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MirrorIn an agony of stupidity, the government shuts down.

Only some of it shuts down, of course. The part that stays open is the part that's at war. "Those of you in uniform will remain on your normal duty status," the president said. "The threats to our national security have not changed, and we need you to be ready for any contingency. Ongoing military operations, like our efforts in Afghanistan, will continue."

As I once observed, there's no such thing as a relaxed nation. It can shut down what it does right, if clumsily, like feeding people, educating them and helping them through difficulty, but it will only shut down its predatory sense of identity in a state of total defeat by a bigger predator. Not letting that happen is its endless obsession.

This is the sly, primitive, irrational part of government: its reptile-brain function. That's still in full operation. We're continuing to raid, bomb and terrorize Fourth World countries and pointlessly harvest global metadata. We're still "completing our mission" in Afghanistan. We're just phasing out the government functions that have value. Perhaps what we should talk about is a rationality shutdown.

Published in Guest Commentary


BirtherIn 2010, Harold Camping, a founder, and at the time president of Family Stations, Inc., an Oakland, California-based religious broadcasting network, made his boldest proclamation ever: He prophesized that the Day of Judgment would be May 21, 2011, and the world would end on October 21 of that year. May 21 passed without The Rapture, and October 21 was a day like all days ... followed by October 22, 23, and so on and so on and doobie doobie doobie, as Sly and the Family Stone famously sang.

Now, along comes Larry Klayman -- the founder and former chairman of Judicial Watch who is now running a group call Freedom Watch --with his own End Times scenario. This time, however, the only target for Klayman's End Times is President Barack Obama.

Klayman is advocating a November 19, uprising that will jam the streets of Washington, D.C., and force the removal of Obama from the White House.

In a piece published at Renew America and titled "Obama's reckoning to come on November 19!: Klayman Calls for the Masses to Force Resignation of Convicted President," Klayman maintained that Obama was recently convicted by "a people's court of defrauding the American people and Floridians by proffering them with a fake birth certificate."

Published in Guest Commentary


RepublicanlogoBy Washington standards, the current government shutdown is an everyday disaster — of a kind we are gradually learning to expect whenever the Republican Party controls Congress. The impending breach of the nation's credit, however, when those same Republicans refuse to raise the debt limit to cover the funds they have spent, threatens a singular catastrophe: unpredictable, global, yet entirely avoidable.

The blame for this disgrace seems to be apportioned properly by most Americans, according to the latest polling data. But the future of the country and the world may well rest on whether voters understand the roots of this crisis — in a party controlled by an extremist faction that is violating every public value that party has supposedly espoused for 30 years and more.

Republicans used to tell us, often with a self-righteous air, that they were the true upholders of constitutional order, the rule of law, fiscal probity, personal responsibility, majority rights and market principles. In their unquenchable zeal to oppose President Obama and all his works, they have discarded every one of those ideals.

They have closed down the government, with all the costs and sorrows that has imposed on the American people, in order to save us all from the Affordable Care Act — a law duly passed under the Constitution and declared to be so by a majority of the Supreme Court, including its very conservative chief justice.

Published in Guest Commentary


CruzVVSTexas Senator Ted Cruz may not win any Mr. Congeniality award, but his recent 21-hour stint at the podium in the Senate trashing Obamacare and bashing fellow Republicans may help him win the hearts and minds of tea party supporters, the Religious Right, and a segment of libertarians. Could that be enough for him to win the GOP's presidential nomination in 2016?

Steve Deace is beginning to think so. "Come January 2017, if you see Ted Cruz taking the presidential oath of office, you'll largely have the Republican Party establishment that hates him to thank for it," Deace recently wrote at Conservative Action Alerts.

Deace, a radio talk show host, claimed that the "sophomoric and treacherous" behavior of GOP officials has essentially "helped elevate the junior Texas senator from 'wacko bird' beloved by the base to a force of nature capable of something no movement conservative has done since Ronald Reagan."

Whatever else one might say about Cruz, there is no mistaking his campaign against Obamacare for a charm offensive. And along the way, his citing of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's pre-World War Two capitulation to the Nazis, was aimed at calling out fellow Republicans for their unwillingness to fight Obamacare to the bitter end.

Published in Guest Commentary


ChristiansPersecutedWe've seen these disinformation and smear campaigns orchestrated by the Religious Right play out before: Religious Right organizations make an outrageous claim; in this case, a secret meeting aimed at attacking the religious freedom of Christian conservatives in the military, took place at the Pentagon April 23, 2013. This phony claim spreads like a virus through conservative networks. The story takes off at outlets like Breitbart.com, Fox News, WorldNetDaily and other right wing websites, blogs, e-mail newsletters and on twitter.

The target of this particular campaign is Michael L. "Mickey" Weinstein, the founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). Since its founding the MRFF has been dedicated to battling Christian fundamentalism in the military. For waging this battle, the Religious Right's has labeled Weinstein -- a registered Republican and former military prosecutor who served in the Ronald Reagan Administration -- an "anti-Christian extremist," "a religious bigot" and the "Field General of the Godless Armies of Satan."

Over the years, Weinstein has been swamped with hate mail.

Now, he is one of the Religious Right's premier public enemies.

Published in Guest Commentary
Tuesday, 01 October 2013 07:30

Warm Enough for You?


ClimateSkeptics and deniers can make all the noise they want, but a landmark new report is unequivocal: There is a 95 percent chance that human-generated emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are changing the climate in ways that court disaster.

That's the bottom line from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which Monday released the latest of its comprehensive, every-six-years assessments of the scientific consensus about climate change. According to the IPCC, there is only a 1-in-20 chance that human activity is not causing dangerous warming.

You may like those betting odds. If so, let's get together for a friendly game of poker, and please don't forget to bring cash.

The squawking from naysayers has recently been all about a supposed "pause" in global warming. They say there has been no detectable warming in the past 15 years and claim that any temperature rise that scientists attribute to human activity is really part of some grand natural cycle -- probably nothing to worry about, and, in any event, nothing we can control.

One look at the data indicates that the skeptics' view is wishful thinking, at best. It is true that if you look at the period 1998-2013, there is very little warming. But that is because 1998 was an extreme outlier -- a sharp spike on the graph. That year was much warmer than the preceding or subsequent few years.

Published in Guest Commentary
Friday, 27 September 2013 07:12

Fessing Up to Our Imperial Footprint


JointcolorsIs America an empire or not? It is a loaded question because in the modern age, that word — empire — is not a moniker citizens proudly embrace in the way we might imagine the Ottomans or the Romans did during their reins. Instead, the word today evokes images of the Death Star. And so we shirk the term's implications and insinuations, much as President Obama did this week at the United Nations.

"The United States has a hard-earned humility when it comes to our ability to determine events inside other countries," he declared in his speech to the General Assembly. "The notion of American empire may be useful propaganda, but it isn't borne out by America's current policy."

The rhetoric sounds nice and it deftly portrays the United States as the sympathetic victim of an international conspiracy. The problem is that it glosses over how current U.S. policies do, in fact, create an imperial footprint.

This is most easy to see when it comes to our military. According to a 2010 report by the Pentagon, the United States has 662 overseas bases in 38 different countries. Additionally, the United States recently invaded and occupied Iraq and Afghanistan and helped invade Libya. It is also prosecuting undeclared wars in Yemen and Pakistan, while propping up dictators in most of the Middle East. Oh, and we are also the world's biggest exporter of weapons and spend more on our military than most of the world combined.

Published in Guest Commentary


HallibillboardOn September 19th, 2013 Halliburton, an oil and construction company that rose to a multibillion dollar industry under Dick Cheney’s supervision, pled guilty to federal charges of destroying critical evidence concerning British Petroleum’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. Halliburton shredded the evidence because it proved that the company had committed gross negligence pertaining to cuts in safety maintenance decisions in order to increase profits. Shredding evidence: that’s probably a felony crime, right? Only if you did it or if I did it, but oil tycoons need not have to worry; the laws are conveniently shredded along with the evidence.

As Ring of Fire radio reported:

Oil giant Halliburton pled guilty on Thursday to destroying evidence related to the 2010 BP oil spill. However, unlike the other companies involved in the oil spill, Halliburton, the company responsible for cementing the well, was not charged with a crime related to the causes of the disaster.

Halliburton agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of unauthorized destruction of evidence. US District Judge Jane Triche-Milazzo in New Orleans accepted Halliburton’s plea agreement, and charged the company with the maximum-allowable fine of $200,000 and a 3-year probation term.

The company also agreed to make a $55 million contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.


Published in Guest Commentary
Thursday, 26 September 2013 06:57

Poison Gas, Poison Values, Poison History


ChemWepsPoison gas is not only a "moral obscenity" — one the United States stockpiled for decades after its use was banned in warfare — but a metaphor for human recklessness and wasted science.

Like it or not, we're forced to think about it these days, since it's still an enticing pretext for war. And the more I think about it, the more I marvel at the persistent insanity of its existence. The "red line" that the so-called civilized world crossed over a century ago was not in the use of poison gas but in its creation, because it's lethal whether it's used or not. Attempting to get rid of it — by burying it, burning it, dumping it — has consequences almost as deadly as firing it off in battle.

The enormous toxic mess that encircles the globe needs serious and sustained attention, something present-day governments are, seemingly, incapable of. The fact that this mess of our own making exists at all ought to inspire not missiles and self-righteousness but the deepest questions we know how to ask. And the first question is this: How in God's name do we untangle ourselves from this mess collectively?

The 1925 Geneva Protocol, in response to the horrors of World War I, banned the use of asphyxiating and poisonous gases in war, but not, incredibly, their development or manufacture. It took the civilized world, the one John Kerry referenced in his condemnation of Bashar al-Assad, another seven decades to do that. In the meantime, there was plenty of manufacturing, developing and stockpiling of poison gas weaponry going on, including in the United States, up to and well beyond World War II.

One factual tidbit I find fascinating is that Otto Ambros, a Nazi scientist and co-inventor of Sarin, convicted of crimes against humanity at Nuremberg, came to the United States in 1951, after serving half his term, and began advising the U.S. Army on its own chemical weapons program in the '50s. Could the reality of geopolitics be exposed in starker relief? For all the moral pretenses of war and militarism, the game has no moral boundaries whatsoever.

Published in Guest Commentary
Tuesday, 24 September 2013 07:41

The "Discriminating Taste" of Racism and Sexism


RaceMixingFor years, my father, a federal employee with a top secret clearance, carried a copy of his birth certificate when he went into Baja California from our home in San Diego. Many times, when he tried to reenter the U.S., he was stopped by the Border Patrol.

My father had thick black hair and naturally dark skin, and the Patrol thought he was a Mexican brazenly trying to sneak back into the country by claiming to be married to the black-haired, blue- eyed, light-skinned woman he claimed was his wife. It was annoying.

It was also annoying that once back home, he faced discrimination because neighbors thought he was Mexican. Because we lived in an urban area, not many discriminated against my parents because they were Jews, but there were a few with hatred as great as their ignorance.

When I was 11 years old, we moved two hours North, near Los Angeles, and my parents bought a house in a new tract of about 150 houses, all owned by Whites and a few Hispanics. Three or four years later, a Realtor came by, plastering flyers on all the houses, announcing he had a special real good, one-time only deal. A few wouldn't sell their houses at any price if it was a Black who was planning to move into the area. Someone in the tract took up the offer, and a Black family--he was a mechanical engineer--moved in. It didn't take long before other White families began putting their houses up for sale. Only this time, they weren't getting as much as the first family that sold out. Soon, the prices began tumbling as other Blacks and Hispanics moved in.

Published in Guest Commentary
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