Archive for August 2013

Mark Braverman: A Zionist rethink

August 30, 2013

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Mark Braverman is a retired clinical psychologist, a Jew  who in 2006 decided to devote himself full-time to working on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. His book, Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land, combines a description of the spiritual and psychological forces which define the conflict, with a memoir of his own personal journey. He believes that American churches have a pivotal role to play in any future resolution, thus he has devoted most of his efforts to working with Christian activists.

Somebody asked me that the other day. Where does all your passion come from about this issue? And I said it comes from being raised as a Jew. I was raised to believe that the core of my Judaism was to believe in social justice, very much in that prophetic, out of that prophetic tradition.  In fact my father who was not a religious man, but who identified strongly as a Jew, was a member of the Anti-Defamation League back in the 50s and 60s when they were the good guys.  I was raised being opposed to prejudice, which was what we called white on black racism in those days.  My dad gave me a very very strong education in social justice.  So that’s one side of it.

The other side of it was that I was totally raised as a Zionist. If you were a Jewish kid, raised in Philadelphia which had a strong Jewish community, and born in 1948, you’re raised in a very potent combination of Rabbinic Judaism and political Zionism. The two are totally merged. And Israel is redemption and Leon Uris’ “Exodus” was effectively part of the bible, so I absorbed both of those at the same time. And to make a long story short, when I finally saw the occupation, those two things came crashing against each other so I knew what I was seeing and I had to do something about it. But also, having been raised on Zionism, and having been passionate about that story that I had been told then I learned there was a whole other narrative, a different narrative, and this narrative was the story of the Palestinians, who played the part of the enemy in the Zionist story.

I realized that the Zionist story I was taught was not working, and I had to do something about it.  So I went back to the United States after my exposure and felt that I had to tell the Jewish community, hey we are really in trouble guys, this is not working, this story we tell is full of lies and distortions.  And a big part of this is admitting it and we have got to do something about this or the whole thing is going to come crashing down.  And, of course, the doors of the synagogue did not exactly fling open in welcome.

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The Canadian israeli Thought Police

August 29, 2013

The shrinking Palestinian state.

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They are at it again. The Canadian Israeli Lobby and Thought Police.

15 buses in Vancouver  and the city Skytrain station are carrying the above ads which simply show how israel has gobbled up Palestinian territory over the decades. This is as simple fact and the israelis continue to laugh at canada, US and the EU by building settlements   every day

The thought police are attempting to bully the transit authority Translink  into taking the ads down.

Independent Jewish Voices, (http://ijvcanada.org/)  a brave group of Jewish Canadians  has asked us to resist  the hamfisted tactics of B’nai Brith, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, and friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Toronto. They predictably  have attacked the display of these ads, and some are threatening TransLink– responsible for approving and displaying the educational images– with lawsuits.

As the website advises “This isn’t the first time a poster has been attacked for claiming to be anti-Semitic. The Israel lobby successfully pressured university administrations to ban a poster depicting Israel’s war crimes on Gaza– arguing again that it incites violence towards Jews. As a Jew, I feel unsafe by what Israel is doing to Palestinians, not by the non-violent resistance of Palestinians to Israel’s crimes. Stand on the right side of history with me. Tell TransLink NOW that the ads must stay up by calling 604-953-3040. We refuse to be bullied into silence!”

The number again is 604 953 3040

 

 

 

I Have a Dream

August 28, 2013

 

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50 years ago Martin Luther King’s memorable speech “I Have a Dream” was delivered in Washington. That rallying cry for integration before 250,000 is commonly regarded as one of the greatest American speeches ever given,

Here MLK was giving his American civil religion speech asking his country to live up to its promises. The USA was justifiably ridiculed by the Soviets in the Cold War years as being classic hypocrites. While constantly trumpeting civil rights in its public discourse  it excluded millions of  black Americans from the same. Pictures of dogs and water cannons on citizens, black kids harassed when attempting to integrate schools, lynchings etc were spread by the powerful new medium of television  all over the world.

A powerful challenge was put to America on August  28, 1963. That challenge still stands and for issuing it, King was ultimately murdered. Race continues to bedevil a segregated America.

The speech of King;s was not his greatest. There were many more to come before King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

King stands as the great biblical prophet of the 20th century, a man consumed by spirit fire who clothed his rhetoric with biblical allusions.

John Lewis remembers

August 26, 2013

John Lewis is one of my heroes. As a young Afro-American student n the 60s, he experienced his good Friday as a Freedom Rider. He almost was killed by white crackers who destroyed the bus he was on outside of Birmingham. There will be lots of commentary as we arrive at the 50th anniversary of MLK’s “I  Have a Dream” speech spoken at the March on Washington Aug. 28,1963

Let’s begin with Lewis’s receollection.

 

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Remembering the March. Celebrating the Dream.

Remarks by Congressman John Lewis at the U.S. Capitol July 31, 2013

When I look back on August 28, 1963, the day of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, I see it as one of this nation’s finest hours.  The American people pushed and pulled, they struggled, suffered, and some even died, to demonstrate their desire to see a more fair, more just society.

Their effort and their commitment ushered in a spirit of bipartisanship, collaboration and meaningful change into the Congress, and that period became one of the finest hours of American democracy.  As Members of Congress who represent all the people of this country, we owe it to ourselves to take a moment to contemplate the meaning of this 50th anniversary.

What it will take for us to come together and make that kind of progress for the American people once again?

In 1963 leading up to the March on Washington, there had been an unbelievable amount of action on the part of the Movement.  People were sitting-in at lunch counters, standing-in at theaters.  They were beaten, arrested and jailed by the hundreds and thousands by state and local government officials.  Medgar Evers had been assassinated in June of 1963 by agents of hate allowed to run rampant in Mississippi.

Eugene “Bull” Connor, the Commissioner of Public Safety for the city of Birmingham, had used fire hoses and police dogs on women and children involved in peaceful, non-violent protest.  Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and other leaders had been arrested and jailed.

In 1963, millions of American citizens could not register to vote simply because of the color of their skin.  Lawyers, doctors, college professors, high school principals, maids, butlers, sharecroppers and tenant farmers stood in unmovable lines all across the South just trying to register to vote.
Intimidation and fear surrounded the democratic process. People were afraid of losing their jobs, being run off their land, being beat or even killed for trying to register to vote.  How did a society, committed to liberty and justice, allow the idea to take hold that the differences between us have some bearing on the value of human life?

Those of us in the movement made a decision that we had to do what we could, give our very lives if necessary, to demonstrate that those kinds of ideas are not true.  The morning of the march we met with Democratic and Republican leaders right here on Capitol Hill on the House and Senate side.

If you come to my office, you will see a photo of the end of our meeting with Senator Everett Dirksen, a Republican who played a major role in helping to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  And the only member still here who voted for that act is the dean of this Congress and my dear friend, Rep. John Dingell.

The plan was that we would leave the Senate, walk down Constitution Avenue and lead people to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  But when we stepped out into the streets, we saw hundreds and thousands of people pouring out of Union Station.

They were black and white, Latino, Asian and Native American.  There were members of every faith, speakers of many different languages.  American citizens, especially those living in Europe, came from abroad to participate.  Celebrities were there, but mostly there were countless and nameless thousands of ordinary people with extraordinary vision who came.

They wanted to bear witness to the truth that we are one people, one family, the human family.  We are one people, one house, the American house.  We were supposed to be leading them, but they were already marching.

At that moment, the people were leading us and they literally pushed us down Constitution Avenue up to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

About that time another colleague of ours, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, then a distinguished law student was probably already on the mall working as a volunteer for march organizer Bayard Rustin.  Two months before the march, members of the so-called Big Six civil rights organizations met with President John F. Kennedy at the White House.  Just days before, I had been elected chair of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, and meeting with the President was my first official act.  It was at that meeting that A. Philip Randolph, the founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the dean of our delegation, told President Kennedy that we were going to march on Washington.

The President was concerned.  He started twisted and turning in his chair.  He asked us whether we thought there would be violence.  Mr. Randolph said in his baritone voice, “Mr. President this will be a peaceful, nonviolent protest.”

Public officials were not so sure. Six thousand police were deployed in Washington. 15 thousand troopers were surrounding the city.  Liquor sales were banned, a major league baseball game was cancelled, and police even rigged our sound system so they could pull the plug if necessary.

But a spirit had engulfed the leadership of the Movement and the participants.
People came to that march like they were on their way to a religious service, like they were going to a camp meeting.  As Mahalia Jackson sang, “How We Got Over,” she drew thousands of us together, and in a strange sense it seemed like the whole place started rocking.  Somehow and some way, the philosophy of peace, love, and non-violence had been instilled in the very being of all the participants.

We truly believed that in every human being–even those who were violent toward us–there was a spark of the divine, and no person had the right to scar or destroy that spark.  We had a right to protest for what was right, Dr. King would say.
We had a right to demand that this nation respect the dignity and the worth of every human being.  People were moved and inspired by that vision of justice and equality, and they were willing to put their very lives on the line for a cause greater than themselves.

Dr. King inspired all of us that day with words that embodied what we all believed.  He was the last speaker, but I was number six.  I was the young upstart who said, “We march today for jobs and freedom, but we have nothing to be proud of for hundreds and thousands of our brothers are not here for they are receiving starvation wages or no wages at all….

Near the end of my speech I said, “Where is our party?  Where is the political party that will make it unnecessary to march on Washington?”  I said, “We must seek more than civil rights; we must work for the community of love, peace and true brotherhood. Our minds, souls and hearts cannot rest until freedom and justice exist for all people.”

We have come a great distance since that day, but many of the issues that gave rise to that march are still pressing needs in our society-violence, poverty, hunger, long-term unemployment, homelessness, voting rights, and the need to protect human dignity.

We have come a great distance, but we are not finished yet.  We still need to usher in a revolution of values, a revolution of ideas.  We still need to find a way to humanize our political institutions, our businesses and our system of education.

50 years later, those of us who are committed to the cause of justice need to pace ourselves because our struggle does not last for one day, one week or one year, but it is the struggle of a lifetime, and each generation must do its part. There will be progress, but there will also be setbacks.  We must continue to have hope and be steeled in our faith that this nation will one day become a truly multiracial democracy.

But until that day we must continue to work.  We must not give up or give in, but keep the faith. And when we see people hurting and suffering, we must be ready to take action.  We must have a sense of urgency to use the power granted us to help end human suffering.

What the March on Washington is saying to us today is that we are at our best as a people and as a Congress when we understand that our differences do not divide us.  We will be at our best when we finally accept that we are one people, one family, the American family.  We all live in the same house, the American house, the world house.

It is saying that no one but no one is worthless and that everyone can make a contribution.  The March on Washington is saying to us today that we, as a nation and as a people, can come together.  We can unite for the common good.  We can believe again in that divine spark within us all to use the authority granted us to accomplish great things for all Americans and not just for some.

After the march was over when the speeches were done, when the singing had finished, President Kennedy invited us all to the White House and he was standing in the door of the Oval Office beaming.  He looked like a proud father.  He shook each of our hands and said, “You did a good job….

“You did a good job.  And to Martin Luther King Jr. he said, “And you had a dream.”  Let’s continue the work that has already begun to build a Beloved Community, a nation and a world community at peace with itself that values the dignity and the worth of every citizen and every human being.

This article first appeared as a Common Good Forum in the Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good website.  

Savage Inequalities

August 25, 2013

 

 

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It is stunning the hubris that often accompanies wealth. A classic example is the outgoing mayor of New York, a man who apparently knows more about education than those who have dedicated their lives to this holy work.

If Canadians realized the absolutely appalling state of American education they would be physically sick.The  seemingly incredible toleration of run down facilities where the young are supposed to be inspired to learn boggles the mind.

Then there is the  physical abandonment of the poor (read black and Hispanic) by Chicago’s mayor Rahm Emmanuel. 25% of these kids he maintains are  are uneducable. Imagine thrown in the trash can before puberty. What kind of a man is this, never mind that he is the mayor of a city like Chicago.

In possibly the poorest area of my city Toronto, Regent Park’s school Nelson Mandela has just undergone a million dollar facelift. In the States it would become in Chris Hedges words “a sacrifice  zone”, a stark place of abandonment. It is to weep and fight against the marketization of education.

The great American educator Jonathan Kozol wrote about this shocking problem in his book Savage Inequalities . Written in 1991, it still reflects the incredible situation. A couple of snippets

Clark Junior High School – East St. Louis

Shalika is small and looks quite young for junior high. In each ear she wears a small enameled pin of Mickey Mouse. “To some degree I do believe,” she says, “that this is caused by press reports. You see a lot about the crimes committed here in East St. Louis when you turn on the TV. Do they show the crimes committed by the government that puts black people here? Why are all the dirty businesses like chemicals and waste disposal here? This is a big country. Couldn’t they find another place to put their poison?”

“Shalika,” the teacher tells me afterward, ” will go to college.”

“Why is it this way?” ask Shalika in a softer voice again. But she doesn’t ask the question as if she is waiting for an answer.

“Is it ‘separate but equal’ then?” I ask. “Have we gone back a hundred years?”

“It is separate. That’s for sure,” the teacher says. She is a short and stocky middle-aged black woman. “Would you want to tell the children it is equal?”

Christopher approaches me at the end of class. The room is too hot. His skin looks warm and his black hair is damp. “Write this down. You asked a question about Martin Luther King. I’m going to say something. All that stuff about ‘the dream’ means nothing to the kids I know in East St. Louis. So far as they’re concerned, he died in vain. He was famous and he lived and gave his speeches and he died and now he’s gone. But we’re still here. Don’t tell students in this school about ‘the dream.’ Go and look into the toilet here if you would like to know what life is like for students in this city.”

Before I leave, I do as Christopher asked and enter a boy’s bathroom. Four of the six toilets do not work. The toilet stalls, which are eaten away by red and brown corrosion, have no doors. The toilets have no seats. One has a rotted wooden stump. There are no paper towels and no soap. Near the door there is a loop of wire with an empty toilet-paper roll.

“This,” says Sister Julia, “is the best school that we have in East St. Louis.

The Savage Inequalities of Public Education in New York – Kozol visits Public School 261, which is inside an old roller skating rink. Once again, he finds children that are forced to learn in a facility that isn’t fit to be inhabited, much less a school. He then visits P.S. 79, which is extremely overcrowded. After viewing these two decrepit schools, he visits Riverdale, P.S. 24. Because of the property value in the houses around Riverdale, the school gets a lot more money than either P.S. 261 or P.S. 79. This chapter than focuses on how money is divvied up to the schools. It appears that the value of the houses in the district for a school determine the amount of money that is put into that school. So, if the houses around P.S. 261 are pretty much worthless, they may only receive around $6,000 per student, or much less. But if the school, like Riverdale, is surrounded by rather expensive houses, the school may receive around $11,000 per student, or more. This disproportion causes a great disparity in the condition of the buildings that the students have to go to. But because some public schools do not receive very much money, most of the urban. black children in New York find themselves going to school in pitiful, run-down buildings, which in turn affects the way they are taught and learn.

What do teachers know?

August 20, 2013

 

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It took a teacher at a Catholic university to say the unspeakable. The millionaires and billionaires who worship at the altar of commerce, wealth and power can not possibly understand the motivation to become a teacher. They’re constitutionally unable to hear what those who are nearest to our young people are telling them about educating all of the human family. In their arrogance  and in their distance they are blindly ramming massive high stakes testing down the throats of other people’s children. Bashing teachers and breaking unions is their hamfisted modus operandi.

This Darwinian business model actually believes you can test yourself to improved education. There is absolutely no respect for those who daily hear the silent cries of the young, who see the  staggering impact of poverty on children, who know how to evaluate  their charges. Instead of taking money from the obscene bloated military budget and poring money into education to attract the best and brightest they are content to whack the teaching profession, pay it peanuts and reward the selfish who gravitate to Wall Street and Solomon Brothers.

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As reformer Diane Ravitch says, “How many times have we heard “reformers” like Duncan, Rhee, Klein, Gates, etc. say that the way to “fix poverty” is to fix schools. By that, they mean that “no excuses” schools and Teach for America will solve the poverty problem. That’s a lot less costly than using government programs to change the tax code or create good jobs or do anything that directly reduces poverty. Better to open charter schools, give vouchers, fire teachers who can’t raise test scores, take away tenure, destroy unions.

Finland always ranks highest in global education’s literacy and numeracy tests, Its national budget reflects the common good and the health and welfare of its citizens. It has no high stakes testing. What it does have is a teaching cadre second to none in the world and a country which not only honours educators but pays them well. The Finnish model is ignored by the wealthy ideologues who correlate wealth with educational smarts. Without sitting and listening to kids, these blowhards arrogantly presume Solomon-like  wisdom because they are millionaires.

Thankfully many great educators and concerned and patronized parents are fighting back given the growing cracks in the high stakes testing models (rampant cheating, exclusion of poor students,,nervous breakdowns, skewing of curriculum, demonization of teachers and teacher unions etc.)

Bravo to Mark Naison of Fordham University for the following brief essay.

To The Nation’s Elites, Teachers are “Losers!”

There is a reason that people like Bill Gates, Chris Christie, Rahm Emmanuel, Jeb Bush, Andrew Cuomo, Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg and yes Barack Obama will never really listen to teachers voices. And that is because, in the competition for money, power, and position, which is what is all the that really counts to them, they see themselves as winners and teachers as losers. Regarding themselves as examples of what talent and ambition can achieve, they look at someone who spends their life in the classroom as lacking in drive and imagination, and therefore undeserving in having a voice in shaping the way we train the next generation of citizens and workers. Whether or not they will say this in their speeches, they certainly say it to one another, in their private meetings, and high powered policy seminars. It is why the only teacher training organization they really trust is Teach for America, because that organization shares their view that really talented people would only remain a teacher as a passage to a more rewarding career. Unless you understand this– you will never understand why editorial writers, television personalities, corporate leaders, and elected officials systematically exclude teachers voices, and why the policies they ultimately support prove disastrous on the ground. Every section of the American Elite is poisoned with a fatal arrogance, and getting through to them with sound arguments is well nigh impossible. They only understand and respect power.

Mark D Naison is the  Professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham University in New York City.

Bluesman John Dickie gets honorary degree

August 18, 2013

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It has been reported that Senator  Pamela Wallin the subject of intense scrutiny  for her senate expense account  is the recipient of  13 honorary degree from Canadian universities. What this says about higher education is anybody’s guess.

One wonders what her accomplishments were to merit these honours. As far as we know she  was a telegenic bingo caller and not much else.

Her real skill appears to be as a Senator-shill for the Tory party.

With this in mind the University of Centre Island has decided to grant an honorary degree to Mr. John Dickie for “extraordinary accomplishments in the vocal arts. For four decades Mr.Dickie has successfully channelled James Brown, Fats Domino, Hank Williams and a host of others.”The degree (Causa honoris) will be presented at the onshore campus of Centre Island University in the Panda Bay Coffee Shop in Toronto’s least end.Dickie who prided himself on his grade 12 accomplishments at Neil McNeil High School says he was entirely deserving of the honour.

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John Dickie with accompanist Steve Hunter

Chancellor Michael Hanrahan will be performing this sacred duty.

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Chancellor Michael Hanrahan

The date is Wednesday August 21 at 9 A.M.

RSVP.

August 16, 1933—then and now

August 16, 2013

 

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The only known picture of Christie Pits riot

And what of the influx of multitudes of immigrants of the lower classes from southern and eastern Europe?—for the sturdier stocks of the northern European, the British and the Scots-Irish, are increasingly threatened,as, it is said, bad money drives out good.

from The Accursed by Joyce Carole Oates 2013

Today, August 16 is the 80th anniversary of the now notorious Christie Pits riot. This shameful antisemitic episode is well documented and detailed in the marvellous book of the same name by William Shaffir and Cyrl Levitt (1987).

The Toronto Star described it in these terms

While groups of Jewish and Gentile youths wielded fists and clubs in a series of violent scraps for possession of a white flag bearing a swastika symbol at Willowvale Park last night, a crowd of more than 10,000 citizens, excited by cries of ‘Heil Hitler’ became suddenly a disorderly mob and surged wildly about the park and surrounding streets, trying to gain a view of the actual combatants, which soon developed in violence and intensity of racial feeling into one of the worst free-for-alls ever seen in the city.

Scores were injured, many requiring medical and hospital attention… Heads were opened, eyes blackened and bodies thumped and battered as literally dozens of persons, young or old, many of them non-combatant spectators, were injured more or less seriously by a variety of ugly weapons in the hands of wild-eyed and irresponsible young hoodlums, both Jewish and Gentile”.

 This was legendary stuff for myself who literally grew up in Chrsitie Pits and often heard about the riot described above by the Toronto Star.

Levitt and Shaffir contextualize the incident by correctly placing it at the time of the rise of Hitler in Germany and one might add the barely hidden antisemitism in Orange and Protestant Toronto

It would be interesting to prepare the xenophobic Toronto Telegram’s coverage of Hitler’s rise with that of the Toronto Star which  had employed the brilliant Dutch-Canadian journalist Pierre Van Paasen  as its correspondent in Germany. While the Tely poo-poohed the rise of antsemitism, the multilingual former Unitarian minister laid out the severity of the problem. Most Jews (and Catholics as well) boycotted the Tely for its obvious bias.

The pot was ready to boil in the dog days of August that year. Antisemitism, as stated, was a fact of life in Toronto the Good but so was anti-Catholicism and anti anything but British immigration. Punks in the east end had already cavorted as members of the  Swastika Club.

The fuse that lit the tinder box in Christie Pits was the provocation of local working class Anglos who raised the swastika during a softball game between St Peter’s and Harbord. This is why ethnic Italians and Slavs joined the Jews to raise their voices in frustration over the Orange and Protestant stranglehold of civic jobs and lack of opportunity at huge stores like Eatons and Simpsons.

The good news is that Toronto had largely shucked off its xenophobic past and has become a successful city of inclusion and tolerance.

Bad money today  apparently lives side by side with good money.

 

 

Real journalism and independent voices

August 14, 2013

Real journalism is rare today. Most of the print coming our way is controled by corporations with a fierce bias and a right wing agenda. This was obvious when the current Canadian Tory government so hell bent on turning us into American clones was supported editorially by 26 out of 28 daily papers. The corporate control in the US of course is much worse.The Fourth Estate originally was there to put the heat on government and business and act as a conscience on behalf of the common good. Capitalism in general has overwhelmed this function. This is the prime reason people are abandoning print and moving to the best of the blogsphere. I said the best.

Papers like the Summedia corp in Canada  spend no money on truthdigging but in the guise of populism are shills for unvarnished capitalism. A bunch of talking heads with an anti-government bias.

It was George Gerbner, the former dean  of the Annenberg School for Communication  at the University of Pennsylvania, who said, ““There has to be a media outlet that is not run by corporations that profit from war, and  who have nothing  to tell and everything to sell. They  are raising our children.”

Who in God’s name wants their kids to be raised by pop culture and uncritical journalism?

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The great Amy Goodman (Democracy Now) says the reason her show (Daily 10 A.M.  on CIUT, 89.5 in Toronto and syndicated throughout North America) is so successful  is in her words “a testament to the fact that there’s a hunger for independent voices that gets filtered out in the corporate media. You get this small circle of pundits on all of the networks that sort of rotate around, that know so little about so much, explaining the world to us and getting it so wrong.

August 6-9 sackcloth and ashes

August 9, 2013

 

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Film director Oliver Stone yesterday condemned the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, calling the US claim that they ended World War II a “tremendous lie.”

Mr Stone, who is in Japan to promote a history documentary, said the Soviet Union’s declaration of war on Japan in August 1945 was a “strong factor” behind the decision to incinerate the two cities.  “The United States was able to get away with it because we were the winners,” he told Japan’s Kyodo News. “But as a result we lost our moral compass.”

An understatement if there ever was one.The nation which  incessantly lectures others about morality still stands condemned as the only nation ever to use nuclear weapons on others.

There should have been government sponsored acts of contrition in every american city between August 6 and 9.

Obama should have appeared in sackcloth and ashes.

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