Thursday, January 17, 2019

Syrian, Afghan troop withdrawals long overdue

The Trib Editorial Board brought out every discredited canard from the past 17 years to argue against President Trump's announced troop pullouts from Syria and Afghanistan in 'Trump's risky haste in Syria and Afghanistan', today. Rather than be hasty, he's been signaling them since his campaign, the one sensible policy he's hinted in a sea of misguided policy positions. It should be a badge of honor that the foreign policy establishment opposes the withdrawals. These experts lied us into senseless military involvement in the Middle East for 17 years now beginning with the pivot from 911 perpetrator Saudi Arabia to innocent party Iraq to remake the region as an American protectorate. Hundreds of thousands dead, including over 5,000 Americans is the result. And America is no longer the leader of the free world as Defense Secretary James Mattis claimed in his resignation letter. We are the greatest perpetrator of senseless, failed warfare in at least seven countries and the largest supplier of weapons of civilian destruction worldwide. If our prosperity and values are based on those twin distinctions, we have no right to claim greatness. President Obama's partial pullout from Iraq did not give rise to Islamic State; it was President Bush's smashing Iraq into a failed state eight years earlier. Calling the pullout a boost to making Syria the romper room of Russia and Iran is ludicrous. They are Syria's neighbors and siding with elected Syrian President Assad is the surest way to prevent the rebels, including ISIS from further destabilizing the region to their peril. If we'd have allowed President Assad to defeat the rebels five years ago, instead of keeping the civil war going to depose Assad, hundreds of thousands would still be alive. The argument we must get militarily involved in every failed state is preposterous. It ignores the truth we've either turned those countries into failed states as is the case with Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, or have worsened their failed state status as in Syria. The Trib is correct to advise remembering why we went to war in Afghanistan and Syria. The former was the easy target in our effort to gain control over the region, following the Saudi enabling of 911. That failed. The latter was our effort to depose Syrian President Assad to weaken our arch enemy Iran. That also failed. The Syrian pullout and the Afghanistan drawn are not hasty. They are long overdue and cannot come soon enough.

690 instead of 185 abusive priests no big deal to six Illinois Catholic dioceses



We non-theists view every religion as a cult; the obsessive, even delusional veneration of an imaginary friend called God or its equivalent in differing cultures around the world. Cults can have positive and negative effects based on the very human qualities of the cult leaders who claim divine inspiration and infallibility for the cult they have established. Religious cults have a powerful hold on mankind, with over 95% of our 7.7 souls following one of roughly 4,000 religions worldwide. How much good such cults provide individuals or society is impossible to measure though it must be significant to attract that overwhelming portion of Earth's inhabitants.

How destructive they can be is a bit easier to gauge. We've learned from Illinois' Attorney General that the six Illinois Catholic dioceses have, in recent decades, under reported the number of priests accused of child sexual abuse by over 500. Now, two lawyers representing 300 victims of such abuse, will provide names and pictures of many of the accused not named by the Church as early as February. No other institution, religious or secular, has such an horrendous record of both incidence of child sexual abuse or coverup and denial of its magnitude. We must go back nearly 900 years to 1139 when the Second Lateran Council established priestly celibacy, a cult like structure creating both the opportunity for and perpetuation of abuse victimizing millions of innocents over the centuries.

I'm not opposed to having an imaginary friend to help navigate life's difficulties. I've got one or two myself. But I'm certainly not inclined to establish a cult, build edifices in its honor, or most importantly, staff them with spiritual leaders shackled by cultist restrictions on the most basic of life's drives and pleasures.

Senate Bill 1 a slap at free speech

The US Senate used its symbolic first bill of the 116th Congress to attack the First Amendment right of free speech. The primary aim of Sen. Marco Rubio's S.1 - Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act of 2019, is designed instead to strengthen the ability of states to pass laws giving explicit legal authority to boycott any U.S. companies which themselves are participating in a boycott against Israel. Twenty-six states have already passed such laws with similar laws pending in 13 more. How onerous can such laws be? Bahia Amawi, a Texas elementary school speech pathologist lost her job for refusing to sign a loyalty oath promising not to support a boycott of Israel over their illegal settlements on Palestinian land. Such loyalty oaths hearken back to the 1950's McCarthy era and have no place in any country that proclaims the sanctity of free speech. Federal judges in Arizona and Kansas have already knocked out two such laws as unconstitutional. The Kansas court declared " The Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment protects the right to participate in a boycott like the one punished by the Kansas law.” The Arizona court agreed stating: “A restriction of one’s ability to participate in collective calls to oppose Israel unquestionably burdens the protected expression of companies wishing to engage in such a boycott." Sadly, Rubio's bill is bi-partisan, with enough Democratic supporters to override a filibuster. Knee jerk support for the US Israel Lobby should not include trashing the First Amendment. S.1 should be consigned to the trash bin of legislation degrading American ideals.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                         

Good day in Florida

Florida Amendment 4, which passed with 65% voter approval Nov. 6, goes into effect today in Florida. It re-enfranchises 1.4 million former felons permanently banned from voting in the Sunshine State. Only about 100,000 ex felons convicted of murder or felony sex offences remain in voter jail; a continuing blot on the Florida system of justice. The real Sunshine States are Maine and Vermont which let the sun of the ballot shine down on every voting age convict behind bars. The other 48 should follow their enlightened example.

Graham, not Trump, shares blame for 4 soldiers killed in Syria

Incessant US war promoter Sen. Lindsay Graham lays blame on President Trump for 4 US soldiers killed in Syria Tuesday, stating his December 19th withdrawal announcement "set in motion enthusiasm by the enemy we're fighting". Graham clearly implies that 'enthusiasm' inspired the restaurant suicide attack in Manbij where the dwindling US presence still patrols in its foolish, unnecessary war against Islamic State.

But Graham and the rest of the US war party went berserk when Trump announced the pullout December 19, slowing down the withdrawal timetable which could easily have been completed before these needless four deaths. Graham and his 'war first and always' buddies in Congress should look in the mirror before implying the latest US deaths in the Middle East and Africa, now over 7,000, lay at Trump's doorstep. Graham, not only supported every criminal, senseless US military intervention since 2001, he's pushed back ferociously when first Obama, and now Trump, sensibly seeks withdrawal.

Fighting Islamic State is not our fight. Syria, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Iraq can handle its alleged threat to their neighborhood without one drop of precious US blood and treasure. Graham, a small government conservative against anything which helps the US commons, is 100% big government for perpetual war. Four dead US soldiers yesterday are one of the consequences.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Trib still supporting US 'Roach Motel' in Syria


The Trib's editorial 'Why Trump's pullout from Syria puts America at risk' is wrong on so many levels it would take the entire opinion section to correct them all. For a mere rebuttal letter here are just two.
First, the Trib implies the main reason for keeping a paltry 2,000 troops in Syria, illegally at that, is to counter the up to 30,000 ISIS fighters still likely active in the region. It implies our guys are all there is from an ascendant Islamic terrorist force presenting a "direct threat to Americans and American soil." The entire premise of that charge, that a single sectarian group gaining territory there will bring the fighting here to America, is preposterous. What will the bad guys who might grab a province or two do next, buy tickets to the US on 'Islamic State Air' to reek havoc on the Homeland? They will too busy fending off their real opponents Russia, Iran, Syria's Assad and Turkey's Erdogan. The Kurds are small players, pretending to fight Islamic State in the futile hope America will help them establish Kurdistan out of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.

Second, and more importantly, the Trib gives away its real reason for keeping illegal US boots in Syria: leaving "a Middle East hot spot to two countries long established as hostile to American interests — Russia and Iran." Did it ever dawn on the Trib that both Russia and Iran, unlike the US, are in Syria legally at the request of their elected president? The Trib knows ISIS is no existential threat to America. But ISIS represents a convenient 'MacGuffin', a plot device as used by director Alfred Hitchcook to move the story along, regardless of its irrelevancy. Keeping Russia and Iran at bay simply won't 'Play in Peoria' so we voters must be scared silly in supporting perpetual war to avoid another 911. Haven't you heard? That terrorism was most closely linked to our best weapons customer Saudi Arabia whom we can't afford to alienate no matter how many they facilitated killing on September 11 or how many more unfriendly journalists they may assassinate.
There is much more to comment upon. But please digest these two for starters next time you want to keep Middle East and African countries in the US chain of Roach Motels...where the soldiers go in, but never come out.

Is Anne Stava-Murray the AOC of Illinois?


The idealistic progressive in me welcomes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) to the US House. She has charisma to burn and is already shaking up the national political landscape with her widely publicized progressive rhetoric calling for universal health care, gun control, abolishing the private prison system, government subsidized college education and a guaranteed job. Her unabashed democratic socialist policies are what I want to see enacted. But at the end of her two year term what accomplishments will we see on her now blank legislative resume? I hope they're sufficient to ensure her re-election or even advancement to higher office.
It turns out we may have an Illinois version of AOC in newbie state legislator Anne Stava-Murray who we might christen ASM in honor of the congresswoman she appears to be channeling. Stava-Murray has some of the same charisma of AOC in garnering publicity for her progressive views on issues facing the Land of Lincoln. She's already the most well know Illinois House rookie, making good on her campaign pledge to vote against Mike Madigan for House Speaker; the only Democrat to break ranks. And like AOC, ASM is a newbie with a blank slate of accomplishments. Alas, that didn't stop her from declaring for Senate Minority Whip Dick Durban's US Senate seat next year even though Durbin has already announced his re-election bid. She did this before serving a single day in the Illinois legislature. I'm puzzled. Did ASM already decide she's accomplished all she can for Illinois with that blank slate staring back at her?
On her Anne Stava-Murray for US Senate Facebook page ASM states "I also know that I’m a human being and sometimes I make mistakes and sometimes I learn something new that changes my mind; so I try to let everyone know when that happens too." Given her short list of accomplishments in the IL House, I hope she will soon be informing us of her intention to build a solid legislative record here in Illinois before attempting the springboard to the US Senate.

Punishing Rep. Steve King: Do not be fooled

It’s an extraordinary event when a major party condemns one of its own leaders as Republicans did by removing Steve King from his House committee assignments over overt racist language. Do not be fooled by their damage control. Mr. King was not condemned for being racist but for not sufficiently concealing the underlying racism and xenophobia that are the foundation of today’s Republican Party. Mr. King used racist language that was too obvious to ignore.

Trib debases journalism with false equivalency view of wall dispute


The Trib, apparently, is loathe to offer unvarnished criticism of Republicans over Trump's destructive use of racist, Xenophobic policies, to call them out for enabling Trump's month long government shutdown. Every decent American knew Trump was engaging in virulent racism when he campaigned on a gigantic Southern border wall to keep out 'the murders and rapists pouring over the border.' Is that language really any different than Rep. Steve King's' comment that "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization - how did that language become offensive?" One can make a strong case Trump's words were worse, being grotesque lies specifically targeting the racist, white nationalist voters he needed by validating their hate against the other; that is all non-white, non-citizens. Not only worse, Trump's language did significant damage to our body politic, coming from a presidential contender who used them effectively to get elected. Piling on the damage, Trump is now shutting down the government to give those racists and white nationalists what they want: a pretend barrier keeping out the other, even though it won't.
Yet, the Trib's Editorial, "Trump and Democrats: Stop embarrassing yourselves. Cut a wall-for-Dreamers deal" treats the wall issue as a simple political dispute in which each party is behaving in an infantile fashion while the government shuts down. But Every dollar the Democrats might authorize for a non functioning barrier to solve a non existing problem so Trump can fulfill a racist campaign pledge would debase good governance. Every editorial calling for trading the funding for a racist wall for long overdue relief for Dreamers, relief that should have been granted long ago without conditions, debases journalism.

Friday, January 11, 2019

A plea to congressional progressives

Behold the turtle. Till it sticks its neck out...it makes no progress.

As Maine goes, so should the nation


Even with Florida's new law re-enfranchising 1.5 million felons who have completed their sentence, including parole and probation, over 4 million ex-cons don't have the right to vote in America. That's on top of a million or more still serving their sentence in the most incarceration crazy nation on Earth. But two states, Maine and Vermont, allow every eligible adult to vote, including Big House residents. Many argue the incarcerated have forfeited their right to vote as just punishment for their anti-social behavior. Yet, if the goal of justice is to both protect the public and rehabilitate the incarcerated for eventual return to society, convict voting serves both purposes. It has no adverse effect on public safety and may have a positive effect on rehabilitation by encouraging felons to re-engage with the society from which they've been excluded.
How is convict voting working in Maine and Vermont? FBI violent crime stats place Vermont 49th and Maine dead last in violent crime per hundred thousand residents with an average of 141. Alaska and New Mexico top the fifty in violent crime with an average of 754 per hundred thousand. The reasons must be many but convict voting certainly doesn't hurt.
A famous US political phrase 'As Maine goes so goes the nation' was popular at one time, reflecting Maine's reputation as a bell-weather state for predicting presidential elections. When it comes to convict voting, as well as the 4 million on parole, probation and simply former felons, we should update that to 'As Maine and Vermont go on convict voting...so should the nation'.

Pompeo's pompous pitch for perpetual war


Can the Trump administration get any more schizophrenic on perpetual war? One day Trump announces we're withdrawing all 2,000 troops from Syria plus half the 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, arguing we have no business in the Middle East. Within a month he allows his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to promote perpetual war in a speech at American University in Cairo. Pompeo pointedly blamed all America's foreign policy problems on his boss's predecessor Obama, whom he said foolishly ended the Afghan and Iraq wars, refused to attack Syria and worst of all, reached out in peace to America's current enemy de jour Iran. Pompeo's speech comes nearly ten years after Obama's famous 'A New Beginning' speech in Cairo, in which Obama offered a reset to the US relationship to the Muslim world so terribly damaged by George W. Bush's Middle East war policies. Pompeo boosted of continuing US Syrian intervention till every last Iranian is out of Syria, lauded US withdrawal from the 5+1 Iranian nuclear deal and even threatened US intervention against Hezbollah in Lebanon. Sadly and tragically, the foreign policy establishment committed to perpetual war, including virtually all of Trump's subordinates, simply ignore Trump's pronouncements for peace, the one decent thing he's done as president. Once again we learn that 'war is the health of the state'.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Trump already backpeddling on Syria pullout


After promoting a 30 day timetable for pulling the paltry 2,000 US troops from Syria, Trump now says there's no definite timetable. The Pentagon is saying 'Oh, my goodness gracious, it'll take at least 120 days to prevent a slaughter of US troops from such a hasty retreat'. That is nonsense. The US has built small airfields within the illegal US zone and can ferry the troops to nearby, friendly US protectorate Iraq, with ease. As I predicted at the time of Trump's announcement, it's quite possible the US war party will delay, even quash the long overdue US withdrawal there. They view every country we invade as a 'roach motel': the troops go in...but never come out. 

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Troop withdrawal strips away secrecy of war party


After 17 years of murder, mayhem, $6 trillion and utter failure in the Middle East, one would surmise a groundswell of relief and support for the president's decision to withdraw all troops from Syria and half of the 14,000 in Afghanistan. Yet throughout Congress, the military, mainstream media there has been an avalanche of hysterical opposition from the entire left-right political spectrum. The most impassioned supporters of perpetual war on the right like Senator Lindsay Graham have been joined by otherwise progressive Democrats like Senator Chris Coons to argue for continued, that means endless, occupation. Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC all trotted out their military and political commentators to trash the move as rash, un-vetted by our allies and the US establishment alike. Anti war critics, as usual, were largely ignored. What we're witnessing is the full frontal nudity of the US war party desperately trying to hang on to perpetual war which has made them rich and powerful. The president violated their cardinal rule to never withdraw from a perpetual war zone. His predecessor ended ground operations in Iraq and Afghanistan but left a contingent force of 'advisers', giving the lie to ending US military footprints there. Perpetual war is good for war party business. Consider US bomb makers who have supplied nearly 300,000 bombs dropped on the Middle East and Africa since 2001, helping kill about a hundred times more people than bad guys largely from and supported by our best weapons customer Saudi Arabia did on 911.
Getting out of one and possibly two of the many countries we defile with our bombs and our troops is the most important goal of the current initiative. Exposing the extent and ferocity of the war party which thrives on secrecy is a worthy side benefit.

'Mad Dog' no adult to venerate, support


The US war party has pounced on the president's forced resignation of Defense Secretary James 'Mad Dog' Mattis for opposing Trump's announced withdrawal of all troops in Syria and half the 14,000 in Afghanistan. They've cited Mattis' scathing letter of resignation hinting at virtual Trump treason over his alleged precipitous withdrawal not vetted by the foreign policy establishment, a.k.a. 'war party' as well as our 'allies'. Mattis is lauded as 'the last adult' in the Trump administration's foreign policy team. Former general Mattis is the last person in government I'd give credence to in his criticism of the long overdue withdrawal from 2 of the 7 Middle East and African countries we defile with our troops and our bombs. Mad Dog Mattis didn't get his moniker for its alliteration. He got it for being a ferocious lover of criminal war, helping kill hundreds of thousands and loving every minute of it. I'm not making that up. Listen to Mad Dog himself on his 22 years of fighting in and venerating senseless war.
“You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”
“Actually it's quite fun to fight them, you know. I'll be right up there with you. I like brawling.”
“The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event. That said, there are some assholes in the world that just need to be shot.”
“There are hunters and there are victims. By your discipline, cunning, obedience and alertness, you will decide if you are a hunter or a victim. It’s really a hell of a lot of fun. You’re gonna have a blast out here!”
“I feel sorry for every son of a bitch that doesn’t get to serve with you.”
"I'm pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck with me, I'll kill you."
"Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet."
"There are some people who think you have to hate them in order to shoot them. I don't think you do....it's just business."
Mad Dog pretty much summed up the war party's entire pushback to the troop withdrawal. It's just business.

Trump built his wall long ago

Trump started his wall in 2015 with a foundation of racism and Xenophobia, scurrilously hinting Obama was an African citizen and smearing the undocumented as murderers and rapists. He used bricks of lies, personal insults and chants of 'Lock her up' in an transparent pivot from his own illegalities and disgusting personality disorder. He decorated his wall with soon to be documented massive collusion with Eastern European oligarchs and political leaders, burying his wall subcontractors in subpoenas and jail cells. Now his back is stuck to his self destructive wall as he flails wildly to build a border wall no one except he and his dead-ender supporters want, whatever the cost to a functioning government. All Trump has succeeded in with his personal wall is walling himself off from reality, and quite possibly soon walling himself off from the presidency, if not his freedom.

Out of Africa


Does even one in a hundred Americans know about massive US military presence in Africa? Not likely, for two related reasons: Citizen apathy and concerted effort by mainstream media to keep America's Africa footprint hush, hush. Twelve years ago America set up the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) which is essentially a re-colonization of Africa such as the European heavyweights waged between 1880 and start of WWI. The US footprint is massive; $237 million this year, with another quarter billion earmarked just for a drone base in Niger, where 4 US soldiers needlessly died chasing imaginary bad guys. Presidential National Security Adviser John 'Bonkers' Bolton laughably claims humanitarian motives for US militarism, saving Africans from the China and Russia's predatory designs which Bolton claims stifles US investment and threatens US national security interests. What nonsense. The US is determined to rule Africa just as it determined to rule the Middle East. a 17 year policy of utter failure. AFRICOM's major engagement since its founding was its 2011 venture turning Libya into a failed state by helping rebels depose Libyan strongman Qaddafi. While US relies on militarism, China and Russia are investing in infrastructure and forgiving debt, something not in the US 'military only' playbook. AFRICOM loves perpetual war, bragging this month how four precision air strikes blew 62 imagined bad guys to smithereens. Trump and Bolton call their Africa policy 'Prosper Africa'. They cannot square that with troops on the ground in 30 African countries and drones endlessly dropping death from the skies. If the US cannot deal as legitimate business and cultural partners with African countries in need of development, they should simply, as the title of the 1985 Redford-Streep movie suggests, get 'Out of Africa'.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Syrian troop withdrawal right thing to do



I, along with every other member of the antiwar movement, applaud President Trump's decision to withdraw the remaining 2,000 US soldiers from Syria. We're not holding our breath, however, that he will actually complete this small step of ending one immoral, illegal and criminal US military intervention round the globe. Trump has reneged on doing what he announces, whether good or bad, more times than can be counted. The pushback from the war party, of which he heads up as president, has been ferocious. Military, media and congressional hawks are trumpeting doom and gloom as if the sky is falling from this proposed paltry pullout. But many of the half million killed, seven million displaced within Syria, and five million refugees are tied to US intervention in the 2011 Syrian civil war. Back in 2013 the US ratcheted up its involvement to prevent Syrian President Assad from defeating the rebels. We cared not a whit for the Syrian people. We cared about deposing Assad in our proxy war against Syria's neighboring allies Iran and Russia. Instead of being peacemakers, America extended with war for years. Even with the US now acknowledging Assad's victory with Russian help, the war party is loathe to remove a single soldier from any country we are practicing murder and mayhem. Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and Niger are just the ones we know of. The resignation of hawkish Defense Secretary James Mattis within hours of the troop withdrawal decision, citing policy differences, does not bode well for completion of the announced troop withdrawal. But we peaceniks will, like Camus' figure in the Myth of Sisyphus, keep pushing that boulder of peace up the mountain from which it always rolls back down. Maybe with US troops in Syria, this time we'll get them over the mountain.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Wishing Ditka's New Years wish not realized


Commenting upon his good fortune dodging the Grim Reaper following a massive heart attack at age 79, Da Coach Mike Ditka was asked his wish for the new year. His response was disheartening:
“You know what, I get upset at things like politics. But, I think we have to understand we have to do what is best for this country and remember we have freedoms here that no one else has and so many opportunities. Everyone just needs to stop whining about Democrat and Republican parties and just enjoy what we have. It is a good country.”
Translation: Everyone please stay out of politics.
Apparently upset over troubles of his beloved President Trump, Ditka wants us all to drop out and enjoy the benefits of life in America with all its 'opportunities'. Ditka has certainly enjoyed those opportunities, amassing wealth north of $30 million, first as an outstanding footballer and decent coach for a few years, and a decades long, fabulous second life as pitch man for products with his name slapped on. But on politics Ditka is a flop, having nothing of value to offer the millions of us working fervently for a better life for the non-Ditka's, saving the planet from man made climate change, ending America's senseless, trillion dollar wars, among other goals. But if up to Ditka, we'd do none of that. What a waste of a public spotlight.
As my Italian wife might might say, I'm wishing Da Coach "Cent'anni", a hundred years. But I also wish that regarding politics...he'd just shut up.

Troop withdrawal strips away secrecy of war party


After 17 years of murder, mayhem, $6 trillion and utter failure in the Middle East, one would surmise a groundswell of relief and support for the president's decision to withdraw all troops from Syria and half of the 14,000 in Afghanistan. Yet throughout Congress, the military, mainstream media there has been an avalanche of hysterical opposition from the entire left-right political spectrum. The most impassioned supporters of perpetual war on the right like Senator Lindsay Graham have been joined by otherwise progressive Democrats like Senator Chris Coons to argue for continued, that means endless, occupation. Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC all trotted out their military and political commentators to trash the move as rash, un-vetted by our allies and the US establishment alike. Anti war critics, as usual, were largely ignored. What we're witnessing is the full frontal nudity of the US war party desperately trying to hang on to perpetual war which has made them rich and powerful. The president violated their cardinal rule to never withdraw from a perpetual war zone. His predecessor ended ground operations in Iraq and Afghanistan but left a contingent force of 'advisers', giving the lie to ending US military footprints there. Perpetual war is good for war party business. Consider US bomb makers who have supplied nearly 300,000 bombs dropped on the Middle East and Africa since 2001, helping kill about a hundred times more people than bad guys largely from and supported by our best weapons customer Saudi Arabia did on 911.
Getting out of one and possibly two of the many countries we defile with our bombs and our troops is the most important goal of the current initiative. Exposing the extent and ferocity of the war party which thrives on secrecy is a worthy side benefit.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Illinois won't go to pot...by going to pot


Seen a number of anti Illinois pot legalization letters in Chicago papers lately and not one favoring the inevitable: pot legalization in Illinois. The letters against channel the mindset of the folks who passed Prohibition in 1919 and decried its revocation in 1933. The anti pot folks miss so many points favoring legalization I ponder whether they were written under the influence.
Their major fallacy is the implication we'll be allowing something that currently doesn't exist: pot use. But 55 million Americans, including over two million in Illinois use pot with all the revenue going to the bad guys. And those two million Illinoisans enjoying weed can't be certain of its quality and potency, leading to problems similar to imbibing moonshine booze rather than legal hooch. From that standpoint alone, legal pot in Illinois will provide a twofor: less health problems for legal pot users and significant revenue transferred from the bad guys to the good guys. How better off health wise will legal pot users be than the illegal ones will be tough to quantify. But if Colorado, which realized $247 million in revenue last year with 38% of Illinois' population is a guide, Illinois stands to achieve upwards of half a billion a year.
That leads to another fallacy in the naysayers posts: legal pot will not solve Illinois' financial problems. That's a false argument because legalization is not intended to do that regardless of that cool half billion eventually flowing into our depleted treasury.
The 21st century Prohibitionists ignore one of the more subtle benefits of legal pot: de-mystification of pot use among teenagers. Back in the 60's I remember still the thrill of trying something that was 'illegal', when I puffed my first joint. This is borne out in Colorado where pot use among teenagers is down slightly rather than up since legalization four years ago.
The anti pot legalization folks should study the proposals from legislative leaders Heather Steans (Senate) and Kelly Cassidy (House) to understand how thoroughly they are learning from the 9 states and DC who have preceded Illinois with legal marijuana to craft a morally, medically and financially responsible pathway to end the second great Prohibition in American society.

Illinois shines beacon of abortion rights and access in regressive Midwest


Illinois women and the men who support them are duly proud that Illinois remains committed to women's' reproductive health and abortion rights as other Midwestern states push back against both. This is evidenced by the steady stream of nearby women into the Prairie State for safe, legal and affordable abortions. Last year out of state abortions increased 21.7% while overall abortions increased just 2.5%. Illinois' progressive approach to preventive reproductive health likely contributes to less abortions among Illinois women. But women in need arrive from Iowa where they face a 20 week limit on the procedure and a disgusting 3 day waiting period. They arrive from Wisconsin which has just 3 abortion providers serving an average of 424,000 women of reproductive age each. They arrive from Missouri with just a single provider, due to an onerous law requiring abortion providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Illinois has 24 providers, each serving just 120,000 such women. Four Planned Parenthood clinics closed in Iowa due to state defunding, a measure likely to increase the need for abortion as it's being made more unattainable. But Illinois legislates against their neighbors' pushback, increasing state financed abortions for the poor and for state workers, as well as legislating that repeal of Roe v. Wade will not threaten abortion legality here. While Illinois appreciates the flow of travel money into Illinois from out of state women out of local options, every Illinoisan of good will longs for the day such women can get the most basic right of full reproductive health right in their own back yard.

Trib's idolatry of Chase inner city investment no cure for Chicago's poverty

Trib's idolatry of Chase inner city investment no cure for Chicago's poverty
The Trib's editorial 'How Chase seeks to seed prosperity on Chicago's South and West sides' see's enlightened capitalism as the cure for 300 years of slavery, white supremacy following Emancipation and institutional racism which keeps large pockets of poverty, crime and despair entrenched for hundreds of thousands on Chicago's South and West sides. Those governmental policies appear nowhere in the Trib's view which they posit is caused solely by "disinvestment - the void as risk-takers in the private sector took their dollars elsewhere." What nonsense...those risk takers were never there in the first place. As minorities moved into established neighborhoods, every bank, with government encouragement, 'red lined' the South and West sides, forcing middle class whites to flee where they were allowed to invest, dooming their new inhabitants to the hopelessness that has become intractable.
Then along comes JPMorgan Chase, investing a paltry $40 million over three years and voila, prosperity is just around the corner. Why paltry? Chase made $27 billion last year so their investment amounts to a little over 0.1% of net profits. And what have those vast wastelands of poverty received? 37 small business loans, 176 mixed income housing units preserved and a college offering associate nursing degrees. While each of those actions is helpful to a few, the overall impact is infinitesimally inadequate for rebuilding the South and West sides. The editorial amounts to a commercial for Chase and its capitalist banking brothers. By glaring omission the Trib is in utter denial of governmental policy which created America's ghettos and which has the only means of eliminating them, not with a paltry $40 million, but with hundreds of billions currently being squandered on criminal wars and tax cuts to the greedy rich. Billionaire Chase CEO Jamie Diamond is no dummy. Throw $40 million at Chicago's impoverished neighborhoods and get $40 million worth of good press that worships the banking industry even after they crashed the housing market, and nearly the entire economy, a decade ago.

Syrian troop withdrawal right thing to do


I, along with every other member of the antiwar movement, applaud President Trump's decision to withdraw the remaining 2,000 US soldiers from Syria. We're not holding our breath, however, that he will actually complete this small step of ending one immoral, illegal and criminal US military intervention round the globe. Trump has reneged on doing what he announces, whether good or bad, more times than can be counted. The pushback from the war party, of which he heads up as president, has been ferocious. Military, media and congressional hawks are trumpeting doom and gloom as if the sky is falling from this proposed paltry pullout. But many of the half million killed, seven million displaced within Syria, and five million refugees are tied to US intervention in the 2011 Syrian civil war. Back in 2013 the US ratcheted up its involvement to prevent Syrian President Assad from defeating the rebels. We cared not a whit for the Syrian people. We cared about deposing Assad in our proxy war against Syria's neighboring allies Iran and Russia. Instead of being peacemakers, America extended with war for years. Even with the US now acknowledging Assad's victory with Russian help, the war party is loathe to remove a single soldier from any country we are practicing murder and mayhem. Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and Niger are just the ones we know of. The resignation of hawkish Defense Secretary James Mattis within hours of the troop withdrawal decision, citing policy differences, does not bode well for completion of the announced troop withdrawal. But we peaceniks will, like Camus' figure in the Myth of Sisyphus, keep pushing that boulder of peace up the mountain from which it always rolls back down. Maybe with US troops in Syria, this time we'll get them over the mountain.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Speaker Ryan, Yemen war enabler, leaving Congress on a low note

House Speaker Paul Ryan apparently never learned one of life's most important lessons: leaving on a high note. This week Ryan, in his last month as House Speaker and member, used a cynical parliamentary procedure to prevent even a House debate on our four year long involvement in Saudi Arabia's murderous, criminal war in Yemen. He inserted a provision in the sure to pass Farm Bill preventing such debate till the new House convenes next month when Ryan will be conveniently absent. On the same day he quashed debate on America's complicity in creating the largest humanitarian crisis on Earth, the Senate, which previously voted to allow debate, voted to invoke the War Powers Act of 1973 to end US involvement in Yemen. In a show of moral clarity, seven Republicans broke with the Trump administration calling for continued war; voting along with all 49 Democrats to end it. Ryan replicated the cynical maneuver he took last month, inserting a provision to avoid Yemen war debate in a bill passed to allow hunting of gray wolves. Maybe Ryan figures if it's OK to hunt gray wolves, it's OK to hunt Yemeni civilians, over a hundred thousand of whom have died under US bombs dropped by Saudi pilots or starved to death from the famine we've enabled. Though he's leaving Congress, Ryan likely has his eye on a future presidential run. Voting to even allow debate on ending one of America's criminal wars does not fit the image he needs to curry favor and money from the military, the defense contractors and the political class that simply loves perpetual war. Forget Paul Ryan's handsome, presidential bearing. Behind those ramrod good looks, lies the soul of a monster.

Illinois won't go to pot...by going to pot

Illinois won't go to pot...by going to pot
Seen a number of anti Illinois pot legalization letters in Chicago papers lately and not one favoring the inevitable: pot legalization in Illinois. The letters against channel the mindset of the folks who passed Prohibition in 1919 and decried its revocation in 1933. The anti pot folks miss so many points favoring legalization I ponder whether they were written under the influence.
Their major fallacy is the implication we'll be allowing something that currently doesn't exist: pot use. But 55 million Americans, including over two million in Illinois use pot with all the revenue going to the bad guys. And those two million Illinoisans enjoying weed can't be certain of its quality and potency, leading to problems similar to imbibing moonshine booze rather than legal hooch. From that standpoint alone, legal pot in Illinois will provide a twofor: less health problems for legal pot users and significant revenue transferred from the bad guys to the good guys. How better off health wise will legal pot users be than the illegal ones will be tough to quantify. But if Colorado, which realized $247 million in revenue last year with 38% of Illinois' population is a guide, Illinois stands to achieve upwards of half a billion a year.
That leads to another fallacy in the naysayers posts: legal pot will not solve Illinois' financial problems. That's a false argument because legalization is not intended to do that regardless of that cool half billion eventually flowing into our depleted treasury.
The 21st century Prohibitionists ignore one of the more subtle benefits of legal pot: de-mystification of pot use among teenagers. Back in the 60's I remember still the thrill of trying something that was 'illegal', when I puffed my first joint. This is borne out in Colorado where pot use among teenagers is down slightly rather than up since legalization four years ago.
The anti pot legalization folks should study the proposals from legislative leaders Heather Steans (Senate) and Kelly Cassidy (House) to understand how thoroughly they are learning from the 9 states and DC who have preceded Illinois with legal marijuana to craft a morally, medically and financially responsible pathway to end the second great Prohibition in American society.

Friday, December 14, 2018

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to US: "You're wrong on Iran"


The IAEA's lastest report on the 2015 Five + 1 nuclear deal with Iran reaffirms Iran is fully in compliance with the agreement guaranteeing Iran doesn't produce nuclear weapons. This is nothing new. Every IAEA report since the agreement was reached has verified Iran's compliance. Possibly Trump's biggest lie as president has been Iran's non-compliance prompting US abandonment of the deal six months ago. The latest IAEA report comes just a week after Trump imposed new sanctions on Iran in furtherance of his real goal in Iran: regime change to take out the arch rival of our Middle East allies Saudi Arabia and Israel. All other nations are thumbing their petro dollars at Trump by buying Iranian oil. It's simply another Forest Gump moment for Trump that 'stupid is as stupid does.'

Walt Zlotow
Glen Ellyn, IL 

Time, Trib's salute to free press truth telling only goes so far


The Trib's editorial "Time's salute to truth-telling during 'the War on Truth', extolling Time Magazine's selection of nine journalists killed, imprisoned or being investigated for practicing press freedom, rings hollow due to omission of US-UK hunted journalist Julian Assange. The Trib laments the June 28 murder of 5 Capital Gazette journalists by a crazed gunman and the October 2 murder of US based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government. But where was the Trib and Time when establishment political figures such as Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin, former Pentagon official K. T. McFarland, Fox News commentator Bob Beckel and Canadian Prime Minister adviser Tom Flanagan were all calling for the death penalty, even assassination of journalist Assange for publishing purloined, classified US documents identifying US war crimes in Iraq. The Trib boasts of America's constitutional press protection, lamenting President Trump's inflammatory rhetoric against the establishment press which the Trib deems "dangerous". No such outcry when Trump, back in 2010, invoked the "death penalty" solution for Assange's giving America and the world truth about our grotesque, criminal Iraq war. The Trib closed by proclaiming its free press practitioners will "be humbled by a moment in the limelight"..then get back to work. Assange will neither be humbled by his 8 years of imprisonment in London's Ecuador embassy or get back to work. He's fighting for his life.

First Heisman winner stiff-armed the NFL

Entering the University of Chicago in 1963, I became aware of its tortured football history when a football club was formed to play the first game since football was abolished on the Quads in 1939. Some of my classmates weren't thrilled, storming the field before, not after the game, to prevent its return. And, for one game at least, they prevailed. It was hard to compare that sad resurrection with the early glory of UC football: founding member of the Big Ten in 1896, seven Big Ten titles between 1899 and 1924, national championships in 1905 and 1913, and, most startling, first recipient of the Heisman trophy in 1935 in the form of 'one man football team' Jay Berwanger. New York's Downtown Athletic Club awarded him their newly minted trophy (renamed the Heisman in '36) as the best college football player that year. Berwanger also snagged the Chicago Trib's Silver Football as best Big Ten player and was a unanimous All-American. Early in '36 the floundering NFL instituted the college draft to spread college talent to the weak teams struggling to survive. Even tight fisted George Halas, who could outbid his weak sisters for the best talent, agreed the draft was needed for NFL survival. No surprise that Philadelphia Eagles owner Bert Bell used his worst record first pick to draft Berwanger. But unlike today, signing with the NFL in '36, where most players received about $150 a game, was a fool's bet. When Berwanger asked for $1,000, Bell refused, trading his negotiating rights to Halas who lusted to make local hero Berwanger a Bear. But after waiting out a year Berwanger upped his price to 25 grand for two years with a no cut clause. Halas punted, leaving Berwanger to embark on a lucrative career manufacturing plastic car parts. Berwanger was not alone in passing on a shaky future with the dirt poor upstart professional league. Fifty-six others in that first draft of 81 college stars took Berwanger's path and stiff-armed unlikely future NFL wealth and glory. And that first Heisman? Berwanger never gave it much thought, handing it off to his Aunt Gussie who used it as a doorstop. At my UChicago Reunion No. 52 next June, I'll amble over to the University's Athletic Hall of Fame to gander at the trophy (since saved from doorstop duty) that started the annual Heisman Hoopla, and signaled the last glorious gasp of the original Monsters of the Midway.

Invocation withdrawal proposal sets a fresh tone for DuPage Board in 2019


Kudos to incoming DuPage County Board member Dawn De Sart and several other of her newly elected board members for calling for an end to longtime tradition of beginning board meetings with a religious invocation. Such invocations clearly violate the separation of church and state enshrined in our Constitution which makes America a beacon of religious freedom and tolerance around the world, protecting everyone's religious beliefs while safeguarding the rights of non-believers. As a seven decade non-theist I've promoted strict adherence to this separation whenever I encounter its violation. One small effort on that behalf occurs whenever called on to recite the Pledge. At the critical moment I proudly proclaim "one nation, under NO god, with liberty and justice for all".
The DuPage County Board should no more bring up religion to start their meetings, than a church service should bring up county government business at the beginning of theirs. County board Chairman Dan Cronin, who supports the invocation practice as "a wonderful way to start board meetings", says "we'll have to consider changes" if a majority of board members support De Sart's proposal. While passage is not likely based on comments of Cronin and incumbent board members, the newly elected members are signaling early on that it will not be 'business as usual' on the County Board in 2019.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Bush funeral coverage betrays history needed for future progress, enlightenment


I've waited to comment for coverage to fade following the near week long honoring following the death of 41st president George H.W. Bush. Much of the commentary resides on the extremes of adulation for his assumed decency, kindness, good cheer among other laudable attributes; and vilification of alleged monstrous deeds of a murderous foreign policy abroad and neglect of the forgotten, whether AIDS victims, the poor, the marginalized at home. You won't get a smidgen of the latter on mainstream media which coalesced to deify H.W. as another chapter of American exceptionalism.
But as one who both lived through Bush's entire career of government service and cherishes history, I know a fair amount of the latter allegations being denied to most of our 326 million Americans. That is unfortunate if we are to understand and learn from the failings and mistakes of the people we entrust with our well being and future. The same deification was apparent at the funerals of two other presidents who died long after leaving office: Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. There is no established rule on state funerals for such former political leaders. We would, I believe, benefit if such matters were strictly family affairs. That might allow a more honest public assessment of the deceased's role in the American Story which is not being served by the whitewashed versions presented as establishment narrative.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Top priority for 116th Congress: ending criminal Yemen war



For three and a half years now the Congress has punted on ending US war crimes in Yemen. Under the War Powers Act of 1973 (50 USC 1541-1548), Congress reasserted its Constitutional right to declare war and empowers Congress to end unilateral presidential war by invoking that law. Next Monday the Senate begins debate on the Senate version which will end US support for Saudi Arabia's merciless criminal war in Yemen which has devastated several million in that hapless land bordering Saudi Arabia. But even though likely to pass, since senators voted 63-37 to proceed with debate, passage in the House will have to wait till Democrats take control there in January. Tragically for peace, House Republicans will not even debate ending our Yemen war crimes, tacking on a motion to quash debate to a favored bill to allow hunting of gray wolves last month. But incoming House Democratic leaders, including likely new Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are determined to end US involvement they have enabled till now. A joint Senate-House resolution to end our Yemen war crimes is veto proof. If Trump ignores it the Senate can simply defund military operations there to end the madness. Sadly, it wasn't millions of dead, wounded, disease ridden or starving Yemenis that galvanized Congress to act, but the grotesque murder and dismemberment of US based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government. End of US support will likely end the war since the incompetent Saudis can't even prevail with our support. If Congress acts as expected in January, the 116th Congress will make history, serving the cause of peace, which, despite the myriad of domestic problems requiring action, is and always will be their Job One.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Guantanamo gulag a bitter legacy of US Cuban takeover 120 years ago

Most Americans remain oblivious the US still maintains a gulag for suspected bad guys at Cuba's GITMO (Guantanamo Bay Naval Base) prison, opened in 2002. Some were tortured there; some died from ill treatment; some committed suicide. None got US justice they were entitled to. Of over 500 sent there only 40 remain, none newer to America's concentration camp than 2008. That precludes any providing actionable intelligence about current terrorist activities. All are heading to geriatricville, with its expanding costs in medical care for what will eventually turn into a nursing home for hapless souls swept up in the hysteria following 911. Congress has been sitting on an $89 million request for upgrades needed for these old-timers because, well, the voters might revolt if their congressman spends a penny to aid the folks long demonized into non-humans. Obama made closing the GITMO detention center an early goal, but was thwarted by congressional Islamophobia. Trump, reversing every decent Obama policy, has applauded GITMO incarceration as an "enduring mission."
In a bitter irony we're housing these aging detainees in an area swiped from Cuba after we pushed Spain out in 1898. We set up a naval base at Guantanamo's harbor to prosecute the war and maintained it during our four year occupation. In 1902 we granted Cuba their independence with the caveat we could intervene militarily anytime for any reason. We did that three times in the next eight years with GITMO a vital resource. We also forced Cuba to grant the US a permanent lease to the 45 square miles needed for our military presence. In 1949, the UN, it its Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Nations, declared such unilateral land grads illegal. The US, claiming grandfather rights to GITMO, has told Cuba and the UN to take a hike. We dutifully send Cuba a check for $4,085 every year to pay our imposed rental, and every year Cuba rips up the check in protest.
GITMO, and its American gulag; just another example of the US saying, "Do as we say...not as we do."

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Senate takes baby step to end US war crimes in Yemen



The US is committing war crimes in Yemen; has been since it encouraged and supplied Saudi Arabia's war crimes there in March, 2015. It's the worst man made humanitarian catastrophe on earth with millions dead, injured, or suffering disease and starvation thanks to US planes dropping US bombs that we've given the Saudis. For three and a half years our war crimes there were largely hidden from us due to our willful ignorance and intentional secrecy by our government. But October 2, the grotesque Saudis made a big boo-boo, luring Jamal Khashoggi, an unfriendly US based Saudi journalist to their consulate in Turkey and chopped him into little pieces for his criticism. Big mistake. The senators and representatives who help the president cover up our war crimes with the Saudis are using the Khashoggi killing to expiate some of their guilt for enabling our 42 months of slaughter in Yemen. Yesterday they voted 63-37 to allow full floor debate on invoking the War Powers Act which requires the president to submit his war crimes to the Senate for approval. Should he fail to do that the law would end US involvement there. The vote to discuss signals likely passage of the full resolution. Then it's off to the House which has a more benign view of US war crimes, recently using a bill on allowing the hunting of gray wolves to shut off debate on a similar resolution there. But even if the House grows a conscience, the War Criminal in Chief has threatened a veto to keep American's bomb and plane factories humming while Yemenis are sacrificed to the War Goddess of US capitalism.
Yesterday's Senate vote is just a baby step on the long road to peace. We must all demand our elected officials take back the constitutional duty to declare war; something they gave up in 1950 over Korea. The infant antiwar movement to end US war crimes in Yemen must turn this first small step for peace into a gallop.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A great economy?

When someone tells me the US is the world's greatest economy I offer a wry smile and dissenting opinion. Maybe the biggest but certainly not the greatest. A great economy does not squander nearly $1 trillion yearly to wage senseless war in the Middle East and Africa. A great economy doesn't refuse to invest in rebuilding its crumbling bridges, roads in other infrastructure which keeps us safe while facilitating commerce. A great economy doesn't choose to promote climate threatening fossil fuel over green energy. A great economy doesn't allow the for-profit health insurance industry maintain the worst health care delivery system in the industrialized world. A great economy does not allow gun manufacturers to sell of millions of firearms resulting in over a hundred thousand shooting victims yearly. A great economy doesn't worsen the largest income disparity since the Gilded Age by lavishing tax cuts on the American oligarchs. A great economy does not degrade workers' unions to allow slave wages and rescinding of employee workplace protections. A great economy does not refuse to pay for basic post secondary school training, college or trade school, so every young person gets an opportunity for economic success. The US economy: the largest, yes...and also possibly the worst.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

When the Trib, Col. McCormick played Julian Assange to

The Chicago Tribune, like all mainsteam media outlets, has done nothing to defend the right of Australian journalist Julian Assange to publish classified facts about US war crimes in Iraq. That brought prosecution and conviction of PFC Chelsea Manning under the Espionage Act for disseminating the information to Assange for publication. Manning spent two years in solitary confinement and another five in federal prison before being pardoned by President Obama. The US has had no success bringing Assange to legal US justice but is punishing him harshly nonetheless. He's been under detention in London starting in 2010, the last six years holed up in the Ecuador embassy there under conditions some argue are life threatening: no medical care, no exercise, no contact with the outside world. That  Assange conspired with Manning to reveal classified US government is not in dispute. The reality is that the free press worldwide depends on leaked secret information to reveal the truth about government wrongdoing and that it's rarely punished. It's certainly not out of reverence for a free press but simple expediency the US government doesn't want to frogmarch revered NY Times, Washington Post or Chicago Tribune publishers into federal court. Hold the presses. Back in 1942, FDR tried to do just that to Col. Robert McCormick and his 'World's Greatest Newspaper' Chicago Tribune. Col. McCormick used purloined classified Navy information on Japanese plans to attack Midway in his June 7, 1942, page one scoop entitled 'Navy had word on Jap plan to strike at sea', while the Battle of Midway was still raging. The article strongly implied the US had broken the Japanese code to get that critical info, a leak that jeopardized future code breaking revelations. FDR threatened to send in the Marines to occupy the Tribune Tower. He ordered the Navy to convene a federal Grand Jury to consider espionage charges against the Trib reporter, editor and the Colonel himself. The Trib escaped prosecution when the military decided that further state secrets would likely be revealed in prosecuting the offending exemplars of the free press.

McCormick  lived another thirteen years to rail editorially against his bete noir FDR and his hated New Deal. Maybe if Col. McCormick could be granted another reprieve, this time for an earthly visit to the Trib Editorial Board, he might remind them that "What's good for the journalist McCormick...is good for the journalist Assange".