Saturday, February 22, 2014

Dillard angling for new state motto in gubernatorial bid

My state senator and GOP Illinois gubernatorial candidate Kirk Dillard couldn't have picked a worse day to get his mug planted on Page 1 of the Chicago Tribune. In a huge two page Friday spread including a second, even bigger photo of candidate Dillard on Page 6, Dillard waxed nostalgic about the good ol' days when Illinois gays were treated like second class citizens who couldn't marry the lover of their choice. There...'s about a half million of those Illinoisans who Dillard, incredibly, wants to govern at the same time he wants to take away one of their most precious of all human rights. How so? Dillard is pitching his campaign in the hotly contested Republican Primary to the most virulent homophobes who will vote en mass March 18 for the strongest homophobe enabler. Dillard lost the 2010 Primary to more conservative fellow state senator Bill Brady by 193 votes out of 767,485 votes cast; a whisker of a whisker. Dillard admits he focused too much on his more moderate suburban Republican base rather than the conservative die-hards who put homophobia at he top of the issue pyramid. Dillard's not making that mistake this time. Last October he was featured speaker at the anti gay Illinois Family Institute rally at the Statehouse where he said "If I were governor of this state...we might not have to have this rally because...I would veto the gay marriage bill pending in the Illinois House". Now, drowning in the millions spent by rival and fellow homophobe enabler Bruce Rauner, which is leaving Dillard in the gubernatorial dust, Dillard has upped the anti by saying he'd sign a repeal of same sex marriage if it reaches his gubernatorial desk.

Ironically, Dillard made this heartless and hateful pledge the same day that federal judge Sharon Coleman ruled Cook County can immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples to marry ahead of the legislative June 1, effective date. Coleman, responding to a ACLU suit, stated "There is no reason to delay further when...committed gay and lesbian couples have already suffered from the denial of their fundamental right to marry". The Trib's next edition featured, not candidate Dillard on Page 1, but the incredibly happy Theresa Volpe and Mercedes Santos, who were married Friday immediately after Judge Coleman's humane ruling. Volpe and Santos have many years to enjoy the benefits of marriage that Dillard has worked so hard to deny. Dillard, who becomes a private citizen after Billionaire Bruce buys the GOP nod, will have many years to contemplate the moral failing that led him to support the worser angels of his party who fill the holes in their souls denying freedom and full citizenship to folks they fear and hate.

One benefit of Dillard's loss will be that we won't see Priority One in a Dillard administration to be changing the state motto from Land of Lincoln to Home of Homophobes.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Ted Nugent, TX gubernatorial candidate Abbott display Republican moral degeneracy

 One doesn't need a vivid imagination to argue the Republican Party is slipping into moral degeneracy. Just log on or open your newspaper for their latest shenanigans. Rocker and dedicated Obama hater Ted Nugent has carved out an infamous new career displaying Republican moral degeneracy on the public stage. In Apri...l, 2012, he said this about the president's impending re-election: "If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year. If you can't go home and get everybody in your lives to clean house in this vile, evil America hated administration, I don't even know what you're made out of. We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November." That brought Nugent a visit from the Secret Service about the need to refrain from even implying in public he might be tempted to consider presidential assassination.

Nugent has also referred to the president as a "subhuman mongrel", and called Democratic female political leaders "brain-dead soulless idiots", "varmints", "fat pigs" and “dirty whores.”

As horrible as those comments are from a mere celebrity citizen, the embrace of Nugent by the Republican leadership is truly disturbing. This week, Republican Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott had the audacity to campaign with Nugent in Denton and Wichita Falls, TX, where Nugent fanned the hateful faithful by calling Abbott "my friend, my blood brother". The firestorm of criticism from normal, decent segments of society have got Abbott ducking for cover.

But the damage to Abbott and the Republican brand is becoming indelible, just like it became when Oklahoma congressman Jim Bridenstein was caught on tape using a town hall comment on the need for the president to be killed to launch his own theme of presidential lawlessness.

Once again we must ask, demand actually, that the majority of essentially decent Republicans shun the hateful, lunatic fringe that is taking over and destroying the GOP; hateful utterance by hateful utterance. More importantly, every Republican office holder and party honcho must lead this fight to salvage their party from the moral degeneracy into which is inexorably sinking.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Music Pick: Mildred Bailey

Mildred Bailey (1907-1950) is one of the forgotten greats of the Big Band and Swing Era. In the late 20's she parlayed her musical family background to become a renowned west coast blues and jazz singer. Before becoming a national star she helped her brother Al Rinker's singing trio get gigs. One member was Bing Crosby, who arguably owes some of his superstardom success to Bailey. He then helped her become famous as a singer with Paul Whiteman's Orchestra, the top jazz outfit in the nation, from 1929 to 1933. After Whiteman, she became an even bigger star recording with many jazz greats including Eddie Lang, Frankie Trumbauer, the Dorsey Brothers, Benny Goodman and Coleman Hawkins. She recorded dozens of hits with her husband and xylophone / vibes great Red Norvo. They ruled New York jazz society for a decade under the moniker 'Mr. & Mrs. Swing'. Bailey could swing with the best, using her pristine and emotive voice to great effect. Obesity and diabetes cut short her life at 43 in 1950. I haven't a clue what Madonna or Lady Gaga sound like but you just need to hear one Mildred Bailey record, like the feature 'I don't stand a ghost of a chance' from June 27, 1939, to have her distinctive chops embedded in your brain. And you can make out every word. She deserves to be heard by every new generation.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Even Lindbergh couldn't save F-35 fighter

Growing up a huge War Birds fan, my favorite by far was the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, the twin boom, twin engine fighter that served as a bomber and photo reconnaissance plane to boot. Over 10,000 plied the skies over Germany and the South Pacific. The Luftwaffe called them the "Fork Tail Devil"; to the Japanese they were "two planes, one pilot". In ...early 1944, civilian Charles Lindbergh was sent to the South Pacific to consult with Lightning pilots on improving their combat performance. To them Lindbergh was an antique, nearly twice their age, and an aviation has-been. Lindbergh conned his way into illegally flying missions. The kids were amazed that he could stay out ten hours to their six. He showed them how he adjusted the engine, fuel mixture to achieve that unheard of increase. They tried it, discovered Lindbergh was a genius, and made him part of their patrols. He flew 35 missions and shot down one enemy plane, though it was wisely erased from their combat record.

Fast forward 70 years and Uncle Sam is having trouble with another fighter, the F-35. This plane which first flew in 2006, is seven years behind schedule and $163 billion over budget. That really is billion, not million. CBS' 60 Minutes just did a story that was no doubt written by the war party which is going to buy 2,443 of these $200 million monstrosities that are no longer even needed with the world class fighters already in service and the inexorable move to pilotless drone fighting planes. The Air Force dude overseeing their construction line ended the piece by refuting the question about F-35 viability with, "We're gonna buy lots of them". $1.5 trillion worth to be exact.

If Charles Lindbergh could come back for one day to assess the F-35, he'd just shake his head and say, "Dump it, boys, nothing can save this plane wreck". Oh yes, The F-35 is built by Lockheed. And it's name: "Lightning II"; a sad coda to the legacy of the Fork Tail Devil.

Come on President Karzai, kick U.S. out. Please kick us out

It's painful to watch the venal, cynical, corrupt Afghan president Hamid Karzai keep poking a stick in the eye of the American war party over their goal of keeping soldiers in Afghanistan after December 31, 2014, end to the Afghan war. Karzai's term is up in April and he can't succeed himself. Apparently, he's going to keep stringing the US along so his successor will have to approve the extension or force America to finally leave the land we've been defiling for over 12 years now. The venal, cynical, corrupt American war party has, like it did before with Iraqi president Nouri al-Maliki, again met its match for mendacity in the insane world of senseless war. These puppet presidents we install to maintain our fading Middle East influence, take our hundreds of billions, trillions actually, to line their pockets and those of their political cronies while our soldiers bleed and die and go crazy fighting a ludicrous wars virtually none of them believe in. When we threaten to leave, they tell us to not let the door hit our backsides on the way out.

The American public ignores these wars like the plague their are. 75% are against the Afghan war and 57% don't believe it should ever have been fought. They are so right on both counts. The US wants to stay in Afghanistan for another ten years starting January 1, 2015, so it can continue its murderous drone warfare against anyone it deems worthy of summary execution. America's war mongers are immune to any guilt or agony over the thousands of innocent men, women and children they've murdered in these illegal bombings.

Meanwhile, the strongest supporters of this military madness grandstand back home about the need to cut a few billion here and a few billion there from the social safety net. They won't spend a dime on our crumbling infrastructure. These gas bags worship at the God of Big Oil and Gas and scoff at even trying to save our dying planet by supporting renewable energy. They denigrate education. They exploit the labor of the undocumented to puff up their stock portfolios; then demonize them to their yahoo constituents.

Come on, President Karzai. Tell Uncle Sam to take a hike and put his trillions back in the good ol' USA where it won't cause needless death and might just turn around a country floundering in mayhem and malaise. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Book Pick: Forgotten Ally: China's WWII 1937-1945, by Rana Mitter

It dawned on me I never read a word of Chinese history when I spied "Forgotten Ally" at my local library. The closest I came was nearly 60 years ago devouring "God Is My Co-Pilot", Col. Robert L. Scott's memoir as fighter pilot with Gen. Claire Chennault's Flying Tigers, the shark nosed P-40's dog-fighting Japanese Zeros on behalf ...of the Chinese Nationalists. It turns out much of our current political strains with now world economic and political powerhouse China were born in the crucible of WWII, when China suffered early and often at the hands of the Japanese and the neglect of the Brits and Yanks who did little to relieve horrific Chinese suffering. How horrific? China was the sole nation to battle Japan for eight long years when one of many skirmishes over Japanese "concessions", imperialistic economic interference that characterized China for nearly a century, ignited into all out war in July, 1937. Upwards of 20 million Chinese perished, possibly matching Russia's colossal losses, from combat, disease, famine and floods. Much of dead were caused by Nationalist war strategy. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek was forced to blow up dykes, causing a massive flood, to stop a Japanese advance. Result: The Japanese stopped advancing but 400,000 Chinese stopped breathing. In another painful action, Chiang had peasants pay their taxes in grain to feed his malnourished soldiers. Result: 3,000,000 civilians starved to death.

Until WWII began, Chiang devoted much of his resources battling the Chinese communists under Mao Zedong. During the war Mao mostly played 'rope-a-dope' with the Japanese while Chiang engaged them fully, suffering millions of casualties. The final victory over Japan in August, 1945, was Chiang's greatest triumph and greatest tragedy. Triumph because China was elevated to the top of the world stage as one of the four major victors with Russia, England and the US. Besides veto power in the newly created UN, China was finally and forever freed of imperial interference. Tragedy because Chiang's Nationalists were so weakened by the ravages of war, government corruption and lack of vision that civil war with the communists ended just four years later in complete communist rule with Chiang fleeing to the tiny island of Taiwan. He died there 30 years later still dreaming of return to the mainland.

I remember coming of age when McCarthyite zealots were scoring political points bashing Democrats with the question "Who lost China?" 'Forgotten Ally' reminds us that China was never ours, or any other nation's possession to lose.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Music Pick: Peggy Lee

Peggy Lee (1920-2002) was one of the most talented and influential singers of the Big Band Era and beyond. Her sixty year career spanned the late 30's to the late 90's. North Dakota born Norma Egstrom starting singing on local radio in 1937, moved to LA and wound up at the Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago where she was discovered by Benny Goodman in 1941. That gig made her a star till shortly before her 2002 death. Besides being a fabulous jazz and pop singer with a enchanting, sultry voice, Lee was a premier songwriter with hits such as Manana, Lady is a Tramp, Good Day, Johnny Guitar and I Don't Know Enough About You. Artists as diverse as Paul McCartney, Bette Midler, Madonna, Dusty Springfield and K.D. Lang all cite her influence.  Lee started acting in the 50's and copped a best supporting actress nomination in her second film "Pete Kelly's Blues".  I saw that flick in 1955 and have been a fan since. The feature is a film of her first big Goodman hit, the million seller "Why Don't You Do Right" from 1943. Lee looks terrific...and Benny looks interested.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Congressman Roskam to Mother Earth: 'Drop dead'

In his eighth year as my Illinois 6th District Congressman, Peter Roskam has never, to my recollection, ever uttered one word about protecting the environment from the fossil fuel industry and global warming. To see if I was missing his concern for Mother Earth I searched his website First I tried "Roskam and global warming". The computer said "Zero". Next up: "Roskam and renewable energy". Faggedaboudit. Then I tried "Roskam and environment". Wow - 31 hits. Only problem: every one has Roskam touting, not a good earthly environment, but a good business environment by, you guessed it, cutting back on governmental business regulation. Maybe the Congressman should check out the wonderful water the chemical industry is providing the folks in West Virginia courtesy of watered down (pun intended) regulation of toxic substances. That's one taste test Roskam will surely decline. Lastly I tried "Roskam and Climate Change". Just one measly hit, but alas, it wasn't about reversing climate change. Instead, it was about accelerating it by demanding the President approve the Keystone Pipeline which will desecrate the American breadbasket transporting the foulest crude oil extant across our sacred land for export on the world market. If that happens, chalk one up for Big Oil, and shed a big tear for Mother Earth. Roskam's sole argument is his claim that the State Department says XL will have no impact on climate change. End of research, so start gouging out the land to transport the junk. It won't go near Roskam's DuPage County house so what's the fuss?

Since you'll never hear a word of concern about the Keystone monstrosity from Congressman Roskam, consider:

1. Keystone will negatively impact national and local economies. NYU Law School's Environmental Law Center estimates burning recoverable tar sands oil will increase earth's temperature by 2 degrees Celsius resulting in a 2.5% long term cut in US GDP.

2. Keystone is no friend of job creation. The fossil fuel industry promoting Keystone is cutting jobs, not creating them. Between 2005 and 2010 Big Oil cut 11,000 US jobs, and 40% of all oil industry jobs are minimum wage service station gigs. The two year building project will only create about 4,000 person years of work, roughly 2,000 person years for each of the two years. This is roughly equivalent to building a large shopping mall.

3. Keystone will accelerate job losses from extreme weather events. Hurricane Katrina wiped out 130,000 jobs in Louisiana and Superstorm Sandy cost 85,000 jobs in the East. In 2011 alone, extreme weather events put a $52 billion dent in our economy.

If Congressman Roskam was really concerned about creating jobs, he'd dump the fossil fuel industry gouging at our fragile planet and get on board renewable energy. The solar industry is creating jobs six times faster than the overall job market. A transition scenario for the electric power industry by Synapse Energy Economics projects the following job growth over the next decade building new, lower emission facilities:
•444,000 job years for construction workers - that's equivalent to 44,400 construction folks working full time for he entire decade
•3,100,000 indirect jobs for the folks designing, manufacturing and delivering goods and services to support that energy efficient construction

Big Oil is a big contributor to Congressman Roskam ($25,100 in current election cycle alone) and they certainly get their money's worth. In truth, Congressman Roskam has never actually told Mother Earth to "Drop dead". But I'd rather have him say that a million times than spend another day as a career politician shilling for Big Oil and sticking his figurative head in the tar sands which are surely destroying the only hunk of real estate we'll ever occupy. That brings to mind an ostrich, a fitting Republican replacement for the elephant, an intelligent and wise creature that would sustain rather than suffocate Mother Earth.