Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Keith Olbermann, ladies and gentlemen

I honestly didn't think the U.S. media machine was capable of providing lucid and critical commentary like this anymore. (This is for you, Mum.)

It's ten minutes and 28 seconds of sheer courage. Edward R. Murrow reborn? Too damn bad I can't tune in MSNBC's Countdown.

For those who can't make the YouTube thingy work (or don't have high-speed), here's the full transcript.
OLBERMANN: Finally tonight, a special comment about President Clinton‘s interview. The headlines about it are, of course, entirely wrong. It is not essential that a past present bullied and sandbagged by a monkey posing as a newscaster finally lashed back. It is not important that the current president‘s portable public chorus has described his predecessor‘s tone as crazed. Our tone should be crazed. The nation‘s freedoms are under assault by an administration‘s policies can do us as much damage as al Qaeda. The nation‘s marketplace of ideas is being poisoned by a propaganda company so blatant that Tokyo Rose would have quit.

Nonetheless, the headline is this: Bill Clinton did what almost none of us have done in five years—he has spoken the truth about 9/11 and the current presidential administration. “At least I tried,” he said, of his own efforts, “to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. That‘s the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They had eight months to try, they did not try, I tried.”

Thus in his supposed emeritus years, has Mr. Clinton taken forceful and triumphant action for honesty and for us. Action as vital and courageous as any of his presidency. Action as startling and as liberating as any, by anyone, in these last five long years.

The Bush administration did not try to get Osama bin Laden before 9/11. The Bush administration ignored all the evidence gathered by its predecessors. The Bush administration did not understand the daily briefing entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” The Bush administration did not try.

Moreover, for the five years, one month, and two weeks, the current administration and in particular the president has been given the greatest pass for incompetence and malfeasance in American history.

President Roosevelt was rightly blamed for ignoring the warning signs, some of them 17 years old before Pearl Harbor. President Hoover was correctly blamed for, if not the Great Depression itself, then the disastrous economic steps he took in the immediate aftermath of the stock market crash. Even President Lincoln assumed some measure of responsibility for the Civil War, though talk of Southern secession had begun as early as 1832.

But for this president. To hear him bleat and whine and bully at nearly every opportunity, one would think someone else had been president on September 11, 2001 or the nearly eight months that preceded it.

That hardly reflects the honestly nor manliness we expect of the executive. But if his own fitness to serve is of no true concern to him, perhaps we should simply sigh and keep our fingers crossed until a grown-up takes the job three Januarys from now.

Except for this: After five years of skirting even the most inarguable facts that he was president on 9/11, he must bear some responsibility for his and our un-readiness, Mr. Bush has now moved on, unmistakably and without conscience or shame, towards rewriting history, and attempting to make the responsibility entirely Mr. Clinton‘s.

Of course, he is not honest enough to do that directly. As with all the other nefariousness and slime of this, our worst presidency since James Buchanan, he is having it done for him by proxy.

Thus, the sandbag effort by Fox News Friday afternoon.

Consider the timing: The very weekend the National Intelligence Estimate would be released and show the Iraq war to be the fraudulent failure it is-not a check on terror, but fertilizer for it.

The kind of proof of incompetence, for which the administration and its hyenas at Fox need to find a diversion, in a scapegoat.

It was the kind of cheap trick which would get a journalist fired—but a propagandist, promoted—promise to talk of charity and generosity; but instead launch into the lies and distortions with which the authoritarians among us attack the virtuous and reward the useless.

And don‘t even be professional enough to assume the responsibility for the slanders yourself; blame your audience for e-mailing you the question.

Mr. Clinton responded as you have seen.

He told the great truth untold about this administration‘s negligence, perhaps criminal negligence, about bin Laden. Mr. Clinton was brave.

Then again, Chris Wallace might be braver still. Had I, in one moment, surrendered all my credibility as a journalist, and been irredeemably humiliated, as was he, I would have gone home and started a new career selling seeds by mail.

The smearing by proxy, of course, did not begin Friday afternoon. Disney was first to sell-out its corporate reputation, with “The Path to 9/11.” Of that company‘s crimes against truth one needs to say little. Simply put: Someone there enabled an authoritarian zealot to belch out Mr.

Bush‘s new and improved history.

The basic plot-line was this: Because he was distracted by the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Bill Clinton failed to prevent 9/11.

The most curious and in some ways the most infuriating aspect of this slapdash theory, is that the right wingers who have advocated it—who try to sneak it into our collective consciousness through entertainment, or who sandbag Mr. Clinton with it at news interviews—have simply skipped past its most glaring flaw.

Had it been true that Clinton had been distracted from the hunt for bin Laden in 1998 because of the Lewinsky nonsense, why did these same people not applaud him for having bombed bin Laden‘s camps in Afghanistan and Sudan on Aug. 20, of that year? For mentioning bin Laden by name as he did so?

That day, Republican Senator Grams of Minnesota invoked the movie “Wag the Dog.”

Republican Senator Coats of Indiana questioned Mr. Clinton‘s judgment.

Republican Senator Ashcroft of Missouri—the future attorney general

echoed Coats.

Even Republican Senator Arlen Specter questioned the timing.

And of course, were it true Clinton had been distracted by the Lewinsky witch-hunt, who on earth conducted the Lewinsky witch-hunt?

Who turned the political discourse of this nation on its head for two years?

Who corrupted the political media?

Who made it impossible for us to even bring back on the air the counter-terrorism analysts like Dr. Richard Haass, and James Dunegan, who had warned, at this very hour, on this very network, in early 1998, of cells from the Middle East who sought to attack us here?

Who preempted them in order to strangle us with the trivia that was, “All Monica All The Time?”

Who distracted whom?

This is, of course, where, as is inevitable, Mr. Bush and his henchmen prove not quite as smart as they think they are.

The full responsibility for 9/11 is obviously shared by three administrations, possibly four.

But, Mr. Bush, if you are now trying to convince us by proxy that it‘s all about the distractions of 1998 and 1999, then you will have to face a startling fact that your minions may have hidden from you.

The distractions of 1998 and 1999, Mr. Bush, were carefully manufactured, and lovingly executed, not by Bill Clinton, but by the same people who got you elected president.

Thus, instead of some commendable acknowledgment that you were even in office on 9/11 and the lost months before it, we have your sleazy and sloppy rewriting of history, designed by somebody who evidently read the Orwell playbook too quickly.

Thus, instead of some explanation for the inertia of your first eight months in office, we are told that you have kept us “safe” ever since—a statement that might range anywhere from zero, to 100 percent, true.

We have nothing but your word, and your word has long since ceased to mean anything.

And, of course, the one time you have ever given us specifics about what you have kept us safe from, Mr. Bush, you got the name of the supposedly targeted tower in Los Angeles wrong.

Thus was it left for the previous president to say what so many of us have felt; what so many of us have given you a pass for in the months and even the years after the attack: You did not try.

You ignored the evidence gathered by your predecessor. You ignored the evidence gathered by your own people. Then, you blamed your predecessor.

That would be a textbook definition, sir, of cowardice.

To enforce the lies of the present, it is necessary to erase the truths of the past. That was one of the great mechanical realities Eric Blair, writing as George Orwell, gave us in the book “1984.”

The great philosophical reality he gave us, Mr. Bush, may sound as familiar to you, as it has lately begun to sound familiar to me.

“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution, is persecution. The object of torture, is torture. The object of power is power.”

Earlier last Friday afternoon, before the FOX ambush, speaking in the far different context of the closing session of his remarkable Global Initiative, Mr. Clinton quoted Abraham Lincoln‘s State of the Union address from 1862.

“We must disenthrall ourselves.”

Mr. Clinton did not quote the rest of Mr. Lincoln‘s sentence. He might well have.

“We must disenthrall ourselves and then we shall save our country.”

And so has Mr. Clinton helped us to disenthrall ourselves, and perhaps enabled us, even at this late and bleak date, to save our country.

The free pass has been withdrawn, Mr. Bush.

You did not act to prevent 9/11.

We do not know what you have done to prevent another 9/11.

You have failed us-then leveraged that failure, to justify a purposeless war in Iraq which will have, all too soon, claimed more American lives than did 9/11.

You have failed us anew in Afghanistan.

And you have now tried to hide your failures, by blaming your predecessor.

And now you exploit your failure, to rationalize brazen torture which doesn‘t work anyway; which only condemns our soldiers to water-boarding; which only humiliates our country further in the world; and which no true American would ever condone, let alone advocate.

And there it is, sir. Are yours the actions of a true American?

I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

Now who in Canada could you see being this tough on Stephen Harper?

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Billy Bragg - Wisdom without Cynicism

Review: Billy Bragg, live at Club Soda (Montreal)

Sorry, Ottawa; I think we wore him out. Despite his pleading with the diehard fans at Club Soda to help save his Cockney voice for tomorrow night's gig at the New Capital Music Hall, we called him back for three encores. What's more, audience members down in front hung onto him during that third encore until he relented and played all seven tracks from his original 1983 release Life's a Riot with Spy Vs Spy.

But it wasn't merely to hear him play his songs that I went. Bragg's witty (and sometimes scathing) on-stage banter is worth the ticket price itself. While he does take time out during his act to peddle (of all things) his new book, The Progressive Patriot, he smoothes over the sales pitch by explaining in his own heartfelt way how he came to the conclusion cynicism is our biggest social problem.

We also got to hear him describe his odd life on the road as consisting of a mesmerizing flutter of planes, shows and time killed mindlessly in hotel rooms. He talked of the joys of sharing insights with his eight-year old son, such as a YouTube download of a cat caught in a precarious situation involving a ceiling fan. And the recurring theme of his bitter disappointment with Tony Blair, whom he refered to as Bush's poodle.

More sometimes gems were to be found in reworked lyrics from old songs, such as his update to the old Leadbelly staple Bourgeois Blues with new lines like I've got the Bush War Blues / He's making the world safe for Haliburton.

Perhaps the highlight of the night was a new song written in a style Bragg dubs "Johnny Clash", wherein he claims to have channeled Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer during its composition. (He had to prepare for it by turning to his amp and getting that "first Clash album" sound going). Always that big heart.

Assuming he hangs onto what's left of his voice, he's heading across Canada next week and will then play a few dates on the United States west coast. At 48 Bragg's still got a taste of the old punk in him, even if his style is primarily a mix of folk and soul. Tour Dates here.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Public Notice - Petition for the CRTC

The following is from a petition put up by Canwest Global. The link was sent to me by a friend who works on the newscast of the affiliate in question. For reasons only the CRTC can explain, the station is not available on any satellite services offered in Quebec. I edited some of the more eye-rolling parts out of the prepared letter (below) before putting my own name to it. You can probably guess which parts are my own.

Dear Ms. Rhéaume;

Re: Broadcasting Notice of Public Hearing CRTC 2006-5

I live in the province of Quebec and I can tell you that it is a disappointment to me that Bell Sympatico does not carry CKMI-TV, the regional Global Television station that serves Quebec City, Montreal, and Sherbrooke.

CKMI produces and broadcasts the only local and regional morning show, providing traffic, weather, news and community information (3 hours daily) for the benefit of viewers in the three Quebec cities served by CKMI. It is regrettable that English-language satellite subscribers in Quebec are denied access to this and other unique English-language programming.

Local and regional programming is expensive and its viability is dependent entirely on access of the television station and its advertising clients to the unique audiences served by the station. I believe that the current rules not requiring satellite services to carry this local station undermine the economic viability of the station, which is important to our community.

In particular, I consider their local news coverage to be a highly valuable asset to this community; and one which I presently am unable to receive via UHF due to poor reception in my corner of Montreal.

Furthermore, as a television viewer who currently relies on the antennae - and is contemplating other choices for television reception - I was quite disappointed to learn that I am unable to view this channel unless I subscribe to Videotron cable, or erect an expensive and ugly outdoors antennae.

Please give satellite subscribers access to CKMI-TV.


Scott (in Montreal)

Mr. Pat Button
Vice President, Marketing
Bell ExpressVu
100 Wynford Drive
Toronto, On
Email: Pat.button@bell.ca

Mr. Jim Cummins
Vice President, National Operations
Star Choice Communications
2924, 11th Street N.E.
Calgary, Ab.M
Email: Jim.Cummins@starchoice.com

Ms. Maria Mourani M.P.

The Hon. Irwin Cotler P.C., M.P.

Ms. Marlene Jennings M.P.

The Hon. Jean C. Lapierre P.C., M.P.

Ms. Vivian Barbot M.P.

The Hon. Stephane Dion P.C., M.P.

The Hon. Lucienne Robilliard P.C., M.P.

Ms. Christiane Gagnon M.P.

Ms. Sylvie Boucher M.P.

Mr. Daniel Petit M.P.

Mr. Luc Harvey M.P.

Ms. Josee Verner M.P.

Mr. Serge Cardin M.P.

Mr. Christian Ouellet M.P.

Ms. France Bonsant M.P.
These folks put on a high quality newscast that covers the local community at least as well as the competition. The anchor, Jamie Orchard, was a colleague of mine at Concordia, and I can vouch for her as an intelligent and extremely competent journalist. Apparently, CKMI's reporters sometimes experience bewilderment from interviewees who have never even heard of the station. It just doesn't make sense not to include them in the package of roughly 8 gazillion channels - especially considering CKMI includes programming put together right in our own backyard. So click on the link and sign your name if you agree.


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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Another Sociopath turned Psychopath

The silicon chip inside her head
Gets switched to overload
And nobody’s going to go to school today
She’s going to make them stay at home

--The Boomtown Rats

In lieu of yesterday's shooting spree at Dawson College, I couldn't agree more with the Amazing Wonderdog's conclusion that to have or not to have a long-gun resistry is not the question.
The real issue is how this nutcase slipped through the background checks and obtained this weapon. All the registries in the world are useless if they can't do what they're designed to, which is to control who can own guns.
That's certainly what I was thinking. I also can't believe the jerk's web host allowed all the crap he posted to stay up, until today anyway. Nor can I believe that a video game re-enacting the Columbine shootings even exists, and is available on the market (sorry but I can't bear to put up a link to that right now).

But I can believe a sociopath like this can be produced in a place like Laval. And that not so long ago in Beaconsfield - where I happened to spend my teenaged years - four screwed-up teenaged kids beat their elderly next door neighbours to death with a baseball bat.

Suburbia tends to breed more than its share of bored, screwed-up kids. And it will keep doing so, especially when the parents / guardians don't love their kids enough to goddamn pay attention to them and listen to them. Like Marilyn Manson said:
Michael Moore: Do you know that on the day of the Columbine massacre, the US dropped more bombs on Kosovo than any other day?

Marilyn Manson: I do know that, and I think that's really ironic, that nobody said 'well maybe the President had an influence on this violent behavior' Because that's not the way the media wants to take it and spin it, and turn it into fear, because then you're watching television, you're watching the news, you're being pumped full of fear, there's floods, there's AIDS, there's murder, cut to commercial, buy the Acura, buy the Colgate, if you have bad breath they're not going to talk to you, if you have pimples, the girl's not going to fuck you, and it's just this campaign of fear, and consumption, and that's what I think it's all based on, the whole idea of 'keep everyone afraid, and they'll consume.'

Michael Moore: If you were to talk directly to the kids at Columbine or the people in that community, what would you say to them if they were here right now?

Marilyn Manson: I wouldn't say a single word to them, I would listen to what they have to say and that's what no one did.
Even though Gill was reportedly a Manson fan himself, it seems he didn't get the message somehow. So don't try to blame Manson - or the goths, for that matter. They aren't the problem.

Instead, look in the mirror and think about what kids you pick(ed) on in school. Think about who you humiliated just to get a cheap laugh and a high-five from your friends so you could try to boost your own fragile self-esteem. Think about the strange co-worker you joke about behind his back because he's an oddball. And most of all, if you're a government bureacrat issuing gun ownership certificates, please - for all our sakes - think about that silicon chip that might be inside that person's head, and how the last thing we all need is for it to switch to overload when they've got access to deadly weapons.

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