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Chicago montageFINAL“The status quo in Chicago is no longer tolerable,” Andy Willis said, summoning the violent headlines of the past year and the past week.

This was Palm Sunday, in a church basement in a big-city neighborhood, and the time had come to stand for something enormous. My God, a six-month-old baby, Jonylah Watkins, was shot and killed this month in Chicago, as her father held her on his lap while sitting in a parked van. That was just the latest shocker. Violence is the norm, in this city and so many others. The death of children is the norm.

“We can’t live with a status quo like that,” Willis said. “We know things are breaking down . . .”

The event was called “A Remedy for Violence” and announcements for it proclaimed: “This will be a joyous and hopeful event as we aim to eliminate all violence in our community in 10 years! Zero in Ten.”

No way! They’re not serious, or they’re incredibly naïve. But I knew they weren’t, and as my cynicism gave way — this was about a week before the event was to take place — I felt an enormous sense of empowerment rising. I thought about the words of the Earth Charter, which begins: “We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future.”

Yes, now is the time to choose our future, so let us choose one that transcends the insanity and sheer stupidity of violent behavior. This requires personal empowerment. It also requires collective empowerment. And this is what I felt in the audacious declaration: “We aim to eliminate all violence in our community in 10 years.”

Published in Guest Commentary
Tuesday, 26 March 2013 07:51

The Abortion Wars: Opening a Second Front


AbortionFINALDuring the Second World War, almost from the time the United States entered the war on December 8, 1941, the Soviet Union, which had been invaded by Nazi Germany on June 22, 1941, was demanding that the United States and Great Britain establish a “Second Front” in Western Europe. By this they meant doing so by invading Occupied France on its Northwest Coast. The Western Allies did invade North Africa in November 1942, and Sicily and Southern Italy in the summer of 1943. But the major offensive in the West, which could require that the Germans move major forces from the Eastern Front to France, did not, as is well known, occur until June 6, 1944.

The Abortion Wars in this country have been underway since well before the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade was handed down on January 22, 1973. That decision established that freedom of choice in the outcome of pregnancy was the Constitutional right of any pregnant woman, under the right to privacy subsumed by the Court to be in in accordance with the due process clause of the 14th Amendment (1). The only limitation placed by the Court in Roe and subsequent decisions was that this right was a pregnant woman’s without limitation until the “time of fetal viability” (that is the ability of a fetus to live independently with the usual support provided to newborns, outside of the womb, generally considered to occur at about the 24th week of pregnancy).

(While the Court explicitly rejected the argument, I feel that what can also properly be called “freedom of choice in the outcome of pregnancy” is also supported by the Ninth Amendment, to wit: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be con­strued to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” Ambiguous? Interpretable? Oh yes, and that was exactly the original intent (Justice Scalia) of the Founding Fathers. They built into the Constitution a good deal of ambiguity and thus interpretability when it came to personal rights and liberties, that could change over time.   No wonder Robert Bork, the ultimate so-called “originalist,” described the Ninth an “as inkblot on the Constitution.”)

Published in Guest Commentary


GOP Logo1FINALAfter reading the recent report – “autopsy” – issued by the Republican National Committee, some conservative Christian leaders are wondering if the GOP is ”throwing the party’s social conservatives overboard.”

When the Republican Party suffers a resounding electoral defeat, as it did in November, you can pretty much count on the mainstream media to re-up its flirtation with the notion that the Christian Right is dead. Anyone who has watched the growth, development and ebb and flow of this movement over the past four decades, knows that its demise has been grossly exaggerated. Regardless of whatever defeats it may encounter, its well-lubricated infrastructure remains pretty darned solid.  


That being said, however, after November’s electoral defeat -- making it 5 of the last 6 national elections in which the GOP lost the popular vote -- Republican Party leaders appear to be distancing themselves from what was once its core constituency. Even more importantly, the GOP appears to be distancing itself from the decades old “culture wars.”


Published in Guest Commentary


PopeFrancisFINALBased on the information I’ve garnered over the past week or so, it would not be fair to characterize Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio – now Pope Francis – as having been complicit with the military dictatorship’s imprisonment, torture and murder of more than 30,000 Argentinians during that country’s “Dirty War.” It would be a lot closer to the truth, however, to see him as a man of inaction; one who, for whatever political, religious and/or personal reasons, chose to remain silent.


While it may be understandable that Bergoglio was unwilling to risk his life during the “Dirty War,” which would have been threatened had he vigorously spoken out against the military dictatorship’s human rights abuses, it is far less understandable why, for the longest time, he has remained virtually indifferent to those who suffered at the hands of sexually abusive clergy in Argentina.


The Washington Post’s Nick Miroff recently reported on the case of Father Julio Cesar Grassi, an Argentine priest who, in 2009 was convicted of sexual abuse, and is now free on appeal. According to Miroff, “in the years after Grassi’s conviction, Bergoglio … has declined to meet with the victim of the priest’s crimes or the victims of other predations by clergy under his leadership. He did not offer personal apologies or financial restitution, even in cases in which the crimes were denounced by other members of the church and the offending priests were sent to jail.”



Published in Guest Commentary


We’ve lost a war without being able to surrender — and thus divest ourselves of the consciousness that got us into it. We are unable to look honestly at what we did and why, and determine not to do it again.

My friend Catherine Menninger sent me a note the other day that began: “The days are long past when the poison of DU (depleted uranium) was our shared preoccupation. Now an even deeper poison, a soul poison, is seeping into the body politic and beyond. It is touching us all.”

Ten years later, an enormous question looms: How do we get the poison out of our system? I think that’s what atonement means.

Published in Guest Commentary
Tuesday, 19 March 2013 09:40

Words are Important, but Actions Define


Words are important, not just in the obvious, superficial sense but because of the ideas that inspire them and the speakers who articulate them. They can, however, be dangerous vehicles for individuals who confuse listeners with overblown images and phony premises. Freedom and liberty are used as if they were the property of people with an agenda that says they are the true Americans - - those freedom-loving folks who think they should be the movers and shakers of our political lives.


At the Conservative conference this past weekend speakers were hard pressed to find significant failings in the Republican brand. Perhaps they just needed to deliver the party’s message more clearly. As Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney declared, they haven’t lost the country they love. Apparently they’re just on a kind of hiatus, but freedom and liberty will soon be restored if they keep up the good fight. And throughout the laborious speech-infested affair, speaker after speaker spent their time taking potshots at the president - - no new ideas or innovative policies from these hardliners, just the same old crowd-pleasing jokes that seem to find a home at CPAC.

Published in Guest Commentary


The Bush administration’s Iraq war has cost the U.S. more than $2 trillion so far and with interest could swell to more than $6 trillion, according to a study released Thursday.


Meanwhile, Jeb Bush is making his rounds to run for President 2016.


Those who are familiar with Noam Chomsky’s work have learned about the United States’ brutal history of intervention in Latin America for corporate control via the CIA and how the CIA creates havoc and chaos to pave the way for overthrowing democratically elected leaders that have socialistic leanings, i.e. leaders who want to improve conditions for the poor, whose policies strengthen middle-class economies. 


Published in Guest Commentary


One must consider the currently running MSNBC documentary, “How the Bush administration sold the Iraq war” (1), based on a book by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, to be a rather remarkable document, given that it comes to us from an element of the mainstream media (NBC), as relatively liberal as that element may be.  Most (if not all) of the readers of this column-series and the journal(s) in which it appears know that the whole premise upon which the invasion was based was totally false.  Neither were there Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” nor was there any connection between the Saddam Hussein regime and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda.  In approximately 50 minutes of air time, one can hardly expect that all of the details of the Grand Deception and Big Lie can be covered.  It is very possible that many of those details that I retell below are to be found in the book.  Nevertheless, here a few additional facts and observations.

First, the documentary very justifiably notes the later proved-to-be-false “Tonkin Gulf Incident” that President Lyndon Johnson used to vastly expand the War on Vietnam.  That war actually found its origins yeas before in work done by the Dulles Brothers, John Foster (State) and Allen (CIA), to undermine the Geneva Accords of 1954 which had brought the French-Indochinese War to its conclusion.  Nationwide elections were to have been held by 1956.  “Everyone knew” that the Communist leader, Ho Chi Minh, would win in an overwhelming landslide.  The Dulles Brothers, very concerned about that happenstance, in collusion with the reactionary forces in Viet Nam, made sure that the elections were never held.  We all know what happened subsequently. 

What is not generally acknowledged is that, in terms of the US objective of making sure that there would not be a peaceful, electoral, victory for Communism in southeast Asia, with its implications for the rest of the region (yes, the Domino Theory was real and of real concern), the US did not lose the Viet Nam War.  Rather, given what has happened and not happened to Viet Nam and the rest of Southeast Asia since then, in the context of the Dulles’ original goals, the US won it.  In contrast, we do not yet know whether the US achieved the primary objective of the Cheney/Bush regime, which was the creation of a state of Permanent War (2).

Published in Guest Commentary


Judges who wish to assure that a jury has no outside influence will sequester them.


Legally, a sequestered jury is seized by authority and isolated from all outside influences. The jurors are escorted into and out of the courtroom. They aren’t allowed to read newspapers, listen to radio news, or watch TV news, ’lest they could be influenced by the media. They are escorted to and from meals, and isolated from other customers. They can’t discuss the case with family or friends. They can’t even go home at the end of the day; they’re housed in hotel rooms.


In the summer of 2011, a bipartisan “super-committee” was supposed to come up with a reasonable budget to eliminate $1.2–$1.5 trillion from the national deficit. The Congressionally-mandated sequester went into effect two weeks ago when Congress couldn’t come up with a better idea about the budget. The draconian cuts across all federal programs was supposed to be enacted only as a last-ditch measure. The concept was that Congress and the Administration would be so fearful of the results of the sequester, which the media and elected officials often called a “poison pill,” they would take the time to thoughtfully work out a proper budget, and the sequester would never happen.


But, the Republicans dug in their heels, refused to compromise, and even continued their vacations the last week before the sequester went into effect.

Published in Guest Commentary
Thursday, 14 March 2013 07:50

A Shortage of Mercy


“Indeed,” writes DavidKorten, “we have become so entranced in the illusion that money is a measure of real wealth and a storehouse of value that we have allowed it to displace life as our object of sacred veneration and become the ultimate arbiter of human priorities.”

As the economy twists downward for most of us — as the politics of money tightens like a noose around everything we love — I think about the disintegration of human values, which insane logic and the Republicans tells us we can no longer afford.

A few days ago, Paul Buchheit wrote on Common Dreams about the poisonous nature of the ongoing privatization process: the inexorable corporate takeover of the human commons. As markets expand, the public domain — physical, social, spiritual — shrinks. It’s not simply that public land is auctioned off or that water rights are taken away from us, but that our right to care for others, to organize society around a modicum of compassion, is being confiscated in the name of “sorry, can’t afford it.”

Published in Guest Commentary
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