44.

by matttbastard

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them – that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works – whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account – to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day – because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Electronic Village: Barack Obama: Inauguration Speech (Full Text)

Related: Carmen Van Kerckove–Why we must talk about race now, more than ever before:

There are hundreds of years of oppression to undo, thousands of laws and unspoken hiring biases to uncover and bring into the light. Fifty years is just the beginning of a protracted struggle to level the playing field.

While no one can deny that progress is being made (pat yourselves on the back for that!), until people of all backgrounds are allowed the opportunity to make a decent living, to buy a home, to send children to college, to receive adequate health care, and to live as equals among all others, we must continue to challenge the powers-that-be which still block equal opportunity.

Also, Obama admin takes over Whitehouse.gov (h/t Jay Rosen via tweet)

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Dream a Little Dream Redux

by matttbastard

A dream fulfilled? Perhaps that’s just a bit presumptuous, as Rev. Dr. Leslie D. Callahan observes, noting that today, as in Dr. King’s era, “black people [in America] have statistically twice the bad and half of the good things in life.” Tony Campbell chimes in with an additional note of caution, reminding us that “the inauguration of an African-American male is a good first step towards Dr. King’s goal; but it is NOT the dream itself” and advises that we not conflate Obama with Dr. King because the President-elect “is a politician and Dr. King never wanted to be one.”

The politician and the activist

But the sentiment expressed by USian people of colour in that CNN/Opinion Research poll is indicative of the heady optimism surrounding the impending inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama II, soon to be the 44th president of the United States of America. And I believe that if Dr. King had lived (oh, if he had lived) to witness this moment, he too would have been bawlin’ like a baby alongside Jesse Jackson on that fateful night in Grant Park; that he would have celebrated his 80th birthday by doing what he dedicated his life to (and made the ultimate sacrifice for): serving his community.

800px-lyndon_johnson_and_martin_luther_king_jr_-_voting_rights_act

So, on Wednesday, we can start preparing ourselves for the disappointment that, for a number of reasons, the chattering class has declared to be all-but-inevitable (and that some plan to intentionally cultivate and further by any means necessary). But today? Today is a day of remembrance, tomorrow, of celebration– for both the (likely fleeting) realization of American history’s long-delayed promise and the triumph of possibility redefined to perhaps boundless margins.

Yes, you damn right we did (and, even though we’re starting to drown the public commons with ridiculously overwrought superlatives, I still think it feels like the fucking end of Star Wars).

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‘I think so.’

by matttbastard

Again with the 'Saddam = Bin Laden's BFF' bullshit, Dick? Sigh...

No, Mr. Vice-President, I think not.

Really.

(Full Newshour interview transcript here. Make sure to have a bottle of Tums and a couple of Valium’s handy–it makes for a simulateously nauseating and infuriating read.  5 more days…)

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Israel, Palestine and Demographic Realities

by matttbastard

Gershom Gorenberg, writing in the Jan-Feb issue of Foreign Policy, outlines the cold, harsh reality with regards to the efficacy of any so-called two-state solution (where Israel and the former occupied territories revert to pre-1967 borders, Israelis and Palestinians set aside lingering grievance and resentment to the delight of the global community, and Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft subsequently distribute free ponies for everyone!):

From my home in West Jerusalem, the road that Israelis use to head south toward Hebron runs through two tunnels in the mountains. Known simply as the Tunnel Road, it was built in the mid-1990s during the Oslo peace process, when Bethlehem was turned over to Palestinian rule and Israelis wanted a way to bypass the town on their way to settlements that remained in Israeli hands.

A turn from the Tunnel Road takes you past the Palestinian village of Hussan to Beitar Illit, a settlement covering two hills. The streets are lined with apartment buildings, faced in rough-cut, yellowish-white stone, all with red-tile roofs, so alike they could have been turned out by the same factory. In 1993, when Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat shook hands and peace seemed close enough to touch, about 4,000 people lived in Beitar Illit. Now, 34,000 live here, and more will soon move in.

The message written on the landscape is simple: Every day, the settlements expand. Every day, Israel grows more entangled in the West Bank. To a large degree, the Israeli and Palestinian publics have accepted the need for a two-state solution. But time, and the construction crews, are working against it. No one knows exactly where the point of no return is—when so many Israelis will have moved into so many homes beyond the pre-1967 border that there is no going back. But each passing day brings that tipping point nearer. If a solution is not achieved quickly, it might soon be out of reach.

According to Gorenberg, “[i]n 1993, when the Oslo process began, 116,000 Israelis lived in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank… . Last year, when Olmert resigned and elections were announced, the number of settlers in the West Bank had passed 290,000, living alongside 2.2 million Palestinians.”  And, following elections in February, “more than 300,000 Israelis are likely to be living in the West Bank, with the number continuing to climb [all emph. mine].”

Remember, several years back, the domestic PR headache posed by engaging in the forced removal of angry, militant Israeli settlers from their homes in Gaza?

Yeah, that–all over again, only with at least 35 times the population to send packing.

So, when people act as if a viable choice between pursuing a single or two-state solution with Israel and the former occupied territories still exists, one must first account for a very precious non-renewable resource, one that, as noted by Gorenberg, is in increasingly short supply:

Time.

Related
: John Bolton shows why he’s the AEI’s new go-to guy for solving tough diplomatic conundrums with his latest op-ed in the Washington Post, in which he proposes a three (yes, three) state zombie solution to Israel’s current post-colonial woes.  Yeah, that’s a brilliant idea — simply foist the entire Palestinian problem onto Egypt and Jordan, using all the diplomatic leverage that the US has accrued in the Middle East over the past 8 years (especially the past 6).  I’m sure that’ll fly in Cairo and Amman–especially if Brzezinski and Scowcroft throw in extra ponies to account for the extra state involved.

OMG PONIES!

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Beltway Inertia and the Rule of Law

by matttbastard

In a must-read post today, Glenn Greenwald challenges Ruth Marcus and the establishment Washington consensus, in which the pursuit of war crimes charges against soon-to-be-former Bush officials is arbitrarily dismissed as either too polarizing, too partisan, or just too goddamn difficult to successfully prosecute, and thus should be preemptively abandoned.  Greenwald explains why this virtually ensures the perpetuation of an unlawful historical feedback loop:

Along with the desire for just retribution, one of the two principal reasons we impose penalties for violations of the criminal law is deterrence — to provide an incentive for potential lawbreakers to refrain from breaking our laws, rather than deciding that it is beneficial to do so. Though there is debate about how best to accomplish it and how effective it ultimately is, deterrence of future crimes has been, and remains, a core purpose of the criminal law. That is about as basic as it gets. From Paul Robinson, University of Pennsylvania Law Professor, and John Darley, Psychology Professor at Princeton, in “The Role of Deterrence in the Criminal Law“:

For the past several decades, the deterrence of crime has been a centerpiece of criminal law reform. Law-givers have sought to optimize the control of crime by devising a penalty-setting system that assigns criminal punishments of a magnitude sufficient to deter a thinking individual from committing a crime.

Punishment for lawbreaking is precisely how we try to ensure that crimes “never happen again.” If instead — as Marcus and so many other urge — we hold political leaders harmless when they break the law, if we exempt them from punishment under the criminal law, then what possible reason would they have from refraining from breaking the law in the future? A principal reason for imposing punishment on lawbreakers is exactly what Marcus says she wants to achieve: “ensuring that these mistakes are not repeated.” By telling political leaders that they will not be punished when they break the law, the exact opposite outcome is achieved: ensuring that this conduct will be repeated.

[…]

Every time we immunize political leaders from the consequences of their crimes, it’s manipulatively justified in the name of “ensuring that it never happens again.”  And every time, we do exactly the opposite:  we make sure it will happen again.  And it does:  Richard Nixon is pardoned.  J. Edgar Hoover’s lawbreakers are protected.  The Iran-contra criminals are set free and put back into government.  Lewis Libby is spared having to serve even a single day in prison despite multiple felony convictions.  And now it’s time to immunize even those who tortured detainees and spied on Americans in violation of numerous treaties, domestic laws, and the most basic precepts of civilized Western justice.

One would hope to see those individuals who have been granted a national platform that allows them to have a measurable impact on the tone of discourse in Washington be responsible and advocate on behalf of the rule of law. Instead, they collectively sigh, texturally furrow their brows over how hard it is to do the right thing, before finally settling for the cold, easy comfort of doing nothing (shades of grey, children. Shades. Of. Grey.) In an article published yesterday by McClatchy Newspapers, Marisa Taylor starkly lays out the logical consequence of elite apathy towards defending the rule of law:

Without wider support, the campaign to haul top administration officials before an American court is likely to stall.

What this says to the nation, and the world, about the US and its lack of commitment to justice, human rights, and the rule of law is nothing short of staggering.  As Loyola war law expert David Glazier put it,

It is mind boggling to say eight years later that there is not going to be some sort of criminal accountability for what happened… . It certainly undermines our moral authority and our ability to criticize other countries for doing exactly the same thing. But given the legal issues and the political reality, I am hard pressed to see any other outcome.

And because our gatekeepers of ‘reasonable’, ‘serious’ discourse can’t begin to envision any viable course of action other than forgive and (try our goddamndest to) forget, all of this–state-sanctioned torture and rendition, unlawful domestic surveillance, an unnecessary war in Iraq that, thus far, has killed well over a million people–has, in effect, been green-lighted twice.  First, by Bush, Cheney and the rest of those who felt that burning the Constitution was the only way to save it. Then, retroactively, by those in the Beltway press corps, elite Washington society and–most egregiously–the incoming Democratic administration, all of whom would apparently rather practice their statesman-like ostrich pose than risk disrupting the inertial ebb and flow of their delicate political ecosystem.

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Seriously?

by matttbastard

Ok. I’ve gone on a bit lately about the recent 90s retro trend in political discourse. And I don’t want to seem like I’m trying to be a trendsetter or ‘thought leader’ or or something by obsessing over this apparent (perhaps self-imposed and projected) pattern. But c’mon — Western separatists and senate reform? The Tories are really channeling their Manning-era Reform ancestry atm.

Of course, when journos like David Aiken use their valuable inches to name-drop Pierre Trudeau and Barack Obama (in that order) while discussing the suddenly novel (and enigmatic!) technically-interim Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, you can sense that cut and paste mash-up politics (ie, wrapping up a successful formula in an unfamiliar package) are all the rage in the newly engaged Canadian political landscape.

(As a parenthetical aside, dontcha love how Gormley breaks out the Jack Layton = “reckless socialist” talking point without even bothering to dress it up in careful equivocation?)

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12.06.89

by matttbastard

Today isn’t about pro or anti coalition rallies, the respective leadership abilities of Stephane Dion vs. Stephen Harper, partisanship, or unelected heads of state. Nor is it about Western alienation, Quebec separatism, parliamentary democracy, or regional polarization. Today isn’t even about the stumbling global economy (although God knows the latest job numbers are hard to put out of mind for long).

Today is about them:

montrealmassacre.jpg

(Click image for more on the Montreal Massacre)

Lest we forget.

Update: More posts commemorating the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women:

– skdadl @ POGGE

– mirabile dictu

the regina mom

Shameless

Womanist Musings

A Secret Chord

Tattered Sleeve

The Stormy Days of March

Hullabaloos

One Woman, One Blog (and here)

– La Revue Gauche

Update 2 12.07: More:

unrepentant old hippie

Politics ‘n’ Poetry

Update 3: And more:

Lilith Attack

Whileaway North

Cara @ The Curvature (x-posted @ Feministe)

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Quote of the Day: Nixonland North

by matttbastard

Like Richard Nixon, Harper seems obsessed not merely with defeating his opponents, but with destroying them. The fact that he could not restrain himself, even in a minority position, bespeaks a kind of sickness better explained by pathology than politics. It is poetic justice that after Harper’s repeatedly goading, taunting and humiliating his opponents, they finally sucked up their guts and kicked him in the privates.

– William Neville, Harper finally gets his comeuppance

h/t EmpressNorton via tweet

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Gee, Thanks.

by matttbastard

Bill Berkowitz reports:

In one of those better-late-than-never moments that came one week before Thanksgiving, Bob Jones University of Greenville, South Carolina, issued a belated, but seemingly heartfelt, online statement apologizing for “allow[ing] institutional policies regarding race to be shaped more directly by that [segregationist] ethos than by the principles and precepts of the Scriptures.” In 2000, Bob Jones III, then president of the university that was founded in 1927 as a private Christian institution, admitted that the university had been wrong for not admitting African American students until 1971. At the same time, “he announced the lifting of the University’s policy against interracial dating.”

Apparently someone in Greenville didn’t get the memo that white guilt is, like, so 2007.

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“Dry Language, Dry Bones”

by matttbastard

Tom Hayden:

Antiseptic language is sometimes necessary in journalism and law to make objective evaluations. But it also can suppress moral and emotional responses to suffering and serve as a sedative in managing public opinion. Riveting stories of torture dungeons don’t rate much in the media in comparison to domestic violence between white Americans. For instance, clear evidence that Sunni children were being murdered by the Shi’a captors, persuasive to a top US military investigator, made it into the Salt Lake Tribune, but not much further. The US Judge Advocate happened to be from Utah, making it a local story.

Counterinsurgency often is framed as winning hearts and minds, not as crushing the alleged insurgents to protect the civilian population. In South Vietnam, that led to “strategic hamlets” and the Phoenix program. In Central America, it was death squads who killed priests, nuns and thousands of civilians. In both cases, American and world opinion was shocked.

In the case of Iraq, there is silence in the West.

h/t Nell in comments @ ObWi

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