Friday, December 31, 2010

Tonight's Music Selection: "Night8" By NightCat

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night8 by NightCat
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By MARC McDONALD

Tonight's music selection is a track called "Night8" by, uh, me. A word of caution: it's not easy listening. In fact, if you've never heard music in the experimental "electronica" genre, you might well hate it and not regard it as "music" at all. (I'd suspect that most Baby Boomers will fall into this category).

I myself have yet to decide if this track is rubbish or if it is something worthwhile. I do know that over 1,000 people, from Europe to Japan, have listened to this track since I uploaded it to SoundCloud, the popular German music distribution site. If you've listened, I thank you for your time.

I've long been a fan of "electronica" music, ever since I heard a various artists album called Modulation & Transformation, Vol. 4, released in 1999 by the German label, Mille Plateaux, which specializes in this sort of music.

I have to admit, when I first heard this sort of music, I wondered if (A) it really was "music" at all and (B) if it wasn't just a bunch of random, aimless noise. It then occurred to me that I'd felt the same way when I first heard Free Jazz.

It also occurred to me that each new generation of music listeners can always be depended upon to condemn the next generation of music as "rubbish" (and even question whether it is "music" at all).

Recall how in the 1950s, traditional music lovers criticized rock'n'roll and called it rubbish. (What's amazing is that the music they were condemning at the time---from the likes of prime Elvis, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly---is now recognized as some of the greatest rock'n'roll ever recorded). And before that era, jazz lovers often had their music ridiculed by classical music lovers, who maintained that jazz wasn't really "music" at all.

Anyway, back to the Electronica genre. I have found that, the more I listened to this new music, the more I enjoyed it. I began to seek out and listen to the leading artists in the genre, ranging from Pan Sonic of Finland to Germany's Ekkehard Ehlers. Don't be surprised if you've never heard these artists: this genre's popularity is mostly in Europe (and, to a lesser extent, in East Asia, particularly Japan).

If you're tired of the current Top 40 chart pap and you'd like to hear something risk-taking and adventurous for a change, I urge you to give the Electronica genre a chance. It's not easy-listening, but I find that the best in this genre does reward patient listening. In that sense, it's a bit like jazz: it does not come to you, you must go to it.

(Indeed, when I first heard Electronica, it occurred to me that this music did indeed seem to share a few things with Free Jazz. I didn't know if that idea was heresy, or simply lunacy. But since then, I've noticed that there have been a number of highly successful collaborations between Electronica musicians and jazz musicians. One example of this was the acclaimed Masses album in 2001, which was a collaboration between British Electronica artist Spring Heel Jack and avant-garde jazz players from the Thirsty Ear record label.

If you'd like to explore this music further, here are a few of the best Electronica recordings I've come across recently:

1. Clicks & Cuts Various Artists, volumes 1 through 5, German label Mille Plateaux's showcasing of the best Electronica/IDM artists from Europe, North America and Japan.

2. Kesto by Pan Sonic. A massive 4-CD set from 2004 from Finland's prolific and relentlessly experimental Pan Sonic. Sadly, this record appears to already be out of print and copies fetch steep prices on eBay.

3. Confield by Autechre. One of my favorite Electronica artists, Autechre hails from Britain. I've enjoyed pretty much everything they're recorded since 1993, but the adventurous Confield is a notable highlight.

4. Ohm: The Early Gurus of Electronic Music: 1948-1980 Various Artists. Electronic music, of course, is nothing new. Here's a well-done roundup of the leading artists that inspired today's generation of Electronica artists. For my money, this is some of the best music of the 20th century.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Refresher Course on Racism's Horrors for Haley Barbour

Warning: this article contains descriptions of extremely graphic violence.

By MARC McDONALD

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour recently created a stir with his comments about the Civil Rights era. "I just don't remember it as being that bad," the Republican said.

Well, if you were a white, middle-class male living in the Deep South in the 1960s, it probably wasn't all that bad.

Barbour, you're entitled to your opinion. However, the millions of African-Americans who lived in the Deep South in that era might wish to disagree with you. But then, the gulf that separated their daily lives from your own pampered, sheltered life was trillions of light years.

It probably was pretty nice, living as a white middle-class male in Mississippi in the 1960s. You had the right to vote, for example. You were free to do whatever you wanted, and to go wherever you wanted. You could live your own life, without fear of being killed by terrorist groups like the KKK.

But someone needs to tell Barbour that life was hell on earth for a lot of people in the Deep South for many decades, simply for no other reason than they were born with the wrong skin color.

We all know about slavery. Well, actually, we don't: white America has never really come to grips with what was one of the great crimes of human history. Since slavery was abolished, White America for the most part hasn't lost a second's worth of sleep over the whole matter. The victims of this horror never received a penny in reparations.

In fact, most of White America remains pretty much ignorant of what went on during slavery. We watch bizarre spectacles like the Hollywood film, Gone With the Wind and we think that's what slavery was like. Black people singing songs in the cotton fields, living a colorful agrarian life. Gee, it doesn't sound so bad, after all!

I never cease to be amazed, though, at all the white people I talk to who say things like, "Slavery happened a long time ago. Black people should get over it and move on with their lives." It's easy, of course, for them to say that.

But here's a truth that I rarely hear mentioned anywhere. You could take a surgeon's scalpel to the history of the United States and cut out the entire sordid tale of slavery and you would STILL have a horrific tale of violence and oppression against black people that could rank with the great crimes of world history.

A lot of white Americans (particularly Republicans like Barbour) seem to think that no mistreatment of any black person ever occurred after 1865. They completely downplay or ignore the horrors visited upon African-Americans for an entire century after the Civil War: the Jim Crow laws, KKK terrorism, the exploitative sharecropper system, the lynching era, etc. etc.

And Ground Zero for a lot of this horror was right in Barbour's own state of Mississippi, whether he realizes it or not.

After all, in the same era that Barbour doesn't recall being "that bad," three civil rights workers were brutally lynched in cold blood in 1964, in Mississippi.

In fact, thousands of black people were lynched in the Deep South in the century following the Civil War. And in the period from 1882 to 1968, Mississippi led the nation with at least 581 lynchings.

Not only did Mississippi lead the nation in lynchings of black people, but the lynchings there were among the most vicious and gruesome.

Take, for example, the lynching of Luther Holbert and his wife.

In 1904, Holbert, an African-American sharecropper, and his wife were lynched in Doddsville, Mississippi. The couple were tied to trees and tortured for hours by a bloodthirsty mob.

As the Vicksburg Evening Post reported, the couple were forced to hold out their hands, while their fingers and ears were chopped off, one by one and then distributed to the crowd as souvenirs. Holbert was beaten badly, and one of his eyeballs was knocked out.

The newspaper article continues: "Some of the mob used a large corkscrew to bore into the flesh of the man and woman. It was applied to their arms, legs, and body, then pulled out, the spirals tearing out big pieces of raw, quivering flesh every time it was withdrawn."

Then, Holbert and his wife were soaked with oil and burned alive.

Such was life in the brutal Jim Crow era of Mississippi, which continued a century after the Civil War, until the 1964 Civil Rights Act sought to bring it to an end.

But as far as Barbour is concerned, things just weren't "that bad" in that turbulent era.

Of course, the sad thing is that, with his idiotic comments, Barbour likely hasn't damaged his reputation at all---at least among his fellow Republicans.

Recall how 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---the same people who are defending Barbour's comments today.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sarah Palin Flunks Once Again In Her Advice on Dealing with BP Disaster

By MARC McDONALD

Recall back in May when the BP oil disaster was raging? On May 31, Sarah Palin drew chuckles when she tweeted advice to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal about how to avoid having a "ravished coast."

Palin's moronic tweet read thusly:

"Gov.Jindal:to avoid ravished coast, build the berms.Ask forgiveness later;Feds are slow to act,local leadership&action can do more for coast"

Palin's use of the word "ravished" drew howls of laughter at the time. Indeed, it was so embarrassing that Palin later deleted the tweet from her timeline.

But now, it turns out that her advice (to "build the berms") was wrong as well.

On Thursday, an independent, non-partisan commission appointed by President Obama to investigate the oil spill concluded that "the berm project was a total bust that succeeded in capturing virtually no oil."

Predictably, Jindal blasted the report as "partisan" (which it wasn't). In any case, as a target of Jindal's wrath, the commission is in good company. Note that when the scientific community earlier pointed out "the inefficiency of the berms as a means of containing damage from the enormous spill," Jindal attacked the scientists, as well.

But then, the wingnuts have long had disputes with science on everything from climate change to evolution.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Day the American Left Died

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"This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper."

---The Hollow Men, T. S. Eliot

By MARC McDONALD

Many progressives are outraged over President Obama's caving on tax cuts for the rich. But I think this latest episode could signal something far more significant and disturbing in our society: no less than the death of the American Left.

Over the decades, the U.S. Left has suffered many thrashings, from the government's repression of the Wobblies nearly a century ago to Ronald Reagan's firing of 11,000 air traffic controllers in the 1981 PATCO strike.

But in the past, after each bruising setback, the Left always managed to pick itself up, dust itself off, and rally to fight another day.

Frankly, that's no longer the case in 2010. And Obama's habitual tendency to always yield to GOP demands shows that there really is no Left in America any more. Yes, there are individual progressives out there. But there is no real "Left" in the form of a significant national force that can counter the rabid Right.

Obama has stumbled on virtually all the important progressive issues during his presidency, from climate change, to the Employee Free Choice Act, to closing Gitmo, to ending George W. Bush's disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed, he has even escalated the Afghanistan disaster.

Indeed, the only "progressive" victory Obama has to show for his time in office is his ridiculously wimpy health care bill---a convoluted mess that is so watered down, compromised and corporate-friendly that it's exactly the sort of thing that a Republican politician might have passed. (In fact, one did---and it's important to note that Obamacare is actually to the right of Mitt Romney's plan in Massachusetts).

Obama has had many chances to reverse the outrages of the Bush years---and time after time, he has failed, as he continues to cave in to GOP demands.

Reversing Bush's reckless and fiscally insane tax cuts for the rich was a golden opportunity for Obama to finally draw a line in the sand and stand up for what his supporters wanted him to do when they voted him into office.

The fact that Obama caved without even putting up a fight shows that there is no real Left in America any more. Even the corporate-friendly moderate Bill Clinton put up a fight to push through his modest tax hikes in 1993. And Clinton was no Liberal.

The worst part about all of this is that Obama's constant concessions to the GOP will, in the end, wind up pleasing no one. It certainly won't win him any allies in the upcoming new Congress, which is about to be stocked with a new crop of rabid, right-wing Tea Bagger fanatics who'll do everything in their power to undercut Obama.

And Obama's constant appeasement will only serve to further disillusion his shrinking base who invested such high hopes in him only two short years ago. Exactly, who does Obama think is going to be inspired to vote for him in 2012? Who among the progressives really wants another four years of his wishy-washy, bland, constant appeasement of the hard-care Right?

Yes, there are still fragments of a "Left" in America. There are a relatively small number of idealistic progressive politicians, like Bernie Sanders. But none of them has any real chance of ever wielding any significant levers of power in American society.

Make no mistake: the American Left is, for all practical purposes, dead. It has taken many beatings and brutal setbacks over the decades: from the slayings of JFK, MLK and RFK in the 1960s to the crushing of the unions in the 1980s to Reagan's ending of the Fairness Doctrine, to the Supreme Court's Democracy-demolishing "Citizens United" travesty.

It should be clear to everyone now that the Left is dead. After eight horrific years of Bush, the Democrats were handed the reigns of power with a simple mandate: to end the GOP's ongoing rape and pillaging of U.S. society.

Instead of responding, the Dems and Obama proceeded to give the GOP virtually everything it wanted on a silver platter. And instead of taking a principled stand on Bush's tax cuts for the rich, Obama merely caved yet again with a whimper---and showed just how impotent and irrelevant the Democrats are in 21st century U.S. politics.

One final note: to those who think I'm being too alarmist or pessimistic, I'd like to say that no one on earth will be happier than me if I'm proved to be wrong. In fact, I'll be happy to eat a very large serving of crow (literally)---and I'll Webcam it and put it on YouTube for all to see.

But frankly, I'm hardly alone in my pessimism for American society. In April, 2010, Noam Chomsky compared today's U.S. to Weimar Germany. He said that the "mood of the country is frightening" and that he'd "never seen anything like this" in his lifetime.

As Chomsky noted, in Nazi Germany: "...it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up. This could become an overwhelming force. And if it happens it will be more dangerous than Germany. The United States is the world power. Germany was powerful but had more powerful antagonists. I don't think all this is very far away. If the polls are accurate it is not the Republicans but the right-wing Republicans, the crazed Republicans, who will sweep the next election."

Chomsky was right about the "crazed Republicans" sweeping the next election. Time will tell if the rest of his gloomy prognosis turns out to be true.

In the meantime, it's clear that the Left is dead in America. Granted, we never really had much of a "Left" in this country anyway, compared to the likes of Europe. But what we did have is pretty much dead now. And Obama's impotence demonstrates the Left's extinction as a force in American society.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Progressive Music Classics. Blind Willie Johnson's "John the Revelator"

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By MARC McDONALD

Welcome to another edition of Progressive Music Classics.

Texas blues great Blind Willie Johnson (1897-1945) may be even more mysterious than that blues enigma, Robert Johnson. For a start, only one known photo exists of Blind Willie (versus two known photos of Robert Johnson).

And, like Robert Johnson, much about Blind Willie's life is shrouded in mystery. It's not even known for certain how Blind Willie lost his sight, although theories and stories abound. What is known for sure is that Blind Willie died in obscurity and poverty in Beaumont, Texas in 1945. It seems that his house burned down and, having nowhere else to go, he lived in the burned-out ruins in the open air until he contracted malaria and died. His wife later said she tried to take him to the hospital, but they refused him because he was black. Such was everyday life for African-Americans in the brutal Jim Crow racist society of the South.

This song, "John the Revelator," recorded by Blind Willie in 1930, has been covered by many artists over the years, ranging from R.E.M. to John Mellencamp. Every single cover version has been inferior and unnecessary. Blind Willie's haunting version reigns supreme.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Most Nauseating Lie in Bush's New Book

By MARC McDONALD

George W. Bush has had two years to carefully work out a strategy for rehabilitating the legacy of his disastrous presidency. And now, we are seeing the first major salvo in that effort: Bush's new book, Decision Points.

As could be expected from a man who brazenly lied his way through his presidency, Decision Points is a book filled with outrageous lies and distortions of history.

Clearly, Bush is channeling his mentor, Karl Rove. Rove's credo has always been: if you want to get a message out, don't worry about whether it's true. Just repeat it loudly, over and over. It's a blunt force tactic that usually works with the sort of simple-minded people who voted for Bush and who are lining up to buy his book today.

Reading Decision Points is a surreal experience. It's from a man whose worldview comes straight from the likes of Fox News and Rush. It is remarkably detached from reality.

The most nauseating lie in Bush's new book comes, as you might expect, from the central event that defined the Bush years: the disastrous Iraq War.

In his book, Bush writes that he was astonished to find after the invasion that there were no WMDs in Iraq. "No one was more shocked or angry than I was when we didn't find the weapons," Bush writes. "I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do."

Indeed, Bush should have had a "sickening feeling" every time he thought about the non-existent WMDs. It should haunt him for the rest of his life.

But the record shows otherwise. In fact, a mere year after he ordered the Iraq invasion, Bush was already flippant about the missing WMDs. Incredibly, he even thought the topic was suitable fodder for humor.

In one of the most jaw-droppingly offensive performances by any U.S. politician in history, Bush laughed and joked about the missing WMDs in Iraq, during his March 24, 2004 appearance at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

To Bush, the non-existent WMDs were nothing more than a butt of a joke that night. While an overhead projector displayed photos of a puzzled-looking Bush searching around the Oval Office, Bush recited a comedy routine.

"Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere," Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners in the Oval Office. "Nope--no weapons over there! Maybe they're under here," he said, as a photo showed him looking under a desk.

Meanwhile, the assembled "Liberal" media elites at the White House Correspondents Dinner were laughing heartily during Bush's performance.

Bush joked about the same non-existent WMDs that represented his case for taking the nation to war with Iraq. Recall how in the 2002-2003 build-up to the invasion of Iraq, every other word out of Bush's mouth was "WMD."

Bush and the other chickenhawk NeoCons constantly did their best to make the case that Saddam had WMDs that posed a threat to America. The NeoCons in effect used WMDs as a club to beat over the head of anyone who dared question whether the U.S. was following a wise course in invading Iraq.

We Progressives never bought Bush's case for war. We tried to point out to anyone who would listen that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. We also tried to point out that Iraq was a small Third World nation with less than one-tenth of America's population, a nation with little industry.

Indeed, if Iraq did pose some sort of threat to America, we argued, then the question wasn't whether the U.S. should invade. Instead it was this: exactly why wasn't the Pentagon, with its trillion-dollar budgets, up to the job of protecting America? (Note that the U.S. spends more on its military than the rest of the world combined).

Indeed, many of us progressives rejected the very term, "Weapons of Mass Destruction." It was nothing more than a deliberately scary, propagandistic term, meant to frighten Americans into doing whatever the Bush/Cheney regime wanted. WMD was a term that belonged in a Marvel comic book, not in the real world.

Fast-forward to 2010. Bush is now trying to whitewash his presidency and hawk his book--the advance for which he reportedly pocketed a cool $7 million. Apparently unaware of the existence of sites like YouTube, Bush is now trying to pretend the 2004 White House Correspondents Dinner never happened. And now, he have us believe that the non-existent WMDs left him feeling "shocked," "angry" and with a "sickening feeling."

Actually, that exactly how I felt upon reading Bush's pack of lies.

Update:
I like Mother Jones writer David Corn. But I have to admit, I was a bit dismayed to see his Nov. 19 piece, "Bush's Biggest WMD Lie?" which makes exactly the same point as my Nov. 9 article above. (No, I'm not saying Corn copied my article----I doubt he's aware of my obscure blog). But the coincidence is spooky indeed.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Progressive Music Classics. Crass: "Reality Asylum"

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By MARC McDONALD

Welcome to another edition of Progressive Music Classics.

I recently read where Maureen Tucker, drummer for the legendary band, The Velvet Underground, has embraced the Tea Bagger movement. When I first read the news, I thought it must be a joke.

But when I read her comments in detail, it was clear that Tucker had indeed drunk the wingnut Kool-Aid. Anyone who was expecting a subversive or "hip" take on Tea Bagger politics from Tucker was indeed disappointed. Indeed, it just seems like she regurgitated Rush Limbaugh's stale, turgid talking points.

I'll be writing more about this in detail in a future post. But suffice it to say, it was a disappointment to me. Since the Golden Era of progressive/left-field music pretty much petered out in the mid-1980s, it's been all downhill.

The late, great Bill Hicks once decried the music of the late 1980s as a "Republican wet dream." And things are even worse now.

Not only does today's music suck, it is incredibly conservative, politically. Few bands have any message at all, besides: "Be a Good Little Consumer."

Either that, or it's the self-aggrandizing and the worship of bling-bling in hip-hop culture (which has gotten rather tiresome after nearly three decades). Rap-wise, we've gone a long ways downhill since the golden era of Public Enemy.

Of course, there are exceptions to today's sanitized, conservative music scene (like Britain's underrated Manic Street Preachers). But by and large, today's music artists have nothing to say. And when they do say something, it's often shockingly reactionary (as were Tucker's idiotic remarks).

But I'd given up on the Velvets years ago, anyway. For me, their mystique and credibility pretty much vanished when they opted to do a cash-in reunion tour in the 1990s.

One band that you'll never see reuniting, or selling out, is Britain's Crass. The 1979 Crass song, "Reality Asylum," (which I posted above) is the sort of daring, defiantly uncommercial, left-field music that simply isn't being created by anyone these days. Nobody has the balls.

It's a shame, because we need challenging music like this more than ever, in an era of corporate propaganda. Indeed, things are vastly worse today that they were when Crass were around, three decades ago. After all, back then, there was no Fox News or Rush Limbaugh.

A take-no-prisoners tirade against religion, "Reality Asylum" no doubt will be deeply offensive to "Christians" (whatever that term means). But like it or loath it, you've gotta admit that it's a song with a message that makes you think. Not like today's music, which is designed (as Elvis Costello once noted), to "anesthetize the way that you feel."

A few days ago, after reading Tucker's idiotic, pro-Tea Bagger comments, I felt a bit depressed. I reached for some of my old vinyl records, to cheer myself up. And listening to the likes of "Reality Asylum," made me even more despondent, when I realized that nothing like this music is being created today.

It's not just that today's music scene is full of brainless idiots. It's that Tucker has been hailed as a genius and canonized as a giant of 20th century music. And meanwhile, Crass's Eve Libertine is one of those truly deserving and brilliant musicians who has toiled her career away in relative obscurity. For my money, she is vastly more talented than Tucker, or today's pop mediocrities like Lady Gaga.

Libertine is a brave artist who never backed down from attacking the rich and the powerful. And in today's post-Bush/Cheney era, we need the likes of Crass more than ever. But instead we get banal, mediocre pop from the likes of Lady Gaga and Paris Hilton.

Years ago, a "Spin" magazine article noted that challenging and controversial music was no longer being created. Today's young people were unshockable, the article claimed. It said that Americans had become so jaded that it had become impossible for any rock band to create a controversial song and shake up society like the Sex Pistols did in the late 1970s. In fact, the "Spin" article blamed this state of affairs on the Pistols themselves, and claimed that the band had killed the idea of "controversy" in music. "Fuck you, Johnny Rotten," the article sneered.

To this, I say: bullshit. People today are as shockable as ever. The problem lies with our safe-as-milk, cowardly pop artists, who are afraid to rock the boat. We saw this during the Iraq War and during the whole nightmarish eight years of the Bush/Cheney era. Virtually no rock star spoke out against the madness (much less penned a protest song). There were a few exceptions (like Neil Young). But by and large, the music establishment was silent.

Actually, I think "Reality Asylum" would still shock a lot of people, were it released today. And were Crass American instead of British, I'd suspect they'd get death threats from right-wing religious crazies. After all, the band got a lot of grief over this song in relatively secular Britain. Imagine what the outcry would have been in the Bible Belt had the song been released in the U.S. (it wasn't).

"Spin" magazine was wrong. The problem isn't that Americans are too jaded to be shocked. Rather, it's that our cowardly musicians today are too timid (and lacking in imagination) to make any radical statements, or "dangerous" music.

It's a shame, because that's precisely what our society needs these days. We're a smug, self-satisfied, sleep-walking society that needs to be jolted out of our corporate-media-induced apathy. That's what real Free Speech is all about.

God knows, today's American society has no shortage of sacred cows that need to be challenged and attacked. Mindless, blind flag-waving patriotism. Stupid, pointless wars. Downright evil politicians. An immoral economic system that steals from the working class and gives to the rich. And right-wing politicians who cynically use "Christianity" and twist around the Bible's words to make gullible working people vote against their own interests.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Please Get Out and Vote Today--It Ain't Over Till It's Over

By MARC McDONALD

Yes, I've been disappointed with the wimpy Dems as much as any other progressive the past couple of years. But we all need to get out and vote today. That is, unless you're nostalgic for the Bush years.

As Michael Moore said:

"And if they win on Tuesday, they plan to show no mercy. They will not speak of bipartisanship or olive branches or tolerate any filibuster threats. They will come in and do the job with a mandate they'll perceive the electorate will have given them. They will not fart around for two years like the Democrats did. They will not "search for compromise" or "find middle ground." They will not meet you halfway on the playing field. They know that touchdowns aren't scored at the 50-yard line. Unlike our guys, they're not stupid or spineless. Make no mistake about it, my friends. A perfect storm has gathered of racists, homophobes, corporatists and born agains and they are on fire."

So PLEASE, get out and vote (and encourage your friends to do the same).

Here is helpful voting info from MoveOn.org:

Election 2010 Voting Information

Today, November 2nd, is Election Day! Make sure to get out and vote. Voting is pretty simple, but if you have any questions, here's an outline of helpful information. Please share this information widely---post it on Facebook and Twitter, etc.

Q: Where and when do I vote?

Find your polling place, voting times, and other important information at http://pol.moveon.org/votinginfo2010.html, using an application developed by the Voting Information Project.
You can also get your polling location by texting "where" to 30644 from your mobile phone.

These resources are excellent, but not perfect, so to double-check information, you can use the Voting Information Project application to find contact information for your state or local election official.

What do I need to bring?

Voting ID laws vary from state to state, but if you have ID, bring it. To find out the details, check out your state's info at http://www.866ourvote.org/state.
You can also find more information by calling or checking out the website of your state election official. Look up their contact information here: http://pol.moveon.org/votinginfo2010.html/

What if something goes wrong?

Not on the voter list? Make sure you're at the right polling place, then ask for a provisional ballot.
Need legal help? Call 1-866-OUR-VOTE or email help@866ourvote.org.

On your ballot

The League of Young Voters has put together a site where groups and individuals can post do-it-yourself voter guides. Check out your state here: http://theballot.org

How can I help get out the vote today?

Make calls to voters right from your home: http://pol.moveon.org/2010/call/start.html

And a quote to remind us all how important it is to vote today...

"Because if everyone who fought for change in 2008 shows up to vote in 2010, we will win this election, I'm confident that we will." --President Barack Obama

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rand Paul Knows A Thing or Two About Boot Heels

By MARC McDONALD

Here's an interesting quote from Rand Paul that he made on May 20, 2010, in the aftermath of the BP oil spill disaster:

"What I don't like from the president's administration is this sort of, 'I'll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.' I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business."

Seems like Paul's campaign is the one who knows a thing or two about putting boot heels on people's throats. And he also knows a thing or two about what it is to be anti-American. (And what could be more anti-American than jackbooting a peaceful demonstrator at a political rally?)

Update: Now the wingnuts are trying to spin this incident to their advantage, claiming that MoveOn.org's Lauren Valle, the woman whose head was stomped was acting in a threatening manner and trying to "assault" Paul.

Let me see if I understand the wingnuts' point of view on this. A young peaceful woman carrying a sign at a political rally is to be feared. And yet, when the wingnuts carry assault rifles near the area where President Obama is giving a speech, they're just being peaceful folks who shouldn't alarm anyone.

Small, slender woman with a sign: dangerous, evil, threatening and bad.

Tea Baggers carrying assault rifles near President Obama: just peaceful, good folks who wouldn't hurt a flea. Nothing to see here, folks: move right along.

Yeah, right.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Iraq War Grinds On, Ignored By Mainstream Media

By MARC McDONALD

Remember the Iraq War? That bloody conflict disappeared off the American public's radar screen a long time ago.

Americans got weary of the endless stories of violence and bombings and turned their attention elsewhere. We've now gone back to our usual MSM diet of stories about Paris Hilton's latest hairstyle and Britney Spears' latest tabloid escapades.

Unfortunately, someone forget to tell the Iraqi people the war is over. And that's a shame, because it's the Iraqi people who have to live with the continuing horrific violence that continues to plague the nation.

All told, George W. Bush's Iraq War is probably one of the great tragedies of human history. It's an illegal, immoral war that cost the American people $3 trillion. And it has thus far cost 1.4 million Iraqi people their lives.

What's worse is that the Iraq War continues to grind on, day after day----all but ignored by the U.S. media. Sure, the MSM will devote coverage to the occasional spectacular bombings that periodically kills dozens. But the day-to-day horrific violence, which still continues, has long ago disappeared off the MSM's radar screens.

Consider the violence that occurred in Iraq just this past week (a very ordinary week that was no bloodier than any other week). Just in the past seven days, Iraq was hit by the following violent attacks:


1. News Item: On Oct. 19, a roadside bomb hit the convoy of the top U.N. official, Ad Melkert, in Iraq after a meeting with Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf. Melkert was unhurt, but the blast killed an Iraqi policeman and wounded three others.

That same day, three explosions targeted the houses of police officers in Tikrit city north of Baghdad on Tuesday morning. 11 people from one family were killed in the first explosion and two members of another family were wounded in the second explosion.

2. News Item: On Oct. 18, a roadside bomb detonated targeting the convoy of Jasim Ali Mahmoud, Baghdad provincial council member in downtown Baghdad. Jasim was killed and three of his guards and five civilians were wounded.

3. News Item: On Oct. 17, gunmen stormed several goldsmiths' shops in Baghdad, killing three shop owners. A citizen ran to inform the nearby police patrols and police clashed with gunmen as they left the building. Gunmen used grenades and machine guns killing two policemen and the citizen that informed the police. Police returned fire and killed two of the gunmen.

4. News Item: On Oct. 15, a magnetic bomb that was stuck to the car of a college professor, Saad Abdulwahab, detonated in Baghdad, late Thursday, killing the professor and seriously injuring two civilian passers by.


The preceding just included some of the highlights of daily violent attacks that continue in Iraq, day after day, week after week, month after month. As horrific as the violence was during the past week, the fact is, it was just another typical week of bloody mayhem in a country that remains very much at war.

True, few U.S. troops are dying in Iraq these days (mainly because most troops are confined to their bases). But the fact is, U.S. soldiers are still dying in Iraq. The latest casualty, Pfc. Dylan T. Reid, 24, of Springfield, Mo., died Oct. 16 in Amarah, Iraq.

Just how bleak is it in Iraq these days? One telling indication is the ongoing humanitarian crisis of millions of Iraqis who have fled their country and are afraid to return home. Over 2 million Iraqis continue to live in neighboring Syria. Another million have fled to Jordan. And those few who've been brave enough to venture back home are regretting their decision, a recent poll indicates.

Although Americans don't pay much attention to the Iraq War these days, it's still costing us plenty. After all, 50,000 troops remain in the country. The Congressional Research Service reports that the Pentagon continues to spend $5.4 billion per month in Iraq (and another $8.6 billion per month in Afghanistan).

Much has been made of President Obama's decision to reduce the number of troops in Iraq. But less attention has been paid to the fact that the U.S. has greatly expanded the number of private contractors working in the country. As the Nation has pointed out, "using private forces is a backdoor way of continuing a substantial US presence under the cover of 'diplomatic security.'"

There have been many losers in the ongoing Iraq War fiasco. The Iraq people. The American people. U.S. troops, who suffered in a war based on lies. The moral standing of America, which has now been shattered forever.

But for all the mayhem and violence, there has been at least one winner in the Iraq War: the multinational oil corporations. After all, as Alan Greenspan noted in his 2007 book, the Iraq War really was about oil.

ExxonMobil and Shell are among those who've lined up to reap the massive reward of Iraq's oil fields. And Halliburton, of course, hasn't been left out either. On Oct. 14, Dick Cheney's old outfit was awarded a nice, fat contract by ExxonMobil Iraq Ltd.

Friday, October 01, 2010

GOP Candidate Carl Paladino to Reporter: "I'll Take You Out"

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Do you wanna know what kind of nutcases will be running this country if the expected GOP tidal wave happens in November?

This video shows New York GOP gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, getting into a shouting match with a reporter on Sept. 30 over Paladino's claim of an extramarital affair by Andrew Cuomo.

At one point in the confrontation, Paladino says "I'll take you out, buddy."

As usual, the Republicans make threats and face no consequences, while the MSM spends all its time bringing us "important" news stories like Paris Hilton's latest lover, or Britney Spears' latest hairstyle.

And meanwhile, the meek and timid Democrats bend over time and time again and take it up the ass and never fight back. They insist on being polite and not fighting fire with fire. In short, they keep bringing a wet noodle to a switchblade fight.

Paladino, if you'll recall, has a history of making controversial and offensive comments. In April, the blog WNYmedia.net published a series of offensive emails that "Paladino sent around or forwarded on to friends, associates and coworkers."

As Huffington Post noted, these include:


  • "Ahead of Obama's swearing-in ceremony, Paladino sent around a video entitled "Obama Inauguration Rehearsal." The video shows an African tribesman dancing, and is apparently popular among white supremacists.

  • An email with the subject line "Proof the Irish discovered Africa" containing a video of monkeys that appear to be doing a Riverdance-style jig.

  • A photo of Barack and Michelle Obama depicted as a pimp and a ho

  • An email featuring this fake motivational poster:"






Oh, and in case you think Paladino is some obscure Tea Party nut with no chance of being elected, keep in mind that a recent poll showed that he is only down by a mere 6 points in his race for governor with Democratic candidate Andrew Cuomo.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I Smack Down a "Financial Times" Wingnut Columnist

By MARC McDONALD

Britain's The Financial Times is my favorite newspaper these days (indeed, I think it may be the best newspaper in the English-speaking world).

This might come as a surprise to those who know me as a flaming progressive. But the fact is, as a former newspaper journalist, I've come to appreciate over the years what makes a good newspaper.

The Financial Times (or "FT") has all the qualities that make a great newspaper in spades. Solid, in-depth reporting. Outstanding feature articles. No fluff or sleaze. Some of the best international news coverage anywhere. And, best of all, little obvious pro-business bias (despite the fact the FT is primarily a business newspaper).

This is in sharp contrast to Rupert Murdoch's The Wall Street Journal. The latter at one time was an outstanding U.S. newspaper that was only marred by an extreme right-wing editorial page. Sadly, under Murdoch's ownership, the entire paper now has an extreme right-wing bias.

The WSJ is, of course, ferociously pro-GOP. It also exists in its own parallel universe (like the rest of the Fox News/Drudge/Hate Radio propaganda machine). In the WSJ, for example, Ronald Reagan is an American hero who single-handedly won the Cold War. And global warming is a liberal conspiracy. And war criminals like Karl Rove are regarded as noble, distinguished statesman, who get regular columns to express their words of wisdom.

By contrast, The Financial Times is a welcome dose of reality. Here, global warming is accepted as the hard science that it is. And George W. Bush is called out for what he was: a disaster for both the U.S. and the world. And the Iraq War is rightly described as a fiasco.

Don't get me wrong: politically, the FT is not the Guardian. However, you get a lot more depth with the FT (as might be expected from a newspaper whose readership may have the wealthiest demographics of any newspaper in the world). A newspaper that has rich readers is able to attract high-paying advertisers, like BMW and Rolex. And that, in turn, leads to a bigger budget and a quality product.

It also reveals an interesting fact. Many wealthy readers don't want a newspaper that is the printed equivalent of Fox News. In fact, a lot of these rich subscribers regard the likes of Rush Limbaugh as a lightweight clown, just like progressives do. They wouldn't dream of wasting three hours a day listening to his OxyMoron ramblings.

What wealthy readers do want, though, is a highly concentrated dose of unvarnished truth. Just the facts, with no spin. In fact, I'd suspect that the CEOs, the prime ministers and the rich & powerful that make up much of the FT's readership can't afford any spin in their news. The info they get has to be accurate, it has to be top-quality, and it has to cover the world. It has to be free of fluff and tabloid sleaze. You won't read about Paris Hilton in The Financial Times.

Anyway, that's my theory as to why the FT offers such a superior newspaper. It shines in many areas that U.S. newspapers are truly lacking these days. Most U.S. newspapers offer abysmal international coverage, for example. And the quality of writing at most U.S. newspapers has consistently declined in recent years.

U.S. publishers have responded to declining circulations by slashing budgets and newsroom staff (an idiotic decision that has only led to newspapers continuing to decline in quality---which in turn hemorrhages readership). You don't get great journalism when your badly paid, over-worked journalists are struggling to find the money to simply pay the electric bill and put food on the table.

Anyway, I suppose this article thus far has read like a big ad for the The Financial Times. And so it's here that I'll point out that not everything is perfect with the FT. The paper does, from time to time, feature wingnut columnists, every bit as nutty as anything on Fox News.

And I recently smacked one of them down. Columnist Luke Johnson wrote a Sept. 22, 2010 piece denouncing unions. I responded with a letter to the editor that set the record straight. Both Johnson's column and my letter follow:

Unions are an obstacle to progress
By Luke Johnson

My earliest memories of unions in action are bad ones: in particular, my father being threatened in the late 1970s with a libel action by the late Jack Jones, then the boss of the Trades Union Congress, after a prescient article my dad had written denouncing the way strikes were ruining the British economy.

Experiences since have not changed those first impressions. In New York, a union city, I have witnessed how they rule the docks, Broadway, the construction industry and the hotel trade. Woe betide any naive overseas investors who want to risk their capital there. Classic American pragmatism is replaced by total closed shops, institutionalised entitlements and costs that are several times what they would be if a free market pertained.

If you contrast trade unions with entrepreneurs, the comparison is not flattering. Unions never create jobs or generate wealth – they simply attempt to redistribute it – usually by the threat of strikes. They see the world as a zero-sum contest. But business founders build companies, innovate and increase output through their ingenuity. More often than not, start-ups avoid unions altogether because they tend to act as an obstacle to change and progress. Frequently, new companies succeed because they are not burdened with out-of-date working practices that render the established players inefficient. Silicon Valley is not exactly renowned as a hotbed of union activism – its enterprising workers are too busy inventing the future.

Unions are usually engaged in trying to preserve the past, entrench privilege and resist technological advance. Britain’s Royal Mail underperforms desperately because its vast unionised workforce will not accept reforms and mechanisation. It will continue to decline if it fails to adapt, and will never attract the investment it needs to improve, until its unions adopt a more enlightened attitude towards modernisation.

Increasingly, unions rely for their power base on the public sector. They are also the principal paymasters of political parties such as the Democrats in the US and the Labour party in Britain. When in office, those politicians in turn bribe the unions with the taxpayer’s money.

The idea that public service was a calling for which citizens made sacrifices has been turned on its head. Now those in the public sector tend to enjoy higher salaries, better job security, work shorter hours and get far better pensions, and take more time off sick than their private sector counterparts.

In the global 21st century economy, industry is simply too competitive for the destructive and unrealistic behaviour of the union dinosaurs. Those elements of the private sector where US unions have called the shots, such as the Detroit auto industry, have been a disaster. Non-union plants have been far more productive and successful.

Ultimately, the British government might have to study what President Ronald Reagan did in 1981, when early in his tenure the US air traffic controllers insisted on huge new salary increases. Their demands were rejected, so 13,000 of the 17,500 union members walked out. Because they had signed an oath never to strike “against the public safety”, the government felt able to sack most of them. Meanwhile, non-striking controllers, their bosses and military personnel kept the skies open and more than half of all airports operated normally.

Within weeks, thousands of new recruits had joined the service to train as controllers at the old salaries. The fresh applicants provided undeniable evidence that unions exist partly to force up the cost of labour beyond a market rate. Remarkably, there were no accidents, and aircraft movements fairly rapidly recovered to levels prior to the strike. The old controllers never got their jobs back and their union was disbanded.

Militant, confrontational unions are a throwback that the west can no longer afford. They pretend to fight for causes such as equality, health and safety and skills. In reality their leaders are obsessed about two things only: money and power. I hope the public and our political classes remember that if there is conflict in the coming months.


Here, is my response to Johnson, which ran on the FT's "Letters" page on Sept. 24:

Unions played key role in developing U.S. middle class

From Mr. Marc McDonald.

Sir, In his column “Unions are an obstacle to progress” (Business Life, September 22), Luke Johnson unfairly blames unions for many of the woes currently afflicting U.S. businesses.

Mr. Johnson's arguments make little sense. For example, he claims that unions "called the shots" that led to the disaster that befell Detroit's carmakers.

But it was Detroit's chief executives, not the unions, that led the carmakers to ruin. It was the CEOs who consistently made short-sighted, disastrous decisions, such as betting the farm on clunky, gas-guzzling vehicles that eventually fell out of favour with consumers.

Mr. Johnson also completely ignores the experience of heavily unionised nations such as Germany, where carmakers continue to thrive. Unions are vastly more powerful in Germany than they are in the U.S. and they are backed up by strong, pro-labour laws that most U.S. workers could only dream of.

What Mr. Johnson, and other anti-union commentators, consistently ignore is the fact that unions in America played a key role in the creation of the great American middle class that made the U.S. the envy of the world for decades after the second world war.

It was only after Ronald Reagan crushed the union movement in the 1980s that the middle class began to shrink. The U.S. today has the biggest gulf between rich and poor of any first world nation. This economic polarisation has continued to grow, as unions have declined in power.

Marc McDonald,
Fort Worth, TX, U.S.A.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

9/11: Will We Ever Know The Full Story?

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By MARC McDONALD

I've long been reluctant to weigh in on the issue of a possible 9/11 conspiracy on this blog for several reasons. For one thing, I believe that if the Powers That Be had the ability to pull off something like this, then they also have the power to make sure that we never learn the truth.

Also, I've long believed that while Bush/Cheney were definitely sinister and evil enough to participate in something like 9/11, they were also such incompetents that I can't see how they could ever have pulled it off.

Finally, I'm allergic to conspiracy theories. I'm convinced that the old maxim is true: "The simplest explanation is the most likely one."

Speaking of conspiracies, I've studied the JFK assassination at length over the years. And I've concluded that, while it's possible there was a conspiracy, it's most definitely a fact that case has attracted a great deal of shoddy research and kooky theories.

That's also the case with 9/11. Let's face it: no matter where you stand on 9/11, you've got to admit that any kind of national trauma like this tends to bring out a lot of wacky, paranoid theories. Try arguing with most 9/11 conspiracy believers and you won't get very far---but you will get an earache from them screaming at you.

Having said that, I think that those skeptical, "rational" types who reject all 9/11 conspiracies are themselves probably going to an extreme, as well. Instead of rejecting all possibilities of a conspiracy out of hand, these people should open their minds a little more.

You're deluding yourself if you believe "our" government has told the America people the full truth about 9/11.

I've tried to keep an open mind and I've read quite a bit about the various 9/11 conspiracies. Most of them are just too bizarre to take seriously. Many others raise more questions than they answer.

I do have to admit, though, the YouTube video that I link to above does raise interesting questions that ought to be troubling to anyone who has a reasonably open mind.

Last but not least, I'd like to point out that a common thread to all 9/11 conspiracy theories is that it was a "false-flag" operation of some sort.

And it raises a question: would our government ever participate in a "false-flag" operation?

To quote Sarah Palin: You Betcha.

In fact, the chilling 1962 "Operation Northwoods" plan was a notorious false-flag plan. It called for the CIA to commit real acts of terrorism in the U.S. and then put the blame of these acts on Cuba. The goal was to whip up U.S. public support for military action against Castro.

So yes: we do have a government that would be capable of doing something a 9/11 attack, despite what the 9/11 conspiracy debunkers would have us believe.

So will we ever know the truth? The fact is, the GOP will likely recapture the House (if not the Senate as well) in November. You can be assured that the window of opportunity for investigating 9/11 will be closed then, perhaps forever.

It's a shame and a tragedy that President Obama and the Dems didn't look into this (or anything else that occurred on Bush's watch), when they had the chance. In that sense, they profoundly failed the American people.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

If GOP Takes Congress, Impeachment Will Be On The Table

By MARC McDONALD

If the GOP captures the House and Senate in November, you can be assured that President Obama will eventually face impeachment. If anyone thinks impeachment is implausible, consider this: today's GOP is far more rabid, extreme and unhinged than anything President Clinton faced in the 1990s.


Today's Republicans increasingly take their marching orders from Hate Radio, Fox News and deranged Tea Baggers. In fact, today's Republicans increasingly are deranged Tea Baggers.

If the GOP takes control in November, then it'll only be a matter of time before the crazies demand a special prosecutor to launch a witch hunt against Obama. And once that happens, impeachment proceedings won't be long in coming, fueled by increasingly shrill cries from the Drudge/Fox/Rush Right-Wing propaganda machine.

A partisan witch hunt against Obama is not mere idle speculation. Consider this: Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California is already chomping at the bit to go after President Obama.

If the Republicans captures the House, Issa will become chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He'll have power to subpoena White House officials to appear before the committee under oath.

Issa has made it clear that he plans to vigorously pursue investigations against the White House. And no doubt, other Republicans will do the same. In fact, it's likely the GOP will appoint a special prosecutor with an unlimited budget and subpoena power to go after Obama as vigorously as Ken Starr pursued Bill Clinton.

It doesn't really matter if such a partisan witch hunt actually uncovers any real wrongdoing by Obama. That's not the point, anyway. The point is to harass the White House and bury it under an avalanche of subpoenas, creating distractions, and making it difficult for Obama to govern.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Progressives Underestimate Palin's 2012 Prospects At Their Peril

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By MARC McDONALD

It's easy to laugh at Sarah Palin. Then again, it was easy to laugh at Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush: two lightweights who wound up occupying the White House for a total of 16 years. I believe progressives underestimate Palin at their peril.

As Keith Olbermann has pointed out a number of times, Palin is an idiot. The video above proves it.

However, progressives shouldn't casually dismiss Palin---or her prospects to be elected president in 2012.

Personally, I believe Palin will indeed run in 2012. And if we Democrats don't take Palin seriously as a candidate, we deserve to lose the election.

After all, Palin has a rabidly loyal following that is enjoying growing momentum. She is a genuine political phenomenon. And most importantly, she has a formidable fund-raising machine in place.

If you doubt the loyalty of Palin's base, consider this: Palin's 2009 book, Going Rogue: An American Life sold nearly 3 million copies. It is one of the best-selling political memoirs in U.S. history.

It's clear that Palin is a political and intellectual mediocrity. However, it doesn't necessarily follow that Palin has no chance at winning the presidency.

After all, the American people elected Bush/Cheney twice. (Well, not really, but enough people voted for Bush/Cheney to where the GOP could steal the vote).

If you doubt Palin could win in 2012, consider this: in 2008, nearly 60 million Americans cast their vote for Palin to be a heartbeat away from the White House.

If the U.S. economy is still in the toilet in 2012 (and I believe it likely will be), then the nation will be in an angry mood, come election time. The horrendous poison-pill economy that Obama inherited from Bush could well simply be unfixable, no matter what action Obama takes between now and then.

If 2012 still sees America mired in an economic rut, then the Tea Party and Palin will be well-positioned to take advantage of the crisis.

Anyone who doubts Palin's prospects for success in 2012 is simply blind to the reality of American political history (and the dumbing-down of U.S. culture) since 1980.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Pentagon's Hypocrisy On Iraqi Civilian Deaths

By MARC McDONALD

At long last, the U.S. is preparing to heed the wishes of the rest of the world (not to mention the Iraqi people) and begin the process of winding down the disastrous occupation of Iraq. In order to save face from this whole fiasco, U.S. leaders and the Pentagon have decided to declare the war a "success."

But there's only one problem for the Pentagon. Violent deaths in Iraqi are sharply up. In fact, 535 civilians were killed by bomb blasts or other attacks last month, an increase of 50 percent from the previous month, according to Iraqi government figures.

This inconvenient fact has posed a problem for the Pentagon.

So what's the solution? The Pentagon has bizarrely begun disputing the Iraqi government figures as unreliable.

This is truly surreal, not to mention hypocritical.

After all, throughout this whole 7-year fiasco of a war, the Pentagon has never cared about the stats of Iraqi civilian deaths. The Pentagon's stock, glib answer to the whole question of Iraqi civilian deaths has always been the same: "We don't do body counts."

Now, the "We-don't-do-body-counts" people are attacking the Iraqi government's own official civilian death statistics. The whole thing stinks of hypocrisy--the same sort of hypocrisy that has defined this war from the beginning.

I can't imagine why the Pentagon would think that the Iraqi government was exaggerating the death count. Or, for that matter, why the Pentagon would think it has more accurate statistics than the Iraqi government.

The fact is, the Pentagon has never cared about how many Iraqi civilians have died in this war. And when you don't care, you don't do body counts. (For the record, over 1.3 million Iraqi men, women and children have died in this war).

On countless occasions since 2003, the Pentagon brass have proven themselves to be liars, over and over. They lied about Jessica Lynch. They lied when they stage-managed the phony photo-op that showed the toppling of Saddam's statue. They lied when they initially claimed that they hadn't used horrific, flesh-melting white phosphorus chemical weapons in Fallujah.

In reality, the Pentagon's only real role is to secure Iraq's oil for the multi-national oil corporations that ultimately will be the only beneficiaries of this war. Clearly, the wishes of the Iraqi people don't enter the picture.

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Day Dick Cheney Told the Truth About Iraq

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By MARC McDONALD

Any sane, rational, clear-thinking adult knows that Dick Cheney is a war criminal and a liar. But just as a stopped clock can tell the correct time twice a day, there was one occasion where Doctor Evil actually told the truth about Iraq.

In a 1994 interview, Cheney defended George H.W. Bush's decision not to topple Saddam. Interestingly enough, Cheney actually makes some sense in this interview. He even uses the word "quagmire."

Just like Donald Rumsfeld wishes the 1983 video of him shaking hands with Saddam would just vanish, I'm sure Cheney wishes that this video never existed. Because today, the 2010 Cheney (who still strongly defends the Iraq War) is a totally different person from the 1994 Cheney (who correctly predicted that invading Iraq would be a fiasco).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Infamous Episodes in GOP History: Bush Jokes About Missing WMDs

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By MARC McDONALD

The Iraq War is one of the great tragedies of human history. It has cost over 1.3 million Iraqi men, women and children their lives. It has led to the deaths of over 4,700 coalition forces. It has cost at least $3 trillion. And it has completely destroyed America's moral standing in the world.

But to George W. Bush, the Iraq War is nothing more than fodder for "humor."

In one of the most jaw-droppingly offensive performances by any U.S. politician in history, Bush laughed and joked about the missing WMDs in Iraq, during his March 24, 2004 appearance at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Bush joked about the same non-existent WMDs that represented his case for taking the nation to war with Iraq.

Recall how in the 2002-2003 build-up to the invasion of Iraq, every other word out of Bush's mouth was "WMD."

Bush and the other chickenhawk NeoCons constantly did their best to make the case that Saddam had WMDs that posed a threat to America. The NeoCons in effect used WMDs as a club to beat over the head of anyone who dared question whether the U.S. was following a wise course in invading Iraq.

We Progressives never bought Bush's case for war. We tried to point out to anyone who would listen that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. We also tried to point out that Iraq was a small Third World nation with less than one-tenth of America's population, a nation with little industry.

Indeed, if Iraq did pose some sort of threat to America, we argued, then the question wasn't whether the U.S. should invade---instead it was this: exactly why isn't the Pentagon, with its trillion-dollar budgets, up to the job of protecting America? (Note that the U.S. spends more on its military than the rest of the world combined).

Indeed, many of us progressives rejected the very term, "Weapons of Mass Destruction." It was nothing more than a deliberately scary, propagandistic term, meant to frighten Americans into doing whatever the Bush/Cheney regime wanted. WMD was a term that belonged in a Marvel comic book, not in the real world.

And yet, in 2002, the corporate mainstream media obediently did Bush's bidding and worked hard to sell the upcoming Iraq War to the American people. There were a few exceptions (such as Knight Ridder's brilliant work that questioned Bush's case for war), but these were few and far between.

In short, our media failed the country---as it did so many times during Bush's eight disastrous years in office.

Which leads me to another point. If there's anything that was more chilling than Bush's "comedy" sketch, joking about the missing WMDs, it's this: the fact that the assembled media elites at the White House Correspondents Dinner were laughing heartily during Bush's performance.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Time Is Running Out For Democrats to Pursue Charges Against Bush, Cheney

By MARC McDONALD

Of all the disappointments that progressives have endured in recent years, one of the biggest is the Democrats' failure to pursue any charges of wrongdoing by George W. Bush or Dick Cheney.

And now, with the mid-term elections only five months away, it's clear that the window of opportunity is closing, perhaps forever.

There is a reasonably good chance the GOP will retake the House in November. And if that happens, the Dems can kiss goodbye any opportunities to investigate any wrongdoing by the Bush White House.

Not that the GOP will not show any such restraint if it retakes the House. Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California is already chomping at the bit to go after President Obama.

If the GOP captures the House, Issa will become chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He'll have power to subpoena White House officials to appear before the committee under oath.

Issa has made it clear that he plans to vigorously pursue investigations against the White House. And no doubt, other Republicans will do the same. In fact, it's likely the GOP will appoint a special prosecutor with an unlimited budget and subpoena power to go after President Obama as vigorously as Ken Starr pursued Bill Clinton.

It doesn't really matter if such a partisan witch hunt actually uncovers any real wrongdoing by Obama. That's not the point, anyway. The point is to harass the White House and bury it under an avalanche of subpoenas, creating distractions, and making it difficult for Obama to govern.

And while the Republicans have no qualms about pursuing a witch hunt against Democrats on purely cynical political grounds, the Dems lack the backbone to investigate a president who did untold damage to America and its standing in the world.

It's incredible that the Dems have yet to seriously investigate anything that Bush did from 2000 to 2008. The Iraq War fiasco alone deserves a special, major investigation. We already know that Bush lied the nation into a pointless, immoral, $3 trillion war that killed 1.2 million Iraqi civilians.

And that's just for starters when one examines the record of Bush/Cheney.

The list goes on and on. PlameGate. Halliburton. Abu Ghraib. NSA warrantless wiretaps. Failure to comply with Congressional subpoenas. 2000 and 2004 election irregularities. Obstruction of 9/11 investigations.

The American people deserve justice. They deserve to know exactly what happened in the White House during the Bush/Cheney years. They deserve to see the veil of secrecy lifted and the lies exposed.

But thanks to the timid, cowardly Democrats, the window of opportunity for justice is slowly closing shut, perhaps to never re-open again. Bush and Cheney will ride off happily into the sunset, with smirks on their faces, and will likely never face any charges.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Today's Bible Reading: Jesus Gives His Views on the Rich and the Poor

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By MARC McDONALD

Today's reading from the Bible is from the book of Luke:

Jesus said:
"Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God."

"But woe unto you that are rich! For ye have received your consolation."

From Luke, chapter 6, King James Version

You know, maybe I'm biased here, but I get the feeling that Jesus was not a Republican. Strange then, that the Republicans cynically wrap themselves in the Bible, as well as the flag, and claim to be the party that stands for "Christian" values.

Republicans worship the wealthy and they have nothing but contempt for the poor. So what will be their fate? For the answer to that, let's turn to another Bible passage (from Matthew, chapter 7):

"Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

Progressive Music Classics. Crass: "Nagasaki Nightmare"

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By MARC McDONALD

Welcome to another edition of Progressive Music Classics.

I consider the 1977 to 1984 era to be the Golden Age of Protest Music in the rock era.

Yes, the 1960s was also obviously a tremendous era for protest music. But the fact is, many of the later punk bands were revolutionary in ways far beyond anything contemplated by the likes of Dylan and other 1960s musicians.

Take Crass, for example. These British hard-core anarchists not only talked the talk, they walked the walk. For the most part, they lived up to their own very lofty ideals, during their 1977-1984 existence.

While the 1960s generation of musicians later grew complacent, bloated and fat and retired to their gated palatial estates and their cocaine, Crass never, ever sold out. They always stated that they would break up in 1984 and they lived up to their word.

Crass despised (and exposed) the hypocrisy and lies behind the corporate capitalist systems of the U.S. and Britain. And unlike other punk bands like the Clash and the Sex Pistols, Crass never signed to a major music label.

Crass refused to play ball with the very corporations that were obviously at the root of the problem. So the band formed their own small, idealistic record label and released their own records (as well as those of other independent, like-minded bands).

While this helped ensure that the band never sold out, it also meant that Crass records were very difficult to come by, particularly in America (at least, if you lived in an area that was lacking in well-stocked import record stores).

As a result, at the time, I could only read about this intriguing band in the occasional import publication that wrote about them. What's worse is that, for whatever reason, it was always difficult to get ahold of non-album import singles, due to some inexplicable quirks in the record distribution of the time.

Given that many of the era's best music was released only on singles, this meant it was often hard to get copies of vital songs, ranging from Joy Division's "Atmosphere" to The Jam's "Going Underground" to "Complete Control" by the Clash to "Ghost Town" by the Specials. I could only read about the music and wonder what these music behind these intriguing titles sounded like.

Crass were one of those bands that released their best stuff on non-album singles. Not that the albums were mediocre, by any means. In fact, their albums like "Yes Sir, I Will" and "Christ the Album" were powerful and memorable, and bursting at the seams with innovation and rage.

At the time, I had a taste for straight-ahead three-chord, angry punk. But Crass quickly tired of this format and branched out into experimental, risk-taking music that often owed little to punk (or rock'n'roll) tradition. In fact, the band admitted that their biggest influences weren't rock'n'roll at all, but included the likes of English composer, Benjamin Britten, creator of the 1945 opera, "Peter Grimes."

I must admit that Crass's tendency to experiment musically often left me baffled at the time. But as the years have gone by, I find that the band's most interesting music was created when the band took creative risks. (By contrast, Crass's early three-chord punk, which I adored at the time, I now find the least interesting music in the band's catalog).

Crass were a band that was constantly challenging the system. They questioned anything and everything, from society to traditional female roles, to religion to capitalism and imperialism. They had more ideas per bar that most bands have in their entire careers. They expressed themselves not only through music, but through a never-ending blitz of spoken word works, graphic art, poetry, and more.

Eventually (and perhaps inevitably) they brought the wrath of British officialdom down upon their heads. The beginning of the end started when the band attacked Margaret Thatcher with songs like "How Does It Feel To Be the Mother Of A Thousand Dead?" released in the aftermath of the 1982 Falklands War.

The band was condemned in Parliament and faced prosecution under Britain's Obscene Publications Act. While this persecution took its toll on the band, it also vindicated the band's stance that concepts like "Freedom of Speech" and "Democracy" in countries like Britain and America are nothing more than an illusion.

Crass music is not easy listening. It's not the sort of music that one can use for background music. It demands the listener's full attention. And it can often be an unsettling experience. Usually, it's enjoyed best in small doses. (I have yet to make it all the way through a ferociously angry record like "Yes Sir, I Will" in one sitting----the rage, the intensity and the boiling anger is just too great to absorb all at once).

Like much great art down through the ages, Crass's music is often dangerous and revolutionary. It can often jolt you with its power. And it constantly raises the question: "Is our society today really the best that we as a species are capable of?"

One of the best, and most unsettling, Crass songs is "Nagasaki Nightmare." In it, the band do one of the things they do best: tackle and confront, head-on the evils of our modern world.

One might ask: do we really need to be reminded, in vivid detail, the horrors of what happened at Nagaski? To which I answer: you're goddamn right, we do. We need to be reminded every fucking day. Only then can we be jolted out of our complacency: the same complacency that led to other horrors like the Vietnam War, the Iraq War and the presidencies of Reagan and Bush/Cheney.

Listening to a track like "Nagasaki Nightmare," I can't help but think: "Where in the fuck are today's radical bands that have something to say?" It's not like there's nothing to protest any more. In fact, I'd say that we have more to protest now than we did back in the early 1980s.

But today's music artists don't really have much to say about anything. Yes, there are "punk" bands today, like Green Day. But Green Day are about as dangerous and radical as a cup of Starbucks Coffee. They're nothing more than corporate whores---and their music is safe and sanitized.

While truly radical and risk-taking music may be pretty much dead in the U.S. and Britain these days, at least we have the recorded legacy of bands like Crass to remember.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

As Hunger Rises In U.S., Millions Forced To Wait For Food Stamp Benefits

By MARC McDONALD

Feeding America, a non-profit food bank network group, reports that hunger is "increasing at an alarming rate in the United States."

Despite this, a recent review by The Associated Press found that dozens of food-stamp programs in 39 states left at least a quarter of applicants waiting weeks or months for food aid.

America is currently in the grip of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. With millions of ongoing job layoffs and a high jobless rate, it shouldn't be surprising that many American families are now finding it increasing difficult to afford even the basics, including food.

The cost of the U.S. food stamp program runs around $50 billion a year. That may sound like a lot, until you consider that it is nickel-dime chump change, compared with other government programs that primarily benefit the wealthy.

Take for example, Bush's bailout of the corrupt gangsters on Wall Street. That welfare-for-the-rich program is set to cost the U.S. taxpayers a cool $1 trillion.

Of course, even that pales in significance compared to the $3 trillion that the U.S. is flushing down the toilet in the fiasco known as the Iraq War (and the ever-growing costs of the fiasco known as the Afghanistan War).

For the same amount the U.S. spends in a few months in Iraq, we could fully fund the U.S. food stamp program for one year and ensure that no children go to bed hungry.

But then again, crony corporate pigs like Halliburton and Blackwater might then have to suffer a slight decrease in the billions they've reaped in closed, no-bid contracts in Iraq.

So while the Top One Percent of rich Americans continue to gorge themselves with a generous helping of our tax dollars, ordinary citizens continue to struggle as the U.S. economic crisis continues.

AP notes that currently, a record 40 million people (one in eight Americans) now rely on food stamps.

"The number of participating households increased by one-fifth in fiscal 2009, and many states' food-stamp rolls grew by a third or more" AP reported.

Monday, June 07, 2010

How the American Dream Turned Into a Mirage

By MARC McDONALD

Although it's difficult for many Americans to admit it, the "American Dream" was always a lie in many ways, dating back to the nation's founding. It was a lie when slave-holder Thomas Jefferson included the words, "All men are created equal" in the Declaration of Independence. The Founding Fathers believed in equality---as long as the discussion was limited to white, wealthy, male property owners.

But the phrase, "the American Dream" always sounded good. And that was enough to make it seem real in a nation where the often-juvenile culture has often had a difficult time facing up to cold, hard reality, unlike the cynical, world-weary Europeans.

After all, Americans not only tolerate it when our leaders lie to us, we want to be lied to.

Hence, Jimmy Carter got grief when he served up a dose of bitter, but honest medicine to the American people in his so-called "malaise" speech in 1979.

By contrast, Ronald Reagan told us not to worry and assured us that America was still great---and millions of Americans loved him for it.

And speaking of Reagan, if there is a date when the American Dream started turning into a mirage, it would have to be traced back to Jan. 20, 1981, the date Reagan was sworn in.

The "American Dream" was already on life-support when Reagan swaggered into Washington. At the end of his eight years in office, it was all but dead.

Before Reagan, the "American Dream" at least existed on some level in American life. Ordinary citizens could in many cases find prosperity through diligence and hard work. In many ways, America was a land of opportunity. Class mobility was higher in the U.S. than in many other nations (although that's clearly no longer the case).

But even in those pre-Reagan years, much of the "American Dream" was smoke and mirrors. By the time Reagan was finished with America, it was pretty much all smoke and mirrors.

First of all, take a look at the so-called "prosperity" that emerged during the Reagan years. As was the case with Reagan's ideological British soulmate, Margaret Thatcher, much of this "prosperity" was attributed by free-market economists to Reagan's deregulation of the economy and cutting of taxes.

"I will cut taxes and balance the budget," Reagan told America. In other words, we Americans were going to get something for nothing---and that's something we've always been suckers for.

At the time, serious economists scoffed at Reagan's supply-side economics---and they were later vindicated. The only thing Reagan's tax cuts for the rich resulted in were the towering budget deficits which haunt America to this day.

And even the "prosperity" supposedly created on Reagan's watch was all a lie. The only reason Reagan was even able to run giant deficits and fund his massive military build-up was the fact that the Japanese were quietly persuaded to loan the U.S. Treasury the billions that made it all possible. (In this sense, the U.S. author and East Asia expert Chalmers Johnson was correct when he wrote that it was Japan, not the U.S., that won the Cold War).

Similarly, Thatcher's "economic boom" in Britain had little to do with her slashing of taxes, her deregulation and her union busting. Rather it was the massive new discoveries of North Sea oil on her watch that fueled a boom in the U.K. economy.

But back to the death of the "American Dream." The core feature of the latter has always been a strong, prosperous and resilient Great America Middle Class. And the U.S. middle class never really recovered from the Reagan years.

The reasons are many---and they can all be traced back to Reagan's policies. They included the crushing of unions, the weakening of U.S. labor laws, the exporting of manufacturing jobs, and the gutting of America's already-meager welfare state. These are all policies that were carried on by Reagan's successors (including Bill Clinton).

So what's the net result today? A vastly shrunken U.S. middle class. A soaring prison population that is the biggest in the world. The fact that it is in increasingly difficult for most Americans to afford even the basics of a good life (from a college education to decent health care).

Whatever "prosperity" that exists in America is nothing more than a mirage these days. It's a mirage fueled by credit card debt and by the hundreds of billions of dollars from East Asian central banks that prop up the U.S. dollar.

It's an illusion that is clearly unsustainable. The time will come when the likes of China and Japan will no longer choose to bankroll our Ponzi scheme economy.

However, not everyone has suffered in the years since Reagan first took office. America's Top One Percent, for example, have done very well. In fact, since 1980, the Top One Percent has seen its share of the national wealth more than double, from 20 percent to 42 percent.

And thanks to tax loopholes, America's super wealthy often pay less of their income into taxes than the working class does. Even mega-billionaire Warren Buffett has admitted that he pays less of his income into tax than does his secretary, who makes $60,000 a year. (This, despite the fact that Buffett said he didn't even try to avoid paying higher taxes).

Many Americans still have a difficult time accepting that the "American Dream" is over. But as the U.S. economy continues to deteriorate, as the foreclosures continue to mount, and as the good-paying jobs continue to vanish, it is only a matter of time before cold, hard reality sets in.

And when that day comes, American society could undergo a violent upheaval. The only question is: who will ordinary Americans blame? Will they focus their anger on the real culprits (the out-of-control corporations, the bought-and-paid-for politicians, and the Wall Street gangsters?) Or will they succumb to the dangerous Pied Piper's song of the deranged Tea Baggers? Time will tell.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Progressive Music Classics. The Clash: "Clampdown"

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By MARC McDONALD

Welcome to another edition of Progressive Music Classics.

I first heard the songs that would make up The Clash's massive double album, "London Calling" at a Dallas concert the band gave in 1979. To tell you the truth, I was initially a bit disappointed. I came to the concert expecting to hear the classics I loved from the band's first spectacular two albums. Instead, the set-list was comprised mostly of unfamiliar yet-to-be-released songs from the band's forthcoming new album.

When the record first arrived on import vinyl in U.S. stores in late 1979, I grew to appreciate it more, after more listens. One thing that was immediately apparent was that The Clash had abandoned simple, three-chord punk. And the lyrics were now much more worldly, literary, intriguing, and often cryptic.

The band also seemed to be prophetic in songs like "Clampdown," one of my faves from the new record. A year later, Ronald Reagan would be elected to the White House. Yet the band was already referring to an "evil presidente" (sic). That and the chilling reference to Three Mile Island gave the record a "ripped-from-the-headlines" immediacy that perfectly captured the troubled era.

Part of of the lyric to "Clampdown" could easily be applied to today's Tea Baggers: "We will teach our twisted speech, to the young believers. We will train our blue-eyed men, to be young believers." Chilling fascist imagery that captures well the image of today's increasingly extremist Right-Wing America.

Indeed, "Clampdown" as a whole could be seen as a prophetic title that neatly sums up the horrors that Reagan and the New Right unleashed upon America, and the world, starting in the 1980s.

Take a look, if you can stomach it, at the pop charts of today. There's nothing more than an endless parade of cowardly pop stars, with nothing to say outside of "Have sex, be happy and be a good little consumer."

Bands like The Clash simply don't exist any more. Which is a shame, because today, we need them more than ever.

1-2-3-4!
Hey, hey!
Ooh!
The kingdom is ransacked
the jewels all taken back
and the chopper descends
they're hidden in the back
with a message on a half-baked tape
with the spool going round
saying I'm back here in this place
and I could cry
and there's smoke you could click on

What are we gonna do now?
Taking off his turban, they said, is this man a Jew?
’Cos working for the clampdown
They put up a poster saying we earn more than you!
When we're working for the clampdown
We will teach our twisted speech
To the young believers
We will train our blue-eyed men
To be young believers

The judge said five to ten but I say double that again
I'm not working for the clampdown
No man born with a living soul
Can be working for the clampdown
Kick over the wall 'cause government's to fall
How can you refuse it?
Let fury have the hour, anger can be power
D'you know that you can use it?

The voices in your head are calling
Stop wasting your time, there's nothing coming
Only a fool would think someone could save you
The men at the factory are old and cunning
You don't owe nothing, so boy get runnin'
It's the best years of your life they want to steal

But, you grow up and you calm down and
You're working for the clampdown
You start wearing the blue and brown and
You're working for the clampdown
So you got someone to boss around
It makes you feel big now
You drift until you brutalize
You made your first kill now

In these days of evil presidentes
Working for the clampdown
But lately one or two has fully paid their due
For working for the clampdown
Ha! Gitalong! Gitalong!
Working for the clampdown
Ha! Gitalong! Gitalong!
Working for the clampdown

Yeah I’m working hard in Harrisburg
Working hard in Petersburg
Working for the clampdown
Working for the clampdown
Ha! Gitalong! Gitalong
Begging to be melted down
Gitalong, gitalong
Work
Work
And I give away no secrets – ha!
Work
More work
Work
Work


(From the lyrics database Sing365.com).