Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Europe Resists U.S. Push to Curb Iran Ties

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 — European governments are resisting Bush administration demands that they curtail support for exports to Iran and that they block transactions and freeze assets of some Iranian companies, officials on both sides say. The resistance threatens to open a new rift between Europe and the United States over Iran.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Children Without a Country


"A man without a country," is what Judge Maryanne Trump Barry called the hapless stowaway, Salim Yassir, who was born in Palestine, exiled to Libya, and jailed in the USA. Four years after foiling Yassir's 2000 attempt to enter the USA, immigration authorities were still claiming they should keep him in jail while they looked for a country that would take him. But Judge Barry (the Donald's older sister) put an end to that legal purgatory in 2004 when she ruled that a man without a country has rights, too. Yassir could just as easily live outside jail while authorities pursued their executive agendas.
This is a heart-wrenching story of terrible human rights abuses taking place deep in the heart of Texas. Have a look here for a related article. What's almost as terrible is that these kinds of human rights abuses by the US State are common place, and no longer shocking. Democrocies don't imprison children and whole families?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Electronic Renaissance or Digital Dark Ages?

by Stuart Noble

There’s been a bit of discussion going around about Rep. Hinchey’s proposed legislation. The headline from the Raw Story piece is quite telling, “Rep. believes Democratic media reform bill may prevent possible 'fascist' takeover of US media”. One of Hinchey’s staffers is quoted, “Whether or not there is a purpose that includes fascism, we could wind up in a fascist situation if corporations end up controlling information without the government providing some balancing mechanism, such as the Fairness Doctrine,”

I applaud the congressman for using the F word. It’s long overdue. However, if we’re being honest and objective (objectivity is quite subjective I realize), don’t we ALREADY HAVE a fascist situation in which a handful of corporations ALREADY control the information without government providing some balancing mechanism?

Ian Welsh at the Agonist has a recent post witch addresses another side to the same problem, ever shrinking diversity in the media as a result of the monopolization of said media. His most basic solution is spot on, break up the monopolies. Rep. Hinchey’s legislation merely addresses media monopolization but I think misses the very simple crux of the problem. While it would be preferable to see more “fairness” and “balance”, who decides just what that is? This could take us down a slippery slope indeed. We don’t need yet another army of bureaucrats determining what is fair, what is balanced, running statistical analysis to determine conservative vs. liberal percentages. We don’t want to go from corporate control of the media organizations to government control of media information. Government has a critical function to the solution but it’s not replacing deregulation of commerce with over-regulation of free political speech. We’ve already got an undemocratic institutionalized “two-party” political system. Should we now institutionalize “two-party” political speech? Some of the comments from Ian’s post were a bit dismissive of the whole idea of a “fairness” doctrine but not for the reason I’ve stated. The demise of the MSM (if it ultimately happens) should be welcomed if we truly are to experience a renaissance created by a free, open, egalitarian and democratic online communication community(s). The growth of the internet and those participating both as consumers and creators of information and ideas should give us all great hope. There are however no guarantees that the internet will remain free and open, just as predicting the demise of the MSM is premature.

The signing of the Communications Act of 1996 was probably the most destructive legislation signed by former president Clinton. It’s highly doubtful that Clinton saw a fascist media future when signing this un-democratic legislation; however, repealing it would be the simplest first step in reversing the 10 year slide. It is that simple, repeal the Communications Act of 1996 and bust up all the monopolies. We could go even a bit further than the pre Communications Act era. Apart from limiting the number of media outlets controlled by any one company, non media corporations should be required to divest their ownership of all media holdings. Under such an environment, a fairness doctrine would organically thrive amid the plethora of competing independent organizations at a myriad of local, regional and national levels. We must embrace the true American spirit which guarantees and protects the freedom of markets to all people and communities not the selling off of public space (including our airwaves) to a handful of 21st century information robber barons.

In short, we are encouraged by the current rise in online networked communication. Never before have so many individuals and communities had the ability to communicate and share ideas so openly and freely. However, this alone does not guarantee a more democratic future.

We want to believe the progressive seers’ predictions of the demise of the MSM at their own hands. The struggle for Network Neutrality should give the optimistic hopefuls great pause. It may well be the ultimate factor in determining whether we slip into permanent tyranny or continue our electronic renaissance. I should not think we would “put all our hopeful eggs in one basket”. The traditional media may not decay and die off at the vine as some assume, but evolve into something we wouldn’t even recognize today. We should demand and struggle for freedom and democracy everywhere, at all times, in all our institutions. Do not be swayed by the high-sounding “ideals” of this legislation, for it is a fool’s gold. Unfortunately, many on the Left have already been enticed by its glimmer and shine. The true libertarians (those who believe in the fundamental principals of inalienable rights and universal liberty) will come down hard against this. We would be wise to listen to their arguments. The “Left” can be every bit as despotic as the “Right”, just ask the Venezuelans. We should be ever diligent that we don’t replace King George with an Emperor Chavez. Those of us who consider ourselves Progressives should embrace what Stirling Newberry has called, “New Liberalism”, a cosmopolitan [r]epublicanism reflecting Jefferson’s universal egalitarian democratic principals. The MORA bill is undemocratic, potentially repressive, and could ultimately replace one “fascist situation” with another.

This article is cross-posted at The Agonist

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Shame of Guantanamo Exposed in Cuba

“We are simply asking for due process and fair trials for my son and all detainees at Guantanamo,”

“The dictator Qaddafi tortured and imprisoned my husband; now the U.S., a country I thought was civilized, is doing the same thing to my son,”

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Seymour Martin Lipset, Sociologist, Dies at 84

Seymour Martin Lipset was a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Hazel Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University until 2006. He passed away on Dec. 31, 2006. Previously he was the Caroline S.G. Munro Professor of Political Science and Sociology at Stanford University (1975–90) and the George D. Markham Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University.

His major work was in the fields of political sociology, trade union organization, social stratification, public opinion, and the sociology of intellectual life. He wrote extensively about the conditions for democracy in comparative perspective.

Here's a great piece about his background and career here at the NY Times, and here at the Economist, "Seymour Martin Lipset devoted his life to explaining why America is different".Also, check out the Guardian , its definately worth the read. If you haven't read any Lipset yet, you certainly will.

In New ‘Quality TV,’ Dark Is New Light: CSI-ing of America

Did you realize that, according to the BBC, CSI: Miami—the one starring David Caruso—is the world’s most popular TV series? It features on more Top 10 ratings lists in more countries than any other show.
No, I think what has made CSI: Miami universal, trans-lingual, cross-cultural, are the spiritual and sensual factors: that drama of light and darkness, the drama at the heart of what many regard as one of the world’s first organized religions, Zoroastrianism, a common denominator of all faiths.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Bush's Last Stand!

from the Economist.
This was just too good!

Those Pesky States

 Extending health care to the uncovered, one state at a time

Massachusetts, and now California, have the boldest plans. But they are not the only states concerned with reducing the ranks of the uninsured. Illinois, Tennessee and Pennsylvania have pledged to insure all children. Half a dozen other states have official commissions charged with producing comprehensive reform plans this year. Could the states jump-start American health-care reform?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Suburban Populism

An Opening for the Democrats

By David Ignatius
Emanuel believes that the November election voiced a deep public frustration with Republican leadership and opened the way for what could be a long-term realignment, if the Democrats are smart. A key trend was what he calls "suburban populism." Middle-class voters are angry because they feel that their standard of living -- from education to health care to retirement -- is under assault.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Republicans win by losing in Iraq


It's clear that Bush knows perfectly well there's no possibility of "winning" anymore, so apparently he's seeking in Iraq exactly what Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger sought in Vietnam before the 1972 election: a face-saving "decent interval" before the virtually inevitable collapse of the U.S.-backed government."

Explosion Hits U.S. Embassy in Athens

ATHENS, Friday, Jan. 12 — A rocket-propelled grenade ripped through the United States embassy in Athens early this morning, rocking the compound but causing no injuries. 

As States Innovate, Schwarzenegger Blurs Lines

"While partisan polarization limits activity in Washington, D.C., state governments are addressing issues the federal government has not tackled."


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Surge befor the Surge?

MOGADISHU, Somali (AP) — Helicopter gunships attacked suspected al-Qaeda fighters in the south, a day after U.S. forces staged airstrikes in the first offensive in the African country since 18 American soldiers were killed there in 1993, witnesses said. 

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Arnold's Primary Plan

I quietly stumbled across this little bit of potentially significant news last night.

“California's GOP governor, sworn in last week for a second term, still plans on influencing the 2008 election. Schwarzenegger says he'd like to move the California primary from June—when both parties have all but picked their nominees—to a much earlier date, in February.”

I don’t doubt that this will happen. My only question here is why hasn’t California pushed for this sooner?
“The governor hopes the change will encourage candidates to spend more time talking to voters in the nation's most populous state… Moving up the primary certainly increases California's visibility among candidates—and puts the Golden State's environmental concerns on the agenda.”

This is precisely what will happen. Having California move its primary means that Californian values and politics will enjoy a much greater degree of influence in shaping the national debate. This is potentially a very big deal.
“Adding liberal California to the early mix would probably affect the nominating process by favoring big-money, big-name candidates such as Hillary Clinton and John McCain.”

Perhaps, but more importantly, if would help favor more progressive politics and that certainly isn’t Hillary or John. However, no matter the front runner, they would presumably have to change their national strategy, thus most candidates would move to the left.  I'll be following this one closely.

American Schizo

Ian Welsh is the managing editor of one of my favorite American political and foreign affairs web journals. He never minces words to say the least. If you detect a hint of "anti-Americanism" I'd say you're off base. This Canadian is one of the most truly patriotic voices in American politics. I find his arguments if on the one hand passionate, on the other sensible, articulate, and thoughtful. I perhaps could have chosen something a bit more leveled to introduce Ian but hey, if you don't at least appreciate this piece, you won't really appreciate much else he writes. Ian says what many other American writers wish they could.  But do give him a read and visit the Agonist. Its part of my daily reading for news gathering and fresh political/social commentary.

America is damn near the most opaque nation in the world. I can predict what will happen in Africa, in Canada, in most Asian countries, far better than I can in the US, despite having grown up immersed in American culture.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Democrats Take Control of Congress

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 -- Jubilant Democrats took the gavels in the Senate and House today for the first time in 12 years, pledging a new era in Congress and a new effort at bipartisan progress.

A historic day in the US Congress. The Republicans took over control of Congress in 1994 headed by Newt Gingrich and armed with the Contract with America. Now, after 12 years, the Democratic Party are once again in charge of the legaslative branch of the United States' government.



"E Pluribus Unum" or "E Pluribus Plura"?

Oslo, Norway, 9–12 May 2008

Could it be that there are indeed several “Americas”? Is being an American necessarily being in many ways double? Can the politically unifying, centripetal power of the State, hidden under the neutral Unum, accommodate the centrifugal forces that might generate a societal and cultural “plura” out of the hallowed political and territorial “pluribus”?


January 31, 2007: Deadline for submission of proposals and one-page abstracts for parallel lectures and workshop sessions, to include a 1/2 page c.v. of workshop chairs and individual lecturers.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Protecting Internet Democracy

This article in the NY Times does a great job of explaining the legal issue of Net Neutrality. Have a look here for more information about the legal and political battle taking place.

One of the big winners in the last election may turn out to be the principle, known as net neutrality, that Internet service providers should not be able to favor some content over others. Democrats who are moving into the majority in Congress — led by Ron Wyden in the Senate and Edward Markey in the House — say they plan to fight hard to pass a net neutrality bill, and we hope that they do. It is vital to preserve the Internet’s role in promoting entrepreneurship and free expression.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Could this be the end of the Monroe Doctrine?

"hopes are set on a contract under which Hutchison Ports, a Hong Kong company, will invest some $500m to expand the city's deep-water port. The plan is to increase its capacity to 1.6m TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units, the standard measure of container traffic) over the next decade or so, according to Paul Gallie, Hutchison's boss in Ecuador."