time (including “Fahrenheit 9/11”), released Slacker Uprising  which records his attempt to get “slackers” off their comfortable , non-engaged privileged asses into the voting booth to get rid of George W Bush. Anybody could download the film free off the Net as Moore’s gift to the cause.

“I decided why not bypass the studios and the exhibitors and make one that the fans can have for free, as a show of my profound appreciation of their support.”

The American people still in denial mode and gifted by a brutal John Kerry  campaign,  aided and abetted by the present pope and and key American Catholic bishops gave Bush another term to enrich the wealthy (”My constituency” as he famously called it) and run up the hugest debt in American history.

But it wasn’t for Moore’s lack of trying! His work resulted in Kerry victories in 54 of the 62 cities he visited. and he prefigured Obama’s success in getting the vote out.

In one frightening scene a group of Catholic college students  reciting the Our Father and the Hail Mary attempted to disrupt a rally. Moore heard them out and even joined them in the recitation of the Our Father. Then he  talked about his own Catholic upbringing and entry into the seminary as well as the chief lesson he learned: any Catholicism without the poor front and centre is a bastardized version.These young Republicans were under some mistaken notion that Bush cared about the poor.They of course did not understand the core of the Lord’s Prayer which they recited like Stepford Wives.”Thy Kingdom Come” is an earnest prayer for God’s reign of peace and justice—”on earth as it is in heaven”!

Moore of course was under no illusion that the Democrats were fleshing this dream out either  but Kerry was the least harmful in this political race.

It was stunning to watch these kids pull prayers out of their trick bag in support of Bush’s anti-kingdom agenda.

Public anger,the Democrats and the gospel

March 22, 2009

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It is fascinating to watch the cascading anger in the USA re the bailout of AIG.

It is more fascinating to watch the dance within the Democratic Party who long ago abandoned ordinary people in favour of the corporate class.The Clintons are prime examples of this shocking betrayal. Imagine that Hilary Clinton had to go into her private stash and fork out $5 million to pay off her campaign debts.Bill continues to pull down $250,000 per speech—pretty good for a poor kid from Arkansas.

Now we have Obama and his Third Way Democratic choices like Summers and Geithner Wall St insiders floundering like dying fish wriggling in the sunlight.

No accountability but loads of money distributed.

There was never enough money for Medicare, poverty alleviation, education now it’s suddenly available n the trillions  as it was for Bush’s wars and —bonuses for the same gang which tore the house down?

Where’s my bail out people are saying? We bought the dream and the myth and found out we were taken to the cleaners by the corporate class and their fawning acolytes.

The Democratic Party is suddenly shown up for the pathetic and pale imitation of the Republicans.

Obama needs to do some better stickhandling than he’s doing to control the growing rage of a public which had long fallen asleep sated by football, celebrities, bad religion and worse TV.

images-13There is also a very good wake up call for the religious professionals and the Catholic bishops who seem to have forgotten their scripture. One of seven lines in the New Testament is a warning against wealth and greed.Jesus was murdered by the forces of empire, those who cared not at all for the poor on the margins. Followers of Jesus should be more like Dorothy Day who understood the lure of “the dirty rotten system”  which has the power to buy off “the faithful”and allow them to serve capitalism rather than the gospel.

That’s why Dennis Kucinich is a non-person in the Democratic Party today and why Barack Obama not Ralph Nader   is  the president

Is Calgary Dallas North?

March 20, 2009

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“There he was, in perhaps the only city in Canada that would have him” said Jeffrey Simpson in a brutally frank Globe article referring to GW Bush’s visit to Calgary on March 17. Simpson eviscerated the worst president in living memory in these words:

The miserable results of those eight years are all around us, and him. You’d think a self-respecting man with such a doleful legacy would lie low for a while. You would have hoped that a self-respecting city such as Calgary would have understood that an invitation to him would hurt the city’s image – not for hospitality, of course, but for rational politics.

But no, there Mr. Bush was yesterday, defending the indefensible in perhaps the only city in Canada where even a quarter of the population thought well of him as president

The deregulation, the blind adherence to ideology, the growing deficits he bequeathed, the shredding social safety net, the two expensive and unresolved wars, the unfunded health-care programs: These all weigh heavily now on the United States and, by extension, on the world.

Mr. Bush inherited a surplus and turned over a deficit. He inherited a country respected in most parts of the world and turned over one respected only in pockets of the world. He inherited a government committed to internationalism and, where appropriate, multilateralism, and turned over a country outside climate-change protocols, the International Criminal Court, other United Nations treaties. He inherited a government seriously interested in Middle East peace and turned over one that showed interest in the file only at the end of his administration.

But why carry on with the indictment? In poll after poll, Americans passed judgment on him as the worst president in their lifetime and, arguably, one of the very worst in the history of the republic. He was so toxic that even his own party, gathered in St. Paul last summer, scarcely breathed his name.

A political outcast in most of his own country, except for religious and secular Republican bastions, found in Calgary arguably the only place outside the United States where he could get a welcome. Whatever he earned was too much.

So why would Pamela Wallin a Harper appointee to the Senate show up?

Calgarian VIC ROGERSON wrote the Globe to ask if  George W. Bush hurts the Calgary image? Quite the contrary. There’s no more appropriate place for a Bush speaking engagement than Calgary.For starters, you need to understand that when you live in Calgary, you may as well be living in Texas. Really, we’re more Texan than the Texans.

I would go so far as to suggest that Mr. Bush actually embodies the values that many Calgarians hold. There’s a shared sense of entitlement. Somebody has something you want? Grab it. Economic considerations have priority over environmental or social considerations. Faith and patriotism trump reason.

Government should be absolutely minimal, yet accountability of government to its citizens is unnecessary, regardless of competency.

A few dirty jokes

March 17, 2009

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Surely one of the great women in the US is Democracy Now host Amy Goodman.

She tells the story of the hapless Bush who looks even more inept as we watch a president string cogent sentences together.

Apparently W got a gig on the board of daddy’s Carlyle Group before going to Texas.

He duly showed up for his 100K a year.The chairman said he told  a few dirty jokes and after 3 years he was told that he should get out and find a job, that it was not working out.

The Chairman said he thought he’d never hear about him again.

This is not a comment on poor W but on  the  gullibility of the American people.

By the way congratulations once again to the city of Calgary for inviting Bush and also congrats to the University of Calgary School of Public Policy for inviting Condoleeza Rice  to a $500-a-plate fundraiser on May 13. It’s her first Canadian appearance since leaving her post in January as former president W’s top envoy. The worst secretary of state in living memory.

Criticize God-but not Israel!

March 16, 2009

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Israeli spokeswoman, Tzipora Menache, stated that she was not worried about negative ramifications the Israeli onslaught on Gaza might have on the way the Obama administration would view Israel.

Such honesty is rare in America-but not in Israel where the debtaes are always lively and much more honest.

She said on February 1, ‘You know very well, and the stupid Americans know equally well, that we control their government, irrespective of who sits in the White House. You see, I know it and you know it that no American president can be in a position to challenge us even if we do the unthinkable. What can they (Americans) do to us? We control congress, we control the media, we control show biz, and we control everything in America. In America you can criticize God, but you can’t criticize Israel.”

Well Sharon had said this before and few paid attention.

Leave it to Pat Buchanan the former Nixon aide to put it in crude terms. He called Congress “israeli occupied territory.”

Luckily the grip is loosening because of extraordinary fearless men like Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu and Fr Miguel DEscoto the new president of the UN General Assembly.

Enemy of the common good

March 13, 2009

 

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One of the most cynical spear carriers in the 8 lost years of GW Bush was the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Michael K Powell, the son of the disgraced Colin Powell.

Ostensibly Powell was there to protect the public airwaves but he did everything but before he was caught out.

Listen to this piece of mocking cynicism delivered just after he was named Chair in 1998.

“The night after i was sworn in I waited for a visit from the angel of the public interest.I waited all night but she did not come. And in fact 5 months into this job I still have had no divine awakening and no one has issued me my public interest crystal ball.”

Powell then attempted to give away more public access to to corporate interests—concentrated ownership, cross ownership—newspapers and TV station etc.In charge of regulating like the creeps who failed the world in the financial sector, Powell hoped to deregulate, the sacred duty of Republicans and too many Democrats.

By law he was required to hold public hearings before his Republican cronies could gobble up more public power. He held one meeting in a snowstorm. His strategy was what one calls stealth. Luckily defenders of public access led by Democracy Now  began to howl and organize and this servant of public greed was ultimately defeated.

Catholic Church missing in action

March 9, 2009

images1The Interfaith Prayer Vigil began on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009, with prayers from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Unitarian-Universalist leaders.The vigil is a persistent reminder for Ontario parliamentarians not to forget the poor among us ISARC chairperson Susan Eagle welcomed all to the prayer vigil; Brice Balmer lit the vigil candle; Anglican Bishop Colin Johnson made comments and led in prayer; Rabbi Aaron Levy chanted Jewish prayers; Murat Ortanca offered the Muslim prayer.

The vigils are being organized by the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC) and include coalition members and other persons of faith. ISARC has provided a religious voice for Ontario’s marginalized people for 23 years. The vigils are being held as a public witness to the collective concern of faith communities about the swelling ranks of the poor during Ontario’s deepening recession and the need for a strong response, says the coalition. “The budget will be a litmus test of their commitment to the strategy,” says coalition spokesperson Brice Balmer.The budget is expected to come down on March 25.

Totally absent were the five Ontario Roman Catholic bishops. This is more than embarrassing.There are probably a million Catholics in the Toronto area and none could find the time to join this small act of solidarity.

The noon hour prayers were led by Brice Balmer (Mennonite), Jeffrey Brown (Unitarian-Universalist), Paul Hansen (Catholic), and Aaron Levy (Orthodox Judaism). Several people joined the group because they read the previous day’s Toronto Star which featured a glowing profile of Anglican bishop Colin Johnson’s sterling leadership in the area of poverty.

Sadly this non-presence reflects the old adage, become new again in the past two decades of Catholic exceptionalism,”If we are not leading the parade, we’re not in it.”

Particularly inspiring however is the presence this Wednesday of the Sisters of Providence of Kingston who are renting a bus to take their turn in the cold and the damp. Also kudos to Holy Cross Catholic high school in Kingston for making the journey.

Kipling wisdom

March 6, 2009

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When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains, 

and the women come out to cut up what remains,

 jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains 

and go to your gawd like a soldier. 

 

So wrote Rudyard  Kipling 100 years ago about the mysterious Afghanistan. It appears that the West has not learned its lesson there. And poor old Canada to get Uncle Sam off her back agreed to send our troops there. Now the Canadian death toll is 111. All the papers profile the dead, afford them ample time on television. Nobody of course knows the names of the thousands of innocent Afghanis killed.

The disgusting recruiting ads are seen in prime time when vulnerable males (19-35) are knocking back beers in sports bars and watching hockey and the war cheerleader Don Cherry. This is also part of the $20 billion we’ve blown already, money which we could have used elsewhere. Since 2006, the attrition rate – the number of uniformed members opting to take early retirement, or not renew their contracts – has climbed to 9.2 per cent from the long-standing average of just over six per cent. That should tell you something. However, there will always be confused young people looking for adventure ready to sign on—particularly in hard times.

One soldier who recently died was quoted as saying,”If we don’t get them on their turf they’ll come and get us on ours.” If this is the level of sophisticated global thinking in the armed forces, then we are all in trouble. 

The weak liberals under Chretien  meandered into a war in a country they knew nothing about. The hapless war party, the Tories and Stephen Harper lamented our failure to go into Iraq and up to recently stoutly defended the “sacrifices our brave men were making…” Now even he is sick of it.

The happy warrior General Rick Hillier the former head of the forces (How did a man so ill qualified and with such little wisdom  get to destroy our reputation for peacekeeping?) is a corporate shill far away from the roadside bombs which continue to shatter our families and engender hatred among people we know little about.

Guns or butter, baby

March 3, 2009

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Bob Herbert had an interesting column in the New York Times today.

His point was simple. You can not have guns and butter.Dr. King consistently made this point before he was assassinated. Budgets are always moral documents. How an administration spends its money tells you what its values are. The US for decades  has tried to run an empire and ameliorate suffering at home. It can’t be done. But Obama is doing more of the same.

He says the USA is leaving Iraq…yeah but we’ll leave 50,000 troops there to continue to monitor the situation! After building the largest embassy in the world in Baghdad they will not be leaving any time soon.It is hard to give up an empire! How much money does it cost to feed, clothe, pay and protect this army of occupation? And for how long?

In typical salty cracker language LBJ lamented the terrible choice he made in Vietnam. “If I left the woman I really loved – the Great Society – in order to get involved with that bitch of a war on the other side of the world, then I would lose everything at home. All my programs… All my dreams…”

Herbert rightly disses the centrist Obama for making this bad moral choice.

The United States is on its knees economically. As President Obama fights for his myriad domestic programs and his dream of an economic recovery, he might benefit from a look over his shoulder at the link between Vietnam and the still-smoldering ruins of Johnson’s presidency.

The prophet ML King phrased it better:

Any nation spending more on war preparation than social uplift is heading for spiritual suicide.

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