November 18th, 2007

Profile: Tony Benn - A Political Hero Of Mine

The Rt Hon Tony Benn, a British socialist politician.

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Since I love quotes, I will post some of my favorite by Mr. Benn:
  • "I was born about a quarter of a mile from where we are sitting now and I was here in London during the Blitz. And every night I went down into the shelter. 500 people killed, my brother was killed, my friends were killed. And when the Charter of the UN was read to me, I was a pilot coming home in a troop ship: 'We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.' That was the pledge my generation gave to the younger generation and you tore it up. And it's a war crime that's been committed in Iraq, because there is no moral difference between a stealth bomber and a suicide bomber. Both kill innocent people for political reasons."
  • "If we are serious about wanting peace we have got to eliminate the causes of war, and to do that we shall have to study our history a bit more carefully."
  • "It would be a total corruption of the whole meaning and spirit of the UN Charter, which was carefully written to make it possible the peaceful settlement of international disputes, to try to present it as offering a blank cheque for war whenever the United States wants one."
  • "Simply having nuclear weopens destroys democracy. When a country has them, ministers - of all parties - lie. No minister has ever told the truth about any central question of nuclear policy."
  • "The word terrorists is a term of abuse used to describe those with whom you disagree. According to Mrs Thatcher the ANC are terrorists."
  • "In 1993 I spoke in Hyde park to a couple of million people...afterwards someone from the BBC said 'you're a voice in the wilderness' and I said 'well there are two million people in my wilderness, how many are there in yours?'"
  • If one meets a powerful person--Adolf Hitler, Joe Stalin or Bill Gates--ask them five questions:
    1. What power have you got?
    2. Where did you get it from?
    3. In whose interests do you exercise it?
    4. To whom are you accountable?
    5. How can we get rid of you?
    If you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system."
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Truthdigger of the Week: Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Tour de force: South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has cut a wide swath through global social and political issues of late. Here Tutu addresses reporters before delivering the keynote speech at an event for Girls Inc. in Omaha, Neb., on Oct. 22.

Truthdigger of the Week: Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Posted on Nov 18, 2007

Truthdig tips its hat this week to South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who took the Anglican Church to task for what he called its “homophobic” attitude, declaring in a recent interview with BBC Radio 4 that, “If God, as they say, is homophobic, I wouldn’t worship that God.”

Archbishop Tutu zeroed in on church leadership in his critique, lamenting that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has not promoted the idea of a “welcoming God” to all members. Instead, Tutu charged, Williams and other top officials have unduly focused on the subject of gay priests, which cropped up again in the controversy over the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, when much bigger considerations should be given priority. “Our world is facing problems—poverty, HIV and AIDS—a devastating pandemic, and conflict,” the 76-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner told the BBC. “In the face of all of that, our church, especially the Anglican Church, at this time is almost obsessed with questions of human sexuality.”

Tutu also seemed to have little patience with the question (usually posed as a thinly veiled judgment) of whether homosexuality is an individual choice, invoking racial parallels—and turning the terminology of perversion on its head—while offering his own take on the topic. “It is a perversion if you say to me that a person chooses to be homosexual,” he said, adding that, “It’s like saying you choose to be black in a race-infected society.” Although some might take issue with the particulars of Archbishop Tutu’s argument, his overall message pays tribute to the notion of an all-embracing God who truly delivers on the promise of grace for those who believe. Amen, as they say, to that.

Additional links:

Click here for more about the (as yet) unresolved controversy over gender and sexuality in the “Anglican Communion.”

Archbishop Tutu also held forth about America’s foreign policy last week in Cambridge, Mass., as the Harvard Crimson reports.

Not one, apparently, to shrink away from yet another challenging and timely topic, Tutu let his opinion be known about the death penalty in The Guardian on Nov. 13.

Book Review: Paul Krugman’s “The Conscience of a Liberal”

Nicholas von Hoffman on ‘The Conscience of a Liberal’

Posted to Truthdig on Nov 15, 2007

By Nicholas von Hoffman

Paul Krugman’s “The Conscience of a Liberal” has arrived at the apposite moment. The latest figures on income disparity are out simultaneously with this book and they are grim. The Wall Street Journal reports: “The wealthiest 1% of Americans earned 21.2% of all income in 2005, according to new data from the Internal Revenue Service. ... The bottom 50% earned 12.8% of all income, down from 13.4% in 2004 and a bit less than their 13% share in 2000.”

It is such alarming facts which prompt Krugman to write that, in addition to low- and middle-income families falling behind, there is “… the damage extreme inequality does to our society and our democracy. Ever since America’s founding, our idea of ourselves has been that of a nation without sharp class distinctions—not a leveled society of perfect equality but one in which the gap between the economic elite and the typical citizen isn’t an unbridgeable chasm. That’s why Thomas Jefferson wrote, ‘The small landholders are the most precious part of a state.’ ”

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See also Paul Krugman on the ‘Conscience of a Liberal’ - Interview with Krugman by James Harris.
The New York Times columnist brings his liberal conscience and economic expertise to bear on the housing crisis and sheds light on the dirty secret behind many political victories by conservatives: “The consistent source of [Republican] success has been race.”
You can get a podcast of that interview here.
Abort Born Again Christians


Teh blogosphere of teh internets has been pimping out a lot of really useful stuff lately, and I've been digging my links for this post, which I've largely acquired from the geniuses at C&L. Let's get right to it, shall we?