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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Bill Moyers, a former advisor to President Lyndon Johnson, who in April, 2010, will retire from his weekly televison program, “Bill Moyers Journal,” on the parallels between Johnson’s decision to escalate the war in Vietnam War and the decision facing Barack Obama in Afghanistan:

“Now in a different world, at a different time, and with a different president, we face the prospect of enlarging a different war. But once again we’re fighting in remote provinces against an enemy who can bleed us slowly and wait us out, because he will still be there when we are gone.

“Once again, we are caught between warring factions in a country where other foreign powers fail before us. Once again, every setback brings a call for more troops, although no one can say how long they will be there or what it means to win. Once again, the government we are trying to help is hopelessly corrupt and incompetent.

“And once again, a President pushing for critical change at home is being pressured to stop dithering, be tough, show he’s got the guts, by sending young people seven thousand miles from home to fight and die, while their own country is coming apart.

“And once again, the loudest case for enlarging the war is being made by those who will not have to fight it, who will be safely in their beds while the war grinds on. And once again, a small circle of advisers debates the course of action, but one man will make the decision.

“We will never know what would have happened if Lyndon Johnson had said no to more war. We know what happened because he said yes.” (more @ The Nation)

Related: Bill Moyers Journal (November 20, 2009)

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“It was a revolution that began with a lie.

Vaclav Havel, the dissident leader who spearheaded the Velvet Revolution that overthrew communism in Czechoslovakia and kicked off twenty years ago on November 17, 1989, once declared that ‘truth and love must triumph over lies and hatred.’ Yet the revolution — its name a reference to the clenched fist in the velvet glove — was sparked by a false rumor that to this day remains a mystery.

“On Tuesday, thousands of Czechs are expected to march through the streets here, to the sound of wailing sirens and the growls of police dogs, eerily replicating a non-violent student march, 20 years ago, in which police rounded on demonstrators and rumors spread that a 19 year-old mathematics students named Martin Smid had been brutally killed. Scores had indeed been violently beaten. But no one, in fact, had died.

“Jan Urban, a dissident leader and journalist who helped to disseminate the lie, recalled in an interview that news of the alleged death had spread quickly, helping to wake a nation out of its collective apathy and lighting the spark — eight days after the fall of the Berlin Wall — for the peaceful rebellion that culminated in the regime’s demise.” (cont’d @ NY  Times)

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I’m not sure why I feel compelled to post this, but:

SCOTUS_baseball_card“If you’re a fan of the U.S. Supreme Court bobbleheads that can be found on the desks of powerhouse lawyers and law professors nationwide, then you’ll like the next brainchild of the bobbleheads’ creator: Supreme Court baseball cards.

“The first one, commemorating Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. as the Court’s ‘pitcher,’ has been issued to cognoscenti who subscribe to the unconventional law review Green Bag. Editor Ross Davies, who commissioned the bobbleheads, cooked up the trading cards too.

“Roberts is shown in the image of Mordecai ‘Three Fingers’ Brown, the famed Chicago Cubs pitcher who, like Roberts, grew up in Indiana. In the background is legendary umpire Bill Klem — a nod to Roberts’ 2005 statement that the Court must strive to be a ‘fair and unbiased umpire.'” (more @ Law.com)

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Mustard“What kind of a man eats his hamburger without ketchup? That was the big question yesterday on talk radio, after President Obama visited an Arlington, Virginia, hamburger place on Tuesday and ordered his burger with spicy mustard.”

Apparently Texans and Republicans also prefer mustard to ketchup as their condiment of choice:

In Texas:

“Texans traditionally eat hamburgers with mustard or with mayonnaise (or with both), but without ketchup. This is simply called a ‘hamburger’ in Texas, but is sometimes called a ‘Cowboy Burger’ or a ‘Texas Burger’ outside of Texas. 

“A hamburger with ketchup is sometimes called a ‘Yankee Burger.’ A hamburger with mayonnaise is sometimes called a ‘Sissy Burger.'” . . .

As for the GOP:

“A 2000 survey of members of Congress by the National Hot Dog Council found that 73% of Republican lawmakers preferred mustard to ketchup, as opposed to 47% of Democratic lawmakers.”

(via New Majority.com)

Related: The Ketchup Conundrum

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clinton_impeach1Andrew Sullivan on what we remember most about Bill Clinton and George W. Bush . . . and the consequences:

bushliar“It occurs to me that the two most famous statements of the last two presidents will be ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman,’ and ‘We do not torture.’ And both were lies in plain English, were understood to be lies by the two men involved, and yet both were subject to mental and legal asterisks that could give both men some kind of formal, if absurd, deniability.

“For one statement, we impeached. For another, we kept on walking.

“Sometimes history is not tragedy repeated as farce; it’s farce repeated as tragedy.” (via The Daily Dish)

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cheney-panicAndrew Sullivan wonders, “Is Cheney Panicking?”:

“The one thing you saw most plainly in the Plame affair is how obsessed Dick Cheney is with public image, the chattering classes and spinning stories that might reflect poorly on him. The act is the elder statesman, authoritatively reviewing the world scene, soberly making judgments, calmly explaining it later to those pesky people who are required to elect you every four years. The reality is a man who lost it on 9/11, leapt immediately to apocalyptic conclusions, and then, as the dust cleared, was unable to go back on the war crimes he had authorized and so dug in ever more deeply to justify them. I don’t think anyone begrudges that kind of misjudgment at the beginning, although one would have hoped for calmer heads in a crisis, but the attempt to institutionalize the torture of first resort into an entire program of black sites, torture manuals, Orwellian euphemisms, and legal fantasy was bound, like the institutionalization of Gitmo, to collapse under any successor who actually wanted to return the US to the rule of law and the world of civilized nations.

“Did Cheney believe he could hide all this for ever?

“Did he believe that hundreds of randomly seized human beings could be consigned to the black hole of Gitmo for ever? And was he really going to launch this kind of appalling attacks on his successors whenever they tried to move past this stuff or be forced, by the law itself and the Geneva Conventions, to investigate and prosecute violations of core human rights?

“The ratcheting up of the rhetoric – ‘I think you have to be very careful. The world outside there — both our friends and our foes — will be quick to take advantage of a situation if they think they’re dealing with a weak president or one who’s not going to stand up and aggressively defend America’s interests’ – is particularly Weimar. He’s lashing out now, and using his surrogates to write chilling op-eds defending all of it. I see this as a sign of weakness, not strength. Obama draws these people out like moths to the flame.

“That flame is the truth. Let us see it all.”

Related

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“On inauguration day, Tom Brokaw was moved to compare Barack Obama’s election to Czechoslovakia’s 1989 Velvet Revolution. At the eye of each storm, of course, was an icon who merged the political and the aesthetic–Václav Havel, the rock-star poet and prophet, and Barack Obama, the post-soul master of his own story. Both struck down eras of monocultural repression with their pens.

“Artists played a largely unheralded role in Obama’s victory. But they had been tugging the national unconscious forward for decades, from the multiculturalist avant-gardes of the 1970s and ’80s to the hip-hop rebels of the ’90s and 2000s, plying a fearless, sometimes even unruly kind of polyculturalism. By the final months of the election season, these artists had secured Obama as the waking image of change.

“Every moment of major social change requires a collective leap of imagination. Political transformation must be accompanied not just by spontaneous and organized expressions of unrest and risk but by an explosion of mass creativity. Little wonder that two of the most maligned jobs during the forty years after Richard Nixon’s 1968 election sealed the backlash of the ‘silent majority‘ were community organizer and artist.

“Obama was both. So why haven’t community organizers and artists been offered a greater role in the national recovery?” (cont’d @ The Nation)

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andrew-sullivan“Andrew Sullivan’s story is inherently implausible. How did an HIV-positive gay Catholic conservative from the poky English town of East Grinstead end up as one of the most powerful writers in America?

“Today his blog, the Daily Dish, is regularly named as one of the most influential in America, and in November it reached 23m hits in the month. Politicians from Condoleezza Rice to Barack Obama himself have courted Sullivan in the hope of friendly posts. After he moved his blog to the website of the venerable Atlantic Monthly magazine, the traffic there rose by 30%.

“This is all the stranger since—unlike other big-name bloggers such as the liberal-Democratic Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos or the libertarian Republican Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit — he has no obvious political constituency. Sullivan is regarded by his critics as an attention-deficit bundle of contradictions. He is a conservative Christian who rages against the self-proclaimed forces of conservative Christianity. He is a pioneering crusader for gay marriage savaged by the gay left as ‘chief faggot’, herding homosexuals on behalf of The Patriarchy. He admits: ‘I’m very uncomfortable with audiences who agree with me… I’ve never really had a place where someone didn’t dispute my right to be there.’ So what is the glue that holds together the blogger-king?” (cont’d @ Intelligent Life)

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Judith F. Krug, who led the campaign by libraries against efforts to ban books, including helping found Banned Books Week, then fought laws and regulations to limit children’s access to the Internet, died Saturday in Evanston, Ill. She was 69. . . .

“As the American Library Association’s official proponent of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech since the 1960s, Ms. Krug (pronounced kroog) fought the banning of books, including ‘Huckleberry Finn,’ ‘Mein Kampf,’ ‘Little Black Sambo,’ ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and sex manuals. In 1982, she helped found Banned Books Week, an annual event that includes authors reading from prohibited books.

“She also fought for the inclusion of literature on library shelves that she herself found offensive, like ‘The Blue Book’ of the ultraconservative John Birch Society. The book is a transcript of a two-day monologue by Robert Welch at the founding meeting of the society in 1958.

“‘My personal proclivities have nothing to do with how I react as a librarian,’ Ms. Krug said in an interview with The New York Times in 1972. ‘Library service in this country should be based on the concept of intellectual freedom, of providing all pertinent information so a reader can make decisions for himself.’ (cont’d @ NY Times)

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gop-govs[“I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” (Claude Rains in “Casablanca”)]

“The list of governors threatening to decline federal stimulus money last month read like a list of Republicans considering running for president in 2012: Govs. Mark Sanford, Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin led the anti-stimulus charge. 

“But what began with a bang is ending with something closer to a whimper. . . .

“All three found that praise from the conservative movement in Washington meant nothing to furious state legislators of both parties. And in the end, along with other conservative Republican governors, the three submitted letters in recent days asking to be eligible for federal funds, a spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget confirmed.” (more @ Politico.com)

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“In “Defiance,” a clunky but well-meaning action film set during World War II and starring Daniel Craig, the Bielski brothers save hundreds of fellow Polish Jews by battling Nazis in the Belarussian forest. Directed by Edward Zwick and based on a true story, the movie, released around New Year’s, tried among other things to counter Hollywood’s usual tales of Jewish helplessness during the Shoah.

“Whether it did, or instead implied that Jews who didn’t fight bore a measure of responsibility for their own fate, became a matter of some passing debate in America.

“But the film provoked a different sort of fuss shortly before it arrived here some weeks later. Movie critics in Poland wondered whether Hollywood would ever get around to showing Polish partisans as heroes, as opposed to anti-Semites. . . .

“As Europe diversifies, nearly every nation and culture on the continent seems to battle for victimhood status. Poles have especially good reason to see themselves as long oppressed, having been fought over and occupied for much of the last century by vicious regimes. Shifting political power struggles during and after the war, among other complications of Polish Jewish history, led some Polish Jews at certain points to side with Soviets against Nazis and Polish partisans. The whole moral morass, essential to Polish identity, tends to be lost on outsiders, many of whom unthinkingly regard the country, throughout most of the last century at least, as just a Jewish killing field.” (more @ NY Times)

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cartoon-protest“Prints of the Danish cartoon depicting Islam‘s Prophet Mohammed as a suicide bomber in 2005 — much to the chagrin of the international Muslim community — will now be sold by the Denmark Free Press Society for $250 each. One thousand copies are to be printed and sold, with each having a designated number and signature by the artist, Kurt Westergaard, who has been in hiding due to numerous death threats. . . .

“The controversial cartoons caused riots throughout the Muslim world in early 2006, resulting in a number of deaths, property damage and a general wounding of diplomatic relations between east and west that has still not fully healed.” (more @ Huffington Post)

“Westergaard, 73, is one of 12 cartoonists whose drawings of the Muslim prophet were first published in Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005, sparking controversy among Muslims worldwide.” (more @ Straits Times)

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sontag“Authorities in Sarajevo plan to name a city square after the late U.S. author and activist Susan Sontag, who, during the Bosnian war, staged Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot there. . . .

“Sontag’s insistence on staging the existential play in the besieged city drew attention to the country’s civil war. The Washington Post dubbed Sontag’s production ‘Waiting for Clinton.’

“‘Beckett’s play, written over 40 years ago, seems written for, and about, Sarajevo,’ noted Sontag at the time.

“The writer died in 2004 at age 71 from leukemia.” (more @ CBC News)

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jackjohnson1“Sen. John McCain said Wednesday he’s sure that President Barack Obama ‘will be more than eager’ to pardon the late black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, who was sent to prison nearly a century ago because of his romantic ties with a white woman.

“Appearing with three of Johnson’s family members and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., McCain unveiled a resolution urging a presidential pardon for Johnson, who was convicted in 1913 of violating the Mann Act, which made it illegal to transport women across state lines for immoral purposes. The law has since been heavily amended, but has not been repealed. (more @ ESPN)

[Jack Johnson became the first black heavyweight champion in 1908, defeating then-champion Tommy Burns from Australia; Johnson reigned until 1915, losing his title to Jess Willard in a controversial fight in Havana, Cuba. Best remembered for spawning a search for a “great white hope,” Johnson’s story has been chronicled in both stage and film productions of “The Great White Hope” and in “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson,” a PBS documentary by Ken Burns. Two particularly fine studies of Johnson’s cultural significance written by prominent sports historians are Bad Nigger!: The National Impact of Jack Johnson (Al-Tony Gilmore, 1975) and Papa Jack: Jack Johnson and the Era of White Hopes (Randy Roberts, 1983).]

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Indonesia Miss Universe“A ‘relaxing, calm, beautiful place’ may not be everyone’s description of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the United States holds about 240 prisoners in a detention center that has drawn condemnation from around the world.

“But this was the opinion of reigning Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza of Venezuela, who visited the U.S. naval facility in eastern Cuba this month . . .

“‘It was a loooot of fun!,’ Mendoza wrote . . . she said they also visited a bar on the base and the ‘unbelievable’ beach there.” (more @ Reuters)

UpdateMiss Universe’s Blog Post on Guantánamo Vanishes

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cuba_postcard“Roughly a year after Fidel Castro stepped aside and handed much of the responsibility for leading Cuba to his brother Raúl, there is new momentum in Washington for eliminating the ban on most U.S. travel to the island nation and for reexamining the severe limitations on U.S.-Cuban economic exchanges.

“At a Capitol Hill news conference scheduled for tomorrow, a wide array of senators and interest groups — including Senate Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Byron L. Dorgan (N.D.); Banking Committee Chairman  Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.); Richard G. Lugar (Ind.), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and Human Rights Watch — will rally around a potentially historic bill to lift the travel ban.” (more @ Washington Post)

Update

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gonzalez-cartoon“A Spanish court has taken the first steps toward opening a criminal investigation into allegations that six former high-level Bush administration officials violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, an official close to the case said.

“The case, against former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and others, was sent to the prosecutor’s office for review by Baltasar Garzón, the crusading investigative judge who ordered the arrest of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The official said that it was ‘highly probable’ that the case would go forward and that it could lead to arrest warrants.

“The move represents a step toward ascertaining the legal accountability of top Bush administration officials for allegations of torture and mistreatment of prisoners in the campaign against terrorism. But some American experts said that even if warrants were issued their significance could be more symbolic than practical, and that it was a near certainty that the warrants would not lead to arrests if the officials did not leave the United States.

“The complaint under review also names John C. Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer who wrote secret legal opinions saying the president had the authority to circumvent the Geneva Conventions, and Douglas J. Feith, the former under secretary of defense for policy. . . .

Spain can claim jurisdiction in the case because five citizens or residents of Spain who were prisoners at Guantánamo Bay have said they were tortured there. The five had been indicted in Spain, but their cases were dismissed after the Spanish Supreme Court ruled that evidence obtained under torture was not admissible.” (more @ NY Times)

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Update

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moneylightsCornell University economist Robert H. Frank on “Finding new opportunities amid the economic wreckage”: 

“The economic bonfire fueled mostly by consumption in recent years has ended. As we have watched the familiar statistics plummet, with credit cards maxed out and home-equity loans a thing of the past, the reality has slowly become clear: We won’t return to the economic world of 2007 anytime soon, if ever.

“But would we want to? In the boosterish world of CNBC, life without an ever-rising Dow Jones average and year-to-year gains in holiday-sales figures would self-evidently forecast protracted misery. Yet matters are less hopeless than they seem. There is an easily attainable future in which we consume less than at the peak of the boom and yet still enjoy far better opportunities to construct a fulfilling life for ourselves.” (more @ The American Prospect)

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John Hope Franklin, a prolific scholar of African-American history who profoundly influenced thinking about slavery and Reconstruction while helping to further the civil rights struggle, died Wednesday in Durham, N.C. He was 94. . . .

“During a career of scholarship, teaching and advocacy that spanned more than 70 years, Dr. Franklin was deeply involved in the painful debates that helped reshape America’s racial identity, working with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., W. E. B. Du BoisThurgood Marshall and other major civil rights figures of the 20th century. . . .

“Dr. Franklin combined idealism with rigorous research, producing such classic works as ‘From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans,’ first published in 1947. Considered one of the definitive historical surveys of the American black experience, it has sold more than three million copies and has been translated into Japanese, German, French, Chinese and other languages. . . .

“Dr. Franklin also taught at some of the nation’s leading institutions, including Harvard and the University of Chicago in addition to Duke, and as a scholar he personally broke several racial barriers.” (more @ NY Times)

RelatedJohn Hope Franklin, Scholar and Witness

[During my brief time as an undergraduate in 1970-71 at York College in Jamaica, New York, I was a double-major in English and the relatively new academic discipline, African-American Studies. While my interest in books and reading was derived from my uncle, the first member of our family to earn a college degree and whose library of literary classics and contemporary sociology lined a wall in my grandparents’ apartment, my interest in “Black Studies” was in part a protest against my father whose ambivalence about civil rights despite working for twenty years as a salesman in a men’s clothing store on 125th Street in Harlem frustrated my make-love-not-war/power-to-the-people counter-culturalist sensibilities. John Hope Franklin’s From Slavery to Freedom was required reading for my freshman Afro-Am 101 class. But while I respected Franklin’s long view of history, I was much more excited by my readings of Eldridge Cleaver, Amiri Baraka (the former LeRoi Jones), Stokely Carmichael and other black writers who spoke forcefully of the need for political and social change “now.” So struck was I by the writings of these powerful black voices that when I first became eligible to vote, I tried, albeit in vain, to register as a member of the Black Panther Party (my consolation, the only reasonable choice if I intended to vote, was to register as an Independent). Twenty years later, when as a graduate student at Yale University (in neither English nor African American studies) I reconsidered some of my freshman readings in cultural studies, it was Franklin’s books — exemplars of fair-minded scholarship and idealism — that mattered most in the then and “now.” R.I.P.]

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“On the eve of national strikes, the French have found a new way to show their dislike of [President] Nicolas Sarkozy: by reading a 17th century tale of thwarted love that the president has said he hates.

“Mr Sarkozy, a man often ridiculed in France for preferring fitness to literature, has frequently expressed his disdain for ‘La Princesse de Cleves (The Princess of Cleves), a novel by Madame de La Fayette which was published in 1678 and is taught in most French classrooms.

“Now, French readers have adopted the book as a symbol of dissent: as Mr Sarkozy’s popularity falls, sales of the book are rising.

“At the Paris book fair this week, publishers reported selling all available copies of the novel, while badges emblazoned with the slogan ‘I am reading La Princesse de Cleves’ were a must-have item that sold out within hours. . . .

“Public readings of the work have proliferated at universities like the Sorbonne in Paris, hit by protests over government reform plans, and at theatres.” (more @ Daily Telegraph UK)

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