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AssangeFINALTalk about irony: it has just been reported that Edward Snowden, the young whistle-blower who turned the mighty National Security Agency inside out, has sought diplomatic asylum with none other than tiny Ecuador. It seems, then, that Snowden will tread the same path as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London for some time. Perhaps, it was Assange himself who sought to steer Snowden in Quito's direction: according to The Guardian newspaper, a WikiLeaks associate, Sarah Harrison, accompanied Snowden on his flight from Hong Kong to Russia. Moscow, however, was simply a way station for Snowden, who now intends to travel on to the Andes.

Flying to Ecuador certainly makes more political sense than staying in the Far East. I have never quite understood Snowden's decision to seek protection in Hong Kong. To be sure, the territory has a better track record on free speech than China, though that isn't saying much. Perhaps, Snowden figured that China was likely to stand up for him, since his sensational disclosures hurt the NSA, an entity which allegedly engages in cyber warfare on Beijing. Whatever the case, Hong Kong seemed like an odd place to choose for a whistle-blower standing up against political repression and freedom of expression. Though Ecuador has its own problems with the media, at least the Andean nation is still an electoral democracy.

Published in Guest Commentary


BorderFINALEar to the ground, everybody. Listen close. You can hear it coming. Could be a while. Might be a bit beat up. Probably won't look like it does now. But eventually those slight puffs of dust in the distance will slide right down Main Street and America will undergo another face- lift. And yes, after its over, the whole country will appear younger and more vital. We might even buy ourselves a red convertible.

Talking about the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, which we, the general rabble have come to know as The Immigration Bill. Presently it can be found slogging its way through the Senate on a pace rivaling that of a snail nailed to a 2 x 4 with a railroad spike. Minus the alacrity.

Taking so long because the Senate has to vote on every proposed amendment. And there are hundreds. No, seriously. Hundreds. Jeff Sessions of Alabama wrote 49, but he's playing T- ball in short pants compared to Iowa's Chuck Grassley who offered up 77 amendments. And this past Wednesday the Senate managed to vote on... four. To say it's going take a while is like intimating that surgical decapitation tends to inhibit throwing a sinker on the inside of the plate to a left handed batter. And speaking of the House of Representatives... we kid.

Various amendments deal with border triggers, border fences and border security. Restrictions on access to guns and hospitals and schools and welfare. Back taxes. Same sex couples. Stripping responsibility from Homeland Security and giving it to Congress. Ostensibly, for reasons of expediency due to Congress' nimble bureaucracy. You can't make stuff up like this.

Published in Guest Commentary


LibertyUfinalDuring its forty-two-plus years of existence, it has become the largest Christian Evangelical University in the world. Despite its founder's life-long anti-government activism, it receives several hundred million dollars annually in federal financial aid money. Its been the center of a number of political controversies over the years, as exemplified by the headline "Big Brother: Chancellor [Jerry] Falwell [Jr.] is Trying to Turn Tax-Exempt Liberty University Into a Partisan Political Machine -- and Dominate Lynchburg Elections. Will the IRS Step in?," in the April 2010 issue of Church & State magazine.

Since it's founding in 1971, the Reverend Jerry Falwell's, Liberty University has weathered several serious financial challenges: It was bailed out of near-financial collapse by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, who funneled lifeline funds to a non-profit Forest, Va.-based organization called Christian Heritage Foundation; and, Falwell's death in 2007, provided an insurance windfall that allowed the university to wiggle its way out of yet another financial headlock.

Now a new line of business is helping to grow and stabilize Liberty University. David Swanson's investigative reporting, posted on the Huntington News website and in Sojourners magazine, has revealed that this Christian university has become one of the foremost national training grounds of "pilots who go up in planes and drone pilots who sit behind desks wearing pilot suits."

Published in Guest Commentary


CamerasFINALThanks to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, many more people in the US and world-wide are learning about extensive US government surveillance and spying. There are publicly available numbers which show the reality of these problems are bigger than most think and most of this spying is happening with little or no judicial oversight.

Hundreds of Thousands Subject to Government Surveillance

The first reality is that hundreds of thousands of people in the US have been subject to government surveillance in each of the last few years. Government surveillance of people in the US is much more widespread than those in power want to admit. In the last three years alone about 5000 requests have been granted for complete electronic surveillance authorized by the secret FISA court. The FBI has authorized another 50,000 surveillance operations with National Security Letters in the last three years.

The government admits that well over 300,000 people have had their phone calls intercepted by state and federal wiretaps in the last year alone. More than 50,000 government requests for internet information are received each year as reported by internet providers. And, remember, these are the publicly reported numbers so you can be confident there is a whole lot more going on which has not been publicly reported.

Published in Guest Commentary
Friday, 21 June 2013 06:49

Government, War, and Hollow Principles


JFKfinal"Our primary long range interest in Geneva, however, is general and complete disarmament, designed to take place by stages, permitting parallel political developments to build the new institutions of peace which would take the place of arms. . . .

"While we proceed to safeguard our national interests, let us also safeguard human interests. And the elimination of war and arms is clearly in the interest of both."

That was President John F. Kennedy speaking to the 1963 graduating class of American University —announcing that the human race was ready to move beyond war. This was the speech in which he revealed that talks on a Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty with the Soviet Union had begun, and that the U.S. was unilaterally suspending atmospheric nuclear testing.

Fifty years later, the words seem like an archaeological find — quaint, strange, shocking. Look, common sense! Perfectly preserved. Once upon a time, such a goal — disarmament, the end (good God!) of war itself —had political cred at the highest levels.

Published in Guest Commentary


StillwaterFINALToday, when I drove down to San Jose to attend the opening night of the Netroots Nation bloggers' convention, you would think that I was getting ready to go off to the moon or something -- not just 40 miles away. And when I got down there, all I wanted to do was take a nap -- I had jet lag?

But my hotel had a refrigerator so I went off to Trader Joe's to stock it with kale-cranberry salads and yogurt and tortilla chips.

At 7:30 pm, it was time to go off to the Tech Museum. Howard Dean is going to speak? Really? I love Howard Dean. He's my favorite. Imagine if he had won in 2004 instead of just having Bush and Diebold steal the election. We would all have single-payer healthcare right now, and one out of nine American bridges wouldn't be about to fall down because all our money is being spent on bombing Syria, etc. instead.

Published in Guest Commentary


HillaryFINALThe most tangible and politically significant (some have called it monumental) thing that came out of the conservative movement's unstinting preparation for Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic Party's standard-bearer in the 2008 presidential election was the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision.

It was Citizens United's film attacking Hillary Clinton that was at the core of the Supreme Court's ruling.

Last year, I wrote about how the Citizens United case came to be:

In 2007, David Bossie's Citizens United was gearing up for what it was certain would be Clinton's historic run for the presidency. "

For years, CU's toolbox had been filled with an assortment of material -- misinformation, disinformation, and egregious lies -- used to attack both President [Bill] Clinton and Hillary. Now CU was attempting to marshal the resources for the mother of all anti-Hillary hit pieces.

Published in Guest Commentary


BrazilProtestFINALRIO: For anyone fortunate to be in Brazil last night, the raucous and peaceful outpouring of an estimated 250,000 street protestors was indeed historic. What began as disgust with shoddy public transportation exploded to include issues ranging from government corruption to flamboyant and seemingly unlimited state spending on next year's World Cup. "Japan take our football, we want your education" was one popular sign at last night's protests.

I watched in awe as street after street in Rio de Janeiro filled with the young, the restless and the until-now passive Brazilian citizenry. Not anymore. In dozens of cities in Brazil and around the world, Brazilians flocked together to shine a light on their discontent. "It's not just about 20 cents" was a common sign, referring to the hike in bus tickets that set off the first round of protests. Protestors in Turkey waved signs "Brazil You Are Not Alone."

The massive street protests in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and cities across Brazil stunned the Brazilian body politic. For nearly a generation the Brazilian populace kept quiet despite rising signs of corruption, inefficiency and overall financial mismanagement. But the international hype about Brazil – which is always off the charts – went haywire with the awarding of both the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics. (Though both competitions are notoriously corrupt and shady, somehow the winning of both rounds was supposedly a sign that Brazil had graduated to the big leagues.) Few analysts took the time to contemplate really what it would take to negotiate the smoky back rooms of the IOC and FIFA and come out winners in both rounds. Bribery allegations aside, Brazil was an emerging power, a BRIC with samba hips.

The first cracks began showing earlier in the year. Stadium projects were far off schedule. Construction projects tens of millions of dollars over budget. The Brazilian economy slowed, the stock market tanked. Foreigners began ripping billions out of Brazil. FIFA began to feel the panic.

Published in Guest Commentary


AleppoFINALIn Syria, the Obama administration seems to be stumbling back to the future: An old-fashioned proxy war, complete with the usual shadowy CIA arms-running operation, the traditional plan to prop up ostensible "moderates" whose prospects are doubtful and, of course, the customary shaky grasp of what the fighting is really about.

This will not end well.

It is tragic that more than 90,000 people have been killed in the bloody Syrian conflict, with more than 1.5 million displaced. But I have heard no claim that President Obama's decision to arm the rebels will halt or even slow the carnage. To the contrary, sending more weapons into the fray will likely result in greater death and destruction, at least in the short term.

Published in Guest Commentary


RitterFINALHe went to China. He seems too coached in his remarks. His girlfriend was a pole-dancer. He was a bad neighbor. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Edward Snowden is experiencing one of the more broad-spectrum efforts at character assassination in recent memory after his deliberate exposure of the far-reaching nature of NSA domestic surveillance. It's an old trick. Crap on a critic from great height, crap on a critic with great volume, in the hope that the critic becomes entombed in crap and loses their viability as a critic.

Disclaimer: I don't give much of a damn about Edward Snowden. I give a very large series of damns about the information he revealed, as should any thinking American in my personal opinion. Attacking his character, his girlfriend, his travel plans etc. is a shortcut to thinking, a way to tamp down revelations that this administration, like the previous administration, has been peeking through a lot of windows in ways the American people need to be aware of. Snowden attacks equal Obama defense, in my humble o, and it's a pretty gruesome display from a lot of people who spent a lot of time attacking Bush on similar grounds not so long ago. But IOKIYBO ("It's OK If You're Barack Obama") appears to be the rule of the day.

In the summer of 2002, eight months before the invasion and occupation of Iraq, I co-authored a book titled "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" with former weapons inspector Scott Ritter. The book we created, to this day, was dead-bang right not only about Iraq's lack of WMD, about Iraq's lack of al Qaeda/September 11 connections, but very accurately predicted the bloodbath disaster that would take place if the invasion and occupation were to take place. Eleven years later, that book stands up to any test you want to give it, and it was Scott Ritter who provided the facts that make the book absolutely unimpeachable.

Published in Editorials
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