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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

John Stewart at his funniest

Lefty Frizzell

On his birthday. One of country's greatest who deserved wider recognition

Truly Delusional

Tina Stone is one of the currently incarcerated members of the Hutaree militia in Michigan. Surely they could have come up with a more evocative name for their mission to create mayhem to avenge the injustices brought upon rural white bigots by our Socialist/Al Qaeda loving Muslim President.

On Tina Stone's Facebook page we can get a clue about what pushed her over the edge. Apparently it was an e-mail that has been circulating about H.B. 1388 (House Bill). According to the e-mail the bill will give $20 million to help relocate, house and feed Hamas militants right here in the great U.S. of A.

First a word of advice to the next Militia group intent on armed insurrection: try to stay off Facebook.

To quote Forrest Gump, "Stupid is as stupid does" but how does one account for a truly epic level of delusion. When people like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh in all seriousness claim Obama is setting up detention camps to facilitate a takeover by a one world government, that Obama is Hitler, Stalin, bin Laden, Muslim etc it becomes a lot more understandable.

The Southern Poverty Law Center that tracks hate groups in the U.S. has reported a huge rise in militia activity since Obama's election. It will only be a matter of time before a slightly more savvy group won't vent on Facebook but will commit a violent act. Another Oklahoma City bombing in the near future is looking more and more likely.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Be Afraid, Be Very Very Afraid

You’ve probably never heard of Mike McConnell. No, he’s not the slightly less insane Senator from Kentucky, that’s Mitch McConnell. He currently works for Booz Allen a company that has profited greatly from the privatization of surveillance and intelligence gathering and has done so a couple of times when a Democrat is in the White House. When there’s a Bush in the White House he’s the Director of National Intelligence.

It was he who made sure that the telecom companies faced no repercussions for their illegal phone surveillance after 9/11. One of the prime beneficiaries of this was Booz Allen where he has worked in the Clinton years. In an excellent piece by Glenn Greenwald on he describes this employment shell game.

It's vital to understand how this really works: it isn't that people like Mike McConnell move from public office to the private sector and back again. That implies more separation than really exists. At this point, it's more accurate to view the U.S. Government and these huge industry interests as one gigantic, amalgamated, inseparable entity -- with a public division and a private one. When someone like McConnell goes from a top private sector position to a top government post in the same field, it's more like an intra-corporate re-assignment than it is changing employers.

Today far more surveillance of all types is conducted by private contractors. Their activities are almost always kept in the dark, beyond the reach of oversight or the law.

The Washington Post published an Op-Ed by Mike McConnell about a month ago in which he used the same scare tactics the Bush administration used after 9/11 about terrorism, to guard against cyber attacks. Cyber attacks are a threat but McConnell’s solution is more surveillance and far less privacy on the Internet. The Washington Post in an example of the media’s laziness and dishonesty identified McConnell only as the form Director of National Intelligence. The fact that he has a gigantic conflict of interest and will profit greatly from his suggestions is obviously too complex an issue to be comprehended by the editors of Post.

Take the time to read Greenwald’s full article here. He’s a constitutional lawyer and former blogger who is both always both brilliant and perceptive.

Stunning music from Botswana

Music close to my heart from my corner of the World. Thanks to Dan Schwartz for bringing it to my attention.

And you thought cricket was dull...dull...dull

Incredible catch. A cricket ball is as hard as a baseball yet the fielders have to catch the ball with their bare hands. The fielder in this highlight has to knock the ball back into the field or the batsman won't be out.

For the first day of Passover

Classic Bob Dylan (Zimmerman) from 1963

How not to win the Jewish vote

Carly Fiorina the Republican Senate candidate for California sent a letter to her supporters yesterday in honor of Passover, which she described as a time where "we break bread and spend time with our families and friends."

Previously she was CEO for Hewlett Packard during a time when the company lost half it's value which made her the perfect economic adviser for the McCain Presidential campaign. She was also selected as one of the 20 worst CEOs of all time.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Courting The Stripper Vote

Michael Steele is the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. He has been criticized by many Republicans for his off-the-wall comments and his lavish traveling lifestyle at the Party’s expense, more often than not, by the Republicans. He might have finally crossed a line even the average politician won’t cross. A recent trip to the liberal cesspool of Los Angeles might be his final undoing. Not only did he spend almost $17,000 at two top hotels in Los Angeles, but he also dropped another $1,900 at a West Hollywood SM strip club.

No doubt he was looking for votes in all the right wrong places. There are certain places politicians should not be sticking their……….oh never mind, not even the Irritable Liberal can go there.

Voter Fraud

When you mention ‘voter fraud’ the first name that comes to mind is Acorn. There are some who believe that Obama was only elected because of Acorn. If Acorn had the power to affect the popular vote by more than 8 million ballots, the margin of Obama’s victory, I can assure you we would never have had to endure eight years of George W. Bush.

Submitting fake voter registrations is the hardest way to commit election fraud. There is no doubt Acorn crossed the line, especially in paying people to conduct registration drives. They are not the first to do that, nor will they be the last. Everyone has done it and it inevitably leads to abuses. What people don’t know about voter registration rules is that every application, no matter how fraudulent it may appear, has to be submitted to election officials under penalty of a considerable fine. The submitting organization can flag suspicious forms which Acorn did most of the time. For further security, election officials verify social security numbers and that will eliminate almost all fake applications. The system is not 100% foolproof but wholesale fraud is impossible in this manner. For the record, Acorn has never been charged, never mind convicted of election fraud.

There are far easier ways to rig elections. One is through how the ballots are counted and the second is to prevent people from voting in the first place. In the early stages of American democracy only white male property owners has the right to vote. Women were only allowed to vote early in the 20th Century and in the South, blacks had to pass literacy tests or prove that they had paid taxes to vote. In at least 12 states convicted felons are still not allowed to vote even after completing their sentences. In some states, mostly conservative Southern states the only exception is by petitioning the Governor for a pardon, something that rarely if ever happens. The reality is that a high percentage of felons are minorities and this suits the Republicans.

There is also the system of caging. It’s too arcane to explain here but look it up to see how it’s frequently used. Here’s a hint – it’s almost always done by the right. Hans Von Spakovsky (with a name like that he should still be hiding out in the Brazilian jungle) is an expert on this. It would be almost redundant to mention that George Bush used a recess appointment appoint him to the FEC (Federal Election Committee)

The weakest link in our electoral system are the computerized voting systems in use in most states. All have proved to be hackable but if the people operating the systems are intent on rigging the vote, hacking is not even required and a recount on a system where the vote has been rigged would be futile. There have been allegations that a couple of these companies, often with strong ties to the Republicans Party have rigged the vote though nothing has ever been proved and it would be virtually impossible to do so without an inside whistleblower which brings me to the subject of this blog piece.

Last week 8 officials were convicted of voter fraud in Clay County in Eastern Kentucky. They included a judge, a former school superintendent, a magistrate and election officials. They apparently bought and sold votes as well as rigged the voting machines. What puzzles me is why waste money buying votes when you’re going to rig the machines anyway. They fixed local, state and national elections in three separate elections. Most are Republicans but one is a Democrat. They are all looking at lengthy jail sentences which means they will never be allowed near a polling booth again, even to vote.

Another mystery is the sudden outbreak of blind voters needing voting assistance in Clay County. During the trial it was revealed that 40 out of 78 ‘blind voters’ actually had current driver’s licenses. I wouldn’t venture onto the roads of Clay County if I were you.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Meaning of Passover

In the next 24 hours Jews all over the world will be sitting down to the traditional Seder dinner to celebrate Passover. The holiday is replete with traditions, prayers and special diets but what stands above all is that it celebrates freedom. When I sit down with my family I will forget my frustration that the traditional chopped liver has been replaced with a tasteless vegetarian paste made out of lentils in the interests of healthier eating. (The Irritable Liberal has to be pissed off about something).

Instead I will focus on the more universal aspects of freedom and justice that the delivery from slavery in ancient Egypt that is so revered by my people represents. Let it be noted that I consider myself Jewish, more by ethnic tribal ancestry than because I am a religious observant Jew. Not that I am lacking in faith or belief but rather because I have fashioned a pantheistic credo lessons learned from a variety of religions. In reading prayers from a variety of religions I have found a common thread, “Lord give me the faith/courage to help me get out of the shit I’m in.”

Passover is an exception for religious celebrations in that it celebrates liberation, something more commonly associated with political struggles. In the thankfully shortened Haggadah, (Passover prayer book) my family uses, we pause to read a passage that asks us to reflect on those who still live in slavery or who are oppressed. About 4,000 years after Exodus (give or take a millennium) we have made progress but the world still hasn’t got it quite right.

Freedom is the lifeblood of mankind but it is also fragile and often fleeting. It takes many forms and sadly oppression and injustice is still far too common. Let us take the story of the Jews liberation from slavery to remember that there are still too many people who are not free to pursue a better life and while no one person can effect significant change we all can.

The Bible tells us to do no less:

Though you pray at length, I will not listen.
Your hand are stained with crime – wash yourselves clean;
Put away your evil deeds from my sight.
Cease to do evil, learn to do good.
Devote yourselves to justice: aid the wronged.
Uphold the rights of the orphan; defend the cause of the widow.’
(Isaiah 1:12-17)

Spare me the sound of your hymns,
And let me not hear the music of your lutes.
But let justice roll down like water,
Righteousness like an everflowing stream.’
(Amos 5:21-24)

War - no more trouble

The song was originally recorded by Bob Marley culled from a speech by Emperor Haile Selassie given to the United Nations in 1963 dealing with the problem of Apartheid in South Africa. This performance is by a wonderful organization, Playing for Change that has brought musicians together from all over the world, many of them originally street musicians. They plow a lot of the money that has been raised back into building schools and facilities for musicians in developing nations.

The Rage is not about Health Care

Frand Rich of the New York Times is one of the best columnists around. Enjoy him while you can before the Times starts charging for content later this year.

"That a tsunami of anger is gathering today is illogical, given that what the right calls “Obamacare” is less provocative than either the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or Medicare, an epic entitlement that actually did precipitate a government takeover of a sizable chunk of American health care. But the explanation is plain: the health care bill is not the main source of this anger and never has been. It’s merely a handy excuse. The real source of the over-the-top rage of 2010 is the same kind of national existential reordering that roiled America in 1964."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Velvet Underground

Sunday morning for a Sunday morning

Could they be any more infantile

"The other day I went to look at their platform for the Democratic Party for our nation. I couldn't understand any of it. I don't speak any French," - Gov. Tim Pawlenty in New Hampshire Friday.

Hypocrite Of The Day

In 1993 the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank fashioned a response to Bill Clinton's health care proposals. The key ingredient was a mandate to force everyone to buy health insurance to widen the risk pool and to bring younger healthier Americans into the pool to help bring down overall insurance costs. The Republicans adopted the Heritage Foundation's proposals as their response to the Clinton plan.

Clinton's plan went down in flames and health care has only got far more expensive and far more dysfunctional since then.

In 2006 as Governor, Mitt Romney supported legislation in Massachusetts which included the same mandate. Scott Brown, the state's new Senator supported the bill. Romney described the individual mandate as "a matter of personal responsibility", a principle revered by conservatives. Honesty, on the other hand, doesn't appear to be a conservative principle.

Now the Republicans are not only opposed to the mandate but are planning to challenge it based on constitutional grounds.

They are not interested in reforming health care. They believed they could defeat reform and hand Obama a humiliating victory. They lost and they will lose the battle to overturn or repeal the act. Polls since the vote show gains for Health Care Reform and for Obama. When people being polled are explained the features of Health Care Reform the majority approve. On some features approval is over 70%.

As Obama said, "Go for it."

The 'Whites Only' Professional Basketball League

On Martin Luther King Jnr. Day no less, Don ”Moose” Lewis a Southern gentleman with more money and/or chutzpah than brains announced the formation of a Whites only professional basketball league. To play in the league you have to be an American citizen born from Caucasian parents. There are many in the South who still yearn for the Confederacy but this is ridiculous. It’s possible he isn’t aware of the Civil Rights Act but you’d expect him to notice that segregation is a distant memory even in the backwaters of Alabama.

Privately I‘m sure many closet racists applauded the announcement but publicly the idea was treated with ridicule and bemusement. Augusta was chosen as one of the cities to host an all-white team. Ironically, Augusta National, America’s most revered golf course and host of the Masters looms large in the history of racism in sports. It only relaxed its rule of not allowing black members after 1990 and then only because the PGA said it would no longer sanction tournaments at clubs with exclusionary policies after the President of the Shoal Creek Golf Club in Birmingham, Alabama hosts of the 1990 PGA Championship refused to alter their policy of not admitting black members. Augusts quickly changed their policy and admitted a couple of black members. The club still has no women members, only relenting by putting them on the waiting list in 2004 after a controversy that caused the Masters to be shown without commercials for two years. The women on the waiting list are still waiting to be admitted six years later.

Charlie Sifford, one of the first black professional golfers was never invited to play at the Masters. One year he was leading the Canadian Open after the first round. The winner was given an automatic entry into the Masters tournament. The PGA immediately announced that their new policy was that the Canadian Open winner would no longer automatically qualify for the Masters.

Lewis claimed that he wasn’t a racist, "There's nothing hatred about what we're doing," he said. "I don't hate anyone of color. But people of white, American-born citizens are in the minority now. Here's a league for white players to play fundamental basketball, which they like." Don’t ask me what ‘fundamental basketball is’. Lewis’ rationalization can best be paraphrased as wanting a league where all the players have good manners.

"Would you want to go to the game and worry about a player flipping you off or attacking you in the stands or grabbing their crotch?" he said. "That's the culture today, and in a free country we should have the right to move ourselves in a better direction." This crotch grabbing obsession that is destroying the very fabric of our society has to stop. The “Moose” is making his stand.

Nothing much has been heard from Lewis in the past month and I don’t see any likelihood of a ‘whites only’ league. It’s a stark reminder that segregated sports endured long past World War II and that racism, though not as overt as it used to be is still present in America. Congressman Paul Broun from Georgia recently claimed that Health Care Reform was the biggest outrage since the Yankee War of Aggression. If it wasn’t for that damned war, blacks would still only be working in the kitchen at Augusta National.

Unfortunate ad placements


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Welcome to my blog

After some prodding from friends I have decided to start doing something the world doesn’t need; another political blog. Trouble is politics runs through my veins. It has since my parents infused politics in me growing up under the Apartheid regime in South Africa.

I cut my teeth in politics as a student radical in college in the early 1970’s and have been addicted since then. Since the mid 70’s America has been my home. I’ve grown to love my adopted home. From its brazen crassness to its invigorating spirit of innovation, adventure and freedom, it is never uninteresting.

From around the time of the Clinton impeachment I’ve sensed a level of surrealness, largely in the political arena. The wonders of the Internet have only managed to amplify that as we lurched fro, the insanity of the Bush/Gore election to 9/11 and eight years of George Bush.

It has continued since Obama’s election and it’s making me um……irritable. I’m tired of ranting to friends and family and I think they are getting a little weary of it so I’ve decided to put my dormant writing skills to chronicle the insanity in this blog. That way, people can choose to read what I have to say without having to listen to me.

The blog will be largely though not exclusively be about politics. I will cast a caustic eye on the politics of the time with hopefully a fresh angle and with humor and often bemusement. I will also blog about my other passions which include music, sports (largely soccer) and popular culture.

I hope you enjoy my offerings, tell a friend and keep coming back.

The great Louis Jordan

Let the Good Times Roll. What more can we ask for.

Someone didn't teach this person manners

I know the guy is germophobic but this is downright rude.

The Vitter Amendment

We’re in the midst of a political civil war. The Republicans threw all their marbles in to stop health care and the major battle was lost, barely. It has only caused their angst and blood pressure to skyrocket and the best they can do now is hope for a miracle or cause as much collateral damage as possible. The next battle is the Senate where the Democrats have the votes to pass health care reform and it will be law as long as there are no changes in the Senate otherwise its back to the House for even more entertainment.

What the Republicans can do is hamstring the procedure in the Senate and pile on hundreds of Amendments which have to all be voted down by the Democrats no matter what it says. The long term objective is to use these ‘no’ votes as campaign fodder for November.

To show they have no shame they have chosen Sen. David Vitter from Louisiana to present an Amendment that would ban convicted sex offenders from being able to get a prescription for Viagra which is an eminently sensible idea. For those not in the know, Sen. Vitter was caught up in the “D.C. Madam” scandal a few years ago. It was also revealed that he spent a lot of his spare time consorting with professional women in New Orleans where they definitely like to party. So much so that he had a nickname, “Vitter the last name rhymes with Vitter and begins with an S”. I have to add that this has never been proven although a couple of ladies did bear witness, unofficially.

For more background sleaze

Sen. Vitter was also a sponsor in the Senate of Abstinence Only campaigns which used a lot of taxpayer money to accomplish absolutely nothing. Vitter apologized to his wife, his fellow Senators, to his constituents and to God. Like a good repentant Christian he was forgiven.

Contrast that with Elliot Spitzer, the former Governor of New York who was caught up in a high priced call girl ring of his own. Prior to being Governor he was the Attorney General for New York and did an excellent job going after corporate crime on Wall Street and elsewhere. He too, begged for forgiveness and while his wife forgave, him the people of New York did not. It’s a pity because he is smart, dedicated and personable and could one day have run for President. I wonder what Spitzer rhymes with. I’d rather not think about it.