Category Archives: Foreign Affairs

A “Coarse” Correction…

Well it’s certainly not the outcome I’d hoped for. Nor expected. In fact, in my wildest dreams I didn’t think this clown would be elected president. I thought we were better than that…actually I still do (see below). Before I get to the heart of the matter though, I have to say, I’m not ENTIRELY surprised. Since the advent of “hate” style politics championed by Ronald Reagan, through the advent of Faux News and the unbridled partisan vitriol of Karl Rove and the like, we have seen a burgeoning class of disaffected, generally poorly educated, voters that feel as if the system needs to change. I agree. It does. But electing a misogynistic, racist, sexual predator with absolutely no qualifications did not seem to be the way to do it…or was it?

I am very angry at those that voted for this change. By voting for the candidate of the KKK you have effectively endorsed the antithesis of every principle that our nation was founded on. I am most sad today for those young men and woman who so bravely sacrificed their lives…that today a reality show clown will be their commander-in-chief.

But despite all this there are silver linings. The majority voted against this hatred. And although the electoral college will elect Trump, perhaps the next four years is our wake up call. If it is not…if it does inspire you to take action and correct this mess we find ourselves in…well then, we deserve this.

I for one plan to take action. I will NOT let this country go down in flames unchallenged. I have often disagreed with Michael Moore, but his insight on this election, and specifically the pathos that carried Trump to victory is startling.

And Moore provides his own call to action. One that I personally plan on implementing. Now:

Morning After To-Do List:
1. Take over the Democratic Party and return it to the people. They have failed us miserably.
2. Fire all pundits, predictors, pollsters and anyone else in the media who had a narrative they wouldn’t let go of and refused to listen to or acknowledge what was really going on. Those same bloviators will now tell us we must “heal the divide” and “come together.” They will pull more hooey like that out of their ass in the days to come. Turn them off.
3. Any Democratic member of Congress who didn’t wake up this morning ready to fight, resist and obstruct in the way Republicans did against President Obama every day for eight full years must step out of the way and let those of us who know the score lead the way in stopping the meanness and the madness that’s about to begin.
4. Everyone must stop saying they are “stunned” and “shocked”. What you mean to say is that you were in a bubble and weren’t paying attention to your fellow Americans and their despair. YEARS of being neglected by both parties, the anger and the need for revenge against the system only grew. Along came a TV star they liked whose plan was to destroy both parties and tell them all “You’re fired!” Trump’s victory is no surprise. He was never a joke. Treating him as one only strengthened him. He is both a creature and a creation of the media and the media will never own that.
5. You must say this sentence to everyone you meet today: “HILLARY CLINTON WON THE POPULAR VOTE!” The MAJORITY of our fellow Americans preferred Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Period. Fact. If you woke up this morning thinking you live in an effed-up country, you don’t. The majority of your fellow Americans wanted Hillary, not Trump. The only reason he’s president is because of an arcane, insane 18th-century idea called the Electoral College. Until we change that, we’ll continue to have presidents we didn’t elect and didn’t want. You live in a country where a majority of its citizens have said they believe there’s climate change, they believe women should be paid the same as men, they want a debt-free college education, they don’t want us invading countries, they want a raise in the minimum wage and they want a single-payer true universal health care system. None of that has changed. We live in a country where the majority agree with the “liberal” position. We just lack the liberal leadership to make that happen (see: #1 above).

Let’s try to get this all done by noon today.
— Michael Moore

Thank you Mr. Moore…let’s get on this folks…before this “coarse” correction becomes a way of life.


The Obama Conundrum…

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But at the end of the day we couldn’t.

I voted for President Obama in both elections. I like the man. I believe he is genuine and his heart is in the right place.

But at the end of the day, his presidency is a failure on many levels. Not the least of which are the broken promises. The promises of change. The inspired campaign speeches that rallied a post-Bush nation.

Very little of it came to pass.

Mr. Obama’s tears discussing Sandy Hook during his Executive Action announcement on gun control were moving and no doubt heartfelt. But they represent everything that was wrong with his administration. Too little. Too late.

True gun reform is within reach, if the deal maker’s in Washington are willing to make the political sacrifices necessary. A reasonable compromise can be struck between the second amendment and those demanding a ban on all weapons. I won’t bore you with the details, but it can be done.

My point is that, yet again, President Obama’s actions in this area are weak and ineffective. Certainly not the actions of Candidate Obama. Not the president I voted for.

The president I voted for would not allow the egregious violation of civil right this administration has displayed. The unprecedented intimidation of journalists and whistle-blower’s by this Justice Department is truly stunning. Certainly not what I expected from this president nor what was promised.

The lack of foresight and action on the Ukraine and Syria demonstrate just two of the administrations catastrophic foreign policy blunders. Don’t even get me started on their complete lack of leadership in dealing with the despot Netanyahu and how our relationship with that failed government has threatened our national security.

At the end of the day, there were some wins. The economy, jobs, and most notably the Affordable Care Act. But if these wins came at the price of the aforementioned disasters, they were certainly not worth it in my estimation.

Here’s what really scares me: I believe in Obama the man. I believe he is decent and truly wanted to do the right thing. But he was clearly outmatched politically. And this doesn’t bode well for any idealistic outsider running for our highest office.

It appears that the entrenched/corrupt insiders (read Hilary) will be the only liberals able to affect change, albeit within the framework of the current plutocracy.

I would love to sit down with Mr. Obama someday and ask him what happened. How did his grand vision come apart. Alas, I don’t think we will ever know…

 

 

 


Why Truth Matters

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Stop what you’re doing right now and tell me which way is north.

Not sure? OK, grab your smartphone and access your compass app…this should do it.

What does this have to do with truth? The question: “Which way is north” refers to a baseline or default direction from which we measure the other elements/directions within that world.

In other words, within our socio-political world, the abrogation of truth has led to a warping of our moral compass…a dangerous precedent.

Without a frame of reference, the short shrift we increasingly give truth is denigrating our ability to hold ourselves, our society, and our leaders accountable to the truth; to that element of our existence that allows us to judge right and wrong. To that precious commodity that allows us, as a society, to call out those who would harm us and declare “this is wrong”.

When we play fast and loose with the truth, we lose the moral high-ground.

Case in point:  the political assassination of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov.

It doesn’t take an individual with a degree in international relations, criminology, or Soviet history to surmise that Putin is holding the metaphorical (if not literal) smoking gun.

In another era, our government, our media, our so-called political “leaders” could, in good faith, call out the modern day Russian Czar Putin on this travesty of justice. While Putin is many things (among them sociopathic) he is not stupid. He must realize the American government, media, and Congress don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to claiming the moral high-ground. In fact, he’s already spun the assassination as the work of American agents.

Sigh.

Let’s take our government first. Yes, we’ve never been fortunate to have a completely transparent government, but as the heroic revelations of Edward Snowden have illuminated, our government is actively and aggressively lying to the folks that empower and employ them…you and me.

And what of the media? The fifth estate formerly occupied by luminaries such as Murrow and Cronkite…

Those luminaries have been replaced by America’s most trusted news source, Fox News.

If this doesn’t cause you concern, stop reading now and return to whichever reality show of the moment or televised pursuit you are watching and please increase your cholesterol intake. If it does concern you, take heart. When was the last time those individuals who are truly curious, consumers of real news, watched network news anyway. I’m encouraged by the fact that there is a large portion of the country that was not included in this poll. At least I desperately, if not naively, cling to this hope.

And finally, what of our most precious representatives in Congress? You know, those individuals whose very existence is based upon their ability to accept corporate donations and spew whatever soundbite adds to those campaign contributions. Still not with me? These are the folks who are currently walking the razor’s edge of treason by undermining the constitution and the executive branch with respect to the Iranian nuclear enrichment talks. Fine upstanding individuals who wouldn’t know a moral compass if it hit them in their fat coffers.

Those who live in glass houses simply can’t throw stones and we are quickly becoming the inhabitants of the largest glass mansion in the (and I use this word cautiously) “civilized” world.

 


There is a Solution…

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I heartily profess to be no expert on middle eastern affairs, Judaism, Islam, Palestine, or the history of any of these regions/religions.

I am however a human being with empathy and an opinion. And a sense of fair play. Some call it common sense.

28 Palestinian children…children…have been killed in the last 24 hours. 27 Israeli soldiers have died since Operation Protective Edge has begun. Young men defending their country against an onslaught of rocket fire from the terrorist organization Hamas. They didn’t need to die.

This is the broad outline. The justifications are spewed by both sides. “They don’t recognize our right to exist…they are terrorists bent on genocide…we have a right to defend our citizens”. Hyperbolic statements are the order of the generation. And the truth lies in all corners.

The Jews have indeed suffered since the times of Ramses II. They are the so-called “chosen people” and have suffered a millenia of genocide and displacement. They are the proverbial abused child.

But study after study shows that the child who is abused, quite often becomes the abuser. And institutionally, I believe this is the case with the state of Israel.

Don’t get me wrong. They have terrorists at the door step (and tunnels) and they certainly have a responsibility to defend their state. But how much is too much?

I’m reminded of the legal concept of self-defense. An individual is allowed to use the same measure of force when repelling an assault.

Can the state of Israel claim this moral high ground? Of course not; and therein lies the fundamental problem and the solution to this conflict.

We, the United States, have wisely invested in the security of Israel for generations. However, the politicians who have been the beneficiary of this military aid…this state of the art weaponry, have been irresponsible in their deployment.

And I, as a tax paying American citizen, demand that my government take immediate action to stop the killing. We have the ability to be a game changer in this centuries old conflict, but we lack the moral courage to do it. It simply doesn’t poll well.

I see a glimmer of hope when the moderates in Israel are finally speaking out against their grossly aggressive government policies. For too long Israel has received a pass, largely as the result of empathy with their historic plight.

That ends now…at least as far as I’m concerned. It’s time for those moderates in Israel to demand restraint. To demand that their government take the moral high ground and rely on their superior defensive technologies. Put the onus of blame on the extremist in Hamas and garner the support of the region and the world.

Stop being the bully, protect your citizens through restraint. Stop the campaign to eliminate your neighbors and just take a deep breath and realize…children are dying. Innocent little boys and girls.

A paradigm shift is all that will end this endless loop of blood.

The killing must stop…

 


The War on Drugs and Social Darwinism

 

Courtesy The Guardian

Courtesy The Guardian

In the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin argues that natural selection acts by “rejecting that which is bad, [while] preserving and adding up all that is good”(3). The modern conservative movement has manipulated this theory into a de facto form of Social Darwinism through the imprisonment of non-violent substance abusers. In Jarecki’s documentary “The House I Live In” this is described as “the holocaust in slow motion”.

The term substance abuse encapsulates those suffering from addictions to both alcohol and/or drugs. Specifically, alcoholism has been classified as the “fourth most serious health problem” in the United States (Lee 104). In fact, in 1967 the American Medical Association “would pass resolutions acknowledging the disease model of alcoholism” (Lee 101).  The DSM-V, the American Psychiatric Association’s bible, classifies drug addiction as a primary disease. If we can then accept the linear logic that addiction and alcoholism are recognized as disease by the two most austere organizations responsible for public health policy in our country, to classify sufferers of these diseases as criminals is not only inherently wrong, but a form of Social Darwinism (Edwards 6).

Since the inception of the so-called War on Drugs, despite having “less than 5 percent of the world’s population [the U.S. has] nearly 25 percent of its incarcerated population [and] imprisons more people than any other nation in the world—largely due to the war on drugs” (Charlotte 1). Upwards of one quarter to one half of those behind bars are for arrests related to drug and alcohol abuse. If it has been empirically proven that alcoholism and drug addiction are diseases, why are we imprisoning these individuals? Is it not clear that society must demand a paradigm shift in the “focus from stopping someone from ‘doing drugs’ to helping someone ‘overcome’ drugs” (Mann 12)? This is not to argue that all alcoholics and drug addicts have not committed crimes or that their primary offense was non-drug related. However there is a large number of “offenders who are merely people who have an addiction to illegal drugs, but no other form of criminal behavior” (Mann 2).

The War on Drugs has resulted in a generation of incarceration and a proliferation of the Prison Industrial Complex. The statistics are quite stark:  there “were more than 1.6 million drug arrests in the U.S. in 2010. The vast majority—more than 80 percent—were for possession only” (Charlotte 1).  On any given night “More than 500,000 Americans are behind bars […] for a drug law violation” and in “the last three decades, the adult arrest rate for drug law violations increased by 138 percent” (Charlotte 1).

The disease model of alcoholism and addiction has fluctuated over the last two centuries and has profoundly affected our nation’s drug and alcohol policies. The primary policy solution however has been that “a prohibitive, punitive approach has been emphasized. Racial and socioeconomic disparities have been exacerbated by the inequities of drug laws” (Lee 99).

As Edwards argues in Behavioral Healthcare, “Our society does not like to deal with people who have tremendous needs. Instead of confronting the issues, our response has been to lock up people with chronic medical problems and keep them out of sight and out of mind” (6). From the outset of President Richard Nixon’s War on Drugs, this is exactly what has happened to millions of Americans suffering from a primary medical and mental illness. We have literally locked them up, and thanks to mandatory minimum sentencing laws, figuratively thrown away the keys.

President Nixon’s declaration of a War on Drugs compounded with the Reagan administration’s draconian budget cuts to social programs, effectively removed the safety net for millions of Americans and created a downward socioeconomic spiral for inner-city youth.  The resultant proliferation of alcoholism and drug addiction kept an even pace with the Conservative party’s agenda to eliminate, through imprisonment, an entire “lower” class of our society.

In 1972, President Nixon issued an Executive Order that eventually led to the creation of the Drug Enforcement Agency as to tool in his stated War on Drugs. This “war” flew in the face of the political and medical evidence with regard to drugs at the time. One study “recommended decriminalization of marijuana use, stating:  ‘The actual and potential harm of the use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior, a step which our society takes with the greatest reluctance’ but Nixon was not deflected from the pursuit of his agenda” (Lee 105).  According to Lee, the War on Drugs was a “thriving business” and in a 1973 speech to Congress, Nixon declared an “all-out global war on the drug menace” demanding the reinstatement of mandatory minimum sentence for drug offenders (105). It is not entirely outside the realm of possibility to imagine that there may still be prisoners serving time currently for marijuana possession charges brought on in this era.

Continuing the conservative agenda, President Ronald Reagan declared that “government is the problem” (Lee 106).  He then promptly spent the balance of his administration enacting some of the most severe budget cuts to social services that our country had seen, while increasing funding for “law enforcement, the penal system, and further military involvement in the War on Drugs” (Lee 107).

To understand how the modern conservative movement has turned the Prison Industrial Complex into a de facto form of Social Darwinism, one only need look back less than 100 years to view the roots of this Eugenic movement. In 1927 the Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in Buck v. Bell said “[t]here generations of imbeciles are enough” and granted the authority for forced sterilization (Tan 65).  An entire class of citizen was disenfranchised by this ruling and it set the stage for the conservative parties philosophy with regard to so-called “inferior” forms of humanity—drug addicts and alcoholics.

The term Social Darwinism was coined not by Darwin himself, but by sociologist and philosopher Herbert Spencer.  He and his supporters “saw society as a competitive struggle where only those with the strongest moral character should survive” (Reich). In fact it was Spencer rather than Darwin who proffered the phrase “survival of the fittest”. This newly christened movement, Social Darwinism, “offered a perfect moral justification for America’s Gilded Age, where […] the gap between rich and poor turned into a chasm, urban slums festered, and politicians were bought off by the wealthy” (Reich). This describes social conditions that are mirrored today:  a vast disparity between rich and poor…the “one-percenters” and the socially exclusive practice of imprisoning an entire segment of society for non-violent drug/alcohol offenses.

The practice of Eugenics, or the social manipulation of reproduction based on desirable and non-desirable traits, is the end result of Social Darwinism. The United States is not alone in this practice. Nazi Germany was the most extreme example of this medical and social manipulation, but the eugenicist Swiss psychiatrist, Eugen Bleuler who created the term schizophrenia,  categorized alcoholics and drug addicts in the same class as “criminals, prostitutes […] ‘immoral’ people, the mentally ill […] ‘gypsies’, and vagrants” and they “were seen to constitute  hereditary ‘threats’ to the Swiss nation” (Gerodetti 40).

As the Prison Industrial Complex has risen, so has the need to fill these prisons. Privatization of prisons has created a cottage industry for an entire segment of the population; from prison guards to the various ancillary services required to keep them running. These businesses operate like any other for-profit business model and must be kept at peak census if they are to turn a profit. The War on Drugs provided the ideal solution to this business model. The implementation of mandatory-minimum sentencing guaranteed a steady supply of bodies to fill the cells. The conservative party’s “tough on crime” mantra and institutional insistence on criminalization of what is factually a public health problem, has created a scenario where a disproportionate number of people with disabilities (addicts/alcoholics) are effective removed from society. Who are these people? The vast majority are low income and people of color. For example, African-Americans “compromise 13 percent of the U.S. population, and [use] drugs at similar rates to people of other races. But blacks comprise 31 percent” of those arrested for drugs and “more than 50 percent of those incarcerated in state prison for drug law violations” and of “those in federal prison for drug law violations in 2010, one-third were Latino/a and 44 percent were black” (Charlotte 2).

That “blacks have been arrested for drug violations nationwide at rates 2.8 to 5.5 times higher than white arrest rates” cannot be dismissed (Charlotte 2).  This is a direct result of the conservative movements efforts, through the War on Drugs, mandatory-minimum sentencing, and criminalization of addiction, to disenfranchise an entire “undesirable” portion of the population—Eugenics and Social Darwinism by definition. The “lifelong penalties and exclusions that follow a drug conviction have created a permanent second-class status for millions of Americans” (Charlotte 3).

Social Darwinism is alive and well today. Eugenic ideologies have “persisted through the subtle influence of cultural beliefs concerning marginalized groups” and society is only seen as safe when “such people are locked behind the walls of an institution or when deceased” (Balcazar 35).

In addition to the morally bankrupt philosophy of criminalizing drug addicts and alcoholics, the financial burden placed upon the United States is immense. While the Prison Industrial Complex is thriving, the self-perpetuating cycle of addiction and imprisonment continues in the vacuum of effective treatment strategies. Even law enforcement is in general agreement that stopping the supply-side is grossly ineffective. Recognizing addiction and alcoholism as a disease and treating it as such is the consensus among professionals in the industry, yet our political framework, the conservative wing in particular, takes a short-sided view of this reality and continues to perpetuate a problem that actually has a solution. As Edwards so succinctly states, our “society can no longer afford to spend billions on warehousing people with substance abuse problems”.

Darwin could not have possibly anticipated the obscene political capital that would be expended in his name—namely the gross misrepresentation of his theory of natural selection into a public policy that disenfranchises millions of American’s each year through the Prison Industrial Complex and the conservatives War on Drugs. It is indeed, the “holocaust in slow motion”.

Works Cited

Balcazar, Fabricio E., Pamela Block, and Christopher B. Keys. “Race, Poverty and Disability: Three Strikes and You’re Out! Or Are You?” Social Policy 33.1 (2002): 34-38. Academic OneFile. Web. 2 Oct. 2013.

Charlotte Street Films. The Drug War, Mass Incarceration and Race. 1-3. New York. 5 October 2012. Media Kit. 1-3. Retrieved from http://www.thehouseilivein.org/.

Darwin, Charles. (1859). The Origin of Species: Chapter 4—Natural Selection. Retrieved from http://profkev.com/texts/Darwin_origin_Chp_4.pdf.

Edwards, Douglas J. “A Tale of Two Crists.” Behavioral Healthcare 28.4 (2008): 6. Academic OneFile. Web. 29 Sept. 2013.

Gerodetti, Natalia, and Veronique Mottier. “Eugenics and Social Democracy: or, How the European Left Tried to Eliminate the ‘Weeds’ from its National Gardens.” New Formations 60 (2007): 35-49. Academic OneFile. Web. 2 Oct. 2013.

The House I Live In. Dir. Eugene Jarecki. Charlotte Street Films. 2012. Film.

Lee, Dorothy R., Paul Lee, and Philip R. Lee. “2010: U.S. Drug and Alcohol Policy, Looking Back and Moving Forward.” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 42.2 (2010): 99-114. Academic OneFile. Web. 29 Sept. 2013.

Mann, Jim. “Substance Abuse Control: How Do We Measure Success?” Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table (2010). 1-13. Academic OneFile. Web. 29 Sept. 2013.

Reich, Robert B. “The Two Darwinisms.” The American Prospect 16.12 (2005): 56. Academic OneFile. Web. 2 Oct. 2013.

Tan, Morse Hyun-Myung. “Advancing Civil Rights, the Next Generation: The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 and Beyond.” Health Matrix Winter 2009: 63-119. Academic OneFile. Web. 2 Oct. 2013.

 

 

 


The Death of Compromise…

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As previously documented in this blog, I own guns and support the rights of gun owners and the second amendment.

But I’d like to think I’m willing to compromise. For example, if you can guarantee me that ALL guns will magically be removed from the hands of criminals and mentally ill in this country, I’d be willing to consider surrendering my guns.

I also feverishly support stringent background checks and waiting periods for purchasing weapons.

I’m also a (former) reader of Guns & Ammo magazine, and I particularly enjoyed the last page musings of Dick Metcalf. His insights on guns and the gun culture always seemed measured and reasonable.

So of course he was fired.

His termination brilliantly exposes the current state of the “gun culture” and the power of the NRA in this country.

Draw the line and don’t budge. Be afraid. Fight to the finish.

And die doing so…

I simply can’t believe that the majority of Americans will ultimately buy into the crap the NRA spews these days. And I suspect that in light of increasingly tragic school shootings, at some point the NRA will implode under the weight of their own fear and bigotry.

I hope.

This issue…this failure to find common ground: compromise, is very well-known in the middle east.

As the war criminals George W. Bush and Dick Cheney sip martini’s and enjoy their golden years, hundreds of thousands of children are dying in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen as the DIRECT result of the destabilization of that region by our government.

And now in this gargantuan power vacuum, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, or “the Levant” as they are now known, are predictably exploiting this for their own Neanderthal agenda.

Shia and Sunni. Black and White. Christian and Muslim.

No compromise.

My way or the highway.

An eye for an eye.

When does it end?


Reaping What We Sow…

Syria is in our face.

We can’t run and we can’t hide. President Obama recklessly painted us into this corner when he declared there was a “red line” with regard to Syrian use of chemical weapons.  But his ill-advised rhetoric is not to blame.

Truman began this descent into Constitutional madness, and our lack of Congressional accountability has fomented it.

Without rehashing an endlessly fascinating (I’m being a serious wonk here) debate on the merits and legality of nation states taking violent, war-like action against other states, I submit that our constitution would be served best by at least trying to maintain an appearance of balance with regard to the Executive and Legislative branches when it comes to “declaring war”.  Or in this case, utilizing American military resources to strike another country.

Here’s where it’s gone all wrong. Truman  unilaterally launched our now famous “police action” in Korea, and ever since, the Executive branch has used that as a green light to launch all manner of military excursions.

There is a real honest and important policy consideration to be undertaken (as yet hopelessly mired in politics) regarding the use of American military forces in the interests of protecting the citizens of rogue states and merciless strongmen.  Think Rwanda where our inaction facilitated the genocide there. Or the “Killing Fields” of Cambodia.

When is it appropriate for us to become the worlds policemen?  Is it in the interest of our national security or simply a moral imperative?

Sadly, we are unlikely to have this debate. As surely as we are unlikely to systematically parse the actual legality of the action the Executive branch appears to be headed towards.

Why?  Because our system of government is broken.  The powers of the Executive branch have exceeded their intended boundaries as critically as our failed attempts at election reform have filled our Congress with short-sighted, career politicians with no understanding or the word compromise.

A poll released today states that a majority of Americans want Congressional approval before any military action is taken. In a perfect, “Constitutional” world, I support that sentiment.

But let me repeat: our system is broken and the only result of attempting to get Congressional approval would be another vote along party lines. No actual compromise or representative government would be seen within miles of the beltway. It would be another facade.

Do I think military action in Syria is the right move? Yes…but I simply despise the way we got here.

We are paying the price for decades of political instant gratification that began with Truman and masterfully exploited during the era of the “Great Communicator” himself.

We have only ourselves to blame…


‘I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things’

(via guardian.co.uk)

(via guardian.co.uk)

So says Edward Snowden, the former NSA analyst who has come forward as the source of recent NSA “leaks” involving the government’s role in gathering intelligence information.

Some personal perspective: I spent several years as a firefighter, ultimately reaching the rank of Captain. We, by necessity, work very closely with law enforcement. Both agencies are public, para-military organizations. I witnessed first-hand abuses by law enforcement, both physical and constitutional. On one occasion, I saw a deputy take a homeless teen behind a building and “talk to him”…the teen returned ruffled and bruised. It was clear what the “talking to” involved. I don’t have a monopoly on witnessing this kind of “stretching the rules” but I mention it to gain some insight on the matter at hand. The police departments that I worked with were willing to break the law to advance what they collectively saw as a greater good. In many, if not most cases, I agreed with their actions at the time. It’s called “group-think” and it’s very east to succumb to in this line of work.

Now let’s up the stakes by, say, infinity…you are the United States Government and you are mandated with protecting your citizens from an increasingly sophisticated enemy, Jihadists from non nation-states that do not follow the conventional rules of warfare.

After 911, I think it’s safe to say that I and many others felt that “all bets were off” in the immediacy surrounding the horrible attack. But with time comes perspective and a return to sanity, and a return to a “normal” state of non knee-jerk responsiveness that has apparently continued unabated in the security apparatchiks of this country.

I discussed John Kiriakou recently here and my outrage at his imprisonment for essentially calling out his government for not playing by its own rules.

Now Edward Snowden. He contends that the level of governmental intrusion is far greater than we have been led to believe, and based upon my personal experiences, I believe him. We are only being exposed to the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our governments anti-terror programs. Journalist Jeremy Scahill’s new film and book “Dirty Wars” promises to shine further light on these dark recesses of our national obsession with “security”.

Is all this justified?  Is it okay to wiretap and spy on your own citizens and God knows what else will be revealed? Maybe it is…maybe these actions, taken clearly outside the letter and intent of our Bill of Rights are vital to our collective safety. But here’s the deal…in order for us, you know, the citizens of the country that employ you, to make an informed decision, we need transparency. We need to be brought into the loop just enough to know if what you guys are doing is both necessary and just. And right now, with an absolute lack of transparency, we simply have President Obama “assuring” us that it’s not invasive and it’s in our best interest.

Mr. President, I’ve voted for you twice. I admired your background as a Constitutional Law Professor. You are lying to us and you have lost my support. Until you can convince me that these draconian measures are CRITICAL to our well-being, you are simply another corporate talking head. Another minion of the military-industrial complex furthering our descent into fascism.

I have no illusions that this blog will not be “flagged” in some third-party corporate “metadatabase”…and that’s a shame. My father fought and nearly died in two wars to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. I served over 20 years protecting the public in the emergency services field and I am not about to roll over on the principles of this country.

I want answers.

I want transparency.

And I want more people like Edward Snowden to come forward and do the right thing…


If You Have Any Remaining Illusions…

(via salon.com)

(via salon.com)

…that life is fair or that the United States of America’s justice system maintains any semblance of integrity…let’s consider the case of John Kiriakou.

Kiriakou is the former CIA analyst/case officer sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for…well…whistleblowing.  He wrongly disclosed the name of a CIA agent to a reporter (the name was NEVER relseased) in the context of expressing his concerns that the CIA and the Bush Administration was conducting an illegal torture program…waterboarding.

You can parse this a couple ways…yes, he broke the law, he admits this. There was no negative consequence, no threat incurred by his release of the agent’s name. The threat he incurred, the hornet’s nest he unleashed, was the result of being an American employee of a federal agency who had the guts to call bullshit on a policy that ran counter to everything we stand for as a country…torture.

The politics of torture can be debated another day. The bottom line is that it is immoral at best and illegal at worst…by our own friggin’ standards it’s illegal. Kiriakou calls this out and he is imprisoned. NONE of the spymasters or Administration/Justice Department officials have been indicted for this crime. Not one. None.

Having spent a career as a public servant in a government agency, I am acutely familiar with how difficult it is to break the culture of silence inherent in these organizations. Kiriakou did so at tremendous personal and professional risk.

He now sits in prison. Not the federal facility  (a low security “camp” that prosecutors and his defense team and the judge agreed upon) but a “prison”.

If you have retained a shred of faith in the justice system and concepts of propriety and fairness to now…consider our prison industrial complex. Mr. Kiriakou has offered up a fascinating narrative of his experience thus far. It is rife with the cultural and racial realities of prison life and most presciently, exposes the culture of dehumanization so common in these facilities. The prisoners are human beings folks…to allow their dehumanization while we turn a blind eye to it inflicts much more injury to our national consciousness than theirs individually. Disagree? Why don’t we just line them up and shoot them then…as so brilliantly stated in Eugene Jarecki’s masterful film, “The House I Live In” we are witnessing “the Holocaust in slow motion”.

We are better than this.

We have imprisoned the guy that tries to do the right thing and thrown him into a cesspool of penal dysfunction.

And the men and women who committed the original crime rest comfortably in the vacancy of their souls.

I can hear the clinking of the ice in their cocktail glasses now…


Um, HELLO…Cue the Outrage

Eric Holder

(Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. received a formal complaint from the Associated Press over the monitoring of journalists’ communications. (Molly Riley / Associated Press / April 18, 2013)

New York Times correspondent Declan Walsh was unceremoniously booted from Pakistan on the eve of their historic elections.  The publisher of the Times sent the Pakistani government a terse letter of objection stating, among other things, that silencing a free press does little to further the government’s efforts towards democracy and transparency.

You know…just like here in the United States.

Our government would never do something like this.  They would never encroach upon the sanctity of the fifth estate.

A free and independent press is vital to our form of government.

Unless of course it’s America, version 9/11.o  Then folks, all bets are off…

Guantanamo, suspension of due process, torture, drone assassinations. What’s a little illegal spying on the press gonna hurt?

I’m a liberal and a lifelong Democrat. This was my President.  This was the guy that brought me to tears at his first inauguration.  The man who inspired such hope in me…

I’m done…this is also the President that allows this illegal nonsense to continue.  It is NOT okay to take a dump on our rights. It is NOT okay to allow the IRS to become politicized, and holy hell…IT IS NOT OKAY TO SPY ON THE PRESS!!!

Ameristan, here we come…


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