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Thursday, October 10, 2013

No doubt who's responsibile for the crisis, until there is

"The American people expect in Washington, when we have a crisis like this, that the leaders will sit down and have a conversation." - House Speaker John Boehner, Sunday, on ABC'c This Week with George Stephanopoulos
Really, Mr. Speaker? That may be true if it were a crisis caused by uncontrollable or unforeseen forces, but this is a crisis you created, by allowing a small number of stubborn, unfit-to-govern conservatives to push you into holding the government hostage over your party's profound dislike for President Obama and his signature healthcare law.

Polls show sixty-five percent of the American people, including half of the ones who identify themselves as Republicans (a group which has lost considerable support since the 2012 election), are overwhelmingly against Congress using its power to control government funding as leverage against the Affordable Care Act. There's no doubt who the American people see as being responsible for this crisis, Mr. Boehner - you and the Republican led House of Representatives.
U.S. President is greeted by Speaker Boehner
Yet the latest GOP proposal, revealed Thursday, to lift the debt ceiling for only six weeks, still precludes resolving the ten-day-old government shutdown without talking to the White House and Senate Democrats about making changes to Obamacare, and other GOP budgetary pet peeves. Boehner calls it "a good faith effort on our part to move halfway, halfway to what [President Obama has] demanded."

 Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters at the White House daily briefing, Thursday, the president still insists keeping government agencies shuttered on the condition of agreeing to cuts to the Affordable Care Act and entitlement programs, and changing the tax code, amounts to paying a "ransom in exchange for the Republicans in the House doing their job," something Obama has, so far, said he will not abide.


Sunday, October 06, 2013

Government shutdown fills Congress’ coffers – not yours

War brings camaraderie. The men and women who fought World War Two, what Tom Brokaw called America’s “Greatest Generation,” came together to fight a war, and taking care of your buddy in a foxhole taught them that we all have to watch out for each other. It’s how we achieved victory, and when the war was over, it’s how we became a hard working and strong democracy, a leader in the world’s economy and, for a while, at least, the global standard for human and civil rights.
But a nation at war with itself finds its comrades-in-arms with blinders on, seeing only the side of the road those like them choose to toe. It doesn’t matter that politicians of all persuasions have tried to build bridges across the divide. The stubborn perspective of Republican hardliners ignores, disavows or buries any outreach as if it were an apple from Eden’s serpent. The foxholes where they have planted themselves for this battle are dimly lit gutters, and their comrades tend to be the rats in three-corner hats that scamper through the flotsam of rotten, old ideas.
World War Two veterans, politicians and journalists enter the memorial, on the Mall, in Washington, DC, Wednesday. (Photo by Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes)
World War Two veterans, politicians and journalists enter the memorial, on the Mall, in Washington, DC, Wednesday.
(Photo by Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes)

That’s why it was particularly galling to see the Republican National Committee use a group of aged World War Two veterans as props when they “forced” the reopening of the memorial to that war, Wednesday, less than 48 hours after they refused to budget the National Park Service and allowed the government to shutdown.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Egypt: Radicalization could win

Egyptian families mourn slain relatives
Egyptian families in anguish over slain relatives. Originally posted by ibn3omar, on, August 15, 2013
"...eyewitnesses and reporters say troops were firing indiscriminately at the crowd, including with snipers who picked-off unarmed civilians at an alarming rate." - GlobalPost story about the Egyptian military's Wednesday massacres against Islamists, in Cairo
The Muslim Brotherhood and their backers say they will sacrifice themselves to preserve the integrity of their fledgling democracy, and the abrogated presidency of Mohammed Morsi. "As soon as he left the house with a Koran in his hand," a brother of a killed Islamist told reporters, "he was ready to become a martyr."

The New York Times tells the story of snipers firing at crowds of panicked protesters, an old man yelling, "We only meet one death. Let it be martyrdom."

There is even an ongoing "live list" of "massacre martyrs," being promoted by members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that history is repeating itself as tragedy in Egypt," said Mohammed Ayoob, a University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Relations, Michigan State University, and Adjunct Scholar at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

If 'stop and frisk' is wrong for the NYPD, it's wrong for the NSA

"While a person’s race may be important if it fits the description of a particular crime suspect, it is impermissible to subject all members of a racially defined group to heightened police enforcement because some members of that group are criminals... "The Equal Protection Clause does not permit the police to target a racially defined group as a whole because of the misdeeds of some of its members." - U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin, of the Southern District of New York, in her ruling against the NYPD's use of "Stop and Frisk"
It's rare that so many news stories converge around so many similar themes at the same time - abuse of power and invasion of privacy. Given Judge Scheindlin's ruling, Monday, it is likely that Chief Justice John Roberts will not be selecting her to preside over a FISA court any time soon. The spirit of her ruling against the NYPD's policy of "Stop and Frisk," because it targeted individuals who were specifically black and Hispanic, suggests that she would have a similar opinion of the National Security Agency's dragnet approach to collecting what it calls "telephony metadata" of millions of innocent Americans who are not suspected of any wrongdoing. READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE>>>

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Leaders come and go, but it’s always up to us – a Nixonian lesson

"To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the President and the Congress in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home.

"Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office."

- President Richard M. Nixon, in his resignation address to the people of the United States, August 8, 1974
Nixonresignation speech

No politician, least of all, the president, leaves office with a positive legacy, until the people find agreement that it is so. The good old boys can pat each other on the back and give each other medals, as was done in the Bush 43 administration, or claim they act in the best interest of their oaths to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," as this administration and its Congressional supporters claim they do. The final word, though, is for the voters to decide whose service we laud, and whose we condemn, before it gets left to history.

By definition, in order to lead, one must have a compelling message, with an understandable plan, addressing important issues in a way that enrolls others to follow. So hungry are we for this kind of leadership, that we transfer our desire to be led to pop-culture heroes, like rock gods and movie stars, who tend to disappoint us because we bestow upon them a mantle, for which the never asked, and shake from their shoulders like an unwelcome chill.

Political leaders, however, are happy to acknowledge that we have high expectations of their service, and are not afraid to indulge us in any quality we want to assume they endorse, if it helps them gain a following, whether they actually have a stated commitment to our pet cause, or not. President Obama, for example, did not hide his disdain for the actions of the Bush administration, when it came to the warrantless acquisition of telephone data, during his tenure in the U.S. Senate, or when he was running for his current office, in 2008.

Then we hear phrases like the one President Obama uttered, Tuesday night, during his appearance on the Tonight Show, with Jay Leno. "We don't have a domestic spying program," he said, adding, "What we do have are some mechanisms where we can track a phone number or an e-mail address that we know is connected to some sort of terrorist threat."


Thursday, August 01, 2013

Snowden shines a light on methods; White House tosses us a bone on phones

"These types of programs allow us to collect the information that enables us to perform our missions successfully – to defend the nation and to protect US and allied troops abroad." - National Security Agency statement to The Guardian, on the phone and internet surveillance programs
The dribble of revelations coming from Edward Snowden, via Glenn Greenwald of The (UK) Guardian, poured out a little flood of information, Wednesday, that looks into the nuts and bolts of the process the National Security Agency goes through to monitor our emails and phone calls. Complete with screen-grabs from the user interfaces of the software the secretive agency uses, the revelation refers to an intelligence monitoring system called XKeyscore.

XKeyscore frame grab
From The Guardian

You may remember that one of the first things Snowden said, in that video interview taped for the Guardian, two months ago, was a reference to being able to find out everything he needed to know, even about President Obama, if all he had was a valid email address. "Any analyst at any time can target anyone, any selector, anywhere," he said. "...I sitting at my desk certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a Federal judge to even the President if I had a personal e-mail."

According to Greenwald's latest article, that is precisely one of the tools XKeyscore makes available to the NSA.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

White House fighting surveillance amendment before House vote, Wednesday

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan)
After failing to get his bipartisan amendment included in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act, which would have eliminated indefinite detentions of US citizens without trial, Michigan Republican, Rep. Justin Amash, has another important civil right amendment for this year’s NDAA.

Written by Amash and Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, John Conyers (D-MI), the Amash-Conyers amendment (HR 2397), scheduled to be voted on Wednesday, would limit the National Security Agency’s dragnet approach to meta-data gathering from phone calls and internet activity, to only those who are specifically being targeted for investigation.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Study ranks state governments on transparency, corruption

To many, “government integrity” is, and has always been, an oxymoron. We rarely expect those who we hire to serve us from whichever office, chamber or desk, to remain, or retain, the commitment to honest, open government they may have promised when they were asking for our vote. Occasionally, in times of particularly lean trust in the leaders we have, we set aside our cynicism and look to a candidate who says the right things about restoring that trust, and we sweep them into office, hoping that this time, it will be different.

But there are no guarantees. If the candidates we elect create new, government accountability laws, there is no evidence they will either enforce them against their cronies, or follow them themselves. “[T]he states with the worst reputations and sorriest histories of political corruption face the most public pressure to clean up their acts, so they pass new laws and strengthen old ones to create a framework of integrity,” wrote Andy Shaw, president and CEO of the Better Government Association, a non-profit government watchdog group based in Chicago.

“That doesn’t mean that all of the public officials in those states are following the new rules or obeying the new laws,” he continued, “—you can lead a horse to water…etc., etc.—but at least they know what’s expected.”

Shaw was explaining the motivation behind, and usefulness of, his group’s third BGA-Alper Services Integrity Index.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Filibuster change: the countdown to a ‘Humpty Dumpty’ rules change

"I love the Senate, but right now the Senate is broken and needs to be fixed. It’s time for course correction." - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), speaking at the Center for American Progress, Monday morning

Something that could shake the bustling tunnels beneath the U.S. Capitol is about to be released by Sen. Reid - a recipe for ending the gridlock that is keeping President Obama's nominees to executive branch appointments from being confirmed by the United States Senate, under its constitutional obligation to advise and consent. Reid is holding fast to his threat to change the Senate rules regarding the filibuster, to make it easier for "whoever is president, [to] have the ability to pick their team."
Reid calls his plan "a minor change, no big deal." But many observers, even those who support filibuster reform, say the maneuver is a slippery slope, with cascading side effects that may be worse than the gridlock itself.
"Senator Reid would be opening a Pandora’s Box if the and the Democratic majority were violate the Senate rules by resorting to a subterfuge like the nuclear option to 'amend' the Senate rules," Emmet J. Bondurant, the lead attorney in a lawsuit against the U.S. Senate to end the filibuster on constitutional grounds, wrote to us in an email.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Solar flare hits Koch brothers' group in Georgia

Side view of Georgia PSC commissioners
Georgia Public Safety Commissioners (L-R) Tim Echols, Doug Everett, Stan Wise, and Lauren "Bubba" McDonald, Jr.
Commissioner Chuck Eaton participated by phone.
 "Americans for Prosperity just lost," said the solar power activist, moments after the Georgia Public Service Commission, a group of five elected Republicans who regulate the state's utilities, voted 3-2, Thursday, to accept an amendment that would add 525 megawatts of solar power for the state's electricity customers over the next 20 years. "AFP Georgia," he added, "is going down."

American for Prosperity is a conservative community activist group funded by Charles and David Koch, whose Koch Industries is in the fossil fuel and power plant business, among other things. They also already have a rather large footprint in the Peach State, where their wholly owned subsidiary, Georgia-Pacific, a paper and wood products company, is headquartered.

(The Kochs have also lobbied members of Congress not to tax polluters, and sign their "No Climate Tax Pledge.")

The AFP in Georgia was mobilized to take on what should have been a no-brainer in a solidly red state, resistant to new things - to say that solar was too unreliable, too expensive and costs people jobs. They also don't like it because it gets incentives from the Obama administration.
Tea Party Patriots
Tea Party Patriots pose during a break in the PSC proceedings.

But just because the big guys were behind it, it doesn't mean all of the state's conservative groups marched in lockstep with them. The Tea Party Patriots, one of the oldest TP organizations in the country, fell in with the solar industry, to form what original Tea Party co-founder, Debbie Dooley calls a "Green Tea Coalition."

"When this issue first came up," admits Tea Party Patriot, Ed Painter, who attended Thursday's PSC hearing, "I had the same reaction that most conservatives had on solar power, which is absolutely negative. It was uneconomical, uncompetitive crony capitalism." Painter said that this plan is different because it "is a free market plan, where in the end, the consumers stand to benefit greatly." Because of that, he said, "It changed my mind, not on how solar power is done in general, but on this project."


Wednesday, July 03, 2013

2014 battle lines coming into focus

A famous Democrat told me recently, the Georgia Republicans in the 2014 Senate race - Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey and Jack Kingston - are all "certifiable." They are some of the loudest, logically dissonant voices in the House of Representatives, but by running, they are out of Congress, permanently. Further, having them in that race gives the probable Democrat, Michelle Nunn, a real shot at winning.

Some on the left may have been disappointed that the exemplar of the most ridiculous and extreme voices of the Republican Party, and right wing politics, Minnesota's Michele Bachmann, chose not to run again in the coming midterms, because they wanted to show that not only could she be beaten, but the stubborn, conservative ideology she represents would go down with her, in dramatic, flaming fashion, in 2014.

But, as they say in baseball, a walk is as good as a hit. If we can beat them through attrition that's even better than beating them at the ballot box. For one thing, it's cheaper. And while the fall of one narrow-minded icon will not stop the Tea Party goose steppers, it is a sign that their candidates realize their mass appeal is fading. But that presents a conundrum for those Republicans, in solidly red districts, who consider the far right base a necessary evil, because it is an evil that can cost them their seats.


Friday, June 28, 2013

Voting Rights decision another fine mess for Congress

Before we join our fellow progressives in the justifiable assault on the Supreme Court for its colossally f-ed up decision, Tuesday, in Shelby County v Holder, which struck down key elements of the pre-clearance provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, let's talk about for whom this mess tolls. It tolls for Congress. Laurel & Hardy
"This is another fine mess you've gotten me into." - Oliver Hardy, on countless occasions, to his bumbling best buddy, Stan Laurel
In those old, black and white shorts from the 1930s, the rotund blowhard, Hardy, was always blaming his rail thin, whimpering sidekick, Laurel, for the trouble the pair always got into. The problem for Hardy is that everyone always knew that it was really he who led them into trouble, and not the friend on whom he laid the problem. So it is with the Supreme Court and Congress. In this little tragic tale of government mismanagement, SCOTUS and Congress are Laurel and Hardy, respectively. While the easy thing to do would lay all the blame on the Supremes for the VRA decision, let's keep in mind that when a majority Republican Congress reauthorized the act, and a Republican president signed it into law, in 2006, they decided they did not want to do the hard work to reformulate how jurisdictions are included in Section 5 of the Act.
"There is no valid reason to insulate the coverage formula from review merely because it was previously enacted 40 years ago," wrote the Justices, in the majority opinion. "If Congress had started from scratch in 2006, it plainly could not have enacted the present coverage formula."

Monday, June 24, 2013

Pelosi's less than stellar moment at Netroots Nation

Nancy Pelosi speaks
House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
explainsthe role of government to a challenging
Netroots Nation crowd (PBG June 22, 2013)
"The fact is, you should reject any notion that President Obama's action have anything to do with what President Bush was doing...
"We protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. That's our oath of office, so we have that responsibility." - House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, to the Netroots Nation conference, Saturday, June 22, 2013
Politicians have a way of talking, when they think they know more than we do about what's good for our country. They treat us like we are petulant and impulsive children and they have to be the stern parent, explaining they are doing what they are doing because they know. They get it and we don't. "When you're the parent," they seem to be saying, "you can make the rules. In the meantime, this is my house and you will do what I say." Hours after Politico published Emily Schultheis' article, about the lack of anti-Obama sentiment at Netroots Nation, the annual progressive conclave in San Jose, California, this weekend, a ruckus erupted over the NSA revelations that have been in the news lately. And the group's vehemence was aimed at the highest ranking politician to attend the conference, House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE>>>

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Whistleblowers, secrets and the public’s right to the truth

One may call it despotic or guarded, paranoid or protective, but the reality of keeping a firm lid on the true nature of the way a government operates disempowers the people that government supposedly represents. Hiding data from the people with a wall of secrecy that keeps them from making an informed decisions about a policy, a candidate or a war, is short-sighted and can be assumed to serve only the needs of the withholders, with little regard for the public that elected them.

While it is certainly true that the unwarranted domestic spying activities of the Bush administration were a ruthless broadside to the Constitution, it forced Congress into codifying a legal basis for what government agencies, like the NSA, determined were necessary actions to protect our country. But the DNA of our Republic is not designed to hide so much classified information from so many for so long.

Now, it is finally appearing, more than ten years after 9/11 and the subsequent, draconian legislation known as the Patriot Act, that the unwieldy bladder of secrecy our federal government created has had its fill and is beginning to spring leaks. This is not the light air of happy balloons floating innocuously above the Potomac. This is the Hindenburg, a gas bag in a lightning storm, just waiting for the right spark to explode its cache of secret programs and spill it all onto the ground, below. Oh, the humanity.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Political hay makers, seeing the sun shining, start making hay

"Politics is the skilled use of blunt objects." - Lester B. Pearson, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former prime minister of Canada
An adage has been validated, over the past ten days or so, that politics is a bloodsport, somewhere between boxing and dagger throwing. Vulnerabilities exposed are vulnerabilities exploited, sometimes with a direct hit, sometimes with the glancing blow of rhetoric and hyperbole.
 Like any hard fought match between an aggressive foe and a punching bag, there are body blows that leave the administration to catch its breath, like the IRS' overzealous, allegedly biased interpretations of the laws surrounding 501(c)4 applicants, and there are hay maker punches, which have plenty of dramatic wind-up, but ultimately land ineffectually, like the Republicans' hit and miss attacks in its "investigation" of the Benghazi tragedy. The bell has rung, and the administration has been forced to step into the ring with various, agenda driven House committees, who have already demonstrated the mentality of a pack of foaming dogs in their pursuit of scoring partisan points against the White House. They are looking for blood, of the highest order, and in that hunt, a fleeting pass at establishing truthiness is all that is required. READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE>>>

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Boston to Houston: a right to radicalize?

"As Tamerlan's devotion to Islam became more intense and radicalized, Dzhokhar showed signs of his brother's influence" - The Atlantic Wire, May 5, 2013

"A YouTube account apparently belonging to Tamerlan Tsarnaev gives tantalising hints of his radicalisation before the Boston bombings" - The (UK) Guardian, April 22, 2013

"Rojanksy will speak to the notion that Islamic extremists, and Chechen ties, contributed to the radicalization of the suspected bombers" - programming notes for the April 24, 2013, episode of CNN's Piers Morgan Live [emphasis mine]

Since the horrible events in Boston, last month, it is impossible to browse a news site or watch television news without having the word thrown in your face like a water soaked towel. Guantanamo radicalizes. Middle East politics radicalizes. Islam radicalizes. The Internet radicalizes.

"I think that this is a very difficult challenge when you have individuals who are self-radicalizing, they’re not part of some massive conspiracy or a network," President Obama told a Univision interviewer, Friday.
To that end, Newsweek's Michael Moynihan, in a piece where he uses a pseudonym to explore extremist websites, defines "self-radicalization" as "the process by which those unconnected to organized jihad are lured toward extremism via the Web."

If the online snuff films and photographs of dead children that Moynihan describes are part of the jihadist call to arms, then coming down from the dark cloud of the terrorist underworld can only be countered with an equally potent validation of community and belonging.

"A lot of these videos, they are very emotive," Haris Tarin, of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, told PBS' Bob Abernethy, last week. "These sermons, they use violence and gruesome images to tug at the emotion of young people."

But while the media is scrambling to compartmentalize "self-radicalization" as a behavior in which only a handful of sociopathic, homegrown Islamic terrorists engage, there's one place in the American conversation where radicalization from an organized group gets only minimal attention from the press, as an existential threat. I'm speaking, of course, of the National Rifle Association.

In Houston, this past weekend, the NRA paraded speaker after speaker, who railed against Obama and gun safety advocates with the hateful energy of a radical imam. Through the exhortations of their leadership, the NRA are behaving like American jihadis. Like the terrorist who twists the Qur'an to defend their murderous ways, the anti-government, cultural isolationists of the NRA re-interpret the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights to justify arming themselves for revolution.


Friday, May 03, 2013

D.C.'s vulnerability tactic - a cry for help?

"I think it comes as no surprise not [only] to the American people, but even [to] members of Congress themselves, that right now things are pretty dysfunctional up on Capitol Hill."

- President Barack Obama, Tuesday, April 30, 2013, during a White House press conference
It's very hard to tell, but it seems that the policy branches of our federal government have bared themselves to our anger, disappointment and distrust. They have embraced a recovery program - not an economic plan, but the one that starts with them finally admitting they have a problem. READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE>>>

Monday, April 29, 2013

The burning bush of progressivism

"The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."

- attributed to 19th c. minister, Rev. Theodore Parker, popularized by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in a commencement address to Wesleyan University, 1964
Take your sandals from your feet, America. We've climbed the mountain, and stand on the holy ground of progressivism. Feel the heat of rigorous, enforceable gun laws. See the burning triumph of love over intolerance in the fight for marriage equality. Hear your own meek voices rising to a crescendo on immigration reform, fair wages and feeding the hungry. The call has gone out. Though rainmaker lobbyists and extreme ideologues have unleashed a hell storm of fire on sanity and common sense, our republic will not be consumed. Tell the stiff necked in Congress, more beholden to what is good for their careers than what is good for the country, to let our government go, that it may worship the reality of a functional America. After more than thirty years in the wilderness of anti-union, anti-government and anti-social welfare policy, welcome back to the mountain top. Before us lies the promised land. This is not the time for humility or discretion because who we continue to be as a country is what is at stake, not just for the Joseph Campbell sized myth with which we regard ourselves, but also the story we write for our place in the world.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

To be in the conversation, be part of the conversation

That could really be the mantra of the transition from Obama's very public, bully pulpit tactic of campaign style events, highlighting the issues he wants the American people to help him see through, to his new, private "charm offensive," a series of dinner and lunch meetings with Republican Senators and Representatives aimed at getting past the immovable conversation in Washington, DC.

As recently as a month ago, during the State of the Union address, the president made clear his conviction that "it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story."

His actions show that he believes in us that much, and if he could have asked for that commitment from all of us that night, right then and there, without rhetorical flourish, in a way that would have had us all on our feet, saying, "Yes, Mr. President, I will stand with you, march with you and fight with you," maybe he would have us believing it, too.

But this latest outreach to Congress makes it seem as though the president has given up on getting any broad, mobilized consensus from the populace.


Thursday, February 28, 2013

SCOTUS arguments show 'there is still work to do' on voting rights

Photograph of President Lyndon Johnson Signs t...
President Lyndon Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act,
with Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights
leaders in the Capitol Rotunda, Washington, DC, 08/06/1965
(Photo credit: The U.S. National Archives)

There are few words that cut through the perennial story of American pride in its exceptionality, like "racism." That one, ugly social system, propped up over our sordid history by institutional and ideological bulwarks of denial and ignorance, like Jim Crow, is part of the DNA of our country, away from which we are continually attempting to evolve. But just saying it's over doesn't end it. Seeing more minorities voting than ever doesn't end it. Electing an African American president doesn't end it.

Ask the people whose 2012 vote was protected by the Department of Justice denying attempt after attempt in states affected by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The need for DoJ clearance and oversight is essential to implementation. That's what makes the law "rational in theory and practice," the loss of which, the plaintiff representing Shelby County, Alabama, in the case, argued Wednesday, should be grounds for overturning the preclearance called for in the disputed section of the VRA.


Thursday, January 31, 2013

History, truth and the insane belief in mainstream politics

"'You are a slow learner, Winston,' said O'Brien gently.
"'How can I help it?' he blubbered. 'How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.'
"'Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.'"
- from "1984,"
by George Orwell (Part 3, Chapter 2)
If you have paid any attention to the Chuck Hagel, SecDef nomination hype, you probably heard the former Republican Senator's detractors calling him "out of the mainstream," when it comes to Israel, Iran, and involving the US in talks with terrorist organizations.
Witness Thursday morning's exchange between Hagel and Sen. John McCain, during the former's confirmation hearing. Hagel, as a Senator, made statements against Bush's 2007 troop surge in Iraq, equating it to a potential quagmire, a word used often to describe the war in Vietnam, where Hagel served and was wounded. McCain, himself a prisoner of the Vietcong during that conflict, insisted that the surge was a success and wanted his former colleague to take it back, to admit his previous position was a mistake.
“I’m not going to give you a yes or no,” Hagel told McCain. “I’ll defer that judgement to history."
"History has already made a judgement on the surge," McCain insisted, "and you’re on the wrong side of it."
This insistence on defining history as mainstream truth is a revisionism worthy of Orwell. Honest and frank answers are eschewed for blind allegiance and party fidelity. Engaging in "You're either with us or against us" tactics, especially when it comes to what's true or not, endangers our republic, because it attempts to supplant evidence with conviction.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Shocker: Government shirks responsibility, again

The deal approved today is truly a missed opportunity to do something big to reduce our long-term fiscal problems…”
- from a statement released Tuesday, by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, co-chairs of a bipartisan deficit reduction committee
If you don’t stand broadly and shoulder the responsibilities of governing, there should be no surprise when the house of cards you’ve tried to build over the last two years comes crashing down around you. That’s what happened over New Year’s Day, when the Senate, and then the House, passed an overwhelmingly bipartisan bill that mitigated the effects of the final sunset (thank God) of the Bush tax cuts.

As a solution to the so called “fiscal cliff,” the Senate version of a  revamped House bill falls short of averting every slippery rock on the way to the economic edge, but it was the only lifeline of agreement left after Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH), turned down the president’s offer of early December, refusing to take the same tack with his caucus that he essentially was forced to take Tuesday night. Since he dropped the ball the White House handed him, Boehner had to make do with the cold, meatless bone of a compromise worked out between Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Vice President Joe Biden.