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Thursday, 23 May 2013 10:52

Barack Obama: DLC 2.0


BClintonFINALRemember the "Democratic Leadership Council," the DLC (officially dead, but hardly forgotten)? It was a coming together of right-wing Democrats, beginning in the 1980s, to "lead the party to victory." And under the leadership of the likes of Bill Clinton and Al Gore, they did just that. They turned their backs on that awful "McGovern liberalism" and set the party straight on the path to the White House.

They also set it straight on the path, all under Clinton, to, for example, "ending the era of 'Big Government'" (as Clinton announced in his first State of the Union message), ending aid to families with dependent children, to the massive shipment of capital and jobs overseas that was begun with the North American Free Trade Organization and the creation of the World Trade Organization, to the ending of the separation of commercial from investment banking and the concomitant triumph of finance capitalism, which led directly to the Great Recession that we now currently live in, and so on and so forth.

Clinton also established the modern Democratic Party pattern of not fighting the GOP much on the political side either. Take "Whitewater," for example. There was no there there, from the very beginning, and the Clintons knew it. But they stood silent as the GOP yelled and screamed about it, supported in that one even by the New York Times which at that time had an editor who had hated Clinton ever since he was a local newspaperman in Arkansas. (No, the Times doesn't always get it right. See, e.g., Iraq, Judith Miller, and the non-existent "WMD.")

The whole investigation gave us nothing except, oh yes, Ken Starr and the perjury trap he illegally set for Clinton in the Paula Jones case. But did Clinton fight back through all the years of GOP attacks? Ohhhh no!

Published in Guest Commentary


CancerFINALMaybe the problem is that rape is an extension of military culture. And it's metastasizing, even as legislation to address it stays trapped in congressional subcommittee.

Scandals and outrage come and go, but rape is ever-present. In 2011, a Pentagon report estimated that 19,000 sexual assaults had occurred in the U.S. military, of which barely 3,000 were reported because of the stigma and risk involved in doing so. The "I own you" system of military justice traditionally turns on the victim far more than the accused. That year, in response to the shocking statistics, U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) introduced a bill that would, among other things, remove the investigation of rape cases from the military chain of command, which has far more interest in ignoring the problem than prosecuting it.

Now a new Pentagon report is out, estimating that 26,000 cases of sexual assault occurred in the U.S. military in 2012, with, once again, just over 3,000 incidents reported. And Speier's legislation has been sitting the whole time in the House Armed Services Committee, denied even a hearing.

"The military doesn't want this and the committee tends to be very deferential to what the military wants," Speier told Northern California public TV station KQED. "This is one of those issues where what the military wants is not good enough for all the men and women in the military who want to serve without being jumped by a sexual predator in the night."

Published in Guest Commentary
Tuesday, 21 May 2013 11:11

Choking on the Benghazi Smoke Screen


SmokeFINALUp until about an hour ago, most Americans thought Benghazi was the guy who palled around with John Cassavetes back in the 60s, but now it's obvious we're talking about the foreign policy arm of a multi- ramped tar pit the President has found himself swimming- up to his armpits. Yes, friends, it's pity time at the White House.

After flogging the issue nonstop since September 11, the Fox News Team's persistence finally pushed the story of the Libyan Embassy riot that resulted in the death of 4 Americans over the cliff into the public consciousness. Space available only because both Honey Boo Boo and Duck Dynasty are on hiatus.

The hue and cry from the right is demanding many questions be answered. Was the protest planned or spontaneous? Did the group that initiated the attack have any affiliation with Arab terrorists? Who altered the talking points; the CIA or the State Department? Where were the drones? Queens? Wasps? Chigger mites? How many angels can dance on the head of a bent and broken Romney/ Ryan pin? What would Cheney do?

Having taken all this in, the American people responded with what can only be characterized as even more penetrating questions such as: "Who cares? What difference does it make? Aren't we stuffed to the gills with enough partisan gobbledy goop already? Does anyone really give an albino rat's ass? Isn't there a seafood buffet around here somewhere?"

Published in Guest Commentary


bitumenFINALJulia Trigg Crawford of Direct, Texas, is the manager of a 650-acre farm that her grandfather first bought in 1948. The farm produces mostly corn, wheat, and soy. On its north border is the Red River; to the west is the Bois d'Arc Creek.

TransCanada is an Alberta-based corporation that is building the controversial Keystone Pipeline that will carry bitumen—thicker, more corrosive and toxic, than crude oil—through 36-inch diameter pipes from the Alberta tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast, mostly to be exported. The $2.3 billion southern segment, about 485 miles from Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf Coast is nearly complete. With the exception of a 300-mile extension between Cushing and Steele City, Neb., the rest of the $7 billion 1,959 mile pipeline is being held up until President Obama either succumbs to corporate and business pressures or blocks the construction because of environmental and health concerns.

When TransCanada first approached Crawford's father in 2008, and offered to pay about $7,000 for easement rights, he refused, telling the company, "We don't want you here." He said the corporation could reroute the line, just as other pipeline companies in oil-rich Texas had done for decades. TransCanada increased the offer in the following years, but the family still refused. In August 2012, with Dick Crawford's daughter, Julia Trigg Crawford now managing the farm, TransCanada offered $21,626 for an easement—and a threat. "We were given three days to accept their offer," she says, "and if we didn't, they would condemn the land and seize it anyway." She still refused.

And so, TransCanada, a foreign corporation exercised the right of eminent domain to seize two acres of the farm so it could build a pipeline.

Published in Guest Commentary


RefFINAL Diogenes was a fifth century BC Greek philosopher, and a rather controversial one at that. Also known as Diogenes the Cynic, it is said that he took a vow of poverty and often lived in a barrel. He was a social critic long before social critics became cool. Everything we know about Diogenes is through anecdote since none of his writings have survived the centuries. He is probably best known for a stunt: carrying a lamp during the day and claiming to be searching for an honest man. Which brings me, some 2400 years later, to strapping on a headlamp and searching for an honest rendering of the IRS "Scandal" that has been monopolizing the news over the past ten days or so.

With horse racing's Triple Crown no longer up for grabs -- Oxbow defeated Kentucky Derby winner Orb and seven other horses in the Preakness Stakes -- the mainstream media and conservative media and advocacy groups are in search of a whole different kind of Trifecta.

In the spirit of not letting facts get in the way of a good story, the mainstream and conservative media have glommed onto the IRS "Scandal," trying to link it with the Benghazi screw up (but no conspiracy), and the Justice Department's chilling efforts to spy on journalists, and are reveling in calling it Obama's Scandal Trifecta.

While the crux of the scandal is seen as the IRS being overzealous when looking into Tea Party and other conservative groups applying for 501(c)(4) status, the real scandal might be how ill-equipped the IRS has been to actually ferret out groups that are have been doing political work, not social welfare work as required by the IRS to receive 501(c)(4) status.

Published in Guest Commentary


TeaPartyFINALDarrell Issa appears to be following his stated purpose of opening an investigation a week into sensitive White House matters. At this point it is difficult to determine just what it is he and others are after, except of course pursuing the obvious goal of discrediting the president and the administration. Examining the various talking points, however, takes some doing because they are so often enmeshed in arcane partisan positions. They can nevertheless create stumbling blocks to try the patience of even the most temperate leader.

But to be perfectly frank, Conservatives are far more adept at developing story lines than the other side of the aisle. No matter how they wrap their talking points the result is always the same  - - a partisan blood bath. As the IRS story has unfolded, it has provided chairman Issa with numerous opportunities to exploit right-wing ideology in the guise of "getting to the bottom" of some real or imagined transgression on the part of the administration. It is perhaps a weakness of this president and his team that they failed to pursue the Bush/Chaney stumbles with the intensity that was warranted. And we see now the folly of trying to "play nice" with political opponents for whom ethics and morality have lost all meaning, except as they play out in a destructive form of gamesmanship. Only the most perverse mental gyrations could suggest a comparison between the current "scandals" and Watergate. But we the people are being played for suckers again - - forced to draw conclusions from false premises and partisan rhetoric.

It should be obvious by now that, while it may not be proper to target any group for special attention when they apply for tax-free status, it is just as clear that Tea Party members do not exist simply to educate and provide guidance on constitutional matters. They are in fact as partisan as can be, and the fact that requests for tax-free status among Tea Party faithful increased by an inordinate amount after the recent presidential election was an indication of how the political winds were blowing.  It is probably the case that requests for tax-free status from whatever source should be scrutinized with extreme care. There can be no reason for any group that holds views and supports candidates other taxpayers do not to receive special consideration from the IRS.

Published in Guest Commentary


SEALFINALNow that Venezuela’s larger than life Hugo Chávez has vanished from the political landscape, what does the future hold for South America?  Though Venezuela is only a medium-sized country, Chávez was able to skillfully realign geopolitical faultlines through shrewd use of oil largesse and petro populism.  It is unlikely, though, that uncharismatic Chávez successor Nicolás Maduro, who only won his country’s recent presidential election by the slightest of margins, will be as successful as his protégé in maintaining Venezuela’s carefully crafted system of regional alliances.


As Venezuela fades, Brazil will naturally assume a greater leadership role, thus paving the path for a somewhat unusual three-way contest between the two South American countries and the United States.  Just what form, precisely, is such competition likely to take and where are new geopolitical rivalries going to be most acutely felt?  For answers, look to Brazil “buffer state” Uruguay, a country rife with diplomatic intrigue.



Venezuela: Last Hurrah in Southern Cone?


Feeling threatened and diminished by recent political reversals, Maduro is doing his utmost to shore up alliances in the Southern Cone.  Shortly after his election, the Venezuelan traveled to Uruguay, a small nation in the region sandwiched between Argentina and Brazil.  Historically, Chávez enjoyed warm ties to Montevideo where former Tupamaro guerrillas hold sway within the leftist Broad Front or Frente Amplio.  


In 2005, Uruguay turned to Chávez in an effort to secure vital energy resources from Venezuela.  The populist leader from Caracas was all too willing to oblige, sending oil to Uruguay on preferential terms in exchange for meat and milk.  The ailing Chávez also apparently hoped that Caracas and Montevideo might consolidate military ties: last year, over 200 Venezuelan military personnel traveled to Uruguay to participate in joint exercises.


Published in Guest Commentary


KeystoneKopsFINALLet’s all work together to stop terrorism!

 The Palm Beach County, Fla. Sheriff’s Office has a new video out urging local citizens to call them if something smells bad or seems a little weird, like, oh, a tourist is taking a picture of a bridge but there’s no one in the foreground — no spouse, no grinning kids, just . . . a bridge.

 If it seems suspicious, call — because, I guess, if everyone is vigilant (“Hello, I want to report two young men carrying backpacks”) and we work with the authorities, America will be safe as pie in no time.

 This program is called Community Partners Against Terrorism, though I’m tempted to call it know-nothing security — the kind based on stereotypes, unexamined fears, self-righteousness, external projections and an us-vs.-them social organization. Terrorists are bad people with inscrutable motives. All we need to know is that they’re out to get us. This is the message of the terrorism “experts,” who leverage their authority from their ability to keep us scared and vigilant.

 Security is a real need, of course, but know-nothing security flaunts that need, often enough both ignoring and aggravating the real dangers we face while, at the same time, inflicting massive inconvenience on people innocently caught in its web, i.e., those on the wrong side of our society’s color and ethnicity divide.

 For instance, when I read about the CPAT initiative, I thought about an incident 11 years ago that garnered its 15 minutes of national attention and neatly encapsulated all the problems with know-nothing security.

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 15 May 2013 07:47

The Batty Battalion


CrazyFINALYou do realize that Washington DC is not the real world, don’t you? It’s a state of mind. An altered state of mind. Where you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Slammed when you stand and rammed when you run. Berated if you lie and lambasted for the truth. Where even the slightest of breeze can carry the pollen of disaster. And the pack on top knows the best way to avoid getting a face full of disaster pollen is to spread the dried residue of other exquisite catastrophes first. Ream or be reamed.
And as far as DC stories go, a lack of misfortunes is no good reason not to speak of them. So now the Washington punditry has banded together to float the notion that President Obama’s second term agenda has stalled. That he’s such a lame duck the presidential limousine should be sporting a blue placard hanging from the rear view mirror. Best thing to do is to burrow deep and lie low. Give up and crawl into the overhead compartment of Air Force One and eat marzipan in the dark.
Now. Already. 4 months in, with 44 left to go. Holey moley, guys. You left the movie before the opening credits rolled. More stuff happens after the overture, you know. Have you ever made it through an entire entrée? Would hate to be your date at a baseball game; you sound like the kind of people who leave between the top and bottom halves of the second inning. Must be Dodger fans.
It takes a special kind of degenerative myopia to craft these precocious accusations. First off, you need to be blind as an Oedipal bat to ignore the exhaustingly recalcitrant House Majority, including leader John Boehner, who would rather be seen washing skid mark undies in a Congressional hallway water fountain, than work with the President.
Published in Guest Commentary


OilFINALUpdate to Big Oil May Destroy World's Largest Rain Forest and Accelerate Global Warming :


An unedited version of Ann Curry’s excellent report on Ecuador’s plans to plunder the last pristine rainforest on earth for petrodollars aired on NBC Rock Center.  Unlike the edited version for NBC Nightly News, it includes astonishing footage of this beautiful Eden, and the devastating impact from oil pillaging.


(Q: Is it a strange coincidence that NBC executives axed Rock Center after this story aired? Big Oil pays Big Bucks for positive PR ads, including their demand to censor reports on the growing threat of global warming.)


The full report gives a visual tour of how oil drilling reduced the Amazon forest to a barren wasteland, marred by black gooey pools of toxic oil.  It’s shocking to see how anyone could be evil enough to destroy such a sacred rainforest teeming with life; more mammal, bird, amphibian and plant species than any other spot on earth: parrots, monkeys, butterflies, panthers, and the gorgeous tapestries of ancient trees pillaged by oil drilling and deforestation over the last four decades. 


The Amazon flourished for centuries but in our lifetime, a continent of forests has been effaced under the satanic wheel of insatiable greed.


Read Robert Kennedy’s How Big Oil Uses the Republican Party to Subvert American Democracy.  In the absence of wise and moral leadership, the oil oligarchs and their government collaborators have no vital relationship with the natural world or spiritual world of nature. They never see what they destroy. They think nothing of clear-cutting our last beautiful forests for a private jet or $30 million dollar yachts, regardless of global warming or the hell they’re creating for our children.

Published in Guest Commentary
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