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 bĂȘte 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.

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.