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Language matters. Because pointing and grunting and drawing pictures on cave walls only got primitive humans so far. It turned out we needed words to identify and describe things, so that instead of just waving madly, we could shout “The lion is right behind you!” and save our friend from being eaten. Then, with those basics out of the way, language became a tool for getting people to give us what we want. Because we have words, we can say things like “Pass the salt” when our diner is too bland or “Corporations are people” when the corporate overlords tell the Supreme Court they want to be able to spend freely and determine the outcome of elections.
But we can speak, too. We can say “Enough!” and demand the overturn of Citizens United. Use our links below to find out more, or click here to speak up.
It’s time to use your words.
This week’s links:
Giving Congress the Ability to Overturn Citizens United:
Hyperbole from the Right:
Speaking of Speaking:
Pretty Funny, Mr. President:
And He’s a Really Crappy Socialist:
Click to listen:
This week’s links:
The History of Labor Day:
To Serve & Protect? Not So Much:
Are We Really Free in the US?
Everything You Never Wanted to Know About ISIS:
The EU’s Interesting Regulations:
The Upcoming Scottish Referendum:
Click to listen:
The idea of “The Bucket List” – the term for a list of things to accomplish before you die - was popularized by the 2007 movie of the same name, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. The movie and its message about making good use of one’s time on the planet was inspiring, and for most people, their bucket lists include things like running in a marathon or biking through Europe or finally finishing the screenplay they started writing in college.
For legislators, however, the idea of a bucket combined with a list – the “Ice Bucket Challenge” to raise funds for ALS research – got a little scary this week when the list of members of Congress who voted to cut federal funding for ALS research made the politicos being doused with ice water look… well, all wet.
It turns out that if you support shutting down the government rather than raise the debt ceiling and then have to vote on ways to cut spending so that your corporate sponsors aren’t mad at you, you look like a jerk when you’re caught engaging in what then becomes a meaningless stunt for charity. For the many Americans who aren’t in Congress, the Ice Bucket Challenge was a true act of kindness, a stunt that did some good by raising money for a worthwhile endeavor. Not so much for people like Tea Party darling Paul Ryan, who in addition to voting to cut research funding, only found it in his heart to donate $100 to the Ice Bucket Challenge fund. Really, Paul? Is that all you could scrape up?
Now, there are those who’ll say that the real reason that Congress voted to cut the research funding is that private money – not government money taken the tax payers – should go to fund things like medical research and support for those with serious illnesses. That would be in keeping with the right-wing handbook, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, certainly. Screw the people paralyzed and dying from ALS – if people want a cure, they should fund finding it themselves.
Not surprisingly, more of the “f*ck you, I got mine” attitude can be found throughout the news, and our links below are just the beginning. From climate change deniers – who only deny the science because accepting it would be hard on the petroleum, natural gas, and coal industries – to war profiteers banging the drum to become even more involved in Iraq to companies like Amazon.com that routinely abuse their employees, a lot of the 1%-ers and their Tea Party reps in Congress need a bracing bucket of ice water poured over their heads.
Better yet? Let’s give them all a cold slap in the face this November. If the sane and kind among us all turn up at the polls, we can take OUR country back. You know, the country we built by demanding civil rights and a clean environment and a real chance for everyone to make good, happy lives for themselves and their families.
Sounds like a pretty good bucket list. Let’s make it happen.
This week’s links:
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I’m on vacation this week, so for the most part, the blog is, too. It’s been a very cruel summer, and it shows no sign of changing any time soon. From the sad demise of Robin Williams to the chaos in Iraq to yet another case of the police murdering an unarmed person, we’ve got the dots you may have missed in the mainstream news. Check out the links below and make the connections. Don and I will be back next week, and Andy will be back with us the following week.
And hey – enjoy the last few weeks of summer… just don’t piss off the police, and you’ll probably be OK.
This week’s links:
The European Subliminal Use of Penises:
Click to listen:
Whenever someone takes on the job of serving the public, whether they do so as police or as a member of Congress, they take an oath. Typically, the police say something similar to this, the oath preferred by the International Association of Police Chiefs:
“On my honor, I will never betray my badge, my integrity, my character or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. I will always uphold the Constitution, my community, and the agency I serve.”
Members of Congress swear to “support and defend the Constitution” and we’ve all watched the President take the oath of office, promising to “…preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
But does anyone mean it? You be the judge. From wanton, often racially-based abuse of power by the police to Congress purposely failing to do their job – and in so doing keeping Americans out of work, allowing our infrastructure to continue crumbling, and using immigration tensions to pit the voters against one another but refusing to do anything to solve the problem – it would seem that these public servants forget their oaths and often act in direct opposition to the public interest. Certainly Eric Garner, NYPD’s most recent brutality victim, didn’t have his public interest served – assuming remaining alive was something he was interested in.
As you watch events unfold in this country – and around the world – remember – as long as any one of us is in danger from the people we empower to carry and use guns, write laws, declare war, collect and spend taxes, you name it – we’re all in danger from them. And any one of us could be on the ground next, a cop’s knee in our back and his forearm cutting off our air – or suffering the legislative equivalent, silenced by “voter ID” laws and gerrymandering, denied equal pay and access to medical services based on gender, or forced to remain hungry and in poverty, because our needs aren’t as important as the desires of billionaires and corporations that pay no taxes.
This week’s links:
Mitch McConnell & Allison Grimes Video – a Candidate’s Playbook?
Or is it more like comedic theater? To Andy, the McConnell/Grimes video seemed a lot like pantomime (British pantomime, known as “panto” – takes familiar fairy tales and children’s stories – Cinderella, Aladdin, Dick Whittington and His Cat, Snow White – and injects a bit of vaudeville sensibility, contemporary references and audience participation to create a raucous, noisy entertainment). Here’s his example:
NYPD Brutally Kills a Staten Island Man
New York Medical Examiner Rules Garner’s Death a Homicide
NYPD’s Long History of White Police Killing Black Men and Getting Away With It
How Many Americans Have Been Murdered by the Police? A lot.
The Tea Party Explained: White Police Brutality Against Black Suspects and a Rise in US Racism Overall Are Connected
Russell Brand Hammers Sean Hannity Over His Childish Gaza Rant
Is That a Thing? Congress Votes to Sue the President
Fact or Crap – Why the Bride Stands on the Left, and Other Wedding Tradition Roots
Click to listen:
We apologize for the sound issues in this episode… we’re upgrading our studio in the coming weeks. The 7/27/2014 show had so many audio issues that we decided not to post it – so only those who listened to it live will have heard the show. Please come back next week – 8/3/2014 – listen to our live show at 12 pm eastern daylight time or check out the podcast later that day. Thanks!!
It all boils down to what you know. What you know affects your perceptions of everything that happens – to you, directly, to other people, in events around the world – and your perceptions affect your responses, and your responses can affect what happens going forward. So knowing stuff matters.
As we look at two of the biggest stories in the news – Israel’s attempt to use bombs to bring about peace and the struggle for control in Ukraine – people’s interest in the stories is in direct proportion to their understanding of the basic facts. How many people – in the US, that is – could find Ukraine on a map? How many Americans know how the state of Israel came to be and why there’s so much turmoil in that part of the world? The answer, sadly, to these questions is “Not many.”
So let’s look at the history, and let’s take Ukraine first. The connection between Russia and the Ukraine goes back over a thousand years. Both countries were once part of a single Slavic state, Kievan Rus, founded by the Vikings. The word “Rus” in the name refers to the red-haired Scandinavians who lived there, arriving from the north in the 9th century. After religious conversion (and the founding of the Russian church, based on Eastern Orthodox Christianity), a bloody Mongol invasion, and the establishment of what would become the Russian capital, Moscow, hundreds of years of attempts to control Ukraine ensued. Much like oil makes a country interesting to outside interests today, the Ukraine’s fertile farmland made it appealing to countries who wanted control over what became known as “The Breadbasket of Europe.” Luckily for those in Ukraine who wanted to be a separate country, the collapse of the Russian empire after WWI gave them the opportunity to declare themselves a separate state. Russia kept meddling, however, and even after a 1991 vote in which 90% of citizens in Ukraine wanted to be separate, Russia has made no attempts to hide their desire to fold them back in.
As for Israel, many Americans have no idea that Israel was a created state – invented for the Jewish people after WWII. Nobody would begrudge anyone for wanting to give something big to people who’d seen 6 million of their friends and family murdered by the Nazis, but the location and way the state was created seems – at least in hindsight – to have been asking for trouble. Plunk down a group of people in the middle of several other countries, mostly inhabited by people who have longstanding dislike for them and on land that some of the people already consider home, and you’re looking at stressful coexistence, at the very least. In reality, it’s been more than stressful, with wars, terrorist attacks from both sides, shifting borders as the displaced Palestinians try to regain their homeland and the Israelis try to assert themselves and make it clear that they’re not going away. You can’t blame either side for how they feel, if you look at the situation fairly, but the situation is one that might have been avoided had the originators of the Israeli state adhered to the old realtor’s adage that the three most important things in choosing a home are location, location, and location. Not to mention that FDR had promised the Arabs (as the native inhabitants of the region were then collectively called) that no US intervention in creating an Israeli state would take place without consulting them, and then that’s not the way things went down.
So there’s a lot of back-story in both cases, to say the least. Some of it is way back, centuries ago, and some of it took place within the lifetime of people still living today. And of course, history is happening before our eyes right now, as these two stories continue to unfold. Fascinating, right? That’s something you’d watch, at least if The Housewives of Wherever was a rerun, no? But actually, the interest level among many Americans is pretty low. Kids aren’t taught a lot about current events in school, much less learning how they’re connected to events in the past, and their parents didn’t learn much about it either. Why? No, you union-basher, it’s not due to mediocre teachers. It’s planned ignorance, planned and dictated from high above the lowly teachers in the classroom.
It’s the purposeful increasing of the “Duh Factor.” Not teaching anything beyond what one needs to know to operate a Wal-Mart cash register assures the 1% multiple generations of voters who have no idea what’s going on or why, and who won’t really hold anyone to task for how they handle foreign affairs – given that most Americans can’t find states in their own country on the map, much less locate other countries. Hey, if you don’t know where Palestine used to be and only know that Russia is that big chunk up and to the right of Europe – and that Sarah Palin can see it from her house – you’re probably not too concerned with foreign affairs. Add in some stress about finding a job you can live on, how you’re going to afford to fix your roof or replace your 10-year old car, and who’s got time for watching David Gregory completely erase the proud tradition of Meet the Press on Sunday mornings? The average American is either at church, another big contributor to the Duh Factor, or sound asleep when the pundits and politicians square off for their weekly scripted, meaningless circle-jerk.
On that cynical note, here are this week’s links. We assume if you’re reading this blog, you may have some brain power left to read a bit more:
Click to listen:
Nobody actually says “Bite me!” during a fútbol/football/soccer game, but Uruguay’s Luis Suarez is quite likely to chomp on his opponents anyway. He’s been fined, suspended, and might even be fired by his team because of his biting, but his fans don’t seem to mind. His violence, which is a very personal sort of violence, along with racist remarks (which also got him fined and banned from eight matches in 2011) are, to his fans, just part of being a tough player. To others, they’re a joke – as pictures of Suarez wearing one of those big cone collars people put on their dogs to keep them from gnawing on their stitches after surgery have been surfacing all over social media. To lovers of true sport and fans of sanity and fair play, however, he’s a jackass who needs to stop playing professional sports and slink off into obscurity and get some therapy. And a muzzle.
The same could be said for our former vice president, Dick Cheney, who’s spent the last couple of weeks talking to any pundit he could find, raking President Obama over the coals for his handling of the brewing civil war in Iraq. A war that Cheney, his pal Dick Rumsfeld, and his puppet, George W. Bush started, by the way – intended to continue what Bush Sr. had failed to do in Iraq (remember Desert Storm?) years before. There were a couple of fun moments in Cheney’s ill-will tour, including when he was challenged on his claims by Fox News spokesmodel Megyn Kelly of all people, and yes, the blogosphere and social media have been buzzing with rants of “How dare he!” – but the guy just keeps on chewing. Much like his transplanted heart and the evil, twisted ticker he was born with, he’s pretty much unstoppable. Unless, of course, the world were suddenly run by fans of sanity and fair play, in which case the jackass would be charged with – and convicted of – war crimes.
To Cheney’s fans and those of like minds, his desire to get back into a war in Iraq makes sense. John McCain can hardly contain himself, his blood-lust gushing every time he gets near a microphone. The GOP in general can’t get enough military action, despite the hefty price tag – yet they assume nobody will notice that they don’t want to spend dime one on things like rebuilding America’s crumbling bridges and impassable roads but when it comes to defense (which really needs renaming – it’s not “defense” when you’re the one on the attack), they’re more than willing to literally slap the food out of the hands of children, the elderly, and the disabled to pay for it. Entitlement programs, food and housing assistance – any form of humane care for Americans in need – is considered wasteful, yet putting more American soldiers’ lives at risk and throwing billions of dollars onto the pyre that is the Middle East is just fine, and it’s apparently a prudent use of funds.
Of course, the illogical arguments for getting into war again go unnoticed by many Americans – those who just don’t care about what’s going on outside of their own worlds of home and work (if they’ve got a job, that is) and those who don’t have any idea what’s really going on or why, even when they read or listen to the news. The history of the problems in the Middle East is also unknown to or misunderstood by many Americans, thanks to biased coverage in school of anything that might make us look bad and due to effective coverups by those responsible for manipulating the inhabitants of the Middle East for centuries.
From failed attempts at empire-building by various European countries through the 1940s to the US backing of the extremists du jour – which continues to this day – we have only ourselves to blame for the rise of Al Qaeda and terrorism in that part of the world. We’ve taken nearly gleeful, unrelenting advantage of the centuries-old unrest between the Shiites and the Sunnis, and this is just part of reason we find a general hatred for our country felt just about anywhere Rich White Guys have taken an active interest in someone else’s country.
Moreover, the arrogance and stupidity of our interference is astounding. In the 1950s, we ousted a democratically-elected Iranian leader in favor of a puppet of our own (the Shah), leading to the rise of a religious zealot (The Ayatollah – you may recall his angry face from when Iran held 66 Americans hostage for 444 days, culminating in our trading those hostages for weapons), and in the late 1970s, the US switched teams – not liking the results of our own actions – and we buddied up to the Sunnis in Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. And guess where several of the “terrorists” who flew into our World Trade Center in 2001 call home? Why, Saudi Arabia – where the Bush boys take romantic walks holding hands with the repressive royals and Bush Sr. shared the details of the CIA briefings he continued to get after he left office. And let’s not even begin down the path to look at how The Carlyle Group – a corporation run by both the Bush family and the Saudi royal family, along with other lovers of life-size, that’s-real-blood-on-the-b0ard international chess – figures into all of this.
With all this in mind, it must make the rest of the world – our allies especially – shake their heads in disbelief when they look at what passes for news and topics of real interest in this country. Disengaged, uninformed Americans are made for – and were made by – the very chess champions whose moves put us all in danger. And instead of demanding that this sort of foreign policy stop, we’re watching John “Crybaby” Boehner file frivolous lawsuits against President Obama for figuring out a way around the GOP’s blocking of his every attempt to perform the tasks of the Executive branch. Instead of letting our legislators know that war-mongering will get them voted out of office, we’re worrying about what happened to one woman’s IRS emails about targeting conservative groups for tax status scrutiny, we’re wailing about Hillary’s insensitive comments about being “broke,” and we’re fighting amongst ourselves over abortion, religion, and how high to build the wall between Texas and Mexico. A wall, by the way, which will fail to keep future busboys and maids from scrambling over the boarder to perform the jobs Americans would rather not do themselves. In truth, we don’t want to stem the tide of illegal immigrants – we just want to appear to be upset about it.
And speaking of truth, have you heard anyone talking about how the NSA is planting a sort of “phone home” device in America’s internet routers (the devices we use to get WiFi at home) to make it easier for them to listen to and track all of our online communications? They’re intercepting routers as they leave the factory, adding their spy widget, and then resealing the package so it arrives at your door looking like it just tumbled off the slave-labor assembly line. Wait. No? You didn’t hear about that? Amazing. Almost as amazing as the fact that a lot of Americans still think that Edward Snowden – whose leaked information included this latest tidbit – is a traitor and they aren’t upset at all to hear how we’re all under virtually constant surveillance. “If you’re not up to anything, why should you care?” is their justification, not realizing that the definition of “up to something” can easily go from plotting an attack to speaking ill of the corporations that run our government.
Let’s let that sink in for a moment.
OK… Still not worried? Check out this week’s links: