Thursday, January 17, 2019

Syrian, Afghan troop withdrawals long overdue

The Trib Editorial Board brought out every discredited canard from the past 17 years to argue against President Trump's announced troop pullouts from Syria and Afghanistan in 'Trump's risky haste in Syria and Afghanistan', today. Rather than be hasty, he's been signaling them since his campaign, the one sensible policy he's hinted in a sea of misguided policy positions. It should be a badge of honor that the foreign policy establishment opposes the withdrawals. These experts lied us into senseless military involvement in the Middle East for 17 years now beginning with the pivot from 911 perpetrator Saudi Arabia to innocent party Iraq to remake the region as an American protectorate. Hundreds of thousands dead, including over 5,000 Americans is the result. And America is no longer the leader of the free world as Defense Secretary James Mattis claimed in his resignation letter. We are the greatest perpetrator of senseless, failed warfare in at least seven countries and the largest supplier of weapons of civilian destruction worldwide. If our prosperity and values are based on those twin distinctions, we have no right to claim greatness. President Obama's partial pullout from Iraq did not give rise to Islamic State; it was President Bush's smashing Iraq into a failed state eight years earlier. Calling the pullout a boost to making Syria the romper room of Russia and Iran is ludicrous. They are Syria's neighbors and siding with elected Syrian President Assad is the surest way to prevent the rebels, including ISIS from further destabilizing the region to their peril. If we'd have allowed President Assad to defeat the rebels five years ago, instead of keeping the civil war going to depose Assad, hundreds of thousands would still be alive. The argument we must get militarily involved in every failed state is preposterous. It ignores the truth we've either turned those countries into failed states as is the case with Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, or have worsened their failed state status as in Syria. The Trib is correct to advise remembering why we went to war in Afghanistan and Syria. The former was the easy target in our effort to gain control over the region, following the Saudi enabling of 911. That failed. The latter was our effort to depose Syrian President Assad to weaken our arch enemy Iran. That also failed. The Syrian pullout and the Afghanistan drawn are not hasty. They are long overdue and cannot come soon enough.

690 instead of 185 abusive priests no big deal to six Illinois Catholic dioceses

We non-theists view every religion as a cult; the obsessive, even delusional veneration of an imaginary friend called God or its equivalent in differing cultures around the world. Cults can have positive and negative effects based on the very human qualities of the cult leaders who claim divine inspiration and infallibility for the cult they have established. Religious cults have a powerful hold on mankind, with over 95% of our 7.7 souls following one of roughly 4,000 religions worldwide. How much good such cults provide individuals or society is impossible to measure though it must be significant to attract that overwhelming portion of Earth's inhabitants.

How destructive they can be is a bit easier to gauge. We've learned from Illinois' Attorney General that the six Illinois Catholic dioceses have, in recent decades, under reported the number of priests accused of child sexual abuse by over 500. Now, two lawyers representing 300 victims of such abuse, will provide names and pictures of many of the accused not named by the Church as early as February. No other institution, religious or secular, has such an horrendous record of both incidence of child sexual abuse or coverup and denial of its magnitude. We must go back nearly 900 years to 1139 when the Second Lateran Council established priestly celibacy, a cult like structure creating both the opportunity for and perpetuation of abuse victimizing millions of innocents over the centuries.

I'm not opposed to having an imaginary friend to help navigate life's difficulties. I've got one or two myself. But I'm certainly not inclined to establish a cult, build edifices in its honor, or most importantly, staff them with spiritual leaders shackled by cultist restrictions on the most basic of life's drives and pleasures.

Senate Bill 1 a slap at free speech

The US Senate used its symbolic first bill of the 116th Congress to attack the First Amendment right of free speech. The primary aim of Sen. Marco Rubio's S.1 - Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act of 2019, is designed instead to strengthen the ability of states to pass laws giving explicit legal authority to boycott any U.S. companies which themselves are participating in a boycott against Israel. Twenty-six states have already passed such laws with similar laws pending in 13 more. How onerous can such laws be? Bahia Amawi, a Texas elementary school speech pathologist lost her job for refusing to sign a loyalty oath promising not to support a boycott of Israel over their illegal settlements on Palestinian land. Such loyalty oaths hearken back to the 1950's McCarthy era and have no place in any country that proclaims the sanctity of free speech. Federal judges in Arizona and Kansas have already knocked out two such laws as unconstitutional. The Kansas court declared " The Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment protects the right to participate in a boycott like the one punished by the Kansas law.” The Arizona court agreed stating: “A restriction of one’s ability to participate in collective calls to oppose Israel unquestionably burdens the protected expression of companies wishing to engage in such a boycott." Sadly, Rubio's bill is bi-partisan, with enough Democratic supporters to override a filibuster. Knee jerk support for the US Israel Lobby should not include trashing the First Amendment. S.1 should be consigned to the trash bin of legislation degrading American ideals.                                                                                                                        

Good day in Florida

Florida Amendment 4, which passed with 65% voter approval Nov. 6, goes into effect today in Florida. It re-enfranchises 1.4 million former felons permanently banned from voting in the Sunshine State. Only about 100,000 ex felons convicted of murder or felony sex offences remain in voter jail; a continuing blot on the Florida system of justice. The real Sunshine States are Maine and Vermont which let the sun of the ballot shine down on every voting age convict behind bars. The other 48 should follow their enlightened example.

Graham, not Trump, shares blame for 4 soldiers killed in Syria

Incessant US war promoter Sen. Lindsay Graham lays blame on President Trump for 4 US soldiers killed in Syria Tuesday, stating his December 19th withdrawal announcement "set in motion enthusiasm by the enemy we're fighting". Graham clearly implies that 'enthusiasm' inspired the restaurant suicide attack in Manbij where the dwindling US presence still patrols in its foolish, unnecessary war against Islamic State.

But Graham and the rest of the US war party went berserk when Trump announced the pullout December 19, slowing down the withdrawal timetable which could easily have been completed before these needless four deaths. Graham and his 'war first and always' buddies in Congress should look in the mirror before implying the latest US deaths in the Middle East and Africa, now over 7,000, lay at Trump's doorstep. Graham, not only supported every criminal, senseless US military intervention since 2001, he's pushed back ferociously when first Obama, and now Trump, sensibly seeks withdrawal.

Fighting Islamic State is not our fight. Syria, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Iraq can handle its alleged threat to their neighborhood without one drop of precious US blood and treasure. Graham, a small government conservative against anything which helps the US commons, is 100% big government for perpetual war. Four dead US soldiers yesterday are one of the consequences.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Trib still supporting US 'Roach Motel' in Syria

The Trib's editorial 'Why Trump's pullout from Syria puts America at risk' is wrong on so many levels it would take the entire opinion section to correct them all. For a mere rebuttal letter here are just two.
First, the Trib implies the main reason for keeping a paltry 2,000 troops in Syria, illegally at that, is to counter the up to 30,000 ISIS fighters still likely active in the region. It implies our guys are all there is from an ascendant Islamic terrorist force presenting a "direct threat to Americans and American soil." The entire premise of that charge, that a single sectarian group gaining territory there will bring the fighting here to America, is preposterous. What will the bad guys who might grab a province or two do next, buy tickets to the US on 'Islamic State Air' to reek havoc on the Homeland? They will too busy fending off their real opponents Russia, Iran, Syria's Assad and Turkey's Erdogan. The Kurds are small players, pretending to fight Islamic State in the futile hope America will help them establish Kurdistan out of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.

Second, and more importantly, the Trib gives away its real reason for keeping illegal US boots in Syria: leaving "a Middle East hot spot to two countries long established as hostile to American interests — Russia and Iran." Did it ever dawn on the Trib that both Russia and Iran, unlike the US, are in Syria legally at the request of their elected president? The Trib knows ISIS is no existential threat to America. But ISIS represents a convenient 'MacGuffin', a plot device as used by director Alfred Hitchcook to move the story along, regardless of its irrelevancy. Keeping Russia and Iran at bay simply won't 'Play in Peoria' so we voters must be scared silly in supporting perpetual war to avoid another 911. Haven't you heard? That terrorism was most closely linked to our best weapons customer Saudi Arabia whom we can't afford to alienate no matter how many they facilitated killing on September 11 or how many more unfriendly journalists they may assassinate.
There is much more to comment upon. But please digest these two for starters next time you want to keep Middle East and African countries in the US chain of Roach Motels...where the soldiers go in, but never come out.

Is Anne Stava-Murray the AOC of Illinois?

The idealistic progressive in me welcomes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) to the US House. She has charisma to burn and is already shaking up the national political landscape with her widely publicized progressive rhetoric calling for universal health care, gun control, abolishing the private prison system, government subsidized college education and a guaranteed job. Her unabashed democratic socialist policies are what I want to see enacted. But at the end of her two year term what accomplishments will we see on her now blank legislative resume? I hope they're sufficient to ensure her re-election or even advancement to higher office.
It turns out we may have an Illinois version of AOC in newbie state legislator Anne Stava-Murray who we might christen ASM in honor of the congresswoman she appears to be channeling. Stava-Murray has some of the same charisma of AOC in garnering publicity for her progressive views on issues facing the Land of Lincoln. She's already the most well know Illinois House rookie, making good on her campaign pledge to vote against Mike Madigan for House Speaker; the only Democrat to break ranks. And like AOC, ASM is a newbie with a blank slate of accomplishments. Alas, that didn't stop her from declaring for Senate Minority Whip Dick Durban's US Senate seat next year even though Durbin has already announced his re-election bid. She did this before serving a single day in the Illinois legislature. I'm puzzled. Did ASM already decide she's accomplished all she can for Illinois with that blank slate staring back at her?
On her Anne Stava-Murray for US Senate Facebook page ASM states "I also know that I’m a human being and sometimes I make mistakes and sometimes I learn something new that changes my mind; so I try to let everyone know when that happens too." Given her short list of accomplishments in the IL House, I hope she will soon be informing us of her intention to build a solid legislative record here in Illinois before attempting the springboard to the US Senate.

Punishing Rep. Steve King: Do not be fooled

It’s an extraordinary event when a major party condemns one of its own leaders as Republicans did by removing Steve King from his House committee assignments over overt racist language. Do not be fooled by their damage control. Mr. King was not condemned for being racist but for not sufficiently concealing the underlying racism and xenophobia that are the foundation of today’s Republican Party. Mr. King used racist language that was too obvious to ignore.

Trib debases journalism with false equivalency view of wall dispute

The Trib, apparently, is loathe to offer unvarnished criticism of Republicans over Trump's destructive use of racist, Xenophobic policies, to call them out for enabling Trump's month long government shutdown. Every decent American knew Trump was engaging in virulent racism when he campaigned on a gigantic Southern border wall to keep out 'the murders and rapists pouring over the border.' Is that language really any different than Rep. Steve King's' comment that "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization - how did that language become offensive?" One can make a strong case Trump's words were worse, being grotesque lies specifically targeting the racist, white nationalist voters he needed by validating their hate against the other; that is all non-white, non-citizens. Not only worse, Trump's language did significant damage to our body politic, coming from a presidential contender who used them effectively to get elected. Piling on the damage, Trump is now shutting down the government to give those racists and white nationalists what they want: a pretend barrier keeping out the other, even though it won't.
Yet, the Trib's Editorial, "Trump and Democrats: Stop embarrassing yourselves. Cut a wall-for-Dreamers deal" treats the wall issue as a simple political dispute in which each party is behaving in an infantile fashion while the government shuts down. But Every dollar the Democrats might authorize for a non functioning barrier to solve a non existing problem so Trump can fulfill a racist campaign pledge would debase good governance. Every editorial calling for trading the funding for a racist wall for long overdue relief for Dreamers, relief that should have been granted long ago without conditions, debases journalism.