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Guest Commentary (5185)


If Barack Obama and his team want to take a look into a paranormal prognostication device and see their political future, they can find this written inside the Blue Dog Oracle in Obama's home state in the Illinois 8th Congressional District. That is where a Republican teabagger named Joe Walsh upset incumbent Democrat Melissa Bean in the 2010 election. The assumptions and miscalculations occurring during Bean's tenure could be a prophecy for Congressional Democrats in 2012 as they proceed to implement the Obama "sellout tax plan" with the Republicans.

The Blue Dog Oracle points to a rude surprise for the Democrats and to the re-election chances of Obama. No matter how much you pander to the right-wing and the so-called "independents," they will vote for the real thing in the end.  Abandoning traditional Democratic core principles to gain favor with the right is a nonsensical approach by the Obama administration that will eventually lead to its undoing, as it did for Melissa Bean and other Blue Dog Democrats.

First, we need a history lesson. In 2004, Bean had her own upset victory by unseating 18-term right-wing icon Phil Crane, who was a long-time darling of the John Birch Society and considered the most far-right Republican in Congress. Bean defeated Crane with strong progressive support and promptly went on to become a corporate Blue Dog.

In a manner similar to the Obama team today, Bean became a champion of Republican causes and broke



In the days of Stalin's Russia, not only would dissidents "disappear" but also even in the pre-digital era, photographs of officials at May Day reviewing stands would be erased from photographs when their political stars fell. Our own "Kremlinologists" would know who was in, and who was out by comparing last year's pictures with this years.

That's one way of concealing information.


The atomic energy industry has suffered another astonishing defeat.  Because of it, 2010 again left the "nuclear renaissance" in the Dark Age that defines the technology.

But an Armageddon-style battle looms when Congress returns next year.

The push to build new nuclear plants depends now, as always, on federal subsidies.  Fifty-three years after the first commercial reactor opened at Shippingport, Pennsylvania, no private funders will step forward to pay for a "new generation" of nukes.


No one could have had such a consistent presence on the historical scene for two millennia without having an extraordinarily compelling message. But what was this message? There may be as many Jesuses as there are people who encounter him, but for the sake of brevity the many can be reduced to two: the Savior and the Teacher.

Humans often feel helpless about their own nature, especially its compulsive self-interest. A Savior can "magically" absolve them of sin by dying for them in a way that, while it is indeed magical, is very real to millions of people. It's a kind of Alcoholics Anonymous model. I am powerless, even if I do not suffer from one of the common addictions. I am addicted to my self and its needs and impulses in a way that feels sinful and beyond my own powers to change. Only the Son of God giving his life for me can atone for my helpless but destructive assumption that I am the center of the universe.

The other Jesus, the Teacher, is also very much alive in this world, offering a helpful, if challenging, model for endless forgiveness, turning the other cheek, and other creative alternatives to "an eye for an eye." This model of Jesus also requires surrender to the fact that I am not the center of the universe, but with an assumption that is more optimistic about human nature than the Savior model: it posits a training that can be put into effect in one's own life, gradually melting away egoism and replacing it with a new presence, authenticity, inclusiveness and responsibility. No room for passivity; what happens to me after my encounter with Jesus the Teacher is up to my active and autonomous engagement. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

It is tempting to say that these two models consist primarily of being and doing. If a Savior saves you, there is nothing you have to do. Or if we really put in practice the teaching of the Teacher, it is all about action. But it isn't that simple. In both cases it is really about being. How I act can only follow from the quality of my being. In any case it is impossible to separate out these two Jesuses in


As more and more Wikileaks cables become available, a portrait of the U.S. attitude toward climate change is emerging and it is not flattering.  In a previous article, I discussed American diplomats' dismissive views toward Bolivia, a country which has done much to advance a progressive agenda on climate change.  In another recently released cable, however, U.S. officials take a cynical view of Cuba.  Over the past year or so, the island nation has criticized the U.S. for strong arming other countries when it comes to international climate change negotiations.  Joining forces with leftist countries like Bolivia, as well as fellow island countries such as Tuvalu, Cuba has been an irritating thorn in the side of the Obama administration.

Speaking to his superiors, Jonathan Farrar of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana admitted that Cuba was vulnerable to rising temperatures and sea levels, "most notably the potential flooding of an area with great biodiversity on the southwest coast (Zapata Swamp)."

Farrar, however, doesn't dwell on the Zapata matter, choosing instead to quickly change gears and paint a cynical portrait.  While Cuba will be on the front line of climate change, the diplomat concedes, the small island nation is simply opportunistic and bent on scoring cheap shot propaganda victories against the U.S.

If Farrar had spent more time at Zapata, an extraordinarily bio-diverse area which the earth can ill afford to lose, then maybe he would have adopted a more sympathetic view toward Cuba's environmental struggle.  The swamp is the largest and best preserved wetland


It's 6:30 AM Chicago time on the morning of Christmas Eve, and I'm crying like John Boehner after getting a large donation from the tobacco lobby.

No, it's not a packet of 6 figure checks (no one who is in the Internet progressive news mission field is in it for the money; after ten and 1/2 years, I'm feeling prosperous when I can afford health insurance of any sort) that made me well up with tears.

It was this video from Rachel Maddow. In it, gay military activist Dan Choi presented, this summer, his West Point ring to Harry Reid until DADT was repealed. And five months later, Harry Reid returned the ring to Dan Choi after Congress voted to repeal the law that prohibited gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

BuzzFlash is often critical of the Democrats (and we think rightfully so, as far as progressive values), but when you watch Rachel Maddow enthusiastically pump up this report - and you watch how naturally and sincerely Reid handled the keeping of the ring until his promise was fulfilled - you are momentarily proud of the Democrats. Sharron Angle, Reid's opponent in the Nevada Democratic race for senator in 2010, would have had Choi prohibited from any of her events and damned to Hell,


This is dedicated to my wife, Gale Bataille, who helped with this piece; my daughter Leah, for whom "A Christmas Carol" was a yearly tradition; my eighteen-month-old grandson Alton, who I hope to read it to in the future, and to all the Fuelners'/Scrooges' of the world that could use some good old-fashioned transformational ghostly visits.

'A government check can't look you in the eye and offer advice about how you can turn your life around. A food stamp won't find you a job,' writes The Heritage Foundation's Ed Fuelner


I've never been a big fan of The Heritage Foundation's Ed Fuelner. However, deep down in the pits of my stomach - where the twisted me tends to dwellith -- I've kind of admired the guy. I've admired how steadfast he has been in pursuing his organization's goals; how he's helped build enduring political relationships with key conservative operatives and organizations; how much mainstream media play his researchers and writers receive; and how he has raised extraordinary amounts of money for what has now become Washington, D.C.'s premier conservative institution.  If he were a basketball player Fuelner would be setting picks and grabbing rebounds; doing all the dirty, but essential, work in the paint. He's been one of the enduring workhorses


The right to liberty is one of the foundation rights of a free people.  The idea that any US President can bypass Congress and bypass the Courts by issuing an Executive Order setting up a new legal system for indefinite detention of people should rightfully scare the hell out of the American people.

Advisors in the Obama administration have floated the idea of creating a special new legal system to indefinitely detain people by Executive Order.  Why?  To do something with the people wrongfully imprisoned in Guantanamo.  Why not follow the law and try them?  The government knows it will not be able to win prosecutions against them because they were tortured by the US.

Guantanamo is coming up on its ninth anniversary - a horrifying stain on the character of the US commitment to justice.  President Obama knows well that Guantanamo is the most powerful recruitment tool for those challenging the US. Unfortunately, this proposal for indefinite detention will prolong the corrosive effects of the illegal and immoral detentions at Guantanamo rightly condemned world-wide.

The practical, logical, constitutional and human rights problems with the proposal are uncountable.

Our system provides a simple answer developed over hundreds of years - try them or release them.  Any other stop gap measure like the one proposed merely pushes the problem back down the road and back into the courts again.  While it may appear to be a popular political response, the public will soon enough see this for what it is - an unconstitutional usurping of power by the Executive branch and a clear and present danger to all Americans. The US government has never publicly said who can be prosecuted and who they have decided to hold indefinitely because they think they cannot successfully charge them.  Now, after holding people for years and years, they think they can create a new set of laws by Executive Order which will justify their actions?

Recall that dozens of the very same people who would now be subject to indefinite detention have already been cleared for release by the government. How can indefinite detention of people we already cleared to go home possibly be


Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement today after Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski proposed approving Comcast's takeover of NBC Universal:

"The FCC released some very bad news for the future of American media and, in my view, for the future of American democracy.  FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has circulated an order that would allow Comcast, the country's largest cable and Internet provider, to merge with NBC Universal, one of the country's largest media conglomerates.

"If approved, this new media giant will be the largest cable provider, the largest Internet provider, and one of the largest producers of content in the United States.  At a time when a small number of giant media corporations already control what the American people see, hear, and read, we do not need another media conglomerate with control over the production and distribution of media content.  What we need is less concentration of ownership, more diversity, more local ownership-and more viewpoints.

"By law, the FCC may only sign off on the merger if it determines that it serves 'the public interest, convenience, and necessity.' Far from meeting the public interest standard, Comcast's takeover of NBCU would create a monolithic media superpower and cause irreparable damage to the U.S. media landscape and society as a whole. In addition, the merger of these two media giants would likely precipitate other media mergers and make an already bad situation of media consolidation far worse.  Despite the public interest standard, Chairman Genachowski appears to be charging ahead, pressuring his fellow commissioners to approve this deal.

"Some take solace in the fact that Chairman Genachowski's order would approve the merger only subject to certain conditions and regulations.  This in no way changes my opinion about the scope of the damage.  If this merger is approved, I have little doubt that Comcast-NBCU will retain hundreds of attorneys and lobbyists to exploit gaps and


A dozen years ago, before 9/11, before Bush Jr. or the war on terror, Bill Clinton, then in the midst of impeachment hearings, bombed Iraq over a four-day period. Shortly before this act of national distraction, I read an article in the Chicago Tribune discussing, with the knowing, amoral inanity of the mainstream media, the international implications of the pending action.

For me, the article was immortalized by the following pull-quote from an anonymous Jordanian official, which crystallized the cynicism of geopolitics and the way nation-states function: "Look, nobody here likes Saddam, but people will not be happy when they see Iraqi babies dying on TV."

The article was in no way critical of the quote, which seemed to be delivered up merely for our sophisticated consumption. The idea, or so it struck me, was to coyly bring readers into the know so they could pretend to weigh, as important officials do, the troublesome public relations components of an act of war before committing murder in the name of national security.

If we oppose war, if we stand in horror at every nuance and detail of it that comes to our attention, if we grow less "knowing" and "sophisticated" as the days pass and the machinery of empire grinds on - if we have experienced war first hand and felt the cruelty of industrialized murder disconnected from its justifications - and if we are driven by this horror, let us say, to stand illegally at the White House fence in protest of it and, like Thoreau, Gandhi, King, submit to arrest for our beliefs, this cynicism is our dilemma.

The 131 people who did so a week ago - members of Veterans for Peace and Code Pink, Daniel Ellsberg, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, former FBI agent Coleen Rowley, journalist Chris Hedges - barely merited news coverage in our sophisticated, dying media, which can purvey knowing cynicism

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