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The US media is finally catching up
By all accounts, Keith Olbermann is quite the blowhard. A liberal version of Fox News host Bill O'Reilly - without Congress and the White House in his corner - he could have his own version of a Stephen Colbert imitator if only the American right had a sense of humour.
New Orleans Forsaken
“We are what we pretend to be,” said Kurt Vonnegut. “So we must be careful what we pretend to be.” Up until late August of last year, the United States pretended to be the leader of the Free World–a nation that derived its leadership from its military power and derived its freedom from its meritocratic impulses. Indeed, the two were interlinked. Everyone who worked hard enough could get on here; that was not just the philosophy that made America what it was but the basic worldview worth exporting at the barrel of a gun, if necessary. Then came Katrina. And for a short moment, the pretense was over.
After the storm
The sight of American politicians descending on New Orleans for the anniversary of Katrina is a curious one. You would have thought they would all have wanted to stay away, as most of them have all year. For Katrina signalled the failure of America's entire political class and the dysfunction of its political culture. The political class would not adequately protect people before the storm nor adequately support them afterwards. The political culture failed to even push to create a viable alternative to the political class but instead lost interest once the cameras went away.
We shall not be moved
Mejia, 30, never did go back. He went on the run for five months, staying with friends and relatives, using only cash, travelling by bus and not calling his mother or daughter, before he turned himself in as a conscientious objector. A military tribunal sentenced him to one year in prison.
Discrepant duo
If ever there was a paradox about the "special relationship" between the US and Britain then here it is. Two polls, on either side of the Atlantic, published on the same day suggest that Tony Blair and his party are suffering as a result of the British authorities quashing a terrorist plot in Britain while George Bush and his party are benefiting from it.
To fight these reactionaries we must tackle the crisis that they feed off
"Well, you talked a lot of sense and it seems like however much sense brothers talk, they always end up with white women."
Geek nation
They call it "wiki-crack" - and in the summer of 2003 it took just one puff to change Mark Pellegrini's life. Pellegrini, a PhD student of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Delaware, was trawling the internet looking for questions and answers to a pub quiz he was preparing. He kept stumbling across Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia that anyone can edit, and getting "quality results". But when he came to the page on Joseph Heller, author of Catch 22, he noticed something missing. "I knew he wrote a sequel before he died and it wasn't on there. So I went on and edited it in. Then I was hooked."
A symbolic scalp
There will be many outlandish claims made regarding Ned Lamont's narrow victory against Joseph Lieberman over the next few weeks. Key among them will be that this was a substantial win for the left. The right will push this to suggest that the Democratic party has now been taken over by an extremist rump in the tradition of McGovern.
Democrats who oppose illegal wars and torture want to reclaim the party
Recently, Lieberman has been struggling with some infidelity issues of his own. Last year, he was caught in a tender embrace with one other than his wife. Worse still for Lieberman, an opponent of gay marriage, it was another man - George Bush. Bush planted "the kiss" as he worked the Congress floor after his state of the union address. But for Democratic voters of Connecticut it might as well have been the Garden of Gethsemane.
Blood, sweat and fears
Around 1995, Father Damian Zuerlein noticed a disturbing trend among his mostly Hispanic parishioners at Our Lady of Guadalupe church in south Omaha, Nebraska. When he went to shake the hands of his congregation at the end of the service, he noticed their grips were not as firm as they might have been. Some would wince; others would shift their torsos awkwardly so as not to trouble a painful shoulder; a few even had fingers missing. Since half of his flock were involved in some way in the meat-packing industry, it didn't take long for him to work out the root of the problem.
At last they want out
It's little and it's late but I guess it's a start: a call by leading Democrats to pull out US troops from Iraq by the end of the year. The letter that has been signed by both Harry Reid, the Senate leader, and Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House of Representatives, and 10 others attempts to cement a consensus within the party on the war issue. Hillary Clinton is a notable absence. Her reluctance may be wise. For such a big issue the letter is weaker on crucial details. Backing a "phased redeployment" of troops, it suggests beginning a withdrawal by the end of the year but gives no indication of when that pull-out might end.
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Stranger in a Strange Land – Encounters in the Disunited States
book review
'It often takes an outsider to look inside. This is especially true of the United States.'
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