Tuesday, June 30, 2015

History teacher Roskam flunks Magna Carta test


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

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

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

Monday, June 29, 2015

Next Papal Encyclical should santify gay marriage

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 27, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 26, 2015

Racist, homophobe dinosaurs marching to La Brea Tar Pits

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

Idaho only state not restricting minority voting rights


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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

While removing racist flag; rescind racist voting restrictions


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

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

GOP's elephant in the room? Racism


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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Time for new US motto?


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

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

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

Haley should kill defective flag; not defective human


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

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

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

Friday, June 12, 2015

Kirk clueless of what's said on South Side


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

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

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

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

The aims of education


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

Friday, June 05, 2015

Who's really gambling on national security?

To: Chicago Tribune Editorial Board

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Thank you Ed, and thank you Rand


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

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

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

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

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

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

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Leave Illinois as soon as possible

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Ash nailed it: US foreign intervention in ashes

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

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


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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 25, 2015

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

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

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

Friday, May 22, 2015

Rauner's 'Turnaround Agenda' only produced nausea

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

Thursday, May 21, 2015

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

US gets Sayyaf; ISIS gets Ramadi


Poor Uncle Sam can't even get 48 hours of phony pro ISIS war propaganda from killing touted ISIS bigwig Abu Sayyaf, before ISIS trumps Uncle by grabbing Ramadi, Iraq's second largest city. To add insult to injury, the ISIS dudes scarfed up 100 US tanks, including M1A1 Abrams, American's finest, to add to their collection of US killing goodies they've been gifted with by phantom Iraqi military, whose battle motto is: "See...and flee."

Our un-o...fficial but losing war against ISIS is a travesty. We've stuck our pompous, self righteous and self destructive noses into yet another civil war 10,000 miles from home that can't be won and doesn't need to be fought. One group getting pleasure from this madness includes sociopathic war mongers like Sen. Lindsay Graham, who said this to suspected terrorists: “I’m not going to call a judge; I’m going to call a drone and kill you.” The other group are the munitions makers, inhaling untold billions while America's infrastructure crumbles.

To counter this bad news our wayward Uncle will no doubt stage another unlawful incursion into Syrian sovereignty to bring out another ISIS head on a pike.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Forget 'Right To Work'; Rauner's succeeding at 'Right To Fail'

Newbie Illinois governor Bruce Rauner may have had the worst first 100 gubernatorial days in Illinois history. He spent $26 million of his own billionaire wealth promoting his bust the unions, reduce aid to the needy, lavish tax cuts on the wealthy program to get elected. Those who assumed he was just posturing to get elected, before pivoting to actually compromise on sensible solutions for Illinois, have been woefully mistaken. Once sworn in Rauner redoubled his extreme ideological campaign mantra that has alienated not only the general electorate, save for the greedy rich, but most of the General Assembly as well. Rauner is so pathetic, he's reduced to dropping $400 grand last week on Republican legislators, out of his $20 million 'spread the goodies' slush fund, to keep the nervous troops in line. Sadly for Illinois, Rauner remains trapped in his billionaire venture capitalist mindset that he can dismantle Illinois governance like he could the many good companies, whose employees had to suffer to pile up his billionaire wealth. Rauner's 'My way or the highway' approach is nothing more than a potholed road to ruin. And the tires on his gubernatorial luxury limo have already gone flat.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Tsarnaev death sentence debases civil, moral society


Bill and Denise Richard's seven year old daughter Jane lost a leg to Boston Bomber Dzhokar Tsarnaev two years ago. She was one of 260 people either killed or injured in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Yet, the Richards argued against the death penalty imposed on Tsarnaev yesterday. They said the ten to twenty years of appeals will simply sentence them to ten to twenty years of needless suffering as the case must stay fr...esh in their minds. Life, they argue, will minimize their further suffering and let Jane and them move on with their lives. Similarly, a majority of Massachusetts citizens opposed death for Tsarnaev, but only the minority that believes in the death penalty were allowed to serve on the jury. Sadly, the prosecutors and the jurors took the easy route and voted for bloodlust over morality and common sense. The death penalty achieves not other purpose that to give pleasure to the folks who support it. It doesn't discourage crime. It doesn't lift up society. It doesn't promote the better angels in our soul. It isn't cost effective. It is rarely imposed even when handed down. 80 folks have been sentenced to death in federal court since 1988. Just 3 have been executed. A few died of natural causes; the rest are still costing us millions in appeals. The prosecution and jury had a chance to close the books on the Boston Bombers yesterday and blew it. In so doing they sentenced, not just the Richards, but all of us living to 10 to 20...years of hearing the infinitely slow wheels of death penalty justice grind us all down.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Pope Francis promotes Palestinian state


Bravo to Good Pope Francis for having the Vatican formally recognize Palestine as a state. The Vatican follows 185 countries who have recognized the Palestinian state since 1988. A biggie, Sweden, was the most recent last year. England, France, Spain and the Ireland are all considering measures to join in the long overdue full creation of Palestine. Sadly, the two that really count, the US and, of course, the Palestinians' oppressor, Is...rael, still say "No way." The US Congress, a huge portion of which, is both terrified of and supported by the Israel Lobby, won't lift a finger to do the right thing. And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who this same bought-off Congress invited to speak before them to derail the president's peace efforts with Israel's bête noir Iran, told his nation there will be no Palestinian state on his endless watch. Meanwhile, Israel continues to build settlements and Palestinian land in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, to literally cement Palestine out of existence.

The Pope's support for Palestine is going to be a tough symbolic challenge to Israel's system of Palestinian Apartheid that remains one of the world's most shameful human tragedies; a tragedy the US supports. But with Good Pope Francis on their side, the Palestinians have a new glimmer of hope.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Hersh bin Laden expose rings true

I've followed Seymour Hersh's groundbreaking exposes of governmental mendacity since his 1969 story of the Mai Lai Massacre. In 46 years he's never betrayed those of us seeking truth amidst the blizzard of governmental lies about our foreign military follies, be they in Vietnam, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Libya and now Pakistan. His current piece deconstructing and correcting the self serving tale of American exceptionalism in killing Osama bin Laden is simply another of Hersh's contributions to truth. It may not get much traction with the torrent of discredit launched by the administration, the war party, even the mainstream media. The most important implication of Hersh's expose is the need for releasing the redacted 28 pages of the 911 report which implicate the Saudi Arabian government in supporting the 911 attacks. Hersh points out that Saudi Arabia likely financed bin Laden's upkeep in Pakistan to keep him from being captured by the West where he could reveal the Saudi involvement. Once the Yanks found bin Laden's Pakistani supported prison, Project Assassination, with full Pakistani complicity, was hatched. If this latest Hersh bombshell helps unlock the 28 pages for public scrutiny, Hersh will once again have used his tenacious and fearless investigative talents to serve the public interest; indeed the cause of peace.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Music Pick: Guy Carawan



Guy Carawan died May 2 at age 89. Though not nearly as widely known and revered as Pete Seeger, who died last year at 93, Carawan, a contemporary and colleague of Seeger's, was a giant in the folk, protest, political activism revival of the 50's and 60's. Carawan didn't write "We Shall Overcome; that song went through many variations and uses from its origins in the late 18th century. But Carawan, Seeger and two others wrote a new arrangement and lyrics which became the anthem of the emerging civil rights movement when Carawan sang it as a motivational song at the April, 1960, inaugural meeting of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in Raleigh, NC. His version struck a chord and a civil rights anthem was born. Later on Carawan took the phrase "Keep your hand on the plow" and turned it into "Keep your eye on the prize", creating another iconic civil rights statement.  Carawan spent decades serving the civil rights and political activist movement at the Tennessee based Highlander Research and Education Center. The feature 'Oh Lord, I've Got Some Singing To Do' is a good intro to Carawan's musical spirit.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6PscekN-mA

Sunday, May 10, 2015

West says 'Nyet' to Russia VE celebration

China's Xi Jinping was there. India's Pranab Mukherjee was there. Even Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro was there. Conspicuously absent was any leader from the US or its anti Russian allies England and France. The boycotted event was Russia's 70th anniversary celebration in Moscow of their victory over Nazi Germany. It's a signal that renewed tensions between the West and Russia are at their lowest point since the old Soviet system collapsed in 1991. At that time we promised Russia we wouldn't try to expand NATO into former Russian satellite states, but expand we did, including our despicable Western inspired Ukraine coup in February, 2014, that woke up the Russian Bear who promptly annexed Crimea (with a 96% Crimean approval rating) to protect their naval base from Western aggression.

America's demonization of Russia is not only wrong; it's stupid. Driving Russia into deep alliances with emerging powers China and India is counterproductive to maintaining American influence.

All this nonsense is in part, a consequence of the untimely death of FDR on April 12, 1945. Franklin got along famously with Uncle Joe Stalin. There was mutual trust between them that Stalin and Russia, devastated by two western invasions in 27 years, needed a buffer on its borders, whereas FDR and the US needed a Europe largely free of communist intervention. But FDR's death elevated an insecure Harry Truman to the presidency. Clueless on the subtleties of foreign diplomacy, Truman was mincemeat for the anti communist fanatics like Secretary of State James Byrne, who goaded Truman into a bellicose anti Russian posture, virtually guaranteeing the next half century of Cold War anxiety.

Part of our absence at Russia's 70th VE celebration has to do with the narrative the West concocted at VE Day that victory was all their glory. The demonization of communism required us to denigrate the Russian cost of 26 million souls, the absence of which may have doubled or tripled the American loss of 450,000. Russia's pain may well have saved Britain from being conquered.

It's time for the US and allies to end their new Cold War against Russia. Admit we were wrong in expanding NATO into Russia's neighborhood, including the wrongheaded and self destructive Ukraine coup. Add Russia to its rightful place in the VE story. And next year send a high level representative to the Russian VE celebration.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Inquiring minds want to know

Question: Why does Dr. Ben Carson think he's qualified to be president?

Answer: He thinks it's as easy as brain surgery.

Leopold case argues against both death and life sentences



May 21st marks the 91st anniversary of the Nathan Leopold, Richard Loeb 'thrill killing' of Loeb's 12 year old second cousin in Chicago's Kenwood neighborhood. The case is one of many termed the 'crime of the century' but probably deserves the honor for two reasons: it started the movement to end the death penalty, and, based on Leopold's amazing life during and after prison, argues eloquently against life imprisonment.

Graduate students at the University of Chicago in 1924, Leopold, 19, and Loeb, 18, fancied themselves Niettzschean supermen (Ubermenschen); men so gifted they were not bound by the normal laws of society. Their fascination with crime led them from petty theft to arson and finally murder, bashing in the head of young Loeb relative Bobby Franks. Satisfied they committed the 'perfect crime' it took only a week for their arrest and several months to sentence them, after pleading guilty, to life for murder plus 99 years for kidnapping.

Had they been poor and/or black, Leopold and Loeb would have surely been executed. But they were rich and white; allowing them to hire the 'attorney for the damned', Clarence Darrow, who took their case to promote his opposition to the death penalty. His 12 hour summary convinced the judge in their sentencing hearing, resulting in seemingly certain life in prison. Their landmark case began the long journey to abolish capital punishment; gone now in 18 states.

Loeb was killed by a fellow inmate in 1936. Leopold, a genius, furthered his already considerable education, adding 12 languages to the 15 he'd already mastered. He made significant contributions to improving conditions at Statesville Penitentiary, including reorganizing the prison library, revamping the schooling system, teaching its students, and volunteering in the prison hospital. In 1944, Leopold served as guinea pig for a Statesville Penitentiary Malaria study. He was deliberately inoculated with malaria pathogens and then subjected to multiple experimental malaria treatments.

Leopold's exemplary conduct won him parole in 1958 after serving 34 years. He relocated to Puerto Rico where he became an X-Ray technician in a church hospital. He went on to earn a master's degree and taught at the University of Puerto Rico, became a researcher in social services in Puerto Rico's health department, did research in leprosy, urban renewal and housing, and traveled extensively to research a book he published on Puerto Rican birdlife. He also married a widow in 1961 who was with him till his death at 66 in 1971.

Regardless of how exceptional Nathan Leopold's case may be for abolishing capitol punishment, our sentencing guidelines should also be modified to offer a path for similar offenders to demonstrate both their rehabilitation and their readiness to rejoin society at some point. Nobody lost when Nathan Leopold was paroled after 34 years. No potential murderer thought that 34 years imprisonment was a fair trade to kill someone. As much as Nathan Leopold gained from his freedom, society achieved even more.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Fear, not facts, rule Roskam's website on Affordable Care Act

Well into its sixth year and second year of full coverage, the Affordable Care Act (ACA is a resounding success. The Facts are in but check out my Congressman Peter Roskam's (IL-6) website, www.roskam.house.gov and the only F word you'll find regarding the ACA, is Fear, not Facts.

When the site pops up, the fear pops out. "Inspector General needed to monitor Affordable Care Act because the public deserves answers" trumpets one. "Roskam introduces bill to create Special Inspector General for Affordable Care Act" the pop up proclaims. "Roskam, community leaders tout legislation to block job-killing regulations" touts a third. These are tired, fear mongering chestnuts that are well over a year old. They weren't true or needed then; they're aren't true or needed now.

What you'll never find at Roskam's website are Affordable Care Act facts. Just today the Chicago Tribune cited a RAND study showing that 17 million more folks are insured for health care, and the insured are up in every significant category; employer provided plans, Medicaid programs and policies obtained by the ACA created state insurance marketplaces. The state marketplaces, the most innovative ACA lifesaver, accounts for 11 million newly insured. And all the fear Roskam warned about for the affluent enjoying health insurance prior to the ACA? Most haven't seen any change in their coverage, but they have seen a slowdown in the overall cost of healthcare for the nation overall. While Roskam fantasizes stuff about the job killing ACA, private sector job growth continues to soar. And let's not forget the reduction in the non-affluent going bankrupt, suffering declining health or even dying from lack of health insurance.

It's time for Congressman Roskam to start using a new F word on his website: not last year's Fear, but today's Facts.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

ACLU, SPLC hover over Garland shooting


Of all the public service groups I've supported over the past 60 years, two stand out: the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

There was in interesting confluence of both concerning the near terrorist massacre that was averted in Garland, TX, Sunday at a self described free speech event consisting of a contest for the best cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad. 'Best' is event organizer Pam Geller's depiction of the eventual winning entry. 'Incendiary' is how the SPLC might describe it. They have been following Geller's career, which they describe as one dedicated to promoting hate against Islam and the Muslim community, for some time in their mission to track and publicize persons and organizations promoting hate instead of peace and inclusiveness. Sure enough, the highly publicized event inspired two Islamic extremists to travel from Arizona to Texas bent on massacre at the event. Fortunately, they were killed by a security guard before anyone was murdered.

SPLC was founded in 1971 as a non-profit public interest organization to "promote civil rights by fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society". Check out their website www.splcenter.org and you'll find these Geller quotes supporting their assertion she's a danger to civil discord and non-violence in America:

"Islam is not a race. This is an ideology. This is an extreme ideology, the most radical and extreme ideology on the face of the earth."
— Pam Geller On Fox Business' "Follow the Money," March 10, 2011
"Obama is a third worlder and a coward. He will do nothing but beat up on our friends to appease his Islamic overlords."
— Pam Geller, AtlasShrugs.com, April 13, 2010
"Hussein [meaning President Obama] is a muhammadan. He's not insane … he wants jihad to win."
— Pam Geller, AtlasShrugs.com, April 11, 2010
"I don't think that many westernized Muslims know when they pray five times a day that they're cursing Christians and Jews five times a day. … I believe in the idea of a moderate Muslim. I do not believe in the idea of a moderate Islam."
— Pam Geller, The New York Times, Oct. 8, 2010

That brings us to ACLU, www.aclu.org, founded in 1920 as a non-profit public service organization dedicated to "defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States." ACLU's most visible activities involve freedom of speech, as they were founded to confront the rampant suppression of that sacred right during and following WWI. Their most famous effort involved defending the right of Chicago area Neo-Nazi Frank Collin to lead his swastika adorned group to march in heavily Jewish Skokie, IL in 1977. ACLU successfully prevailed in the US Supreme Court that wearing a swastika was a from of protected free speech. Had local authorities moved to prevent hate monger Pam Geller from holding her obviously inflammatory Prophet Mohammad cartoon contest, she would likely have found a fearless advocate in ACLU to proceed with her event.

Were I around with the same anti war mindset during WWI, I would surely have been slammed in the Slammer for speaking out against America's senseless and self destructive involvement. Thanks to ACLU I can do so with relatively little fear today. And thanks to SPLC we can keep track of the hate groups and hate mongers who go right up to the line of protected free speech and sometimes over the line into violence.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Some thoughts on penal reform

1. Abolish the federal death penalty and that in the 32 states still practicing state sponsored murder.

2. End life sentences as well which simply consign taxpayers to fund the nation's largest collection of nursing homes for many thousands of elderly inmates. Complement this step with procedures to insure dangerous offenders' sentences can be incrementally expanded if still deemed a danger to society.

3. Drastically reduce minimum sentences for serious crime to give responsible judges discretion to impose sensible sentences based on individual circumstances.

4. Greatly expand home confinement and work release for non-violent offenders not likely to repeat their offences.
 
5. Expunge every one of the millions of convictions for non-trafficking drug possession and release every prisoner serving time for drug possession.

6. transition every private prison to a government facility, eliminating the business model of profiting from incarcerating human beings.

7. Reduce recidivism by Investing much of the savings from these reforms to provide educational, job training and mental health services for the 2.3 million languishing in the American penal gulag.

8. Set a goal of reducing our percentage of the world's prison population from 25% to the 5% which our total population represents.

That is just 8. Surely there are many more.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Reform comes to College of DuPage

It was a privilege to attend last night's COD Board meeting. Reform has begun as the three new Board members and new Chair Kathy Hamilton became the majority; immediately passing sweeping action to end and prevent recurrence of financial, educational and administrative mismanagement resulting in numerous investigations at COD. President Robert Breuder was placed on administrative leave. House accounts for dining and entertainment were cancelled. The state required audit was finally approved and expanded to include conduct during President Breuder's entire six year reign.

This was the first Board meeting I attended where serious COD issues were discussed and dealt with. While pleased with the resolutions passed, it was unfortunate that the three members tied to the Breuder administration chose to vote as a bloc against every single action. I was hoping they would put their previous lockstep support for Breuder's policies and actions aside to become constructive change agents at COD. Their votes last night signal they are unwilling to accept responsibility for the year long public controversy that has been simmering under the surface for faculty, students and taxpayers for six long years. They should reconsider this course and use their considerable talents at future Board meetings to facilitate long overdue reforms and accountability. There is never a bad time to begin doing the right thing.