Progressive Democrat Newsletter Issue 198

It's been a good week. Obama has already begun reversing the horrible policies of the Bush Administration. Obama has set in motion the process of closing Guantanamo. Obama has reversed the Global Gag rule. And he has rejected torture. Not bad for his first few days in office.

There is one song that more than any represents the people's America, the America of the working class and middle class. The unofficial anthem of the United States has echoed through the decades. On Sunday, January 18th, 2009, that song was sung in Washington, DC, to usher in a new era. This Land is Your Land:

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Inauguration Day, Miklos Nyiszli and History...

Crossposted at MotleyMoose

Early in the morning today, my colleague send an email asking me to reschedule one of our weekly project meeting scheduled from 11 am on Tuesday to another time. Howard, my colleague, wanted to watch the Inauguration of Barack Obama's Presidency. It took me a second to realize that January 20th is finally right here. And it has even touched my colleague, who is a quintessential forgetful physicist. There is something happening in this country that I haven't been able to put my hands on yet. Our country is in dire straits. Most of us desperately want him to succeed.  People have tremendous expectation from Obama's administration. Thus far, the good man has shown that he can keep his head on his shoulders despite all the flattery, headwinds, difficult times et al.  Good Luck President Obama, you need all the support you can get, we need all the support that we can give you.. This is truly a historical day..

Lately  I've been remembering Dr. Miklos Nyiszli. Eons ago, when I was in middle school, one day Dad handed me a book "Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account". Till this day I haven't read a more moving account of the worse of human barbarism. We are currently amidst a difficult time with some of us struggling to make our ends meet. But all of our current difficulties pale in comparison with what Dr. Nyiszli faced.  A Jewish medical doctor, Dr Miklos Nyiszli was spared death to perform autopsies and 'scientific research' on his fellow inmates at Auschwitz under the supervision of infamous Angel of Death Josef Mengele. He survived Auschwitz to give us a horrifying detailed account of what actually happened at Auschwitz. Dr. Nyiszli actually found out the range of Mengele's barbarity through the thousands of autospies that he carried out during his imprisonment at Auschwitz.

Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account

Of course, Ahmedinejad's fellow Holocaust deniers exist in this country itself. It is hard to imagine that some folks actually fund these idiots..As Voltaire once said.. "It is hard to free fools from the chains they revere."

I was planning to write a separate diary on this. But there you have it...

Progressive Democrat Newsletter Issue 197

For me this was a good week. I got to attend the induction ceremony for a friend who was elected judge in 2008. It was a hard fought and difficult race, but we won and it felt great to see one of the good guys officially become a judge.

We can win even tough fights if we work hard enough at it. Of course we never can win all the fights, but we can win when it really matters.

And this week Barack Obama will be sworn in as President. I never expect to agree with anyone 100%, and Obama is no different. But I have been talking to people from all over the country and even all over the world and almost every one of them is excited about Obama. Partly it is the fact that this is history in the making. Partly it is that Obama is a truely inspiring person. And partly it is that people are desperate to see the end of the disastrous Bush era.

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Rightward Bound: Making America Conservative in the 1970s

It is perhaps premature to pronounce American conservatism dead though well it should be. The conservative movement is, however, rather moribund, bereft of any new ideas on anything of consequence from health care to energy to climate change to the economy. What does conservatism stand for in 2008 that they didn't stand for it in 1980? Maybe I am missing something for all I hear is a tired catechism of "lower taxes,""limited government,""free markets,""balanced budgets,""family values," and a "strong military" which really means "empire" in their parlance.

But this conservative agenda has run its course even if a large swath of the American public still recite its ethos for by any objective measure, American conservatism has failed. Lower taxes brought us an ever widening social gulf such that a country like Uzbekistan has more equal distribution of income than the United States. Limited government is such a laughable part of the conservative creed for at no time in American history is government as large, as pervasive or as intrusive. Free markets brought us the collapse of global financial markets drunk on derivatives with estimated liabilities of over $50 trillion dollars. In pursuit of the Conservative dream, we have run up $9 trillion in debt since 1981. The only balanced budgets during this period came under a Democrat. Republican family values is a bizarre combination of rights for the unborn, the brain dead and nuclear families. The rest of us need not apply. And the conservative version of empire is nothing more than American exceptionalism and unilateralism that we can neither afford financially nor morally.

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A Brief History of Shoes and Defiance

So, some Iraqi journalist took off his shoes today and threw them at President Bush. According to a witty Bush (ha, ha) they were "a size 10." Awesome. That doesn't even come close to the hilarity that was watching the supposed leader of the free world ducking for dear life from a shoe onslaught. It was horrific and hilarious at the same time...does that make me a horrible person?

That prompted me to wonder--how far have we come since the days of the woman who lived in a shoe with too many children (or however the fairy tale goes); or Wynken, Blinken, and Nod who mysteriously sailed off in a wooden shoe; or since Cinderella's glass slipper (speaking of which, how the hell do you walk in shoes made of glass? Ouch?)? The following is a brief chronological tale of the role of shoes in political or social defiance.

Apparently, it all started in 1910 during a railroad strke in France. Workers would destroy the wooden shoes--called "sabots"--that held the train rails in place, thus making it difficult or impossible for trains to get by and pissing everybody off on their way to work. Hence, the term "sabotage" (ah, Star Trek VI, I can't find the scene in the movie that describes it but here's the trailer).

Nikita Krushchev was perhaps the best shoe referencer in the world. Of course, everyone knows of his 1961 speech to the UN, where he took off his shoe and started banging it on table as the Philippine delegation was speaking. Classy.

What you might not know is that in 1956 Mao and Nikita were both a little ticked at each other. Never one to pass up a good insult, Stalin called Mao "the old galosh" which translated as "the old boot." In Mandarin, "boot" translates as "prostitute." So, one of two things: either (a) Krushchev and Mao had a much more intimate relationship than was previously known, or (b) Krushchev was a big a**hole.

After that, shoes were silent for a while. That is, until Richard Reid tried to destroy a commercial airline with explosives hidden in his shoe (and in a frenzy of unparalleled creativity, the media dubbed him "the Shoe Bomber"). Thanks to his actions, I now have to smell the feet of thousands of Americans every year in airports across the country. Thanks, pal.

I'm betting we won't have to wait another 7 years for some poor unfortunate soul to find something crazy to do with his or her footwear. They're just too damn symbolic.

So here's to you, Shoe--May you forever be the "great equalizer."

(I hope you enjoyed this brief history. Would you say it was about a Size 10, as well?)

Please join the journeying progressive at For Which It Stands for legendary musings and an insatiable quest for knowledge.

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