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Guest Commentary (4369)

by Brad Reed of Commonweal Institute

If the media coverage of the Iranian elections has taught us anything, it's that the neoconservatives have held onto their megaphones in the mainstream press. For those of you unfamiliar with the neoconservatives - or neocons, as they are often referred to - they're a clique of right-wing foreign policy ideologues who think the use of American military power is always justified under any circumstances. The endgame, as neocon Max Boot put it, is to have American troops occupy the "troubled lands" that "cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets." The neocons' one real attempt at implementing this doctrine so far has been in Iraq, where our country has been fighting for more than six years to take out Saddam Hussein's non-existent weapons of mass destruction stockpiles.

Amazingly, the neocons have learned nothing from the bloody experience in Iraq and would like to see it copied several times over. The recent Iranian elections are a case in point, as the neocons used the crackdown on Iranian dissidents as an excuse to both portray President Obama as weak and to restate their calls for regime change in the country. And of course, it isn't merely Iran where the neocons would like to see military force applied. Neocon guru and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, for instance, has advocated using the American military to preventatively attack not only Iran, but also North Korea, Sudan and even Somali pirates. The neocons don't seem to understand that it is simply not possible to fight multiple wars at once with our already-overstretched military. When Newt Gingrich was asked on Meet the Press a few years ago if having 130,000 of our troops stuck in Iraq had harmed our ability to deal effectively with Iran and North Korea, Gingrich actually said that it only hurt us "in our minds."

Wednesday, 08 July 2009 08:44

Jeff Fleischer: Half-Baked Alaska

by Jeff Fleischer

With her abrupt resignation barely halfway through her first term as governor, Sarah Palin probably hurt her chances of being the Republicans' presidential nominee in 2012.

After a campaign in which her inexperience proved embarrassing to the GOP ticket and fuel for "Saturday Night Live's" brief return trip to satirical relevance, walking out on her sole source of meaningful experience -- and the voters who put her in office -- doesn't seem the best plan. The general consensus in the days following her announcement was that she'd once again shot herself in the foot more easily than she viciously shoots defenseless animals from a helicopter.

Before progressives celebrate too thoroughly, however, it is worth noting there is still one way that Palin's attempt to move to a bigger stage could improve her party's fortunes.

by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

I sent an e-mail to my Senate mailing list requesting support for a single-payer Medicare-for-All system, and for personal stories describing the problems people are having with their health care coverage. Within a few weeks, some 40,000 people signed the single-payer petition and more than 4,000 sent in their personal stories. I want to thank all of those who responded.

I collected some of the letters in a booklet, "The Health Care Crisis: Letters from Vermont and America." In poignant and heartbreaking terms, the letters describe the pain and outrage that people are experiencing within our dysfunctional health care system.

A man in Swanton, VT told the story of his younger brother, a combat-decorated veteran of the Vietnam conflict, who died three weeks after being diagnosed with colon cancer. "He was laid off from his job and could not afford COBRA coverage. When he was in enough pain to see a doctor, it was too late. He left a wife and two teenage sons in the prime of his life at 50 years old. The attending doctor said that if he had only sought treatment earlier he would still be alive."

by Abrahm Lustgarten of ProPublica

The two key arguments that the oil and gas industry is using to fight federal regulation of the natural gas drilling process called hydraulic fracturing -- that the costs would cripple their business and that state regulations are already strong -- are challenged by the same data and reports the industry is using to bolster its position.

One widely-referenced study [2] (PDF) estimated that complying with regulations would cost the oil and gas industry more than $100,000 per gas well. But the figures are based on 10-year-old estimates and list expensive procedures that aren't mentioned in the proposed regulations.

Another report [3] (PDF) concluded that state regulations for drilling, including fracturing, "are adequately designed to directly protect water." But the report reveals that only four states require regulatory approval before hydraulic fracturing begins. It also outlines how requirements for encasing wells in cement -- a practice the author has said is critical to containing hydraulic fracturing fluids and protecting water -- varies from state to state.

by Nikolas Kozloff

When it comes to U.S. machinations and interventionism in Latin America, I'm not naïve: over the past five years, I've written two books about the inner workings of American foreign policy south of the border (Revolution! South America and the Rise of the New Left, and Hugo Chávez: Oil, Politics and the Challenge to the U.S., both published by Palgrave-Macmillan in 2006 and 2008, respectively), as well as dozens and dozens of articles posted on the Internet and on my blog, senorchichero.blogspot.com/.

As a result, when the Obama Administration claimed that it knew that a political firestorm was brewing in Honduras but was surprised when a military coup actually took place, this strains my credibility. In a series of articles, I have documented the political falling out between the Honduras regime of Manuel Zelaya and Washington that may have set the stage for future conflict. Here is a more historical look at U.S. interventionism in Honduras from the 1980s to the present.

Nevertheless, in the absence of cold, hard facts, I reserve judgment on whether Obama has turned into an imperialist intent on waving the Big Stick in Central America. Furthermore, the fact that Hugo Chávez of Venezuela says North American imperialism was behind the coup in Tegucigalpa does not make it so. In typical fashion, Chávez has failed to produce any shred of evidence to support his provocative allegations.

By Martha Rosenberg

Good news, poets! Now there is a second association between dove and romance besides the overworked rhyme. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, when not "saying goodbye" to his Buenos Aires consort over Father's Day, was dispatching mourning doves in Cordoba, Argentina.

The "official state trade delegation" as it was called by the Post Chronicle that included men and women, "VIPs," and aides was paid for by Sanford appointee and Cabinet member Commerce Secretary Joe Taylor.

News reports don't give the name of the dove-hunting lodge in Cordoba where the wing shooting took place. Was it JJ Caceria's Estancia where, "It is normal to shoot between 1,000 to 1,500 shells per hunter per day," according to the Web site and, "Hunters regularly use two guns and a reloader to prevent barrel overheating" thanks to "no bag limits or seasons"? Photos show mountains of deceased birds in front of grinning he-men. Whee!

By Carmen Yarrusso

Dear honorable representatives of the American people:

The so-called "drug war" is a blatantly dishonest, extremely expensive, highly destructive, grossly unjust, abject failure of our government.

Despite 30 years and more than a trillion (a million times a million!!!) dollars of taxpayer money spent trying to stop -- not robbery, not rape, not murder, not even shoplifting -- but trying to stop adults from using certain arbitrarily banned drugs, despite draconian punishments, despite currently jailing 500,000 non-violent American citizens, despite tens of thousands of prohibition related murders, these drugs are cheaper, purer, and more readily available than ever.

Why do you allow this insanity to continue?

By Nikolas Kozloff
            President Obama has decried it.  The Organization of American States and countries throughout Latin America have condemned it.  The European Union has protested loudly.  The majority of world leaders have raised their voices in opposition, confirmed by a resolution just passed in the United Nations General Assembly.  And yet, one prominent legislator on Capitol Hill has leapt to the defense of the new coup regime which took power in Honduras on Sunday.  That politician is Republican South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint.
            Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was deposed by the military just as he was seeking a non-binding referendum which the Honduran Congress and courts pronounced illegal.  Zelaya’s move was seen as an effort to alter the constitution so he could seek a second term.  Honduras’ Supreme Court said Zelaya’s referendum violated the constitution, a decision which the military has used as a justification for overthrowing the government.  The White House however is not buying these justifications, saying that it’s the military which has behaved unconstitutionally.  “Concerns or doubts about the wisdom of his [Zelaya’s] actions relating to his proposed non-binding referendum are independent of the unconstitutional act taken against him,” an administration official stated. 

Friday, 03 July 2009 07:33

WGWJP – What Gun Would Jesus Pack?


Packin’ Pistols for God and Country: NRA Christians stake claim on patriotism and the America
By Bill Berkowitz 
If you don’t quite get that for many in this country that the connection between guns and God is as American as burgers and fries, baseball and beer, and July 4th and fireworks, you should have been at the New Bethel Church in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday, June 27, where Pastor Ken Pagano welcomed more than 200 people – most of them packing guns (albeit unloaded) -- to an event called the “Open Carry Celebration.”
According to the New Bethel Church website, the “Open Carry Celebration” was held on a Saturday instead of a Sunday, so that it was clear that it was “not a church worship service, where the focus is on Jesus and our responsibility to Him. Rather,” Pagano, a former Marine weapons instructor, pointed out, “this is merely a church-hosted event, similar to any other event that any other church may do to celebrate their heritage.”

by Michael Winship

California should just be done with it and rename the entire state "Neverland Ranch."

This serves several useful purposes. It would be the ultimate tribute to Michael Jackson, pleasing his most ardent and bereft fans. Further validate the state's Cloud Cuckoo, fairy tale reputation, thus probably promoting additional, revenue-generating tourism. Stand as an accurate metaphor for the state government's airheaded inability to cope with its current financial disaster.

On Wednesday, Governor Schwarzenegger announced that California's deficit has grown to $26.3 billion and proposed billions of additional cuts to education. He declared a fiscal emergency, triggering an automatic 45-day deadline for the state legislature to come up with a plan to cover the shortfall and balance the budget. If that fails, they're banned from considering any other legislation until they come up with a solution.

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