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FearFINALWe've all been affected by the tragedy in Boston. Anytime an innocent person gets killed in an act of terror, we feel some of the pain of the victims' families, and we feel less safe, for our way of life has been threatened.

In another incident, on a warm spring afternoon in Chicago in 2012, 6-year-old Aliyah Shell sat with her mother on the front porch of their Little Village home on the city's southwest side. A pickup truck drove by, shots were fired, and Aliyah lay in the arms of a mother crazed with confusion and grief. The little girl died later that afternoon at the hospital.

In a third incident, in March of 2011, about 40 individuals gathered together at a community center to try to resolve a dispute over a local mine. The group included the most respected senior members of the community. At about 10:45 AM the room was bombed, and most people inside were killed. Their bodies were blown up, torn into unrecognizable pieces. Family members could do nothing. Even collecting the remains for burial was dangerous, for bombings were often followed by attacks targeting the rescuers. This has been the way of life in much of Pakistan.

All these attacks ended human lives and caused unimaginable suffering for the families of the victims. All deserve our attention. We don't need the media to decide for us which is most important, or which impacts us most personally. But news sources have tried to do that with the Boston bombing, to stir the passion of fear in our minds, to bolster the cause of homeland security. The Wall Street Journal proclaimed that the Boston attack is "a reminder of the continuing need for heightened defenses against terror threats."

But what is the nature of "terrorism" in each case?

Published in Guest Commentary


NewsroomFINALStill smarting over November's bitter electoral defeats, the Koch Brothers may be on the verge of taking their libertarian/free enterprise/deregulation game plan to another level; the purchase of the Tribune Company, and a string of other daily newspapers.

Such a purchase would immediately give Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists and generous funder of right-wing institutions, causes and candidates, direct media access to the editorial and news pages of The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant. Hoy, the second-largest Spanish-language daily newspaper in the country, could also be Included in the deal.

According to the New York Times, "The papers, valued at roughly $623 million, would be a financially diminutive deal for Koch Industries, the energy and manufacturing conglomerate based in Wichita, Kan., with annual revenue of about $115 billion."

The New York Times also reported Sunday, that Three years ago the Koch Brothers "held a seminar of like-minded, wealthy political donors at the St. Regis Resort in Aspen, Colo., [where] [t]hey laid out a three-pronged, 10-year strategy to shift the country toward a smaller government with less regulation and taxes." The first two prongs of the strategy consisted of "educating grass-roots activists and influencing politics"; the third prong was media.


Published in Guest Commentary


MarathonBombFINALAt the end of Amy Goodman’s interview with Jeremy Scahill, author of the new book, Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield, and the award-winning documentary film with the same name appearing at theatres this June, Scahill concluded that we cannot avoid asking the question: Are Americans paying a high price for the U.S. government’s violent war polices?  The corporate media will not go there when it comes to this question.


I agree with Scahill’s assessment.  If these wars continue in our name, it’s highly likely that Americans will be the target of retaliation.  America is no longer seen as the Beacon of Light in the world.  For the last twelve years, our government is viewed globally as the Bully of Darkness.  After the complete annihilation of Iraq, wrongly blamed for 9-11 and wrongly accused of harboring weapons of mass destruction, can you blame world leaders’ for escalating defense programs?


When speaking about war crimes i.e. statements such as “Look what we’re doing to those poor village peasants in Afghanistan and Yemen, killing up to 30 or 40 women and children for one suspect,” the pronoun “we” should be replaced with “President Obama”.   Obama won the 2008 election on the campaign promise that that he’d put an end to these unconscionable wars and begin the process of healing and reconciliation.  Thus, Americans are not responsible for what this government does.  The President vowed to do so and he betrayed us.

Published in Guest Commentary
Thursday, 25 April 2013 07:50

Bombing the Constitution


ConstitutionFINALThe negative outcomes of the Boston bombings are multiple. First of all, of course, were the three deaths. Second of all were the injuries, ranging from minor to life-changing. (As a 30-year-plus triathlete and a former marathoner [although never Boston - too tough for me!], I identified particularly with the runners who lost one or both legs.) Third, perhaps the most long-lasting in terms of our nation as a whole, is the attack on various aspects of U.S. Constitutional Democracy, reflecting what has been underway since the response to 9/11 which was exploited with such evil intent by the Bush/Cheney regime.

First, let us consider the use of the term "Miranda Rights" in referring to the initial juridical process applied to the surviving bomber (who has apparently confessed). The way the term is used by most reporters, commentators, and politicians implies that there is some special set of rights that were created at some time in the past to protect persons arrested on criminal charges. The implication always is that there is some special set of privileges granted to certain arrested persons, especially "very bad" ones.

But as it happens there are no "Miranda Rights," no special group of rights plucked out of thin air, or, heaven forfend, invented by some awful (liberal, you know) Supreme Court to protect the otherwise undeserving. The Rights in question are actually Constitutional Rights, ensconced in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. They guarantee, or are supposed to guarantee, due process of the law (which includes right-to-counsel) and protection against self-incrimination, before questioning by the authorities can begin, to any arrestee.

The term "Miranda" which has been so widely used since the Boston horror, refers to a 1966 Supreme Court decision that simply said that all arrestees have these rights, whether they know that they have them or not. Thus the terms "Miranda warning" and "Mirandizing." Virtually any watcher of any TV crime show is familiar with an arresting officer saying to an arrestee: "You have the right to an attorney. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you." Thus "Miranda" simply refers to a process clearly and unequivocally written into the Constitution, not any special group of rights. All US citizens have these rights, or should have them, under the Constitution. "Mirandizing" is to make sure that any person has them in practice, whether they happen to know that they have them, and can articulate them, or not.

Published in Guest Commentary
Thursday, 25 April 2013 06:59

Chasing Infinity in the New Security State


DHSsealFINALIn the new security state, not even garbage will have privacy.

“Terrorism,” the ChicagoSun-Times informed us last week, “has created a new market in Chicago and other big cities for a company that started out making bear resistant garbage containers about 14 years ago.”

Clear plastic trash bins are coming! They cost up to $900 apiece. “Monday’s deadly bombings at the Boston Marathon demonstrate a need for the bins at events like the Bank of America Chicago Marathon,” a company salesman said, and I marveled at the security minutiae that is now called news. We are kept informed of everything except what matters.

Ho hum, we’re in mortal danger every second of the day, terrorists might strike at any moment, but we’ve got surveillance cameras and metal detectors, body scans, the USA Patriot Act and now, see-through trash bins, though maybe we also need see-through backpacks . . .

And I started to think, we’re chasing infinity here. We’re ceding ever more ground to the Watching Authority but aren’t the least bit safer than we were a decade or a half-century ago. Every high-profile act of violence is followed by some new security procedure and market opportunity, which of course embeds the procedure into our way of life and subtly, imperceptibly increases the fear, suspicion and social alienation that characterizes American society, meanwhile leaving the causes of violence — whatever those might be — unaddressed. And the war goes on.

In mainstream media and culture, indeed, there’s no such thing as “causes.” The concept is just too complicated, unless “illegal immigration” is a cause, or “Al Qaeda” is a cause. Or opaque garbage cans are a cause.

Published in Guest Commentary


ShaiFINALWhile Jay-Z & Beyonce’s recent trip to Cuba to celebrate the couple’s fifth anniversary stirred up significant controversy, a new song by a Christian rapper, relatively unknown to the general public, is ruffling feathers in the conservative Christian evangelical community, especially amongst a gaggle of religious gurus known as “Prosperity Preachers.”

Christian rapper Shai Linne, according to Charisma News, “recently released a song [which peaked at #7 on iTunes’ Hip Hop/Rap charts] calling out prosperity gospel teachers by name.”

The 12 pastors named are -- Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Paula White, Fred Price, Kenneth Copland, Robert Tilton, Eddie Long, Juanita Bynum and Paul Crouch – and each name is followed by the song’s refrain, “is a false teacher!”

Jay-Z and Beyonce have come under unremitting criticism from a number of long-time anti-Cuban Republican scolds, with Sen. Marco Rubio and GOP Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and  Mario Diaz-Balart leading the pack.

Despite the fact that the vast majority of U.S. visitors to Cuba last year were Cuban Americans (476,000 out of 580,000) , and regardless of the fact that Cuban Americans are a major source of funds for the Cuban government (sending nearly $2.3 billion to Cuba in 2011), “Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen said the music superstars were guilty of funding ‘the machinery of oppression that brutally represses the Cuban people’ because they went to Cuba with the permission of the Department of Treasury, which regulates the travel of Americans to Cuba,” DeWayne Wickham wrote in a recent USA Today column.

Published in Guest Commentary
Thursday, 18 April 2013 07:38

Grief Without Borders


KrystleFINAL“She had a great sense of humor and freckles and red hair that brought her right to her Irish roots.”

She was “a dream daughter.”

I have a daughter, so maybe that’s why these words cut so deep.

This was a dad’s description of a young woman, Krystle Campbell, who was one of the three people killed in the Monday bombings at the Boston Marathon, with well over a hundred wounded, some critically. The bomb went off in the final stretch of the race — which had been dedicated to the victims of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., four months earlier.

My God. Now another wound has opened in the social fabric. Another enormous question tears at our hearts. Once again we ask: Why?

Even if the police solve the riddle and catch the killers — and we learn the particulars of their agenda or their insanity — we will hardly be any closer to an answer. Beyond the question of why did they do it, a more insidious question lurks. Why does so little change in response to the violence that occurs both in shocking randomness in “safe” communities around the country and as an everyday fact of life in our poor and devastated neighborhoods?

As so many people have said in the last few days: Life is precious. No one ever qualifies that statement. Every life is a unique, invaluable, irreplaceable manifestation of human potential. Yet why is our awareness of this basic truth so fleeting? Why do we make grief hierarchical — some deaths matter more than others — and thereby diminish it immeasurably?

Published in Guest Commentary


TeaPartyFINALIf bookies in Las Vegas, who set the odds on just about any and everything, had set odds on which Tea Party leader would be the first out of the gate with the most intemperate, uncontrolled and toxic take on the Boston Marathon bombing, Judson Phillips’ Tea Party Nation would certainly have been better than even money.

In an email to members -- and in an article posted on the Tea Party Nation website -- Phillips blamed President Obama for the Boston Marathon bombing maintaining that it occurred because “we have a government that is not committed to protecting America” since it isn’t willing to “destroy radical Islam.”

People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch reported that “Phillips said that ‘Radical Islam and perhaps even non-radical Islam’ is a danger to western civilization, arguing that Muslims believe that ‘non-Islamic nations may be conquered or otherwise taken over.’”

The Franklin, Tennessee-based Tea Party Nation, which was organized by Phillips, a Nashville attorney, and his wife Sherry, describes itself as a “user-driven group of like-minded people who desire our God given Individual Freedoms which were written out by the Founding Fathers. We believe in Limited Government, Free Speech, the 2nd Amendment, our Military, Secure Borders and our Country!”

Published in Guest Commentary


eisenhowerFINALIt's not at all hard to believe that our most popular national priority right now is to see how many more new and effective weapons of death we can supply our troops with, supply foreign dictators with, supply our cities' paramilitary police with, supply every rabid gun-nut and gangsta in the country with and/or also supply ourselves?  Geez Louise!

And can you also believe that we just spent over 300 billion dollars on developing an F-35 bomber which, despite its crappy design, construction and performance, is still an ultra-deadly weapon of mass destruction on a post-Godzillian scale?

What ever happened to knives, shivs, nunchuks, baseball bats or even fists?  If you really want to kill someone that badly, shouldn't you be required to do it with just your bare hands?

Over in this pile on my left we have all kinds of stuff we could be spending our money on that would make us healthy, happy and safe.  And over in that pile to my right we have all kinds of stuff to kill people with.  If you were to compare these two piles right now, one pile would about the size of a wedding cake -- maybe.  And the other pile would easily dwarf the Empire State Building or even the Twin Towers -- the one that all the gazillion weapons we own couldn't save.  How misguided (or even sick) is that!

We Americans need to get a hold of ourselves.  We need to put our blood-lust in check.


Published in Guest Commentary


MitchFinalSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was mad. Not the kind of mad you get when your favorite team blows a big lead and loses its eighth straight game, but Red-Faced-Exploding-Blood-Pressure Mad.


“This is what you get from the political Left in America,” McConnell bellowed to the media. “That is what the political Left does these days.”


McConnell’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton, added his opinion—“We’ve always said the Left would stop at nothing to attack Sen. McConnell.” They demanded the FBI launch a criminal investigation. The FBI response to the media was, “[W]e are looking into the matter.” Not long after, McConnell approved a campaign slogan, exhorting voters to “Stand with McConnell against the liberal media’s illegal and underhanded tactics.”


What McConnell and Benton were furious about was a leaked tape that revealed possible tactics they would use against movie star Ashley Judd if she were to oppose McConnell in the 2014 Senate race.

McConnell had no evidence there was any liberal plot or that the tape was the result of a bug deliberately planted in campaign headquarters, but tried to spin in circles to make people believe it was a liberal invasion of his soul.

Published in Guest Commentary
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