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Don't Tone It Down, Amp It Up: In Praise of Incivility in Politics

By Dave Lindorff

 
"The wranglers over creeds and dogmas are perhaps the most persistent of all agitators; the bedrock idea being that a wrong exists which must be found and exterminated."

-- Eugene Debs

"Get it straight, I'm not a humanitarian, I'm a hell-raiser."

--Mother Jones

 

Momma Grizzly Mauls Smokey the Bear

By Linn Washington Jr.

Outdoors enthusiast Sarah Palin, who sees sport in blasting wolves with assault rifles from helicopters, surely knows the practical message of iconic fictional character Smokey The Bear: “Only you can prevent forest fires.”

Whether Momma Grizzly can really see Russia from her home in Alaska, as she once claimed, she certainly can see the clear meaning of Alaska Statute Section 41.15.110 titled “Uncontrolled Spread of Fire; Leaving Fire Unattended.”

Under a provision in that statue section, a person is guilty of a misdemeanor if they neglect “to make every effort possible” to extinguish a fire they’ve knowingly set.

Now former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is not guilty of literally starting wildfires in the forests around her beloved Wasilla home. But she is complicit in figuratively firing up the dry tinder in America’s forests of political discontent with incendiary rhetoric delivered with the clear intent to inflame.

Incendiary?

Racism in Arizona: Latinos Have No History in Arizona Schools

By Jess Guh

It's all too appropriate that on the day that we celebrate the birthday of one of history’s most notable civil rights leaders, Arizona is in the national news spotlight.  Arizona,one of the last states to recognize Martin Luther King Jr's birthday as a federal holiday only began doing in 1992.  Ironically, Arizona’s Attorney General Tom Horne, a supporter of the states tough new immigration laws, and author of a new ban on ethnic studies in the state’s public schools, continually cites his participation in MLK's marches as proof that he's not a racist.

A Review: Revolutionary Violence and Ted Rall

By Charles M. Young

The Anti-American Manifesto
(Seven Stories Press)
by Ted Rall

Lots of books collect all the low-hanging fruit in the abundant orchard of corporate state crime and arrange it into a more or less digestible feast, and then they all conclude with a ringing exhortation to elect more Democrats to Congress, or build a third party, or challenge the legality of war through the courts, or write well-reasoned letters of protest to The New York Times, or impeach whoever is president, or go to more demonstrations, or drip more snark on the ruling class.

The reader sits alone at night with the question, “Is that all there is?”

Ted Rall seeks to answer that question in The Anti-American Manifesto. At the beginning of chapter one (“Kill the Zombie Empire”), he quotes the U.S Criminal Code that advocating the overthrow of the government by violence is unlawful, and then he advocates the overthrow of the government by violence.

Tucson and the End of the Frontier Myth

By John Grant

Hello darkness my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again,
- Paul Simon, 1964

The same year the Tet Offensive in Vietnam made it clear that war was a quagmire there was a spate of domestic political assassinations in America. It was a highly polarized and volatile time when people struggled with issues of race and class. Civility suffered.

Forty-three years later, the similarities are stark. The economy is distressed to the point poor and working class Americans are fearful and uncertain about the future. Meanwhile, the world of high finance has rebounded and is again thriving; and the military budget consumes more than half of US tax resources.

Not a Video: Grand Theft Constitution

By Linn Washington

Maybe it’s not a violation of criminal statutes.

But the misappropriation of the U.S. Constitution by conservatives for their partisan posturing – as illustrated in last week’s reading of the nation’s founding document in the House – does fit the definition of theft: taking property without consent…in this instance the ‘consent’ of the governed.

However, this is a heist conservatives’ have successfully pulled off before as evidenced by their politicized appropriation of the American Flag, the Pledge of Alliance, national security, God, mom, apple pie, etc. etc…

This brazen theft by deception of the Constitution – the foundational document of the U.S. government – happens on three levels: dismissive; disturbing and downright dangerous.

Connecting the Crazy Dots: Assange, Recruiting Kids, the Tucson Massacre and General American Bloodthirstiness

By Dave Lindorff

There is, it cannot be denied, a tendency on the part of many Americans to grab for their guns, if not actually, then figuratively.

And let’s face it, we also have an awful lot of guns to reach for. The FBI estimates that it’s 200 million, not counting the guns owned by the military, and the National Rifle Assn. says that’s a number that rises by close to five million a year.

And we sure do use ‘em. NY Times columnist Bob Herbert says 150,000 people have been killed by guns in the US just in the first decade of this new century. Clearly it’s not just Tucson, capital of the Arizona county that also includes the gunslinger town of Tombstone, that is the Wild West. This whole country is gun-crazy.

A Disturbing Meeting at the Gym

By Dave Lindorff

At the local YMCA today, I ran into a boy who was a childhood friend of my son. As my son goes to a public arts high school in Philadelphia outside of our local school district, I don't see much of his old grade-school friends any more. This boy, who used to be over at our house years ago at least once a week, recognized me right away, and said, "Hey Mr. Lindorff, I haven't seen you in years. How's Jed!"

I was impressed by how he'd grown up, tall and strong looking. He was headed for the basketball court. I asked him, since both he and my son are seniors this year, where he was applying for college, and he stunned me by saying he had signed up for the Marines. "I'm going to be going in after graduation," he said proudly. "The recruiter came to school, and he convinced me it's a good move."

I asked him what he planned to do, and he said, "Helicopter gunner! I'm really excited and proud!"

The Drug War: A Roller-Coaster to Hell

By John Grant

The War On Drugs, fought mostly in poor and person-of-color communities (despite the fact that whites are more than 70 percent of all drug users) has contributed dramatically to the growth of a prison-industrial-complex that is quickly sapping resources from education, job training and other vital programs.          
-- Tim Wise

I’ve taught creative writing in Philadelphia’s maximum-security prison for ten years. I joke with the inmates that most of them are POWs in the Drug War. Of course, most of the men in the class are African American.

Last week only two men showed up for the class, which gave me and my co-teacher the opportunity to talk with them about their lives.

A Profound and Jarring Disconnect

By Dave Lindorff

Democracy: de-moc-ra-cy, government by the people; the common people of a community, as distinguished from any privileged class

According to the latest poll conducted by CBS "60 Minutes" and the magazine Vanity Fair, 61 percent of Americans want to raise taxes on the wealthy as the primary way to cut the budget. The same poll finds that the second most popular first choice for cutting the nation's budget deficit, at 20 percent, is cutting the military budget. That is, 81 percent of us--four out of five--would cut the deficit by taxing the rich and/or slashing military spending.

Only four percent of those polled favored cutting Medicare, the government-run program that provides health care for the elderly and disabled, and only three percent favored cutting Social Security.

Righting an Ugly Wrong: Compassion or Just Crass Political Calculation?

By Linn Washington Jr.M

An outrageous assertion by a potential presidential candidate who praised a group which had notoriously and openly supported racial segregation played a role in finally righting one of the most grotesque wrongs anywhere in America’s justice system with the freeing of two sisters serving controversial double-life sentences for an $11 robbery they may not even have committed.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour recently announced suspending the troubling prison sentences of Gladys and Jamie Scott primarily on the humanitarian grounds that older sister Jamie needs a kidney transplant.

Back in 1994, a Mississippi jury convicted the Scott sisters for a Christmas Eve robbery the preceding year. The Scotts, according to police and prosecutors, had lured two men into an ambush where three teens robbed the victims of what records indicate was $11 in cash.

DADT: A Repeal of Convenience

By Jess Guh

Am I the only queer person in the country that is sad about the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell"? I know the long-delayed bill just signed into law has destroyed my plan to avoid any future military conscription.

Let me explain. Many of my male friends in college photodocumented their participation in pacifist activities. They explained that this was their insurance policy against any eventual military draft: solid proof to support a history of conscientious objection. As a queer person, I had another plan, though: If anyone tried to compel me to serve in the military, before anyone could even "ask," I planned to "tell" by yelling, "I'm gay, and not in the happy way!" loudly and repeatedly, until no branch of the military would want me. Just for extra measure I would threaten to convert any and all women that I ran across.

Serfing USA: Corporate America is Robbing American Workers

By Dave Lindorff

Along with the staggering theft in broad daylight of Americans’ assets that has occurred in the course of the ongoing financial crisis, as taxpayers funded multi-trillion bank bailouts and banks stole homes through foreclosures with the help of fraudulent paperwork, American companies have also been picking the pockets of workers more directly.

This second round of paycheck theft has come in the form of stolen productivity gains.

Holiday Thought: Santa was a Con, and Jesus Got the Death Penalty

By Jean Casella and James Ridgeway

As Christmas is celebrated in Incarceration Nation, it’s worth remembering certain things about the two figures who dominate this holiday.

As more than 3,000 American sit on death row, we revere the birth of a godly man who was arrested, “tried,” sentenced, and put to death by the state. The Passion is the story of an execution, and the Stations of the Cross trace the path of a Dead Man Walking.

Less well know is the fact that Saint Nicholas, the early Christian saint who inspired Santa Claus, was once a prisoner, like one in every 100 Americans today. Though he was beloved for his kindness and generosity, Nicholas acquired sainthood not only by giving alms, but in part by performing a miracle that more or less amounted to a prison break.

They're 'Slow Torturing' Bradley Manning Right Under Our Noses

By John Grant

On December 18, David House, an MIT researcher, visited Bradley Manning at the Quantico, Virginia, military prison where he is being held in solitary confinement. Other than Manning’s attorney, House is the rare person allowed to visit him.

House’s report is quite thorough in pointing out instances where the military authorities are lying -- or to use philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s formulation, “bullshitting” -- about how the 23-year-old Army intelligence worker is being treated.

Here’s some of psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Kaye’s comment on House’s report:

Tortured Logic: It's Clear Where the Secrecy-Obsessed Obama Administration is Headed in Its Pursuit of WikiLeaks

By Dave Lindorff

With word that Pvt. Bradley Manning, the soldier suspected of being the source of most of the WikiLeaks documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the State Department cables, has been held in intensive solitary confinement at the Marine Base brig in Quantico, VA for five months, under conditions that most of the world considers torture, it seems increasingly clear what the Obama administration's strategy is in going after WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

Assange's lawyers have said they have learned that the Obama Justice (sic) Department has impaneled a secret federal Grand Jury in Virginia to develop charges against Assange, most likely under the hoary and antiquated 1917 Espionage Act.

Tortured Logic: It's Clear Where the Secrecy-Obsessed Obama Administration is Headed in Its Pursuit of WikiLeaks

By Dave Lindorff

With word that Pvt. Bradley Manning, the soldier suspected of being the source of most of the WikiLeaks documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the State Department cables, has been held in intensive solitary confinement at the Marine Base brig in Quantico, VA for five months, under conditions that most of the world considers torture, it seems increasingly clear what the Obama administration's strategy is in going after WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

Assange's lawyers have said they have learned that the Obama Justice (sic) Department has impaneled a secret federal Grand Jury in Virginia to develop charges against Assange, most likely under the hoary and antiquated 1917 Espionage Act.

Taking a Moral Stand at the Obama White House

By John Grant

Washington--Defense Secretary Robert Gates may be the consummate insider bureaucrat and a nice man, but his calling our war in the Pashtun homeland “the meat in the sandwich” begins to get at the real problem of the Afghanistan/Pakistan War.

Besides being a preposterously flippant and insensitive metaphor presumably uttered for clueless middle American consumption, his sandwich image is as misleading as all the war-selling PR coming out of the Pentagon and the Obama White House.

Here’s how he described his sandwich: “The Pakistanis come in behind the insurgents from the Pakistani side and, coordinating with us and the Afghans, we’re on the other side.” Of course, he's referring to what is informally dubbed Pashtunistan, down the middle of which Sir Mortimer Durand drew the Afghanistan/Pakistan border in 1893 to divide and conquer the Pashtun people. The border is a Western illusion. And, of course, the Taliban are largely Pashtun.

Where Mayor Mike Can Push His Poll

By Charles M. Young

So I’m sitting there ready to chill after a long day at my desk when the phone rings. The young woman at the other end of the line wants to know if I am who her computer says I am. Yeah, that’s me, I say. And she starts asking my opinion of how everything is going in New York state, the governor, the legislature, the city council, various politicians, unions in general, unions in specific, public service unions in even more specificity, the city’s budget problems, and finally New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Black-Out in DC: Pay No Attention to Those Veterans Chained to the White House Fence

By Dave Lindorff

There was a black-out and a white-out Thursday and Friday as over a hundred US veterans opposed to US wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world, and their civilian supporters, chained and tied themselves to the White House fence during an early snowstorm to say enough is enough.

Washington Police arrested 135 of the protesters, in what is being called the largest mass detention in recent years. Among those arrested were Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst who used to provide the president’s daily briefings, Daniel Ellsberg, who released the government’s Pentagon Papers during the Nixon administration, and Chris Hedges, former war correspondent for the New York Times.

First in the hearts of his countrymen? Bringing George Washington's Philadelphia Slave History to Light

By Linn Washington

Philadelphia--When historians started digging into the facts about the first "White House," where President George Washington lived when Philadelphia was the nation's capital, they dredged up more than just mundane data. They also dredged up the seamy saga of the first president's slave legacy here in the "Cradle of Liberty," where the hero of America’s Revolution brought nine of his house slaves, only to see them embarrass him by trying desperately to escape from bondage.

At high noon on December 15, 2010, hundreds of people, including Philadelphia’s Mayor Michael Nutter and other dignitaries, brushed off bone-chilling cold to participate in a controversial yet truly historic event – the grand opening the first monument to slavery ever erected on federal property.

Letter from Denmark: Stop Fascism in the Making: Support Wikileaks!

By Ron Ridenour

Julian Assange, key initiator of Wikileaks, has been granted bail despite the British government’s appeal made in behalf of the Swedish government. A British district court judge had waited two days before approving bail in the amount of $ 316,000, on the condition that Assange wear an electronic tag, report to a police station daily, and comply with a 16-hour curfew allowing just eight hours of freedom from the “mansion arrest” in the house of a wealthy journalist/club owner.

At play here could well be documents Wikileaks released that show that US diplomats communicated with their State Department and White House bosses in Washington saying British troops in Afghanistan are not very good at the job. Brits are angry about this slur, especially given their long record of standing “shoulder to shoulder” with Bush’s in his terror wars.

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

By John Grant

It is the climactic scene. Dorothy and her friends stand before the great Wizard of Oz. Toto wanders off and yanks back a curtain to reveal a man busy manipulating levers. Whistles and smoke bombs go off, and the great Oz thunders: “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”
____________

The federal government, the military and the Library of Congress have all ordered those under their power not to look at the material published on the WikiLeaks website because it is illegal and looking would make them criminals. Meanwhile, Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, is still jailed in Britain because his condom allegedly "malfunctioned" while having sex in Sweden with a woman with shady connections to anti-Castro Cubans and US intelligence.

Something Rotten in Sweden:

By Dave Lindorff

With a grown daughter and a wife, far be it from me to minimize the issue of rape, but to borrow from the Bard, in the case of the “rape” case being alleged against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, currently being held in a British jail without bail pending an extradition request from Stockholm: “Something is rotten in Sweden.”

As I wrote earlier in this publication, the alleged sexual crimes that Assange is currently being sought for by a Swedish prosecutor are:

1. Allegedly failing to halt an act of consensual sexual intercourse when his sex partner and host, Anna Ardin, claims she somehow became aware that the condom he was using had “split” and,

America Criticized for Human Rights Abuses

By Linn Washington Jr.

Given the sensationalism in mainstream US news media coverage of alleged sexual impropriety charges filed against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Sweden, it’s no surprise that other significant news about America involving that Scandinavian nation is being left uncovered.

In early November, Sweden called on the US to end the death penalty and to improve conditions in maximum security prisons, as the United States went through its first-ever Universal Periodic Review by the United Nation’s Human Rights Council.

Sweden joined nearly two dozen countries in calling upon the US to end its pariah-like status as the only western industrialized nation to engage in executions. The US has over 3,200 people facing death sentences, a sharp rise from 1968, when America’s death row population numbered just 517, according to statistics compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center.

Support WikiLeaks, Defend Julian Assange

By Dave Lindorff

WikiLeaks is under concerted attack from the US government. Also under attack by the US government is the whole idea of freedom of thought and of information.

It is increasingly clear that the "rape" charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange are trumped-up affairs resulting from pressure by the US government and intelligence agencies on Swedish authorities. The main allegation of rape is being made by a Swedish woman, Anna Ardin, who admits she had consensual sex with Assange, but claims he failed to halt their love-making when a condom allegedly failed. Calling such a situation "rape"--if it even happened--makes a mockery of the term.

End the Bankers' $3.3-Trillion Free Ride: Bust 'Em Up and Take 'Em Down!

By Dave Lindorff

Let’s just assume for the sake of argument--though I believe the claim to have been completely bogus--that the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury and all of the Bush and Obama economic advisers and Congressional leaders in late 2008 and early 2009 genuinely feared that shutting down and breaking up the nation’s biggest banks would lead to financial and economic disaster because of the extent of the fiscal crisis caused by the implosion of subprime-linked structured products.

We now know, thanks to an amendment to the Dodd-Frank financial “reform” law introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), that the Fed made available a stunning $3.3 trillion in emergency lending, at extraordinarily low interest rates ranging as low as 0.5%.

Get Over It! WikiLeaks is Good for America

By John Grant

“The problem here is to define ... a form of life that would not depend on an unsustainable relation of domination over the rest of the world.” 
Jean Bricmont

We live in a time of incredible change, and to have any say at all in the direction that change will take requires a respect for reality. Right now, the United States is losing this battle as it tries mightily – and wastefully -- to sustain its post-WWII legacy as the world’s undisputed Top Dog.

The key to this disaster here in the US is a greater and greater restriction of information in conjunction with what can only be called a top down enforced blindness among the population.
If you think this is only the view of a disgruntled leftist, read Thomas Friedman’s latest column in The New York Times, where he imagines WikiLeaks revealing a gleeful cable from the Chinese ambassador in Washington to his bosses in Beijing:

Book Review: Whole Lotta Lies

By Charles M. Young

Howard Zinn, probably the most influential American historian ever, had an amazing sense of humor when he lectured or met people in person. He could make fun of himself and the audience in a way that exploded the guilt and ambivalence that so often paralyzes liberals, progressives, greens, socialists, anarchists, communists and everyone else on the more-or-less left. Only occasionally, however, did Zinn use his sense of humor in print. His masterpiece, A People’s History of the United States, had no humor at all, as he himself pointed out, because he didn’t find anything funny about the Trail of Tears and all the other ghastly episodes he wove into a narrative that convinced millions of citizens the United States was something less than what they had believed.

The Yahoos are in Charge: Taking It Out on the Kids...and the Grandkids

By Dave Lindorff

One of the major talking points issued by the Republican Party to its newly elected members of Congress is that they should always say in interviews that they are worried about the impact of government deficit spending on their grandchildren.

It sounds good: “I’m worried about what continued deficits will mean for our grandchildren.”

But it’s a lie.

If these Congress members were genuinely worried about their grandchildren--and ours--they’d be doing something about putting the brakes on climate change, and that is not anywhere on the Republican agenda. In fact, most Republicans claim they don’t even believe in climate change.

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