Saturday, February 06, 2016

Book Pick: Dead Wake, by Erik Larson

Let's hope author Erik Larson lives to a hundred and keeps writing nonfiction books like his most recent 'Dead Wake' right up till the end. Subtitled 'The Last Crossing of the Lusitania', it chronicles the sinking of the Lusitania by German sub U-20, May 7, 1915, which created inexorable tension between Germany and the US, culminating in US's declaration of war twenty-three months later, sealing Germany's WWI doom.
Larson hooked me on his meticulous research and mesmerizing narrative style couple years back with 'The Devil in the White City', which interwove the 1893 Colombian Exposition with HH Holmes 'murder castle' at 63rd on Wallace in Chicago's Englewood community. He continued that spell with 'In the Garden of Beasts', telling the tale of University of Chicago history prof William Dodd, coerced by FDR to be first US Ambassador to Nazi Germany. Now comes 'Dead Wake' which again weaves related narratives to the main event, the Lusitania sinking; including President Wilson's difficulty dealing with the catastrophe due to being besotted with his love interest Edith Boling, resisting his entreaties to become the second Mrs. Wilson. Up pops Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, who quite likely allowed the Lusitania's torpedoing to prod Wilson to save England's bacon by joining the European slaughter. Churchill and his warmongering buddies were so callous and cynical, they covered up their evil deed by blaming the entire sinking on hapless captain William Turner who was provided neither the proper intelligence Churchill's Admiralty had, nor the destroyer convoy which would have certainly spooked U-20's attack.
Even though 'Dead Wake' doesn't quite measure up to the first two Larson histories, it's a terrific tale, great history, and lesson on the all pervading evil of war on all sides. Don't know what Larson's researching now, but whatever it is, I'm in.

What's good for goose Rezaian not good for gander Assange

Remember when US officials and presidential candidates were screaming for the release of Washington Post journalist James Rezaian, being arbitrarily held by Iran since July, 2014, on trumped up espionage charges? He was released last month as part of the thaw between the US and Iran, helped in part, by demands from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which called for Rezaian's release. Western officials lauded the UN's efforts on behalf of Rezaian, something one would surmise should apply to all persons suffering unlawful, inhumane and arbitrary detention. 

Alas, UK Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond decried the UN's latest demand for release of a UK political prisoner, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, as "a ridicules thing". Unlike Rezaian who only endured arbitrary detention for 18 months, Assange is in his 44th month of forced detention in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. The Brits, conspiring with the US and Sweden, want Assange whisked to the US for likely imprisonment for being, like Rezaian, a good journalist. What's the difference you might inquire? Whereas Rezaian was merely an employee of the anti Iran and neocon Washington Post, Assange was releasing documents shedding light on our criminal war in Afghanistan, something that surely needs to see the light of day. That upsets Uncle Sam no end, even to the point where he and his British poodle will denigrate a UN institution, which must be upheld even when inconvenient if we want to maintain its worldwide credibility. Besides the Brits squandering 13 million pounds watching for Assange to risk arrest for sneaking a badly needed whiff of fresh air, all three nations; the US, UK and Sweden besmirch their claims to represent freedom, democracy and decency. They still can't comprehend: what's good for James Rezaian, is good for Julian Assange. 

Thursday, February 04, 2016

US, not Iran, largest sponsor of state terrorism

It was both weird and scary to hear otherwise intelligent Democratic candidates pander to the war party in last night's debate. ISIS, a murderous bunch of power seekers, is a threat only to murderous power holders in Middle East. We spend trillions on criminal wars and criminal interventions to make sure our murderous thugs retain power. Both Hillary and Bernie paid obeisance to the recipients of those trillions by saying we must continue our wars and interventions that have killed hundreds of thousands and forced millions to flee our weaponry.
Both unnecessarily and falsely demonize Russia for shoring up their borders when the US instigated a coup against the duly elected Ukraine leader to draw Ukraine away from Russia and toward the West. Both want to expand NATO to Russia's doorstep even though the need for NATO is long past, and when member Turkey is supporting our imagined enemy ISIS in total contravention to our expressed No. 1 national security interest.
Sanders is a bit better than Clinton on this issue. He did vote against launching our criminal Iraq war, unlike warmonger Clinton, who not only voted for that war, but orchestrated, as Secretary of State, our criminal and murderous overthrow of Qaddafi in Libya. She relishes getting over-involved in unbridled militarism. But Sanders couldn't say the magic words 'get all our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan' because he still cowers before the war party.
Till we have candidates and finally a president who removes the boots on the ground, grounds the murderous drones and planes, and stops demonizing Iran, China, Russia, and murderous groups not an existential threat to America, Uncle Sam still holds the brass ring for state sponsored terrorism.
When the debate dealt with domestic issues like immigration reform, climate change, poisoning Michigan governors, mass incarceration of minorities, income inequality, campaign reform, and was quite inspiring.

What is College of DuPage Boycott 3 hiding?

We saw progress at the College of DuPage Board meeting Wednesday. The Boycott 3, Erin Birt, Joe Wozniak and spokesperson Dianne McGuire, showed up for the regularly scheduled 7:00 PM meeting to pass COD operating directives they have been holding up for an unconscionable 51 days. But they did nothing to end their infantile spat in which they refuse to accept that duly authorized Acting Chair Deanne Mazzochi is in fact Acting Chair. They did nothing to address the two year probation imposed on COD by the Higher Learning Commission for actions they enabled during the Breuder administration. They did nothing to fulfill their elected duty to appoint a seventh Board member from the 26 local residents who have applied. And most egregiously, they continue to stonewall and obfuscate addressing the DuPage States Attorney's request for records of the 2014 closed Board sessions. in which all three participated, that preceded their notification to President Robert Breuder his contract was extended.

That raises the question many in the COD community keep asking, including directly to the Boycott 3 by public speakers at last night's meeting: "What are you hiding?"

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Bernie only 4th in 17 Prez campaigns

It dawned on me that this is the 17th presidential campaign I've followed since I 'liked Ike' back in '52 at age 7. It was easy to follow since I was blessed with concerned, informed parents who valued political interest and discussion. Once hooked I realized how vital public involvement was to our future well being and watched in both hope and dismay how we'd make the right choice and just as often turn the electoral gun on ourselves, choosing the lesser candidate.
In all those campaigns, there have only been four candidates who truly inspired me. It wasn't till 1968, when senator and poet Gene McCarthy, played Pied Piper to us millions of youngsters being called to fight and die in a criminal war that I realized a candidate could be truly transformational. Though he fell short to the Kennedy Clan and the Establishment, he presaged the 1972 candidacy of another senator, George McGovern, whose uncompromising commitment to peace in Vietnam and justice for minorities and the dispossessed in America was crushed by Nixon's cynical warmongering abroad and racist pandering at home. Then a long political winter till the improbability of a black progressive in 2008, not only being nominated but winning the presidency, brought hope that there was hope for America.
And that brings up my fourth political hero, Bernie Sanders. I'm both puzzled and thrilled that his groundswell of support comes not from my pre-baby boom generation and its immediate successors, but by the newest generation of young adults largely absent from the governing struggle. As I get more progressive and less patient with political idiocy in my eight decade, I'd guess most of my generation would follow suit. But on reflection it's better the impatience comes from the young since they must live with the consequences of their governing decisions much longer than I.
Though didn't know him, Sanders and I attended the same college back in '63-64; he a senior, I a freshman. Back then political interest and involvement was a given, considering the Vietman War and struggle for black civil rights. Sanders was in the thick of both fights, and spent his entire life following the path to a better America and world. For years now I've lamented that my generation might the last to be truly politically involved. Thanks to Bernie Sanders, I think we might be OK after all.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Rauner to pain sufferers: "Buy billionaire concocted drugs"

For the second time in five months the Bruce Rauner administration has slammed shut the door to natural, inexpensive relief for chronic pain sufferers. Presiding over the most restrictive state among the 23 (plus DC) that allow medical marijuana, Rauner says were still evaluating medical pot and it wouldn't be prudent to expand it now. Methinks Billionaire Bruce is merely helping his fellow mega rich in the drug industry keep the profits from wildly expensive and harmful prescription drugs rolling into their bloated money belts. Even the Punky QB, Jim McMahon, suffering debilitating chronic pain from 15 years of football sacks, had to move to Arizona to get the natural stuff that has replaced his 100 per month synthetic pill habit to bring pain relief. Besides pain relief, Punky QB has a clearer mind. Illinois sufferers of autism, osteoarthritis and irritable bowel also have to flee the Land of Lincoln to get cheap, natural relief. Rauner poo poo's the 70% of Illinoisans supporting medical marijuana expansion, and the Illinois Medical Marijuana Advisory Board which has green lighted expansion for the aforementioned conditions. Come to think of it, here's another condition the Board might consider to give Illinoisans needed relief: Rauner Austerity Syndrome.