Thursday, June 23, 2016

Roskam channels Jack Benny on Trump: "I'm thinking it over!"

Thief to Jack Benny: "your money or your life"
Thief to Jack Benny - louder: "Your money or your life"
Jack Benny: "I'm thinking it over!"

That famous Jack Benny comedy bit showcasing his cheapness and love of money comes to mind as I question my congressman Peter Roskam's refusal to 'come out' for or against Donald Trump for president. Twice now I've called his political office, 630 221 0006, and twice the befuddled young man who answered says he has no idea if and when Roskam will make a statement either supporting or disavowing The Donald. Roskam's silence on the presumptive GOP nominee is unprecedented in Roskam's 23 year lifetime political career. Could it be Trump's widespread support from the racist white nationalist Republican fringe including former KKK champion David Duke? Could it be Trump's xenophobia in branding Mexican immigrants rapists and calling for a religious test to exclude all Muslims from entering the US? Could it be the way he mocked a disabled reporter? Could it be his long time litany of disgusting sexist comments to degrade and demean women?

I guess if Roskam himself instead of the befuddled young man answered the phone at campaign headquarters, the conversation would go something like this?

Me: "Congressman Roskam, are you supporting the racist, xenophobic, misogynist, name caller Donald Trump"?
Me: "Mr. Roskam, your political future or your integrity?"
Congressman Roskam: "I'm thinking it over!"

Walt Zlotow
Glen Ellyn

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Be Like Mike

The Rev. Michael Pfleger's blistering condemnation of Gov. Rauner's treatment of the inner city resulting from his budget impasse imposing draconian harm there, was both appropriate and necessary. Pfleger's comments helped prompt Rauner to cancel his plan to speak at a Juneteenth event at the DuSable Museum of African American History on the South Side. Juneteenth, commemorates the June 19, 1865, announcement that the Civil War and slavery were ended. Civility and respect are due public officials. Claiming our first black president is a foreign born Muslim with an agenda to help terrorists is an example to incivility and disrespect. But publicly calling out our governor for the abominable and unconscionable collective punishment meted out to the must vulnerable to extract his pro-business turnaround agenda, is in the best traditions of ground up democracy. Pfleger simply told the truth about the callous hypocrisy of Rauner's showing up at such an historic event to speak hollow words of brotherhood with the black community while systematically adding to its current pain and suffering.
Illinoisans of every demographic must turn out at every public event Rauner attends and silently protest his silence about the damage he inflicts, almost with a sense of pride. A good form of protest would be to simply turn our collective backs on a governor who has turned his back on the most vulnerable among us. Rauner cancelled over concern for public safety implied in the criticism his tone deaf scheduled appearance inspired. Nonsense. Rauner cancelled to avoid the humiliation and embarrassment of public exposure of his being the servant of the 1% instead of his entire constituency.
When it comes to serving the interests of all Illinoisans, we should ignore the inhumane preachings of the Man of the Rich and channel the 1982 Gatorade commercial to: "Be Like Mike".

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Diplomats join the warmongers

The George W. Bush administration is infamous for its neocons from Vice President Cheney, to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld over ruling the State Department to ignite criminal war. We usually look to the career diplomats, whose experience and wisdom argues against unnecessary war, to keep the presidential warmongers at bay. That's why is troubling that 51 career diplomats used the State Department 'Dissent Channel', a mechanism whereby diplomats can voice their dissent without fear of career reprisal, to argue for more bombing of the elected Syrian regime of President Assad. They're upset by their claim Assad is violating the tenuous civil war ceasefire, arguing we can bomb him to eternity without fear of Russian intervention on behalf of their ally. 

General Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewicz (1780-1831) was a political theorist who wrote in his famous tome 'On War', "War is the continuation of politics by other means."  Alas, that wise aphorism is lost on the diplomatic corp we should be relying on to avoid more murderous and criminal war. Too many of them are joining the neocons outside of State to twist von Clausewicz's wisdom into 'War is America's first diplomatic choice to control the world'. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Trumpty Dumpty

Trumpty Dumpty is having a ball

Trumpty Dumpty will take a great fall

All GOP oligarchs and angry white men

Can't salvage the GOP from Trumpty Dumpty again

Saturday, June 18, 2016

AUMF anyone?

Ask a hundred random Americans what an AUMF is and you'd be hard pressed to get a single correct answer. But ask the 535 members of Congress about an AUMF and they'll recoil in horror as if it combines AIDS, Zika and Ebola viruses all rolled into one. AUMF stands for Authorization for Use of Military Force, a congressional requirement from the War Powers Act of 1973 to reign in unilateral presidential war making so murderously abused by President Nixon in his secret war in Cambodia during the Vietnam era.
We haven't had an AUMF since the 2002 AUMF to prosecute the Iraq war. Yet today the President is expending thousands of bombs and billions of dollars trying to destroy imagined bad guys in the Middle East. Our war making today is so absurd we're both bombing Sunni Muslim followers of ISIS/al Qaeda at the same time we're supporting the very same folks trying to overthrow the hated Shi'ite government of Syrian President Assad. For the US war party, everyone is a potential target. On top of that absurdity is all this carnage is being carried out under old, obsolete AUMF's dealing with the 911 attackers and Saddam Hussein's non-existent WMD.
Neither the president nor Congress wants a new AUMF. Obama doesn't want Congress interfering with his License To Kill. Congress doesn't want their bloody fingerprints on any documents supporting such madness should things go badly. And the American people? We long ago ceded any interest or involvement in criminal warfare. We're willing to watch our defense stock portfolios rise in direct relation to Middle East bodies that fall from our ceaseless bombing.
A new AUMF to prosecute perpetual war? Not for the world's only superpower.

Friday, June 17, 2016

We've been warned

A really bad president does much to conceal their unfitness for office during the campaign. Such is the case with the two worst in my lifetime, Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. Nixon rose to power in the McCarthy era; smearing Democratic incumbent Jerry Voorhis as a communist sympathizer in 1946 to win his California House seat. He reprised that line, branding Democrat Helen Douglas as the 'Pink Lady' to grab the Senate seat in 1950.  We got a glimpse of his mental instability from his little seen 1962 post gubernatorial defeat press conference showing a clearly unhinged Nixon. But such ruthlessness and mental unfitness were largely forgotten by 1968 when Nixon won the presidency on a promise to end the Vietnam War. Then he went berserk in a futile effort to prevent America's first lost war, before self destructing from paranoia and personal insecurity pursuing his imagined domestic demons. 

George W. Bush slithered into the White House as the affable (though largely failed) son of President George H.W. Bush; the guy you'd like to share a beer with instead of the smart but stiff Al Gore.  Bush campaigned on a promise to pull back from nation building but then went Full Monty after 911 unleashed the war mongering neocons who played Bush like a Stradivarius to bust up the Middle East, sending hundreds of thousands to an needless death.  

While Nixon and Bush voters get a pass on electing truly dreadful presidents, anyone voting for Donald Trump knows exactly the tsunami of fear and loathing he represents. He wears his unfitness as a badge of honor, leading his 12 million primary voters to act out their hatred of the 'other' that has gotten some measure of relief and support from that foreign born, secret Muslim traitor for the past eight years. That was Trump's pitch from Day One. 

Republican leaders hate Trump for exposing the sick underbelly of their constituency. They despise him for not using the established GOP code for garnering that disaffected vote without resort to overt xenophobia and racism. A Trump presidency will be no mystery and no surprise. 

We've been warned.   

Thursday, June 16, 2016

NY governor curtails free speech over BDS

Progressive Americans would have been rightly outraged had the Governor of Alabama in 1955 issued an executive order to punish black groups and individuals boycotting the Montgomery, AL bus company which led to integration on the buses and sparked the modern civil rights movement.

Progressive Americans would have been rightly outraged had the governor of California in 1964 issued an executive order to punish migrant groups and individuals boycotting California produce growers which led to contracts finally giving migrant workers fair wages and working conditions.
Progressive Americans would have been rightly outraged had an American president issued an executive order to punish groups and individuals boycotting the Apartheid government of South Africa which led to the end of Apartheid and freedom for South African blacks

Yet, there is much progressive silence over the executive order issued by progressive NY governor Andrew Cuomo to punish NY groups and individuals who boycott Israel over their colonization and subjugation of Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza. Depriving Palestinians of basic services, food and water, while displacing Palestinians to build illegal settlements and inflict collective punishment such as the current water reduction over a recent terrorist attack, is reviled around the world. Collective punishment is considered a war crime.

Cuomo's order directs all agencies under his jurisdiction to discontinue all dealings with companies and organizations that support BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions). It also mandates that Cuomo's commissioner compile a list of institutions and companies that support a boycott of Israel. The blacklist will be publicly posted. The burden of proving that these entities do not support the boycott is on the companies and institutions themselves. Cuomo issued the executive order because the NY legislature rightly refused to enact laws stifling the free speech of participants in BDS.

Cuomo's directive is an unconstitutional infringement on free speech as well as being cruel and immoral in furthering Palestinian suffering. It must be opposed by every American who values free speech; and justice, citizenship and statehood for Palestinians.

My 50 year old membership card in the American Civil Liberties Union doesn't make a free speech exception to perpetuate man's inhumanity to man.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Trib Editorial Board warmongering hiding behind Chapman's sanity

The Chicago Tribune's Steve Chapman quite rightly faulted President Obama's failure to truly end our Middle East wars in his June 9 op ed 'Obama prolongs unwinnable wars'. So good was Chapman's analysis it was picked up by, the Holy Grail of anti war news and opinion.
But nowhere in Chapman's piece is that some of the blame for both starting and prolonging these criminal excursions in mass death goes to the Chicago Tribune's Editorial Board, which Chapman has participated in since 1981. Sadly, in those 35 years, Chapman's influence on the Board's support for endless war and American exceptionalism has been zero. They were all in for our senseless and lost war in Afghanistan. They were all in for our senseless and lost war in Iraq. They loved the Libyan intervention where "We came, we saw, he died" referring to the gruesome execution of Libyan President Qaddafi, one of thousands whose blood is on US hands. The Board argued mightily against rapprochement with Iran and helped foment new Cold War with Russia over Ukraine by supporting US involvement in the February, 2014, coup, unraveling that sorrowful land and prompting Russia to protect their backside.
The Chicago Tribune Editorial Board is a board member of the neocon war party. Every so often they let Chapman loose to tell truths they will never reveal to placate the folks who still buy the Trib hoping for some sanity in their coverage of America's death spiral.

Is Breen following Trump into political gutter?

My Illinois State Rep Peter Breen (IL-48) knows better. Yet, he begins his constituent email with a gratuitous insult and falsehood:
"Mike Madigan's 'Madigoons' are on the loose in the 48th District! Madigan has hand-selected an opponent for me in the upcoming General Election, and we have now seen proof that his campaign workers, including some of his top staff, have been walking precincts in our district, trying to unseat me."
Breen may think it's clever to connect the name of Illinois House Speaker to 'goons', the well known moniker denoting hired political operatives who use violence to further a political cause, but it's not. If merely demeans reasoned political discourse, desperately needed in our culture, with unhelpful name calling. Citizens who spend time gathering signatures so that voters will have choice, a clear choice in November, are not 'goons'. They are the folks who make democracy work.
Worse, Breen spreads the falsehood, likely a conscious lie, that his unnamed opponent was 'hand selected' by Speaker Madigan. The only hands that picked his opponent were his own, and those of the Nominating Committee of the DuPage County Democratic Party.
Breen's opponent has a name. It's Steve Swanson, a soon to be retired minister from Lombard.
Two things you can count on in this campaign. Steve Swanson will never engage in gratuitous insults or spread falsehoods. And Peter Breen, likely taking cues from the master of gratuitous insult and lies at the top of the Republican ticket, will nod and follow suit

Monday, June 13, 2016

Roskam's 'A' is a grade of shame

My Congressman Peter Roskam (IL-6) is very discreet about the A grade he receives from the National Rifle Association for his work on their behalf to prevent any sensible gun legislation. He's just as discreet about the money he receives from the NRA to help keep him in Congress working to promote their agenda. Go to his congressional website and you won't find a single reference to the NRA, assault weapons or gun violence. You can ignore the two references to 'gun control' that pop up from 2013. They contain the words 'gun control' in passing on articles having nothing to do with possibly the most important public health issue facing the Illinois 6th District, and all America.
That's my congressman Peter Roskam, getting a cool quarter million a year in salary and benefits keeping the 6th District safe for America's gun merchants. For Roskam, when it comes to the slaughter going on in our streets, our churches, our schools, our places of recreation; it's 'hear no gunshots, see no gunshots, speak no gun control'. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

GOP furious November 8 ballot spots filling up

How does the DuPage County Republican Party resemble the old Communist Party? Simple. They don't like to see other party candidates on the ballot. Take their bizarre, three prong thrust to remove Christopher English from the ballot as Democratic candidate for DuPage County Clerk of the Circuit Court. English collected 1,773 signatures to get on the ballot as a post primary candidate, more than doubling the 844 needed by 929 votes . GOP folks did the math and voila, decided 941 of English's signatures were invalid, making him 12 votes short of the 844 target. As one deeply involved in the five week petitioning process for English, my outrage over this shabby attempt to subvert the will of 1,773 DuPage voters seeking choice November 8 is incalculable.
The other two arguments come straight out of The Twilight Zone. Dennis Reboletti, a former state lawmaker, no less, wants us to believe a teensy quibble over how the county clerk title was worded on the nominating petitions amounts to a gross miscarriage of election law. Not finished with Fantasyland, Reboletti contends that DuPage Democrats cannot form a nominating committee to designate post primary candidates; insisting they must marshal all 300 plus precinct committeemen to do that task. That is truly a strange way to simplify governing which is supposedly one of the GOP's favorite planks.
Maybe Reboletti and his anti voter minions are simply re-making The Exorcist, seeking to make DuPage voters heads spin around their necks trying to figure out their twisted version of democracy.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Roskam playing coy with racist, hatemonger Trump

My congressman Peter Roskam (IL 6) is riding the horns of a dilemma. He knows he can't in good conscience and with passion support his presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. Yet, he knows the great majority of his Republican base in the 6th District either loves and voted for Trump, or will gladly support his disgraceful and destructive brand of hate and fear mongering he exploited to grab the brass GOP presidential ring.
What to do? For Roskam it's say nothing, nada, zilch. Pretend The Donald doesn't even exist.
I've called his office two days in a row and the voice from the office has no clue as to Roskam's thoughts on Trump or if and when he'll surface to reveal his decision.
Will Roskam follow fellow Illinois Republican Mark Kirk's principled stand to neither vote for nor support Trump's candidacy. Or will he reveal himself as an unprincipled supporter of the darkest side in main party presidential politics we've ever had the misfortune to experience. 

Walt Zlotow
Glen Ellyn

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Judge recall effort undermines judicial independence

Efforts by Stanford University law professor Michele Dauber to recall Judge Aaron Persky for the six month sentence given Aaron Brock for assault and attempted rape of an unconscious acquaintance are misguided and should be withdrawn. Persky is a wise and fair judge whose career and sentence in the Brock case is supported by his peers. 

"He is an absolutely solid and respected judge," said Santa Clara County deputy public defender Gary Goodman. "Persky made the right decision." Barbara Muller, a criminal defense attorney who works two weeks a month in Persky's court, says he "is definitely one of the fairest judges in the county. He considers all facts and is very thorough. He plays it right down the middle."

Law professor Dauber, a friend of the victim, should know better than to undermine a 13 year tenured judge with a rock solid reputation and no disciplinary record. Critics of Persky and Brock have gone berserk on social media, comparing white, affluent defendant Brock to poor black defendants receiving much longer sentences for lesser crimes. They're having apoplexy over the tone deaf statement of Brock's father. Neither of these side bar tales are relevant to the wisdom and justice of the sentence handed down: six months in jail, three years probation, and a lifetime slot on the nation's sex offender registry. Given all the circumstances of the defendant's background and all the circumstances of the crime, the sentence provides justice to the victim, society and the defendant. 

It's time to stop obsessing solely on excessive incarceration which endlessly and wastefully warehouses folks who are not deemed likely to offend again and are good candidates for re-rehabilitation. Brock fits that profile which is why the Santa Clara County Probation Office recommended the sentence which Persky agreed with and handed down. 

There are bad judges who hand down poor sentences; a majority, no doubt, excessive, to placate a vengeful public. Good judges like Persky must be free to dispense the wise justice so critical to both a safe and humane society. 

Monday, June 06, 2016

Can't outsource this USA made stuff

Last year US WMD makers sold $46.6 billion of the stuff to 96 countries. 40% of the stuff went to the Middle East, a sorrowful region we claim to be pacifying. Sales were up an unhealthy 35% from 2014 and represent a third of all war weaponry sold worldwide. Don't forget the home grown ordinance Uncle Sam uses to fight his seven criminal wars in the Middle East and Africa. Seven of the eight largest government contractors are pumping out deadly and dastardly firepower almost as fast as Uncle can fire it. Don't smile too smugly when you see your annual stock portfolio rise. A fair chunk of that new found wealth is drenched with blood.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Most dastardly double cross of all time?

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Uncle Sam dealt Russia a deal. If they would disband the Warsaw Pact (Eastern European neighbors aligned with USSR), the West would disband NATO. Russia agreed and complied. Uncle Sam didn't, double crossing Russia and gobbling former Warsaw Pact nations into NATO right up to Russia's doorstep. In 2014, the West instigated a coup against the pro-Russian, but duly elected Ukraine president in an effort to not only bring Ukraine into NATO, but destabilize Russian president Putin. Naturally and justifiably, Russia pushed back, grabbing back the Ukraine province of Crimea containing a strategic Russian naval base. US war hawks promptly restarted a slightly cooler version of the Cold War, demonizing Russia and its president Putin as the bad guy in this totally avoidable crisis.
Presumptive GOP candidate Donald Trump is the most hate-filled, boorish, uninformed and dangerous main party candidate in history. But even his shotgun approach of reckless and incoherent spewings occasionally hits the mark. His criticism of NATO and cuddling with Vladimir are more on the mark (even though he's clueless why) than the mainstream ravings of the political establishment promoting new Cold War with Russia and pushing the Nuclear Clock closer to Midnight.

Friday, June 03, 2016

The apology Obama should have given.

On his recent Pacific trip, President Obama visited 2 countries of American atrocities: Vietnam and Japan. Many in the peace and nuclear free movements wanted to hear an Obama apology for the unnecessary A Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki but that was never an option. The victors write the histories, and the US quickly created the false narrative that the A Bombs saved half a million GI's (or possibly even a million) in spite of overwhelming evidence, including the assessment of seven of eight 5 star WWII generals, that the bombings were unnecessary. That includes Ike and Mac.
But being the losers in Vietnam didn't prevent America from paper-overing the grotesque carnage we visited upon that sorrowful land that simply wanted freedom from colonial oppression. Our kids learn in school that over 58,000 Americans perished in our futile attempt to prevent Vietnamese reunification. But they don't get the full story of the devastation we unleashed upon Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia before we were mercifully thrown out in 1975.
What devastation you ask?
Seventy-five percent of South Viet Nam was considered a free-fire (genocide) zone
Over 4 million Southeast Asians killed
13,000 of 21,000 of Vietnamese villages were severely damaged or destroyed
Nearly 950 churches and pagodas destroyed by bombing
350 hospitals and 1,500 maternity wards destroyed by bombing
Nearly 3,000 high schools and universities destroyed by bombing
Over 15,000 bridges destroyed by bombing
10 million cubic meters of dikes destroyed by bombing
26 million bomb craters created courtesy of American B-52s
21 million gallons of extremely poisonous herbicides were dumped in 20,000 chemical spraying missions between 1961 and 1970; the most intensive use of chemical warfare in human history. As many as 4.8 million Vietnamese living in nearly 3,200 villages were directly sprayed by the chemicals. 24 percent, or 16,100 square miles, of South Viet Nam was sprayed, an area larger than the states of Connecticut, Vermont, and Rhode Island combined, killing tropical forest, food crops, and inland forests
Over 500,000 Vietnamese have died from chronic conditions related to chemical spraying with an estimated 650,000 still suffering from such conditions; 500,000 children have been born with Agent Orange-induced birth defects, now including third generation offspring
Nearly 375,000 tons of fire-balling napalm was dropped on villages
Over 35,000,000 tons of ordnance was expended from aerial and naval bombing, artillery, and ground fire
150,000-300,000 tons of unexploded ordinance (UXO) remain scattered around Vietnam
Even more than the A Bombings, the president should have apologized for what his predecessors did to Vietnam half a century ago.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Gov. Rauner's 16 month trek up Brownback Mountain

Gov. Bruce Rauner has a political hero...and it's not Abe Lincoln. No, Gov. Bruce looks west to Kansas, whose finances and school systems have been ruined by Gov. Sam Brownback's $1.1 billion in tax cuts for the rich, enacted in his first term on the promise that the greedy rich would 'trickle down' some of their newly found largess to help less fortunate Kansans. Instead Kansas finances imploded with per pupil spending crashing down 'Brownback Mountain' to $3,800 per pupil from an adequate $4,400. Classes have been cut; staff riffed and school days cancelled. The implosion has mostly hurt the poorest and most vulnerable districts while affluent districts continue to thrive. The Kansas Supreme Court pushed back, saying Brownback violates state Constitutional provisions to "provide fair and adequate support for ALL school districts". The Court imposed a July 1 shutdown to enforce their fairness edict. Instead of complying, Brownback and his Republican legislature are despicably threatening to cut off funding for the Court and working to replace the offending justices. The Court is holding fast as Brownback pushes Kansas students to the brink.
Illinois' Gov. Rauner sure must envy, not only Brownback's heartlessness, but his legislative muscle that Illinois Democrats will not supply. Illinois students are not suffering as much as their compatriots in Kansas only because Speaker Madigan and his minions have their back. It's gonna take awhile but come November, 2018, Illinoisans can finally say, "We're not in Kansas, anymore."

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Blizzard of Lies

his Memorial Day it's appropriate to ponder the endless blizzard of lies Uncle Sam has used to wage perpetual war through the centuries of the American Story:

  • Spanish American War 1898 - Remember the Maine that wasn't

  • WWI 1917 - Make the world safe for democracy that wasn't 

  • Hiroshima & Nagasaki 1945 - the million man invasion that wasn't

  • Viet Nam War 1964 - Golf of Tonkin incident that wasn't 

  • Iraq War 2003 - WMD that wasn't 

  • Libya Regime Change 2011 - The Qaddafi genocide that wasn't

  • Syrian civil war 2013 - The Assad sarin gas attack that wasn't 

  • Ukraine 2014 - The Russian downing of MK-17 that wasn't 

Friday, May 27, 2016

The pause that doesn't refresh

Some advice for political and educational leaders in 11 states suing the Obama Administration over federal directive forbidding discrimination against transgenders over bathroom use. 

Try taking a leak in a transgender's shoes. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Is Peter Breen the Ted Cruz of Illinois?

"Today's 80% super majority vote reaffirmed that Republicans stand for children and families, along with limited government and economic opportunity for all."
That cringe worthy doublespeak from my state representative Peter Breen reminds me of the equally cringe worthy doublespeak from failed presidential candidate Ted Cruz. Without context, Breen's statement sounds fairly sensible, but it's underlying mendacity is given away by his reference to 'limited government', the standard GOP dog whistle to cut taxes on the wealthy. Breen's remarks trumpet his victory in overturning the 10-7 platform committee vote for a plank at the Illinois GOP state convention which urges that "non-traditional families are worthy of the same respect and legal protections as traditional families.” That vague, innocuous statement was the platform's committee's feeble attempt to get GOP state delegates to accept that gay marriage is the law of the land. But Breen, like his mentor and soulmate Senator Cruz, sees an inclusive attempt by our secular democracy to uplift society, as an evil attempt to end bigotry and exclusion. Breen rode to the rescue, marshaling 783 votes, 80% of the delegates, to, well, "stand for children and families" long as they're not gay. Breen's linking a vote for bigotry and fear to standing for "economic opportunity for all" is both illogical and cruel. When he isn't championing homophobia, Rep. Breen is firing endless emails to me and fellow District 48 constituents how proud he is helping Gov. Rauner cut state services to people in need, reduce MAP grants to struggling students, and stiffing state vendors for their goods and services. What a peculiar way to expand economic opportunity!
Before turning a six term moderate Republican from office by damning her efforts to cooperate in bi-partisan efforts to improve the state, Breen was Senior Counsel for the Thomas More Society. His big three issues there were preventing 10 million Americans from enjoying marriage, forcing women to bear their rapist's baby, and desecrating the public square with religious symbols. That agenda comes straight from the Ted Cruz playbook. That may play well in the Lone Star State. It has no place in the Land of Lincoln.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Duke's words on goodness don't apply to Trump

I have to laugh when 'Trumpeters' explain why they support Trump. "He sounds like he knows what will make America great again." "He's refreshing." "He's a truth teller." "He's telling it like it is."
When asked what makes good music, Edward 'Duke' Ellington simply said: "If it sounds is good." That apt description by Ellington about music does not apply to The Donald.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Dinosaur sightings at IL GOP Convention

The Illinois GOP social dinosaurs are in full battle against the forces of modernity trying to salvage the GOP brand at the state convention in Peoria. My congressman Peter Roskam (IL-6) and my state rep Peter Breen (IL 48) are leading the charge to roll back gay marriage, appalled that the platform committee would deign to recognize, by a 10-7 vote, that "non-traditional families are worthy of the same respect and legal protections as traditional families.” It's 'dis-respect or nothing' to GOP deadenders like Roskam and Breen trying to breathe life into the dead dinosaur of homophobia. "Today's action by a narrow majority of the platform committee to redefine marriage followed a flawed, closed-door process that excluded and marginalized the deeply held beliefs of a majority of Illinois Republicans" charged Breen, who moonlights as Chief Counsel for the Thomas More Society, reeling from the collapse of its decades long campaign to keep gays marginalized.
On the abortion front the social dinosaurs were more successful, beating back a plank that would allow for abortion in cases of rape or incest. Still roaming the north suburban 9th Congressional District, committee member Dave Carrabotta bellowed “You give an eighth of an inch...the game is over.” Apparently, forcing women to bear their molester's child is just a game to social dinosaur Carrabotta.
Maybe to facilitate their work the IL GOP should hang the following sign on the platform committee room door:

Sunday, May 22, 2016

It's 4 or 8 for next US prez

It won't be trumpeted among the accomplishments when the Obama library opens on Chicago's South Side in a few years...but it should be. And the accomplished is most assuredly dubious. It is, of course, that President Obama will have presided over the US at war longer than any president in US history, all 2.922 days of his presidency when completed on January 20, 2017. Only FDR, who served 4,421 days, had a chance to eclipse Obama, and his war tenure was the paltry 1,305 days of WWII. And unlike Obama's wars, FDR's was declared, worthwhile and successful. Obama's are undeclared, pointless and failed.
That's perpetual war in 21st century America. And it guarantees that the next president will steer America at war over a full four or eight years, depending on whether or not he or she gets re-elected. That's not a campaign promise. It's built into the job description.

Friday, May 20, 2016

American Nocturne' more powerful without victims

It took ten years, but David Powers' 'American Nocturne' is finally serving its artistic purpose. His mural, depicting just the crowd at a double lynching of two blacks in 1930 Marion, IN, spent a decade in an outdoor Elgin plaza before a curious resident compared it to the famous photo of that lynching, and determined the photo inspired the mural which was commissioned to comment on the subject of race in a 2004 Elgin Cultural Arts Commission mural project. Once the historical connection was made, several black residents began calling for its removal, claiming it shows disrespect by not including the victims. Elgin mayor David Kaptain has wisely called for public meetings to discuss the issue instead of a knee jerk removal of the mural. Had artist Powers simply regurgitated the iconic photo, it likely would have been too shocking and controversial to see the light of public display. His omission garnered its display allowing us to finally ponder its import a decade later. Absence of the victims generates powerful personal thoughts. To me it represents that blacks in 1930 were largely not regarded as fellow members of the human race to the white community, making their grotesque killing possible. I hope the public forum will conclude 'American Nocturne' transcends the offence to a few and disregard calls for its removal.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Let's hope Maine goes for legalized pot this November

For the century from 1832 to 1932, Maine became famous for the tagline "As Maine goes, so goes the nation". This was due to its early September voting on statewide offices before the November presidential election. Maine's early voting presaged to winning presidential party in 19 of 26 elections, creating the catchy line. In 1957, Maine changed its state elections back to November, costing Maine its prognosticator reputation. This November, Maine voters can legalize recreational use of marijuana. Sure would be nice if a 'YES' vote for pot could create the new tagline, "As Maine tokes the nation".

Monday, May 16, 2016

Unhappy birthday, Sikes-Picot

A hundred years ago today diplomats Sir Mark Sykes of England and Francois Georges-Picot of France finished carving up the map of the crumbling Ottoman Empire in the Middle East to guarantee the West's colonial interests in the black gold flowing underneath. They never envisioned their infamous Sykes-Picot Agreement of May 16, 1916, would keep the red stuff - blood - flowing a century on as well as the oil. But here we are, futilely blasting away at imagined enemies known as the Islamic State to prevent the inevitable redrawing of the artificial boundaries that put disparate and waring peoples in the same artificial country, such as Iraq and Syria.  From the rise of Nasserism in Egypt and Baathism in Iraq after WWII, the degradation of Sikes-Picot has been relentless. Little did the Bush administration fools promoting criminal war in Iraq realize they were lighting a fire under the religious and cultural sects to seek their own space to dominate their own people. Little did the fools in the Obama administration realize their criminal support of regime change in Syria would fuel hundreds of thousands of dead in the ghastly civil war that has sent millions fleeing to the West for safety. ISIS Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi put it bluntly: "This blessed advance (ISIS gains in 2014) will not stop until we hit the last nail in the coffin of the Sikes-Picot conspiracy."  

We didn't learn about Sikes-Picot in school because the false and self-serving narrative our historians dreamed up to propagandize us kids about the righteousness of every senseless American war, erased it from The American Story. But turn on the equally false and self-serving narrative about our current senseless war on cable news and you'll see the its daily bombings and fleeing refugees.    

None of us today may see an end to the Sikes-Picot fantasy map. The battle to obliterate it could still be raging a hundred years from today. Sikes-Picot at a hundred: An unhappy birthday, indeed. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Mother Earth buffeted on both side of continent by fossil fuel trolls

In West Virginia, out of work coal miners join the Trump neo-fascist parade to the presidency when The Donald shamelessly lies to them he'll bring back their landscape damaging, black lung producing jobs gouging coal from Mother Earth. 3,000 miles away, Mother Earth has to rely on a colossal forest fire to prevent the defilers of her precious depths from injecting colossal amounts of steam to force Her dirtiest tar sands to the surface where they should never appear. With 40% of Alberta's filthy racket shuttered, underground steam chambers may collapse, adding more woe to Mother's defilement. As Pete Seeger presciently opined in 'Where Have All The Flowers Gone', "When will they ever learn...when will they ever learn."

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Obama's nuclear free world includes $trillion nuclear buildup

President Obama has been promoting a nuclear free world since taking office in 2009. His most visible stance on that early pledge will come May 27 when he visits the Hiroshima nuclear bombing memorial with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to highlight his continued commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. But talk is cheap when you're planning a trillion dollar modernization of our nuclear capability over the next decade while America continues to crumble. Advocates for nuclear disarmament call this 'Obama's trillion dollar trainwreck.' Once again when it comes to doing the right thing about nuclear weapons, it's 'Do as I say, not as I do." The nuclear weapons suppliers are happy. The generals are happy. The neocons are happy. The rest of us? We just fret as the Doomsday Clock moves a tick or two closer to nuclear midnight. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

51 families didn't reach high enough in transgender lawsuit

Fifty-one families in Palatine School District 211 have filed one of the most bizarre lawsuits in Illinois history. These families, represented by anti-LGBT non-profits Alliance Defending Freedom and the Thomas More Society, are trying to overturn the district's agreement with the Department of Education to allow a transgender girl to use the girls locker room. She has already been accepted by her classmates as a girl, uses the girls' restrooms and even competes on girls' sports teams. But when the district agreed with the Department of Education that this girl must have access to the girls'  locker room as well, the Finicky 51 reached out for legal help from two groups in disarray from seeing all their work opposing gay marriage end in failure. Preventing transgenders from changing in the locker room of their sex has become the new battleground in their anti LGBT wars, along with allowing anti gay businesses to refuse serving their gay brothers and sisters. 

The folly and shame of their lawsuit is their refusal to accept that the young lady they wish to banish to the boys locker room is in fact female. The tide of human and social progress will never turn back the strides achieved in granting transgenders the identity, dignity and place in society they so richly deserve. Yet, the lawsuit brands the District 211 transgender a boy with this cruel and heartless description:
“Protecting students from inappropriate exposure to the opposite sex is not only perfectly legal, it’s a school district’s duty. Allowing boys into girls’ locker rooms, a setting where girls are often partially or fully unclothed, is a blatant violation of student privacy."
Like parents who sued to prevent their lily-white kids from sitting in the same school room with blacks, the Finicky 51's anti-transgender lawsuit will fail. What they don't realize is that the God they likely all believe in sometimes makes mistakes. With district Student A, like the thousands of other transgenders who are finally coming out of the shadows to gain a fulfilling life, He simply assigned the wrong genitals at birth, a situation that modern medicine can correct. The Finicky 51 would save our vastly overworked legal system a lot of time and trouble if they would simply withdraw their lawsuit against District 211 and the Departments of Education and Justice, and re-file it with The Man Upstairs. 

Monday, May 09, 2016

President Obama: Visit Hiroshima...and apologize

This month, President Obama makes his fourth and final visit to Japan. He's never seen fit to visit either Hiroshima or Nagasaki, the two cities we nuked 71 years ago this August...but he should. If he does visit, he should apologize for our unspeakable acts of violence, using atomic weapons that killed tens of thousands instantly, and killed many additional thousands slowly and agonizingly over the decades.
The biggest lie to emerge from our self serving narrative of WWII is that those two nukes saved half a million US military deaths (Truman's guess, that George H.W. Bush inflated to a million) from an invasion to end the war. Having endured the incineration of 100 cites from B-29 dropped napalm, two more cities wiped up using nukes didn't push Japan to surrender. It was the Soviet invasion of August 8, 1945, plus the hope (eventually realized) that Japan could keep Emperor Hirohito. Why did we drop them? Because we could, and we needed to intimidate the Russians, likely triggering the Cold War that lasted for 45 years. Sadly, many in government today seek to re-start it.
It took 65 years for a US government official to visit Hiroshima. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Hiroshima recently and believes Obama should complete the ceremonial and healing process by the last guy in government to get the buck. And the last guy who gets the buck, gets to apologize.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Sanders' third political hero a gem

Yesterday, Bernie Sanders said something quite extraordinary when asked who his political heroes were on becoming politically active in the early 1960's. He named Martin Luther King and FDR, two known to everyone. His third choice? Eugene V. Debs. As a fellow unreconstructed 1960's liberal, I'm quite familiar with Debs; but I would bet not one H.S. senior in a hundred recognizes him. That shames American education because Debs is a hero and role model for anyone who values real American exceptionalism of peace, freedom and economic justice.
Born in Terre Haute, IN in 1855, Debs labored in a variety of dirty, dangerous railroad jobs, eventually working himself into leadership positions of early railroad unions. Debs organized one of the first industrial unions for unskilled workers in the United States, the American Railway Union (ARU). The Union successfully struck the Great Northern Railway in April 1894, winning most of its demands. That same year his ARU backed the strike against George Pullman's Pullman Palace Car Company after Pullman cut wages 28% but not a nickel of the rents in Pullman's heretofore idyllic company town. President Cleveland busted the strike with the Army, resulting in 30 dead workers and handing Debs a six month sentence for violating a strike breaking injunction. In jail Debs was converted to socialism, going on the found the Social Democratic Party of the United States and later, the International Workers of the World (Wobbles).
Debs ran for President in as a socialist in 1904, 1908, 1912 and 1920, the last time from a federal prison for speaking out against WWI which he described as merely a boon to capitalism. He garnered 919,000 votes sitting in the slammer, the most ever for a socialist candidate. His health declining precipitously, President Wilson, who despised Debs for opposing the senseless war he championed, declined pleas for his release, essentially saying 'let him rot'. Wilson's successor Warren Harding, a substantially more descent human being, not only released Debs, he welcomed to a White House visit.
Debs never recovered his health, dying in an Elmhurst, IL sanitarium in 1926. Watching Bernie stump for economic justice and 15 bucks an hour for the working impoverished, I detect the heart and soul of Eugene V. Debs speaking to us from a century ago. The players change; the causes remain the same.