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Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Tea Parties? This is What Astroturf Looks Like
"Astroturf." Fake grassroots. It's what you get when big business and rich zealots hire pricey consultants to manufacture public outrage.
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Guantanamo Calling
In the first media interview with a Guantanamo prisoner, a detainee from Chad awaiting release secretly called Al-Jazeera to complain of beatings and tear gassing there. Mohammed el Gharani's charges of abuse echoe other claims that guards at the prison, which President Obama has vowed to close, are "taking their last revenge."
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Afghan Women: "We Want Our Rights"
More than 200 women protesting against a proposed "marital rape law" were stoned and spat on by a furious mob shouting "Death to the slaves of the Christians!" as women police held hands in a protective barrier around the protesters. The widely condemned Shia Family Law, which would legalize marital rape, child marriage and strict restrictions on women, is under review by the Afghan government. "I am not afraid," said 18-year-old protester Zara, as men in the crowd jostled her and screamed abuse.
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Taxes, Schmaxes: Party On The Islands!
As we prols struggle to get our modest money to the feds so they can do horrific things with it, let us consider the $100 billion that corporations – including bailout recipients Morgan Stanley and Citigroup – have stashed in the Cayman Islands. "Tax Shell Game," a report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), finds that 83 of 100 big U.S. companies dodge taxes – and soak taxpayers – through off-shore tax havens. Obama has vowed to close corporate loopholes. PIRG attorney John Krieger says it's overdue: "The point is we all pay for it."
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Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Wrath Revisited
It was seventy years ago today that The Grapes of Wrath , John Steinbeck's epic novel of Depression-era dispossession, homelessness and hardship, was published. Upending the classic rags-to-riches narrative of America, Steinbeck traces the anguished migration of the Joad family from the Oklahoma farm they've lost to a mirage of California. Steinbeck scholar Robert DeMott suggests the book offers a prophetic look at today's tough times. So does Steinbeck's anger at the faceless, heartless, greedy forces – particularly the "Bank" and the "Company" – that have caused so much pain.
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The Long Road Back
The news that Spain will go ahead with indicting Alberto Gonzales and five high-ranking Bush officials for torture at Guantanamo is huge. While it inevitably raises questions – Why Spain and not the U.S? Why not Bush and Cheney? What took so long? – it's a welcome start on the long road back to the rule of law.
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We Hate Goodbyes Too, But This Is Ridiculous
Still more judges have told Norman Coleman to give it up in his millennium-long recount battle against Al Franken in Minnesota, yet his campaign is vowing to appeal the latest loss to the state's Supreme Court "so that no voter is left behind." Even MSNBC's Joe Scarborough has had enough : "Seriously, Norm...You lost."
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Small, Green Victories
Even in Maine, snow's melting, spring's coming, little green shoots – miracle! – are inching up. Thus it lifts our hearts to hear Michelle Obama report the "number one question" to her from European leaders was about the Victory Garden. It's likewise gladdening to hear from the garden's key advocate, Roger Doiron, whose Kitchen Gardeners International is a Maine-based network "taking a (dirty) hands-on approach" to local food. His mantra: "Sometimes you gotta create what you want to be a part of."
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Truth-Telling: Hazardous to Your Health
This week's espionage trial in Iran of Roxana Saberi, an American-Iranian journalist, is a potent reminder of the unheralded dangers journalists face daily. Raised in Fargo, N.D., Saberi worked for NPR, BBC and Fox News before being arrested in Iran, first for buying wine, then for working without press credentials, then for spying. The US says the charges are "baseless." Last year, Iran detained or investigated over 30 journalists.
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Monday, April 13, 2009
Barefoot and Pregnant in the Kitchen With A Pledge, A Flag and A Crucifix
With an opening likely soon on the Supreme Court, it's revealing to get a glimpse into the world view of perhaps the Court's most conservative judge, Clarence Thomas, who turned up at an event honoring the Bill of Rights – which he's evidently not crazy about. Thomas suggested "equal time for (a) Bill of Responsibilities," said he gets solace from Douglas MacArthur speeches about 'duty, honor, country,' and fondly remembered the good old days: "How can you not reminisce about a childhood where you began each day with the Pledge of Allegiance as little kids...marched in two by two with a flag and a crucifix in each classroom?"
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