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.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Breen World War I analogy should be 'Make Illinois safe for oligarchy'

Breen World War I analogy should be 'Make Illinois safe for oligarchy'
My state rep Peter Breen sure likes to write. He fires off lengthy weekly emails he calls 'editorials', about state governance. Alas, they're long on words; short on substance. Never will Breen admit that Gov. Bruce Rauner sabotaged the annual budget process by injecting non-budgetary pre-conditions before even negotiating a budget, leading to the current year long stalemate. Never will Breen acknowledge this unprecedented tactic has drastically degraded the lives of countless thousands of Illinoisans. Students drop out of college due to educational assistance cuts.State employees are being laid off for lack of budgetary authority to keep them employed. State vendors and service providers cling to life if not bankrupted from being stiffed for payment they're owed. The needy suffer most; losing the critical state lifeline that has never before been withheld from them. Never will Breen mention the report of the non-partisan Civic Federation which condemns Rauner's creative budgetary stalemate which is causing a spike in Illinois payables to $9 billion from the reduction to $5.2 billion achieved under Gov. Quinn (from his high of 8.2 billion). The Federation also chastises Rauner's accounting tricks that will defer $748 million in pension obligations to an already bloated pension deficit.
Breen likens current Illinois governance to WW I trench warfare, promising to stay "in the trenches" till the opposition agrees to bust state unions, cut state employees salaries, accept utterly misnamed 'right to work' provisions, and make permanent cuts to the social safety net. Breen got the war right but not the analogy. To paraphrase wartime president Woodrow Wilson, Breen is simply fighting to to keep Rauner's Illinois "safe for oligarchy".

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Rauner should turn 'Turnaround' Agenda into 'Turn On' Agneda

The Illinois Medical Marijuana Advisory Board again blasted Gov. Bruce Rauner for his heartlessness in refusing to add their 12 recommendations for medical marijuana use to the Illinois Medical Marijuana program. Seven of those conditions involve pain: chronic pain syndrome, trauma induced chronic pain, intractable pain, chronic post operative pain, migraine, IBS and diabetes. Farah Zala Morales, who works at a medical marijuana dispensary, told the Board her 12-year-old daughter, who suffers from Type 1 diabetes, has used marijuana to reduce her need for painful injections as well as stabilize her blood sugar. Unlike Rauner, who is an amateur at governing Illinois, the Illinois Medical Marijuana Advisory Board is composed of professionals, doctors and nurses, as well as patients sentenced to continued suffering under Rauner's restrictions. If they really wanted to make a point, the Board should have added an eighth pain recommendation: Rauner turnaround pain syndrome.

Monday, May 02, 2016

What's in a name? Shame, racism, pedophilia and much more

There sure is a lot of name expunging from public buildings and institutions these days. Yale students are protesting to rename Yale's John C. Calhoun's Residential College to someone a tad less offensive than the 19th century Senator and Vice President whose ideological support for Southern slave domination helped inspire the Civil War. All over the South, folks are seeking to replace the names of offensive Southern white supremacists such as KKK founder Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest from highways and buildings. Former Speaker Denny Hastert's portrait was quietly removed from the hallway adjoining the House chamber by incoming new House Speaker Paul Ryan based on the vague "it was time to rotate in a different portrait." And right here in Chicagoland, super Evangelical Wheaton College changed the name of the 'J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government, and Public Policy to the 'Wheaton College Center for Economics, Government, and Public Policy,' I can still remember back in '63-'64 when so many highways, schools, airports, streets and entities were quickly named or renamed for our slain president, we may as well called America the United States of Kennedy. Somehow naming anything after a novice leader who launched criminal regime change against a dot on the map, then spent his remaining 1,000 presidential days trying to whack its leader because of his coup's failure, is totally inappropriate. I'm reminded about this naming nonsense couple of times a week when I steer my car onto the Ronald Reagan Memorial Highway (formerly I-88) just 2 miles from my house. It's bad enough the Gipper got tens of thousands killed in Latin America fighting Communist phantoms, and began the 35 year long destruction of the Middle Class. But being forced to drive on his pavement adds roadway salt to the political wounds.
How 'bout ending this foolish and infantile naming practice for men and women who all possess feet of clay. Short of that, let's have a ten year cooling off period after the dude or gal dies and appoint a 'Devil's Advocate' to dig up the alternate person, like Speaker Denny's, locked away from public view.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Double Secret Probation for 16 who slaughtered 42 in Afghan hospital

Last October 2, US forces rained down 211 missiles on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing 42 and injuring over a hundred. Within days the US military changed its story 4 times before promising to conduct a thorough investigation to find out what really happened. Doctors Without Borders and Amnesty International, calling the US assault a war crime, demanded an independent, international investigation. But when you're the world's only super power, rampaging around the Middle East and Africa with impunity, it's easy to tell the world community to 'stuff it.' And, sure enough, after a six month cooling off period, the US has announced it was all a big fat mistake; but that 16 military personnel would be disciplined for their incompetence. The most severely punished officer was suspended from command and ordered out of Afghanistan. Six were sent to counseling, seven were issued letters of reprimand, and two were ordered to retraining courses. The US response to such senseless atrocities that happen over and over again, amounts to nothing more than being sentenced by Dean Vernon Wormer to 'Double Secret Probation'.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Just last week my Congressman Peter Roskam, issued a press release that said this about his No. 1 Bete Noir, the IRS:

   “The IRS needs to focus on advanced fraud-detection methods to keep up with         increasingly sophisticated identity thieves."

How ironic that Roskam introduced, then pushed through the House Ways and Means Committee his bill specifically designed to thwart the IRS from knowing the identity of foreign governments, corporations and individuals who give money to 'special welfare' 501(c)4 non-profits. Why should the IRS know these foreign contributors? Simple. Foreign money cannot be legally given or spent in federal elections. Such money is discouraged from going to these non-profits, which spend heavily on federal elections, only because current disclosure law shines a spotlight on the foreign donors.  Roskam has plenty of help from his best buddies, the Koch Brothers, who sent a letter to Committee members through their Koch Brothers Public Sector LLC, urging passage based on these foreign donations being 'free speech'. 

If Roskam were serious bout having the IRS focus on 'advanced fraud-detection methods', he should withdraw this pernicious legislative assault on oversight of foreign governments, companies and fat cats who want to illegally interfere in what should be purely American federal elections. Roskam may not qualify as an identity thief in the traditional sense. But he's sure trying to steal the identity from the IRS of the foreigners who absolutely must remain known. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

New US terror war rule little solace to Iraqi, Syrian civilians

US war commander, Lt. Gen. Sean McFarland can now order air strikes in Iraq and Syria that are expected to kill up to 10 civilians without prior approval from US Central Command. What's magic about 11 or more civilians likely to die by US bombs that requires prior approval is yet to be explained. Maybe it's simply that 11 or more innocents blown to bits gets a bit more attention from an outraged world, like when we whacked 42 innocents in an Afghan Doctors Without Borders hospital last October. Iraqi and Syrian civilians take note: If you want to survive Uncle Sam's efforts to dictate who will control your government, simply never, ever go anywhere without at least 10 compatriots. Then pray that US Central Command doesn't tell good Gen. McFarland "Bomb them anyway."

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Trib's perfect pitch for perpetual war

Trib's perfect pitch for perpetual war

The Trib's Monday op ed 'US disengagement would be costly' is a masterful pitch for perpetual war by two of America's leading neocons, Robert Kagan and Ivo Daalder. It's masterful because it never specifically comes out in favor of perpetual war. Instead, it laments that "Americans no longer seem to value the liberal international order that the United States created after World War II and sustained throughout the Cold War and beyond." It agonizes that the outsider candidacies of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have criticized perpetual war stating "politicians in both parties dangle before the public the vision of an America freed from the burdens of leadership." It ponders whether Americans, in turning away from perpetual war "have lost sight of the essential role the United States plays in supporting the international environment from which they benefit greatly. The unprecedented prosperity made possible by free and open markets and thriving international trade; the spread of democracy; and the avoidance of major conflict among great powers: All these remarkable accomplishments have depended on sustained U.S. engagement around the world."
Who are these brilliant perpetual war propagandists the Trib used to promote their never ending obsession with regime change and rampaging American exceptionalism abroad? If there were a Mount Rushmore for neocon warmongers, Robert Kagan would be up there. Co-founder of the Project for a New American Century in 1997, Kagan has been a top promoter of regime change for three decades now, being among the most ferocious proponents of the criminal Iraq war. Ivo Daalder, though much less known, is an equally dedicated regime changer. As US Permanent Representative to NATO in 2011, Daalder was instrumental in getting NATO to lead the utterly failed regime change in Libya that has turned it into a failed state and a new playground for terrorist organizations. As thousands died and millions continue to suffer under the Daalder's ruinous leadership, his 2012 words in Foreign Affairs, "NATO's operation in Libya has rightly been hailed as a model intervention" will haunt him to eternity.
Thirteen years ago the Trib was so enamored with President George W. Bush's criminal Iraq war, they boosted his 2004 re-election bid by touting his foreign policy chops. If the Trib Editorial Board was really interested in peace and stability around the world, they would shun endless war promoters of perpetual war like Kagan and Daalder. Alas they still don't get the admonition of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal that "To initiate a war of aggression is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” But the Trib knows there are no consequences in 21st century America in for being a staunch member of the war party. As oft said: 'Membership has its privileges.'

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Bars should not bar right to vote

If one of the purposes of prison is rehabilitation, then it's important to let every soul behind bars vote.

Just two states, albeit among the smallest, Maine and Vermont, follow that humane principle. No one has yet to point out one iota of harm from such inclusion. The remaining 48 practice some form of disenfranchising backwardness, from a tad less progressive to abominable:

Only those in prison can't vote

Folks in jail or on parole can't vote

Those in prison, on parole or on probation can't vote

Some people with felony convictions are permanently disenfranchised

All people with felony convictions are permanently disenfranchised

I'm reminded about this sad state of our states regarding felon disenfranchisement with the bit of great news from Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe that 206,000 former Virginian felons can now vote.  As great as that is, about 5,000,000 former felons are still barred from the ballot box. The other millions in prison, on parole or probation must also be given the franchise if we want to truly begin the rehabilitation process and reduce recidivism. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

It's public, not Hastert that requires no prison time for his white collar crime

The Trib Sunday editorial 'Hastert deserves prison, not probation' for his white collar crime of illegally structuring bank withdrawals to avoid bank reporting requirements, utterly fails to justify its lust to slam Hastert in the the slammer for five years. All the hundreds of words detailing the sad, sordid story of Hastert's sexual molestation of wrestling students decades ago have nothing to do with wasting around $150,000 in taxpayer money to get 'revenge' for Hastert's ancient conduct which, though egregious, is not the crime for which he's being sentenced. None of the factors requiring prison apply to Hastert. He's no threat to the public and incapable of repeat criminality. Prison does nothing to punish him beyond the punishment of disgrace and banishment from society already incurred. Prison will serve as no deterrent to sick individuals willingly risking self destruction to further their criminal sexual obsessions. His greatly impaired medical condition makes his imprisonment an utter travesty of 'piling on' in righteous indignation. Granting probation to a failing septuagenarian has nothing to do with mercy or recognizing his decades of contributions to his community, his state, his nation. Hastert wouldn't deserve prison for the crime for which he's being sentenced if he had been a scoundrel his entire life. The only question to be answered is simply this: Is any societal purpose being served by spending $30,000 a year to imprison an end of life person for a white collar crime when he poses no threat to public. Any decent, fair minded person would unquestionably say 'Absolutely not.' If the Trib Editorial Board is so anxious to see Hastert stagger into a prison van for the trip to the hoosegow, they should take up a collection amongst themselves and like minded revenge seekers to pay for their exercise in societal folly.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Huppke ignores broken bones for single offensive word

Apparently, Trib columnist Rex Huppke is not familiar with the wise aphorism "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." If he is, he certainly didn't absorb the wisdom of the simple truth that name calling simply doesn't rise to the level of harm that actions which physically degrade and diminish the lives of their victims does. His Trib column "CTU president's ISIS comments are Trumpian in their absurdity" spends hundreds of words agonizing over CTU President Karen Lewis' claim in a City Club of Chicago speech that Governor Bruce Rauner is "the new ISIS recruit". While I've blogged that Lewis' comments were a bit 'over the line', the fact remains Lewis is correct in calling Rauner's budgetary harm, reducing state funding for the needy to extort non-budgetary agenda items from the legislature, "acts of terror on poor and working-class people." Huppke, like the other normally clear thinking, progressive pundits bashing Lewis over her 'ISIS' comment, is immune to the real pain and suffering the needy experience at the hands of arguably the most insensitive and heartless governor in Illinois history. As a result, his sole criticism of Rauner's inhumane and outrageous treatment of struggling students, on the precipice state vendors, as well as the marginal needy, is that "I'm no fan of how Rauner is running the state." If affluent, comfortable and white privileged Huppke was one of the folks being damaged by Rauner's ruinous rule, he'd have no problem whatsoever with linking Rauner to ISIS terrorists, however hyperbolic that charge is. Comparing Karen Lewis to The Donald is totally inappropriate. The Donald now admits his neo-fascist rhetoric was just 'entertainment' to energize his base, a dastardly and cynical ploy which he'll now temper as the likely GOP nominee. Karen Lewis is engaged in an unfair struggle against a man and a system which cares nothing about the people it destroys. Focusing on a single word, utterly insignificant to the victims she represents, is pointless.

If Huppke was really interested in serving the Illinois public, he'd be urging his readers to rise up in mass civil disobedience against the debasement of powerless Illinoisans by the oligarchical near billionaire Rauner, who bought the governorship to enrich his rich base.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Maybe not ISIS, but Rauner a terrorist nonetheless

CTU prez Karen Lewis might have gone a bit over the line calling Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner "a new ISIS recruit", but her comment "the things he's doing look like acts of terror on poor and working-class people" is spot on. Ensconced every night amid billionaire splendor in one of his 6 palatial homes, Rauner is oblivious to the immense damage he does daily to the needy, dependent on state services to barely get by; the students struggling to stay in schools being decimated by his willful educational destruction; and state vendors trying to stay afloat while Rauner floats their receivables on sea of red ink. Practicing 'smash capitalism' on businesses unlucky enough to be gobbled up by Rauner is bad enough. Practicing 'smash capitalism' on the 13 million residents of Illinois is a form of public service terrorism. Rauner wasn't trained by ISIS. He's a product of the new oligarchical ruling elite of obscenely rich, nurtured right here in the Good 'ol USA

Saudi greenmail trumps justice for 911 victims

The bi-partisan Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JAST) would allow families devastated by the 911 attacks to sue governments found liable for sponsoring those attacks. The only country in the cross hairs of that law is Saudi Arabia which our government has been protecting by classifying the damning 28 pages of the 911 report witch implicate the Saudis. Now the administration has a full court press on to derail JAST. Why? Saudi Arabia is threatening to dump its $750 billion in Treasuries to jack up interest rates on US consumers. They could also stop buying US weapons of mass murder which pumped $100 billion into US merchants of death coffers this past decade. The Prez is in Saudi Arabia this week trying to calm Saudi fears Americans might just get justice that the hapless Iraqis have been paying for the last 13 years in the the greatest example of 'transference' ever. To put it simply:

                                    Money talks...and justice for 911 victims walks

Monday, April 18, 2016

Rauner running out of room in self painted corner

The other day Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner was caught on tape saying he didn't realize how tough it would be to implement his business turnaround agenda in Illinois. By the tone of his voice, it's clear Rauner still has no idea how really tough it will be. He can't face the fact that as hard working Illinoisans get laid off, struggling Illinois students drop out of school, the neediest Illinoisans lose state services, and state vendors see their accounts receivable mushroom, he has zero chance of achieving it.
Why? Injecting anti labor, anti state worker provisions is an unprecedented encroachment on the budget process which is a simple matter of A) what we need to spend to serve the people, and B) what revenue must we raise to meet those needs. Everything else is reserved to the legislative process over gubernatorial and legislative agendas for legislative change. Rauner thought if he required passing his agenda before even discussing budgetary needs and revenue, the legislature would roll over like the companies that Rauner whipsawed into submission on his way to billionaire status.
Government, Rauner is finding out, is not like the bloodless dollars and cents of the 'smash capitalism' he's been practicing for decades. Government requires a heart, a soul and a pulse that considers the needs of all 13 million of us instead of profit, profit, profit. By extending this soulless obstinacy for nearly a year, Rauner is solely responsible for the slow collapse of state governance.
Because Rauner and his extended family are insulated by his wealth from the damage he's doing to all the little people in Illinois, he thought he could ride out any protest to his immoral abdication of simply doing his job. But he's painted himself into a corner of disgrace from which there is no exit except to face reality and negotiate a budget without non-budgetary conditions.
Alas, Gov. Rauner is still wielding the paintbrush of his self destruction....and the space beneath his feet is beginning to disappear. 
Walt Zlotow
Glen Ellyn 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

When Minoso lost '51 rookie award to one shade of black

When 28 year old rookie White Sox outfielder Minnie Minoso stepped to the plate in old Comisky Park for his first at bat on May 1, 1951, fans were seeing more than the man breaking the color bar on the formerly all white White Sox. Minnie smacked a Vic Raschi fastball into the center field bullpen, ushering in the Go Go era on the South Side after 32 years in the American League wilderness, following ironically, the Black Sox scandal of 1919. Watching Minoso's debut ball disappear in the bullpen was 22 year old rookie Gil McDougal, playing second for the still all white Yanks. 
Six months later McDougald edged out the Cuban Comet as AL Rookie of the Year with 13 first place votes to Minnie's 11. McDougald had a pretty good year, batting .306 with 41 extra base hits, 63 RBI, 14 stolen bases and a .396 on base percentage. And Minoso? He had a monster rookie year with a .326 average, 58 extra base hits, 76 RBI, 31 stolen bases and a .422 on base percentage. There's more: Minnie combined those power numbers with 16 more walks and 12 fewer strike outs. More again: McDougald was just a cog on a Yankee team with more stars than MGM, while Minnie was the catalyst for the Sox improbable revival.
There's no do-over for sports awards and if Minnie were still alive today he'd demur if questioned on one of the great thefts in all of sports. And McDougald? If alive today, and you asked him about the current debate over white privilege, he'd likely point to that 65 year old Rookie of the Year Award gathering dust on his mantle and simply reply, "That's white privilege".

Friday, April 15, 2016

Rauner congratulates Snyder, McCrory for keeping Rauner from winning 'Worst' award

Can't prove it but I understand Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has sent congratulatory messages to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and his gubernatorial counterpart Pat McCrory in North Carolina. Rauner's compliments to both were for their valiant efforts to keep Rauner from copping the Worst Governor in America Award, given annually to the governor who does the most to damage his state's economy and degrade the life of folks most in need of responsible governance.
Rauner's year long refusal to work with the Illinois legislature to pass a budget, resulting in layoffs, students leaving college and state vendors going broke waiting for long delayed payment, got Rauner nominated for the ignominious 'Worst Governor' award. Then Michigan Governor Snyder vaulted ahead of Rauner with his ingenious tactic of pumping poor, mostly minority Flint residents full of lead tainted water to save a few bucks and show his wealthy sponsors that 'smash capitalism' business tactics can increase the power and wealth of the Michigan ruling class.
Not to be outdone, North Carolina Governor McCrory used the route of culture wars to contend for Worst Governor. Furious that gay marriage became legal in North Carolina via federal court rulings, McCrory had his compliant legislature slam dunk a law in just 12 hours that overturned a Charlotte ordinance outlawing discrimination against the LGBT community, including restrictions on transgenders using the toilets of their gender identity. His law that solved no problem created a Tsunami of economic problems for the Tar Heel state as businesses and travelers from around the land now chant "Anything's finer than to be in North Carolina."
But in the Land of Lincoln all is not well with Governor No Budget. Rauner still wakes up every day knowing his senseless political brinkmanship will cause someone to get a pink slip, some student to crack open a video game instead of a book, and some small business to become even smaller that day. When your 48th worst governor of 50, having a couple of even worse state leaders standing between you and the Worst Governor in America Award is meager consolation.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Obama's Top 10 To Do List for last 9 months

Nine months and change is still much time for the most highly accomplished president in my lifetime to add to his glowing presidential resume. He's actually second to FDR, but I was just 32 days old when FDR left office. Here are ten I'd like to see him complete, which would vault him to top of any historian's Best Prez List.

Dear President Obama:

Apologize for the unnecessary A Bombing of Japan in 1945 on your upcoming trip to Japan.

Close the Gulag at Guantanamo. Those places should only be associated with Nazis and Stalinists.

Cancel the Tuesday 'Kill List'. 'Tuesdays with Morrie' is fine; 'Tuesdays with Who To Kill Next' not so good.

End all new fossil fuel exploration permits. Earth may not succumb in your lifetime, but no guarantee for our kids and future grandchildren. 

Find a way to place Merrick Garland on Supreme Court without Senate approval. They've abrogated their responsibility to confirm. Don't abrogate yours to install. 

Stop enabling the slow Israeli genocide against the Palestinian people, including holding them under inhumane conditions in Gaza, stealing their homes, land, water and dignity in the West Bank, and systematically marginalizing them them as a people deserving a homeland.  

End criminal military ops in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and other places we don't know about. We've killed enough. 

Request a congressional investigation of the war crimes of the Bush administration. There is no Statute of Limitation for war crimes.  Call it reconciliation and offer immunity if needed. Just get the process started. History will judge you harshly for looking forward rather than back. If it was good enough for Germany and Japan; it's good enough for America. Beware the Ghost of Nuremberg. 

Release the redacted 28 pages of the 911 Report which show Saudi Arabia's involvement in the 911 attacks carried out by 15 Saudi nationals of 19 attackers. Everybody who cares already knows the truth. Prove it to the dead-end warmongers. 

Instead of expanding NATO up to Russia's borders, re-igniting the Cold War and creating a nuclear tripwire over its volatile neighbors, advise Europe to defend themselves. 

You're famous for exhorting your staff to never let up achieving accomplishments up til the movers come for your stuff next January 20th. That includes with you, Mr. President. 

Walt Zlotow

Monday, April 11, 2016

Chapman should speak only for his extreme right base

The Trib's Steve Chapman sure is spooked by the inspirational, revolutionary and utterly unstoppable campaign of Bernie Sanders to end the rigged game of billionaire bought oligarchy in which he is comfortably ensconced.  His gratuitous hit piece "Left and right should reject Sanders" may be the single most insulting opinion piece directed at millions of progressives brought fully into the process of returning governance to the people from the oligarchs. Every criticism he offered of Sanders comes direct from the extreme right playbook designed to trivialize and demonize Sanders. Two false criticisms jump out that deserve refutation: Sanders failure to accomplish anything in a quarter century in Congress, and his call to abolish fracking as one means of combating climate change.   

The phony accomplishment charge is based solely on establishment icon Barney Franks' claim Sanders accomplished nothing because he's unable to compromise. Rather than using a straw man critic supporting Hillary Clinton, Chapman could have done his homework to reveal Sanders:
  •  Passed a corporate crime accountability amendment to the Victims Justice Act of 1995  requiring white collar criminals to disclose their crimes to all victims 
  •  Passed a competitive grants to colleges and universities amendment in 1998 Higher  Education  legislation increasing grants to schools using cooperative purchasing to save    costs
  •  Passed an amendment to the Treasury Appropriations Act of 2003 stopping the IRS from 
            violating current pension age discrimination laws
  •  Obtained a hundred million dollar increase for community health centers in 2001
  •  Passed an amendment to a 2001 appropriations bill forbidding the importation of goods  made with child labor
  • Obtained a $22 million increase to 2004 legislation providing low income energy assistance and weatherization programs
  • Passed a 2005 amendment to legislation which prohibited the Import Export Bank from 
           providing loans for nuclear projects in China
  • Passed an amendment to 2007 legislation which required a minimum of 30% of hot water needs in federal building come from solar power
  • Passed an amendment to 2007 legislation which provided an additional $10 million to beef up National Guard units depleted by serving in our criminal Iraq war. 
  • Passed an amendment to 2009 bank bailout legislation which prohibited bailout funds from displacing American workers
  • Passed an amendment to 2009 legislation which required reporting on improvements in child care for military parents
  • Passed an amendment to 2012 legislation to promote transparency on defense officials entering the revolving door of defense industry employment
  • Passed an amendment to 2013 legislation to provide assistance to autistic children of military personnel 

That's more accomplishment than the entire 'de-legitimize Obama' do nothing Republicans put together. 

On the subject of climate change Chapman denigrates Sanders for being against fracking which Chapman sees as the panacea to reducing carbon emissions. Alas, carbon emissions aren't the top priority in fracking friendly Oklahoma. They're too busy grappling with the colossal increase in fracking caused earthquakes which have driven quakes there from 2 a year to 2 a day in just 7 years. 

Chapman got it half right in his Sanders piece. The right will love its anti Bernie fantasy. The left? We're too busy Feeling the Bern soon to turn its heat on the billionaire oligarch class where they sit down.