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On the evening of December 6, 2008, two members of the Special Guards of the Hellenic Police confronted a group of youngsters in the Exarcheia neighborhood of Athens. The initial police report claimed that the youths had thrown bottles and rocks at the policemen; eyewitness reports claimed that the policemen had approached the youths and instigated a confrontation.

What we know for sure is that one policeman fired his weapon; 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos was fatally wounded by gunfire; and a few hours later, Athens and other cities in Greece were in flames.

I was serving a term of conscription in the Greek army at the time, at a base near Patras in western Greece, and I remember that for several days after, anyone going into town on liberty was warned: don't wear your uniform. Change into civilian clothes. Don't be a target.

I'm restricting my intro to what I know for sure; my opinions, musings, and ramblings are below the orange fiddly bit.

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Fri Jul 01, 2011 at 05:49 AM PDT

Stranger in a strange homeland

by BruceK

I tweeted my observations about the riots in Athens on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Someone at the BBC must have been checking hashtags, because they contacted me to ask my opinion about the unrest.

Not just my observations, but my opinions - did the police overreact? Do I support the protestors? How does the feeling on the street compare to what I'd find back home?

And the longer the interview went on, the more I realized - I don't have the grounding in Greek society to pass judgment on it.

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Tuesday evening, I looked at the Greek newspaper Kathimerini online, and absently clicked on the "Cartoon of the Day", showing the political cartoon for the op-ed page.  The day's caricature showed Georgios Papandreou, the leader of the Panhellenic Socialist Party, the current opposition party in Greece, preparing for next month's snap election by attempting to capture some of the magic that propelled Barack Obama to the Presidency.

By putting on blackface makeup.  In front of a mirror on which is scrawled: "YES I CAN".

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Mon Jun 01, 2009 at 08:03 AM PDT

Killing in the name of...

by BruceK

(Apologies to Rage Against the Machine for the title.)

Many years ago, I saw a dramatization of the life of Jesus.  Unremarkable, except for not being overly preachy.  Not memorable, except for their depiction of the last temptation in the garden of Gethsemane.  The Devil, in addition to temptation, shows Jesus images of the future, including one stark snippet: a Crusader, soaked in blood, wading through battle on horseback, swinging a sword to slaughter a foe, and bellowing a battle cry:

"In the name of Jesus Christ!"

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In the wake of the debacle of my last diary, I was asked to put up my perspectives on the health care situation, in Athens, Greece as opposed to back home in the United States.

Back home, I dealt with it through the good offices of privately purchased insurance, with massive support from my family, because since I got laid off in mid-2002, I hadn't had a job which gave health benefits.

Now, once again, I'm uninsured, waiting through a mandatory waiting period before government insurance kicks in, and seeing how it goes in Athens, Greece.

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The law office where I work in Athens, Greece, does a lot of international business, so international relations are of some interest to them.  I'm here because I was at loose ends, looking for work without success in New York, and the senior partner decided to take a chance on me, adding a lawyer who spoke the international language of business as his native tongue.  The lawyers here are all intelligent people, and they all know what an influence an American president can have on the world at large.  They also know that I'm the only member of the office who has a vote in the upcoming election.

Practically to the last, they want to see Obama win; they're not thrilled with McCain, and they are frankly appalled by Palin's antics and rhetoric.  There were even joking threats to ostracize me if I cast my vote for McCain.

But on the other hand, from people at the firm as well as some family members here, there's a dark feeling that Obama's not going to make it ... that he'll share the fate of Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy.

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Thu Nov 10, 2005 at 11:18 AM PST

Liberty Onion Soup...?!?!?

by BruceK

Today.  Kings supermarket, of Cresskill, New Jersey.  In the deli counter, they had hot soups, including the perennial favorite, Liberty Onion Soup.

I don't know what all of you would do if you found such an item in a place where you shopped.  For me, I'm not spending one cent of my money there until they realize that it's French onion soup.  French onion soup, goddamnit.

So what would you do if you had forty or fifty or ninety bucks' worth of groceries in a shopping cart, and then found them peddling something Newspeak like Liberty Onion Soup?

(I suppose I should be grateful they didn't have Victory Coffee in with the Chock Full O' Nuts.  Now, if you'll all excuse me, I need a slug of Victory Gin to wash the taste out of my mouth.  Talk about doubleplusungood.)

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Paul Krugman unloads on the Government in general, and His Exalted Royal Imperious Shrubliness by extension, in the Op-Ed page of the NYT on Friday.

I don't think this is a simple tale of incompetence. The reason the military wasn't rushed in to help along the Gulf Coast is, I believe, the same reason nothing was done to stop looting after the fall of Baghdad. Flood control was neglected for the same reason our troops in Iraq didn't get adequate armor.

At a fundamental level, I'd argue, our current leaders just aren't serious about some of the essential functions of government. They like waging war, but they don't like providing security, rescuing those in need or spending on preventive measures. And they never, ever ask for shared sacrifice.

He gives them both barrels here (free registration required).

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I just had a nasty thought.

There's been all kinds of talk about Bush forcing Bolton on the UN via a recess appointment.  But what if he tried the same thing for the Supreme Court?

I know it sounds very silly, but hear me out:

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Mon Jun 20, 2005 at 09:43 AM PDT

Impeachment won't be like WJC or RMN.

by BruceK

Since World War II, the specter of impeachment has haunted two Presidents, over widely different circumstances.

Richard M. Nixon stood on the throes of impeachment due to his interference into the investigation of a reprehensible political operation.

William J. Clinton was impeached and tried due to his prevarication over a personal indiscretion.

George W. Bush's situation is drastically different from both those men's.  His political problems don't stem from underhanded electioneering or an inability to keep his trousers fastened; they stem from the fundamental, zealously advanced actions and agendas of his entire administration, and if he is impeached, it won't be a distraction or a sideshow; it will be a referendum on his stewardship of the office of President of the United States.

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Yesterday, I saw an anti-New York Yankees rant in the diary column here - gloating over the Yankees losing to the Mets.  One comment ended thusly:

"Rooting against the Yankees is the Kossack way to follow baseball."

That, to me, says something unbearably sad about the way hate has become legitimized in 21st century America.

It's one thing to root for your own team - to exhort them on, to urge them to their own success.  But to wish bad fortune upon others, to demonize them...

Is it the Kossack way to hurl curses at Emmanuel Goldstein, while Big Brother looms in the distance?  Is it the Kossack way to give in to mindless hate, to demonize those who support a team you may dislike?

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Mon Apr 04, 2005 at 11:32 AM PDT

A thought on Presidential succession.

by BruceK

The Constitution has been amended and rules have been promulgated to cover the line of succession to the Presidency: if the President is removed from office, by death, inability, or impeachment, the Vice President becomes President.  Next in line of succession is the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

With that in mind, I'd like to ask people to consider the following scenario:

  • For some reason or other, the office of Vice President becomes vacant.
  • Before a new Vice President can be chosen by the Senate, the President is impeached, convicted, and removed from office one month before the midterm elections.  By law, the Speaker of the House becomes President.
  • In the ensuing midterm election, the House changes hands, meaning there is a new Speaker of the House.

What then?
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