Sunday, July 19, 2015

PENS draws dark picture psychology's collusion with torture

As a lifelong student of social phycology, it's dismaying to learn about the collusion between the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Bush administration's torture program following the 911 attacks. Under a joint task force with the military known as PENS (Psychological Ethics and National Security) the Association trained and advised torture interrogators and supervised the "breaking" of torture It turns out PENS was rigged. The military and their compliant military psychologists dominated the task force to manipulate APA members and their formerly esteemed organization to go along with facilitating torture. 
Back in my 1964 college course "Social Psychology" taught by fabulous teacher Richard Flacks, I first learned of the Milgram Study, in which Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram was able to manipulate ordinary citizens to administer torture on unseen subjects who gave wrong answers to ludicrous questions. Milgram showed how unsuspecting dolts could be unwittingly manipulated to do inhuman acts when directed by authority figures. The torture administered by these subjects was not real. The unseen people screaming in pain were acting. No damage occurred save for the anguish the subjects must have felt during and after their participation in this truly disturbing study.

Alas, life imitates research insofar as the APA is concerned. Real authority figures manipulated trained psychologists and their safeguard professional organization to administer real torture on thousands of real victims, some of whom died. Milgram was interested in the pernicious effect of renegade authority on ordinary citizens. He likely never imagined the dolts he exposed eventually would include his own learned profession

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Kirk's comments on Iran deal un-Senatorial, untrue, unhelpful

Illinois has the dubious distinction of being home to the most incendiary opponent to the 5 power nuclear deal with Iran in the form of firebrand Senator Mark Kirk. His vituperative string of outrageous comments must be read by every Illinoisan to understand Kirk is not fit to serve in the Senate.
“Tens of thousands of people in the Middle East are gonna lose their lives because of this decision by Barack Hussein ...Obama.”

This from a Congressman and Senator who had no trouble supporting our criminal Iran war which killed hundreds of thousands. By the way, Senator, using Obama's middle name is a dog whistle to the 'Obama is a Muslim crowd.'

“This agreement condemns the next generation to cleaning up a nuclear war in the Persian Gulf,”

Kirk's stunningly perverse logic is that war, not negotiation, is the only means of preventing possible war.
"It condemns our Israel allies to further conflict with Iran.”

Now we get to the meat of Kirk's frenzy over an negotiated agreement: its not in the national interest of Kirk's true master: Israel. Between 2002 and 2010, Kirk has received over $1,600,000 in campaign help from the Israel Lobby. That's not 'walkin' around money'; that buys endless support for Israel in Congress over US interests.

“This is the greatest appeasement since Chamberlain gave Czechoslovakia to Hitler... and that the deal means “Israel will now have to take military action against Iran.”

Really, Senator? If your Israel Lobby handlers told you that, isn't that blackmail? Or are you simply making it up to promote their interests?

“The president will make this a viciously partisan issue, leading most Democrats to standing with the Iranians" get nukes to Iran.”

In Kirk's confused and distorted worldview, President Obama is traitorously working to give Iran nuclear weapons.

Without a word of reasoned analysis of the 100 page agreement, Kirk simply calls it "unremitted garbage."

Very classy, Senator.

New York may be No. 1 in being home to America's most anti immigration racist Donald Trump, but Illinois is second to none in hosting America's most virulent war monger, Mark Kirk.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Roskam, Kirk, really pushing war with Iran

The end game for anti Iran hard liners like my Congressman Peter Roskam and Senator Mark Kirk is war with Iran. Though they'll never use the 'war' word, war is the logical outcome of their incessant calls to derail the Iran nuclear deal and re-instate crippling sanctions. Such action will blow up the best chance for peace in the region; inciting Iran to proceed unilaterally with a nuclear program without 5 power scrutiny, and giving the Congressional war hawks figurative as well as literal ammunition to bomb, bomb, bomb Iran. 
And on the sidelines, cheering on Roskam, Kirk and their pro war faction, will be the Israeli Likud party. They have been promoting US war with Iran since their successful lobbying helped fuel our rush to criminal war with Iraq in 2003. After the Iraq disaster, the one sensible, sane action by President Bush was to cancel an impending Iran war. But Israel, and their minions in Congress, will never give up. Israel cannot crush it's rival for hegemony in the region alone. It needs Uncle Sam to do the heavy killing.

Roskam and Kirk may never have heard JKF's greatest speech; the one on nuclear détente with Russia, given at American University, June 10 , 1963, just 5 months from Dallas. In it, he boldly announced the way forward to nuclear détente with Russia, announcing negotiations for a nuclear test ban treaty. Kennedy was addressing the Roskams and Kirks of his day with these words that resonate just as sensibly and urgently today:

"So, let us not be blind to our differences. But let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal."

Are you listening Congressman? Are you listening Senator?

Hooray for Gov. Walker

Gov. Walker showed great independence and compassion yesterday in defying his legislature to expand Medicaid to his states marginally poor under the Affordable Care Act.

No, I'm not referring to Koch Brothers sycophant and heartless Affordable Care Act hating Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. I'm congratulating Alaska Governor Bill Walker, who rejected his inhumane Republican legislature to announce use of his  gubernatorial powers to implement Medicaid expansion under the ACA which will cover 42,000 desperate Alaskans in need.    

Walker talks straight: “This is the final option for me. We are not going to step away from this opportunity to help fellow Alaskans, period.” The other Governor Walker speaks with a forked tongue, claiming God inspires him to run his state against all Christian and humanitarian principles of fairness, decency and compassion.

Alaska becomes the 30th state to grant relief to millions under the ACA through Medicaid expansion, in which Uncle Sam picks up the full cost through 2016 and 90% thereafter. Millions more in the remaining 20 states suffer under governors channeling Ebenezer Scrooge, trumpeting their extreme conservative bona fides on the backs of the medically uninsured. Gee, wouldn't it be nice if Gov. Scott Walker could have a troubled night's sleep in which he's visited by the ghosts of Governance Past, Governance Present and Governance Future? He might determine it's never too late to redeem one's soul.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Roskam, Kirk, offer fear, not substance on Iran nuclear deal

"This deal all but ensures Iran will become a nuclear power in our lifetime, defeating from the outset the Obama administration’s own long-stated goal of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran."
  - Congressman Peter Roskam (Rep. IL-6)

“I am gravely concerned that the nuclear agreement will condemn the next generation to living with an Iranian nuclear power in the Persian Gulf and ultimately endanger the security of the United States, Israel, and other regional allies over the long term."
  - Senator Mark Kirk (Rep. IL)

That's about you'll get from my Congressman Peter Roskam and Senator Mark Kirk on the historic nuclear deal struck by the P5+1 (US, Russia, China, England and France) with Iran yesterday. It puts the world community on a path to peace after two decades of incessant warfare. The Vienna agreement is our best and last hope for peace in the Middle East. That the US and other major powers could preserver against unrelenting pressure from Israel and its lock-step allies in Congress, including Roskam and Kirk, is a testament to their independence and fortitude. We owe them our grateful support to end the near endless cycle of fear and loathing against substantive negotiation.

Roskam and Kirk want none of that. They remind me of Bob Dylan's warning in 'Masters of War': "You play with our world like it's your little toy."

Since they'll likely never read, much less comment intelligently and decently on the deal, let's offer just a few safeguards contained in this 100 page, technically complex agreement.

  • 20 years of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring of uranium ore concentrate produced by Iran for 25 years
  • Containment and surveillance of centrifuge rotors for 20 years
  • A reliable mechanism to ensure speedy resolution of IAEA access concerns for 15 years
  • All sanctions to be lifted but only after Iran complies with its obligations
  • Iran reduces stockpile of uranium by 98%
  • Enrichment cannot exceed 3.67%, far below threshold necessary for a nuke
  • Iranian Centrifuges will drop from 20,000 to 6,104
  • IAEA inspectors will have access to all Iranian nuclear facilities
  • The Arak nuclear reactor is being dismantled and rebuilt in accordance with the requirements set forth in the Plan of Action. This will make it impossible to produce weapons grade material.
  • Most importantly, the P5+1 and Iran agree that "the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty (NPT) remains the cornerstone of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament and for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.”

That language puts Iran squarely within the 191 member world community which has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The four states who haven't? Pakistan, Sudan, India, and possessor of 100 to 200 nukes, Israel. The deal makes Israel, not Iran, the rogue nuclear state.

Israeli loyalists in Congress like Roskam and Kirk, are so desperate to derail nuclear détente, they will say and do anything to achieve their goal. We negotiated with Russia for half a century after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even though Russia possessed thousands of nuclear missiles aimed at us. If leaders like Roskam and Kirk were calling the shots, we wouldn't have a world to save today. We must stand up to their bullying and fear tactics or they may yet succeed in war to remove Israel's only Middle East rival. 

Don't let them.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Creepyness emerges from GOP clown car

"We thought about that".
- Gov. Scott Walker responding to prank call in which fake Koch brother asked Walker if he considered planting 'agent provocateurs' among the Capitol protesters to discredit them.
“If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.”
- Gov. Walker responding to question on his ability to deal with ISIS threat.
The extreme right loves these quotes. I find them creepy...and scary.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Knowing your right from your left

Some folks say they can't figure out their right from their left to justify their stance as a 'middle of the roader.' As a proud member of the latter, I offer this partial list of differences.

Right reveres pre-ACA health insurance system that generated 40 million losers in the health care lottery. Left reveres day when single payer health care for all jumps the 16 million newly insured to 40 million.
Right equates end of Confederate flag in public places as denying regional heritage. Left sees little difference between Confederate flag and Nazi flag.

Right has given up on denying about 15,000,000 gay folks the right to marry, turning it into a fake religious freedom test. Left will never give up expanding rights to all as the true test of religion...and government.

Right believes best defense is spending trillions on offense, killing hundreds of thousands without cause. Left believes best defense is ending murderous military adventurism which puts us all in endless jeopardy from 'blowback.'

Right believes there is no limit to how far wages and wealth must flow to the rich. Left believes there is no dignity and no freedom in slave wage employment.

Right acts like a bull seeing a red flag when gazing upon the undocumented. Left recognizes their enormous contribution to our economic success without the protection of citizenship and seeks to green light their path to same.

Right sees crumbling infrastructure as good trade off to keep a few extra tax dollars in their pocket. Left sees crumbling infrastructure as metaphor for our crumbling position as world leader.

Next time you declare yourself neither right nor left, ponder your position on those issues.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Two on The Donald

Having observed a hundred of more candidates in the 17 presidential elections I've followed, starting in 1952, 'liking Ike', I've got two observations on current media star Donald Trump.

The former candidate he most closely resembles is George Wallace. LIke Wallace, Trump is a brilliant, charismatic speaker using racism and zenophobia to energize that segment of the population starving for a dynamic candidate to validate and foment their hate and alienation from sensible democracy. His fearlessness of and contempt for the media and political critics is a strength which adds to his appeal.   

If Trump ascends to the White House, an appropriate Secret Service moniker for this toxic human being might be "Agent Orange."

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

What's in a name?

I love the creative way lawmakers tag bad laws with fancy-schmancy names to fool the public. Back in 1989, the Illinois legislature wisely banned Happy Hours, the binge drinkers' delight, where cash strapped rummys could imbibe reduced price hooch between 4:00 and 6:00 PM or thereabout.

Twenty-six years later the Culinary and Hospitality Modernization Act awaits Gov. Rauner's signature to re-open the cheap booze spigots. While two for one isn't included, cheap booze is still on the fare, for up to 4 hours a day; 15 hours a week.
Full disclosure: I love liquor; but sparingly sip my Jack Daniels Sinatra Select to preserve both pocketbook and bod.

Hey, maybe legislative euphemisms have a point. As a supporter of legalized muggles (WA just cashed a $70 million dollar tax revenue check for 2014) how about IL passing a new law (wink, wink) entitled: The Native Plant Appreciation Modernization Act of 2015. Who could oppose that!

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Rauner playing Zero Sum Game with 13 million Illinoisans

You don't become a billionaire in venture capitalism by considering the interests of all and providing for the Commons. You (and your partners) win every time. The other side, the workers, the Commons, lose every time. Once you are fabulously wealthy, you assuage your guilt giving large amounts (but a pittance of your fortune) to charity. That is a fair description of Bruce Rauner's modus operandi. Sadly, he decided to ...continue it into his governorship. Whether stumping for the expiration of the desperately needed temporary tax increase extension to give his base an unnecessary tax cut, rolling back Illinois' minimum wage to the Federal level, busting unions, along with their livable wages and working conditions, and ending prevailing wage standards, Rauner displays zero interest in economic fairness and responsible governance. That is Rauner's Zero Sum Game: everything for the elite; nothing for the masses.

But Illinois isn't a tantalizing company that Rauner can make a big score on or dump if it's a payday dog. It's 13 million folks who depend on a leader who considers a semblance of their needs versus the fat cats for whom Rauner truly celebrates and provides. They know for certain that Rauner is not now and likely never will be in their corner. But what Rauner will never replicate in Illinois is the disaster that a Walker has created in Wisconsin, Brownback implemented in Kansas, or Jindal foisted upon Louisiana. They had a pliant legislature to do their dirty work. Illinois has a legislature beholden to the people.

At age 58, Bruce Rauner will finally learn that the billionaire's Zero Sum Game in the business world doesn't play in the public arena.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Greeks stand up to European bullies

When 19th century Victorian historian Thomas Carlyle tabbed economics the 'dismal science', he may have been foreshadowing the dismal treatment of Greece by its wealthy European creditors. If so, the beleaguered Greek Davids struck a mighty blow against the EU bankster Goliaths Sunday with their surprisingly large vote against another round of heartless, cruel austerity against Greece. The Greek debt crisis would surely has worsened under new austerity with only the Greek people doing the suffering while the irresponsible moneylenders call all the shots. But the Greek people showed that no matter the overwhelming power of the moneyed interests, the suffering masses with a vote can level the negotiating field. First up? Turning the flow of money to Greek banks back on to end the latest, EU imposed hardship.

All decent Illinoisans, especially the needy now being threatened and intimidated by Governor Austerity, should take note as we push back against an economic oligarch who gained power with personal millions and slick sophistry to promote the interests of his wealthy base.

Doing the right thing in Illinois should be Greek to us.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

A nice difference

Some of those fireworks you heard were ignited by folks celebrating a nice difference between July 4, 2015 and July 4, 2010: 16 million more Americans with health care insurance.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Dump life without parole along with death penalty

Only 40 of Illinois' 48,000 inmates have been imprisoned since before 1976. That number will drop to 39 with the release of Joseph Bigsby, 58, imprisoned since age of 16 in 1973, for killing a cop. Bigsby won parole on his 28th try in an 8-6 vote, which included two from Parole Board members with strong ties to the police fraternity. “I’m never going to forgive him for what he did, but it’s not about my forgiveness" noted retired Champaign cop Donald Shelton who voted to parole Bigsby. “I saw in this inmate more proof of change than I believe I’ve seen in any other inmates that I’ve interviewed or in any of the other cases I’ve heard in the last two-and-a-half years."

What promoted Shelton's parole affirmation was four decades of redemption and productivity, including getting an associate’s degree and two credits shy of a bachelor’s — before the program was canceled. He’s been trained as a master electrician and carpenter, and worked as a teacher’s aide, newspaper reporter and even a locksmith. Also, pertinent was the fact that the Supreme Court now bars death or even life sentences for juveniles. Edith Crigler, whose late husband, son, daughter-in-law, cousin and uncle were/are all police officers, also voted for parole, arguing that recent human development studies show adolescent brains often do not possess adult decision making processes.

Bigsby will relocate to Maryland to live with his sister's family. How many of the remaining 39 geriatric prisoners soaking about forty grand per year of Illinois' bankrupt treasure are fit to rejoin society remains to be determined. What is certain, is that life sentences, like the death penalty, should be abolished. With guidelines to ensure an aging heinous criminal, like Bigsby, can rejoin society without jeopardizing public safety, we can move to a more sane, humane and cost effective penal system. We need the best penal system in the civilized world, not the most populated. In addition, Illinois should restore college education for every prisoner worthy of it.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

History teacher Roskam flunks Magna Carta test

Although the Magna Carta, issued by English King John in 1215, was designed to determine the medieval relationship between the monarch and the barons, rather than the rights of all men, it has become the iconic symbol of liberty and the rights of ordinary people. Lord Denning (1899-1999), famed British judge and legal scholar, described it as "the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot". In eighth grade civics, we pre Baby Boomers learned its important influence to the writers of the Declaration of Independence. Explicitly taught to revere it, we were implicitly taught never to demean it for crass political purposes.

Sadly, that lesson was missed by my congressman Peter Roskam (IL, 6). His June 28 email trumpets his connecting reverence for the Magna Carta to the endless Republican vendetta against the Internal Revenue Service. Astoundingly, Roskam compares the beleaguered government revenue collector, who pays Roskam's quarter million dollar annual salary and benefits, to the tyranny kings. This is simply a dog whistle call to the greedy rich and greedy rich wannabes, who return Roskam to Congress term after term to make war against any taxes that might benefit the commons and the needy. Some of the more crass Republicans promoting this agenda such as Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, and GOP National Chair Reince Prebus, actually call for outright abolishment of the IRS.

Congressman Roskam should issue a retraction of this unfortunate email. Better yet, former history teacher Roskam should honor the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta by visiting every eighth grade class in the Sixth District to apologize for this reprehensible politicizing of our revered founding documents.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Next Papal Encyclical should santify gay marriage

“The family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage. As you know, these realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation and betray the very values which have inspired and shaped all that is best in your culture.” Pope Francis, January 17, 2015

Boy did Good Pope Francis, the coolest religious dude on the planet when it comes to endless greed, endless war and endless climate change denial, sure got marriage equality wrong. The Pope's problem is that while being against greed, war and planet destruction comports with teachings of his imaginary friend God, supporting gay marriage does not. That puts Francis on the side of the dwindling dinosaurs of homophobia who are disappearing at their fastest rate in human history. His statement becomes laughable when he claims just "some" are redefining marriage. It's more like the whole damn world except for societies locked into bizarre religious fanaticism. Calling the move to grant full humanity regarding choice of lovers "disfiguring  God's plan for creation" is a disgrace.

No wonder the Catholic Church is losing relevancy among decent, caring, educated Catholics. With 56% of US Catholics supporting gay marriage, the Pope is being left behind in America and most educated societies.

Come on Pope Man. You've hit a triple in your two years on greed, war and climate change. Write that Encyclical sanctifying gay marriage and you'll trot home with the Grand Slam. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Millions helped, saved even, by ACA not important to Roskam

Go to my Congressman Peter Roskam's website and there's no mention of the game changing Supreme Court decision upholding the federal subsidies provision of the Affordable Care Act, allowing six million folks to afford health insurance for the first time. That is because 'Shelby County v. Holder' put the final nail into the coffin of the GOP attempt to destroy the ACA. For the past seven years Roskam has been working feverishly first, to prevent its passage, then voting 55 times since its 2010 start up to overturn it. His website today makes nary a mention of the revolution that has occurred by granting 15 million Americans health care. Six of those millions are low income folks, getting subsidies by Uncle Sam, amounting to an average of $3,300, nearly 75% of their annual health care costs. Much of those subsidies are going to younger, healthier enrollees, slowing the rate of increase for all. How slow? While Roskam endlessly trots out the GOP canard the ACA will spike insurance costs, the 2015 increase is a mere 2%, well below the annual average before ACA.

But the  ACA revolution improving the lives (saving thousands actually from early death) of the 15 million new customers spreads far beyond those previously shut out. The health insurance industry is thriving, reinventing itself as companies develop new business models to accommodate the vast new customer base. Their innovations such as increased use

electronic medical records and tighter coordination between large and small hospitals, is cutting costs and improving efficiency. Merger interest in these thriving health insurance companies has spiked; something the fear mongering Roskam could never have foreseen. Wall Street loves the ACA.

In Roskam's bizarre, know nothing worldview, the ACA is still 'job killing Obamacare'. That only works if you, like Roskam, utterly dismiss the average of 240,000  new jobs created every month since the ACA became law. Unlike an elephant, Republican Roskam forgets, but only those nasty, inconvenient truths.

Other critical issues aside, Congressman Roskam's conduct on the ACA is a disgrace to the legislative process. It is cynical beyond calculation when you consider the millions of folks who would be bankrupt, suffering poorer health, or even dead without it. At some point Roskam should examine his heart and his soul to determine if this is the best he can do as a public servant, indeed, as a human being. We Sixth District residents should call his office at 202-225-4561 to voice our opposition to seven years of false, unconscionable fear mongering using the medically uninsured as political props. Be concise, polite but firm in requesting he stop impeding the greatest improvement in societal medical care in our lifetime.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Racist, homophobe dinosaurs marching to La Brea Tar Pits

What a truly astonishing week for human freedom, dignity, decency and hope. First, the Confederate Flag, a symbol of racism, sedition and slavery, began being ripped down from our public culture, 150 years after it was defeated on the battlefield. Just moments ago, marriage equality became the law of the land. Our 228 year old Constitution was reborn today, proving once again it is a living, breathing symbol of inexorable human progress. Inexorable, that is, only when millions of decent citizens push forward the ball of human progress. And the procession you see forming? It's the dead-end dinosaur racists and homophobes, some of whom are running for president, lining up for a painful march to the La Brea Tar Pits of extinction. There is much, much work still to be done. But let's take a moment to pause and celebrate. Moments like this don't come very often. Savor it.

Idaho only state not restricting minority voting rights

Idaho may be a red state, but when it comes to practicing Republican soft racism against blacks by restricting voting rights, The Potato State passes. It is the only one of fifty since 2,000 to have a clean record on Republicans' favorite way of dishonoring democratic ideals.

In 2011 and 2012, 180 new voting restrictions were introduced in forty-one states, with new laws adopted in nineteen states that made it harder to vote. Many were overturned in court but two years ago the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in Shelby County v. Holder. As a result 21 states implemented voting rights restrictions last year. From 2011 to 2015, 395 new voting restrictions have been introduced in forty-nine states. Half the states in the country have adopted measures making it harder to vote. The fifteen states previously required to pre clear their voting changes with Uncle Sam under the 1965 law, have been the most ferocious in restricting voting rights since that unfortunate Supreme Court case.

Bear in mind that voting restrictions don't just involve voter ID laws. They also include shortening registration and early voting, shutting down voter registration drives, disenfranchising ex-felons; even attempting to re-instate a form of poll tax. In the first few weeks of this year alone, forty new restrictions were introduced in 17 states.

Between 2000 and 2013, when the Supremes decided it was no longer necessary, 148 objections to new voting rights restrictions were filed under the Voting Rights Act in 29 states. Anti democratic Texas led the pack of shameful states with 30 complaints.

Yesterday, Democrats introduced the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 to reinstate the protections nullified by Shelby County v. Holder. Republicans, feverishly working against democratic ideals to disenfranchise millions to have a sliver of a chance in 2016, want nothing to do with extending voting rights to all.

I'll be lobbying my Republican Senator Kirk and Republican Congressman Roskam to support the VRAA of 2015. Knowing their heartlessness to the newly disenfranchised, that will be a challenge. And in a symbolic nod to the lone holdout among states, I think I'll order an Idaho baked potato at my next restaurant meal.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

While removing racist flag; rescind racist voting restrictions

Removing the Confederate Flag from state institutions and other elements of our culture is an important symbolic step in eradicating institutional racism. And that flag, embedded in state government and culture, is institutional racism. When racial dead enders claim it's merely their way of honoring the gallant soldiers defending the Old South, they are rewriting history. For eighty-three years after their defeat,... the South virtually ignored the flag. It was resurrected by the Dixiecrats, the Southern Democratic third party that mounted a presidential challenge to President Harry Truman in 1948, because he desegregated the military and implemented equal employment protections for blacks. From 1948 through the 1960's the flag was used mainly as symbol of resistance to civil rights. After integration was realized, It hung around due to the false narrative of regional pride. 
The politicians and the media would have us believe that flag etiquette is the only lesson to take from the Charleston massacre. But symbolism doesn't keep minorities from voting, preventing them full, unfettered citizenship. The substance of voting restrictions is the most insidious form of institutional racism, and it must be ended. How many are even aware that the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015, being introduced today by Senator Patrick Leahy (Dem. VT) and Representative John Lewis (Dem. GA) will do just that. It would restore voting protections to millions of minorities whose voting rights are jeopardized by two troubling developments: hundreds of restrictive voting laws passed by Republican legislatures to suppress the black vote, and the Shelby County v. Holder, Supreme Court decision of June 23, 2013, that eliminated Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which required 15 states with a history of voting discrimination to submit any voting laws to Uncle Sam for approval. Sadly, Senator Leahy couldn't find a single Republican to co-sponsor his critically needed bill.
Following the burst of revulsion over the slaughter of innocents, inspired in part, by a racist symbol, and a white supremacist hate group that showers contributions on Republican presidential aspirants, its easy for GOP leaders to tear down the dreaded flag. When they smirk about their magnanimity, demand they do the heavy lifting: support the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

GOP's elephant in the room? Racism

When Arizona Republican Senator Barry Goldwater voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act that June, GOP leaders said he'd never get the 1964 GOP presidential nod. He did. Outside the South, the anti black segment of the nation had already gravitated to the GOP. Goldwater's self described vote against was based on principles of states rights and anti governmental intervention, not racism. But bigots knew the 'code' and rallied to the charge, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice", pushing Goldwater to the GOP pinnacle. Moderates in the GOP, like Nelson Rockefeller, were no longer welcome. .
Inside the South, white supremacist Democrats ruled the racist Solid South for a century, creating a two headed Democratic Hydra; Southern Dems championing segregation, the rest pushing black civil rights and equality. President Johnson, a New Deal Democrat from Texas who never bought into white supremacy, used his accidental presidency to pass the 1964 and 1965 Civil Rights Acts, destroying de jure segregation and black vote suppression.

After passage of the '64 Act, LBJ said, "I know this will cost us votes in the South." But even Johnson underestimated the transformation. A year earlier, white supremacist SC senator Strom Thurmond, took his racism to the GOP. Over the years, nearly every other Southern Senate and House seat flipped to the GOP, becoming a home for the previously Democratic racists.

Richard Nixon exploited this trend, concocting his "Southern Strategy" to grab the presidency in 1968. He courted Thurmond, won his endorsement, and by extension, put the South in the GOP camp for the following 47 years (with a couple of defections for Obama in 2008 and 2012).
Ronald Reagan, as savvy as they come, learned the drill, kicking off his successful 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, MS, home of the infamous triple killing of civil rights workers in 1964. Reagan's pitch? states rights.

And in 2015, we learn more every day about the white supremacist tentacles poisoning the GOP. The hate group Council of Conservative Citizens, a mentor of mass murderer Dylann Roof, has given some of its $57,000 in donations to four GOP presidential aspirants, as well as a number GOP congressmen. The Council as been addressed by top GOP leaders including former Senate leader Trent Lott and former Republican National Chairman and presidential contender Haley Barbour.

Now, GOP leaders are scurrying like rats on a drowning ship to disavow the Council and its symbol of slavery, racism, and sedition: the Confederate Flag. SC Gov. Nikki Haley, who waffled at first, gets kudos for coming out strongly for taking down Dylann Roof's favorite logo ware from the Capitol grounds. But even Haley is tainted by the Council, having had one of its members on her campaign advisory committee. We don't know exactly what he advised the governor, but it surely wasn't about outreach to the black community.

From whining that the mass murder was not about race but either 'religious liberty', a crazed loner, or even 'gun control', the GOP is starting to get the message: soft racism to win elections only works under cover of darkness. Dylann Roof's deadly rampage has turned a light on the GOP that will shine long after the sparks of his deadly gunfire. That should be his fitting legacy.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Time for new US motto?

The unofficial motto "Land of the free; home of the brave" is a bit arrogant. Every land has brave people and many have free people, especially the needy, who are much freer than our needy, shut out from critical government services. The official motto: "In God We Trust" is a relic from the 1950's McCarthy era Cold War hysteria. We needed a narrative to distinguish us with Russia. Voila! Russia represents godless atheism; US has god on its side....NOT.... Besides, atheism is the fastest growing belief system in the land of the godtrusters.

How bout "Massacre capital of the civilized world"? It distinguishes America from every other civilized country and exemplifies our "can shoot" mentality. Have a grudge? Grab one of the 300 million guns floating around and start blasting. We've experienced 70 gun massacres (4 or more killed in one burst) since 1982; 33 since just 2006. 2012 was a doozy with 7, one every 52 days, giving America bragging rights no country seeks to emulate.

It's certainly more accurate and representative than the current motto; but might be tough to fit on a dime.

Haley should kill defective flag; not defective human

SC Gov. Nikki Haley seeks to kill the wrong defect in the SC church masscre. "We absolutely want him to have the death penalty" was Haley's obtuse way of saying she wants to kill the apparently defective Dylann Roof for the murders of 9 church members Tuesday. It doesn't matter a whit to Haley that Roof is no longer a threat to society, that justice will be provided by a life sentence, and that sparing Roof's life will not... encourage similarly defective humans from copying his crime. Haley is simply playing to the dwindling majority of Americans who seek bloodlust for perpetrators of heinous crimes. That is not leadership. That is not moral. That is simply pandering to the basest instincts of our citizenry.

Haley would better serve the healing process by working to kill of the defective flag that desecrates the SC capitol gounds. Yes, the Confederate Flag, a symbol of slavery, racism and sedition, still haunts racial reconciliation in SC and the nation.

There is much substantive work required to topple America from its shameful perch as massacre capital of the civilized world. Much involves reducing access to the hundreds of millions of guns readily available to defective humans like Roof. But Gov. Haley should take an important symbolic step and use her bully pulpit to put Stars and Bars in its grave. A hundred fifty years after being defeated on the Civil War battlefield, it burial is long overdue.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Kirk clueless of what's said on South Side

Senator Mark Kirk is being criticized for his sexist statement that his colleague and presidential aspirant Lindsay Graham (R, SC) is "A bro with no ho", referring to his bachelor status and need for 'fill-in' First Lady should he become president. But what's worse is the lag line Kirk offered "That's what we'd say on the South Side."

What do you mean "WE", Senator Kirk? You North Shore white man of privilege haven't a clue how folk...s talk on the South Side. You even said white people, presumably including you, step on the gas driving through the black community so they won't get shot. How would you pick up the patois? You said we should have mass arrest of 18,000 Gangster Disciples gang members. You blew it after your one ride along in the inner city with Police Supt. McCarthy, popping off about a guy getting "popped", requiring McCarthy to issue a clarification.

Senator Mark Kirk has no business remaining in the Senate much less running for re-election. Listen to him speak and he's clearly suffering mental impairment from the devastating stroke he suffered three years ago. His recovery from near total paralysis or even death is phenomenal. That does not mean his should play the sympathy card (and he has) to hold onto an important office deserving of one not suffering substantial impairment.
Mark Kirk, just 55, should consider spending a hopefully long life, working on his recovery and doing good works for the public... as a private citizen.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

The aims of education

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had this to say about education:
"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically... Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education."
In a related story, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has a proposal in the legislature to change the name of Wisconsin's fabled educational edifice to: 'The University of Wisconsin Trade School.' Faculty seeking tenure need not apply.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Who's really gambling on national security?

To: Chicago Tribune Editorial Board

One statement in your June 1 editorial 'The Senate gambles on national security' stands out:
"You might blame Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky for this national security lapse. He held up Senate action to save provisions of the Patriot Act that expired Sunday night. Paul, running for president, filibustered, protested and campaigned as the deadline approached. His bid to raise campaign cash linked to this maneuvering is crass."

What is truly crass is how easily the Trib Editorial Board uses an irrelevant, unprovable and salacious charge to denigrate the important, largely lone effort Paul has made to end the originally secret, illegal spying on all Americans in contravention of 4th Amendment privacy rights. The Trib has never exercised its duty as an influential member of the Fourth Estate to protect our privacy rights under assault from a renegade government bent on launching criminal war after the 911 attacks.

Come to think of it, the Trib never did its Fourth Estate duties to challenge the rush to criminal war based on lies, manufactured false evidence, fear tactics and endless propaganda. Only one member of mainstream media, MSNBC's Phil Donohue, challenged the Bush administration's Iraq war juggernaut, and he was summarily fired to keep the entire Fourth Estate in line.

What really jeopardizes national security is rogue terrorist events such as the Boston Marathon bombing launched by one-off attackers influenced by America's endless bombing of innocent Muslims in the Middle East as we try to salvage our empire and influence there. Sadly, the Trib is fully supportive of that empire and influence retention in spite of its inevitable bad ending for a world power declining from military overreach.

Your editorial said nothing in support of the reforms implemented by Edward Snowden's revelations and Rand Paul's legislative efforts to end senseless, unwarranted and un-Constitutional spying. That absence speaks volumes about the Trib's media and governing values.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Thank you Ed, and thank you Rand

Thanks largely to Edward J. Snowden we learned about the massive NSA spying on every American, abrogating our 4th Amendment privacy rights. Until his revelations, America's spymasters continually lied that they weren't spying on all of us. And thanks largely to Sen. Rand Paul we have the USA Freedom Act, signed yesterday, which curtails some of the worst aspects of the Patriot Act regarding our loss of privacy.

What are the changes? The stor...age of bulk phone records shifts from the NSA to the phone companies, and the government must petition a special federal court for permission to search them. . A new kind of court order will permit the government to swiftly analyze them to ensure national security. In addition, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court will finally be required to declassify some of its most significant decisions, and interested parties will be allowed to argue for privacy rights before the court in certain cases.

Both Snowden and Paul paid a price for their efforts on our behalf. Paul is now a pariah among the 18 other GOP presidential aspirants, who unlike Paul, relish relentless governmental snooping and military adventurism overseas. Snowden fared much worse. He's a refugee from an America that should treat him as a hero. If his government detractors could get their hands on him, he'd grow old in prison.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

It's war monger Graham, not libertarian Paul who makes us less safe

SC Senator Lindsay Graham announced for president yesterday before a sparse crowd in Central, SC. He says he's running for president because "The world is falling apart." He should have added he did much to cause it to fall apart. He supported every criminal and senseless American venture in the Middle East that has left hundreds of thousands dead and millions homeless and on the move. He promises more of this madness with his central theme of opposing 'radical Islam' with war, war and more war. He's one of the virulent Republican neocons blasting his fellow Republican presidential aspirant Rand Paul, who single-handedly prevented extension of the most pernicious provisions of the Patriot Act. Every American should watch Paul's eloquent defense of his actions which have the neocons' heads exploding. Graham, meanwhile, disgraced himself in saying that if someone is thinking of joining ISIS, he wouldn't seek out a judge, he'd launch a drone to kill him. Paul correctly told Hardball's Chris Matthews that his fellow Republican warmongers are largely responsible for the creation of ISIS. He even pondered whether some of his critics would welcome a terrorist attack to ratchet up their fear mongering with an "I told you so." That resonates with everyone aware that the neocons were lusting for a 'Pearl Harbor' style event back in the late 1990's to launch their regime change plan for the Middle East. And we know how that turned out. 
Ron Paul has split the Republican monopoly on bellicose military adventurism wide open. He has created a healthy debate over Uncle Sam's overreach into our 4th Amendment privacy protections. Among the 19 or so little people running for the GOP nomination, Paul stands tall.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Leave Illinois as soon as possible

I have a message for all the folks, virtually all living high off the hog as successful small business owners or highly paid jobholders, who bemoan how horrible Illinois is on them financially. Please do what you so often threaten to do; leave Illinois as fast as you can. You can go to one of 8 states that have no income tax at all (2 of which just on dividends and interest), or the 3 that have a lower income tax. The other 38 have a higher state income tax than Illinois, so your options are limited.

We don't need you carrying around a huge loaf of bread under each arm; then crying about the few crumbs scraped off by the state to serve the commons and uplift the needy. You have a hole in your soul regarding your fellow Illinoisans that will never be filled, even if you could keep every buck that comes your affluent way.

Once you're gone, those of us who have been blessed with either material comfort or largess, can create a business environment that will uplift the Illinoisans at the bottom while growing Illinois business. We will implement a minimum wage is which not at the current 'near starvation' level. That increase will all be spent on neglected necessities, fueling business success. It will not hoarded like the extra money you folks receive with low tax rates and loopholes galore. Then we will adopt a truly fair progressive income tax that is the only sensible remedy to fund the commons, infrastructure, mental health, early childhood development, crime prevention and superior education.  

We won't miss you because your ranks will be filled quickly by entrepreneurs and innovators, who have a heart and a soul, as well as the Midas Touch.

Oh yes, as the saying goes: Don't let the door... on the way out.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Ash nailed it: US foreign intervention in ashes

Vice President Joe Biden doesn't need to take Defense Secretary Ash Carter to the Warmongers Woodshed for his comment that Iraq showed "no will to fight" over their loss of Ramadi to ISIS. What Biden should be complaining about is America's will to go on squandering trillions adding to the hundreds of thousands dead, including 7,000 GI's, in failed Middle East policies while the Homeland continues to languish under war imposed austerity. America created ISIS, first by our criminal war which smashed Iraq worse than Humpty Dumpty, and then by funneling arms to rag tag terrorist groups we hoped would use them to overthrow hated President Assad of Syrian. They simply said "Thanks, very much Uncle Do-Do Bird. We'll use them to crate a Caliphate instead". And in the US, everybody loses...except the guys making the WMD and the sociopaths who relish endless war.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Book Pick: Whistle Stop by Philip White, University Press of New England, 2014

There were two famous Ferdinand Megellans. The first was flesh and blood, who, between 1519 and 1522, was first explorer to circumnavigate the earth. The second, also a traveler, but more important to history, was steel and steam, the presidential railroad car that carried President Harry Truman over 31,000 miles on his 352 speech whistle stop tour that brought him the most improbable of president...ial victories in the election of 1948.

Whistle Stop is the title of Philip White's book chronicling this fascinating campaign, in which every pollster not only predicted Republican Tom Dewey would swamp Democrat Truman, some even stopped polling in September. Truman struggled just to get the Democratic nomination, being challenged for nomination by the party's left flank, who felt he was not a worthy successor to the sainted FDR. His nomination caused a double split in the party; Southern racists joined he Dixiecrat campaign of SC Governor Strom Thurmond, and northeast liberals signed up with Progressive Party candidate, and Truman's predecessor as VP, Henry Wallace. That left Truman with just the west and Midwest to garner electoral votes.

But Truman was tough, smart and totally committed to carrying on the New Deal legacy of Roosevelt. Getting the nomination, he faced a dispirited party apparatus who bought the pollsters foregone conclusions of a Dewey landslide. Truman responded by doing something innovative in presidential campaigns. He created a campaign issue brain trust of seven brilliant strategists equally committed to his re-election. They boarded together in a bare bones hotel to enable them to work nearly round the clock crafting issue oriented and hard hitting speeches on everything the New Deal stood for: jobs, health care, price controls, infrastructure improvements, minimum wage increase, civil rights, and immigration reform. Sound familiar? Then they created the most ambitious whistle stop campaign ever. Truman gave up the 16 speeches a day, rising a 5:00 AM and not retiring till midnight. He blasted Dewey and the 'Do Nothing' GOP controlled 80th Congress relentlessly, not with gratuitous insults and name calling, but with facts and passion and truth. Dewey, meanwhile, mentally measuring the White House drapes, basically phoned in his campaign with platitudes based around 'unity' and 'competence' instead of substance.

Truman not only won big, 49.5% to 45.1% of the popular vote, and 303 to 186 in the Electoral College, he got to hold up the hated Chicago Tribune with the headline 'Dewey defeats Truman' for Dems to cheer and Republicans to cry.

Every Democrat and progressive should read 'Whistle Stop' before the 2016 campaign begins. It will inspire a commitment to win regardless of the odds, and it will re-enforce how brains, facts, passion and straight talk will trump impersonal, mindless platitudes.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Ireland leads; Catholic Church dead last in race for human inclusion and equality

Congrats to Ireland for being the first country in the world legalizing gay marriage by popular vote. In spite of rabid opposition by the Catholic Church, 62% of Irish voters said YES to marriage equality. The vote wasn't concentrated in pockets of human decency; 42 of 43 voting districts passed the measure.

The vote adds an extra helping of raspberries to the Catholic Church, which is becoming more and more isolated in its hateful, discriminatory and self destructive opposition to marriage equality.
Maybe its time for all church attending Catholics of good will to substitute a note for greenbacks in the church envelope. It should say something like: "NO MORE MONEY TILL YOU TRULY ACT CHRISTLIKE AND EMBRACE THE ENTIRE HUMAN FAMILY."

Friday, May 22, 2015

Rauner's 'Turnaround Agenda' only produced nausea

Amateur Governor Bruce Rauner has been popping Dramamine pills like Lifesavers as his 'Turnaround Fantasy Tour' only produced trouble in Tummy Town. Just 35 of 1,400 hundred municipal governments and county boards jumped on Rauner's carnival stunt 'Tilt-A-Whirl' to pass resolutions supporting his anti union, anti worker agenda. And most of those were cities under 10,000 or counties under 50,000 folks. Heeding to the straight and clear headed, Ottawa passed it's own resolution specifically forbidding local 'Right To Work' zones, eliminating 'Fair Share' Union' payments for non-union workers, and undermining competitive wage scales, all of which degrade the middle class. But till vertigo set in, Rauner spun like top, making 62 stops in 52 cities between February 4 and May 8. During that time Rauner avoided the most important task of his new administration: offering sensible legislation to resolve Illinois's financial crisis greatly worsened by his refusal to support fair taxation; indeed any taxation at all unless it benefits his bloated and wealthy base. Governor Rauner ain't' seen nothing yet. His self induced nausea still has three years and seven months of spinning to go.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Nebraska can't sell its lethal injection drugs to Saudi Arabia

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts just squandered $55,000 of Cornhusker Cash to procure drugs to kill Nebraskans likely never to die from Ricketts' love of state sponsored murder. That's because Nebraska's unicameral legislature (America's one and only) just voted 32 to 15 to abolish the death penalty. Ricketts has vowed a veto, but if the 32 hold together, they will override Ricketts' death dance and make Nebraska the 19th state to join most civilized countries that have abolished capitol punishment.

If Ricketts' veto is overridden, maybe he should renounce his citizenship and emigrate to Saudi Arabia. With over six months to go they've just lopped off their 85th human head of people offending the regime, just 3 shy of last years 88. Things are so tough they're advertising for additional headchoppers, a gig Ricketts might consider. The Saudi's, Uncle Sam's best buddy in the Middle East, let the blood gush in public; no sissy lethal drug cocktails for their condemned.