The Watering Hole, Monday, September 16th, 2013: Monday Medley

As you are all aware, I love going to The Weather Channel online — not just to find out the local forecast, but for their unusual variety of photo galleries and and links to other interesting and frequently educational stories and news.

Today’s crop includes:

- updates on the Voyager 1 probe (and be sure to scroll down for links to space photos from NASA’s Spitzer telescope, and photos of a newborn star from a Chilean telescope.)

- Photos of recent tornadoes, including (but not limited to) several photos taken last week from Kenosha, Wisconsin.

- Photos of lightning storms – check out two in particular that I liked, one called “Lightning Under the Stars” and one called “Fire In The Sky.”
Lightning_weather_Wallpaper_hflv9

- Photo gallery of the “10 Longest Bridges In the U.S.

- Photo gallery of “12 Spectacular Castles of the World

The Bojnice Castle in Bojnice, Slovakia

The Bojnice Castle in Bojnice, Slovakia

This is our Open Thread. Enjoy the views!

Sunday Roast: June 16, 2013 – Where’s the outrage?

I don’t get it. Seriously.

The news about the extensive data gathering by the NSA through Verizon‘s mobile phone records being outshone only a few days later with news about PRISM should have people out in the streets. Seriously.

I am not and have never been overly shy about internet use. I follow the usual dos and don’ts, but I am aware of the fact, that whatever you put out there is in everybody’s domain. If you shout it out on Times Square you have a smaller audience than when you put it on facebook, twitter, you name it. I know that by using it I have, sort of, agreed whatever I’m writing will be no longer private. Fair enough.

I’m fine that every time I read a New York Times article I will see in a sidebar which of my friends have read which article. It shows I have smart friends, not that I haven’t known that before, but still. I am even fine with the fact that for me all websites, be it news or other, which have commercial pop-ups are advising me how to get a flat stomach or how to ward off ageing. I take  the pop-ups as an punishment for having googled about weight-loss and heat-flashes and I stick out my tongue to them and just don’t buy whatever is advertised through them.

What I do not approve of, and I am royally pissed about that, is that a government, any government, is prying inside my personal communications. So I would, of course, go and vote accordingly. No party or candidate ever gets my vote, who supports this degree of spying into the personal communications of ordinary citizens. Period.

Hah! And now, when we Europeans are mad as hell, and believe me, virtually everybody I talk to is spitting mad over here, we’ll just vote them all out of office!!!!!

Wait!

We can’t. We do not have, nor will we ever have any say in this.

This is our Open Thread. Don’t be shy. All yours.

The Watering Hole; Thursday May 30 2013; “What Can We Learn From Denmark?”

Earlier this week I received an email letter from Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a letter which I thought effectively defines the elusive concept of a societal ideal, one which makes perfect sense. In it, he speaks of Denmark and its governmental-societal relationships, and in effect proposes that ‘we the people’ of the United States should seriously consider restructuring our own society along similar tracks. I couldn’t agree more. And all we’d have to do in order to begin the process would be to dismiss and dis-empower the entire outhouse basement in which resides America’s Wingnuttistanian movement . . . including each and every Republican plus each and every “conservative” (aka Blue Dog) Democrat. If only we could engage instead in the process of building a ‘we the people’-oriented governing body, i.e. a (so-called) “leftist” “Socialist” construct that sees more virtue in helping people and in protecting the environment than it sees in enabling greed, i.e. wealth and power accumulation by only the few. The ultimate beneficiaries would indeed be we the people (well, with a small handful of exceptions, perhaps including about 1% of the population . . . who would still be likely able to live quite well anyway. No big deal, i.o.w.)

Senator Sanders’ entire (and yes, a bit lengthy) letter is included below. I decided that rather than try to excerpt and summarize I’d simply post the whole thing so as to not miss or ignore any of the significant details included therein. Personally, I could not find a single issue with which I don’t completely agree, but then I’m not a wingnut or a Republican or a Blue Dog. I am, like Senator Sanders, a Progressive Socialist, one who believes in the well-being of everyone and everything, and NOT solely in the accumulation of wealth and power.

Enjoy.

What Can We Learn From Denmark?
By Senator Bernie Sanders
May 26, 2013

Danish Ambassador Peter Taksoe-Jensen spent a weekend in Vermont this month traveling with me to town meetings in Burlington, Brattleboro and Montpelier. Large crowds came out to learn about a social system very different from our own which provides extraordinary security and opportunity for the people of Denmark.

Today in the United States there is a massive amount of economic anxiety. Unemployment is much too high, wages and income are too low, millions of Americans are struggling to find affordable health care and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider.

While young working families search desperately for affordable child care, older Americans worry about how they can retire with dignity. Many of our people are physically exhausted as they work the longest hours of any industrialized country and have far less paid vacation time than other major countries.

Denmark is a small, homogenous nation of about 5.5 million people. The United States is a melting pot of more than 315 million people. No question about it, Denmark and the United States are very different countries. Nonetheless, are there lessons that we can learn from Denmark?

In Denmark, social policy in areas like health care, child care, education and protecting the unemployed are part of a “solidarity system” that makes sure that almost no one falls into economic despair. Danes pay very high taxes, but in return enjoy a quality of life that many Americans would find hard to believe. As the ambassador mentioned, while it is difficult to become very rich in Denmark no one is allowed to be poor. The minimum wage in Denmark is about twice that of the United States and people who are totally out of the labor market or unable to care for themselves have a basic income guarantee of about $100 per day.

Health care in Denmark is universal, free of charge and high quality. Everybody is covered as a right of citizenship. The Danish health care system is popular, with patient satisfaction much higher than in our country. In Denmark, every citizen can choose a doctor in their area. Prescription drugs are inexpensive and free for those under 18 years of age. Interestingly, despite their universal coverage, the Danish health care system is far more cost-effective than ours. They spend about 11 percent of their GDP on health care. We spend almost 18 percent.

When it comes to raising families, Danes understand that the first few years of a person’s life are the most important in terms of intellectual and emotional development. In order to give strong support to expecting parents, mothers get four weeks of paid leave before giving birth. They get another 14 weeks afterward. Expecting fathers get two paid weeks off, and both parents have the right to 32 more weeks of leave during the first nine years of a child’s life. The state covers three-quarters of the cost of child care, more for lower-income workers.

At a time when college education in the United States is increasingly unaffordable and the average college graduate leaves school more than $25,000 in debt, virtually all higher education in Denmark is free. That includes not just college but graduate schools as well, including medical school.

In a volatile global economy, the Danish government recognizes that it must invest heavily in training programs so workers can learn new skills to meet changing workforce demands. It also understands that when people lose their jobs they must have adequate income while they search for new jobs. If a worker loses his or her job in Denmark, unemployment insurance covers up to 90 percent of earnings for as long as two years. Here benefits can be cut off after as few as 26 weeks.

In Denmark, adequate leisure and family time are considered an important part of having a good life. Every worker in Denmark is entitled to five weeks of paid vacation plus 11 paid holidays. The United States is the only major country that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation time. The result is that fewer than half of lower-paid hourly wage workers in our country receive any paid vacation days.

Recently the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that the Danish people rank among the happiest in the world among some 40 countries that were studied. America did not crack the top 10.

As Ambassador Taksoe-Jensen explained, the Danish social model did not develop overnight. It has evolved over many decades and, in general, has the political support of all parties across the political spectrum. One of the reasons for that may be that the Danes are, politically and economically, a very engaged and informed people. In their last election, which lasted all of three weeks and had no TV ads, 89 percent of Danes voted.

In Denmark, more than 75 percent of the people are members of trade unions. In America today, as a result of the political and economic power of corporate America and the billionaire class, we are seeing a sustained and brutal attack against the economic well-being of the American worker. As the middle class disappears, benefits and guarantees that workers have secured over the last century are now on the chopping block. Republicans, and too many Democrats, are supporting cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, nutrition, education, and other basic needs — at the same time as the very rich become much richer. Workers’ rights, the ability to organize unions, and the very existence of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) are now under massive assault.

In the U.S. Senate today, my right-wing colleagues talk a lot about “freedom” and limiting the size of government. Here’s what they really mean.

They want ordinary Americans to have the freedom NOT to have health care in a country where 45,000 of our people die each year because they don’t get to a doctor when they should. They want young people in our country to have the freedom NOT to go to college, and join the 400,000 young Americans unable to afford a higher education and the millions struggling with huge college debts. They want children and seniors in our country to have the freedom NOT to have enough food to eat, and join the many millions who are already hungry. And on and on it goes!

In Denmark, there is a very different understanding of what “freedom” means. In that country, they have gone a long way to ending the enormous anxieties that comes with economic insecurity. Instead of promoting a system which allows a few to have enormous wealth, they have developed a system which guarantees a strong minimal standard of living to all — including the children, the elderly and the disabled.

The United States, in size, culture, and the diversity of our population, is a very different country from Denmark. Can we, however, learn some important lessons from them? You bet we can.

Can we, indeed, ‘learn some important lessons’ from Denmark? Sure. But can/will we ever take them to heart and DO SOMETHING positive with that which we’ve learned? Nope. Not so long as greed rules; i.o.w., not as long as Republicans remain in control of political aspects within our midst. Why? Because the Danes recognize and accept THE  REALITY – the reality designed to enhance the well-being of EVERY person under their roof, and because of their driving thesis which Sanders clearly states, the (obviously anti-American) thesis that reads, “while it is difficult to become very rich in Denmark no one is allowed to be poor.” To any inhabitant of the American Wingnut crowd, that’s about as UNAMERICAN (probably, in their view,  TREASONOUS!) a thesis as could ever be imagined, much less proposed and implemented. Which explains, of course, precisely why this nation is no longer the model to which other nations aspire, and why it’s become, rather, an example of that which MUST be, by all of good will and by all who care about anything and/or anyone other than the already rich and powerful, eternally avoided.

Open Thread for Socialists; NO FASCISTI ALLOWED!

;)

Sunday Roast – Eurovision 2013

I watch that every year. The Swiss get regularly booted out before the finals, but every once in a while there is controversy or even something worthwhile listening to. This year the controversy was around Turkey refusing to participate, because one song act had two girls kissing at the end. After all those little islamist willies will crumble and fall off, if they have to watch that. They didn’t miss much, though.

We had the predicted outcome. Europeans liked this song:

Sad really, when we once, in 2007, had liked this:

Ah well.

This is our Open Thread. Please proceed….

Sunday Roast: April 14th, 2013 – Four Cups of Coffee

Good Morning Zoosters. Tired? I am. So this is what I found for your Sunday Morning reading over my morning coffee:

Having my first cup of coffee, I discovered that being all powerful and so full of yourself doesn’t mean people love you. Au contraire in some notorious cases, including this:

Protesters could be arrested for “alarming or distressing” mourners at the funeral of Baroness Thatcher, a police chief in charge of security at the event has warned. (full story)

In the UK this song is No 1 in ITunes Store downloads. Ah well.

Having my second cup of coffee was my “banging head on desk” moment. I have discussed some Right Wing terrorism in Germany here and it beats me, how the court could have excluded foreign newspapers, especially Turkish ones from this trial. The Verfassungsgericht ( our version of Supreme Court) set things right.

Germany’s top court has ruled that foreign media must get access to the trial of a suspected neo-Nazi charged in connection with the murders of 10 people, including eight of Turkish descent. A Turkish newspaper had filed a complaint. The row had threatened to harm Germany’s image and was overshadowing the trial starting April 17. (full story)

Cup Number Three: It won’t go away, not in our lifetimes. The Deepwater Horizon Spill has caused more damage than BP could ever pay for in damages. Can’t we, please, start taking care of our planet? It’s our home. The only one we’ve got.

Hundreds of beached dolphin carcasses, shrimp with no eyes, contaminated fish, ancient corals caked in oil and some seriously unwell people are among the legacies that scientists are still uncovering in the wake of BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill. (full story)

That required some lighter reading for cup four. Lest I ruin my day. Are women unrealistic when it comes to  the male of the species? I am, totally, that’s for sure, but here’s some evidence, or not.

Men have long wondered what exactly it is that women want. Some pore over men’s magazines, with their promises of “washboard abs”, for guidance. The more scientifically minded look for experimental data. (full story)

So, now I have my fifth cup, have a peek into the Formula 1 Race, then I am off to Brunch with a friend, we will then discuss what I’ve read over my fourth cup of coffee.

You all have a very pleasant Sunday, sunny happy and warm. See you all later!

This is our Open Thread. Let’s go.

The Watering Hole, Monday, March 11th, 2013: From Morons to Marvels

Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has been in the news a lot lately, in part for having been one of the select few Republicans who were invited to the recent dinner meeting with President Obama. In an appearance yesterday on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Senator Johnson stated,

“If we’re going to really get to an agreement, this is a good step…You have to start meeting with people. You have to start developing relationships. You’ve got to spend a fair amount of time figuring out what we agree on first.”

[Especially when the Republican "leaders" won't tell their flock the truth about what the President has offered, and the flock and the media are too dumb or brainwashed to lift a couple of fingers and check whitehouse.gov!]

The same “This Week” appearance also saw Paul Krugman, in his inimitable manner, school Senator Johnson on the Social Security program.

Prior to that, in the debate over authorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Senator Johnson was one of a group of “…Republicans [who] have objected to new provisions in the law, including one allowing tribal courts for the first time to prosecute men who aren’t American Indians when they’re accused of abusing an American Indian woman on a reservation. . .”, according to ThinkProgress, which also quotes Senator Johnson as saying:

“the Senate has approved a piece of legislation that sounds nice, but which is fatally flawed. By including an unconstitutional expansion of tribal authority and introducing a bill before the Congressional Budget Office could review it to estimate its cost, Senate Democrats made it impossible for me to support a bill covering an issue I would like to address.”

Coincidentally and fortuitously (or not), when searching for a link on a completely different topic, I ran across this one about Ron Johnson from 2010. It includes a video of Johnson, demonstrating the average conservative’s love of fetuses but not actual children, while “…testifying against the Wisconsin Child Victims Act, which would have eliminated the statute of limitation on lawsuits brought by victims of abuse by priests against the Catholic Church.

Okay, as a palate-cleanser, I believe that there’s something for everyone in these photo slideshows from The Weather Channel.

For all of us who love space science and/or who have experienced various types of mind-enhancement, here’s (now think Muppets “Pigs in Space” voice) “Light Trails from Space.”

Staying in space for the moment, the Comet Pan-STARRS is in the ‘hood, and should start to be visible to the naked eye tomorrow. The chart shown in this article indicates where the large comet can be located (in the western sky at sunset) over the next two weeks or so.

Last from TWC (and getting back to ‘trails’…you’ll see): unusual (and occasionally claustrophobia-inducing) tunnels are highlighted in this feature. Although the first tunnel shown only has the one photo – see below – the rest of them have some amazing shots. Tunnel #18, Shanghai’s Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, described as “senseless, yet fabulous“, could likely induce trails even for persons who have never seen trails before. A youtube video of the entire ride is linked to under the description of the Shanghai tunnel, but I haven’t had the chance to watch it yet. Who’s gonna go first? :)

Enjoy!

Ukraine "Tunnel of Love"

Ukraine “Tunnel of Love”

This is our Open thread – what topic would you like to discuss?

Sunday Roast: March 3, 2013 – Govern and be Governed, but do it right!

Good Morning, I hope you slept well (and long because I’m late again ;)  ).

Government: You’re doing it right:

The Swiss are governing today and how. One reason for my being late here is the coverage of the latest polls on tv. Three major propositions have been voted on today and a number of regional ones. One was to amend the constitution to protect families’ rights to reconcile having a job and raising kids. It is a draw, more or less. While big cities have voted for it in big numbers and the overall popular vote is for it, the cantons are divided and as it is a constitutional amendment, it needs a majority of both popular votes and cantons. The more rural areas are, predictably against it, kicking women in the teeth once again. (Sound familiar?)

Second vote is on getting land out of the building code, so the environment can be protected from uncontrolled and uncontrolleable building for profit. It got a majority. Easily, too.

The third and most internationally acclaimed vote is on the so-called “fat-cat” initiative. A whopping 68% of voters have voted for it. This after the initiative has been blocked and fought against for seven years.

Under the proposal, shareholders will be given the right to hold a binding vote on executive remuneration. Companies would also no longer be able to pay so-called “golden hellos” and “golden parachutes”, whereby senior managers receive a one-time cash lump sum, often running into millions of pounds, when joining or leaving a company. Polls show the majority of Swiss plan to vote “yes” in the referendum, despite businesses warning it will drive out companies from the country.(read more)

Add to that the cap on manager salaries imposed by the surrounding EU countries and you see things are moving in the right direction over here.

Government: You’re doing it wrong:

You think the Tea Party is  the most proficient government obstructionist of all times? They are not. They’re outright amateurs compared to the Italians: Our southern neighbors are blocking government right at the source. All Europe is frustratedly looking at what voters there did to their country. Outright distrust of government and politicians is in the Italian genetic code and not surprisingly so, given the corruption that is rampant in the country, but now they overreached.

IT IS hard now to recall that just three months ago the big threat Italy posed was of becoming boring. Its technocratic government, under Mario Monti, had regained the markets’ confidence. The spread of Italian government bonds over German ones was dwindling. The troublesome Silvio Berlusconi no longer led his fast-disintegrating party, and it seemed certain that the centre-left would win the next election. Mr Monti might then have become an economic super-minister—if he had not taken over the right with a mandate to make it more soberly European. (read more)

Let me add, Italy, unlike the US for instance has a fairly low constitutional threshold for new elections. They’ll be at it again in a few months, everybody agrees.

I wish you all a Happy and Relaxing (yes caps) Sunday. Enjoy some reading and our discussion. It is an Open Thread so join in.

 

Across the Pond: January 20th, 2013 – Sunday Round Up

Right. Well, I’m up anyway, so let’s check the webs.

The Hostage Crisis in Algeria seems to be over. But it ended in a bloodbath. The situation is still not quite resolved while I am typing this, but one thing is clear: All attackers and the hostages remaining in the hands of their captors are dead.

The Algerian government seems to not have thought twice about getting this done, never mind the cost. It reminds me of the Beslan massacre where a hostage taking by Chechen rebels in a school was ended by the Russian forces without any consideration of the hostages’ fate.

“The terrorists were prepared to commit a collective suicide; the army’s intervention led to their neutralisation. Unfortunately, the hostages were executed,”

said El Watan a local newspaper. Well, the public will hear the truth about this at some point.

There is, of course, the war in Mali headlining over here in Europe. You can find a very useful summary of the players involved on the BBC News website. The French are involved in a situation, which, in my humble opinion, may land them in their own version of Afghanistan. Germans are discussing what kind of contribution they can make but there’s the fact that this is a super election year which will be kicked off today in Lower Saxonia. Chancellor Merkel will, obviously, not be getting into any military adventures this year if she can help it at all. President Obama does not show any inclination to get the US involved either. 

Neu ist, dass die USA nicht instinktiv zu einer Führungsrolle innerhalb einer solchen «Koalition der Willigen» drängen. Bereits im Libyen-Krieg hatten sie nach aussen hin den Franzosen den Vorrang gelassen. Die Amerikaner übernahmen damals aber, ohne dies an die grosse Glocke zu hängen, einen beträchtlichen Teil der Lufteinsätze und halfen den Europäern aus, als diesen die Munition ausging. Obama nannte dies «Führung von hinten», was ihm einigen Spott eintrug – aber um einen Führungsanspruch handelte es sich gleichwohl. Davon kann in Mali keine Rede mehr sein.

(It is new, that the US does not instinctively claim a leading role in such a “coalition of the willing”. In the Libya war they had already let the French have the leading role, at least outwardly. The Americans, however, have at that time without making any fuss about it taken over a considerable number of airstrikes and helped out when the Europeans were running out of ammunition. Obama called this “leading from behind” which caused some ridicule, but – nevertheless – included the will to lead. In Mali there is no mention of it. Translation by yours truly

When it comes to foreign politics, looking at it from our side of the pond, New Obama, is naturally a topic of interest. The sudden change in his handling of the Republican opposition does not go unnoticed:

After being widely criticised in his first four years for a lack of savvy during negotiations with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Obama has suddenly taken a much harder line. In debates over the so-called “fiscal cliff” of tax hikes and spending cuts at the end of last year, Obama’s team secured a deal widely seen as a victory. That tougher stance has also been matched by Obama staking out a strong position on forthcoming talks with the Republicans in Congress over raising the debt ceiling. Indeed, only days after Obama gave a speech on the issue marked by stern language the Republicans last week appeared to cave in and moved to extend the ceiling for another three months. (read the whole post here)

About time, I’d say.

Have you finished your coffee? Not yet? Well, there’s more for reading found in the old world:

Oil and the interests of Canada’s First Nations

Catholic Hospitals refuse Aid to Rape Victim (Germany has its own bible belt, methinks)

Boeing’s Dreamliner is grounded

and

The Swiss are fretting over what will happen to their banks.

I hope you’ll enjoy your Sunday Morning reading.

This is an Open Thread! Join in. What is important to you today?

The Watering Hole, Friday January 4, 2013; “ACHTUNG, SIE VERLASSEN den AMERIKANISCHEN SEKTOR”

I know I’m not alone when it comes to having a deep and abiding concern that major factions in the United States are doggedly pursuing the imposition of a form of government which is classically defined (see: Robert Paxton) as “a system of political authority and social order intended to reinforce the unity, energy, and purity of communities in which liberal democracy stands accused of producing division and decline,” i.e. Fascism. Since the advent of modern “conservative” thought and politics in this country, the slope of decline has been tilted downhill, and moreso than ever before beginning with the “election” of George W. Bush in 2000, followed by the electoral ascendency of the so-called Tea Party in 2010.

And now, as I ponder this notion of fascism slowly tightening its grip on our otherwise “We the people” form of a Constitutional Democratic Republic, for some reason or other I invariably begin to recall phrases written in, of all things, German. Like this one, for example, the words on a post-war sign at divided Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate; the sign read:

ACHTUNG, SIE VERLASSEN den AMERIKANISCHEN SEKTOR.
(Attention, you are leaving the American Sector.)

Germany was, at the time, a country divided and ‘managed’, resp., by the victors in the Second World War, i.e. the US, France, Britain, and the USSR. German fascism had been terminated by the allies, and from the ashes of war a new and democratic nation was emerging in West Germany, one which lay alongside but still quite apart from the communist state — the Soviet sector — in the East. The city of Berlin was itself entirely within the boundaries of East Germany, but West Berlin (British, French, and American sectors) was on full display as a veritable island of democratic prosperity within the otherwise bleak totalitarian state.

Fascism, however, was dead. The allied victory assured it. Well, sort of . . .  save for an apparent embedded tendency of governments in locales all around the globe to gradually succumb to those power and greed-based interests which are invariably common to political “right wing” styles of governance, a reality from which the United States has, sadly and clearly, not been exempted.

In August, 2009, Sara Robinson posted an essay on Firedoglake entitled, FASCIST AMERICA: ARE WE THERE YET? In it she writes:

It’s so easy right now to look at the melee on the right and discount it as pure political theater of the most absurdly ridiculous kind. It’s a freaking puppet show. These people can’t be serious. Sure, they’re angry — but they’re also a minority, out of power and reduced to throwing tantrums. Grown-ups need to worry about them about as much as you’d worry about a furious five-year-old threatening to hold her breath until she turned blue.

Unfortunately, all the noise and bluster actually obscures the danger. These people are as serious as a lynch mob, and have already taken the first steps toward becoming one. And they’re going to walk taller and louder and prouder now that their bumbling efforts at civil disobedience are being committed with the full sanction and support of the country’s most powerful people, who are cynically using them in a last-ditch effort to save their own places of profit and prestige.

We’ve arrived. We are now parked on the exact spot where our best experts tell us full-blown fascism is born. Every day that the conservatives in Congress, the right-wing talking heads, and their noisy minions are allowed to hold up our ability to govern the country is another day we’re slowly creeping across the final line beyond which, history tells us, no country has ever been able to return.

Ms Robinson notes that she “relied on the work of historian Robert Paxton, who is probably the world’s pre-eminent scholar on the subject of how countries turn fascist.” Paxton authored, in 1998, a lengthy and very detailed essay that was published in The Journal of Modern History in which he very precisely defined fascism and described the conditions which predict and precurse the evolution of a fascist state. Robinson quotes Paxton and by so doing effectively summarizes his fundamental thesis:

Fascism only grows in the disturbed soil of a mature democracy in crisis. . . .

From . . . the Rapture-ready religious right to the white nationalism promoted by the GOP through various gradients of racist groups, it’s easy to trace how American proto-fascism offered redemption from the upheavals of the 1960s by promising to restore the innocence of a traditional, white, Christian, male-dominated America. This vision has been so thoroughly embraced that the entire Republican party now openly defines itself along these lines. At this late stage, it’s blatantly racist, sexist, repressed, exclusionary, and permanently addicted to the politics of fear and rage. Worse: it doesn’t have a moment’s shame about any of it. No apologies, to anyone. These same narrative threads have woven their way through every fascist movement in history.

I can find no argument to counter the very real prognosis that the Constitutional Democratic Republic, America, in which many around the world have found solace and hope for nearly 250 years is teetering on the brink — not the brink of today’s oft-cited “fiscal cliff,” but one which is far more serious, far more dangerous: the Fascist cliff. And once we fall, the chances of return to what ‘We the people’ have long considered to be reality will automatically disappear; our fate will be sealed. I propose that a sign be posted on the Fascist Cliff’s most visible edge, a sign that reads:

ACHTUNG, SIE VERLASSEN JETZT den AMERIKANISCHEN SEKTOR!

Attention: You Are Leaving NOW the American Sector!

When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.  ~Sinclair Lewis, 1935

When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. ~Sinclair Lewis, 1935

This is today’s open thread. Speak your mind!

Picture of the Day- November 15, 2012

This kid is 10 years old and was protesting against cuts to education in Italy. Poor thing. This is a hard way to learn, that the ruling class doesn’t pull any punches. He deserves a huge hug from mommy.

(Source: I segreti della casta di Montecitorio on Facebook)

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 3rd, 2012: Mitt, Mitt, and More Mitt – PLUS a Shout-at from Gramps McCain

Romney Channels GW Bush

We all know what a tactless, undiplomatic person Mitt Romney is, whether on the campaign trail (“You didn’t bake those cookies”) to his London Olympic visit and his fundraising trips to Israel and Poland. For today’s thread, I’m focusing on the viewpoints of other countries on Mitt’s abysmal diplomatic skills. Presenting a trio of recent pieces from Foreign Policy magazine regarding Mitt Romney’s “foreign policy”, or lack thereof.

First, an article by Josh Rogin which discusses Romney’s labeling of Russia as America’s “No. 1 geopolitical foe.” An excerpt:

“Russia is a significant geopolitical foe. Governor Romney recognizes that,” Romney advisor Rich Williamson said at a Tuesday afternoon event hosted by the Foreign Policy Initiative. “They are our foe. They have chosen a path of confrontation, not cooperation, and I think the governor was correct in that even though there are some voices in Washington that find that uncomfortable…” “Russia is calling itself a democracy but it is not behaving like a democracy,” he [Williamson] said. “When is the last time we have seen Russia on the side of peace? When is the last time we have seen Russia on the side of humanity?”

Hmmm, I could ask the same about the U.S.

Next, from “A Dangerous Mind” by Bruce W. Jentleson and Charles A. Kupchan, a couple of insights:

“Whereas President Barack Obama has claimed the middle ground and crafted a strategy based on principled pragmatism, Romney is following in the footsteps of George W. Bush, relying more on bluster than strategy and veering to ideological extremes….Romney’s view of the changing global landscape rests not on a sober assessment of the world that is emerging, but on the same neoconservative myths that led George W. Bush astray. Like Bush, Romney seems to fixate on the wrong threats — and dangerously inflate them.”

“It is worrying that Romney pledges to reinstate a foreign policy of reflexive toughness just four years after Bush’s assertive unilateralism left the United States mired in Iraq and estranged from much of the world… The Republicans would do better to heed the wisdom of their own Robert Gates, the former defense secretary, who has warned that a president who wants to take the nation into another major war that is not absolutely necessary should “have his head examined.””

Of course, Republicans would argue that it is “absolutely necessary” to attack Iran on behalf of the U.S.’s BFF, Israel.

Last (for this post, anyway), here’s a few quotes from Uri Friedman’s “Russian Press Rips Romney and His Promise of Republican Hell“:

From Pravda:

“They [the Republicans] refer to Russia as a traditional rival of the United States along with North Korea, Iran and China…. To crown it all, Mitt Romney expressed his willingness to be the godfather of the Russian opposition and organize the training for opposition activists at American educational centers.”

From Voice of Russia‘s John Robles:

“Cold war thinkers have drawn up Mitt Romney’s foreign policy stance and it does not look good neither for the U.S., nor for Russia or the free world. Continuing the rhetoric that Russia is geo-political enemy number one and promising to confront and make Russia cow to U.S. interests the Republicans have once again proven their complete disregard for diplomacy.

and

“Whether or not the Republicans are just playing for their base or are seriously proposing such policies, they have proven that they will be force for more instability and conflict in the world.”

and

“To say that Romney and his Republican brethren are a danger to world peace would be an understatement. Their “ultra-conservative” views and stances on a number of issues will bring about another era of neo-conservative subjugation for the American people and the world and their backward thinking and confrontational posturing will destroy much of the delicate compromise that has kept the world stable for the last four years.”

Consider that, according to boston.com, “Almost all of Romney’s 22 special advisers held senior Bush administration positions in diplomacy, defense or intelligence. Two former Republican senators are included as well as Bush-era CIA chief Michael Hayden and former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.” (The article doesn’t even mention John Bolton, aka ‘Worst…Ambassador…Ever.) If Romney somehow manages to win this election, get ready for four more years of Dubya.

This is our Open Thread. Nostrovia!


O/T:
Don’t remember if anyone else posted this, but another old man has been rambling on at an imaginary President Obama. It’s long, and painful/aggravating to read, but…

The Watering Hole – Saturday, July 28th, 2012 – Busted!

It seems Mitt Romney has a small problem with his advisers. If they exist, they lie about as much as Romney does. They’re also just as cowardly, as they chose to anonymously spew lies about the President of the United States while on foreign soil, which I thought was supposed to be a major no-no (at least, the Republicans see it that way.) The latest little twist of reality involves the famous bust of Sir Winston Churchill that was on display in the Oval Office during the Bush Administration. It appears that the Right Wing has gotten its knickers in a twist claiming that Obama insulted the Brits by returning the bust when he took office and refusing an offer to keep it. The problem is that, as is often the case in things that upset the RW, it is not exactly true. To make matters worse, famous RW crap spewer Charles Krauthammer repeated this twist on reality in one of his columns, which enabled the Romney advisers to anonymously and, in a cowardly fashion, repeat it to British reporters. It didn’t help that the White House initially said that this bust was not returned to the UK at all but is on display in the White House residence. This is slightly inaccurate, as well, but not as egregiously wrong as the lie that Obama was deliberately insulting the Brits by returning it.

It turns out there are two busts in question. One was originally given to the White House during the Nixon Administration and was put on display in the White House residence. According to the White House website:

The White House has had a bust of Winston Churchill since the 1960’s. At the start of the Bush administration Prime Minister Blair lent President Bush a bust that matched the one in the White House, which was being worked on at the time and was later returned to the residence. The version lent by Prime Minister Blair was displayed by President Bush until the end of his Presidency. On January 20, 2009 — Inauguration Day — all of the art lent specifically for President Bush’s Oval Office was removed by the curator’s office, as is common practice at the end of every presidency. The original Churchill bust remained on display in the residence. The idea put forward by Charles Krauthammer and others that President Obama returned the Churchill bust or refused to display the bust because of antipathy towards the British is completely false and an urban legend that continues to circulate to this day.

So, as usual, the RW is taking a non-issue and trying to turn it into an international incident.

This is our open thread. Feel free to discuss any topic you want.

The Watering Hole: Tuesday May 15th – Europe

A Storm is brewing over Europe in more than one sense…

There is the unsolved, so called debt crisis, which entangles Spain and Italy now and has, by all accounts all but devoured Greece already. 

The second one is a political storm. In France it has swept Sarkozy out of office, in the UK the Tories got to feel quite a blustery breeze. In Germany last weekend and the one before voters were giving Merkel’s austerity politics quite strong headwinds. Again, Greece is at the center of the disturbance. The last election brought a stiff breeze from the left, but some serious gusts from the right as well. The Captains of the coffin ship contemplate to test the waters again and that should bring a solid gale from the left and swipe them off board.

Then there’s the weather. It’s really gusty and nasty outside, so much for spring. Ugh.

No matter how it eventually ends, there is some turbulence ahead for sure.

This is our Open Thread. Talk about the Weather?

UPDATE JUST IN: GREECE TALKS BROKE UP – NEW ELECTIONS DUE.

The Watering Hole: Tuesday May 8th – Men in Kilts

On the last Sunday in April I was in Säckingen with the boys. They have this Festival, which translates into Medieval Phantastic Spectacle, or some such. Loads of men were wearing kilts there, but I whipped my head around when a saw a guy wearing nice nature colored tartans. Little did I know I’d see the bloke on stage shortly after and, boy, this was fun to watch and listen to. The video above is from the same festival a year ago.

Other than making music, they have a charity going on. See more here and here. As the boys and me are planning for a Scotland visit this summer, we know where to go.

I could have written about the North Carolina Amendment 1 vote tonight, but it depresses me. I could have written about Greece’s troubles, but the fact that they are considering yet another vote rather than listen what the People says, depresses me. I could have written about Chancellor Merkel’s arrogance in the face of European voters’ will, but that depresses me as well. So I decided on music and men in kilts.

This is our Open Thread. Enjoy and weigh in.

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 7th, 2012: Monday Mix

Today’s mix is comprised of some recent articles which caught my eye on Foreign Policy Magazine and on Yahoo!News.

When I first clicked on Foreign Policy’s link entitled “A brilliant long rant about Iraq” by Thomas E. Ricks, I thought it was going to be Tom Ricks ranting about Iraq. However, it turned out to be Ricks’ brief introduction to an upcoming book called “The Long Walk” by Brian Castner. Ricks’ article includes a dozen or so evocative quotes from the book which, although worlds away from my own personal “Year from Hell”, touched a nerve of recognition in my brain. “The Long Walk” sounds like it will be well worth the read; I also found the comments after the article fascinating, and I strongly suggest reading those as well.

For all of the dog lovers amongst us, one of FP’s “Photo Essays” is “War Dogs of the World.” Not exactly cute puppy pics, but fascinating shots of soldiers and their canine teammates.

Two connecting articles at Yahoo!News drew my attention: in chronological order, a generic-drug manufacturer in India will be copying, and undercutting the price of, a cancer drug for which Bayer hold a patent, obviously pissing off Bayer. I’m rooting for the Indian drug company, Cipla, since their motivation is humanitarian: they’ll be selling the drug for about 1/30th of the cost of Bayer’s version.

Lastly, three Putin stories: Today Vladimir Putin will be sworn in as President of Russia, and apparently not all Russians are happy about this. And on a lighter(?) note, another “Photo Essay” from FP, titled “Putin Forever.”

Enjoy!

This is our daily open thread — discuss one of the above topics, or whatever’s on your mind!

The Watering Hole: March 20th – Europe’s Hate Crimes

Ok, ok. I knooow. There’s Illinois tonight. But still. Europe has it’s own stories to tell. We do have elections coming up, some really important, too. Most prominently France. And here’s what setting me off, once again:

You do not pander to the right wing haters without consequences. Marine LePen, daughter of ill-reputed right winger Jean-Marie LePen is running at around 16% of votes in recent polls.16% that Nicolas Sarkozy desperately wants to have, to get a second term. Sarko himself has been busily blaming minorities for France’s problems for years now, to get the right to vote for him and LePen wouldn’t be her father’s daughter if she didn’t, never mind her switch of focus.

Look what happens:

The neighborhood near Toulouse railway station where the Rue Jules Dalou is located is shabby and depressing. The houses are narrow and mostly only two stories high. There are no gourmet shops or chic boutiques. It’s a long way from the image of France that you see in the tourist brochures.

On any normal evening, the area would be deserted at 10 p.m., but this is not a normal evening. Since Monday morning, nothing in Toulouse is normal. That was when an unknown perpetrator on a motor scooter drove into the Rue Jules Dalou and shot dead three children and a teacher.

The shooting took place in front of and inside a Jewish school, the Collège et Lycée Ozar Hatorah. Now, photographers, cameramen and reporters are gathered in a crowd outside the cordoned-off building. Local residents, students and friends have placed flowers at the entrance, where the killer fired the first shots. “You will always be angels,” is written on one of the notes.

The four haven’t been the only ones to die. Three paratroopers of North African descent were killed recently as well as well as one of Caribean descent wounded. By the same perp.

This, obviously, reminds me of the German so-called Döner killings mentioned in the earlier post on the subject. Random shootings of immigrant small business owners, that could recently be traced back to a Nazi cell.

I dare to predict it is going to be a right wing Neo-Nazi behind this all. He will be, of course, a lone lunatic, as the three Germans behind the killings were lone lunatics, as Breivik was a lone lunatic and it has nothing at all to do with the fact, that hate speech and pandering to the right wing of politicians is making the Nazi’s sick views legitimate and sets the violence off. Nothing at all.

This is our open thread. Join us and yes, you may mention Illinois.

March 21st, UPDATE: The Washington Post has an UPDATE today.

The Watering Hole: December 17 – The Airport at Tegel

A C-54 (DC-4) landing at Tempelhof during the Berlin Airlift

Soon after the outbreak of World War I, the area now identified today as Tempelhof Airport was used for training military aerial reconnaissance crews and as an aircraft testing and fabrication center. Following WW I all aviation was discontinued by conditions from the Treaty of Versailles. On September 27, 1930, Rudolf Nebel began a rocket testing and research facility on the site. This was called the Raketenschießplatz Tegel. It was the base of German rocket development until 1937 when development was moved to the secret Peenemünde army research center.

During World War II, Tegel was used as a military training base. Tegel was leveled by Allied air forces in the war.
Continue reading

The Watering Hole December 13th, 2011 Vulnerability

Breaking News:

A gun and grenade attack in the centre of the Belgian city of Liege has killed at least two people and wounded 47 including a toddler, media say.

Witnesses say a man in his 40s threw grenades at a bus stop in Place Saint Lambert, a busy square. At least two other men are thought to be involved.

Reports say one of the attackers is among the dead. Local media say another has been detained, while a third is involved in a stand-off with police. (more)

Lately:

An unidentified Scrooge poisoned visitors to two of Berlin’s popular Christmas markets with an offer of tiny bottles of liquor that were laced with vomit-inducing chemicals, police said Friday.

The suspect, who was in his mid-40s, hit two of the traditional holiday fairs Thursday and at the first, spoke to two foreign students, a man and a woman in their mid-20s, in English.(more)

No so recent:

At 9.15am on Friday 4 November, two men stormed into a building society in the east German town of Eisenach. One was wearing a black balaclava, the other a gorilla mask. Both had guns. They demanded money, punching a bank teller before grabbing €70,000 (£60,000) from the safe and hopping on to bicycles they had propped up outside. They knew what they were doing – it was their 14th bank robbery in 12 years.(more)

In a Democracy a lunatics like the Norway killer Breivik and the perps in the first story today will always find an opportunity to do damage, as will the psycho cowards like in case two.

Case three, however, shows some significant difference. The victims of the neonazis were law-abiding, hard working small business owners. As they were of Turkish and Greek descent, police immediately took decisive steps to solve the crimes. All the victim’s family members were thoroughly interrogated and checked for any criminal or drug contacts in their past, family feuds were on top of the list as well. “You know how they are, don’t you”. “All criminals”.”Not like us.” “They kill off each other”. The killings were dubbed “Doner killings” named after the popular Turkish fast food.

Well it wasn’t “Doners” that were murdered, it was fellow human beings. And they were murdered by some of “us”. “You know how we are”. “All Nazis”. “We kill those who are different”. This time we thoroughly earn the badge. Alas, again.

This the Daily Open Thread. Really.

The Watering Hole: Tuesday, November 15 – The Battle of Morgarten

In 1315 the Morgarten Battle took place close to the Aegeri Lake in Switzerland. Every year on the day of the Battle November 15th, a shooting competition takes place in the fields there. This is where I spent today’s morning. I scored 34 out of 50 shooting a rifle at 300 yds, 51 out of 60, shooting a Pistol at 50 yards. Currently I eat  Zuger Kirschtorte which is soaked full of Cherry schnapps. I’m fine. Or was. Now I read about the Occupy Wall Street raid and my mood sinks in a hurry.

This is our Open Thread. Ups and/or Downs? How is your day?

By Jove!

Reuters:

 

(Reuters) – The leaders of France and Germany scrambled on Tuesday to limit damage after Prime Minister George Papandreou decided to let Greeks vote on a bailout package — a move that stunned markets and threw Greece’s euro zone membership into question.

European politicians complained Athens was trying to wriggle out of the 130 billion-euro rescue deal agreed at a summit only last week, concerned not so much about the fate of Greece as the possibly dire consequences for the entire currency union of the referendum. (read all)

BIG OUCH!!!

Check for Market Updates here.

The Watering Hole: Tuesday October 25th – Switzerland Voted

Two small centre parties – the Conservative Democrats and the Liberal Greens – are the winners of Sunday’s parliamentary polls ending years of increasing polarisation.

The rightwing Swiss People’s Party and the centre-left Greens suffered the biggest losses in the House of Representatives compared with the 2007 vote. The two main centre-right parties also saw their support slip, while the centre-left Social Democrats registered a slight gain. (read more)

Obviously the Swiss were fed up with the fear mongering and the hate politics. I feel very sorry for the Greens. They are the ones who should have profited from the increased interest in environmental issues in Switzerland, but the Green Liberal Party, which is basically promising to build a greener capitalism, so everybody can keep their Porsche Cayennes, outstaged them. The SVP (Swiss People’s (Tea-) Party) just got their due. Good riddance to some of their MP’s.

Here’s Swissinfo’s comments page, so you can get a glimpse into the Swiss Psyche. See any similarities?

This is our open thread, so open up!

The Watering Hole: Tuesday, September 20th – Outside..

.. the US there’s politics, too.

Germany: Chancellor Merkel’s coalition Government is in hot water. The junior partner FDP, a strictly neoliberal party, has received the fifth and, if you ask me, final blow at last Sunday’s elections in Berlin, when they were down to 1.8% of votes. This bodes ill for the ruling coalition.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel dislikes putting her foot down to solve government disputes. She associates that form of exercising authority with ill-tempered men who use arrogance to make up for their lack of competence. And she thinks people who keep banging their fist on the table end up getting ignored in the long run. (read more)

I beg to differ with some of the article, however. The SPD (Social Democrats) would be ill advised to enter a coalition government in times of really unpleasant decisions about the future of the Euro. They’ll tolerate a minority rule and ask for new elections, is my guess.

Italy: S&P has now downgraded Italy. Italy, is one of the more important economies in Europe, so I expect the stock markets to go down significantly again today. (Update: With markets you never kow. The indices are up right now. Markets always know best. What do I know? :roll: )

S&P’s downgraded its unsolicited ratings on Italy to A/A-1 from A+/A-1+ and kept its outlook on negative, sending the euro more than half a cent lower against the dollar.

The agency, which put Italy on review for downgrade in May, said that the outlook for growth was worsening and there was little sign that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s fractious center-right government could respond effectively. (read more)

But Berlusconi is dealing with more pressing problems:

The conversations, wire-tapped as part of a probe into an alleged prostitution ring surrounding Berlusconi, also suggested for the first time that he gave money to the women he allegedly slept with, contradicting his repeated insistence that he never paid for sex, ‘The Daily Telegraph’ reported.

The taped conversations revealed in extraordinary detail how parties involving dozens of young starlets and escort girls were organised for the Italian PM by a 36-year-old middleman, Gianpaolo Tarantini, a convicted cocaine dealer. (read more)

United Kingdom: Blair’s back, or did he ever go away? Cameron is taking advice from Tony Blair? Well here’s an expert. Watch out, you may end up with another war on your hands! The question is, how much are they paying for his consulting prowess? He likes the cash.

David Cameron is secretly receiving political advice on foreign affairs from Tony Blair – most recently on how to resolve the international deadlock over Palestinian statehood, The Independent has learnt.

Mr Cameron has buried party political loyalties and privately invited the former Labour Prime Minister to Chequers to discuss the impasse, according to Foreign Office sources. (read more)

Hey Tony, there’s a warm cell in The Hague waiting for you (I hope)!

This is our Open Thread. This is my part of the world. What’s up in yours?

The Watering Hole: August 27 – A Quick War

Disposition of British and Zanzibar-an Naval Forces in Zanzibar Town Harbor

The Anglo-Zanzibar War fought between the United Kingdom and Zanzibar on 27 August 1896 lasted but 38 minutes. It was the shortest war in recorded history.

Of course, The Gunfight at OK Corral a bit shorter at 30 seconds does not count because it was fought between rival gangs. To be classified a war, a gang fight had to be between nations.

The war came because of the death of Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini on the 24 of August. During his reign he had co-operated with the British colonial administration in running of his country. Tensions had being growing in the area for some time before this. The British a freedom-loving and compassionate world power were pushing to end the slave trade in Zanzibar dating back to the Omani in the 17th Century. Sultan Hamad bin Thuwainis’s nephew, Khalid bin Bargash, took over on the Sultan’s death. The British favored a cousin, Hamud bin Muhammed, another cousin who supported slavery but to a lesser extent than Bargash. The British delivered an ultimatum ordering Bargash to give up the throne.

The ultimatum ran out at 9.02 am on August 27, at which time the Royal Navy ships opened fire on the palace. The Sultan’s Fleet was sunk; the palace was taking a beating and Bargash was losing a lot of men. He made a tactical retreat to the German embassy where he requested and was granted asylum. The shelling stopped at 9.40 thus ending the war. The death toll stood at about 500.

Now compare that conflict to one in Iraq. You can say that the British knew how to start and finish a war.

This is our Open Thread. You can have at it now.