Over the easter weekend we visited a bunch of our neighbours in rural France and the obvious topic for discussion was ‘les elections’. A very important fact to know about M. Fillon is that he has been in a big scandal because as a senator he employed his wife and 2 other relatives on ridiculously high salaries as consultants. His wife never did anything worth mentioning and her salary went right back in his pocket. The other two were still students and nowhere close to reaching a degree soon. So his credibility is shot − one does not do that. No stealing our tax money.
The other interesting thing is, our French friends do not talk openly on who they personally decided on − this is considered a private matter. So even they themselves do not know what the people in the village will vote. In the surveys they have still a large number of ‘undecided’ but they might very well just have chosen to not tell. Especially if they have decided to give their vote to M. Fillon, they keep quiet about it as to not expose themselves.
On the day of the election you can only put in your vote if you go to the town hall in person. You may be substituted by a very complicated process beforehand (both persons appearing at the local police station, signing papers and paying Euros for the service). But no voting by mail (except for the overseas departments), online, early voting or any other means. As the date is also smack in the middle of the spring school holidays, this is a bit annoying.
PS. there are actually 11 candidates to choose from in the 1st round, Those mentioned here are the ones with the best chances though.
An interesting article published a few years back CHARLIE HEBDO: Not racist? If you say so… by Olivier Cyran sums up Charlie Hebdo as follows:
“You claim for yourself the tradition of anticlericalism, but pretend not to know the fundamental difference between this and Islamophobia. The first comes from a long, hard and fierce struggle against a Catholic priesthood which actually had formidable power, which had − and still has − its own newspapers, legislators, lobbies, literary salons and a huge property portfolio. The second attacks members of a minority faith deprived of any kind of influence in the corridors of power. It consists of distracting attention from the well-fed interests which rule this country, in favour of inciting the mob against citizens who haven’t been invited to the party, if you want to take the trouble to realise that − for most of them − colonisation, immigration and discrimination have not given them the most favourable place in French society. Is it too much to ask a team which, in your words “is divided between leftists, extreme leftists, anarchists and Greens”, to take a tiny bit of interest in the history of our country and its social reality?”
Some numbers I heard yesterday by Swiss national radio station about the current conflict: 3 dead Israelis vs. 170 dead Palestine.
I had to laugh out loud when I saw the title of this article. How do you know what I actually put on my ballet though ;).
And then there are the people who really are living on the edge of destitution, eviction and being frozen out of society (in the colder states, quite literally); the article Chart of the day: The working poor by Felix Salmon (Reuters) has this to say:
“Nearly 1 in 3 working families in the United States, despite their hard work, are struggling to meet basic needs. The plight of these families now challenges a fundamental assumption that in america, work pays. […] The workers in these families have a much greater risk of becoming unemployed than the population as a whole, and of course they’re financially much less prepared for any period of unemployment than most of the rest of us.”
The chart below shows the 200% of poverty level income for various family sizes. The census reports that 30% of the working families in America are at or below this line. More proof of the lopsided distribution of wealth and prosperity in an increasingly expensive society.
The article, When Propaganda Is No Longer Necessary (Anonymous Liberal), also lashes out at the U.S. media, for whom Israel’s essential goodness is so deeply ingrained that it extends to absolving it of the murder of an American citizen a priori.
“There’s another rather disgusting tendency of the American Right on display in Johnson’s post: the blind assumption that any Muslim who is killed or captured deserves it. With his keen logic, he notes that if this kid was “shot five times at close range, four times in the head,” then “it is reasonable to infer that he was one of those attacking Israeli soldiers with a club, knife or other weapon and was shot in self-defense.”
“Yes, of course, the only logical inference one can make when presented with a corpse riddled with five gun shot wounds, including four to the head, is that person was shot in self-defense. Someone get this guy a job on CSI. Really, who needs propaganda when there are people out there who, without any prodding, already reason like this?”
The article, Who Is Afraid of a Real Inquiry? by Uri Avnery (Antiwar), has 80 questions for Israelis and their government that would be asked “[i]f a real commission of inquiry had been set up (instead of the pathetic excuse for a commission).”
Questions cover topics like
- “What is the real aim of the Gaza Strip blockade?”
- “Questions concerning the decision to attack the flotilla”
- “Questions concerning the planning of the action”
- “Questions concerning the action itself”
- “Questions concerning the behavior of the IDF spokesman”
- “Questions concerning the inquiry”
- Leading up to “What is our [the Israeli] political and military leadership trying to hide?”
The article, Israel’s Gift to Iran’s Hardliners by Juan Cole (TomDispatch), points out that Iran is not as stupid as Washington seems to think it is, and the world is not as convinced of Iran’s intrinsic evil as the U.S. and Israel think it is.
“The hypocrisy in all this was visibly Washington’s and Israel’s. After all, both were demanding that a country without nuclear weapons ‘disarm’ and the only country in the region to actually possess them be excused from the disarmament process entirely. This was, of course, their gift to Tehran. Like others involved in the process, Iran’s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency immediately noted this and riposted, ‘The U.S… is obliged to go along with the world’s request, which is that Israel must join the NPT and open its installations to IAEA inspectors.’”
Israeli and U.S. policy has been working against itself for a while now, with their actions fitting poorly together with their stated goals. For example,
“[Netanyahu’s] election as prime minister in February 2009 turns out to have been the best gift the Israeli electorate could have given Iran. The Likud-led government continues its colonization of the West Bank and its blockade of the civilian population of Gaza, making the Iranian hawks who harp on injustices done to Palestinians look prescient. It refuses to join the NPT or allow U.N. inspections of its nuclear facilities, making Iran, by comparison, look like a model IAEA member state.”
Either Israel and the U.S. don’t believe that anyone will notice that they are failing utterly, they are otherwise benefiting it, they just don’t care or they are utter idiots. Or perhaps some wondrous combination of all of these.
On the topic of American brainwashing, there’s the article Shaping the Story on Iran:
“The unanimity of view is particularly evident on the editorial pages where the neocons and the groupthink that they have fostered have become deeply embedded. Everyone in the MSM agrees that Iran either already has nukes or is about to go nuclear and that the country shelters terrorists on every block, all colluding to attack a completely innocent and guileless United States. Saturated with the propaganda, the American public more or less accepts that narrative.”
If you know that Iran has nuclear weapons, ask yourself how you know this. Do you know because you learned it from the same people that told you that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction?
Do you think it’s perhaps time that you start thinking for yourself before even more people are killed in order to assuage your irrational fears.
Just today, the article An Open Letter to the Iraqi People, From Soldiers in the Unit Depicted in the WikiLeaks Video by Josh Stieber and Ethan McCord (AlterNet) appeared. The soldiers were on the ground (not in the helicopter):
“We acknowledge our part in the deaths and injuries of your loved ones as we tell Americans what we were trained to do and carried out in the name of “god and country.” The soldier in video said that your husband shouldn’t have brought your children to battle, but we are acknowledging our responsibility for bringing the battle to your neighborhood, and to your family. We did unto you what we would not want done to us.”
“After years of interviewing survivors of disasters, and reading first-hand accounts and sociological studies from such disasters as the London Blitz and the Mexico City earthquake of 1985, I don’t believe in looting. Two things go on in disasters. The great majority of what happens you could call emergency requisitioning. Someone who could be you, someone in the kind of desperate circumstances I outlined above, takes necessary supplies to sustain human life in the absence of any alternative. Not only would I not call that looting, I wouldn’t even call that theft.
“Necessity is a defense for breaking the law in the United States and other countries, though it’s usually applied more to, say, confiscating the car keys of a drunk driver than feeding hungry children. Taking things you don’t need is theft under any circumstances. It is, says the disaster sociologist Enrico Quarantelli, who has been studying the subject for more than half a century, vanishingly rare in most disasters.
“The media are another matter. They tend to arrive obsessed with property (and the headlines that assaults on property can make). Media outlets often call everything looting and thereby incite hostility toward the sufferers as well as a hysterical overreaction on the part of the armed authorities. Or sometimes the journalists on the ground do a good job and the editors back in their safe offices cook up the crazy photo captions and the wrongheaded interpretations and emphases.
“They also deploy the word panic wrongly. Panic among ordinary people in crisis is profoundly uncommon. The media will call a crowd of people running from certain death a panicking mob, even though running is the only sensible thing to do. In Haiti, they continue to report that food is being withheld from distribution for fear of “stampedes.” Do they think Haitians are cattle?
“The belief that people in disaster (particularly poor and nonwhite people) are cattle or animals or just crazy and untrustworthy regularly justifies spending far too much energy and far too many resources on control – the American military calls it “security” – rather than relief. A British-accented voiceover on CNN calls people sprinting to where supplies are being dumped from a helicopter a “stampede” and adds that this delivery “risks sparking chaos.” The chaos already exists, and you can’t blame it on these people desperate for food and water. Or you can, and in doing so help convince your audience that they’re unworthy and untrustworthy.”
Unfortunately, the heroes of the mainstream media—as documented in this post, In the midst of looting chaos by Anderson Cooper (AC360)—still gleefully represent the apparently tiny minority that aren’t behaving in a noble fashion.
What’s amazing is that, while rioting over food and water when you haven’t seen either in nearly a week is completely understandable, most Haitians are apparently not doing that. That’s an amazing and uplifting story, Anderson Cooper. Report that instead of your staged heroism with a blood-covered boy.
Similarly, the article, Haiti earthquake: police admit gangs have taken over Port-au-Prince by Bruno Waterfield (London Telegraph) also emphasizes the negative, though they start off claiming that all of Port-of-Prince is apparently lost and end by admitting that the recently sprung gang leaders seem to be fighting over one slum.
Brother Jim Boyden from the Jesuit Mission near Port au Prince:
“I wanna get this out because I have not seen a whole lot of … the media … with the picture that I’ve seen … the little things that I’ve seen in the media …they’re covering pictures of the Haitians that are looting and gunfire and burning and crime. I have led medical brigades to the garbage dumps of Guatemala for the last six years. I do many, many, many. And, they’re oftentimes chaotic and people are fighting to see the doctor and they’re pushing each other forward. What I saw yesterday, the Haitians that were here…triaged themselves. There was a person here with a compound fracture … everyone made sure that he saw the doctor first. They were orderly, they were appreciative, they were grateful and they are right now, about the most honorable people that I can possibly imagine. I have never seen patients act as respectful to a doctor and I’ve never seen a crowd of people act as orderly and trying to help out perfect strangers. I’ve never seen that. If you go to an American hospital on a Friday night in the emergency room, people are scrambling to see a doctor and yelling at each other to try to see the doctor first … and these Haitian people are noble.
“Let me say one other quick thing: I arrived in the country on November 1st to start working in a school. My first impression when I first came here, I said to my home pastor, I said, ‘I hope at some point I can get to a love for these Haitians that is not based on pity.’ That was in November; for the last three days, when I would think that the Haitians would deserve all the pity they can have, I have no pity for them, I only have respect and admiration and has just completely changed my view. I no longer have pity for the people, I just have respect and admiration and they’re noble. (Emphasis in original.)”
There’s no link because I transcribed the text directly from the podcast.
When asked whether things won’t just get worse in Haiti until troops are on the ground, Bill Clinton said (cited from Haiti police battle to keep streets safe:
“When you think about people who lost everything, except what they’re carrying on their backs, who haven’t not only eaten, probably haven’t slept in four days… and when the sun goes down, it’s totally dark and they spend all night lying, wandering around tripping over bodies living and dead − I think they’ve behaved quite well.”
Couldn’t agree with you more, Bill.
It’s a bit late now, but the article What should Obama say in Copenhagen? by Dean Baker (Politico) serves as a source for the U.S. requirement that the Chinese commit to ¼ of the per-capita CO2-output of the U.S.:
“The current view in the U.S. appears to be that the Chinese should forever commit themselves to emitting greenhouse gases at one-third or one-quarter the per capita rate as people in the United States.”
So, when you kept hearing the President say that the “deal is on the table” and that “countries should step up”, he knew full well that the deal was completely unacceptable to the Chinese. Hillary also made sure to very specifically note that the U.S. would only proceed with their deal if “all other parties” also signed on. Both Obama and his Secretary of State took the opportunity to try to look and sound good because they knew that the Chinese wouldn’t take the bait and force the U.S. to actually have to go through with the deal they’d offered.
The article, We Have a Nobel Peace President Who Won’t Ban Land Mines by Bill Moyers (AlterNet), points out that a major modern-day deployer of land mines is, in fact, South Korea, another major U.S. ally (home to dozens of thousands of U.S. troops and numerous bases).
“But still we refuse to sign, citing security commitments to our friends and allies, such as South Korea, where a million mines fill the demilitarized zone between it and North Korea.”
Given that situation, there is every reason to believe that U.S. commitments to South Korea play an important role in the continued lack of a U.S. signature on the land mine treaty. It’s not as if an objective reading of history would lead anyone to expect principles to have anything to do with U.S. policy.
The photo attached to the article itself is quite tame. In the ensuing days since publication, these far more devastating ones have appeared:
“The war on terror is a profound conceptual error, not simply because the problem with making war on a common noun (drugs, poverty, terror) is that a common noun cannot surrender; but also because it treats a small band of extremists with no means of transforming the balance of power as if they represent a genuine strategic threat rather than what John Kerry quite correctly in 2004 labeled a ‘nuisance.’ Kerry told the New York Times, ‘We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they’re a nuisance. As a former law-enforcement person, I know we’re never going to end prostitution. We’re never going to end illegal gambling. But we’re going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn’t on the rise. It isn’t threatening people’s lives every day, and fundamentally, it’s something that you continue to fight, but it’s not threatening the fabric of your life.’”
“Recently, he seems to have turned up the “change” volume but neglected the “individual contribution” sound, and now his message feels slightly out of tune. When I watch him speak on television, I see the crowd cheer with an incredible fervor. […] I just wish I did not feel as though I were watching a rally bordering on a revival. We need soaring rhetoric in a world of depressed resignation, but such rhetoric should be filled with content. I want to hear more about his proposals.”
In Who wins if it is McCain v. Hillary? McCain v. Obama? by Mitchell Freedman, says:
“As for Obama, he remains a mirror with flowery rhetoric. People see what they want to see with him, more than many candidates. Yet, when he gets specific on matters such as health care, Obama keeps wanting to show, at least rhetorically, that he is a reliable corporate Democrat a la the Clintons.”
Obama’s health-care plan would cover less than half of the Americans without health insurance and would be voluntary—screwing any chance it has of working because the insurance pool would be out-of-balance as only sick people would volunteer to pay into the program.
“Giuliani left the Iraq Study Group last May after just two months, walking away from a chance to make up for his lack of foreign policy credentials on the top issue in the 2008 race, the Iraq war. … [h]e cited “previous time commitments” in a letter explaining his decision to quit, and a look at his schedule suggests why – the sessions at times conflicted with Giuliani’s lucrative speaking tour that garnered him $11.4 million in 14 months.”
Check the article for more sordid details. However, those who believe that his preference for cash above public involvement will sink his campaign are sorely mistaken. People don’t care about shit like this. If his campaign staff is clever (and they are—they’re the same people Bush used), they’ll spin this as Giuliani, Man of the People, didn’t have time for high falutin’ study groups.
“What the Russians really fear about this plan is the vast American presence that goes with it. The anti-missile interceptors—the same models as the ones now in Alaska—are gigantic, as big as the old intercontinental ballistic missiles and, like them, buried in substantial blast-hardened silos. To deploy 10 of them, along with a huge X-band radar system, will require an enormous military base, heavily staffed, apportioned with the usual complement of U.S. Air Force infrastructure and American amenities. … In short, the United States would be gaining a substantial foothold deep inside Eastern Europe, closer than ever to the Russian border.”
But, wait! Don’t they realize that we’re the good guys? That we beat them 15 years ago—fair and square—and that we’re all on the same team now?
The article, Why Can’t We Talk about Peace in Public? by Matt Taibbi (AlterNet), contains some disturbing quotes from other soldiers in Iraq. They are far less reflective than the soldier from the article above.
“It’s starting to sink in… I’ll have to go home, the opportunities to kill these fuckers is rapidly coming to an end. Like a hobby I’ll never get to practice again. It’s not a great war, but it’s the only one we’ve got. God, I do love killing these bastards. … I still have 20 days of kill these motherfuckers, so I don’t wanna take even one day off.”
The author is an airforce pilot, seeing the world through a high-tech bomb sight; seeing his targets as splotches on a screen; seeing everything that moves as an insurgent. Though the soldier is clearly to blame for his own complete lack of empathy, it’s hard not to consider the sheer amount of brainwashing, both military and civilian, that went into creating this fine human being. It’s hard, in fact, to lay the blame for what he’s become at his feet. He is what he was raised to be by a society that needs grist like him for its perpetual wars. Or, as Taibbi puts it:
“In my mind, all the people in the Bush administration and in Congress and in the media who got these kids sent there in the first place have to be the first ones held responsible for whatever those kids do after being thrown into the fire. I just don’t yet have the stomach to start pointing the finger at a bunch of teenagers and twenty-somethings who never should have been sent there in the first place.”
One of the founding mothers of the neocon movement that has made this world such a warm, safe place to live also died recently. Former U.N. envoy Kirkpatrick dies (CNN) has the story, which is naturally chock full of quotes about how sorely she will be missed—by such upstanding community members as Bill Frist, Bill Bennet, John Bolton and the American Enterprise Institute. Somehow they forgot to mention what an ironclad, heartless bitch she was who often competed with Maggie Thatcher in drawn-out contests to see who could squash more of the poor under the heel of her sensible pump.
Seriously, Kissinger. What are you waiting for?
The Washington Post and Pinochet (UggaBugga) writes about this article, A Dictator’s Double Standard (Washington Post), in which the basic attitude toward Pinochet is akin to “At least Hitler introduced the Volkswagen and the autobahn and reduced unemployment”. Although comparing Pinochet to Hitler isn’t fair—Pinochet wasn’t nearly as efficient—neither is the Post’s comparing him favorably to Castro.
All in all, a disgusting showing from the Post, which doesn’t even have the decency to label it as an editorial.
As expected, reports from Chile itself aren’t nearly as forgiving of Pinochet as the BBC and other western media are. Crowds Take to Streets to Celebrate Pincohet’s Demise by Jen Ross (Common Dreams) tells the story of “a cacophony of car horns and cheering yesterday”. The only disagreement was over whether to be happy he was dead or mad that he evaded going to trial.