politics

JFK on liberalism

Not a member of the cult of JFK by any means, but here's John F. Kennedy on what it means to be a liberal:

What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label "Liberal?" If by "Liberal" they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer's dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of "Liberal." But if by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties -- someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal."

...

...For liberalism is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man's ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves.

Che at the anti-war march

So Che Guevera is certainly a complex and controversial historical figure, and people's interpretation of his actions and legacy vary widely. But I have to wonder how many of the folks I saw at the anti-war march last Saturday carrying signs from the PSL bearing his face even gave a thought to the irony of carrying a picture of a guerrilla leader at an anti-war march?

(And I wonder how many people with Che's face on their t-shirt or bag are against the death penalty, while Guevera ordered the execution of dozens -- perhaps hundreds -- of people, without any sort of due process.)

surprise: teabaggers don't know what they're talking about

Over at Forbes.com -- not exactly a bastion of left-wing thought -- Bruce Bartlett looks at what Tea Party protesters actually know about the taxes they're protesting. The answer, which will probably not surprise you, is "not much".

In short, no matter how one slices the data, the Tea Party crowd appears to believe that federal taxes are very considerably higher than they actually are, whether referring to total taxes as a share of GDP or in terms of the taxes paid by a typical family.

Tea Partyers also seem to have a very distorted view of the direction of federal taxes. They were asked whether they are higher, lower or the same as when Barack Obama was inaugurated last year. More than two-thirds thought that taxes are higher today, and only 4% thought they were lower; the rest said they are the same.

As noted earlier, federal taxes are very considerably lower by every measure since Obama became president....

It's hard to explain this divergence between perception and reality. Perhaps these people haven't calculated their tax returns for 2009 yet and simply don't know what they owe. Or perhaps they just assume that because a Democrat is president that taxes must have gone up, because that's what Republicans say that Democrats always do. In fact, there hasn't been a federal tax increase of any significance in this country since 1993.

would you like to go to the prom?

So I just bought a tailcoat on eBay. Why? Because I'm going to the prom! The Nationwide Equality Prom, "Dress You Up In My Love," that is.

Constance McMillen just wanted to go to the prom with her girlfriend. Rather than let this happen, the big-minded folks at her Fulton, Mississippi school district canceled the prom.

So on April 2nd (the scheduled prom date), people all over the country are going to put on the ritz to show solidarity with Constance and other LGBT teens.

Wanna play along? You don't even need a date. Here's the Facebook page for this event, and you can watch for updates here on Tumblr.

And here's an eBay search for cheap tuxedo jackets, for those who prefer the yang clothing option. (I wouldn't even try to give advice or links to those looking for a prom gown!)

(Yes, tails are a little extra for a prom, perhaps, but I'll get more use of them as ridiculous regalia than I would an ordinary tux jacket.)

the census: an enumeration, not an interrogation

The Constitution provides that every ten years, the Federal government shall conduct an "Enumeration" of the people, for the purpose of apportioning Congressional representation.

It does not provide for interrogating the people about race, ethnicity, family relationships, home ownership status, or any other information. (I got the "long form" back in 2000, which had over 50 questions; they seem to have done away with that one this time, though.)

Before you provide such information, feeling assured that it's private and protected by law, you might want to consider that the Census Bureau provided the U.S. Secret Service with names and addresses of Japanese-Americans during World War II so that they could be herded up and put in concentration camps.

It's not that I'm expecting any such round-up to be repeated any time soon, mind you; it's a matter of principle. The only thing the Federal government needs to know for the census is how many people live here, and that's all it's going to get from me. If it wants more information, it can get it with anonymized surveys.

CIA mind control experiments in France

It's well-known that the CIA's MK-ULTRA program dosed unwitting people with LSD in the 1950s and 60s as part of their mind control experiments. (Really. I Am Not Making This Up, and it is not loony conspiracy theory history -- read the linked Wikipedia article if you've never heard of MK-ULTRA before.)

However, these experiments were thought to have limited to administration of drugs to one person at a time, or at least only to small groups. But new research into the history of MK-ULTRA provides evidence that a bizarre 1951 outbreak of mass insanity and hallucinations in a southern French village was caused by the CIA spiking the food supply with LSD, rather than by ergot-containing fungus poisoning the bread.

Hundreds of people were affected, dozens were committed to asylums, and at least five died.

According to the Telegraph,

Mr Albarelli said the real "smoking gun" was a White House document sent to members of the Rockefeller Commission formed in 1975 to investigate CIA abuses. It contained the names of a number of French nationals who had been secretly employed by the CIA and made direct reference to the "Pont St. Esprit incident." In its quest to research LSD as an offensive weapon, Mr Albarelli claims, the US army also drugged over 5,700 unwitting American servicemen between 1953 and 1965.

None of his sources would indicate whether the French secret services were aware of the alleged operation. According to US news reports, French intelligence chiefs have demanded the CIA explain itself following the book's revelations. French intelligence officially denies this.

jailed for "talking too much" in Israel

Jamal Juma’, coordinator of the Palestinian grass-roots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, writes about trying to bring about non-violent change while living under Israeli oppression:

Yet, every Friday, Palestinian villagers losing precious agricultural land to Israel’s wall turn out to protest peacefully. Unarmed farmers and entire families march to defend their lands. They do so though 16 have been killed, many just kids. They continue to show up though thousands have been injured.

In October, I expressed concern over the arrest of my colleague Mohammed Othman. Shortly before his arrest, Israeli soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint took him aside and warned, “We’re going to arrest you, but it’s difficult with you because all you do is talk.” I wrote then, “If talking is a crime, if urging the international community to hold Israel accountable for theft of our land is a crime, then we all are vulnerable.”

Less than two months later I, too, was sitting in an Israeli prison cell – for talking too much.

As they dragged me from my house, Israeli occupation forces threatened my family’s well-being, saying they would only see me again after a prisoner exchange.

Because we Palestinians are under military occupation, where military decrees sharply limit political activity, the struggle for our most basic human rights is, by default, criminalized. Once arrested, protesters do not face civil courts, but military courts which blatantly violate international standards of fair trial.

Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to enable Israel's oppression and theft of land to the tune of $5.5 billion annually, fueling more anti-American feeling in the Middle East.

I've been thinking for a while that there are (at least) two unlikely pre-conditions that must be met before there will be peace in this region:

  1. The existence of Israel must be recognized a fait accompli. It has no special "right to exist" any more than than did the U.S.S.R., Austria–Hungary, or any of the other nations that have come and gone; but the people living there now are there and, so long as they respect the rights of others, have the right to be free from violence. This does not mean that the Palestinian people give up the right of self-defense.
  2. The existence of Israel must be recognized and admitted to be based on a huge crime, dating back to the 1917 Balfour Declaration when the U.K. decided it could exploit the Zionist movement for its own geopolitical benefit by supporting a "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people," and never mind all the people already living there. This does not mean that the people of Israel all have to pack up and leave, any more than the fact that the United States was founded on the genocide of the Native peoples means that I need to move to the homeland of my ancestors.

But so long as so many Americans believe that Palestine was essentially empty until Israel was formed, and so many Palestinians still think it's possible to expel the invaders, and so many Israelis actually believe that they have some divine right to that land, and so long as we ignore the fact that most of the trouble can be traced to the goddamn British Empire and fail to demand aid and compensation for the region from the U.K., the blood and the tears will continue.

the Palins also like Canada's socialized medicine

We mentioned recently how Sarah Palin's grandson Tripp Palin Johnston -- and reportedly all of the Palin kids -- receive free federal health care through Indian Health Services and the Alaska Native Medical Center.

According to The Daily Telegraph, her family's love for socialized medicine extends to Canada as well: when she was a kid, the family would engage in a little medical tourism, and sneak over the border to get care paid for my Canadian taxpayers:

Mrs Palin, who moved as a child to the south-eastern Alaska town of Skagway, was speaking at an event sponsored by the Fraser Institute, a conservative Canadian think tank.

"Believe it or not - this was in the sixties - we used to hustle on over the border for health care that we would receive in Whitehorse [capital of Canada's Yukon Territory]," she said.

"I remember my brother, he burned his ankle in some little kid accident thing, and my parents had to put him on a train and rush him over to Whitehorse, and I think, 'Isn't that kind of ironic now'. Zooming over the border, getting health care from Canada."

Hypocrisy: a great luxury, or the greatest luxury?

Please, keep talking, Sarah; you're the greatest weapon those of us opposed to the wingnut faction of the GOP have.

who's got socialized medicine? The Palin kids!

Sarah Palin's husband Todd Palin has Native American ancestry, Yup'ik and Curyung. It recently came out that their grandson, Tripp Palin Johnston, is an enrolled member of the Curyung Tribal Council -- and receives free federal health care through Indian Health Services and the Alaska Native Medical Center. (Comments on that story claim that all of the Palin kids are enrolled and get taxpayer-supported health care, but I cannot confirm that at this time.)

Sarah Palin earned Politifact's "Lie of the Year" when she claimed that government-run health care would end up with "death panels" sending the elderly and disabled to their doom. But it looks like she just wanted to scare the rest of us off, make sure that there were plenty of government benefits to go around for her family and not let us riff-raff in on the deal.

Socialized medicine for the grandkids of the rich and powerful, while the rest of us get sick and go broke thanks to private health insurance. Yep, that's the greed and hypocrisy of the GOP we know and love.

white guys: the other terrorists

Sometime in September 2001, in the minds of most Americans the word "terrorist" became synonymous with "Arab Muslim". Somehow, the Oklahoma City bombing and the white male Christian terrorists behind it were completely forgotten.

Perhaps the bizarre case of Joe Stack, the man who crashed his plane into an IRS office today, will remind us about those other terrorists, and that racial profiling doesn't work because extremists come in all colors.

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