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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


ArmyFINALWhen the issue of homosexuality in the US military was front and center, or rather when the issue of the open recognition without penalty (which in virtually all cases meant discharge), was front and center, the public concerns raised by both military and even more so by political opponents of gay equality in the military always was presented in the context of the issue of "combat readiness."

Ohmygosh, those "authorities" on the subject told us over and over again, why if gays were permitted, or rather were openly permitted, in the ranks, combat readiness was sure to suffer. Thus until very recently open homosexual behavior paved the path to discharge, lickety-split. So let's deal with the "combat readiness" issue on which the policy was presumably based.

There have presumably been homosexuals in at least some military organizations going back to Biblical times. The Bible famously has its apparent proscriptions on homosexual behaviors. They would presumably have not been included had there not been A) homosexuals and B) homophobes to have been concerned with it.

(Not all churchmen, by the way, interpret the Biblical mentions of homosexuality in the same way. The Baptist Minister P.J. Gomes, one-time head of the Harvard Divinity School, and gay himself saw the matter quite differently. But that is another matter.)

Published in Guest Commentary
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
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