Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Palin Follies!

Seriously, whodathunk that an interview with Katie Couric would be so devastating against Palin?

Here she is, a journalism major in college, discussing the news sources she consults to maintain her world-view. "Most of 'em, any of 'em, all of 'em!"

Nice. Here Palin tried to back-pedal after mocking Biden over his age and years in the Senate, apparently forgetting that the guy at the top of her ticket is 72!

Or, here she is trying to bullshit about her "foreign policy" experience due to Alaska's proximity to Russia. The line about Putin's head is just weird and has been mocked up and down the internet.

On global warming, she says it doesn't matter what causes it. Isn't it kinda necessary to understand the causes if we are going to solve the problem?

Here is Palin on financial bailout. She cannot answer when asked to name an example of John McCain advocating for greater regulation of these industries.

And, Palin could not name one Supreme Court decision other than Roe v. Wade!

Here is Palin on dinosaurs (yes! dinosaurs!!) She is a creationist, too.

Here she claims to be an "everyday working person," even though she makes $250,000, owns 5 properties, 2 boats and 1 airplane.

And here she advocates against a woman's right to control her own body, even if she is raped:
Later, when pressed on a variety of cultural issues, Palin provided red meat for religious conservatives. But her answers seemed to fall on the far edge of mainstream political thought. She said she was "unapologetically" pro-life when asked if she opposed abortion even for a 15-year-old raped by her father.

"[I would] counsel that person to choose life despite the horrific, horrific circumstances," she said, before moderating her position a bit: "If you're asking, though, kind of foundationally here, should anyone end up in jail for having an ... abortion, absolutely not. That's nothing I would ever support."

On contraception:
Asked whether she believed that the morning after pill should be outlawed, Palin did not directly address the question, saying only: "Personally, and this isn't a McCain-Palin policy, I would not choose to participate in that kind of contraception."

And, lastly, on homosexuality:
And quizzed about her position on gay-rights, Palin cited a homosexual friend whom she is close with before noting that she "made a choice" about her sexuality.

"I have," she said, "one of my absolute best friends for the last 30 years who happens to be gay and I love her dearly. And she is not my gay friend. She is one of my best friends who happens to have made a choice that isn't a choice that I would have made."

These positions may, in the long run, endear Palin even more to her conservative following. But combined with her failure to name a source of news she turns to, they are also bound to have people buzzing up through Thursday night's vice presidential debate.


Even stalwart conservatives, like George Will and several others, have voiced major concern about the Palin pick. At least one conservative commentator has written that Palin should step down.

And there is more, but I'll stop there. Remember, if McCain is elected, Sarah Palin will be one heartbeat away from the presidency. One 72-year old heartbeat away...

Where Do We Go From Here?

Hunter, over at DailyKos, outlines the possible ways forward after Congress's failure to pass a bailout plan yesterday. It is worth reading in order to wrap your brain around the basic options.

William Greider suggests that the failed bailout vote is actually an "invigorating moment for democracy."

Now, what do YOU think should be done? What is the solution to this mess? Should Congress be acting? If so, how? If not, why not?

UPDATE: Robert Kuttner's take on the bailout after yesterday's defeat in the House.

Countering the Lie About Race and the Bailout

Check this out.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Welfare for Richie Rich, But Not John Q. Public

Well, it looks like the plutocracy might get their way after all. The current bailout bill has a couple of moderating provisions in it from the first version, but it still is what it is: welfare for the most greedy and corrupt in our society. Moreover, make no mistake, this disaster and the at least $700 B bailout will hurt average Americans in many ways, not the least of which will be by making it nearly impossible for President Obama to expand health care access to millions of Americans, improve schools, pour sufficient resources into renewable/alternative energy, etc. Hell, there is a part of me that believes that is probably an ulterior motive in all of this...

David Sirota offers 5 reasons this bailout package should fail.

Here, Josh Holland discusses what a progressive bailout plan might look like.

And, finally, Chalmers Johnson points out that the out-of-control, wasteful military budget is really what is going to bankrupt the nation, if we don't do something FAST.

What do you think? Do you support the bailout? Do you oppose it? Why or why not...

"Damned Spot: All-Time Favorite Political Ads"

From the folks at Slate:

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Trailer: "Flow: For Love of Water"

This looks good:

Round One Goes to Obama

In my mind, Obama clearly won the debate last evening and moved another step or two closer to becoming president of the United States. Obama, as always, was cool headed, lucid throughout, thoughtful, rational and, most importantly presidential. On the other hand, McCain was caustic, angry, smirky, patronizing as hell, and often rambling and incoherent. For the average viewer at home, I suspect Obama was much easier to understand and connect with. He stayed on point, actually addressed the questions asked and never descended into petty personal attacks or a dismissive tone, as McCain did on a few occasions. Conversely, McCain would go into his "grandpa's got a story" mode and begin to wander off onto topics unrelated to the question, making it hard for many to follow him and grasp the key points McCain wanted to make, I bet.

For some strange reason, and I haven't seen anyone writing about this yet, McCain made three or four bizarre-o references, one with regard to his sharpy pen, to being old that, instead of allaying any fears the electorate might have had about his ancient-ness, to me only seemed to underscore it further. A psychologist could analyze this better than I can, but it was notable and weird...

In addition, the body language/visual comparison between the two candidates was a blow out. Obama stands with poise and confidence, erect and respectful as he speaks and as he listens. A number of times when John McCain would start to distort the truth, make a patronizing personal attack, or just plain lie, the split screen would show Obama looking at Jim Lehrer, smiling, maybe shaking his head a bit, as if to say, "there he goes again." It nicely called into question whatever nonesense McCain was spouting at that moment before Obama jumped back in to rebut. On the other hand, McCain stood hunched over. He smirked and grimaced a lot and did that weird, scary smiley thing he has become infamous for, a kind of older version of the Dick Cheney. And, at one point, while Obama was taking it to McCain, the Arizona Senator was leaning over the podium, squinting and straining to see something in the audience, or somewhere off in the distance. It was really bizarre.

On this point, too, a number of people out their in pundit-land are talking about the strange unwillingness of John McCain to look at Obama or address him directly, as Jim Lehrer asked the candidates to do on several occasions. When McCain would make his most sleazy and personal attacks on Obama, he would literally turn away from the senator and his eyes would get all shifty.

Here is a clip of the body language from McCain:


Here are Chris Matthews and Eugene Robinson discussing it. At one point last night, Matthews went so far as to call McCain "troll-like" and "grouchy":

Here is what one psychologist wrote:
As a psychotherapist and someone who treats people with anger management problems, we typically try to educate people that anger is often an emotion that masks other emotions. I think it's significant that McCain didn't make much, if any, eye contact because it suggests one of two things to me; he doesn't want to make eye contact because he is prone to losing control of his emotions if he deals directly with the other person, or, his anger masks fear and the eye contact may increase or substantiate the fear.

I noticed him doing the same thing in the Republican primary debates. The perception observers are likely to have is that he is unwilling to acknowledge the opponent's legitimacy and/or is contemptuous of the opponent.

And another,
I think people really are missing the point about McCain's failure to look at Obama. McCain was afraid of Obama. It was really clear--look at how much McCain blinked in the first half hour. I study monkey behavior--low ranking monkeys don't look at high ranking monkeys. In a physical, instinctive sense, Obama owned McCain tonight and I think the instant polling reflects that.

This was the foreign policy debate, which should have been the kindest terrain for McCain. That Obama not only held his own, but I think clearly won on both style and substance, means it is actually a BIG win for Obama. The next two debates will shift to friendly ground for Obama: economics and domestic issues.

I will say this, Obama failed to take at least 5 or 6 opportunities to really pound McCain when the opportunity presented itself: when McCain lied, when McCain's record might have allowed for a direct hit, or when Obama might have tied McSame back to Bush and conservative ideology. For instance, Obama should have had a needling quote right off the bat that "it's niceof you to join us here tonight, John," referencing McCain's failed attempt to weasel out of the debate. Or, he should have nailed him on screwing up the bailout discussions and being a divisive partisan force there, rather than a bipartisan uniter, as he claims. Or, during the discussion of Russia's recent bloody incursion into Georgia, Obama conceded too much to McCain and should have said something like this, "While both senator McCain and I agree that Russians actions in this case were unacceptable, I strongly disagree with the precipitous, sabre-rattling rhetoric my opponent employed, which does nothing to bring us closer to a solution to this grave problem, and in fact only complicates an already difficult situation. This kind of rash, intemperate reaction by Senator McCain calls into question his ability to make the kind of clear-headed assessments and judgements necessary by the Commander-in-Chief." See where I am coming from on this. Lots of opportunities were left ont he table and Obama can be a little too willing to concede points to McCain.

Here is an even tougher reaction on this point from a progressive blogger over at Open Left and it is worth your consideration. Be sure to look at the comments section, too, for several good responses.

That said, I do think Obama can be effective when he concedes a small point to McCain and then steers the discussion back to the larger, over-arching point of philosophy where the two are clearly at odds. If done well, it minimizes McCain's attempt to score a point and puts Obama back in the driver's seat.

On a certain level, I understand why Obama does not like to hammer people, particularly as a black candidate in a society still laced with strong racist sentiment. But, if he does end up losing this election, we might look back and point to these moments as significant lost opportunities. He did let McCain off the hook a few times and I suspect McCain's advisors behind the scenes breathed a sigh of real relief in those moments that their guy did not just get absolutely burried. I hope Obama will be a little more sharp and will unleash a few zingers in the upcoming debates.

Obama was strong early on during the economic discussion and I like the way he kept bringing it back to the fundamental failure of conservative policy. He might have extended this thread throughout the entire debate, including in foreign policy and come back to it on the domestic side at the end, but he let it go. This was another missed opportunity. The reality of our current predicament is that we are dealing with the chickens/vultures coming home to roost after a few decades of conservative, glassy-eyed free-market, militarist policies. Hammering this line not only helps Obama win the presidency, but it also helps Democrats win more congressional races, a key dynamic of this race if Obama is to be able to do much once he is in office.

The initial polls and snap reactions by voters indicates a strong sense that Obama won the debate, as well, although in pundit-land McCain has received more generous responses to what I thought was an abysmal performance by him. This reminds me of 2004 when Kerry mopped the floor with Bush in a couple of the debates and pundit-land called it a draw, or even gave Bush the edge. So, we live in a mediated world, not one necessarily based in reality. It will be interesting to see what transpires over the next few days and then into the lead-up to this week's VP debate.

A CBS instant poll revealed this data:
40% of uncommitted voters who watched the debate tonight thought Barack Obama was the winner. 22% thought John McCain won. 38% saw it as a draw.

68% of these voters think Obama would make the right decision
about the economy. 41% think McCain would.

49% of these voters think Obama would make the right decisions about Iraq. 55% think McCain would.
Watch here:

Two focus groups, one by GOP pollster Frank Luntz and another by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, both declared Obama the winner. Here's video of Luntz... it is heartening for Obama fans:



What did you think of the debate? Let me know...

PS: Let me add, in response to my fellow progressive/lefties, like Sean Penn, who complain that Obama won't be aggressively left enough and, thus, saw last night as a disappointment . Well, yes, I agree that I'd like a much more progressive/left policy agenda and a little more fire from time to time from Obama. No real argument there. My own personal views are not fully consonant with Obama's on a range of issues. But, we play on the field we have and on that field, there are two candidates, McCain and Obama. Yeah, yeah, Cynthia McKinney is technically better on the issues, but she ain't winnin'. The stakes are too high to bother with the third party stuff this year. So, we have two flawed candidates, but one clearly light years ahead of the other. So, in this realm we compromise to staunch the bleeding of the last 7+ years. We need to close ranks to help the Democrat win power, which will itself, whatever Obama's weaknesses, be a powerful repudiation of the Bush years and Republicanism. But our work does not end there. We must see politics and citizenship in a much more expansive way. We need to continue to push Obama leftward and, more importantly, we do this by getting more and more active as citizens in building alternative organizations to give our views voice throughout society, in formal politics and outside of formal politics. This kind of institution building was key to the conservative ascendancy and if we really ever want a progressive America, we need to do the same on "our side." So, this presidential race is but one piece of a much more massive project. But, it is significant and we cannot afford to lend our voices to a public discourse that might eventually give us McCain/Palin in the White House. That is unacceptable in the EXTREME and any lefty who thinks or writes or says otherwise is a lunatic, given what we have all recently been through...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Cho On This, Palin!

Feminist comedian Margaret Cho had this to say recently about GOP veep pick, Sarah Palin:

"...she is the ultimate misogynist. She is a woman hater in the extreme. To force women to have children against their will, to deny abortion rights EVEN in cases of incest and rape is abominable. She is an insult to feminism, a sickening example what a woman will do to other women in order to please men and further her own career. Women do s**t like that to other women to keep them down – to make their achievement seem more extraordinary – to keep women out of their way, so they can enjoy all the power and the men themselves, and that stuff makes them worse than sexist men. It is worse to be a traitor than a perpetrator."

Ouch.

Diversionary Tactics... Psychedelic Ads!

In honor of John McCain's never-ending, chicken-shit diversionary tactics, I take this opportunity to step away from all the political and economic silliness swirling around right now, to show you some really trippy ads and psa's from the 1970s:

Here is a psychedelic bicentenniel ad by the U.S. Information Agency:


Peter Max video for The Beatles, "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds":
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Here is the infamous 1974 7-Up "Bubbles" ad ("We see the light of 7-Up!"):


Here is the follow-up 1975 ad by 7-Up:


Sesame Street's Psychedelic Alphabet:


Here is a Hanna Barbara Anti-Drug PSA from 1970:


Here is an anti-smoking PAS by Peter Max:


Here's a 1968 Peter Max 7-Up ad:


Here is a 1970s Peter-Mix-ish Intermission Cartoon:


Trippy 1970s Cinema Ad:


Psychedelic McDonald's Ad:


Here's a trippy Levi's Blue Jeans ad from 1977:


F&F Throat Aid psychedelic ad:


And even Campbell's Soup got in the act:

Bawk.. Bawk... Bawk!

McCain and Palin are clearly running scared from the debates and have turned to a series of desperate stunts, the most serious of which is McCain's shameless politicization of the financial bailout discussions in Congress, to try to divert attention from their general cluelessness and their overall lunacy. We can only hope that the American people see all this for what it is: bullshit.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Letterman Slams McCain for Bailing On Him...

A must see...

Circulate.

And, for good measure, here is Sarah Silverman doing her best to convince Jews to vote for Obama. Careful, though, if you are sensitive to "non-PC" humor. This one exploits all kinds of racial and religious stereotypes... You have been warned.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Documenting the Montgomery Bus Boycott

I am teaching my "African Americans and the Politics of Race, from the New Deal to the New Right" course this semester and we have made it to the Montgomery Bus Boycott this week. I have my students looking at some of the primary documents available from that landmark protest and thought I'd share a few with you... (click any document to enlarge)

Here is the law that segregated the busses:

The situation on the busses was degrading for African Americans. Jo Anne Robinson recalled, “I was on my way to the airport when this driver tells me to get to the rear (of the bus). He was standing over me with his hand drawn back saying, ‘Get up from there! Get up from there!’ I felt like a dog. And I got mad after this was over, and I realized that I was a human being and just as intelligent …” Richard Jordan offered this, “The driver would yell out at Negroes to get back in the bus, and swear out in public, ‘damn, dumb Negro.’ ” And, Sadie Brooks, remembered, “Women with babies in their arms had stand over empty seats.”

It is important to remember that Rosa Parks was not the first person to challenge segregation on busses. In fact, because they were one of the few places where black and white came together in segregated Southern society, busses were a regular site of racial challenge and negotiation throughout the Jim Crow era. Claudette Colvin was at the center of a previous incident, but it did not lead to a mass-based protest. Why not? Click here to find out. What Mrs. Parks' protest offered was a good test case that local civil rights leaders could use to challenge the ordinances.

Here is Mrs. Parks' mug shot at the police station after her arrest. Doesn't she look veeeeerrrry threatening? Well, in fact she was. In her defiance, she and other early activists called into question the whole system of white supremacy.
If you still happen to think Rosa Parks was just a tired old woman, instead of a long-time advocate for racial justice who had, in fact, challenged segregation on busses before, then click here.

Unfortunately, we tend to wrap these important historical events around one heroic figure, like Rosa Parks, instead of taking the time to understand that this was a part of an emerging social movement, where many, many people played important roles, from small to large. This "great person" version of history teaches us the wrong lessons about how social change happens. Instead of realizing that it was thousands of impassioned ordinary people who made this revolution, and thus understanding that WE are the engine of social change in our own world today, we sit around waiting for heroic "deliverers" to come and solve our problems.

E.D. Nixon (pictured above) is another key figure in the MBB who has been overshadowed by Parks and Dr. King. Here is a good bio on Nixon and his role in the protest. There were also white folks, like Virginia and Clifford Durr, who also supported the cause. Learn more about them here.

As with many campaigns during the civil rights era, women played a central, though often overlooked, role in the MBB. Jo Anne Robinson (pictured to the right) and the Women's Political Council were especially crucial to the effort in Montgomery. Here is the original call to participate in the boycott, written by Robinson, and secretly mimeographed during the night at a nearby historically black college. This is how a revolution begins:
Here Robinson describes how she and others produced and distributed this leaflet:
I sat down and quickly drafted a message and then called a good friend and colleague... who had access to the college’s mimeograph equipment. When I told him that the WPC was staging a boycott and needed to run off the notices, he told me that he too had suffered embarrassment on the city buses....

Along with two of my most trusted senior students, we quickly agreed to meet almost immediately, in the middle of the night, at the college’s duplicating room. We were able to get three messages to a page... in order to produce the tens of thousands of leaflets we knew would be needed. By 4 a.m. Friday, the sheets had been duplicated, cut in thirds, and bundled....

Between 4 and 7 a.m., the two students and I mapped out distribution routes for the notices. Some of the WPC officers previously had discussed how and where to deliver thousands of leaflets announcing a boycott, and those plans now stood me in good stead....

After class my two students and I quickly finalized our plans for distributing the thousands of leaflets so that one would reach every black home in Montgomery. I took out the WPC membership roster and called [them].... I alerted all of them to the forthcoming distribution of the leaflets, and enlisted their aid in speeding and organizing the distribution network....

Throughout the late morning and early afternoon hours we dropped off tens of thousands of leaflets. Some of our bundles were dropped off at schools.... Leaflets were also dropped off at business places, storefronts, beauty parlors, beer halls, factories, barber shops, and every other available place. Workers would pass along notices both to other employees as well as to customers....

By 2 o’clock thousands of the mimeographed handbills had changed hands many times. Practically every black man, woman, and child in Montgomery knew the plan and was passing the word along...

Thousands of local African Americans supported the MBB, a protest that lasted 381 days. Think of how hard it is to organize people in your community to come out one time for an event. Think of how hard it is to get those folks to come back for a second night. Now, consider the mind-boggling challenge of keeping a community behind a protest for over a year!

The boycott stretched more than a year, its thousands of participants resolute throughout. Montgomery’s black citizens needed the buses during that year, of course, but they stayed away week after long week. Some could share cars, but many walked for miles, to work, to the store, and in all kinds of weather. Organizers of the protest arranged carpools and made lunches for those participating in the boycott. These were the simple, everyday, often overlooked, heroic acts of the campaign. One participant, Gussie Nesbitt, explained, “I walked because I wanted everything to be better for us. … I wanted to be one of them that tried to make it better. I didn’t want somebody else to make it better for me. I walked. I never attempted to take the bus. Never. I was tired, but I didn’t have no desire to get on the bus.”

This is what one local African American woman, who worked as a maid in a white household, had to say about the MBB:
Maid: This stuff has been going on for a long time. To tell you the truth, it’s been happening ever since I came here before [World War II]. But here in the last few years they’ve been getting worse and worse. When you get on the bus they yell: "Get on back there"... and half of the time they wouldn’t take your transfer, then they make you get up so white men could sit down where there were no seats in the back. And you know about a year ago they put one of the high school girls in jail 'cause she wouldn't move. They should have boycotted the buses then. But we are sure fixing 'em now and I hope we don’t ever start back riding... We [are] people, we are not dogs or cats.... All we want 'em to do is treat us right. They shouldn’t make me get up for some white person when I paid the same fare and I got on first. And they should stop being so nasty.... We pay just like the white folks....

[The bus companies] are the ones losing the money and our preachers say we will not ride unless they give us what we want.... You see the business men are losing money too, because people only go to town when they have to.... When you do something to my people you do it to me too....

Dr. King, at the ripe old age of 26, was asked to head the new Montgomery Improvement Association, the organizational lead of the MBB. Here is what King told a crowd at one of the MIA's many mass meetings:
Democracy gives us this right to protest and that is all we’re doing.... We can say honestly that we have not advocated violence, have not practiced it and have gone courageously on with a Christian movement. Ours is a spiritual movement depending on moral and spiritual fortitude. The protest is still going on. (Great deal of applause here)....

Freedom doesn’t come on a silver platter. With every great movement toward freedom there will inevitably be trials. Somebody will have to have the courage to sacrifice. You don’t get to the Promised Land without going through the Wilderness. You don’t get there without crossing over hills and mountains, but if you keep on keeping on, you can’t help but reach it. We won’t all see it, but it’s coming and it’s because God is for it....

We won’t back down. We are going on with our movement.

Let us continue with the same spirit, with the same orderliness, with the same discipline, with the same Christian approach. I believe that God is using Montgomery as his proving ground.... God be praised for you, for your loyalty, for your determination. God bless you and keep you, and may God be with us as we go on.

Here are the initial demands of the MIA. Note that it isn't just about bus seating. Segregation on busses was a way in to an attack on the entire Jim Crow system:

But, of course, many local whites opposed the MBB. Here is the text from a handbill that was given out at a 1956 rally in Montgomery organized by the Central Alabama Citizens Council. 10,000 white citizens attended. Leaders of Montgomery’s local government—including Mayor Gayle—spoke to the crowd about preventing integration.
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to abolish the Negro race, proper methods should be used. Among these are guns, bows and arrows, sling shots and knives.

We hold these truths to be self evident that all whites are created equal with certain rights; among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of dead niggers.

In every stage of the bus boycott we have been oppressed and degraded because of black slimy, juicy, unbearably stinking niggers. The conduct should not be dwelt upon because behind them they have an ancestral background of Pigmies, head hunters and snot suckers.

My friends it is time we wised up to these black devils. I tell you they are a group of two legged agitators who persist in walking up and down our streets protruding their black lips. If we don’t stop helping these African flesh eaters, we will soon wake up and find Rev. King in the White House.

LET’S GET ON THE BALL WHITE CITIZENS.

The Book "Declaration of Segregation" will appear April, 1956. If this appeals to you be sure to read the book.

And the forces of reaction and white supremacy meant business. In fact, Dr. King's home was bombed during the campaign. Here is the front page of the newspaper that day.

Even with all kinds of legal and extra-legal repression aimed at the boycotters, they were able to organize an effective campaign. Here is a good article from the Montgomery newspaper about the "mechanics of the protest." And, in the end, the collective power of Montgomery's black community prevailed. Here is the front page of the newspaper the day victory was achieved in the MBB.

Even after the MMB won victory in court in 1956, the battle had just begun. Just because a law changes, or a court decision is won, does not mean anything really changes on the ground. Real live humans have to then deal with each other in these new situations and a process of social and racial renegotiation takes place. Here is the flyer the MIA distributed to local people regarding how they might act on newly integrated busses in Montgomery:
Here is a political cartoon from The Militant, a white, lefty/labor newspaper. It suggests the bigger meaning of what happened in Montgomery in 1955-56:
In the end, the MBB DID NOT end segregation in Montgomery, or across the South. It would take more time and struggle for that. The court decision was narrowly aimed at bussing in Montgomery. But, the MBB did offer a second early victory for the Movement, fast on the heals of the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954. As such, it brought the Movement increased national and international attention, heightened the expectations of African Americans and their allies about further progress and increased the organizing efforts of people across the region. Moreover, the MBB demonstrated again, as had the 1941 March on Washington Movement or the 1942 Congress of Racial Equality sit-ins in Chicago and Washington, D.C., that non-violent direct action could be a powerful tool in challenging white supremacy. And, of course, it was the MBB that initially brought a young 26 year old preacher to national attention...

Here is to the contribution of all those, known and unknown, who participated in this historic campaign. They are an important part in the ongoing history of justice and human rights!

Hitting McCain on Gender and the Wage Gap

This is a very good new ad and I hope it receives wide airing:

Pass it along...

Op-Art: The Bailout

(click to enlarge)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Economic Collapse and the Proposed Bail-Out

Wondering about the ongoing economic collapse in the U.S.? Not sure what to make of the proposed massive, trillion dollar bailout? Here are a few good resources from progressive points of view:

- Here is a great overview of how we got into this mess...

- Economist Robert Kuttner suggests that New Deal-style action is necessary to avert a full-scale Depression-sized economic meltdown in the U.S., but he is no fan of Sec. Paulson's proposal, which he thinks is a handout to Wall Street fat-cats.

- Similarly, economist and NYTimes opinion page regular, Paul Krugman, who called the collapse last Wednesday, "the worst thing I've ever seen," argues that the meltdown is the result of several decades of an unrestrained free-market capitalism, essentially the failure of conservative economic policy. He believes that this crisis could be as bad as 1931 - total collapse of the system - if bold action is not taken. But, Krugman thinks we need to think it through before acting. And, like Kuttner, he is not sold on Paulson's plan. In fact, in today's column he called Paulson's plan, "cash for trash." Ouch.

- At Truthout.org,, conomics journalist William Greider, never one to pull punches, calls Paulson's plan a 'historic swindle" Richard Behan agrees, suggesting that the bailout plan is simply "one more weapon of mass deception." Jack Balkin completes the trio of dissent.

- John Nichols, over at The Nation, shows how the insurance industry is attempting to capitalize on this disaster to LOOSEN REGULATIONS further!

- Josh Holland nicely explains why our economic system is on the verge of total collapse.

- Mark Sumner discusses the way John McCain and other deregulators are on the hook for this economic meltdown.

- Robert Borosage suggests the need for a "citizens' plan" to address the financial collapse. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont agrees.

- Activist/economic critic, Naomi Klein, sees the financial crisis as another part of the Bush Administration's use of the "shock doctrine." She also suggests this is a good time to argue for more cooperative economic policies.

- Chris Hedges doesn't like what he is seeing, either: "The lobbyists and corporate lawyers, the heads of financial firms and the crooks who control Wall Street, all those who spent the last three decades assuring us that government was part of the problem and should get out of the way, are now busy looting the U.S. treasury."

- Paul Rosenberge suggests we need to get at "root problems" in solving this crisis.

- Here is Amy Goodman, of Democracy Now!, criticizing "Wall Street Socialists."

- Chuck Collins suggests we "tax the speculators" as a fair way to bail out of this mess.

- And here and here, writers try to explain how unrestrained free-market ideology is to blame for this debacle. Similarly, over at the Financial TImes, David Blake argues that this crisis is "Greenspan's sins return to haunt us." And, hell, even the Europeans, Left and Right, are mocking the U.S. financial flame-out. And Chinese officials have called for a new global economic order after the American "economic tsunami."

- For good measure, this post features a whole slew of economists, from the Right to the Left, who think the Paulson plan is bad news.

- And, yesterday, Obama himself critiqued the Paulson plan, stating that there should be "no blank check" for Wall Street without help for Main Street. He went on to outline his own 7-point plan.

- Jacob Weisberg likes Obama's economic plans, but thinks he needs to do a better job selling it by coming up with a memorable slogan.

For myself, I'll simply add this: Why is it that the government can find $3 trillion to fight unpopular, illegal wars abroad, or $1 trillion to bail out failed, greedy and corrupt Wall Street fat cats, but it can never seem to find the billions necessary to provide all citizens with adequate health care, or all children with excellent public schools, all help homeowners who were the victims of sleazy, greedy financial schemes?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Burning Spear Live at Club Roxbury in Omaha

We went to see roots reggae legend Burning Spear last night at Club Roxbury in Omaha. As usual, the band was smokin' hot, super-rootsy and always conscious. The crowd was also waaaaayy into it, which spurred on the players. Burning Spear, himself, was having a good ole time throughout... as were we. Love that roots-riddim! Praise Jah!

My camera phone didn't work quite as well inside in the dark (I don't have a flash), but I thought I'd post a few shots nonetheless:








Here are a couple of the more well-known cuts by Burning Spear:

"Slavery Days"
Slavery days - Burning Spear

"Marcus Garvey"
marcus garvey - burning spear

Book Salon: "Progressive & Religious"

Well, it is Sunday, so here is an interesting "book salon" from Firedoglake with author Robert Jones (no relation) about his new book, Progressive & Religious: How Christian Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist Leaders Are Moving Beyond the Culture Wars and Transforming American Public Life. The book delves into the way some progressives find the source for their political values in their spiritual traditions. In an age when the radical religious Right dominates the public perception/discourse over faith and politics, this is a nice alternative.

What do you think about the nexus between faith, spirituality and progressive politics?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

Quote of the Day

"The Democratic National Committee, using publicly available records, has identified 177 lobbyists working for the McCain campaign as either aides, policy advisers, or fundraisers. Of those 177 lobbyists, at least 83 have in recent years lobbied for the financial industry McCain now attacks."
-- Mother Jones magazine

About White Privilege...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What Privileges Do McCain and Palin Receive Because They are White?


Anti-racist activist Time Wise explores 13 ways the Republican ticket has benefited from white privilege. Here is one:

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at 17 like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because "every family has challenges," even as black and Latino families with similar "challenges" are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.
Here is another:
White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.
And another:
White privilege is when you can call yourself a "fuckin' redneck," like Bristol Palin's boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll "kick their fuckin' ass," and talk about how you like to "shoot shit" for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.
And one more:
White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.

To read the others, click the above link...

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tom Tomorrow Strikes Again!

In July, Tomorrow created this cartoon, which speaks to the current economic crisis:
(click to enlarge)

In August, Tomorrow created this cartoon, which hits at the diversionary strategy behind the Palin pick:
(click to enlarge)

Any thoughts? Reactions? Comments?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Saturday, September 13, 2008

ACTION ALERT! Postcards for Obama

Since Governor Palin's acceptance speech at the RNC convention in a locked-down St. Paul a week or so ago, there has been a lot of frustration and outrage on the liberal, progressive, left at her insult toward community organizing. Similarly, there has been a lot of hand-wringing and nervous worrying over the last week about the tightening of the presidential race, the daily tracking poll horse-race, and the increasing sliminess of the McCain/Palin campaign.

Well, there is an antidote for all of this: COMMUNITY ORGANIZING, or ACTION! This thing is far from over and we shouldn't get all defeatist at this critical moment. It was never going to be easy. So, over the next 6-7 weeks, we need to be concrete and energetic in our attempt to win this election and bring some kind of sanity back to our government. The stakes are even higher than they were in 2000 or 2004!

In that spirit, here is one really, really good, concrete idea that anyone, anywhere can do to help the cause:

Postcards for Obama in Ohio
(This is awesome and could be easily duplicated in other swing states...)

Invite some folks over to your house for a postcard writing party and help the Obama/Biden ticket in Ohio.

Here is how it works: Get your friends and family to send 10 postcards each to the address below and the folks there will mail them to voters in Ohio. To make it fun, you might consider inviting a few friends over to have a postcard writing session while you eat pizza or drink a beer. And I know of one person who is going to a block party this weekend, so she went out and bought a bunch of postcards to bring along for people to fill out there. There are all kinds of creative ways to gather postcards!

Please remember how important Ohio is and that it is one of the states where GOP voter fraud was blatant in 2004. Just a couple of lines on 10 postcards showing off your home state might make all the difference in the world! Your investment on postage if you send 10 cards will only be $2.70 plus 10 postcards, which are usually 25-50 cents at your local drugstore. And it is easy; it's possible to write a short note 10 times in an hour or so. Of course, feel free to write and send more than 10, too, but 10 is a good base.

Here is a more detailed step-by-step:

STEP ONE: Purchase 10 or more postcards representing your city, state or region. Get ones that have a significant monument or iconic image from your state. Purchase 27 cent stamps for each card.

STEP TWO: Write a brief, to the point message no more than 2-4 sentences long. Here is some sample language: "Dear Fellow Voter, I am voting for Barack Obama because he will get us out of the war in Iraq sensibly and will push out the special interests that have dominated our politics for too long. For a better economy, more affordable health care, better schools, a healthy environment, and a more sane foreign policy, there is really only one choice in this election. The Obama/Biden ticket presents the only chance to change directions from the tragedy of the last 7+ years of Bush/Republican dominance. Please vote for Barack on November 4 and spread the word! Sincerely, (Sign Your First Name, City and State)"

STEP THREE: Stamp each card, leave the return address and mailing address areas on each card blank (the cards will be addressed by volunteers), and mail all of your postcards together in an envelope(s) or box to:

WFO Post Card Campaign
193 E. Rich Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215

Women for Obama (WFO) suggests that you please mail your postcards by September 20, 2008, but I suspect you could still send them through early October. They need to have volunteers address them and send them, so they need some time on their end, too.

There is evidence that these types of personal, grassroots outreach efforts are effective. So, get involved. Make a difference. Be a part of history... write to Ohio this week!

Yes We Can!!! Happy Writing!

(forward this link to ten of your friends)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Quote of the Day

This analysis of Sarah Palin comes from former Republican John Cole:

Sarah Palin is the distilled essence of wingnut. She has it all. She is dishonest. She is a religious nut. She is incurious. She is anti-science. She is inexperienced. She abuses her authority. She hides behind executive privilege. She is a big spender. She works from the gut and places a greater value on instinct than knowledge.

And most dangerous of all, she is supremely self-confident to the point of not recognizing how ill-equipped she is to lead the country.

As to why Cole thinks the Republican base loves Pailin so?

George Bush in a dress. The Palin interview should be a gut-check for Republicans and conservatives who think the last eight years has been a perversion of conservative principles. I am betting most of them will not even put down their pom-poms, though.

Powerful New Ad Hits Palin on Aerial Hunting

This hard-hitting ad, created by Defenders of Wildlife, goes up in the crucial swing-state of Ohio.

Dag. That is a tough ad. Any thoughts? One person over at DailyKos suggested that the ad would be even more powerful if it featured a manly-man hunter, or a prominent hunter, saying that this type of hunting is lame and that most sportsmen oppose this kind of thing.

DOF is hoping to air the ad in other swing states, too. So, if you think this is effective, let them know and maybe even contribute to the organization.

As with all this good counter-politicking by Obama and his supporters, be sure to spread the word by forwarding this ad to as many folks as you know, particularly anyone you know who is on the fence or undecided.

Question of the Day...

Which is more painful to watch:

A. Sarah Palin pretend she has a clue about foreign policy, even though she cannot even say what the Bush Doctrine is:

And as a bonus, click here to read her link 9/11 to Iraq recently while talking to troops. The link also completely debunks the idea. Completely. I mean, heck, even Bush & company don't go there anymore and have had to concede the point...

B. John McCain respond to a question about Palin's qualifications in foreign policy by ignoring the questions and repeatedly saying "energy":

Answer: both are BRUTAL. Seriously, if the fate of the nation and, to a large degree, the planet, did not lay in the balance, this might be funny, in a pathetic sort of way. But, it does, so this isn't. Spread the word...

Oh, and in case you aren't quite scared enough, how about this little ditty:

Gotta love Pat Buchanan, of all people, saying, "He [McCain] will make Cheney look like Gandhi"...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pants on Fire!

Another punch thrown by filmmaker Robert Greenwald. Take a look:

As it says at the very end, pass this video along to 10 of your friends, neighbors, relatives or acquaintances and tell them to pass it on to ten more... "psssstt... do something!"

UPDATE: Paul Krugman skewers the McCain/Palin "blizzard of lies."

Could Omaha Decide It All in 2008?


That's right. Omaha, Nebraska, just might play a pivotal role in the upcoming presidential election and the Obama campaign is pressing its case. Read all about it here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Quote of the Day

"It's not rocket science. It's $6 million and 53 employees."

-Sarah Palin, on being mayor of Wasilla, in a 1996 interview

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Deadly Writers Patrol

One of my friends and mentors from back in Madison - Craig Werner - is one of the founding members of a writing group that has evolved into a full-fledged magazine, The Deadly Writers Patrol. Here is how they describe themselves:

The Deadly Writer's Patrol began innocently enough. A master's degree student at the University of Chicago living in Madison needed a project to fulfill the requirement of a writing class. Lisa called the Vet Center seeking permission to assemble a group of veterans to instruct them in a particular method of creative writing. The Vet Center staff batted the concept around before giving Lisa tacit approval.

Since its inception in 1981, one of the primary objectives of the Madison, Wisconsin Vet Center has been to assist veterans to express themselves coherently and concisely and effectively. Generally we rely on psychotherapy, particularly group psychotherapy, as the modality to allow meaningful self-expression.

Our experience as counselors tells us that even a veteran's "combat voice" may predate military service. We learn the rules and methods of self-expression at home, in school, from peers, cultural and religious background, television, song, and movies and the military. We adopt a style that works to accomplish our goals in each of those settings.

Like every other institution, the military relies heavily on language and proper use of and understanding of that language. However, in the military, only a few people are allowed to speak. Debate is stifled Silent respect is promoted. Mostly the soldier is at a loss how and where to describe war and his/her role. The war remains under wraps and thus seemingly under control.

After Tet of 1968 and the presidential elections of the same year, the military lost its ballast that the cause was just, essential and obtainable. As disheartened veterans began returning in numbers to "the world" and began to speak from their soldier's voices, that world, the government, churches and schools discovered that veterans had a message to convey. Groups like Vietnam Veterans Against the War spoke critically. Medals were hurled back into the political face of America. Veterans grew their hair long. Grass roots veterans groups popped up across the country not rallying to the flag but to a belief that the government that induced the war and the military brass that led the war did not share the intensity and destruction of the war.

Of equal strength were those veterans who felt our folly was in not winning the war. We failed to wage war properly.

Yet perhaps an even more numerous group who thought that the war was part of duty and obligation to country existed but stayed out of the fray. Theirs was not to reason why, theirs was but to do or die and later cry.

America went on business as usual while many veterans' lives were stuck in the mountains and rice paddies of Vietnam.

Lisa offered to help veterans purge their disheveled, unvoiced feelings using the constructive and creative techniques of writing. She mentored our writing careers for a semester. Then without a trace she disappeared. We wrote on. One of the original members, Howard Sherpe, dubbed the group the "Deadly Writer's Patrol." We have been meeting for eight years. The current members are: Tom Deits, Jean Duesler, Tom Helgeson, Lisa Photos, Steve Piotrowski, Howard Sherpe, and Craig Werner.

Not all members are veterans but to each the single word "Vietnam" holds deep and deadly meaning. What you are about to read are members' and other invited writers' stories. Vietnam may not be directly mentioned in a story but it is the backdrop, the curtain that rises and falls, the chord that pulls the string.

This is a grassroots project, open to everyone. If you are a Vietnam veteran, I hope you will check it out. If you know a Vietnam veteran, please pass this link along to them and encourage them to subscribe to The Deadly Writers Patrol and, more importantly, to contribute their own thoughts, memories, photos and words to the project. And, even if you are not a Vietnam vet, but are interested in Vietnam and the 1960s, again, please subscribe and consider contributing. Finally, spread the word far and wide. This is a worthy endeavor which deserves wide support... it is good people doing a good thing. I hope you might make the effort to get behind it and help make it a success.

Be Afraid, Very, Very Afraid...

Things that make you go hhhhmmmm. Why is it that Jeremiah Wright was a controversy, but Sarah Palin's nut-case religious beliefs are not? Take a look for yourself:

Part 1:


Part II:


And, for good measure:

RNC in 1-Minute

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Get Your War On: The Cross

The Daily Show: "Small Town Values"

They really are "the best f*&%#@ing news team ever":

Got Milk?

Here is the trailer for Gus VanSant's new film, "Milk," starring Sean Penn. It looks great. Check it out:


Harvey Milk was the first openly gay person to hold a major political office in the United States when he became a City Supervisor for San Francisco in 1976. (TIME Magazine has named him one of the 100 heroes of the 20th century.) Known as "The Mayor of Castro Street," Milk was an advocate for the rights of gays and lesbians, as well as an advocate of civil rights, more broadly. In 1978, Milk and S.F. Mayor Willie Moscone were gunned down at the capitol by a disgruntled former supervisor, Dan White, who then got off with a very light sentence after a controversial "twinkie defense" defense by his lawyers. White later committed suicide in 1985.

On the historic night of his election, Harvey Milk told supporters, "This is not my victory -- it's yours. If a gay man can win, it proves that there is hope for all minorities who are willing to fight." In his famous "Hope speech," Milk said,
"[Y]ou have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home got too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us’es, the us’es will give up….

So if there is a message I have to give, it is that if I’ve found one overriding thing about my personal election, it’s the fact that if a gay person can be elected, it’s a green light. And you and you and you, you have to give people hope."
In an audio note he left, which was to be listened to only upon his assassination, Milk wrote, "If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door." You can listen to the audio tape here:


After the assassinations, Beat poet, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, wrote, "An Elegy To Dispel Gloom":

Let us not sit upon the ground
and tell sad stories
of the death of sanity.
Two humans made of flesh
are meshed in death
and no more need be said.
It is pure vanity
to think that all humanity
be bathed in red
because one young mad man
one so bad man
lost his head.
The force that through the red fuze
drove the bullet
does not drive everyone
through the City of Saint Francis
where there's a breathless hush
in the air today
a hush at City Hall
and a hush at the Hall of Justice
a hush in Saint Francis Wood
where no bird tries to sing
a hush on the Great Highway
and in the great harbor
upon the great ships
and on the Embarcadero
from the Mission Rock
to the Eagle Cafe
a hush on the great red bridge
a hush in the Outer Mission
and at Hunter's Point
a hush at a hot potato stand on Pier 39
and a hush at the People's Temple
where no bird
tries its wings
a hush and a weeping
at the Convent of the Sacred Heart
on Upper Broadway
a hush upon the fleshpots
of Lower Broadway
a pall upon the punk rock
at Mabuhay Gardens
and upon the cafes and bookstores
of old North Beach
a hush upon the landscape
of the still wild West
where two sweet dudes are dead
and no more need be said.
Do not sit upon the ground and speak
of other senseless murderings
or worse disasters waiting
in the wings.
Do not sit upon the ground and talk
of the death of things beyond
these sad sad happenings.
Such men as these do rise above
our worst imaginings.

There is also an excellent 1984 documentary, "The Times of Harvey Milk." If you'd like to watch it via YouTube, click here:

part 1
part 2
part 3
part 4
part 5
part 6
part 7
part 8
part 9
part 10

Here is the review from "Siskel and Ebert"

Here is the original tv news report of Milk and Moscone's murder.

Here is footage of the "white night riot" after Milk's assassination and White's light punishment.

Here is footage of the gay pride parade in San Francisco in 1978.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Incomparable Bettye Lavette

I love the powerful, soulful, rockin' voice of Bettye LaVette. If you haven't checked her out, do so... she is smokin's hot!

I'll start with an autobiographical tune from her most recent CD, "Before the Money Came":
Before The Money Came (The Battle Of Bettye LaVette) - Bettye LaVette

This is a great live cut, with LaVette doing "Sleep to Dream" & "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got":


And here she is doing "Joy" and "Let Me Down Easy":