Death at LAX
Sunday, November 3, 2013 8:15:36 AM|
'On the very first day of November, a right winged anti-government man walked into the Los Angeles’ LAX Airport Terminal 3 with an assault rifle, shot up and killed a TSA agent and injured as many as five around 9:20 a.m. according to KPFK 90.7 F.M. Pacifica reporter. The shooter walked around with his rifle in his bag, asked people if they were TSA (Transportation Security Administration) agents.
NBC news stated that the shooter, Paul Anthony Ciancia of Los Angeles formerly from New Jersey, had a ‘new world order’ conspiracy theory tract.' Right Wing Madness
Yes, he was insane, and insane people might do almost anything. And since this one, like anyone, could easily buy an assault rifle with the blessing of the NRA and Congressional Republicans, 'anything' includes shooting and killing anyone he chooses.
But why would he choose to kill a TSA employee, one whose job it is to keep air travel safe for all who use it? As insane as he was, he was clear about who his target was.
Not only are the mentally unbalanced provided with easy access to deadly weapons, but with particular brands of insanity as well. Whether it is the cleverly spoken insanity of Alex Jones, Bill O'Reilly, Michelle Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, or some other, it will find a home in some deranged mind.
If one or many more die as a result, the clever weavers of irrationality can silently gloat, knowing they won't get the blame.
And the shills for the merchants of death, the NRA, will also avoid responsibility as they mumble inanities like, 'If only everyone had a gun...'
-cosmic rat November 3, 2013
Giving Peace a Chance Thursday, September 12, 2013 10:51:26 AM
The diplomatic breakthrough negotiated by the President of Russia may very well prevent the US attack on Syria that almost no one really wanted.
That, and the statement by Mr. Putin in the New York Times reminds us of an important fact in politics, both domestic and international: we need to stop thinking of leaders and of nations as good or evil, as always right or always wrong. In fact, history is full of examples of leaders being right on some issues and wrong on others.
Everyone should read Mr. Putin's statement below. It could just as well have been written by many sensible Americans, who are well aware of its truth.
A Plea for Caution From Russia
By VLADIMIR V. PUTIN
Published: September 11, 2013
MOSCOW — RECENT events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.
Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.
The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.
No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.
The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.
Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations. This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.
Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria? After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali. This threatens us all.
From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.
No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored.
It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”
But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.
No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect.
The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen nonproliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.
We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.
A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days. The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction. Judging by the statements of President Obama, the United States sees this as an alternative to military action.
I welcome the president’s interest in continuing the dialogue with Russia on Syria. We must work together to keep this hope alive, as we agreed to at the Group of 8 meeting in Lough Erne in Northern Ireland in June, and steer the discussion back toward negotiations.
If we can avoid force against Syria, this will improve the atmosphere in international affairs and strengthen mutual trust. It will be our shared success and open the door to cooperation on other critical issues.
My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.
Vladimir V. Putin, President of Russia.
No military action or threat should be made toward Syria. It should not be permitted by the American people, nor by Congress, nor by President Obama. Instead, Assad's compliance with an agreement to turn over all chemical weapons should be rewarded with a Treaty of Non Aggression, including no more US or European arms supplied to Syrian rebels.
-Cosmic Rat Sept. 12 2013
Stopping the Next One Sunday, September 8, 2013 5:50:13 PM
Ending a war that has already started is difficult. It usually takes months or years. The leaders who started it seldom are willing to admit they are wrong, even if they know it. It is too horrible a mistake to acknowledge. So, protests must be organized, voters educated and mobilized to replace the leaders with new ones who will correct the mistake. That takes time, and meanwhile deaths mount and destruction spreads.
The time to stop the next war is before it starts. The twisted thinking and the misinformation must be challenged and corrected before they can trigger the plunge into violence. There may still be time to stop a US attack on Syria if rational and knowledgeable voices can be heard.
Leaders in a democracy, before committing an act of war, have at least 3 obligations:  Listen to the people. Never assume that the people do not understand when given all the facts, nor that they have already decided by having chosen you as a leader. Respect their will on this issue right now.
 Act according to the law. Follow international law, which allows genuine self-defense and provides a means for consensus for actions needed to stop or punish wrongdoing. Legal non-defense action is difficult for a good reason. It can be vetoed by one nation, just as a jury conviction requires all members to agree. That is a needed protection, not an inconvenience to be resented or evaded. Following American Constitutional law, Congress must authorize the action. Acts of war SHOULD be hard to get approved.
 Consult independent experts. Those with interests in the outcome, and those who believe their job is to justify whatever they think you will decide, will be shouting advice already. Seek out those with the knowledge, but without a stake in the issue. Avoid those with visions of empire, those with prejudices, and those with a love for force.
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity are the kind of experts whose views are worth seeking out and listening to.
Obama’s trouble: 12 U.S. Intelligence Officials Tell him It Wasn’t Assad
MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: Is Syria a Trap?
We regret to inform you that some of our former co-workers are telling us, categorically, that contrary to the claims of your administration, the most reliable intelligence shows that Bashar al-Assad was NOT responsible for the chemical incident that killed and injured Syrian civilians on August 21, and that British intelligence officials also know this. In writing this brief report, we choose to assume that you have not been fully informed because your advisers decided to afford you the opportunity for what is commonly known as 'plausible denial.'
The memorandum goes on to provide detailed information and analysis that SHOULD be carefully studied before doing anything else.
--cosmic rat September 8, 2013 (1 comment)
Understanding Egypt Saturday, August 24, 2013 9:13:20 PM
We have heard a great deal about Egypt over the last couple of years. Suddenly, it seemed, the people rose up and demanded democracy, won a great victory by deposing the dictator and having elections held. The elections did not result in real democracy, so the people rose up again.
But to those of us outside Egypt, exactly why all this happened could easily remain a mystery. Democracy is a worthy ideal, but it is seldom an end in itself. It is a means to an end. People want to control their own government when the government they have is not serving their interests.
To understand Egypt, you need to know that it is the site one of the oldest, longest-lasting civilizations the world has ever known. Agricultural societies, cooperating and trading, lived there, evolving into two kingdoms, upper and lower Egypt, for nearly 2000 years before it was united under Narmer, the first Pharaoh, in 3100 BCE.
From then until 332 BCE, when it was conquered by Alexander, Egypt was THE civilization in the Mediterranean world. Its sophisticated culture, art, science, mathematics, architecture, along with its rich sustainable agricultural resources and a strategic geographic location, '...sitting at the point at which Africa meets the Middle East, across the Mediterranean from Europe.' enabled it to last nearly 3000 years.
Although it remained an important cultural and trade center, eventually further conquests, new religions, and plague led to turmoil and decline.
Andrew Gavin Marshall's series of four articles on Egypt explains how its history has led to the current situation.
Egypt Under Empire, Part 1: Working Class Resistance and European Imperial Ambitions
Every empire has at least tried to control Egypt. The British Empire was no exception, and it has had a profound effect on Egypt as it is today. A strong and independant nation needs to be more than an exporter of raw materials, no matter how plentiful they may be. It must have an industrial capability to at least process its own raw products.
Highly industrialized nations seeking to be dominant in the world economy do not want this to happen. They do not want competition, and will attempt to de-industrialize or keep undeveloped their potential rivals. Publicly they pretend to be helpful, sympathetic mentors to 'poor, undeveloped countries', yet conduct policies designed to keep them as they are, with exploitable resources and laborers.
In the early 1800's, Egypt began to industrialize under Mohammed Ali, who began ruling as a viceroy of the Ottoman empire, but but began a dynasty that lasted until 1952. It was quite successful. As Marshall describes, however, that success was subverted and reversed, primarily by the British.
By the 1870's the British, with the aid of European banks, had taken financial control in Egypt, and in 1882 conquered it militarily, controlling the country until the 1952 revolution.
1954: British forces start to evacuate Egypt.
1956: Nasser becomes president and nationalizes Suez Canal to raise funds for the High Dam.
October 1956: Britain, France and Israel launch the Tripartite invasion in retaliation over Nasser's Suez Canal nationalization.
June 6, 1967: Israel launches 6-Day war, seizing Sinai, West Bank, Gaza and Golan Heights.
September 1970: President Nasser dies, succeeded by Sadat.
October 6, 1973: Egypt and Syria launch a surprise attack against Israel.
June 1976: Formation of political party introduced.
March 1979: Camp David peace accord between Egypt and Israel.
October 6, 1981: Sadat assassinated.
October 1981: Mubarak elected president by a referendum.
1995: Mubarak escapes assassination by fundamentalists in Addis Ababa.
Egypt Under Empire, Part 2: The 'Threat' of Arab Nationalism
Nasser did not rule in a democratic fashion. In fact, he suppressed radical labor movements and anyone who threatened his control. Nevertheless, his policies were progressive and beneficial to the people and the country as a whole. Like Mohammed Ali a century before, he wanted to make Egypt a prosperous, independent industrialized nation, not one whose wealth was exploited and carted away by the imperial powers.
The imperial powers, Britian, France, and the US, wanted the opposite, a dependant, obedient source of raw materials.
Egypt Under Empire, Part 3: From Nasser to Mubarak | Andrew Gavin Marshall Egypt Under Empire, Part 4: Dancing Between Dictatorship and Democracy
The progress made under Nasser in economic improvement in the lives of the people was reversed by Sadat and Mubarek. Though a people may desire democracy at any time, it is when they have strong reasons to want to change their government that they NEED democracy.
Whenever you hear the word 'reform', you need to ask what the speaker means by it. We tend to think of reform as improvement, but in the terminology of political manipulation, it is not always so. To hear the word 'neoliberal' used with 'reform', is to hear an outrageous oxymoron, if you know that neoliberal has nothing to do with being liberal at all, that it is quite the opposite, but there are those who use such phrases with a straight face.
The US government has not spent money on such organizations as USAIDS and NED to advance the aspirations of the people, but to change foreign governments to be easier to manipulate; friendlier to capitalism, open to US corporations.
As mentioned, democracy is not an end, but a means to an end. This is true for the people: when a true, working democracy exists, it gives them the power to choose the government and the policies that will improve their economic well-being and protect their human rights.
It is also true when the US and other imperial powers attempt to export the kind of democracy that will serve their interests. Those interests have nothing to do with the well-being of the people. The appearance of democracy may only give the people the illusion that they control their government when it is actually large financial entities that determine its policies.
'In terms of providing assistance to 'governmental institutions,' Thomas Carothers noted the U.S. democracy aid 'seeks to help build democracy from the top down,' as opposed to allowing for democracy to generate from the bottom up (aka: genuine democracy).'
Walter Lippmann said that modern democracies required the 'manufacture of consent' of the public by the powerful, because 'the public must be put in its place... so that each of us [elites] may live free of the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd.' Manufacturing the consent of the public to the social order - and its prevailing power structures and hierarchies - would allow for 'the least possible interference from ignorant and meddlesome outsiders.' A system in which the public's consent was manufactured, noted Lippmann, 'would provide the modern state with a foundation upon which a new stability might be realized.'
Consider how closely this cynical-sounding view of modern democracy describes our own system, as well as the kind of 'reform' it tries to impose on others.
An Arab public opinion poll conducted by the University of Maryland and Zogby International, published in 2010 asked what were the two factors most important in America's foreign policy in the region:
'promoting democracy' 5%
'spreading human rights' 6%
'protecting Israel' 49%
'controlling oil' 45%
'weakening the Muslim world' 33%
'preserving regional and global dominance' 33%
Iran has a right to its nuclear program:
if it is peaceful 92%
even if seeking nuclear weapons 70%
if Iran acquired nuclear weapons, things would be:
'more positive' for the region 57%
'more negative.' 21%
which two countries pose the largest threat to the region:
Clearly, official US policy fears real democracy in the area in which people not only know the truth but can elect a government that agrees.
The people of Egypt, though they may have little experience with democratic government, seem to be well aware of the difference between real and illusionary democracy, and knew they needed to start over again, as chaotic as that has been. Though the military was useful in the process, it is likely to be an impediment if it resists formation of a government with civilian control of the military, and tries to preserve its current degree of power.
The US neither can nor should do much to affect Egyptians' building their new government, but by phasing out aid to its military, may help reduce its power to get in the way. In general, no nation's army should be funded by outside interests. It is up to the people to determine their own military's funding and equipment.
--Cosmicrat August 24, 2013 (1 comment)
-----------------====================== ==================================== INTERVENING IN SYRIA WOULD BE INSANE Friday, June 14, 2013 2:21:38 PM
Have we learned no lessons from Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq? Have we forgotten that it was the Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda, most of them from Saudi Arabia, that did 9/11? Do we really want them winning in Syria?
Hagel, Israeli DM Talks to Focus on Attacking Syria
After repeated Israeli attacks, Ya’alon is expected to emphasize a recent assessment by Israeli Air Force Chief Amir Eshel, who declared that Israeli is within '10 minutes' of a full-scale war with Syria.
US should stay out of Syria, American expert warns
'Now you have jihadi fighters on the one hand and Hezbollah on the other, and it really doesn’t look like there’s much to choose between,' Walzer said. 'It’s almost impossible to describe a desirable outcome in this civil war, and if you don’t have a desirable outcome — you can’t intervene.'
United Nations officials issued a statement today saying that at least 93,000 people had been killed through the end of April (2013) in the ongoing Syrian Civil War, and that the number was almost certainly over 100,000 by now.
Considering this, the alleged 150 killed by a chemical weapon are supposed to be a 'red line'? Are they nuts? Never mind that the chemicals were probably used by the rebels, who have actually been caught with canisters of the stuff.
Most Americans are against involvement, and we need to get loud about it.
--cosmicrat June 14 2013
Haiti’s Tragic History Wednesday, May 1, 2013 5:26:52 AM
In a New York Times book review of 'Haiti- The Aftershocks of History' by Laurent Dubois, Adam Hochchild wrote:
'Part of this book does feel chillingly up to date, however: its account of the United States Marine occupation of Haiti for some two decades starting in 1915. The occupation was accompanied by high-flown declarations of benevolence, but the real motive was to solidify American control of the economy and to replace a constitution that prevented foreigners from owning land. The Marines’ near-total ignorance of local languages and culture sounds all too much like more recent expeditions.
American officials declared, accurately enough, that the Haitian government was in bad shape and needed reform. But as the troops on the ground discovered, like their counterparts in Iraq and Afghanistan, no one likes to be reformed at the point of a foreigner’s gun.
'We were not welcome,' wrote one private Dubois quotes. 'We could feel it as distinctly as we could smell the rot along the gutters.' The Americans soon found themselves fighting off waves of rebellion against their rule. United States troops burned entire villages accused of sheltering insurgents and ruthlessly executed captured rebels or — does this sound familiar? — men who might have been rebels; often there was no way to distinguish them from local farmers.
When they finally pulled out, the Marines did leave some roads, clinics and schools behind them. But the occupation’s death toll, humiliation and theft of resources, Dubois makes clear, loom far larger in Haitian memory.'
That 20 years of occupation, as unforgivable as it was, was hardly the worst, or the last instance of foreign oppression, done either by, or with the tacit permission of this freedom-loving nation known as the USA.
'In an effort to limit German influence, in 1910–11, the US State Department backed a consortium of American investors, assembled by the National City Bank of New York, in acquiring control of the Banque Nationale d'Haïti, the nation's only commercial bank and the government treasury.'
In 1915, a revolt against President Sam immediately after he executed 167 political prisoners, was considered anti-American and a threat to US banking and corporate interests. President Woodrow Wilson sent in the Marines who invaded and occupied the country. Part of the plan was to replace Haiti's Constitution, which prohibited foreign ownership of land. Complete control was taken, and 40% of Haiti's income went to repay debts to the US and French.
It was partly his experiences in Haiti that led General Smedley Butler to conclude and to publically state that War Is A Racket
For more of General Butler's wisdom, read this Everyone, especially every American, should read what he has to say. He speaks the unvarnished truth, plainly and eloquently. What he said and wrote in 1935 is equally true today.
History of US Military, CIA Involvement in Haiti
This page contains a lot of raw data about CIA involvement in Haiti. It also shows that US Foreign policy is not always a unified activity, to put it mildly.
Haiti Action Net: -Many articles on issues in Haiti.
This video documents another kind of aggression: economic. Under the guise of 'helping', USAID has effectively destroyed Haiti's rice agriculture and made it dependent on US-produced rice.
Haiti's history from the beginning has worked against the establishment of peace, democracy, and self-sufficiency there. Freedom from slavery was won only with long and severe violent warfare and huge death tolls, and even then the people were not let alone by the world powers. The US, which should have been their ally and protector, rejected and ignored them because we were still a nation of slaveholders. We did not even recognize Haiti until Abraham Lincoln finally did.
History of Haiti From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
There have been numerous revolutions, coups, and turbulent political upheavals in Haiti. Even without constant outside interference, the internal disunity may have been a problem, but the nation has seldom had the opportunity to work that out for itself.
Even those with the best of intentions to 'fix' Haiti often end up helping to enable the controllers and exploiters. It is not easy being a small island nation in the shadow of a giant world power filled with greedy corporations.
In the end, the best way to help Haiti is to fix our own country.
-cosmicrat May 1, 2013
The Sedona Forum Thursday, April 25, 2013 4:22:21 AM
They're having a party in Sedona. Sound like fun? Before you decide, take a look at the list of people attending. Senator John McCain is running the show.
'The theme for this year's Forum, held April 26-28 at the Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona, is, 'How Can We Promote Freedom and Democracy Effectively?'
In other words, the sort of freedom and democracy that is tolerant of US corporations exploiting the resources and people of the countries in question. The kind of democracy-promoting McCain has in mind is hinted at by the list of featured guests.
Jeff Immelt, GE Chairman/CEO and McCain Institute Board Member
Bill Simon, Walmart U.S. President and CEO
Peter MacKay Canadian Defense Minister (More interesting than MacKay himself is his wife, Iranian refugee, model, singer/songwriter and human rights activist Nazanin Afshin-Jam
Mahmoud Jibril, former Libyan Prime Minister
'From 2007 to early 2011, he loyally served in the Gaddafi regime as head of the National Planning Council of Libya and of the National Economic Development Board of Libya (NEDB). While there, he was a protégé and close friend of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and promoted privatization and liberalization policies... As of July 2012, Jibril is the head of one of the largest political parties in Libya, National Forces Alliance.'
Gjorge Ivanov, Macedonian President
Ivanov has been politically active since the Yugoslav era, when he pushed for political pluralism and a market economy.
Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgian President
'Relations...are good, but are complicated by Saakashvili's 'volatile' behaviour. Former and current U.S. officials characterize the Georgian president as 'difficult to manage'. They criticize his 'risky moves', that have often 'caught the U.S. unprepared' while leaving it 'exposed diplomatically' 'Seeking U.S. support, Saakashvili went outside the United States Department of State and established contacts with Sen. John McCain and forces seeking NATO expansion.' 'In 2009, 2011 and 2012 protests against Saakashvili spread across Georgia.'
Saakashvili was responsible for the 2008 South Ossetia war. McCain, then running for President, instead blamed Russia, and spoke for involving NATO in defending Georgia.
Saakashvili visits US
Mikhail Kasyanov, former Russian Prime Minister
'Prime Minister of Russia from May 2000 to February 2004 and Minister of Finance in 1999-2000. Currently...a co-chair of RPR-PARNAS, the leader of People's Democratic Union and an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin...
Allegations (judged 'credible' by a US Congressional study) that Kasyanov took a 2% commission in exchange for ignoring bribes and illegal business ventures while at at the Ministry of Finance (1993 thru 1999) earned him the title 'Misha 2 percent' in the Russian media.
Andrei Sannikov, former Belarus Presidential candidate
Dikembe Mutombo, former NBA star and humanitarian
Dikembe Mutombo sues flight attendant.
Retired General Jack Keane
Keane retired from military service in 2003. He is also a national security analyst for Fox News. He has served an advisory role in the management of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, as a member of the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee.
Michael M. Crow, Arizona State University President
'The president of Arizona State University explains why Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s emphasis on practical education is short-sighted.'
Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
Kelly Ayotte's Approval Rating Plunges After Vote Against Gun Background Checks
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Retired Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Retired Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT)
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Andrei Sannikov, Dikembe Mutombo, and Nazanin Afshin-Jam may well be serious and credible advocates for freedom and human rights, and true idealists. I suspect they are there to be used by a different agenda, however.
I hope they and others can see through the rhetoric that speaks of freedom but means the freedom of the wealthy to cheat the people out of resources, use their labor at low wages, and leave them impoverished and dependent on the American Empire.
There are millions of people who lack real freedom, and millions more lacking in economic justice. They deserve to get it, but they should beware of 'help' by the exploiters.
And we Americans need to understand what is done in our name. We wonder how anyone could hate us: we're such nice people, after all. Our corporations, aided and protected by our government, are not at all nice outside our borders. History shows that, and it also shows us there are consequences.
--cosmicrat April 25, 2013 (1 comment)
American Slavery: Beginnings and Effects Sunday, April 7, 2013 3:39:51 AM
I originally wrote this on Shmoozezone.com, and it raised considerable interest there. I have added some text and links in this post.
We all know something of the nature of slavery, mostly in the southern US, how it was finally ended, and how its existence still harms our society almost 150 years later. But what idiot thought it would be a good idea to start it in the first place?
In 1526, Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon led a new expedition of 2 ships and 600 colonists and founded San Miguel de Guandape (near Jamestown) The colony was the first to use negro slaves in what would become the United States. Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon died 18 October, 1526 of a fever. The colony failed.
We don't think of Europe before the discovery of the New World as being a slave-holding culture, but it was not devoid of it.
'In the early Middle Ages the Church condoned slavery – opposing it only when Christians were enslaved by ‘infidels’. Vikings raided Britain from 800 AD and sold their captives to markets in Istanbul and Islamic Spain. Religion was no barrier to the slave trade – Christians, Muslims and Jews all partook. In the 16th century Pope Paul III tried to stem Protestantism by threatening those who left the Catholic Church with enslavement.' A Brief History Of Slavery
Portugal and Spain enslaved the natives they encountered in their colonies, but found they did not survive well under forced labor. They began importing Africans as slaves; 900,000 had landed by 1600.
'After 1619, when a Dutch ship brought 20 Africans ashore at the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia, slavery spread throughout the American colonies.'
As the British began to participate in the slave trade, Queen Elizabeth I voiced moral objections at first. Then, she became aware of the immense profits to be made, and pretended to believe the excuse that enslavement would serve to Christianize the Africans, so it was actually a 'blessing'.
'it is said that Queen Elizabeth's scruples were so far removed that she shared in the profits of the traffic carried on by Englishmen. The Stuart kings of England chartered companies for the trade; and Charles II. and his brother James were members of one of them. After the revolution of 1688 the trade was thrown open, and in 1713 an English company obtained the privilege of supplying the Spanish colonies in America, South and Central, for thirty years, stipulating to deliver 144,000 negro slaves within that period. One quarter of the stock of the company was taken by King Philip V. of Spain, and Queen Anne of England reserved for herself the other quarter. So the two monarchs became great slave-dealers.'
In 1662 the Virginia Assembly passed a law that children should be held, bond or free, ' according to the condition of the mother.' This contradicted English law that had applied to serfs, that it was according to that of the father, and meant that children of black mothers impregnated by white men were still slaves.
Laws were also passed that Christianization did not bring freedom, and that killing a slave was 'extreme correction', not murder.
In 1682 a law was added that runaway slaves could be killed if they refused to return. They were denied any kind of weapon, and from defending themselves in any way if attacked by a white person. 'All servants, whether negroes, Moors, mulattoes, or Indians, brought into the colony by sea or land, whether converted to Christianity or not, provided they were not of Christian parentage or country' were defined as slaves.
In 1663 , Maryland passed a law that 'all negroes and other slaves' in the colony, then or in the future, would be slaves for life, and so would their children. Also, if a white woman married a black slave, she must serve the slave's master as long as her husband lived, and her children would also be slaves for life.
In 1681, because some slaveowners were using that law to bind female servants to them, and to breed mixed-race slaves, a new law made those servants and their children immediately free, and fined the owner 10,000 pounds of tobacco
So, slavery was not only becoming a central part of the economy, but being firmly established in law as well, and harsh, cruel law at that. Then, as now, greed trumped morality and humanitarian principles.
Georgia resisted legalizing slavery until 1749, but gave in under pressure to compete economically with the other colonies.
Southern American society had evolved into dependence on human bondage. Success came not from hard work but from owning land and slaves to do the work. Increasingly, over the decades, the desire for wealth and power, and the fear of losing it, destroyed the character of Southern plantation owners, their families, and those who profited by them. It was not just the financial greed, but their sense of racial and social superiority. It was an acquired cultural trait that, even after defeat, clung to them for generations afterward, and is not entirely erased to this day.
History of Slavery
The Northern colonies were by no means innocent of slavery. 'The North failed to develop large-scale agrarian slavery, such as later arose in the Deep South, but that had little to do with morality and much to do with climate and economy.'
Slaves in the North
Naturally, a number of slaves escaped from time to time, and some of them managed to avoid recapture by banding together in remote areas. Colonial militias were formed to hunt down fugitive slaves and sometimes to deal with these outlaw slave groups.
Runaway Slave Communities
It was these militias and their importance to maintaining control of slaves that caused the Southern states to insist on the Second Amendment, and the way it was worded, to be included in the Bill of Rights in order to ratify the Constitution.
They had already negotiated in the Constitution itself the concept of counting slaves as 3/5 of a person for representation.
Greed, of course, is nothing new, but it is fascinating to see how the desire for wealth overcame all morals and principles 500 years ago, from the slave-shippers, the kings and queens of Europe, and the exploiters of slave labor, and the way it changed the course of history and the nature of our nation.
The case of Anthony Johnson.
That is a fascinating story. One can only wonder why Johnson had no empathy for the man he wanted to enslave for life, and how the court decided in his favor, when slavery was not legalized until 6 years later. Also in the story is the fact that when Johnson died, his land was seized because 'as a black man, Anthony Johnson was not a citizen of the colony.'
The first official slave in Virginia
One of the links from that article was a piece called 'The Illegal Beginning of American Negro Slavery' that goes into greater detail how laws were evaded, then bent, broken, and changed completely to allow the unrestricted pursuit of profit, regardless of human cost.
We could think, 'Well, that's all in the past-- we're better now', but when we think past the specific details to the general principles, we can see that the worst are as greedy and ruthless as ever.
Slavery does indeed still exist, and probably always has, hidden or disguised as something else, allowed by corruption or by the loopholes in prison systems, in the US or elsewhere. Those who will pay barely enough for labor will pay nothing at all when they can.
But I suspect that a society that condemns this when enough of a spotlight illuminates it is far different than one which came to embrace it openly, which ruthlessly legalized it, hunted down escapees like stray animals, and built both an economy and a social self-image based on what they thought was racial superiority.
The symbol of social status, in addition to land, was the ownership of slaves. The inherent paternalism in that society also affected the status of women within it.
A people immersed in the master-slave relationship for over 200 years, an institution it took a war to end, who followed it with 100 years of enforced segregation and deprivation of human rights, would be extremely lucky to have reformed entirely in the past 50. That is not to say they can't, but they need to work hard at it, and the rest of us need to help.
--cosmicrat April 6 2013
My Congressman Responds On Climate Change Wednesday, March 27, 2013 4:10:16 AM
Recently I emailed my Congressman, Ed Pastor of Arizona. Though my state is a wasteland of Senators, with John McCain and the newly elected Flake, Representative Pastor has proved on several issues to be an intelligent progressive, so I am pleased to share his response to me on the subject of climate change.
'Thank you for expressing your concerns regarding the harmful impacts of climate change on wildlife. I appreciate hearing from you on this issue.
As you know, overwhelming scientific evidence confirms that climate change is happening, human activities are a significant contributor, and the environmental degradation resulting from this poses unacceptable risks to the health, safety, and welfare of all people and wildlife. During my time in Congress, I have consistently supported efforts to promulgate reasonable, forward-looking legislation to comprehensively address this serious issue, and, as a Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water, I am working on a daily basis to fund efforts for the discovery and development of alternative fuel sources which will help in eliminating the emission of greenhouse gases.
It is my firm belief that we can reduce energy consumption, increase energy efficiency, develop renewable energy sources to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and help our nation prevent and mitigate climate change's impacts. Be assured I will continue to support efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and invest in important wildlife conservation programs so that we may continue to effectively carry out our environmental stewardship responsibilities under such landmark laws as the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act.
It was good to hear from you on this matter. Sincerely,
Ed Pastor Member of Congress'
Despite the often embarrassing infection of extreme Republicans that afflicts Arizona, there are a few good politicians here, as well as some good citizens.
--cosmicrat March 27, 2013 (18 comments) THE DEBT CRISIS LIE Friday, March 1, 2013 2:21:29 AM
Whenever you hear that there is a deficit or debt 'crisis', someone is lying to you, or repeating a lie.
Yes, we have a national debt, as we have had for almost our entire history. Right now it's a little on the high side; we can and will reduce it in the long term without doing anything drastic. It is not a serious problem, and certainly not even close to a crisis.
The articles I have referred to below explain who is manufacturing the lies, what their motives are, and why we should not buy into the constant propaganda we hear about it.
Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson is scheming to 'Fix the Debt,' but if he wins, we lose.
Peter G. Peterson has long used his wealth to underwrite numerous organizations and PR campaigns to generate public support for slashing Social Security and Medicare...
Understanding the Phony Debt Crisis: Inter-generational Myths and Economic Realities
'...three well-documented economic realities contribute to the current deficit, providing the opportunity for a phony 'debt crisis.' First, long-term stagnant incomes for the vast majority of the population have decreased their contribution to federal income. Second, lowered and evaded taxes on the (increasingly) wealthy and corporations have decreased tax progressivity and halved the corporate contribution to federal income. Finally, the recession resulting from the housing bubble delivered an acute blow to both GDP growth and tax collection at all levels.'
Get ready for the phony debt fight Both candidates agree: The national debt is the most urgent challenge facing the nation. But it's not -- at all.
'This latest gambit has the interesting twist that it involves 80 CEOs of major companies who are lending their time and good names to the effort to put in place a large-scale deficit reduction package. The plotline is that the 80 CEOs who are demanding that Congress act on the debt are supposed to be acting out of civic commitment. We are supposed to be impressed that these busy and important people are taking their time to focus on the country’s financial situation. They hope this will convince us that the debt is really an important problem.'
It’s Not Raining, We’re Getting Peed On: The Scam Of The Deficit Crisis
'We’re being scammed and robbed—again. We’re being frightened, bullied and brainwashed into thinking that our entire future is at stake because of the 'government’s deficit crisis' and the 'government’s debt crisis'. We are all being told: America, it’s time to tighten the belt. It isn’t true. There is no crisis. It’s manufactured.' PDF download.
Since the Bush tax cuts, receipts from the federal income tax on individuals dropped from 10.2 percent of GDP to 6.2 percent of GDP. Military and homeland security spending since September 11, 2001, rose from 3.0 percent of GDP that year to 4.8 percent. Our income taxes barely pay for the military and security. Revenues are down, and taxes are lower than they have been in decades, yet we constantly hear Republicans shouting refusal to raise them.
Bernanke: Sequester could lead to 'less deficit reduction'
by Bill McBride on 2/27/2013 11:46:00 AM 'At this point the biggest downside risk to the US economy is from cutting the deficit too quickly. The deficit is already declining and will continue to decline for the next few years. Additional short term deficit reduction will probably be counter productive (the focus should be on long term deficit reduction, especially health care costs). The 'sequester' is bad policy - but it will probably happen anyway. Dumb.'
The anti-government, debt-panic rhetoric has nothing to do with the economic security of ordinary citizens. Cutting budgets, especially domestic spending, will only keep unemployment high and hurt economic growth and recovery. The corporate friends of Peterson don't care about that. In fact, high unemployment keeps wages from rising, adding to their profits.
As you may have noticed, the stock market and corporate profits are up. The slow economy that hurts workers and increases poverty doesn't bother the big companies. They are no longer so dependent on consumer spending by a large and prosperous middle class, as they once were. If they keep us hungry, we have to buy the cheap products made by low-wage workers in developing countries. If they kill off our unions we have no power to bargain for fair pay.
This may look like just an American problem. Corporations and big banks have more power here than they do in Europe and other prosperous nations. But the rest of the world should beware of the multinationals. Their wealth and power can corrupt your democracies too. If they can beat the American people into economic submission, is anyone safe?
--cosmicrat March 1 2013
The Advantage of Not Owning Stuff Sunday, February 10, 2013 8:14:22 PM
The circular economy: from consumer to user
First, watch the video. It isn't very long, and it is a lot more interesting than you might think.
It contains a simple, not exactly new concept, but one that could transform the global economy into a model of efficiency and sustainability. The system we have now is neither of those.
Nearly everything made and sold is built to fail or become obsolete, lasting only so long as is necessary to avoid complete consumer rebellion. The system is to sell the same thing over and over to the same people. It is less and less common for even expensive items to have user-replacable parts than can be bought separately, and even when they do it often takes a professional with special tools to do it.
So, the broken and replaced items end up in my back yard or city landfills, and the chances that the variety of materials they contain will be recycled are very low.
Contrast that with the telephone during the era when it was supplied, not sold, by the telephone company as part of the service. It was a solid, almost indestructible device. If a part failed, usually only after years of use, a serviceman would come out and replace it.
When it is in the interest of the maker for a product to be durable and dependable, to be easy to repair or upgrade, that is how it is built. That is not only better for the user, it means that most of the product only needs to be made once and transported once for each user, conserving both materials and the energy used to manufacture and deliver the item.
But what about the economy itself, built around planned failure and obsolesence, that employs workers to continually make replacements? Does its 'growth' depend on the growing waste, not on a growing number of users becoming able to afford to buy?
The difference in motivation matters. Companies can sell the same product repeatedly to the same population sector, perhaps expanding into lower income groups with cheaper, lower quality versions, produced with labor paid as little as possible, often outsourced.
Alternatively, in the circular system, with a high quality product provided as a service, increasing their market would mean expanding the number of people who can afford to become users. Better wage rates and lower unemployment would become more directly advantageous to corporations. They would be less motivated to bust unions, pay low wages, and outsource overseas. Perhaps the profit-driven ideology would shift a bit, more in line with the needs of the majority of the people.
The question 'What happens when everyone has one?' is much easier to deal with when the product is part of a service. If no one needs one, why make it? Improvements and upgrades can be provided via replaceable modules in most cases.
And no one is better equipped to recycle or reuse a device than the company that made it.
This may not be the total answer for a better and more equitable global economy, but it may be an important part of it. It deserves serious consideration.
--cosmicrat Feb. 10, 2013
Trayvon Martin never got to vote Wednesday, February 6, 2013 2:49:31 AM Trayvon Martin would have, and should have, turned 18 today.
Except for the poor judgment of a would-be neighborhood vigilante and an idiotic law, Trayvon might have had a chance to become an adult. He almost made it.
His killer almost went free without even a trial-- the trial that is now being held, thanks to nationwide attention to the case by a public outraged at the lapse of justice. The trial almost didn't happen because of a law passed in the state of Florida that entitles those carrying firearms to 'stand their ground' in a potentially violent confrontation, rather than the infinitely wiser course of withdrawing from the scene, avoiding the conflict.
Without such a law, justifiable self-defense in a public place requires that one attempted to take that wiser action, refraining from exacerbating the situation. The law in most places reflects common sense.
Generally in one's own home or vehicle, there is no obligation to retreat. The difference in that accepted standard and the law in Florida and several other states is removal of the obligation to retreat anywhere. Unsurprisingly, the NRA has lobbied for 'stand your ground', promoting it for the presumed benefit of the 'good guy with a gun' that we have heard much too much of recently.
Stand Your Ground' Linked To Increase In Homicides
What happens when two 'good guys' lose their tempers and fight? What happens when one perceives a threat that does not really exist? What might otherwise have been a fist fight, or even just a shouting match, can end in one or more deaths.
The whole concept of good guys standing their ground is an NRA fantasy built on fictional stories of the old frontier West. In movie 'westerns', the 'good guy' almost always drew faster, shot straighter, and killed the 'bad guy', and the difference was always clear by the color of their hats. The real frontier was no paradise, but it wasn't nearly as lawless and violent as fiction portrays it.
Then, as now, violence was not likely to be prevented or stopped by gun-toting cowboys or townspeople. To keep a town peaceful, the sheriff often wisely required checking guns into his office when inside the city limits. Then, as now, the 'bad guys' wouldn't challenge you to a duel. They'd use the advantage of surprise.
The following 16 states have specifically enacted 'stand your ground' laws:
Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia,
Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi,
Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma,
Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah.
stand your ground
We know that our lax regulations on gun sales, ownership, and use need strengthening and tightening. We know that no civilian needs military firearms, that no evasion of background checks should be allowed, that we need to know whether buyers and owners of any guns are both sane and responsible citizens, that guns should be safely secured from theft or unauthorized use, and that all regulations be strictly enforced.
We know this because our statistics on gun homicides and accidental deaths and injury overwhelmingly and loudly tell us. It is not just the shocking and tragic mass killings. Most of the 11,000 plus gun homicides are committed one at a time. Trayvon Martin's life was ended by a man who thought himself to be a good guy.
We also know that the wild-west fantasy ideals promoted by the NRA have made the USA much more deadly violent than any civilized nation should be. We know they have sold Americans many times as many guns than we need. Their answer to gun violence: buy more guns. Don't like the government? Buy more guns. Afraid the government will take your guns? Buy more guns. And when more guns bring more gun violence? Same answer.
Not only do we need to control the guns, we need to change the attitudes. Call it the gun culture, or the gun fantasy love affair, or the illusion that gun-owning, not the right to vote, keeps our country free and democratic, obsessions like these, in addition to too many guns in too many hands, lead to more people being shot and killed in our cities and towns than are killed in foreign wars.
We don't need laws that encourage us to kill one another more easily because we think we're the 'good guys'. Those 16 states should repeal those stand-your-ground laws. And we need to stop being partisan on this issue. Sure, maybe Trayvon Martin would have become a Democrat, but what about the children at Sandy Hook? We'll never know.
-cosmicrat February 6, 2013
EXECUTIVE ORDERS Thursday, January 17, 2013 3:41:29 AM
Executive orders are not laws. There seem to be some who deliberately confuse the two, and perhaps some who are too ignorant to know the difference. That would not be of as much concern, but some of these people have been elected to public office, and/or have the ability to be widely heard.
The are the executive orders issued by President Obama today: http://m.ibtimes.co.uk/barack-obama-23-executive-order-measures-full-424832.html
Any intelligent reading of them will reveal that they are only improved procedures for gathering relevant information and for enforcing existing laws in an effort to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people who should not have them.
Far more than that needs to be done. Laws must be passed. Why weapons manufacturers, their lobbyists, and the ignorant people they propagandize and the legislators they buy would be allowed to even slow this process down, let alone stand in the way, makes no sense.
-cosmicrat January 17, 2013 (6 comments)
The Art of History Thursday, January 3, 2013 3:36:20 AM
As a history major at UCLA, I was required to take a course called The Science of History. The general idea was to encourage students and teachers of history to seek the truth about the past, applying, as much as possible, scientific principles in separating fact from speculation. It was good advice, of course. But in the final exam was an essay question in which we were asked to explain why history is a science.
My response was to say that history is primarily an art, that, yes, we can and should adopt science's dedication to uncovering the facts, but that the process of finding, evaluating, and telling the resulting story is, and always has been, an art. My degree, after all, is a B.A., not a B.S. in history.
History, done right, is not the art of fiction, nor of selectively assembling facts, but of telling the whole truth of the past. Such history can be hard to find. In most places you will not find it in the first twelve years of public school, regardless of what country you live in.
When Japan was defeated in World War II, its leaders agreed to repudiate aggression. That policy is written into its Constitution- a vow to never again use violence against other nations. One might think that to ensure future adherence to that principle, its schools would teach emphatically the wrongs done by the Imperial Japanese forces during the war. That has not been the case.
In fact, there have been such blatant attempts to whitewash Japanese war crimes that it has come to the critical attention of Koreans and Chinese, among others, whose countrymen were among the worst victims.
Nationally and regionally biased history is taught here in the USA as well. Propaganda in a democracy is usually more subtle than in countries with authoritarian governments, but it is just as pervasive and often more effective. While we are free to research and find the truth left out of our school textbooks, many don't, especially during their formative, impressionable years.
This article by Michael Romanowski examines some issues in American textbooks.
The accuracy of the facts included is only part of the value of a book or a lecture. Important facts can be omitted, and the interpretation of the importance of movements and events can convey a biased view, and affect attitudes on current issues. Take organized labor for example.
Few nations are likely to teach an unbiased account of their own wars. Attempts are made to justify as defensive or somehow necessary, and to convey the impression that they were fought honorably, with only the essential degree of violence, cruelty, and destruction. Wars, invasions, and other military or covert actions that do not fit that narrative are glossed over or left out of the story entirely.
It has been said that the value of knowing history is to avoid repeating past mistakes. If we are taught only a sanitized version that omits our worst mistakes or implies that only other countries have made them, that value has been nearly eliminated. The information exists, though, and each of us can be lifelong students, and we can be teachers of others.
-cosmicrat Jan 3, 2012
Not So Deep In The Heart of Taxes Sunday, December 30, 2012 11:17:58 PM
One of Romney's worst moments was when he accused Obama supporters of wanting something for nothing. Not only did he manage to insult large numbers of working, retired, and military people by ignorantly misinterpreting a statistic, but he was so wrong that he had it exactly backwards. The something-for-nothing people were his voting constituents. That is exactly what Republicans have been selling since Reagan. They constantly harp on cutting taxes. It always appeals to taxpayers of any income who don't know or don't think about the effect on the other end. They mindlessly accept the lies about cutting spending to balance the lower revenue. Reducing spending sounds fine in the abstract until it comes to sifting through the specifics.
People think about eliminating waste, which is always a good idea, but it doesn't amount to a big part of a budget. Most of that budget is there for a reason. When you propose cutting things people need, you alienate voters, and those who stand up for them will oppose you. Try to reduce the military budget and you have the hawks against you.
So what you end up with is a deficit bigger than planned, and after a few of those, you have a new issue to campaign on, but you don't want to admit that you and your party were wrong in cutting taxes too much, and you already tried cutting spending.
Republicans claim to be business-minded, but they don't approach government that way. Businesses like to offer lower prices to increase sales, but first they find out if costs can be reduced. They may increase efficiency, use cheaper materials, or find a way to pay workers less. Business may often be ruthless and immoral, but they're not stupid enough to promise lower prices they can't afford to deliver.
To make matters even worse, low taxes have become not just the campaign scam they've always been-- now it's part of an ideology. The aim is not just to appeal to voters, but to force budget cuts to the point where government cannot afford to protect its citizens from its corporations. It is no surprise that the pro-corporate Republicans pursue that purpose, along with anti-labor union laws, and any other policy designed to give big business free rein.
Enthusiasm for budget cutting does not extend to the defense portion. Military power is the corporate tool that enables and protects global expansion. It always has been, just as it was in the British Empire. In addition, weapons and other military equipment are a lucrative market.
Tax reduction is a political product for which there is no need in a normal economy. As a temporary stimulus in times of economic recession, it is only useful in the lower income range, where the savings will likely be spent.
Our taxation is not only lower than it has been in recent hisory, but is lower than that in almost all developed nations.
Revenue and spending stayed close until Reagan's unnecessary tax cut, which he partly corrected by a subsequent increase. After Clinton balanced the budget, Bush, by excessively cutting taxes and hugely increasing spending with two long wars, created an absurdly wide gap.
The growing income gap since Reagan: Part of this results from tax reduction, which radically narrowed the range of progressive taxation. Most of it comes from the war on labor unions, also started by Reagan. Keep in mind that collective bargaining helps not only union workers, but non-union as well. All wages and benefits tend to rise as businesses compete for workers.
Other causes include increased outsourcing of manufacturing, aided by policies that allow and encourage it.
Though it would be best to keep middle and lower income taxes from increasing until economic recovery is more certain, we need to increase them all in the near future. Failure to keep revenue in the same range as the cost of government is irresponsible. Ending the Afghan occupation will reduce much expense, but costs of caring for veterans of both wars will continue for some time. And, far from allowing less funding for education, the EPA, the ATF, or financial regulation, we need to do much more in those and other areas.
Obsession with the national debt is pointless until the economy is back to normal, but increasing revenue to meet current spending will go a long way toward restoring confidence and sanity.
--cosmicrat Dec. 30, 2012
A Conversation Between Friends Tuesday, December 25, 2012 8:48:33 PM
Although everyone naturally has the right to believe whatever they choose, intelligent, aware people in all parts of the world know that differences of religion have caused many horrible conflicts and much suffering, and have enabled and exacerbated wars and hostilities that began for other reasons.
Supernatural beliefs, usually learned in childhood, have an intellectual cost. They undermine logical, rational thinking. Once a person becomes willing to accept the existence and power of invisible beings for which there is no evidence, one becomes vulnerable to committing irrational acts under the direction of those who claim to be an authority as to what their deity desires.
History is full of unspeakably cruel and bloody actions, both in ruthless wars and in individual persecutions, done in the name of one religion or another, which an entirely rational mind would never even contemplate. Some are initiated by leaders with other motives, such as power and wealth, but their followers are often convinced to accept and pursue them out of religious faith.
No one religion can be singled out as worst. There are several that often result in inhumanity and intolerance. They claim to represent such positive concepts as peace, love, and charity, but have been used to excuse slavery, torture, deprivation, and human slaughter at various times and places.
Those who prefer not to think for themselves may find it comforting to follow what they are taught to believe without question. Many, however, have minds that are curious, hungry to learn, question, and evaluate what they hear and read. Such people can and should examine everything they are told is true, including beliefs in the supernatural.
The following video link is a gentle, thoughtful, imagined conversation about Islam, but much of it could just as easily apply to Christianity, Judaism, or Hinduism, to name a few.
Anyone who would like to discuss the subject is invited to comment.
--cosmicrat December 25, 2012
Time to Get Serious with Israel
Thursday, December 20, 2012 3:07:03 AM
The outrageous and vengeful West Bank settlement plan announced by the Israeli government has been condemned by just about every nation in the world, INCLUDING the US.
'We are deeply disappointed that Israel insists on continuing this pattern of provocative action,' Nuland told reporters. 'These repeated announcements and plans of new construction run counter to the cause of peace. Israel’s leaders continually say that they support a path towards a two-state solution, yet these actions only put that goal further at risk.'
As Alan Elsner writes, 'As long as Israel continues to build settlements, nobody really takes its claim to favor a two-state solution seriously – and the longer it continues to perpetuate this contradiction, the more its credibility will suffer.' Times of Israel
President Obama has long made it clear that building new settlements should be halted. In fact, that has been the US position in past administrations as well. But, when every other member of the UN Security Council was ready to vote to declare the latest settlement plan illegal, the US alone vetoed it.
'The Security Council would have passed a legally binding resolution obligating Israel to refrain from building settlements in the controversial area of East Jerusalem known as E1, which was a punitive attempt to nullify a contiguous Palestinian state following the successful UN-bid for implicit recognition of Palestinian statehood this month. Instead, the council members decided to simply make statements condemning the settlement plans.'
So, America has voted against what we believe is right, as a favor to the Israeli government, though it is no favor to the Israeli people. Until they vote out the right-wingers like Netanyahu, their country is condemned to increased isolation and worldwide disapproval.
The expansionist hawks of Israel will claim that the disapproval comes from bias against Jews. That is seldom true, and it is certainly not true of me. The vast majority of nations and of people merely hold Israel to the same standards of peaceful behavior and respect for human rights that are expected of all.
The US should have voted for the UN resolution. That might have gotten the attention in Tel Aviv that mere words have not. It would also have upset those in Congress who listen too much to the pro-Israeli lobby. Perhaps this was not yet the time to make that statement. The time will come, though. The US cannot forever risk our international respect by supporting an ally that deliberately creates continual unrest in its region.
-cosmicrat Dec. 19, 2012
NEWTOWN, CONNECTICUT Saturday, December 15, 2012 2:54:53 AM
Yet another mass slaughter has been carried out today, December 14, 2012, in the middle of an otherwise quiet town in a supposedly civilized nation, the USA. The mass murderer, mentally unbalanced, also killed himself, but his accessories, those who made it easy for him to arm himself with deadly weapons, are still at large.
The National Rifle Association, the right-wing extremists, and all those who have been convinced by their brainless dogma, share the guilt for today's 26 deaths, 20 of them young children, and the numerous other mass murders, and many thousands of individual gun homicides every year.
The dead children had barely stopped bleeding when pond scum like Huckabee made public statements trying to blame the tragedy on public schools not teaching religion, even worse than those who immediately whined about the government trying to take their guns away.
Not only are these people obsessed with their 2nd-Amendment rights, they refuse to accept any rules of responsibility in exercising those rights. They oppose requiring licenses and registration and any other regulation to try to keep guns out of irresponsible and unstable hands.
Those who value their gun rights need to start rethinking their priorities and start advocating strict laws mandating responsibility, not weapons anarchy.
'A study in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery found that the gun murder rate in the U.S. is almost 20 times higher than the next 22 richest and most populous nations combined. Among the world’s 23 wealthiest countries, 80 percent of all gun deaths are American deaths and 87 percent of all kids killed by guns are American kids.' American Gun Deaths
Each year there are roughly 10,000 homicides with firearms in the US. That is more than the number of American troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are not having a civil war in this country, but you couldn't tell that from the numbers.
Mass murders like today's in Newtown, Connecticut tend to focus public opinion, as they should, but we should remember that most of the thousands of fatal shootings are done one or two at a time, every day of the year in cities and towns nationwide.
It is easier to get ahold of a firearm and ammunition than it is to get a license to drive a car. Buying them legally is easy enough, with little or no regard for background, mental stability, or knowledge of safety and relevant laws. Idiotic laws like 'stand your ground' actually encourage irresponsible and deadly confrontations. Failure of gun owners to secure their weapons from easy theft often leads to both criminals and children having and using them.
Why are guns not titled and registered like motor vehicles, making the owner responsible for their safe use? Why isn't every purchaser required to have a license, having to pass a test of mental health and knowledge of safety and law? Who benefits from allowing uncontrolled access to deadly weapons?
Those who want to keep the Second Amendment, now is the time to prove you deserve it. Every right has a responsibility that goes with it. Control your guns. Control all guns. Keep them away from murderers, sane or insane. Stop threatening the rest of society, and stop bragging about how well-armed you think you are.
Don't for a minute think you're safer because you're armed. Gun owners get shot. Their children get shot. Their children get their guns and shoot each other. As long as you fight against sensible gun laws, you make it more likely that tragedies will happen over and over again.
If you can't bring yourself to write your Congressman and say 'Yes, let's get assault weapons off the streets, and pass sensible license and registration laws for gun sales', then you need to shut the hell up about your gun rights. We've already heard way too much about that.
--cosmicrat December 14, 2012 (5 comments)
For those who thought they'd heard everything. Friday, December 7, 2012 4:17:50 AM
Those of us who have paid attention to current events and history have seen enough absurdity in politics not to be surprised by much of anything, but this week even a bored cynic might sit up and say 'What?!'
Today in the US Senate something unprecedented happened. The Senate minority leader proposed a bill, one that was his own idea. The majority leader agreed there should be a vote on it.
Here's the story: The minority leader then filibustered his own bill.
The bill was a response to the 'debt ceiling', a pointless requirement that Congress must periodically raise the limit of the national debt. When this must be done, there is no choice, because Congress has already voted to spend the money that created the higher debt, and not to do do would mean a national default on our debt. Last time Congress threatened to refuse to raise it, the US credit rating was downgraded.
So, McConnell's bill was to change the law to allow the President to declare it raised, and Congress could disallow a raise only with a 2/3 majority. It was actually a good idea, short of eliminating the pointless limit altogether.
But McConnell proposed the bill as a trick, thinking Democrats would vote against it. When he found out he was wrong, he filibustered it (which currently only requires declaring the intention to do so, and not the old-fashioned speech marathon that it originally required).
Another Senatorial absurdity was the Republican refusal to ratify a UN treaty which was modeled on a US law passed under George Bush the first, which mandated access to public facilities to disabled people. Because of that law people in wheelchairs now have ramps at curbs, lifts so they can ride city buses and trains, etc. The UN treaty would not change US law, but urge the rest of the world to follow our example. Former Republican Senator Bob Dole came to the Senate to support ratifying the treaty, in his wheelchair. All the Democrats voted for it, but all but 8 Republicans said 'no'.
Not ratifying it won't really change anything, but approving it would have been a show of support for disabled people all over the world. It would have said, 'we care, and want life to be better for you, too'. Outrageously, and stupidly, the Republicans voted, 'no, we don't care'.
In Egypt, the recently elected President Morsi had earned praise and respect for helping to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza. His popularity would have been good for him and for Eqypt, but only a few days later, he decided to issue a decree granting himself new powers, independent of the Judicial branch of the government. That was a mistake. Egyptians had just rid themselves of Mubarak, the previous dictator. They were not willing to trust a new one. He permanently lost the trust of the people with that act alone.
In our list of absurd and stupid acts, the decision by the Israeli government to 'punish' Palestinians by
opening new settlements on occupied land, definitely qualifies.
Israel's right-wing government has not been eager for peace for quite some time. That is well-known. By holding out as long as possible they hope to force conditions more favorable to Israel, This foot-dragging resistance to negotiating the widely-favored 2-state solution has a cost, though: it is steadily losing them support and approval by most of the rest of the world.
More outrageous acts accelerate this loss of support. By this latest plan for settlement construction, virtually bisecting the territory intended to be the Palestinian state, Israel has underlined its disinterest in negotiations, and its disregard for the approval of anyone outside the country. It's an attitude that does not bode well in the long term.
This cluster of dumbness by supposedly qualified leaders does not mean human civilization is hopeless. It just means that the intelligent and wise among us have their work cut out for them.
-cosmicrat December 7, 2012
Vietnam: The War JFK Might Have Stopped Tuesday, December 4, 2012 5:11:55 AM
All wars are tragedies, especially when they are unnecessary, as were the two the George Bush and Dick Cheney afflicted us with. But both of those wars combined, as bad as they were, did not equal the number of deaths, permanent injuries (physical and emotional) and destructive effect both domestic and foreign, that the Vietnam War had.
Wars are much easier to start than to stop. Vietnam, though, could have been ended by 1965, saving many thousands of lives, if President Kennedy had lived.
For years many have debated whether he would likely have withdrawn, but we now know that he planned exactly that.
Exit Strategy In 1963, JFK ordered a complete withdrawal from Vietnam -by James K. Galbraith
Kennedy ordered the withdrawal of 1000 troops, out of the 17,000 that were in Vietnam, by the end of 1963, initiating a timetable that would have the rest out by 1965. The public rationale was that South Vietnam had been sufficiently advised and equipped to defend itself, and should take responsibility for doing so.
At that point, and orderly and planned withdrawal would not need to be interpreted as a defeat for the US. It could be foreseen, though, that a 'victory, even if possible, would require major escalation and a huge expenditure in both money and American lives.
It was a matter of concern that the South Vietnamese government was despotic and corrupt. Pressure had been put on it to stop its human rights abuses, both because they impaired its own war effort, and because American public opinion could become negative about supporting such policies. The pressure had little effect.
In particular the repression of Buddhists and denial of their religious freedom was highly divisive. On May 8, 1963, a gathering of Buddhists who were peacefully insisting on displaying their religious flags, banned by the pro-Catholic government, were fired on by police, killing several.
The Buddhists were naturally incensed, but determined to protest nonviolently, willing to risk sacrificing their own lives to stand for their religious freedom.
Meanwhile, Diem's government proved uncooperative in other ways, yet demanded increased US aid. There were many good reasons for the US to abandon the project. All that was needed to make that move was a bold decision by the President with the ability to act counter to the hawks who wanted to fight communists at any cost.
Kennedy had every reason to believe he would be re-elected in 1964, and of course did not expect to be assassinated, so he did not feel the need to publicly announce his entire plan to end American involvement in the conflict.
There is a great deal of correspondence, much of it fascinating, regarding this period. Vietnam History Matters
Questions still remain, of course, over what is not, and would not be, in official records: the pressure behind the scenes to continue the war, and whether the motive for murdering the President might have been to prevent the war's ending.
It is still worthwhile learning all we can. It is too late to save 58,000 dead Americans, and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, Cambodians, and others, but if we can understand a little of the thinking and interaction that causes stupid wars to be continued, some good may come from the studies.
--cosmicrat 12/4/2012 (6 comments)
Palestine's UN Status Thursday, November 29, 2012 1:23:39 PM
A resolution making Palestine a non-member state observer at the UN: such a reasonable proposition, why would anyone disagree?
The US is disagreeing only because Israel wants us to. Israel is disagreeing because its right-wing leadership wants to be able to dictate any agreement, not negotiate one, certainly not with the UN involved and with the world watching.
I like the position of J-Street
'J Street is focusing on the day after the vote – because it is the actions of the United States, Israel, and the Palestinians following the vote that will determine whether we are moving toward or away from a negotiated resolution to the conflict.
We strongly oppose retaliatory measures against the PLO or the Palestinian Authority (PA) – in particular, Congressional efforts to cut funding, which could lead to the collapse of the PA and jeopardize the important progress it has made in recent years.
We urge Israel’s friends to focus their energy on a threat far more serious to the country’s long-term security and character than the vote at the UN – and that is the possible failure to achieve a two-state solution before it is too late.
To that end, our most important call at this time is on President Obama to fill the diplomatic vacuum and to launch, in early 2013, a renewed and bold diplomatic initiative to achieve a two-state solution.'
Illuminati Sunday, November 25, 2012 7:34:00 PM
Contrary to those who promulgate conspiracy theories about the Illuminati, imagining that such an organization desires power and control to the detriment of the world's ordinary citizens, I believe that if such a group is still in existence and follows its original purpose, it is a force for good, if only in its open-minded quest to uncover truth and expose obfuscation and myth.
Richard Metzger: You have studied the Illuminati for years. Have you come to any conclusion about their aims?
Robert Anton Wilson: Usually when people ask me that question, I give them some kind of a put-on, but I can't think of a good and original put-on that I haven't done several times before. So I'll tell you the truth, for once. After investigating the Illuminati and their critics for the last 30 years, I think the Illuminati was a short lived society of free thinkers and democratic reformers that formed a secret society within Freemasonry, using Freemasonry as a cover so they could plot to overthrow all the kings in Europe and the Pope. I'm very happy that they succeeded in overthrowing all the kings, I just wish that they had completed the job and gotten rid of the Royal family in England too, but they did pretty well on the continent. I'm sorry they haven't finished off the Pope yet, either, but I think they're still working on the project and I wish them luck.
— Disinformation: the interviews. By Richard Metzger. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Anton_Wilson
Indeed, those who use any of the writings of Wilson to promote actual conspiracy theories fail to understand his purpose. Wilson described his work as an 'attempt to break down conditioned associations, to look at the world in a new way, with many models recognized as models or maps, and no one model elevated to the truth'. His goal being 'to try to get people into a state of generalized agnosticism, not agnosticism about God alone but agnosticism about everything' (cf. solipsism, acatalepsia, Pyrrhonism).
Picking on the Illuminati in modern times comes from a similar kind of anti-intellectualism (or pro-dogmatic- stupidity) that impelled Christianity and the Church-enabled monarchs to ban and try to exterminate it in the 18th century, just as they had always persecuted the tellers of truth.
As we all can see, promoters of ignorance are still numerous enough to create significant problems in our politics and society. They disparage science and fact, while demanding belief in myths and lies.
In the times and places where ignorance reigns, it should be no surprise that those who seek enlightenment meet and study in secret. At such times, secrecy is not sinister; it means survival.
Whether or not there is any real continuity among the Illuminati, and there are no doubt phonies trying to claim the name, the concept- the principle- of constantly seeking and using the truth is the important legacy, which lives on.
--cosmicrat 11/25/2012 (2 comments)
Israel nearly went too far this time. Wednesday, November 21, 2012 10:08:22 PM
Some would say that it has been going too far for years, and in that sense they are right. Israel has been gradually eroding its own support by the rest of the world as more and more people become aware that it is not especially interested in a peaceful solution that is not entirely on its own terms.
The Monitor explains some ways that the situation is different this time: 'As Hamas confronts Israel, its Arab support swells The last time Israel went to war with Gaza, it didn't have to worry about regional diplomatic fallout. The Arab uprisings have changed that calculus.' Support for Hamas Increases
The press coverage is a little different this time. We're hearing more from both sides, not just the Israeli justifications. What is becoming more widely known is not just the immediate situation, but what has led up to it in the past months and years.
When one is aware only of Hamas in Gaza shooting rockets, and Israel shooting back, that is not enough to understand. Israel labels them terrorists. By now we should know when that word is being misused. When a people are controlled by outside forces, or when their land is occupied by conquerors, and they resist, you call them insurgents, rebels, or freedom fighters. It is never good when the only option is violence, but it is important to understand the reason for it.
If the Israeli government had acted to relax or end the blockade of Gaza a year ago, or even last month, the world, and even the Palestinians themselves, would have seen Israel as doing the right thing, because they finally understood it was right.
Instead, if it does end as a result of the cease-fire agreement, after violence and killing, they will be little better regarded than before. How can a nation containing so many intelligent, well-educated people be so short-sighted?
And, how has it even come to this, that those who should, more than most, understand the nature of human rights and the importance of protecting them, become oppressors in the first place?
I have not heard it said any better, nor by anyone more qualified to say it, than the man in this video.
His words should be heard everywhere, by everyone.
We don't yet know whether the cease-fire will last, or whether the blockade will open so that Gazan Palestinians can begin to live normal lives as free people. Israel has an opportunity to show it can do the right thing. It should not be done begrudgingly, but as a willing step toward a peace agreement with all the Palestinians.
It is in Israel's interest, too. The world is more aware, and the world is watching.
Press Conference Thursday, November 15, 2012 3:01:15 AM
Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham attacked UN Ambassador Susan Rice, saying that that they would block her confirmation if she was appointed as the next Secretary of State. Their objection is that she was asked to be the spokesperson to announce the early intelligence information on the Bengazi killings in Libya.
It was later determined that the attack was pre-planned, and not an escalation of a protest against the libelous video which was happening at the time.
In the first place, so what? Doesn't anyone understand the phrase 'ongoing investigation'? The reason such events are investigated is that we often don't know all the facts immediately. Whether or not the video was to blame is a side issue-- the attackers murdered 4 Americans, and they need to be punished.
In the second place, Susan Rice was not the source of the information. The CIA was. She was merely asked to announce it in public. She was not involved with the events in Libya. There is no justification for blaming her.
If anyone is to be blamed for the event itself, other than the perpetrators, it is probably the CIA for not finding out in advance about the group's intentions in advance. It is always easy to think 'we should have known' after something bad has happened. Maybe they could have, and maybe they couldn't.
Clearly, if the CIA wasn't even sure at first why it happened, they didn't know it was going to. And, if the agents in Libya didn't know, then the President didn't either.
Republicans like McCain and Graham are just looking for an issue to blame President Obama for, and grasping at anything. They would probably try to blame him for Hurricane Sandy if they could. It is especially reprehensible, though, to attack Ambassador Rice, and the President responded in righteous anger to their tactic in his press conference today. He was admirable in his solid defense of her.
There may well be an ulterior motive for the Republican attacks on Rice. If they can eliminate her from the choices for State Secretary, it may make Senator Kerry a more likely choice, which would vacate his Senate seat, making it possible they could get a Republican elected.
Although Kerry would probably be an excellent choice, either for State or Defense, I would prefer he stay in the Senate where he is needed most. If Colin Powell would take either job, that would be great. There are no doubt others who are well qualified who are not high-profile and not Senators.
The press conference today showed that President Obama is willing to fight for what he believes is right, and for the people. We should not forget that we need to back him up in this.
That doesn't mean we can't disagree and be critical on some issues, but let's try to do this effectively. Total condemnation by those impatient to change foreign policy will change nothing. We have elected the President most likely to change both foreign and domestic policy for the better. We need to work with him-- nudge, push, make positive demands, and try to educate others with open minds to support us.
Those who take pride in being the most radical progressives should ask themselves whether insults and name-calling have ever convinced them to change their minds. Chances are, they have not. Among progressives I normally see the most mature and temperate dialog, sharply contrasting with the right-wingers. That is because we are mostly better educated, and less mean-spirited. It is not that we don't feel strongly about issues. We can, however, communicate in effective ways to advocate our positions.
Let's do that.
--cosmicrat Nov. 14, 2012
Petraeus Tuesday, November 13, 2012 1:27:26 PM
Say what you will about the General, it seems he really knows how to treat a Broad Well. (I couldn't pass that one up). Seriously, it's ironic that officials in charge of killing people are disgraced for loving someone. Personally, I'd rather see a lot more loving and a lot less killing, but real life and foreign policy don't work according to that philosophical equation.
Still, one might reasonably expect the leader of spies to be able to conduct a covert affair that STAYS covert.
This part of the story is more worthy of attention
'Amidst the sordid details of the high-ranking CIA sex scandal (that has now spread to an investigation of Jill Kelley, the woman who complained of being harassed by Gen. David Petraeus's mistress (Paula Broadwell), being involved in voluminous and questionable e-mail exchanges with the current commander of forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen), one important political factor has emerged in the last day: Republican House Majority Eric Cantor appears to have tried to put pressure on the FBI to advance the investigation, with the likely goal of an October surprise scandal that would have potentially harmed Obama's chance of re-election.'
--cosmicrat November 13 2012 ( 1 comment)
How Hard Is It To Run An Election? Saturday, November 10, 2012 5:02:05 AM
I was going to write that running an election is so easy that even Arizona can do it. After all, compared to many Republican states, election days here have gone quite smoothly for years. I have never encountered a long line or had any problem locating my polling pace. Ballots are paper, though read by machines which, as far as I know, do so accurately. Voter ID requirements have been tightened a little, but there is still a non-photo-ID option using such things as current utility bills.
Then I learned that Arizona has developed a problem with provisional ballots. There seems to be a record-keeping problem. Some half million registered voters couldn't be found on the list, and had to cast provisional ballots through no fault of their own. One of my co-workers had this problem, despite having carefully checked beforehand that he was properly registered.
It's hard to say if there was anything intentional causing this confusion, but they are still counting them, and the outcome in at least two state and county races is still in doubt.
Florida seems to be the worst state in the US at conducting elections, but there were problems in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia, and Ohio as well. Most of them were created deliberately in attempt to suppress voting by poor, old, and minority citizens, but even the ones due to incompetence are inexcusable. We have been a democratic republic for 223 years, having conducted at least 111 national elections. We have developed technology so advanced that we can travel in space. How long will it take us to learn to run elections right? It is not rocket science.
It will take a consensus of Americans who are actually in favor of democracy. Once I would have thought that was all of us, but that has been proved not to be the case. Still, I think most of us do, regardless of party. Those of us in states that do run reasonably efficient and honest elections may be unconcerned about the few that don't, but their outcomes affect us all. Also consider that our national reputation as a democracy, and our credible good example for other nations is at stake.
Whether it is done by Federal law or by an independent interstate election commission, standards must be set for all elections to ensure every citizen can vote without difficulty, every vote is counted correctly, and any attempt to interfere will be prevented.
Any identification required to vote must be provided automatically at no cost to every registered voter well in advance of any election.
--cosmicrat November 9, 2012 ( 10 comments)
THE GOOD NEWS Wednesday, November 7, 2012 2:54:11 AM
 We re-elected the President
 Elizabeth Warren won Senator from Massachusetts
 Maryland, Washington, and Maine approved marriage equality
 Colorado and Washington approved marijuana for personal use, and Massachusetts approved it for medical use.
 Wisconsin- Tammy Baldwin won Senator in Wisconsin
 Michigan anti-democratic city takeover law repealed.
 Tammy Duckworth wins
 Claire McCaskill beats Todd Akin in Missouri
 Alan Grayson is back in Congress.
This is not an absolute victory, but these and other good results are positive signs that Americans do want to go forward, not backward. Some are reluctant to progress as quickly as many would like, but most reject the extreme conservative ideology that some Republicans have been trying to sell.
Romney made a surprisingly gracious concession speech. He may not have meant it, but it sounded more sincere than anything he said during his campaign.
The President gave an excellent victory speech. He reminded us that hope is a powerful force, but only if we are willing to work for what we hope for. He said, 'The role of a citizen does not end with your vote'. Too many, I think, forgot that during his first term.
If we want to be led in the right direction, we not only have to follow, we have to get behind our leader and push. We cannot expect a President to do everything for us without our visible, audible support. If we want Guantanamo closed and the detainees given a fair civil trial or released, we need to demand that Congress enable it, not prevent it as they have. If we want quicker withdrawal from Afghanistan, a reduction or end to drone attacks, repeal of the Patriot Act and other restrictions of civil liberties, we need to demand it loudly and consistently.
We also need to realize that if we do that, we will meet resistance from those who want the opposite, but we must keep trying, working to convince the rest of our fellow citizens.
It is a great relief that we overcame the forces of darkness, but this is a beginning, an opportunity, not a final victory.
--cosmicrat November 7, 2012
'I Want it All' Monday, November 5, 2012 11:26:50 PM
Years ago, I was drinking coffee in an all-night restaurant somewhere in Los Angeles when a small group of guys walked in, and as they waited briefly to be seated, one of them announced to no one in particular, 'I want it ALL, and I want it right now!'
They appeared to be what were then called 'yuppies', and had probably been enhancing their enthusiasm by doing lines of coke off a glass-topped coffee table. They may not have been especially hungry-- it was more likely they just wanted to experience the pleasure of eating, and imagined there was no limit to their appetites.
The speaker was unremarkable, but what he said stuck in my mind. I have since heard and read others conveying the same general desire: not necessarily for food, sex, or other pleasures, but with the same demand to achieve everything with little patience and minimal effort.
Lately it seems to be the attitude of some who see themselves as pure progressives; uncompromising liberals, who, instead of solidly supporting the most progressive of the candidates with a chance to win, reject that option as being too moderate for their ideals.
Having elected Barack Obama, some expected to be able to sit back and watch him make all the changes and achieve all the goals that they wanted him to. While the President struggled in the real world of a divided electorate and wealthy and powerful opposition, they remained in their fantasy world, impatient for it to become reality.
When millions of us were marching, demonstrating, writing letters, resisting or evading the draft, doing everything possible to end the Vietnam war, the Rolling Stones reminded us that 'You Can't Always Get What You Want'. We knew that, but we kept trying. It is a simple, obvious truth, but one we sometimes need to recall, because we become impatient, and that can lead to fragmented efforts that hurt our own cause.
Criticize if you must, but vote so it counts.
-cosmicrat Nov. 5 2012
TV Political Ads of the Past Sunday, November 4, 2012 11:58:56 PM Here's an interesting look at the history of Presidential elections as seen on TV. In 1952 'spot' ads for candidates were a relatively new phenomenon, and not everyone liked the idea of selling Presidents like soap and toothpaste.
While some of these were shallow, silly, and even deceptive, they seem almost innocent compared to some of today's. Because the elections they were about are now in the past, we can look at them as ironic entertainment, but they also provide insight into the political thinking of their time and how it has evolved, or not evolved, into that of the present.
Presidental Campaign Commercials from 1952 through 2012
Storm Wednesday, October 31, 2012 2:04:42 AM
In the Northeast, the roar of the wind, the rain pelting roofs and windows, the crash of falling trees, power poles, and pieces of buildings reminds us that nature's power is greater than ours; it can destroy what we've built and endanger or end human lives, and it will do that again and again periodically.
It has been said in the media that by monitoring the storm situation and making sure needed help is provided, President Obama is 'looking Presidential'. In fact, he IS Presidential, and has been from the day he took office. Whether or not you agree with everything he has decided from then until now, it is clear that he has been thoughtful, calm, thorough, and capable in handling every situation.
As important as it is to administer emergency response, it is essential to have been prepared with the staff and resources in advance. This must be in place at all times, not just when it looks like rain. Attempts to cut corners to save money can cost lives and result in needless increased damages.
The notion that FEMA could be eliminated is just plain stupid.
We spend trillions of dollars preparing for military defense, though no defensive action has been needed since World War II. Our forces have been used for offense instead, almost always unnecessarily. Yet some react in horror when a military budget cut is proposed. Romney even wants to increase it.
But the defense we really need is the one that protects and assists against the forces of nature. Part of that also involves long-term planning and strengthening infrastructure, establishing building safety codes and zoning regulations.
Every storm, every disaster shows us vulnerabilities we need to fix so that next time they will be more resistant to damage. We should not shirk from investing in better power grids, better drainage, better streets, and stronger levees where they are needed. Such things are indeed investments, because they will save us in the long term.
-cosmicrat, Oct. 30, 2012 ( 4 comments)
Vampires and Werewolves Sunday, October 28, 2012 9:41:54 PM
Such mythical creatures don't actually exist, though they make entertaining stories, if well written. They are also apt metaphors for types of Republicans. There two distinct kinds.
The slick, elite, mostly wealthy politicians, corporate heads and bankers take the seductive approach, with endless propaganda designed to convince us that they have our best interests at heart; that when they drink our collective blood, they'll leave us just enough, while a few droplets spill downward for the poor to lap up.
The other kind are not at all subtle. They don't pretend to be our friends. They enjoy using brute force and threats, surrounding us in packs, barking hateful insults and demands that we live by their rules. They try to divide us to make us easier prey, whether black, gay, Hispanics, women,organized labor, or liberals.
The Vampire and Werewolf Republicans work together, not always harmoniously, but needing one another. They need us too, to use and to control.
But we don't need them. Let us hold tightly to the stakes of our ballots and the gleaming silver of the truth and use them to defeat the scourges of selfism and authoritarianism.
-cosmicrat 10/28/2012 ( 2 comments)
Peace, Politics, and Debate Thursday, October 18, 2012 1:54:37 AM
Obama didn't ask for the Peace Prize, and it was not awarded out of a belief that he alone, a US President, could transform the world, or even his own country, into a paradise of pacifism. He pointed that out clearly in his acceptance speech.
Militarism, from expansionism to imperialism. has been a part of this country since before its beginning, backed by the wealth interests who benefit, and only occasionally opposed or modified by the expressed will of the people. What can be done by one President to change that, to reduce its influence, may seem insignificant. To judge a decision, or a series of them, you have to know what the available options were; not just what was done, but what was not done.
Some are upset that Obama has not created and implemented a revolutionary new foreign policy. We don't elect a monarch. They forget that neither a President nor a Congress can make major changes that the electorate is not ready for. There are still far to many voters convinced by decades of propaganda that the American empire should run the world, and that to question that is a sign of weakness.
What can be done is more subtle than revolutionary change; it is a matter of quality, of diplomacy rather than bluster, of minimizing harm when it cannot be eliminated entirely, and of committment to peace even when a measure of force cannot be avoided.
Yes, Obama knew he could not be Martin Luther King Jr. and be President, and he said so. But he embraced the purpose of the Peace Prize, and has done as much as he could to fulfill it. I don't think anyone could have done more.
The moment in the second Presidential debate on Oct. 16 when Romney tried to make an issue of what Obama said in the Rose Garden after the killing of the Ambassador and his aides, showed Romney's ineptness and his willingness to use false arguments, and he was called on it in a devastating way.
The President calmly waited for Romney to dig his own rhetorical hole and fall into it. It was a beautiful thing to watch.
However, what the President, or any member of the administration, said about the attack is an irrelevant matter to begin with. What difference does it make whether it was called an act of terror, as the President said, or a murder, or an assassination? Are we so obsessed with political dogma that we have to worry about using the right word?
I am proud of President Obama's victory in Debate II. It is good to feel that he is not only good at being President but skilled at arguing the important issues on behalf of the people.
One bit of rhetoric the Republicans keep harping about is what is Obama's plan for the next four years. It would probably be a good thing for him to restate his vision and principles in a way that is clear for everyone, but logically there is no need for that, because his purpose and goals have not changed, and his accomplishments so far are impressive.
We are indeed better off than we were four years ago, and the economy is steadily improving. The fact that Obama was faced with the worst economic crash since 1929 to begin with is ignored by Republicans. The fact is that he has done an excellent job at guiding the recovery, and at the same time working to make the system sounder as well as more prosperous. Naturally they also ignore the fact that Obama's proposals for further improvement have been blocked by Republican obstructionists.
Sure, it would be good to talk about the future. It would be great if we gave the President a Democratic Congress so he could do more.
--cosmicrat 10/17/2012 ( 5 comments)
Want to be Propositioned? Check out the Arizona ballot
Sunday, October 14, 2012 1:09:11 AM Arizona Issues, 2012 The Secretary of State issues a booklet, the General Election Guide, which has 160 pages this year. To be a well-informed voter, you need bright light, good eyes, or a strong pair of reading glasses. Despite its thickness, the print is small and the pages are the cheapest possible newsprint. No doubt the state intends to save money while fulfilling its legal requirements.
If you need large print, or Spanish, or both, you have to call one of several phone numbers, or visit www.azsos.gov. If you can't read the booklet, there's a number to call to hear it read to you. If you do that, I hope you don't have to pay by the minute.
Still, it's important to understand what we're being asked to decide, whatever you have to do to get the information.
114: Protect crime victims from liability for damages suffered by the perpetrator of a felony crime against the victim.
That makes so much sense that one wonders how or why it could be otherwise. Presumably it's possible that if someone tries to rob, rape, or kill you and gets hurt in the process, that person could sue you. I've heard of this happening somewhere, but I don't know if it's true. I'll vote YES on that one.
115: This is a strange one. It proposes raising judges' mandatory retirement age from 70 to 75, extending their terms from 4 or 6 years to 8, and changing the appointing process. That last part is tricky. The current system of judicial appointment commissions is a bit complicated, but designed to keep the process nonpartisan and not too influenced by the legislature or the governor. The new plan is a sneaky attempt to water down these protections. The League of Women voters says NO. So do I.
116: This one aims to exempt from property tax equipment and machinery used in agriculture or in a trade or business up to an amount equal to the earnings of 50 workers. The idea is to help small businesses. The odd-sounding 50 workers measurement seems to be a built-in inflation adjuster. When I thought this was just for small businesses, it seemed like a good idea, but it has been pointed out that large businesses that don't need a break would gain hugely from this, and that the lost revenue would be devastating to county and city governments. I've changed my vote to NO.
117: Proposes a 5% growth cap on property tax assessment values. However, it does nothing to limit tax rates. As it is, tax amounts stay roughly the same whether valuations go up or down. It could be simplified, but this proposition doesn't do that, or guarantee any tax savings. NO.
118: Establishes a permanent fund for public education so that available money doesn't vary so much from year to year. Arizona rates near the bottom on education. However, this proposition may be deceptive, according to an informed analysis. See the links in the comments below. I've switched to NO.
119: Authorize exchange of state trust lands if related to protecting military facilities or improving the management of state trust lands. The Sierra Club is for it. No one seems to be against it. I'll vote YES.
Protecting military facilities does not appeal to me. Supposedly those located in AZ bring $9 billion to the economy. If they weren't here, they'd be somewhere. Obviously, military reduction is a Federal issue, and one of the problems in getting that done is the fact that a substantial portion of the economy is dependent on military industries and bases. Major cutbacks would best be done in good economic times, when employment could be transitioned to other industries.
120: Here we have a product of Republican right wing nuts- a proposition that is not only outrageously stupid but would violate the US Constitution and the very agreement by which Arizona became a state. They're calling it a State Sovereignty Declaration.
In 1910, Congress passed the Arizona-New Mexico Enabling Act, allowing Arizona to become a state, and granted Arizona about 10.9 million acres of state trust land, subject to certain terms for the management, operation, use and disposition of those trust lands.
With the declaration THE STATE OF ARIZONA DECLARES ITS SOVEREIGN AND EXCLUSIVE AUTHORITY AND JURISDICTION OVER THE AIR, WATER, PUBLIC LANDS, MINERALS, WILDLIFE AND OTHER NATURAL RESOURCES WITHIN ITS BOUNDARIES... (except Indian land and Federal facilities), the Republinuts want to void that agreement.
Logically, the Federal government could then declare Arizona's statehood null and void as well. It won't, of course, but this proposition, if passed, would no doubt be invalidated, even by conservative judges.
What this is really about is an attempt to get around EPA regulations on dirty coal power plants, to take over national parks and preserves including the Grand Canyon, and to avoid complying with Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, and Clean Water Act.
Proposition 120 deserves a HELL NO!
121: The Open Primary. REPLACES THE CURRENT PARTY PRIMARY ELECTION WITH A 'TOP-TWO' PRIMARY ELECTION IN WHICH ALL VOTERS, REGARDLESS OF PARTY AFFILIATION, VOTE IN A SINGLE, COMBINED PRIMARY AND THE TOP TWO VOTE-GETTERS FOR EACH SEAT ADVANCE TO THE GENERAL ELECTION BALLOT.
This one has more arguments both for and against than any so far. Those for it hope it will reduce partisanship and extreme positions. We certainly need less extremism on the Republican side, but would this change affect that?
Grady Gammage Jr. writes: Under the current election system, Independents are shut out of being candidates. Currently a Republican or Democrat running for statewide office needs about 5000 signatures; a Libertarian needs a little over 100; a Green Party member needs nearly 1000. But an Independent needs more than 31,000. This is ludicrous and discriminatory. The proposition would level the playing field and require everyone to obtain the same number of signatures.
That system is indeed unfair, and should be fixed. But both the Libertarian and Green parties oppose the open primary proposition. They have a good reason: neither will likely be one of the 'top two' in an open primary, so they will be left out of the general election.
The presumed purpose of the open primary is a good one. Lucia Fakonas Howard writes: I believe that political parties are useful and necessary in our democratic system, but I also see that hyper-partisan politics have paralyzed our state and country. Elected officials no longer work in concert to do what is right or best for our country. Instead, they posture for sound bites and pander to the extreme factions of their own political parties, because they know their re-elections will be determined by these extreme voters under the current partisan primary elections.
That is true, and it's a real problem. But the effects of an open primary may not fix it, and create new problems. You could easily end up with 2 candidates from the same party and none from the other for an office. The system could be gamed by running 'ringers' to split the vote.
California, Washington, and Louisiana have open primaries. How are they working there?
On the surface, OPEN sounds appealing, but it would give us fewer choices, not more. I say NO.
STATE LAW INITIATIVE 204
This is an excellent idea, probably because it DIDN'T come from the legislature, and it addresses Arizona's greatest need: adequate funding for education. This state is at or near the bottom of all states in education quality, and greatly needs improvement, but the education budget is a target for Republican cuts.
Since 2010 the state sales tax has been 6.6%. Once cent was temporary and would expire in 2013. This initiative would keep that cent and use it all for education.
The proposition provides: 1)Funding levels for kindergarten through 12th grade and state university systems cannot be reduced below the levels for fiscal year 2011-2012 or 2012-2013, whichever is greater. 2) Adjustment for inflation. 3) The limits on school district bonds and overrides cannot be below those in effect for 2012. And: The sales tax base cannot be adjusted in a way that causes the amount of sales tax collected to be less than the amount collected in the prior year, plus six per cent, unless there is a corresponding change in the tax base that results in no reduction in the amount of sales tax collected.
In other words, the legislature is not to sabotage the funding.
ABSOLUTELY YES on 204.
GLENDALE CITY PROPOSITION 457:
Changes the charter to require prior approval (instead of post-approval) by voters for a sales tax increase. First, it's a bad idea to starve the city government and its ability to pay for city services and invest in economically beneficial projects.
Second, this proposition was advertised deceptively, with the claim that it could repeal the recent temporary sales tax increase, when actually it only affects how future increases would be done. NO.
There has been some controversy over the cost of Glendale's hockey arena, since the hockey team hasn't done as well as expected. However, it also hosts concerts, and is an overall boost to the city's economy. I don't care about hockey either, but, along with the football stadium (which no one complains about) and the hotels, restaurants, and a soon to be built Indian casino-resort, Glendale has invested well. The sales tax difference from Phoenix is not enough for shoppers to worry about.
Speaking of Glendale, I'm voting for Manuel Cruz for Mayor. We also have Jerry Weirs running, going for the biker vote, bragging about riding a Harley Ultra Classic. If that makes him sound like a fun guy, his criticism of spending and opposition to an Indian Casino cast doubt on that.
The Indian casino won't cost taxpayers a cent, and will greatly enhance the already growing economy around the stadium and arena area. I'm very much in favor of it for that reason, and because I support Indian tribal enterprises that benefit Native American communities' health, education and opportunity.
TO SUMMARIZE: YES on 114, 119, and 204 NO on 115, 116, 118, 117, 120, 121, and 457
Those of you from other parts of the world may not have found the Arizona ballot interesting, or care what I think about it. On the other hand, you may have some valuable input as a disinterested party. (You can be disinterested and interested at the same time, just like Schroedinger's cat)
--cosmic rat Oct. 13, 2012 ( 2 comments)
Joe Biden Reminds Us: The Difference Is Critical Friday, October 12, 2012 3:34:12 AM
I just watched the Vice Presidential debate, and I am proud of Joe Biden. He did an excellent job of calling Lyin' Ryan on his attempts to attack Obama's record and accomplishments.
More than that, the debate brought up some important points that anyone who thinks this election doesn't matter-- that it's ok to 'punish' the President for not being perfectly aligned with their own view, should consider.
No, damn it, it's NOT ok to sit on the sidelines and feel superior. Apathy, or voting for an irrelevant third party is not a superior act. It is the act of putting your self-image ahead of the real-world concerns of your fellow citizens to whom the issues at stake really matter.
 The Supreme Court Women's right to control their own bodies, the Voting Rights Act, and gender preference equality are just three major issues than can be won, maintained, or lost in a Supreme Court decision. All or parts of the Patriot Act, Military Detention Act, and multiple editions of the NDAA may also be brought to the Supreme Court.
Who the 9 Justices are matters immensely. George Bush added two dogmatic conservatives to the Court, and we got Corporate Personhood, devastating to the struggle to get huge sums of corporate wealth out of our elections, opening the floodgates of influence when they need to be shut down.
The makeup of the court could change for the better or the worse in the next 4 years. Who do you want to pick the next Justice, or the one after that?
 Protecting the Poor Republicans have tried to privatize Social Security already, under Bush, and that is what Romney and Ryan would like to do as well. The most successful government program ever in this country, and one that can easily be maintained far into the future, is a target of the Republicans. So is Medicare, and Affordable Health Care. They even attack food stamps, the reason millions of families have enough to eat, whether they are unemployed, or are of the working poor, disabled, or elderly.
Eisenhower once said Republicans would be stupid to try to dismantle the social safety net. He knew that a successful productive economy cannot afford to ignore any of its citizens- not the workers who make it run, nor those who are unable to work.
But Republicans ARE that stupid now. They have lost the moderate wisdom some of them once had. We CANNOT afford to let them succeed in their class warfare.
 Foreign Policy Some are unhappy that Obama hasn't changed US foreign policy 180 degrees. There are changes I would like to see myself, but I am realistic, and know it takes more time than four years, and it will need a lot more demand for change by the people. What the President has done right is not just a change in tone and attitude, but a great deal of hard work and attention to detail in diplomacy that have kept potential crisis situations from getting worse, and avoided new ground wars, while winding down and ending two wars he didn't start.
In foreign affairs, major positive achievements are rare, and depend on opportunity. You have to pay attention to the finer points to see the skilled and dedicated ability of the President and his diplomatic team. Whether you think he could have done more or not, do you really want anyone less competent handling critical issues that could mean major war?
Let us remember that the alternative is Mitt Romney, whose attempts at foreign policy statements have been clearly lacking in understanding. He has advisors, of course. Many of them are Bush-era neocons.
 Everything else. There are dozens more issues on which President Obama is clearly the right choice, and not a single one on which an intelligent person, whether moderate or more radically progressive, would choose Romney. I will probably write about them in the future. But one or the other, Obama or Romney, will win. It may be a close election. Please don't fail to help the side you know should win.
-cosmicrat Oct. 12, 2012 ( 4 comments)
Holding On to Progress Sunday, September 23, 2012 10:25:38 PM
We haven't achieved utopia yet. Disappointed? Anyone who expected we would solve all the problems created by the Bush administration in four years was beyond optimistic. That would be true even if Bush hadn't left us with the biggest economic meltdown since 1929.
After the long and frustrating oppressiveness and criminal warmongering of the Bush reign, it is natural that we were impatient to fix everything that had been wrong.
We have made considerable progress. The fact that our work is not finished- that there is much more to do, should not discourage us, but impel every one of us to the polls in November to re-elect President Obama and to put as many Democrats in the House and Senate as we possibly can.
There are many reasons to remove Republicans from Congress. Here is one: the Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012, which would provide our veterans with training to find jobs as police, firefighters and workers in preservation of public lands, was filibustered by 40 Senate Republicans on 9/19/12. With a 10.9% unemployment rate for veterans, anyone of any party should be outraged at this. The bill was created by members of both parties, but blocked because it might be seen as an achievement of Democrats.
Equal rights for those of all sexual preferences have been advanced greatly. Four states — Maine, Maryland, Washington and Minnesota — will vote on freedom to marry measures this year. In the first three, a yes vote will deliver the freedom to marry to same-sex couples. In Minnesota, we are fighting to stop a constitutional ban on marriage for same-sex couples.
The President has helped this cause directly, bringing about equality in the military and ending court defense of the DOMA, but much of the work is being done by people organizing at state and local levels, encouraged by a more enlightened attitude.
Despite all of the right-wing noise designed to confuse people about it, the Affordable Care Act is a monumental achievement, and one most people are realizing needs to be preserved and expanded upon. Democrats, along with a few Republicans, have been trying to get to universal health care ever since Harry Truman. This is by no means a radical system. It was actually a conservative idea to begin with, back when conservatives had some sense. Nevertheless it will go a long way toward making health care available for everyone- not free, but affordable.
It has become crystal clear that the Republicans do not represent ordinary people- not the middle class, and not the poor.
Those who claim there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans must be considered especially absurd this year. The difference has been widening year by year, with Republicans moving so far to the right that it is hardly recognizable as an American political party.
Not only do we need to make further progress, particularly in repairing the Bush damage, but we need to hold on to the progress we have made, not just in the last 4 years, but in the last 60.
--cosmicrat Sept. 23, 2012
History: Know It and Use It Sunday, September 16, 2012 4:53:54 AM
It would seem obvious that those who seek to be part of government should be avid students of history in order to be able to recognize and avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
It is even more important that we, the voting public, learn and remember history, especially that of the last 20 to 30 years. Too many, even after living through it, seem to have forgotten, or were unaware of the events as they were happening. We must also remember that, even though we see ourselves as fully informed by a free press, many end up with an incomplete and one-sided view of what happened. We cannot expect to be fed all the news, or all sides of the stories,by the corporate-controlled media.
We no longer have an excuse for ignorance. Though one would once have to go to libraries and bookstores to do research, history and current events are now instantly available on the internet. Of course, not all data available is accurate, whether it is online or in a book. We still have to use our own human brains to evaluate multiple sources.
I originally wrote the following in 2006, after Bush had appointed Bob Gates as Defense Secretary. Because of his past history, I didn't trust him to be any better than his predecessor. Perhaps, as it turned out, he had learned from his and others' mistakes.
GATES, IRAN, AND NICARAGUA
Gates, as CIA deputy director for intelligence (1982-86), was involved in the outrageous Iran-Contra plot during the Reagan administration. Reagan, of course, was ultimately responsible, but Poindexter, North, and Gates were co-conspirators. The Contras were CIA-assisted guerrillas trying to overthrow a democratically elected government in Nicaragua. Congress cut off the money for that offensive project, but Reagan then proceeded to secretly fund it by selling arms to Iran (during the Iraq-Iran war, when we were also arming Iraq) at inflated prices, and by large-scale drug-smuggling operations.
For those who wonder why some foreign leaders and informed Americans say that the US is guilty of State Terrorism, this operation was one of the reasons.
Not only did the US fund the Contras, who attacked villages, health clinics, and noncombatants as well as bridges and power generators, but CIA operatives directly committed sabotage by mining harbors and burning oil tanks, and advocated assassination of selected police officials, judges, and tax collectors.
In 1986 Nicaragua brought the matter to the International Court of Justice, which found the US guilty of unlawful use of force, and ordered billions of dollars in reparations. The US ignored the court.
Of course, the CIA does not call actions they do or sponsor 'terrorism' They call them 'PSYOPS' (psychological operations) in a 'UWOA' (unconventional warfare area)
Cuba has also been the victim of a long history of terrorist acts funded and encouraged by the US, including the bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people, and a series of bomb attacks on nightclubs and other tourist spots designed to harm Cuba's important tourism industry. The Cuban-American terrorist organizations are given training and funded through such agencies as National Endowment for Democracy and the US International Development Agency as well as the CIA.
SCHOOL OF THE AMERICAS
Since 1946 the US has operated a training center for foreign nationals. Originally located in Panama, called the Latin American Training School, Ground Division, it was moved to Ft. Benning, Georgia in 1984 and renamed School of the Americas. It students mainly come from Latin American countries and are trained in counterinsurgency tactics. Its students, according to a UN Commission report, have become some of the most brutal and deadly violators of human rights in Central and South America. In 2001 it was renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, or WHISC, and due to negative publicity it was ordered to offer courses in human rights and democracy, which are largely ignored. So far, Congress has been unable to abolish this center. For more information
Especially relevant to the Middle East situation is the 1953 US and British-sponsored overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iran, Operation Ajax, which installed the Shah. The motivation was to prevent nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, later renamed British Petroleum.
That bit of history is unmentioned by those who professed confusion and outrage when 63 Americans were taken hostage after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. We, along with the British, had held their entire country hostage for 26 years. They held some Americans for about 15 months, partly because they suspected we intended to again crush their revolution as we did in 1953.
The primary point in the agreement to release the hostages was a US pledge to never again interfere in Iran's internal affairs.
Imagine how the Iranians, the Cubans, the Nicaraguans, and the people of several other countries we have likewise manipulated feel when an American President has the nerve to condemn terrorism.
That is not to say that violence and destruction aimed at civilians is excused for those who have been victims of US policy, any more than it is when governments do it. But it is important to understand the motivations of the perpetrators, and the reasons why some people view us as enemies, whether or not they attempt violence themselves.
--cosmicrat September 16, 2012 ( 2 comments)
The Way Forward: Practical Politics Friday, September 14, 2012 12:48:53 AM
We, the people, need to be fully engaged in all aspects of our government, both foreign and domestic. This is easier said than done. Traditionally, our votes are determined mostly by domestic issues, and only when foreign policy is going very, very wrong, as it did during the Vietnam war and the Iraq invasion, do we elevate foreign relations to a high priority.
The result has been a long list of invasions, intimidations, engineered coups, puppet dictators, economic aggressions, etc., often unreported and usually untaught in history classes, of which any person with a moral sense who is fully aware of them should be ashamed.
Over the past two centuries this kind of foreign policy has become habit, determined not by the will of the people but by those whose financial interests are served by the American style of imperialism. It has created an extremely complicated system of alliances, economic relationships, and a defense, industrial and espionage establishment that has an unknown degree of control over the policy itself.
The expansion of available information has relatively recently enabled us to form intelligent independent conclusions about foreign affairs. There is still the problem of how to change things. We cannot even be certain that our elected officials, including the President, have enough actual power to alter foreign policy in a significant way.
Some assume, based on Constitutional legalities, that a President can control it, as intended. That may be true, but it doesn't make the informed voters' job any easier. To elect a President and a Congress who are willing to rock the foreign policy boat, defying the military-industrial complex, we need to undo the effect of many decades of propaganda. That is the key to change, and there are no shortcuts around it.
The process of informing and educating the public, counteracting generations of misinformation and corporate-serving ideology, will be a monumental and long-term task, which will continue to be resisted by well-funded propaganda operations. It will be achieved not by out-spending the opposition, but by rigorously speaking the whole truth.
Some have suggested that we should not compromise along the way; that we should support only 'ideal' candidates and parties, not those we consider right on some issues and wrong on others. Such an approach may be philosophically satisfying to some, but it is not the way politics works. Politics IS compromise, and change is always achieved incrementally by means of an endless series of compromises, each new bit of progress built on the last.
We hear the trite cynicism Lesser of two evils. There is no logic in rejecting both. Less evil is more good. Some say The system is broken, implying that action short of revolution is useless. No, the system is NOT broken. It is merely rusty from disuse by the apathetic, the hopeless cynics, and the deluded idealists who insist on perfect third parties with no chance of affecting anything.
I have spoken of foreign policy, but I do not mean we should ignore domestic policy. It is every bit as important, and it is there that we can learn that the public CAN effect change, given determination and persistence. People, organizations, and many imperfect politicians have struggled for and advanced the causes of racial, ethnic, religious and sexual-preference equality, for Social Security, Medicare, and Affordable Health Care; for labor and collective bargaining; for a cleaner environment. In these areas there is also resistence, and it has taken years of work. There is much more to do, but we have made progress.
We must hold onto the progress we have made, and then make more, both foreign and domestic.
--cosmicrat Sept. 11, 2012
I wrote and posted the above article on my main website at http://www.cosmicrat.com as well as here on my Opera blog. If you are interested, as I am, in how US foreign policy has been created over time, there is also an article there titled 'Foreign Policy' that includes links on the origin of oil, Israel, and Latin American policies. Understanding history does not, by itself, reveal the way to change the future, but I believe it is a necessary first step.
--September 14, 2012 ( 4 comments)
Corporations are not people Sunday, September 9, 2012 10:01:22 PM
'Corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance. They live, they love, and they die. And that matters, because we don't run this country for corporations, we run it for people.'
-- Elizabeth Warren
I couldn't have said it better.
--cosmicrat 9/9/2012 ( 4 comments)
Navigating the Middle East Minefield Tuesday, September 4, 2012 4:32:29 AM
Nobody can make everyone happy. That is especially true when you're President of the US.
A news article I just read: 'US CIA chief Petraeus is sent to cool Israeli ire' http://www.debka.com/article/22327/US-CIA-chief-Petraeus-arrives-Monday-to-cool-Israeli-ire briefly touches on the elements of the current Middle Eastern situation about which no one is likely to be happy no matter what President Obama does or doesn't do.
There is no lack of commentary from those who think they know exactly what should be done. I suspect that certainty would evaporate if the commentators actually had the power and the responsibility.
There are those who believe the President is leaning too close to Israeli interests, and others, including, of course, Netanyahu, who think he isn't leaning close enough. Deviating either way could be a disaster.
Clearly Israel's government is exaggerating the danger from Iran. Maybe its leadership believes there is a danger, and maybe it doesn't, but it is necessary to take threats of an attack on Iran seriously and do everything possible to prevent that. If that takes pressuring Iran into not appearing to be the threat that it actually isn't and probably won't be, without pushing Iran too far into a corner, then that is the least hazardous course.
Red lines, especially clear ones, are the last thing we need. The lines need to stay fuzzy, and preferably gray.
The thought of telling Israel that if it starts a war, it is on its own, with no US help, may be appealing, but that could push Netanyahu into doing it anyway, and the US internal political cost would be extreme. What may be discussed behind closed doors is hard to say.
Syria, too, needs to be handled carefully. Turkey, like Israel, could easily make a treacherous situation worse.
If President Obama can prevent an international Mideast war, whether or not a permanent peace can be negotiated, I believe he will have more than earned his Peace Prize. And I certainly don't want to see anyone else with that responsibility, at least for the next four years.
-cosmic rat September 4, 2012
What's Wrong With Arizona? Wednesday, August 29, 2012 2:08:56 AM
Many people, both inside and outside this state, wonder 'What the Hell is wrong with Arizona?' As a resident, I enjoy the warm desert weather and the state's natural beauty. Phoenix, the 7th largest US city, is remarkably low in density and is laid out in a logical grid of wide streets. But politically, Arizona is a disaster.
In particular, the absurdities that spew forth from our state legislature are often bind-bogglingly lacking in common sense.
Most recently it decided that a pregnancy begins two weeks before conception. It approved a resolution against a non-binding UN proposal called 'Agenda 21'. In its unlimited enthusiasm for the Second Amendment, it has expanded legal concealed-carry permission to include almost any place.
Gun Laws in AZ
Guns in Public Buildings
And of course there's anti-Hispanic-immigrant agenda, which also includes a ban on school courses in Latino heritage, and language teachers who have accents. The list goes on.
Weird Arizona Legislation
Against Energy Efficiency
Extreme Web Censorship
E. J. Montini, an Arizona Republic columnist, suggests:
'Let's cancel Arizona’s general election How about we cancel the election in November on account of we already know who’s going to win. 59 percent of legislative incumbents in this year’s election faced NO challenges.
In other words, roughly two-thirds of the state lawmakers that you and I and just about everyone else complained about for months are strolling unopposed right back into their old jobs.
And for many of the rest the opponents they face don’t pose a serious threat.
Experts who spend a lot of time (maybe too much) analyzing this sort of thing say that among the state’s 30 legislative districts, from which we elect our 60 Arizona House members and 30 state senators, there are about three to eight seriously competitive districts.'
No doubt some other states have the same problem. Dividing the electorate into districts makes it as difficult as possible to change anything, especially when they are configured to become 'safe' districts, mostly for Republicans, by Republicans. Recently the Republican-majority legislaure tried to 'fire' what was supposed to be a non-partisan redistricting commission for being too non-partisan.
I would like to see the problem solved by electing the legislature 'at-large', eliminating all the districts.
Arizona will eventually change due to the growing number of Hispanic citizens, but Republicans are doing whatever they can to delay the effect. That is the real motive behind the anti-immigrant agenda. They really don't mind the cheap labor from the undocumented workers. They want to make Arizona hispanic-unfriendly. Who wants to live where you may be ethnically profiled at any time, even though you're a citizen?
New voting rules could make it harder than ever to get Latinos to the polls
'Solution in search of a problem’
Of the eight states with the largest Latino populations, four – Texas, Florida, Arizona and Colorado – have some form of voter ID law, according to the NationalConference of State Legislatures. The Texas photo ID law is awaiting a U.S. District Court decision.
Arizona, which has a strict, non-photo ID requirement to vote , has had seven voter fraud convictions since 2000 but none for voter impersonation at the polls, according to state records reviewed by News21.'
This is not the worst of states for voter-suppression, but any at all is too much.
You might think Mississippi is the worst-educated state. In fact, it's only 49th. Arizona ranks #50. It's 5th highest in Firearms Death Rate per 100,000 people, at 18.
If anyone has any good ideas on how to fix this state, let me know. Better yet, move here and start voting. And bring your liberal friends.
-cosmic rat August 29, 2012 ( 9 comments)
Allow Me to Introduce Myself Saturday, August 25, 2012 5:55:36 PM
Those who know me from Multiply may find some of this unnecessary, but this is a new venue, and I am already acquiring new friends.
I am a Multiply Refugee, expanding my options of safe virtual havens due to the coming Multipocolypse. Multiply.com is determined to destroy itself on December 1, 2012. That destruction encompasses the site's only real value, that of a blogging and discussion group center for a large number of geographically and philosophically diverse people.
Multiply will instead pursue a greedy and ill-conceived scheme to become some sort of Indonesian marketplace, in which only money, not ideas, will be valued.
A COSMICRAT is a member of the cosmicratic movement. Cosmicracy is a social and political philosophy which seeks to eliminate all divisive labels that we place on ourselves and one another. We should not think of ourselves as citizens of a state or a nation, or even our planet, but of the universe; the cosmos. The ideal is a world where borders between countries mean no more than county lines or city limits do today. True, we have a long way to go to reach that ideal, but if we don't imagine it, think about it, and work toward it, we'll never get there.
We need to stop thinking locally. People from one place, of one color, one sex, one sexual orientation, one religious belief or nonbelief, are inherently no better or worse than any other. No one is any more or less deserving of a share of a planet's resources
No matter how democratic our system of government, if we as voters do not have a firm vision of the world we want to live in, we will continue to be manipulated into allowing wars and divisive policies. Though we now have a President who seeks peace and justice, a President alone is limited in the changes he can make against the interests of vast power and wealth. We must all become aware and take strong interest, and resist those who encourage us to fear and hate other human beings.
With the above entry I began using My Opera as one of the replacements for dying Multiply. Now, as of March 3 2014, Opera's blog site will disappear, though more gracefully than Multiply.
Like my Multiply blogs, the above will be preserved on my main website, www.cosmicrat.com known as the Cosmic Cabdrivers' Guide to the Universe....and perhaps elsewhere.
--cosmicrat February 23, 2014