Tuesday, April 29, 2008

How Hagee's Hate Speech Encourages Violence Against Gays

By MARC MCDONALD

A lot of us have been shocked and appalled by John Hagee's hate speech against gays. But the worst aspect of this hate speech is that it is precisely the sort of provocation that encourages violence against gay people.

Last week, Hagee made comments linking Hurricane Katrina to a planned gay pride parade in New Orleans.

You don't have to be a genius to figure out the dangers in making such reckless, idiotic remarks. This is the sort of thing that encourages small-minded bigots who suffered devastation during Katrina to go out and beat up gay people for bringing God's wrath down upon the Gulf Coast.

I have no evidence of any such attacks specifically prompted by hate speech remarks (at least any more evidence than Hagee has to back up his idiotic assertion that Katrina was somehow divinely tied to a gay parade). But evidence is often lacking in hate crimes, in any case. After all, the Community United Against Violence, a San Francisco advocacy group, has noted that many gay-bashing hate crimes actually "go unreported, and many are mishandled by police."

And the fact is, anti-gay hate crimes have become a very real problem in today's America. And it's a problem that certainly isn't helped by bigots like Hagee blaming terrible natural disasters on gays.

As the Gay.com online community site has pointed out, hate crimes against gays are on the rise in America. The site quotes the FBI as reporting that "hate crimes against gays made up 16 percent of total documented hate crimes across the U.S. in 2006, up from 14 percent in 2005."

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Rush Limbaugh Puts His Foot In His Snout

By MARC MCDONALD

Rush Limbaugh has caused another controversy with his latest comments. UPI reported Friday that Limbaugh said that riots at this summer's Democratic National Convention in Denver would be "like a dream come true."

The Fat One was reported as saying that "There won't be riots at our (the GOP) convention."

Well, maybe not. (Although I know of a lot of Republicans who are angry and upset that the "liberal" John McCain is on the GOP ticket).

But what I objected to most with Limbaugh's latest OxyMoron nonsense were the other statements he made Friday. For example, Limbaugh claimed that, unlike Democrats, Republicans "don't riot."

Hmmm, I guess the drugs have turned The Fat One's brain into mush (or made it even mushier than it was before).

As I recall, Republicans don't hesitate to riot, when it suits their purpose.

Does anyone remember the GOP rent-a-mob rioters in Florida in 2000 who disrupted the Gore-Bush vote counting process? Those Brownshirts played a role in the theft of the election and the installation of the Bush Crime Family.

As far as Limbaugh's comment Friday that Republicans "don't kill our children," I really have to wonder about his mental state these days. Granted, Limbaugh likely isn't up on what's going on in Iraq. In fact, he doesn't seem to be aware of what war is all about (no surprise there: Limbaugh was a chickensh*t coward who ran away from serving his country during the Vietnam War).

After all, Limbaugh's hero, Bush, is the one who ordered a war based on lies that has killed over 4,000 of America's soldiers (most of them young people).

So, yes: the Republicans do have the blood of a lot of children on their hands. Not to mention the thousands of Iraqi children who have been slaughtered in this nightmare of a war.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: these NeoCon extremists scare me a hell of a lot more than Al Qaeda ever could.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Despite Record Low Poll Numbers, Bush Still Bullies Wimpy Democrats

By MARC MCDONALD

George W. Bush is one of the most unpopular presidents ever. He has record low poll numbers. He is a lame-duck president.

Given his seemingly weak position, how does Bush continue to bully the Democrats? Good question.

The fact is, these days, Bush is actually less compromising than ever. And the wimpy Democrats continue to roll over for Bush.

Take the looming showdown on Capitol Hill over Bush's war funding. As the Associated Press pointed out, Bush has promised to veto any bill that exceeds his pending $108 billion request for war funding.

This is actually a tougher line than Bush took last spring, when he accepted $17 billion in domestic funding as part of a $120 billion war funding measure, AP notes.

The extra spending the Democrats have proposed includes $12.7 billion in funding to extend unemployment benefits. Bush has also signaled he'll oppose increased funding for GI Bill benefits for veterans.

So not only does Bush expect the Democrats to rubberstamp his war funds request, he's not even willing to compromise on the spending bill this time around.

AP notes that the GOP is actually eager to "battle with Democrats over add-ons to the war funding bill." So not only is Bush bullying Democrats, but his fellow Republicans continue to solidly support him as though he were enjoying robust approval ratings.

How can the clout of an unpopular lame duck like Bush actually be rising these days? The only reason I can come up with is that the Democrats have shown themselves to be such pushovers, that Bush knows he can get away with bullying them. If there's anything that emboldens a bully, it is wimpy behavior.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sign The Petition: Ask Air America To Give Sam Seder A Daily Show

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A lot of us were disgusted and disappointed when Air America recently suspended the progressive talk radio goddess Randi Rhodes (she later quit the network and has now moved over to the Nova M radio network).

But in any case, Randi's departure opens up a key slot on Air America's daily 3-6 p.m. EST schedule that we think ought to be filled by the brilliant Sam Seder. (If you've never heard his program, you're missing out on some of the most intelligent talk radio on the airwaves). Currently Seder's insightful program only airs weekly on Air America (Sundays, 4-7 p.m. EST).

Go here to sign a petition to urge Air America to give Seder a daily slot in their schedule.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Pentagon Institute: Iraq War "A Major Debacle" With Outcome "In Doubt"

By MARC MCDONALD

A report released Thursday describes the Iraq War as "a major debacle" in which the outcome "is in doubt."

Who published these harshly critical words? An anti-war group? Some obscure left-wing blog? The Huffington Post? Code Pink?

Uh, no: actually this sharp criticism came from none other than the National Defense University, a leading Pentagon military educational institute.

One wonders how the Bush White House (as well as its allies at Fox News and HateWing radio) will spin this story. No doubt, they will either ignore the story, or attack or smear its authors.

To which I say: Good luck with that.

Bush will have a tough time trying to debunk this stunning report. After all, as McClatchy Newspapers noted, "the report carries considerable weight because it was written by Joseph Collins, a former senior Pentagon official, and was based in part on interviews with other former senior defense and intelligence officials who played roles in prewar preparations."

The report's opening sentence says it all: "Measured in blood and treasure, the war in Iraq has achieved the status of a major war and a major debacle."

Watch out for major NeoCon spin control in the weeks ahead. And look out for the Republicans to throw a major hissy fit. I suspect they'll also be angry at McClatchy for simply publishing this story in the first place.

Here's the McClatchy Newspapers story on the Pentagon institute's report:

By Jonathan S. Landay and John Walcott, McClatchy Newspapers

The war in Iraq has become "a major debacle" and the outcome "is in doubt" despite improvements in security from the buildup in U.S. forces, according to a highly critical study published Thursday by the Pentagon's premier military educational institute.

The report released by the National Defense University raises fresh doubts about President Bush's projections of a U.S. victory in Iraq just a week after Bush announced that he was suspending U.S. troop reductions.

The report carries considerable weight because it was written by Joseph Collins, a former senior Pentagon official, and was based in part on interviews with other former senior defense and intelligence officials who played roles in prewar preparations.

It was published by the university's National Institute for Strategic Studies, a Defense Department research center.

"Measured in blood and treasure, the war in Iraq has achieved the status of a major war and a major debacle," says the report's opening line.

At the time the report was written last fall, more than 4,000 U.S. and foreign troops, more than 7,500 Iraqi security forces and as many as 82,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed and tens of thousands of others wounded, while the cost of the war since March 2003 was estimated at $450 billion .

"No one as yet has calculated the costs of long-term veterans' benefits or the total impact on service personnel and materiel," wrote Collins, who was involved in planning post-invasion humanitarian operations.

The report said that the United States has suffered serious political costs, with its standing in the world seriously diminished. Moreover, operations in Iraq have diverted "manpower, materiel and the attention of decision-makers" from "all other efforts in the war on terror" and severely strained the U.S. armed forces.

"Compounding all of these problems, our efforts there (in Iraq) were designed to enhance U.S. national security, but they have become, at least temporarily, an incubator for terrorism and have emboldened Iran to expand its influence throughout the Middle East," the report continued.


Read the rest of the McClatchy story here. Go here to read the Pentagon institute report.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Whatever Happened To Protest Music?

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"You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you sit back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud"


"Masters of War," ---Bob Dylan, 1963
__________________________________

"We can dance, we can dance, we can dance, we can dance tonight
Come on just move your body
Come on just move your body"


"Not Leaving Without You," ---Paris Hilton, 2006

By MARC MCDONALD

Welcome to another edition of Progressive Music Classics.

Back in the 1960s, even the biggest-selling music artists routinely released songs that protested the Vietnam War and demanded change. From John Lennon ("Give Peace A Chance") to the Rolling Stones ("Street Fighting Man") to Bob Dylan ("Masters of War") the pop charts were full of protest songs.

Today, we're living in an era that is like the 1960s in many ways. The nation's social fabric has been torn asunder. An unpopular war based on lies rages on. And the occupant in the White House is a crook who makes even Richard Nixon look like a good president. In short, America is going down the toilet.

But unlike the 1960s, if you listen to today's music, you'd be unaware that there was any problem at all with today's America. The top pop stars of today have little to say about anything. Outside of some of the socially conscious hip-hop artists, today's music stars are content to peddle the most bland, innocuous lyrics imaginable. Mostly, the songs are about sex, sex, and more sex. If there's any message at all, it's: "Be apathetic. Don't use your brain. Be a good little consumer."

The shame of it all is that there's probably never been an era in American history that cried out more for protest songs.

Today, America is saddled with an unbelievably corrupt occupant in the White House. George W. Bush is guilty of a long list of serious crimes, from embracing torture as official state policy to illegal wiretaps to lying America into a $3 trillion fiasco of a war.

What's worse is that our nation's mainstream media has failed in its responsibility to inform the American people about Bush's crimes. Indeed, "journalists" like the Judith Miller of The New York Times actually worked hand-in-hand with the White House, to sell Bush's war to the American people.

Given this sad state of affairs, one might think that at least some of today's pop stars would be inclined to speak out about the ongoing crisis in America. The crimes of Bush and Cheney could easily be the inspiration for hundreds of protest songs.

But sadly, this isn't the case. Today's pampered pop and rock stars are quite content to sit in their mansions and count their cash and refuse to speak out on the issues of the day, much less write songs about them.

And as a result, our radio stations and pop charts today are full of the most sugary, banal, shallow dross imaginable. In fact, there's probably never been an era in U.S. musical history where popular music was as sanitized and apolitical as it is today.

True, there is the occasional exception (like when the Dixie Chicks dared to speak up against Bush). As a result, their career took a hit when Clear Channel yanked the group's songs from its radio stations. The band even received death threats from the NeoCon Bush supporters.

Most other top artists, though, have failed to follow the Dixie Chicks' lead and speak out. It's clear that they are cowards who are afraid any sort of risks of damaging their commercial prospects. (Of course, it's also possible that they simply don't give a sh*t about what's going on in America). I'm not sure which is worse: apathy, or cowardice---but today's pop stars are similar to the mainstream media in that they lack a spine and they're only concerned about making as much money as possible.

Ironically, despite the blatant commercialism of today's pop scene, music sales continue to plunge in the U.S. The big record labels bitch and moan endlessly about this. They point the finger of blame at file-sharing services. The latter, no doubt, have some of the blame---but I believe the main culprit is that today's music just plain sucks.

The best pop/rock music has always been risk-taking, rebellious, bold and creative. That's the polar opposite of today's sad line-up of Britney, Paris Hilton, Justin Timberlake and their endless clones.

Meanwhile, here's a salute to some of the best protest music of yesteryear:
  • "Ohio," ---Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, 1970.
  • "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag," ---Country Joe & the Fish, 1967.
  • "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," ---Gil Scott-Heron, 1970.
  • "Power To The People," ---John Lennon, 1971.
  • "The Call Up," ---by The Clash, 1980.
  • "For What It's Worth," ----Buffalo Springfield, 1967.
  • "Shipbuilding," ---Elvis Costello, 1982.
  • "Between the Wars," ---Billy Bragg, 1985.
  • "Talkin' World War III Blues," ---Bob Dylan, 1963.
  • "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy," ---Pete Seeger, 1967.
  • "Get Up, Stand Up," ---Bob Marley, 1973.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Back In the Days When American Workers Were Willing To Stand Up For Their Rights

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This video takes a look at the 1934 San Francisco general strike. May 9 will mark the 74th anniversary of this historic event, which occurred during an era when U.S. workers were willing to stand up to defend their rights.

Sadly, today's working class in America seems to be content with letting CEOs and other robber barons shit all over us, as these crooks loot the U.S. Treasury and dole out hundreds of billions of dollars in corporate welfare to themselves and their rich allies.

If you've had enough of all this, take action. Also, consider joining a union.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

White House Yawns At MLK Anniversary

By MARC MCDONALD

Friday was a day that the world remembered the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., who was killed 40 years ago in Memphis. Hillary Clinton and John McCain spoke to audiences in Memphis. In Chicago, Barack Obama spoke about King's legacy.

While the world commemorated King's achievements, the 40th anniversary seemed to draw nothing more than a big yawn at the White House. George W. Bush met with the prime minister of Romania. The only comment the White House had on the MLK anniversary was a short, bland, generic statement on the White House Web site. By contrast, the statement for something called "National Tartan Day" was actually much lengthier than the White House statement about King.

It's clear at this point that Bush can't even be bothered to go through the motions of acting like he cares about African-Americans. (Actually, this was apparent to many Americans long before Kanye West's "George Bush doesn't care about black people" remark during a Hurricane Katrina benefit concert).

Bush has long shown complete and utter contempt for civil rights. In this regard, he's following in the Bush family footsteps. (Recall how his father, George H.W. Bush, campaigned against the 1964 Civil Rights Act).

During the 2000 campaign, George W. Bush made it a point to stop by Bob Jones University, where he praised the officials at that school (which incredibly still had a ban on interracial dating). This, no doubt, played real well to the "I don't want my white daughter dating a Negro" racist crowd---but the rest of us were shocked and appalled.

Indeed, in the Bush era, we've seen nothing less than the return of Jim Crow. How else to explain things like the 2000 election, in which record numbers of black voters were disenfranchised. As Greg Palast has documented, about one million black voters didn't count in the 2000 presidential election.

Against this backdrop, it shouldn't really be surprising that the 40th anniversary of King's assassination drew nothing more than a big yawn at the White House.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The More Things Change In Iraq, The More They Stay The Same

By THE MASKED LIBERAL

If you like the way things are going in Iraq, then you'll be thrilled by what our continued presence there will bring. More of the same. Six days, six months, six years--more of the same.

Violence will continue. Some months, killings will be up. Some months, down. Attacks on U.S. troops and installations will continue. Some days, we'll be spared a single casualty. Some days, two or three Americans will die.

Our half-billion-dollar embassy in Baghdad's Green Zone will continue to take hits, and an incendiary device could burn the place to the ground because Iraqi workers botched the fire-control system during construction. On purpose? Who's to say?

Can we look forward to a reduction in the strife between the Shiites and Sunnis? Truces will be declared and broken. Some months, killings will be up. Some months, they'll be down. Same old, same old. Religious strife has been part of the fabric of Iraqi civilization since it was called Mesopotamia. The Ottoman Empire couldn't pacify the region in the hundreds of years of trying. The British Empire had little better luck in the 1900s, despite an effort that killed 100,000 of its troops. Nation building has a hard go of it in Iraq.

Iraq's oil fields? Production is improving. It's a bit greater than it was prior to our invasion. Can it be sustained? Maybe--if we can keep it a secret that oil is flammable.

A workable Iraqi government? Sure, when the Shiites and Sunnis learn to love each other.

When a new president is elected this November, what will change in the war that's costing the United States $200,000 a minute? Very little, be our new leader Republican or Democrat. We're so deeply entwined in the pitiful nation of Iraq and in the region as a whole that massive policy change isn't possible. Troops will be shuffled in and shuffled out. Plans will be made and discarded. Generals will come and go. And we'll remain in Iraq.

And remain ... and remain ... and remain.