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    For the warfare state, it doesn’t get any better than 99 to 0.

    Every living senator voted Wednesday to approve Gen. David Petraeus as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

    Call it the unanimity of lemmings -- except the senators and their families aren’t the ones who’ll keep plunging into the sea.

    No, the killing and suffering and dying will be left to others: American soldiers who, for the most part, had scant economic opportunities in civilian life. And Afghans trapped between terrible poverty and escalating violence.

    The senatorial conformity, of course, won’t lack for rationales. It rarely does.


No matter how many Supergroups they pull together, the Religious Right is battling it out with the Tea Party movement, and these days, not getting any mainstream media love.


 Back in the day, the coming together of a “Supergroup” provided the possibility of the unexpected and the opportunity for something magical. Like many other significant cultural signposts of the late twentieth century, Supergroups now seem over-hyped and watered down.  

The term “Supergroup” is not usually associated with the Religious Right. Over the years, the most important Religious Right organizations have been less Supergroupie and more the product of charismatic and telegenic leaders. Now, however, with the Tea Party Movement battling for hegemony within the conservative movement, some Religious Right organizations have banded into a few Religious Right Supergroups.   

Listen to the music

In its earliest incarnations, musical “Supergroups” were made up of top-shelf artists that had successful runs in their own right. They came together to make an album (or two or three), do a few shows, make some media appearances, maybe hit the road for a short-lived tour and leave in their wake lots of chatter.

According to Wikipedia, “The term took its name from the 1968 album ‘Super Session’ with Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills.”

There have been hundreds of Supergroups and some really outstanding ones over the past forty years: Consider the Traveling Wilburys, the late 1980s group made up of George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan and The Highway Men with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson. More contemporarily there has been Velvet Revolver with Scott Weiland, Slash, Duff McGagen, Matt Sorum, and Dave Kushner, and Child Rebel Soldier, with Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, Pharrell Williams (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supergroup_(music).

Since the birth of the modern conservative movement the organizations that have had the most sustained impact were not Supergroups -- although most of them wound up with a solid base of affiliated or associated groups. Organizations such as The Moral Majority (the Rev. Jerry Falwell), The Christian Coalition (Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed), Focus on the Family (Dr. James Dobson) clearly depended on personalities of their leaders to pave the way.


A Letter To The White House:   C'mon White House...and Democrats--Get With It Already!  

Just new...Republicans Block Homeless Vets Assistance!  What???  

Add that to the other recent heart-warming Republican stories (i.e. Republicans Block Unemployment Benefits, Republicans Want to Raise Retirement Age to 70, etc.) and you've got a blockbuster 2011 (and possibly 2012) platform.  

I don't understand why the White House and Democratic leadership seem so impotent on getting the message out about what the Republicans are doing.   


I spent part of last week in Washington, DC, and the heat already was so oppressive I recalled the old story that during the summer the British Foreign Service used to classify the capital as a hardship post, allowing embassy employees to go about their official business clad in pith helmets and shorts.

In pre-air conditioning days, the federal government simply shut down so civil servants could escape to some shade and swoon in the sanctuary of a cold drink. But now the bureaucracy grinds on regardless of the temperature, and even as Congress works its way toward summer recess, its members remain active, or at least maintain the appearance of activity, especially with midterm elections just a little more than four months away.

Believe it or not, there actually is some positive, necessary, progressive law being debated and voted upon, but historically, members cannot resist sticking in a finger to stir, then water down the outcome. In the legislative equivalent of Saint Augustine's prayer, "O Lord, help me to be pure, but not yet," even in the early summer heat, the loophole remains more tempting than the swimming hole.


The oil spill is ‘partly the result of greed, debauchery on the beaches, poor environmental stewardship and a lack of U.S. support for Israel,’ says traveling "prophet" Cindy Jones.    


People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch recently pointed out that amongst some conservative evangelical Christians the notion that “the BP oil spill is God's punishment for our failure to properly support Israel is becoming an increasingly accepted explanation.”* Others claim that “debauchery on the beaches,” is one possible cause of the oil spill. And many think of it as a warning from on high. As unhinged as any of this might sound – especially the logical extension that God is working his grace through the boardroom at BP – in these times it is not an uncommon religious thread. After all, we are not that far removed from the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s post-911 diatribe blaming all things liberal for the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, and Pastor John Hagee’s claim that Hurricane Katrina was God’s retribution for the Big Easy’s easiness.

For some, the only way out of this mess and the only thing that will stop BP’s oil from continuing to gush into the Gulf of Mexico is prayer. That’s why on Sunday, June 27, people in the Gulf States came together for “a day of prayer for the regions affected by the oil spill that has sent millions of gallons of crude gushing into the Gulf of Mexico,” Charismamag.com reported during the run-up to Sunday’s events.

Last week, the governors of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, and the Lt. Governor of Florida “Issued proclamations … calling their citizens to pray for a solution that stops the leak and for the recovery of the coastline and the fish and wildlife industries devastated by the April 20 BP oil rig explosion that killed 11 workers.”


Look out: the gloves are off and as usual the New York Times is determined to destroy Hollywood filmmaker Oliver Stone.  On Friday, the paper published not one but two critical articles about the director’s latest documentary, South of the Border, about the tectonic political changes occurring in South America.  Stone, who is known for such popular hits as Wall Street and Platoon, made his film based on interviews with such leaders as Raul Castro of Cuba and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.  In his movie, Stone takes the New York Times and the mainstream media to task for their shoddy coverage of Latin America and demonization of Hugo Chávez, someone who Stone openly sympathizes with.

            Going for a knockout, the Times hit Stone with a one-two punch.  First up was film critic Steven Holden, who in a rather sarcastic review called South of the Border “shallow” and “naïvely idealistic.”  Unusually, the Times then continued its hatchet job on Stone by publishing another lengthy article in its movie section, this time penned by veteran Latin America correspondent Larry Rohter.  In his piece, Rohter accuses Stone of numerous mistakes, misstatements and missing details.  I don’t think the points which Rohter raises are terribly earth-shattering, though I imagine script writers Tariq Ali and Marc Weisbrot will respond in short order.

            For me, the wider point here has to do with political agendas.  At one point, Rohter takes Stone to task for not disclosing the various biases of his sources.  In his film, Stone relies on commentary from leftist observers of Venezuela, including Greg Wilpert, a longtime editor of Venezuelanalysis.com, a web site providing sympathetic coverage of the Chávez government.  The site was set up with donations from the Venezuelan government and Wilpert’s wife is Chávez’s consul-general in New York [as long as we are talking disclosure: before it became, in my view, too identified with the Chávez government I personally wrote many articles for the site]. 

This is the sixth installment of a project that is likely to extend over a two-year-period from January, 2010.  It is the serialization of a book entitled The 15% Solution: A Political History of American Fascism, 2001-2022.  Under the pseudonym Jonathan Westminster, it is purportedly published in the year 2048 on the 25th Anniversary of the Restoration of Constitutional Democracy in the Re-United States. It was actually published in 1996 by the Thomas Jefferson Press, located in Port Jefferson, NY. The copyright is held by the Press.  Herein you will find Chapter 5.

Note that in it, a firmly right-wing court decides that the Executive and Legislative branches, with their control firmly in the hands of the successor to the old Republican Party with no indication that that state of affairs will ever change, decides to remove themselves from any review of the actions of the other two branches. 

We now face a right-wing Court, in which the next Justice, Elena Kagan, will likely be the next Whizzer White, giving the Right a 6-3 majority, is also firmly saying to the present Right, "oh you can do just about anything you want to, and we will do whatever we can to cement your power indefinitely."  The Scalia Court (and it is the Scalia Court, whoever the Chief Justice is) is just like the "Steps" Court in the book.


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It's tragically ironic that while Obama appropriately fired McChrystal for insubordination, he promised that America's longest war -- one that no one honestly thinks that we can win -- will continue.

These are the last gasps of empire by a President who promised change, but America's long history of empire -- which reached its zenith after victories in World War II -- is nearing its end as China, Russia and India advance into Asia, Africa and even tentatively into South America.  We are a debtor nation now that would implode if our major lenders, including China (with 25% of our debt in its pocket) called in their loans.

Maybe Obama thinks that he is preparing America for a soft landing into the reality that our lifestyle of comfort and inexpensive products that come with empire is just about over.

But the problem is that the wealthy have billions and billions of dollars to cushion the fall of the U.S. as other nations pick up its manufacturing capability and corporate presence on the world stage, while the middle and working class will hit the economic reality -- and indeed are doing so now --  on their bare feet without a parachute.


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Eighty years ago, something occurred in America that was never supposed to happen.  An aristocrat came to the presidency and engineered a policy revolution that created a broad and prosperous middle class where it had not existed as such before. 

To do this, Franklin Roosevelt and his party had to rewrite the existing rules of wealth redistribution in the United States such that the traditionally fantastically wealthy overclass (which had grown even fatter as the industrialism of the prior century concentrated wealth yet further) would become merely tremendously wealthy from that point forward, in order to leave enough for others to live a decent life. 

Needless to say, this rankled the country club set, but, remarkably, they more or less made peace with this development during the early decades of the post-war era, and largely cooperated with the new economic order.  So did their political representatives.  The Eisenhower administration was the first chance after twenty years of the New Deal to dismantle the newly created American welfare state, and Ike not only refused to take that opportunity, but famously labeled those in his party who wanted to as “stupid."


You couldn’t call it a dialogue. It was more like a momentary rip in the global power continuum, a spill of outrage on the stage of a major oil conference in London.

On Tuesday, two Greenpeace activists interrupted a speech by British Petroleum chief of staff Steve Westwell — sandwiched him at his podium, trespassed on time and space that didn’t belong to them, and spoke to an audience that hadn’t come to hear them. They had about 20 seconds, not much time to talk about the complexity of ecosystems or draw attention, say, to the plight of the Gulf of Mexico’s Sargassum algae. They did the best they could.

One unfurled a banner that read “Go Beyond Petroleum.” The other, as she was being ushered off the stage and out of the hotel, shouted, “We need to speed up progress and make a push to end the oil age.”

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