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Thursday, 13 June 2013 07:42

A Father's Day Barbecue, GOP-Style


BBQfinalIt's Father's Day, and that means the Great White Republican Hierarchy in Washington smells burnt charcoal and is ready to barbeque some Democrats.

Because Father's Day is special, the Republican-proposed Sequester is waived, and there is no budget limit for the day's food and frivolity.

It's warm this Father's Day, but the Republicans aren't complaining about all the fracking heat from their propane grill or the sweat they're putting into making a nice dinner. They're sure that it'll be ice-age cool next year because the destruction of the ozone layer and Climate Change don't exist.

First onto their searing grill is a slice of prime Benghazi. The meat has been marinating for nine months and is ready to pop. The Republican fathers see a conspiracy and cover-up that four Americans died in an embassy fire caused by terrorists. Protecting the Republican eyes from all the heat being stirred up are rose-colored glasses that have kept them safe from acknowledging they have been responsible for massive funding cuts for State Department security. The glasses also protect them from remembering they weren't outraged and didn't demand impeachment when terrorists attacked seven diplomatic compounds and killed more than 30 people during the George W. Bush administration.

Published in Guest Commentary


TwinsFINALWe can end war.

Please, before you read on, let those four words float in silence for half a minute, until you actually hear them — until they come alive with meaning as insistent as a hatching egg. War is not inevitable, no matter how cluelessly enthusiastic the media may be to promote it, no matter how thoroughly it runs the global economy and dominates almost every government.

We can shut down this system of self-perpetuating violence and geopolitical chicken. We can dismantle the glory machine and redefine patriotism. We can curtail the most toxic enterprise on the planet. We can end war.

Oh, the audacity to say such a thing! Yet it amounts to no more than saying: We can evolve, individually and collectively. We can bring wisdom to conflict. We can reclaim the institutions that run our lives. We can look into the eyes of children, those we know and those we don't know, and vow to protect them. We can start caring again about future generations and bring their well-being into our thoughts and plans.

Published in Guest Commentary


ApotheosisWarFINALIn a previous Commentary on this subject, I endeavored to "set the stage." I briefly retailed the history of the establishment of US Permanent War policy by BushCheney. In a recent speech, President Barack Obama appeared to attack the policy head-on, and suggested that he would endeavour to end it.

This President is known for giving very pretty speeches, seemingly showing a great deal of resolve to solve very difficult problems, but then for one reason or another failing to follow through and surely failing to achieve the goals he appeared to set forth. There are a variety of reasons for this. Some have to do with his apparent dis-interest in engaging in heavy-duty political battling. Some have to do with his traditional right-wing Democratic politics. Some have to do with the well-known total intransigence of the Congressional Republican Party in dealing with him.

But there are some major structural problems in the US economy and in US society in general that make it very hard for President Obama to follow through on his proposal. (It should be noted that here, for the sake of this discussion, I am taking him at his word that he really wants to do this and is not just blowing smoke. However, it is well-known on the Left that that may very well not be the case.)

And so, not necessarily in order of importance, let's consider the question, "Why Permanent War." The central element is the nature of modern US capitalism. Until the advent of the Reagan Administration, since the end of World War II US capitalism focused on domestic production for profit-making (and profit-making is the number one goal of capitalists. Any other positive achievements for society as a whole may be called "collateral benefits," for lack of a better term.) Then things began to change. Since this history is well-known to most readers of these pages, I will review it very quickly.

Published in Guest Commentary


SCOTUSfinalMomentum to free elections from corporate influence is growing by the month. A bipartisan majority of both houses of Delaware's General Assembly have signed a letter calling on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment reversing the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Delaware is now the 15th state to call for such an amendment, after Maine, West Virginia and Illinois passed similar resolutions over the past two months. Known as "the First State" for being the first to ratify the U.S. Constitution, Delaware is maintaining that tradition of leadership by being one of the early states to stand for voter ownership of political campaigns.

A total of 24 state representatives and 11 state senators signed their names to the letter, which is addressed to U.S. Sens. Thomas Carper (D–Del.) and Chris Coons (D–Del.) and U.S. Rep. John Carney (D–Del.).

The letter, which was initiated by state Rep. Paul Baumbach and state Sen. Bryan Townsend, reads in part, "There is no more critical foundation to our government than citizens' confidence in fair and free elections. The Citizens United decision directly undermines this confidence, and was issued in the absence of any evidence or searching inquiry to refute the fair assumption that unbridled and opaque spending in politics harms American democracy. ... The United States of America's elections should not be permitted to go to the highest bidder, and yet this is the risk that rises from the ashes of the Citizens United decision." The letter represents the second major response to Citizens United in the past two years in Delaware. In 2012, Common Cause Delaware and Public Citizen helped pass a bill requiring reporting of independent political expenditures in excess of $10,000 in Delaware. Common Cause Delaware also played a leadership role in securing this victory for free elections.

Published in Guest Commentary


NSAfinalYes, of course, a lot of the NSA spying Mr. Greenwald appears so breathlessly surprised by has been going on for many years. I know because I've been writing about it since the PATRIOT Act. The Washington Post did an excellent, enormous report on the US surveillance state in 2010 titled Top Secret America, which included a section titled Monitoring America, which pretty much let all the cats out of all the bags on this particular subject...and yet now, all of a sudden, members of the "news" media and a bunch of other people who should know better are shocked, shocked that such things are going on. Simple truth: anyone acting all astonished by this is either oblivious, naive, or is desperately trying to sell you something.

On the other side of the coin are the people arguing it's no big deal, because it's been going on for years, and besides, it's legal, and Congress has oversight, so chill out. Invariably, these are the Obama supporters, many of whom have conveniently forgotten the president's vehement promises to dramatically scale back the assault on civil liberties he inherited from Bush and the War on Terra. Besides, didn't they mention that Congress has oversight? All is well.

Congress?! That's supposed to make anyone feel better? The Capitol dome is half-packed with outright Christian fascists, and most of the rest of them I wouldn't follow into the water...but they've got the country's back on domestic surveillance? Spare me. I'd bet my salary that 90% of Congress doesn't even begin to understand the basic details of this situation; half the guys in the House GOP still light their cigars by banging rocks together...and most of them would gleefully authorize full-spectrum surveillance of anyone not Bathed In The Blood Of The Lamb. I am not comforted.

Published in Editorials


ClownFINALDoesn't anyone else wonder what elected members of Congress are supposed to be doing with their time in Washington? Apparently proposing and passing legislation isn't on their list of musts, while thwarting the administration and promoting a conservative agenda fills them with the pride of accomplishment usually reserved for tackling weightier matters.

It is more than discouraging that 'we the people' have so little control over how our government functions and are consigned to the housekeeping task of sweeping up the mess left by previous administrations. And it doesn't seem to matter that those of us with brooms and dust pans are willing to pitch in and undertake the menial tasks that have become our lot in the aftermath of partisan and profligate debacles. It seems the electorate doesn't care all that much about the fevered dialogue the right has cooked up, having long since decided not to spend its days on the minutia of partisan politics, even when things come to a boil and epithets fly.

Calling Attorney General Holder a paid liar and numerous other members of the administration liars as well is a sign of how little Darrel Issa and his team have to offer. Name-calling has its limitations, after all, and is a low-class exercise at best. Issa may think his tactics are a winning gambit but they are in fact a weak-minded attempt to bully opponents when rational arguments fail. Why is it considered acceptable for members of Congress to indulge in low-life behavior in the name of pursuing lapses of judgment on the part of fellow legislators? And how long can investigations be allowed to meander on while the work of the Senate and House languishes on the sidelines? There must be a better use of political time than what is currently on display in Congress, except of course when gotcha politics is the motivating force behind congressional action. Does it make sense that six separate investigations regarding the IRS are undertaken simultaneously as other crucial issues in Congress grind to a halt?

Published in Guest Commentary


GulfSpillFINALImagine a patient suffering from a "curable" cholesterol problem related to blocked arteries. A few doctors decide that it's more profitable to inject the patient with lard instead of doing a by-pass surgery. Now of course no doctor would perform heart surgery with cholesterol fat, the very thing that has rendered the patient ill.

And yet that crazy scenario demonstrates the insane situation that we're facing regarding the oil industry's monetary dominance over world governments. A small group of oligarchs have determined that destroying the earth is profitable for their immediate gain. The government gives the green light to the oil industry to fill our arteries with lard. Oil spills are turning our communities, water, forests and lands into uninhabitable dead zones, global warming disasters are escalating to biblical proportions—but no tornado is big enough, no hurricane is threatening enough, no drought is deadly enough to deter business as usual for those profiting from pollution.

There are no wake-up calls in the United States Government of Petroleum to slow the drilling down, to replace polluted sources of energy with clean energy, to mandate a global phasing out of gas and petroleum products by 2023 before the planet rapidly burns out of control from trapped carbon emissions, man-made pollution. On the contrary, and this is the insane part: drilling is escalating full speed ahead at a manic rate—more dangerous deepwater drilling has commenced since BP's catastrophic explosion than ever before. Against all logic, the deadly BP spill ignited a government approved escalation of risky deepwater drilling. Not only were no lessons learned, the government and oil industry ripped those lessons to shreds.

Published in Guest Commentary


Nancy Zorn wide shotFINAL Oklahoma City activist and grandmother, Nancy Zorn, 79, using a bike-lock, attached her neck directly to an earth-mover, which brought construction of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline to a halt, outside Allen, OK.Nancy Zorn and Stefan Warner are two Oklahoma City activists with the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, arrested for nonviolently protesting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Opposition to the pipeline and development of the Canadian tar sands is based on a long-range view of tar sands development and its threat to sustainability on earth.

A major concern is the huge contribution tar sands oil is projected to make to global warming and climate change. Ninety seven percent of climate scientists agree that the primary cause of global warming is the rising atmospheric concentration of CO2 and methane resulting from human activities.

NASA's leading climate scientist Dr. James Hansen has called the Keystone XL pipeline "a fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet."

Climate scientists tell us humanity must reduce the level of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level over 400 parts per million to below 350 ppm. Every species, every habitat, all of earth's life systems are threatened by global warming and climate change.

Australia's Great Barrier coral reefs show signs of dying. Polar ice caps and mountain glaciers around the world are melting. Extreme weather is reported regularly. Storms and rising seas flood coastlines where billions live.

Published in Guest Commentary


jail544890Yeah, it's called mass incarceration. Our jails are filled with black and brown men and women. The number of inmates, primarily people of color, has soared sevenfold in the last three decades, according to Alexander, from 300,000 to more than 2 million, the largest number, by far, in the developed world. Many millions more are on probation or parole. And no matter what their crime, the inmates never get their citizenship back. The stigma of being an ex-felon brands someone for life as a second-class human being.

But even before the ex-felon label is attached, certain people — young men of color, in particular — are targeted as society's losers by the police, judicial bureaucracy and prison system. They face the possibility of police harassment, invasion of privacy and arrest, often on the smallest pretext possible, pretty much any time they step outside.

I live in a vital, racially and ethnically diverse Chicago neighborhood and I watch it happen — racial profiling, the stop-and-frisk game. This is not making my neighborhood safer. It's wrecking lives at enormous public expense and, of course, like the insane war on terror, creating enemies. We don't need a justice system based on stereotypes and armed bullying.

Published in Guest Commentary


Groundbreaking Analysis Finds Marijuana Arrests Comprise Nearly Half of All Drug Arrests

KillerdrugFINALBlack people are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people despite comparable usage rates, according to a report released today by the American Civil Liberties Union. The report also found that marijuana possession arrests now make up nearly half of all drug arrests, with police making over 7 million marijuana possession arrests between 2001 and 2010. "The War on Marijuana in Black and White: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests" is the first-ever report to examine nationwide state and county marijuana arrest data by race.

"The war on marijuana has disproportionately been a war on people of color," said Ezekiel Edwards, director of the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project and one of the primary authors of the report. "State and local governments have aggressively enforced marijuana laws selectively against Black people and communities, needlessly ensnaring hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system at tremendous human and financial cost."

The findings show that while there were pronounced racial disparities in marijuana arrests 10 years ago, they have grown significantly worse. In counties with the worst disparities, Blacks were as much as 30 times more likely to be arrested. The racial disparities exist in all regions of the U.S., as well as in both large and small counties, cities and rural areas, and in both high- and low-income communities. Disparities are also consistently high whether Blacks make up a small or a large percentage of a county's overall population.

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Published in Guest Commentary
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