Crashing Into Adulthood

by matttbastard

Jesus – what the fuck happened to the last decade?! At least this explains my growing collection of wrinkles and lack of patience with obnoxious teenagers (damn kids, get off my lawn!) Anyway, 30 doesn’t feel much different than 29, apart from the instant erectile dysfunction once the clock struck midnight.

(PS Happy being born day to James Osterberg, who is exactly 30 years older than me. For some reason I have a hankering for peanut butter and Candy…)

Bless Me Father…

by matttbastard

A confession: I went temporarily insane after the Liberal Party of Canada’s leadership convention this past December. Chock it up to Harper Derangement Syndrome, coupled with a healthy dislike of NDP leader Jack Layton. I felt (and, to a certain extent, still feel) that anyone would be an improvement over the current Tory government (hellbent on rupturing the fabric of Canadian society in the name of neo-conservative free market pathology), but the Dippers haven’t displayed any substantive desire to form the next Canadian government.

So, as detailed (with embarrassing naivety) here, I requested an application to join the Grits, swallowing my (many, many) misgivings with a nauseous gulp and no little entryist rationalization. Since that brief moment of delusional clarity, the form has sat, unsent, on my desk, gathering dust. I’d periodically look over the details and wonder if I could honestly reconcile my dedication to social democracy with the Grits’ distasteful laissez-faire economic and policy platform. The more I read, the more it became apparent that, despite certain misgivings with the contemporary Canadian left, I am most certainly not a liberal, small or capital ‘L’; I am a proud socialist in the Tommy Douglas tradition. To join a liberal democratic party (even one drifting leftward under the leadership of Stephane Dion) would be an unforgivable betrayal of my core beliefs.

Do I regret my brief flirtation with liberalism? Hell yes. I’ve deeply questioned the integrity of my beliefs over the past few months, and on several occasions nearly convinced myself that I was doing the right thing. But I’ve realized that the Grits will never be a worker-friendly party, regardless of CAW President Buzz Hargrove’s pragmatic support; the Grits are too deeply beholden to amoral corporate interests to give anything more than lip-service to workers, women, and the poor (to say nothing of the environment).

All that is great–three cheers for finding my way back on course again–but the current NDP leadership (read: Jack Layton) and platform (especially its unequivocal support of Quebecois self-determination) still doesn’t reflect what I think best represents 21st century internationalist social democracy. Former leader Ed Broadbent’s grand vision of a market-based economy (not a market-based society) balanced with an uncompromising dedication to democratic socialist public policy seems light-years away from the Dippers’ recent ideological floundering. Combine that with Layton’s tendency to overly relish what amounts to perpetual spoiler status within a minority Parliament and (hopefully) you can see why I’ve been reluctant to renew my party membership these last few years.

So where does this leave yours truly? I still believe the environment (specifically climate change and sustainability) is the core issue facing Canada in the coming decade (with electoral reform–another area where my views and the Grits’ are separated by a wide chasm–placing a close second). Yet despite holding no little respect for former president executive director of the Sierra Club and current Green Party leader Elizabeth May, the Green’s core vision of decentralized government and drastic tax-cuts is not something I can support in good faith. Therefore, as of now, I (reluctantly) identify as a (small ‘I’) independent. I will keep voting NDP for the foreseeable future (my riding is not likely to swing Tory, and I’ve campaigned in the past for currrent Dipper MP Irene Mathyssen, who IMO has distinguished herself in Parliament by holding Heritage Minister Bev Oda’s feet to the fire over drastic Tory cuts to Status of Women Canada) ; I’ll continue to support the drive to replace Canada’s antiquated first-past-the-post electoral system with some form of proportional representation.

But until the NDP cleans house from the top down, I can’t in good faith throw my unequivocal support behind the party.

Brothers From Different Mothers

by matttbastard

Via Jim D @ Shiraz Socialist:

“In unions in different countries, we call each other by different names. Some unions use the word ‘comrade’ , others use ‘colleague’. And many use the terms ‘brother’ and ’sister’ to describe fellow union members.

“Are we simply using these words because we always have, or do they still have any real meaning?

“I ask the question because in the last few days one of our brothers has been brutally tortured and murdered, and another one, an innocent man, jailed.

“In Mexico, Santiago Rafael Cruz, a 29-year-old union organizer from the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC, AFL-CIO) was brutally tortured and murdered. Santiago was a successful organizer in the USA who moved down to Mexico to run the union’s office there. His activities aroused the hostility of those who fear the growth of trade unionism among farm workers, and generated attacks in the media, threats of deportation, robberies and intimidation, culminating in this terrible crime.

“Santiago has a family in Mexico, a mother father, sisters and brothers. But his family is much larger than that; it includes all of us. We must grieve together with his family, and we must fight together with them as one large family to ensure that the Mexican government prosecutes those responsible, and ensures the safety of union activists in that country.

“Please take a moment to send off your message today:

http://www.labourstart.org/cgi-bin/solidarityforever/show_campaign.cgi?c=232

“About the same time that union-hating murderers were ending the life of this courageous young man in Mexico, on the other side of the world Iranian security forces lured union activist Mahmoud Salehi into the local prosecutor’s office on the pretext of discussing plans for this year’s May Day celebrations. Salehi, a former president of the bakery workers’ union in the city of Saqez, was then arrested and put in jail for a year with a three year suspended sentence on top of that. His crime was that in 2004 he organized a May Day demonstration.

“Tell the Iranian authoritiesto release Mahmoud Salehi now, and to drop all charges. Send of your message by clicking here:

http://www.labourstart.org/cgi-bin/solidarityforever/show_campaign.cgi?c=231

“I doubt very much if Santiago and Mahmoud ever met – and yet they are brothers. One now languishing in an Iranian prison, the other in a Mexican grave.

“If these two men were not just fellow trade union members but actually your brothers, the sons of your mothers and fathers, how would you react? I know you wouldn’t be silent – you would be up in arms and the whole world would know your anger and pain.

“Please pass this message on. Let’s tell the Mexican and Iranian governments that we in the international trade union movement are a single family, and we will not tolerate our brothers and sisters being tortured, jailed or murdered anywhere in the world.

“Eric Lee”.

More on Cruz and Mahmoud from the AFL-CIO and and the Iran Workers’ Solidarity Network.

‘A swimming pool of blood.’

by matttbastard _42817637_sadriya2_afp_416.jpg

Photo: AFP

A wave of bombings in Iraq kill up to 200 people, including 140 who perished when a car bomb ripped through a market in the largely-Shia Sadriya district. A similar attack on the same market this past February resulted in the deaths of 135 people. In other (more positive) news, Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki announced that Iraq forces will inherit the quagmire take over security operations in all provinces by the end of this year.

What, no applause?

Update: More from Hilzoy, who points to this CNN article reporting that al-Maliki has issued an arrest warrant for a “top army officer” as a result of “the weakness of security measures put in place to protect civilians in al-Sadriya”.

VA Tech Round-Up

by matttbastard

The Politics of Tragedy

by matttbastard

(At least) 32 33 dead. Bodies still warm, a fluid tally; ‘worst shooting in US history’. Yet, as Steve Benen notes (by way of a reader email), none of this hasn’t stopped some online pundits from mounting their preferred hobby-horses:

* One far-right blog said he was “awaiting word of the gunman’s nationality and religious leanings, that will be critically telling.” Apparently, the post implies that if the shooter was Muslim, it would suggest the massacre was related to terrorism. (Some reports indicate the shooter was a young Asian male.)

* Glenn Reynolds quickly denounced local gun laws.

These things do seem to take place in locations where it’s not legal for people with carry permits to carry guns, though, and I believe that’s the case where the Virginia Tech campus is concerned. I certainly wish that someone had been in a position to shoot this guy at the outset….

And reader John Lucas, who works with a Virginia law firm, emails that Va. Tech is a “gun-free zone.” Well, for those who follow the law. There was an effort to change that but it failed: “A bill that would have given college students and employees the right to carry handguns on campus died with nary a shot being fired in the General Assembly.” That’s unfortunate.

* Another is complaining that some are complaining about the NRA.

And it’s not just right-of-centre bloggers who can’t resist mining the incident for partisan treasure. ‘Liberal’ bloggers John Aravosis, Oliver Willis, and Steve M. all use the shootings as a springboard to jump on US gun absolutism, Republicans and the NRA. Aravosis asks:

Why is it legal in America for you to buy an AK-47? Oh that’s right, it’s your constitutional right to own an AK-47. I’m sure the founders, when considering their “original intent” that the Republicans always lecture us on, had in mind assault weapons when they were really writing about muskets. I don’t know what kind of gun the shooter had, but it is far too easy for any nutjob to own a gun in this country, and it needs to stop.

Hear, hear- preach, Brother John! Of course, the shooter reportedly used two handguns, not an AK-47. But such middling details shouldn’t stand in the way of a spontaneous, straight-from-the-heart expression of rage, grief, and cold, hard political calculation:

We need to stop trying to convince 100% of the American people that we’re right. The Republicans are content with 30% of the public supporting them. Let them have their wacky 30%, while we embrace the 70% (or however many) who are rational, normal, non-extremists who actually believe that kids running around shooting other kids is a bad thing.

It is doubtful that the majority of those opposed to gun control are irrational extremists who think kids shooting other kids is a net positive; the dispute is in the details: causes, solutions, etc. That said, aside from the divisive ‘throw the “wacky 30%” overboard’ rhetoric, I tend to lean towards the position of Aravosis et al (especially Steve M’s bitingly accurate comments on the inevitability of reflexive pro-gun apologia following a tragedy of this nature). However, with events still ongoing and details still unfolding, one would hope that these and other online scribes would be loathe to wield dead college students as a rhetorical cudgel, bludgeoning bleeding hearts or firearm fanatics before the facts are fully revealed.

At this early stage, the motivation for the shooting may have been as simple as scorned love. How this (if true) ties into gun control, conceal-and-carry laws and the 2nd Amendment will likely be hashed out via a national and international dialogue over the next few weeks, affording ample time and opportunity for ideological broadsides and policy advocacy. For now, I second Steve Benen:

Folks, Virginia Tech is still in the midst of a crisis. Students, right now, are being told to stay indoors, away from windows. The community is in a state of shock and horror.

Can we wait a few hours before using the massacre to push a political agenda?

edited and slightly expanded for clarity

Update: Via The Newshoggers, Michael Tedesco Mr M. has the most eloquent and on-point post regarding the days events. A snippet:

We’ll hear arguments from all across the spectrum on any number of topics; guns, child abuse, peer pressure, stress, academic standards, teaching standards, and our own cannibalistic culture that has evolved away from the eating of human flesh in favor of devouring the needs and emotions of our peers.

…But we’ll also forget.

We’ll forget there are dreams that have been blown out like candles, private funerals, teary-eyed parents, and televised memorials serving as that final whisp of smoke and scent of ozone that lingers before the flame is forgotten completely, and we learn to move on again.

Or maybe not. I don’t know. Over the next few days and maybe weeks we’ll have scores of pundits and professionals and experts peddling the lessons of this tragedy over the airwaves, on television sets, and splashed across computer monitors. And some will be right, some will be wrong, and most won’t even know which they are, and really it’s all a very important part of the process.

But from me, I really only have a few simple things, and you can take them or leave them, it’s up to you. Cherish your children, take this opportunity to hug them, and to love them, and to share your dreams about them with them, and likewise share the dreams they have for themselves. But don’t take this opportunity to shy from the world. We are flawed. We may never be able to prevent something like this from happening again, or if we do, the cost may be too high. No matter how hard we work to make the world better for our children, it will always be dangerous. And we have to know this, understand this, and send our children out there anyway for only then will they have the chance to become as great as we all hope and dream they can be.

And the parents of the fallen. I think it’s important to not forget them. I think it’s important to know that today twenty-nine dreams died, builders of bridges and buildings and civilizations, translators of the languages of the earth and cosmos, healers of wounds, and leaders of the free world. We should remember what they have lost as we too have the same very thing to lose.

For those parents for whom the worst of tragedies have occured, we, as part of this great national family, should offer our tears and hopes and most importantly dreams. We should offer to them our dreams and promises to the future because they have just lost theirs.

Please, read the whole thing.

Late Night Logic: ‘Holes in the psyche’

  • More birth pangs: The political response to last week’s bombing in the Green Zone has “revealed an increasingly disoriented and dysfunctional Iraqi government“, says the Christian Science Monitor.                         related: Is the two-thirds majority rule in Iraq’s parliament fueling sectarian division? Felix P. Sanchez explains the case for ‘simple majority rule‘.
  • ‘It’s gender, stupid!’ Contra Tony Blair (who, believe it or not, was once a socialist), the cult of masculinity bears primary responsibility for the rise of gun culture in the UK, not the ‘black community’, as Beatrix Campbell explains.
  • Via Pogge: Dave at The Galloping Beaver on his experiences in combat and, subsequently, with PTSD: “There is no glory. There is only a lifelong regret and a wish that things had been different.” One of the best posts I’ve read this year.

bonus vid:

Scala and Kolacny Brothers, “With or Without You”

Quote of the Day: Punk is Deader Than Jesus Edition

by matttbastard

You’ll go by the phone kiosk and you’ll hear young men having these very strange, almost surreal arguments or discussions with their wives over something like, “Hey the garage is leaking, how do we fix that?” And what she maybe doesn’t understand is, maybe that guy just got ambushed, like half an hour ago, and he’s shaking from the adrenaline, and he’s just calling her just to hear a familiar voice, and she’s like, “We gotta get the sprinklers fixed.” And he’s like, “Oh, OK … . I love you.” He just wants to get back to the ground. And that’s what makes me angry, is what all of this is doing to these very young families. It just makes me mad. It makes anybody mad. So whenever I hear some of these people who say, “Oh, you all don’t have the stomach for war,” or whatever, it’s like, you know, if you’re sane and civilized, I don’t think any person in their right mind has the stomach for this crap. To have a stomach for it–Stalin probably had a stomach for it.

Ok, sure it’s only Henry “I-sold-out-before-selling-out-was-cool” Rollins, but still – TNR?! Is this part of Franklin Foer’s desperate campaign to revamp the staid, overly starched image of a magazine better known for giving a platform to faux-mavericks and DINOs? Perhaps he’s trying to tap into the Spackerman demographic of aging hardcore kids who’ve infiltrated the Beltway media in recent years.

Yep, nothing says “edgy” and “contemporary” like an interview with an over the hill publicity fiend who looks like a tattooed Reed Richards on ‘roids; Vice ain’t got nothin’ on Frankie and Co.

Bonus vid: Black Flag, back in the good old days when Hank still had a neck.

Mmm, Cream Pie…

by matttbastard

Markos Moulitsas has a very tiny, shriveled, disease-ridden penis.

More from meme propagator Mark Gisleson and Feministing’s Jessica Valenti, who (rightly, IMO) labels Kos’ thinly-veiled ‘she was asking for it’ logic “a sexist cliché”.

Via zuzu @ Feministe.

Update: MB Williams rounds up the (almost uniformly negative) response. Elsewhere, Mark points to this Talkleft post from Big Tent Democrat, who is shocked, SHOCKED that Jessica Valenti would ‘dishonestly’ label Kos a misogynist!

Except she didn’t, as such.