Sunday, June 24, 2018

Trib steps up to plate on Yemen...and wiffs



After 27 months it's a relief the Trib (June 23 editorial) has finally addressed the world's worst humanitarian crisis: the Gulf States' intervention in the Yemen civil war that has left fifty thousand dead from starvation, a million suffering cholera, and millions more at risk from a cruel blockade of food and medicine. But it should not take seven paragraphs for the Trib to reveal the ugly truth of this man made catastrophe: the US is an active participant with its "intelligence, munitions and aerial refueling for Saudi and UAE fighter jets". But to say "The US is not an innocent bystander in the crisis" works to paper over the magnitude of our complicity in what most certainly are war crimes against the innocent Yemeni people. Even with US help the Gulf States cannot militarily defeat the Shi'ite rebels who've captured a swathe of Yemen. Their new strategy rests on one grotesque tactic, starvation, with US compliance, if not encouragement. Why is the US doing this? Simple. It's more than a proxy war between the Gulf States and Iran. It's also a US proxy war against Iran, in which the millions of hapless Yemenis are simply 'collateral damage.' The Trib's plea for US to use its "sway" to "make the case for a halt to the offensive (blockade) on Hodeida" (remaining Yemen supply port) is laughable. The US can end Gulf State war crimes in Yemen by immediately ending all military support. In so doing the US will also end its war crimes there as well.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Any more Dr. Daughtrys out there?


I applaud Dr. Barry Daughtry of Oak Brook who left Illinois for Wisconsin under the 'Three strikes and I'm out' rule (Trib letter 'Fed up', June 22). The most egregious offense cited was the additional $7,000 in property tax he has to pay over the past 21 years living in toney Oak Brook. Offense No. 2 was inability of the Tollway Authority to process his online request to replace a lost I-Pass device. Strike three, which sent Daughtry to the dugout, opps, I mean Wisconsin, was a red light camera violation attributed to being "more tired than usual". During my weekly drive to Chicago from Glen Ellyn, I've got to plan my timing carefully to avoid tie ups from the mass of humanity driving in and out of one of the most vibrant cities and suburban areas in the country. Next time traffic slows on the 'Ike' I'll ponder if some of these folks might follow the good doctor on a one way trip north, never to return.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Roskam's 'wild card' in the White House makes plea for immigrant children ring hollow



My congressman Peter Roskam (IL-6) coming out against President Trump's atrocious policy tearing immigrant children from their parents at the border is simply too little, too late. Roskam eyed the racist, xenophobic candidate in 2016, who essentially called all immigrants criminals, and blessed his candidacy. "I do think time is Donald Trump's friend. I think people are saying... alright, I'm ready to hear this guy out, see what he has got to say with the flash and dash aside." Wrong congressman. The flash and dash hasn't been put aside in the 510 days since his inauguration. Everything we hear is scurrilous fear mongering, denigration of the defenseless, and appeals to the worst impulses in a minority base that loathes the 'other' in our society. Roskam knew better in 2016 and he knows better now. But political expediency required his unending obeisance to a man morally unfit to hold office. As long as Trump pushed Roskam's tax giveaway to the rich, Roskam ignored his malevolence.

Peter Roskam mulled the catastrophic spectacle of hysterical children and parents at the border over the Father's Day weekend and decided to appear reasonable. But for his 12 years in Congress he did nothing to solve the immigration crisis and protect millions of dreamers. He vehemently opposed Obama's sensible plan, preposterously claiming immigration was too big for one bill and needed to be addressed in 'chunks'. And the one and only chunk he ever advocated for was enhanced border security. Roskam's epiphany about distraught immigrant kids and their parents has more to due with the winds of change blowing in the Illinois 6th than ever doing the right thing about the most vulnerable in our society.

Friday, June 15, 2018

North Korea wise not to make Iraq, Iran, Libya mistake

We should all push back against endless US demonization, fear mongering and lying about the North Korea threat. We've been trying to unify Korea under the Western model since we created the artificial split of Korea at the 38th parallel in August, 1945, to thwart communist influence over Korean unification. Doing so meant condemning untold thousands to imprisonment, torture and death under the brutal US puppet leader Syngman Rhee in the US controlled South. Both North and South lusted for war to reunify Korea. Our preventing that inevitability sentenced several million Koreans to death, mostly at our our hands, dropping more bombs on North Korea than we dropped on Japan in WWII (635,000 tons v. 500,000 tons). We were never serious about keeping Korea nuclear free; our goal has always been regime change in the North. To counter that likelihood, conclusively proven by our betrayal of Iraq, Iran and Libya who did end their nuclear programs, the North's only trump card glows nuclear. Denuclearization only applies to countries we can't control. A nation planning a trillion dollar upgrade to its 6,500 nukes has zero credibility to pontificate to targets of US regime change policy.
North Korea will never and shouldn't give up its measly 15 nukes till the US makes it safe from regime change. That requires more than a temporary halt to provocative war games with the South. It requires ending sanctions, removing our soldiers from the Korean peninsula and pledging through the UN not to attack, something lusted for by US warmongers like National Security Adviser John Bolton and chief Senate war hawk Lindsay Graham, among others. If Uncle Sam wants to see the biggest threat to world peace...he merely needs to look in the mirror.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Yemen in the time of Cholera - Part V



In the Saudi's war on Yemen, blockade and famine are fine with their chief enablers, the United States of America. The deaths of over 15,000 Yemenis and a million plus suffering cholera makes no dent on the American conscience. We may be the land of the free and the home of the brave, but with our military and moral support, we're ensuring that Yemen remains the land of cholera and the home of the starving. The grotesque truth about this American aided proxy war against Iran is that Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies can't defeat the Shi'ite Houthis militarily. They've gone to Plan B....starving the Houthis to death. They can do that because Yemen is dependent on imports for 90% of its food supply. Worse, they can do that because we aid and abet their ongoing genocide of the hapless Yemen people. Next time you gorge on the most plentiful food supply in the world, give a thought to that Yemenite baby you're helping lead to starvation and cholera.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Blago symptomatic of incarceration crazed US justice system



The United States is incarceration crazy, containing 4.4% of the world's population, but housing 22% of the world's prisoners. We have the highest incarceration rate at 716 per 100,000 and the highest percentage of convicted criminals who are jailed. At about $35,000 per inmate, total annual cost exceeds $80 billion.

It hasn't always been this way. Beginning under Nixon in 70's and Reagan in the 80's, the US became incarceration obsessed. Nixon, through aide John Halderman, admitted he used draconian drug violation sentencing to jail minorities and leftists in massive numbers for political gain. Reagan followed suit, resulting in a seven fold increase in state prisoners since then.

Nearly fifty years on, jailing non-violent, non habitual criminals is still the knee jerk response to criminal conviction. Many thousands languish behind bars for trivial drug possession, inability to make bail, trumped up or wrongful convictions among a host of excuses for needless incarceration. Draconian minimum sentencing and life without parole are adding to the staggering prison population.

That brings us to former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for essentially cynical governance and thumbing his nose at the political power structure. Query a hundred citizens and nearly all will glaze over in cluelessness of his wrongdoing. Blago didn't make a dime from his political shenanigans and did infinitely less damage to the needy of Illinois than the current governor who legally withheld a budget for three years, causing severe economic hardship that will take years to redress, if ever. Sadly, pols and pundits push back on calls to release a harmless fool based mainly on his refusal to admit guilt and show remorse. That's simply cutting off one's economic nose to spite one's fiscal face. If Blago must remain inmate number 2,300,000 in the world's largest people cage, those folks looking for remorse should cough up the 35 grand to cage Blago for another year.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Punting on 4th and 40 smart; not so on Masterpiece Cake Shop case

Religious conservatives are ecstatic over the Supreme Court's 7-2 decision yesterday supporting Masterpiece Bakery's refusal to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. The issue was freedom to discriminate against gays on religious grounds against freedom from discrimination in public accommodations. But before rejoicing, religious conservatives believing, ala Seinfeld's "No soup for you!", that anti gay bakers, as well as other anti gay public businesses can turn away those dreaded gays, should actually read the decision. That's because the Supremes punted, refusing to lock in anti discrimination against gays in public accommodations which is most certainly the law of the land. They ruled in favor of Masterpiece not on an imagined First Amendment right to discriminate, but on the narrow, technical ground that Masterpiece itself subject to religious bias by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission (CCRC) in their decision requiring the cake be baked. The Court cited several words and phrases used by the CCRC to hang their bias charge. In fact, Justice Kennedy's decision re-affirmed that Masterpiece has no First Amendment right to discriminate based on religious freedom, making further expensive litigation inevitable.
Why did the Court punt? Alas, there was no post game press conference to question the 7 coaches who punted. Certainty, a primary directive of Supreme Court decisions, was sadly missing in Masterpiece. Punting when you're in the Red Zone of achieving full citizenship for gays in public accommodations is inexplicable... and bad public policy strategy.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Breen passes on history to push anti abortion obsession



My state rep Peter Breen (R-48th) is obsessed over abortion. He tends to see every issue of women's rights and advancement from the prism of interference with a woman's reproductive freedom. Consider his Nay vote that failed to prevent Illinois from becoming the 37th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, passed by Congress in 1972, and now needing just one more state to become enshrined in the US Constitution. That document established America as a patriarchy, relegating women to little more than chattel for men who had exclusive control over voting, public office and property, and quite importantly, their own bodies. The arc of full citizenship and freedom for women was slow and torturous; 132 years just to get the vote; 185 years to achieve the right to control their bodies containing an unwanted pregnancy. The laws and legal decisions mean nothing to those seeking to limit that full citizenship and freedom, with 33 state legislatures pecking away at abortion access and resources like a hoard of woodpeckers in a forest. Breen, who doubles as Special Council to the extreme anti abortion Thomas More Society, has been a leader in the effort to make safe, affordable abortion less safe and less affordable; and by extension, women less free.

So at voting time, Breen ignored the historic arc that inches women closer to their rightful place in our great democratic experiment. His reasoning was chilling, calling the ERA "an alleged Constitutional Amendment" which would be "an illegal act". He called its supporters as having "no other thing to do than expand abortion rights." I, and likely the majority of Illinoisans, as reflected by the 62% bi-partisan vote to pass ERA in Illinois, prefer the profound, historic words of Breen's Republican colleague Christine Winger (R-45): "I am pro life. Again, I am pro life. I have a two year old daughter. I am for her and others to know that in the state of Illinois she should have the same opportunities as men. Vote Yes!"

Thankfully for her daughter, and every woman in Illinois, 71 other legislators did.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Goodell, NFL owners, not kneelers disrespect flag.



Kneeling during public playing of the National Anthem to call attention to social injustice is patriotic. Banning such kneeling under threat of fine is not. Demanding an NFL player can protest by remaining in the locker room during the Anthem is degrading and insulting to the player and to America's democratic ideals. "It's OK to protest", the NFL is saying, "Just don't let me see you." That's sorta like Birmingham Police Chief Bull O'Conner telling Martin Luther King he must protest in his house before entering Birmingham streets.

This August every player on both teams in the first exhibition game should come out proudly for the Anthem and kneel. It might take a game or two but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his cowardly owners will quickly huddle and call a new play: "No harm...no foul."

McCain still doesn't get it...never will



Nearing his end, Senator John McCain, admits that the Iraq war was a 'mistake', telling Politico "“I came out of the Vietnam War convinced that frankly we could have won, and we had it won... just as I believed we had the Iraq conflict won after the surge — and for which I sacrificed everything, including my presidential ambitions, that it would succeed.”

All those bombs he dropped on innocents fifty years ago and all those Iraqis killed 15 years ago still hasn't made a dent in McCain's conscience. He still champions the murderous and criminal Vietnam and Iraq wars as honorable wars only lost because of stupid leaders who lost their nerve to triumph over avoidable defeat. McCain's incessant warmongering against Russia, Iran, North Korea and others since our failure in Iraq and Afghanistan is a pox on America's soul and an extreme threat to world peace.

We must neither honor nor revere leaders who have spent their entire career fighting in and promoting senseless war. We must call them out for their warmongering, vote them out of Congress, and hold them up to the derision and ridicule they deserve.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Not Pearl Harbor, but a day of infamy nonetheless


CIA career employee Gina Haspel was confirmed as CIA Director May 17 by a Senate vote of 54-45. Haspel's nomination was big news up till her confirmation because she participated in the US torture program of suspected bad guys in the hysteria known as the War On Terror following 911. She compounded her despicable conduct by drafting the memo ordering destruction of the tapes documenting US torture. Haspel didn't get prosecuted for her crimes. She didn't get fired. She didn't get shunned by a country claiming moral superiority in matters of humane conduct. Instead she was promoted to head the agency that conducted the torture in which she was personally involved.
Haspel's confirmation vote was bi-partisan; 6 Democrats joined 48 Republicans to celebrate rather than censure her. Within 24 hours Gina Haspel and her torturous path to CIA Director disappeared from the 24/7 news cycle. Next May 17 her name and her foul deeds likely will not be mentioned by a mainstream media which enables both perpetual war and its illegitimate child torture.
But to me, May 17 will remain ...a day of infamy.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Bars should not bar right to vote


If one of the purposes of prison is rehabilitation, then it's important to let every soul behind bars vote. Just two states, albeit among the smallest, Maine and Vermont, follow that humane principle. No one has yet to point out one iota of harm from such inclusion. The remaining 48 practice some form of disenfranchising backwardness, from a tad less progressive to abominable:
15 states plus DC, including IL, only bar people in prison from voting
3 states return right to vote after prison and parole
20 add completing probation before restoring vote
10 states never restore right to vote, permanently disenfranchising over 5,000,000 citizens and making a mockery about 'paying your debt to society'.
The other millions on parole or probation must also be given the franchise if we want to truly begin the rehabilitation process and reduce recidivism. We'll never know how may failed lives can be reclaimed and how many billions can be saved till we do the right thing on the felon franchise.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Trump's revival of Reagan gag rule unconscionable

While the 24/7 news cycle focuses primarily on Trump's foreign and financial corruption, the Trump administration focuses primarily on reversing many of the progressive policies which truly make life better for Americans. Take women's reproductive health. Trump just ordered Health & Human Services to prepare a 'gag rule' to prevent Planned Parenthood and other such counseling services from counseling pregnant women on available abortion services. Failure to comply will cause PP and others to lose precious federal Title X funds needed to provide these services. Physicians for Reproductive Health calls this proposal "unconscionable...undermining medical ethics by forcing health care professionals to withhold accurate and timely information from patients."
Trump isn't breaking new ground here. He's simply reviving President Reagan's gag rule from the early '80's. That rule never was implemented since it didn't survive court challenges till Clinton took office and ignored it; a humane response followed by Bush and Obama. Once again Trump proves that no decent progressive policy goes unpunished.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The mirror reflects Trib, NY Times, CNN


The uninformed reader of the Trib's editorial 'Who's to blame for the Gaza violence?' would have no idea that the Israeli army massacred 61 Palestinians and wounded several thousand more at the Israeli-Gaza border without suffering a single casualty. Nor would they understand the protesters were seeking to reveal in all its deadly horror, Israel's decade long blockade of Gaza's two million souls forced to the brink of joblessness, unsustainable health care, hideous living conditions, indeed, starvation; all supported and enabled by the United States. How cruel of the Trib to term possibly the world's worst man made humanitarian crisis as "economic hardship." How insensitive simply to "note that many of the protesters were peaceful", only massing "to reassert their 'right of return' to what is now Israel...to express their despair — as generations of Palestinians have" and "to denounce the U.S. embassy switch." But the Trib is not alone. The New York Times has been called out for asserting Palestinians were simply "dying", while CNN rightly criticized for asserting that "clashes" resulted in "deaths". Instead of telling the unvarnished, horrific truth of Israel's weekly slaughter to keep Palestinians suffocating in the world's largest open air prison, mainstream media is using the mildest language possible to mask that truth.
The Trib calls on Palestinian leaders to look in the mirror for the source of Palestinian gunshot victims. The Trib, NY Times and CNN should all look in their mirror before their next weekly Gaza massacre story.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Israel 70, Palestine 0

Happy 70th birthday to Israel.
While Israelis and their supporters around the world celebrate three score and ten years as a thriving economic engine in the Middle East, Palestinians have yet to celebrate a single year or even a single day as a nation.
Two million Palestinians suffer in unbearable squalor imposed upon them by Israel in Gaza, and get shot down like ducks on the pond when they protest. Meanwhile, Israeli expansion in Palestinian areas of the West Bank continues at breakneck pace. Israeli infrastructure consisting of roads, settlements, military bases and nearly 600 checkpoints gobbles up 40% of the West Bank. Jewish settler population in occupied territories exceeds 600,000.
US officials make trip after trip after trip to the region imploring the Israelis to cease their settlements on occupied Palestinian land and negotiate fairly for a two state solution. But until the US makes our annual three billion dollars in aid to Israel contingent on actual progress instead of lip service while settlements grow unabated, the long suffering Palestinians will continue to be the most neglected and dehumanized folks on the planet.

Rauner's Seven Year Itch no comedy

The arc of human progress is slow and prone to setbacks. Consider abolition of the barbaric and inhumane death penalty. Seven years ago, under Governor Quinn, Illinois became the 17th state to abolish it, no doubt pleasing our Favorite Son Abe Lincoln, who must have applauded from the grave. Seven years on, Governor Rauner is proposing its re-instatement; albeit for really bad guys who kill cops or multiple persons. But Rauner is doing more than simply proposing; he inserted it into a gun control bill which will extend the waiting period to for purchasing assault rifles from 24 to 72 hours. The legislature must now override Rauner's death penalty provision or it becomes part of the gun control law. Rauner, desperate to win back the extreme wing of his conservative base picked off by Primary challenger Jeanne Ives, is simply throwing red meat to the death penalty crowd that resides within that base. It may be the most cynical ploy yet by a governor desperately trying to win re-election after failing to implement his 'turnaround agenda' in his first three and a half years.
In romantic comedies the 'Seven Year Itch' is a stitch. Bruce Rauner's seven year itch to re-instate the death penalty is a shameful embarrassment to Illinois. Now it's up to the legislature to keep the arc of progress in criminal justice from falling back to a barbaric age.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Die free now...or die later a staving prisoner


Dozens of Gaza's Palestinians chose death by a bullet to the head or heart this morning at the hands of Israeli sharpshooters, rather than wait for the slow death as a starving prisoner in the world's largest open air prison that is Gaza.
For the eight time in 7 weeks they put their bodies in front of bullets to protest the grotesque, inhuman treatment at the hands of their jailers in Israel's Likud Party. The death toll since March 30 approaches a hundred, with thousands more wounded.
The world reacts in horror everywhere except Washington, London, Paris, Riyadh and a few others that condone likely the most cruel horror being perpetrated on a powerless people by the all powerful.
As the Mexican revolutionary leader Emiliano so aptly put it:
"It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees."

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Ryan blaming 21st century, not Trump for nation's divide, ludicrous



You got to give retiring House Speaker credit for chutzpah. He came to impoverished Pilsen yesterday to tout his deficit busting, tax giveaway to the rich, as the cure for the area's poverty. Forget all the New Deal and War On Poverty programs that prevented economic collapse in the 30's and provided a decent social safety net in the 60's, Ryan claimed; just watch as our wealthy man's tax incentives inspire those fat cats use that extra loot to invest in your community. What utter nonsense.

But Ryan's poverty delusions pail to his delusions about the grotesque Divider In Chief whom Ryan's silence and support helped reach the White House. Ryan claimed our current polarization is "not necessarily due to one particular person or personality...but to the 21st Century, in that with digital and the internet, it has weaponized polarization.” Ryan omits that no political polarization emanated from the White house between 2009 and 2016. Blaming Trump's degradation of American political discourse on the 21st century since then is as ludicrous as blaming WWII on the technology of the 20th century, not the guy with the funny mustache.

Paul Ryan has done immense damage to America with his Ayn Rand inspired economic and social philosophy. He compound that philosophy by enabling an utterly unfit demagogue to achieve the presidency to enact Ryan's cruel economic and social agenda. Ryan cannot leave Congress soon enough.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Trib trivializes Bush era torture in supporting Gina Haspel nomination

It was not surprising, but disappointing nonetheless the Trib Editorial Board supports confirmation of Gina Haspel to head the CIA. Haspel's conduct in overseeing a CIA black site in Thailand conducting torture, her drafting of a memo to destroy 92 tapes of the torture and her repeated lies to CIA bosses, Congress and two presidents about torture's effectiveness make her morally unfit for any job in government, much less heading the CIA. The Board goes to great length to both minimize America's descent into criminal war and torture in the aftermath of 911 and Haspel's role in it. The times were "perilous"; "nothing about the CIA is easy to understand"; Haspel was "extremely good at her job"; "Haspel... is a proven administrator."; the torture was only "one part of her record". Haspel may get "rave reviews from national security advisers from former national security officials from Republican and Democratic administrations", but she sure doesn't get high fives from torture victims, including Sen. John McCain who opposes her nomination with words the Board chose to ignore: "Ms. Haspel's role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture's immorality is disqualifying. I believe the Senate should exercise its duty of advice and consent and reject this nomination,"
The CIA will survive Haspel's rejection by a Senate that can find its moral compass. America's tattered reputation from the last 17 years of senseless perpetual war, regime change and, yes, torture, likely will not.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Promoting torturer bad way to empower women

Trump Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted this shameful support for Bush era torturer Gina Haspel's nomination to become CIA chief: "There is no one more qualified to be the first woman to lead the CIA than 30+ year CIA veteran Gina Haspel. Any Democrat who claims to support women’s empowerment and our national security but opposes her nomination is a total hypocrite".
Haspel is a documented torturer for her ten year reign overseeing America's vast network of black site torture prisons around the world after the 911 attacks. Haspel compounded her crimes by deliberately destroying 92 tapes of the torture she oversaw in violation of a Justice Department order to preserve them.
Haspel not only escaped censure, loss of her job, even prosecution for immoral and criminal conduct that shames America's cherished values, she's up for confirmation to head the agency of her wrongdoing.
Empowering women is a worthy goal. Promoting torturers to achieve that goal is not.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Trump on verge of sabotaging North Korea nuclear talks

North Korea's Kim Jong-un wants three things in return for giving up his nukes:

  1. Guarantee US won't attack or undermine his regime
  2. Normalize US - North Korea diplomatic relations
  3. End economic sanctions against North Korea

But Kim is watching The Donald closely as in just five days he may withdraw from the 5 + 1 Iran nuclear deal President Obama negotiated with China, Russia, France, the UK and Germany in 2015 which ended the path to war with Iran. The other signatories are aghast at Trump's likely move motivated by his sabotaging any Obama accomplishment, and serving his masters in Israel's Likud party. If he does so Iran will be the third country double crossed by the US for giving up their flimsy, if not imaginary nuclear weapons programs, on heels of Iraq and Libya. Iran's leaders will kick out the 5 + 1 nuclear inspectors and start up a real nuclear program so they don't suffer the same fate to US treachery as Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi. 

The lesson for Kim is clear: don't negotiate with a reckless and foolhardy man masquerading as a US president. if that happens the US may be heading to war on two sides of the world...and the Doomsday Clock will tick to a minute to Midnight. Your move, Mr. President.   


Sunday, May 06, 2018

Why is John McCain so revered?

Why is John McCain so revered?
Nearing his end after 82 years, the last 36 in Congress, John McCain is already being eulogized by many in government and the media while still alive. As a severe critic of McCain since he became one of the 'Keating Five' senators who took big contributions from corrupt S & L owner Charles Keating in return for Senate protection, I demur. McCain brilliantly played the tortured war prisoner and maverick cards to avoid Senate censure in 1989, won re-election five times and ran for president twice, once as the Republican nominee. During the ensuing 30 years McCain disgraced himself as being one of America's most virulent warmongers, cheerleading every senseless war and regime change policy. The number of innocents killed in wars he's promoted dwarfs the number he killed dropping bombs on his 23 combat missions over North Vietnam. McCain was a 'win in Vietnam' deadender, railing over civilian control that kept the military from killing enough Vietnamese to win the war. That alone made him unfit for Congress, much less the presidency. Aside from promoting self destructive war, McCain never advocated or achieved anything in domestic policy that helped Americans in need; opposing the Affordable Care Act, ignoring global warming and LGBT rights, among others. In what will be his last year, he supported Trump and the deficit busting tax giveaway to the rich, supporting the cruel, heartless Republican agenda to the end.
I mourn McCain's impending demise as I do every human, knowing the bell will toll for me one day in the not too distant future. I also mourn that any man squanders his opportunity to do good for mankind when given the privilege of public service.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Friends don't goad friends into criminal war




One of the most dangerous actions against the United States and world peace ever, got little notice last Monday. This refers, of course, to the shameful and false presentation by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Iran is in violation of the 5+1 nuclear agreement requiring the US to withdraw from this pact up for re-approval May 12. US Withdrawal blows up detente with Iran; threatening them with regime change, either in the form of economic collapse or outright war, and likely sabotages striking a nuclear deal with North Korea. Nobody outside of Israel's Likud Party and US hard line war hawks like National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo give any credence to Natanyahu's baseless charges. Trump has been demonizing the Iran agreement as a ludicrous campaign pledge and presidential position for nearly three years now since this war saving deal was implemented by Obama. Trump knows nothing of its substance and appears utterly deranged in how recklessly he puts America and the world at risk with his relentless threats to end it. Netanyahu, fully aware of how easily he can manipulate, intimidate and fool a totally unfit president, played the Iran war card to perfection with his nuclear fairy tale. Netanyahu hated Obama because he couldn't goad him into war with Iran. With Trump he's got the stooge he's longed for. Maybe, to take a page from Facebook, it's time to de-friend Netanyahu and Israel's Likud Party. Friends don't goad friends into criminal, self destructive war.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Roskam sure knows about 'missing an opportunity' to save lives


My congressman Peter Roskam (IL-6) had this to say at a health care subcommittee hearing last week:
“In the Medicare program, many of these cutting-edge ideas have failed to be used to their full potential. In turn, our seniors are not able to benefit from greater efficiency, access and increased positive outcomes in receiving health care. Even worse, while some Americans already have access to these groundbreaking models, they are at risk of losing their pathway to receiving this care once they turn the age of 65. In fact, it is not out-of-line to say that we are missing an opportunity to save lives with these advanced treatment methods.
​"​
What utter nonsense. Roskam spent the last ten years trying to prevent, repeal, defund, degrade the Affordable Care Act (ACA), passed over the opposition of Roskam and his fellow Republicans, from saving tens of thousands of lives, and giving tens of millions a shot at better health without going bankrupt paying for privately financed health care. But Roskam's romance with private health care, which is still largely unavailable to tens of millions, is such that he continues to bash Medicare, besides the ACA, another lifesaving area of the American health care system.
Roskam has no credibility trash talking Medicare, much less the Affordable Health Care Act, as he's done for the past decade. As I told him to his face last year at a Glen Ellyn Civic Center meeting with several constituents, "If you had been successful in preventing passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the tens of thousands saved by it...would be dead.
 


Thursday, May 03, 2018

Natural life should join capital punishment in Illinois' history scrap bin


Kudos to the Illinois Prisoners Review Board (IPRB) for releasing mass killer Carl Reimann April 26, on his twentieth try for freedom. Reimann committed a truly horrible crime in 1972, killing 5 in a Yorkville restaurant robbery. But unlike the Trib Editorial Board (An Illinois mass killer walks free, May 1) the IPRB used enlightened criminal justice principles to release the 76 year old Reimann whom they've determined poses no threat to warrant squandering further precious tax dollars. The Trib is outraged, even giving implicit support for the death penalty as a means of preventing society from having to deal with the trauma of experiencing Reimann's release. But the Trib offers no argument at all other than the knee jerk response of 'lock em up till they're dead'. Releasing elderly offenders such as Reimann who has passed scrutiny for 45 years as no longer needing to be incarcerated, is more than fiscally responsible. It is both humane and in the interests of promoting a just society.
Back in 1924, two Chicago men, not much younger than Reimann in 1972, got life plus 99 years for the kidnapping and murder of a distant cousin simply to prove their superiority to mankind. The prosecutor Bob Crowe was outraged when famed attorney Clarence Darrow plead them guilty, then used their case to keep Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb from the gallows and begin the long, uncompleted march to end capital punishment for mankind (now ended in Illinois). Loeb was murdered in prison in 1936 but Leopold dedicated his prison life to serving his prison mates and society in general. His good works won him parole just 34 years later. He continued his educational and pubic service activities in Puerto Rico till his natural death 13 years later. Whether conscious or not of the Nathan Leopold saga, the Illinois Prisoners Review Board did the right thing. Maybe the Trib Editorial Board should review the Leopold - Loeb 'thrill killing' in the Trib's archives....and rewrite their editorial.

One area of US, Russian policy convergence that harms humanity



The cluster bomb is one nasty munition. It's a bomb containing many little 'bomblets', which can spray a wide swathe of enemy territory, making it a truly efficient killing machine. Unfortunately, up to 30% of the bomblets don't go off; burying themselves in Mother Earth to blow off the limbs or snuff out the life of an unsuspecting innocent who happens upon one. Much of the civilized world is so repulsed by cluster bombs, 103 of them ratified the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions outlawing them. The two most prominent exceptions are the US and Russia. America hasn't used cluster bombs since 2009 in Yemen but still stockpiles 1.5 million of them, containing 90 million of those unfriendly little fellows. Untold thousands, maybe millions of US cluster bomblets say hello to new victims in Vietnam and Iraq every day. Our cluster bomb fellow traveler Russia just unveiled an advanced cluster bomb that can't be detected by radar or infrared devices preventing its being jammed. Russia's Sputnik News claims that "Russian sub-munitions are way smarter than their U.S. counterparts." Who does that sound like? Speaking of that man in the White House...his administration last November rescinded a 2008 US pledge to scrap all US cluster munitions.

It's unusual for the US and Russia to agree on anything. Alas, the one biggie they find common ground on is how to fill the ground around millions of innocents with one of man's most insidious killing implements.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Real obscenities hurled 565 miles away



President Trump called for an end to the White House Correspondents' Dinner tweeting it was an 'embarrassment' and 'Fake News'. He was referring of course, to comedian Michelle Wolf's twenty minute monologue skewering politics and its journalists, with a focus on the Trump administration. Many conservative Trump supporters echoed Trump, including the prominent Hugh Hewitt who charged Wolf's monologue didn't serve journalism. Oh, contraire. Wolf played the court jester to perfection, using graphic language and word pictures to present the unvarnished truth about an obscene huckster who used the vilest of obscenities against blacks, immigrants, progressives, the poor and marginalized to entice sixty-three million folks to entrust him with the our and the world's future. Listening to the entire Wolf monologue, I didn't hear one naughty word I don't hear everyday, including from my own lips. I didn't hear one word picture that didn't sizzle with truth about a corrupt narcissist who puts my children and grandchildren at great risk of inheriting a degraded world much worse than the one I inherited from FDR in 1945.


No, the real obscenities hurled in Washington Saturday night were spoken 565 miles away in Washington Township, Michigan, where the Trump trotted out his grotesque and vile stump speech to the masses of folks who hate the same people he does. Two examples: "Be careful of your 2nd Amendment. OK, be careful. Be careful of your 2nd Amendment if they get in." And, "If we don't get border security, we'll have no choice. We'll close down the country."

Michelle Wolf is not my new favorite comedian...she's my new favorite social critic.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Echos of WWII willful denial of Holocaust in US response to Israeli border massacres



Seventy-three years after Nazi concentration camps were liberated, historians still debate how much the US knew of the Holocaust and how much America willfully ignored it to the peril of millions. Regardless of the truth involved, one lesson is clear: man should never turn his back on outright dehumanization and slaughter of his fellow man. Yet, that is precisely what America and its allies are doing in their heartless denial of the weekly shooting down of Palestinians protesting at Israel's border to the open air prison of Gaza set up to strip Palestinians of their humanity, if not their life. This is not Club Med the Israelis have created in Gaza; it's Club Death, with a blockade of food and supplies that produces slow motion death as opposed to instant death from an Israeli sharpshooter's bullet. At the fifth Friday protest three were shot dead and hundreds wounded, bringing the 5 Friday protests to 41 dead and over 5,000 injured. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called the loss of life deplorable, saying a “staggering number” of injuries had been caused by live ammunition. Israel refuses to authorize an independent investigation, relying on US vetoes in the UN Security Council to keep their weekly massacres unchallenged. Israel blames Hamas for the violence in the same vein that southern US racists blamed communists and outside agitators for the despicable racial violence they inflicted on blacks demanding first class citizenship in the South. It's no more valid to blame Palestinians from trying to break out of their dehumanizing prison than it would be to blame Nazi concentration camp victims for trying to escape the death camps. With stunning hypocrisy the US uses the slightest human rights abuses to sanction, even threaten regime change of countries it doesn't like. With allies like Israel we use every resource to ignore and enable the grotesque treatment of those with no voice and no power. At some point the staggering death and injury count will stir the conscious our our leaders and our people. Maybe.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Groundhog Day in Gaza no comedy



Every Friday, Gazans wake up to a call to march to the Israeli border which circumscribes the world's largest open air prison two million of them inhabit. They are marching for the right to return to the lands they were cleansed from 70 years ago, and an end to the catastrophic blockade that subjects them to unrelenting poverty and near starvation. And every week 10,000 or more can't get there because Israeli soldiers, acting under Likud government orders, shoot them down like dogs in the desert. Last Friday, though they got 300 meters closer than previously, 4 were killed and 729 wounded or injured by bullets or tear gas inhalation. So far 39 have died, including a press photographer, and over 4,000 injured. This Friday they will again awake to the call to march for their freedom and dignity, again facing murderous gun fire of that revulses most of the civilized world, but not the US, which vetoed a UN resolution to condemn the atrocities. Twenty-five years ago, Bill Murray woke up daily to 'I Got You Babe' to face another endless day chasing Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day. Murray's suffering provoked our laughter in one of the best comedies ever. A film about the Gazans' Groundhog Day would only produce horror and tears, forcing us to look away at mans' inhumanity to man...and disgust that our country enables it.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

US newspapers bow to war party as if US a totalitarian state.


On April 7, 2017, the US bombed Syria over an unsubstantiated Syrian gas attack on opposition rebels 3 days earlier. No evidence ever
supported the allegation and no effort was made to seek approval of the strike. One year and 7 days later the US repeated the action over an unsubstantiated Syrian gas attack a week earlier. Only one of the hundred top US newspapers, the Houston Chronicle, opposed the 2017 strike. The results this year were worse -- not one opposed it. Twenty supported the strike. Six were ambiguous on the issue. Seventy-four offered no opinion at all, including the Houston Chronicle. Seven of the top ten papers supported the strike, including Wall Street Journal, NY Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and our own Chicago Tribune.
In a democracy we rely on a free press to tell the truth and push back against illegal, immoral and criminal war. Alas, that never happens
in America where virtually our entire mainstream media is in the tank for the war party. If this were Nazi Germany, or any number of totalitarian states, that would be understandable. Life in a concentration camp or premature death by the state would account for such an editorial policy. In America it's explained at best by professional self interest. At worst, cowardice.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Isis: War party's MacGuffin to prolong perpetual war


Movie buffs, especially fans of thriller director Alfred Hitchcock, know what a MacGuffin is: a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation. For Hitchcock it might be the plans for the airplane engine (39 Steps) or the uranium ore stored in vintage wine bottles (Notorious). Everyone knows the most famous MacGuffin in filmdom, the black bird in John Huston's Maltese Falcoln. But neither Huston nor Hitchcock have come up with a better MacGuffin for America's endless real life drama of perpetual war, than the US war party's ISIS, also know as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. This rag tag assortment of Sunni Islamic extremists, which had some success in acquiring land in those countries from their arch rival Shi'ite Muslim brethren, are prime motivator which allows the war party to wage perpetual war all over the Middle East and Africa. Every president, congressman, military guru, media talking head says we can't bring out our token forces in numerous countries and stop dropping tens of thousands of bombs annually because ISIS will grow and threaten our homeland. That is utter nonsense fed to a public that isn't listening and doesn't care...so perpetual war drones on. And up in Celluloid Heaven Hitchcock might say: "Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I'll created 57 MacGuffins for my 57 films, but none compares to the Mother of All MacGuffins....ISIS."

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Roskam's rush to judgement supports illegal, immoral and unconstitutional air strikes in Syria.



My congressman Peter Roskam's (IL-6) constituent email for April 8-14 touts the second US air strikes in a year for unproven use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. That is not surprising since he has supported every illegal, immoral and unconstitutional military action in the Middle East and Africa that has killed innumerable thousands during his 12 years in Congress. At the end of his pitch for senseless war squandering trillions, Roskam reveals his real agenda there: regime change in Syria and "rolling back Russian and Iranian influence in the region." To use Roskam's logic, foreign nations would have had the right to unilaterally bomb the US for use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus that has turned Iraq into a decades long time bomb deforming, if not killing Iraqi babies. Nor will Roskam ever say a single word in opposition to US support of Saudi Arabia's relentless slaughter of Yemenis in neighboring Yemen, or Israel's weekly shooting gallery they've set up at the Israel-Gaza border to mow down Palestinians peacefully protesting the Israeli open air prison in Gaza.

Roskam's selective outrage, which only promotes bombing and shooting peoples targeted for regime change or perpetual servitude, disgraces an America that must promote peace and good will toward all people. The Sixth District deserves better in 2019.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Their certainly is an American agreement on what US should do in Syria



This subscriber the Trib Editorial Board labels an ‘isolationist’ takes umbrage with your assertion there is no US agreement on what this nation should do in Syria (What America does — and doesn't — want in Syria, April 14). First, let’s dispense with the myth there is an ‘America’, composed of the people, who have any interest in, much less a say so, on US policy in Syria. You would be hard pressed to find a single individual aside from new National Security Advisor John ‘Bonkers’ Bolton who wants massive, all out bombing to oust Syrian President Assad. Nor does our tiny but proud isolationist fringe have any illusions we have an iota of influence on criminal US military involvement in other nations affairs. That is because the US war party, not the people or the president, determines US policy in Syria as well as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Niger, Somalia, Libya and others of which we’re not informed. Their agenda is clear. Our murderous bombing of innocents in those defiled nations is good for business; the business of perpetual war which keeps the weapons makers rich, the military lavished with a trillion in treasure, and the war loving ideologues employed as talking heads on mainstream media. Keep those wars simmering at the low levels of minimal troops and low profile bombings and life is good. By arming Syrian rebels we get a twofer…keep ISIS well supplied to keep them as an imagined enemy to justify our involvement, and keep President Assad in our gunsight as a regime to change like we’ve done all over the world since the end of WWII.

If we want peace in the region we must pull our soldiers out and stop the bombing. That would be good for world peace but bad for the America’s most successful business: perpetual war.