Have you read your emails today? Did you get one finally from Hillary Clinton’s State Department? Or receive a subpoena from Republicans in Congress demanding access to your email account to ensure you didn’t . . . → Read More: Witch Hunts and Mobs
Have you read your emails today? Did you get one finally from Hillary Clinton’s State Department? Or receive a subpoena from Republicans in Congress demanding access to your email account to ensure you didn’t . . . → Read More: Witch Hunts and Mobs
Behind the objections to the Iran framework is a new alliance of power politics.
. . . → Read More: Going Rogue: The Boehner-Netanyahu Subterfuge
Netanyahu’s “shrift rift” turned into a confessional with all the hallmarks of dirty politics. First, no one accepts an invitation from a “family” member unless he or she is certain the head of the house approves. Certainly, a national leader does not accept an offer to speak that bypasses the equivalent office he or she holds, when to do so undermines and embarrasses the very relationship on which your security and progress is built. Would it be a “family” issue if President Obama thought it important enough to bypass Netanyahu and take his case directly to the Knesset?
Every dirty political move denies its errors and intent; Netanyahu is doing the same. Every dirty move claims it is demanded by a higher calling: safety, security, liberty, survival are righteous claims. The details of truth that lay in the balance are overlooked because of the attention given to the dirty move—which is being carefully denied! Hence the cycle: it’s denied in order to deflect from the details of truth that disprove its claims.
Finally, the point of political dirt is disruption—and this Boehner/Netanyahu dust-up with Obama is as nasty as it gets—bypassing a head of state to address a national legislature is a collusion never witnessed in US history. (Not Britain, France, China, Russia, or any of the world’s 190+ nations have had the opportunity and disdain and disregard to do so!)
John Boehner is willing to risk our national security while embracing a war hawk who wants the US to be his pocketbook and national proxy; in Israel, some call him the Republican senator from Jerusalem, or is that Netanyahu?
Finally,the speech. In the South, we speak of “woulda, coulda, shoulda,” speech that engages in hot air and fantasy and traces lines of fear but in the end has no substance and leads to the same dead ends. It was sad to see the Prime Minister’s speech use the powerful images of threat, the history of his country and its survival and the “sturm und drang” of war for more “woulda, coulda, shoulda.”
So much of the controversy around this historic opportunity was old news. Old slights, grown uglier and menacing to US statecraft. Defiant anger coolly aimed toward Obama. Old warnings of nuclear threats on a horizon in a warmonger’s looking glass that skipped a myriad of details—including who is going to fight, or what happens next—or even what happens now?
Search English editions of Israel’s newspapers (haaretz.com, the JPost) and read what Boehner and he never admit: the spin machine is going full-bore, trumpeting Netanyahu’s popularity in the US as being at an all-time high, claiming the political tensions, inside and out of the US and Israel, are being exaggerated, touting his standing ovation by Republicans who had refused to fund their own national security in order to politically punish our President. Sheldon Adelson’s free daily newspaper Israel Hayom expanded its printing to a record press run.
Yet other news outlets ere pointing out that 188 generals and officials (including a former head of Mossad) thought his speech was self-serving and did not serve Israel well. And more than 3,000 ultra-orthodox Jews protested in New York City over Netanyahu’s claim that he speaks as an emissary for all Jews. Acknowledging him as a head of state, they opposed his covenant claim of speaking for Jews. Many carried signs saying, “We don’t need a bibi-sitter.” Continue reading The Netanyahu Confessional
I am one of the few who has made the argument that the President’s style is a classic example of the practice of the high art of Zen, one prescribed by its greatest masters and rooted in the classic book of wisdom, the I Ching.
It’s an easy case to make! Zen focuses on inner strength, not outer conflict. It is a quiet and presence of mind that sees both the short and long term by a presence of heart that is calm and reserved; it values wisdom above force.
The comparisons and the parallels with Zen never come up in the media. After hundreds of microphone sound checks by top analysts and thinkers, the Zen meme, in plain sight, is without a peep. It reveals how terribly and narrowly one-sided American thought presented by media has become: they claim insights on world traditions, but they established a multi-channeled agenda to build an intellectual frame, with Obama’s image as the poster of misgovernance.
Zen, by definition, is smart action, wisdom deftly applied. For deep, contextual reasons of power and privilege, Obama was a threat to all a circle of special interests cherished, and they needed desperately to portray him to their followers and to America as dumb.
The I Ching finds its roots in China as a work whose system of insights and actions explains the social and spiritual conditions that at times appear chaotic and bewildering, while at other times appearing calm and clear. Each set of conditions has hidden meanings and passages. If respected and tempered, through actions and virtues, these insights and steps bring forth inner truth, guide choices, and direct the path to change.
Simply, the I Ching defines relations between men, women and the world, and the forces beyond, the unseen conditions once known as the zeitgeist and weltanschauung and the things of heaven. The I Ching defines both the inner and outer nature of conditions and change in society and in the hearts of men and women. It is a manual that tells how to progress and benefit while being morally responsible; it addresses prosperity and security and the attitudes of good and evil; it maps out when to be patient and when to advance and warns of the dangers, both visible and hidden, from people and conditions.
Barack Obama has faced both during his two terms as our elected President; he has faced dangers—from people and conditions. When he stepped into office in 2009, some of the country’s most powerful institutions and people immediately formed organized resistance, and global conditions were at their global worst.
But his refusal to fight was classic Zen: engagement would have only stirred and strengthened evil and confusion. A fight would have only served his enemies. Despite his victory, he and the country were too weak to win and fight when others defined the terms and were willing to weaken the country even further.
His patience served America, and patience is an inner virtue, but in the President, many—both enemies and supporters—called it weakness, indecision. Many were drawn in by the anger his opponents displayed, by the force of their hatred and their demands for absolute power over his office as they blamed him for disturbing the status quo and not submitting to their “compromise.” They shut down the government and said he wouldn’t meet them halfway—to give them all of what they wanted to end their threat. They skipped 200 years of time to draw on a model of government that has no models of success.
The President did not respond until conditions were right. Zen teaches the right conditions are when your opponents think they are at their strongest, but have in their zeal for power left many things neglected, failing to attend to social needs. So after the midterm elections that put Republicans in charge of both the House and Senate, the President has made his opponents look incompetent and revealed them as servants of special interests whose tools are anger and bluster and money and whose goals are power and disrespect.
Like now, when the President without fanfare issued the third veto of his five years in office, striking down a bill in which Congress voted to approve the building of a Canadian pipeline across America’s plains, over America’s vital Midwestern aquifers, across sacred Native American sites, to bring the dangerous Canadian tar sands oil to Texas refineries. His opponents called his veto an “embarrassment.”
So America’s energy policy is a principal concern about not being “embarrassed?” What about merits? Were there none to criticize the President on? Was an embarrassment the worst result of his veto? The criticism hides a deeper failure by his opponents to pass a bill with substance they could defend.
Barack Obama has seen the institutions of power align to belittle and willfully oppose his every act, politically and personally. His legislative initiatives were wrong, his vacations too expensive, his head nods were considered bows that displayed gross violations of unwritten protocol and submission to foreign heads of state—even as his opponents were unrepentant about their violations, one yelling out during the State of the Union speech to say to the President, “You lie!” Continue reading Barack Obama: The Man of Zen
Growing frustration exists about the role of global media in sharing the truth and facts about politics. Even the media’s cherished idea of balance has taken a slant. The American media’s direct reporting omits deep backgrounds. In print and broadcast, anonymous sources are assigned the duty of representing an ideology and attacking those who disagree. In live reports, face time is more important than oral intelligence. And no news broadcast is complete without a YouTube clip.
What recent stories has the media missed and how have the omissions affected the country?
The biggest missing story is about the media itself: it has abandoned analysis. Instead of being shaped by insights and history, or by conflict and values, stories are “blocked.” They are packaged for immediacy rather than viable information, and immediacy has come to mean any story which zooms in on a crisis in the social order, a threat to well-being or life.
Blocking a story means it will be limited to reviewing events without examining causes; limited by sensationalism that ignores the mainstream; limited by the next big story without any follow-up on the previous big story. But the story’s limits always include speculation, no-rules chatter about what happens next. Speculation, and its inaccurate prophecies, unleashed fears and violations of logic and common sense, is featured without critical review. By offering speculation, media abandons the idea of wrong or right; its stories are blocked to show who is for and who is against.
For example, in one recent big story about Ebola, a deadly, contagious virus spreading in three West African countries, media helped generated mass fear and hysteria in America. Justified by media stories, rather than experience, experts and successful protocol, civil liberties went flying out of the window faster than domestic cases of the disease, amid calls for restricted travel to and from the region.
States demanded medical professionals be quarantined even when displaying no obvious symptoms of fever and coughing. Twice-a-day telephone monitoring was put in place for persons returning from countries experiencing the Ebola epidemic. Hours of hard news time were devoted to tracking each single potential threat as the source of an impeding holocaust. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie bad-mouthed a nurse who had demonstrated the courage to travel to the medical front to fight the disease by caring for infected patients.
In the midst of the Ebola fear, Congress members proclaimed the likelihood of legions of Ebola-infected terrorists arriving in Mexico, walking like zombies across unsecured borders—yet so heavily monitored by manpower and technology that enforcement agents intercepted nearly 40,000 unescorted children last year. Many of the same Congress members who conjured a deadly and imminent link between terrorists and Ebola believed this undocumented children’s crusade also had come to destroy the American way of life, stain the American Promise, and end freedom as we know it—by busting public budgets and demanding the right to education. Continue reading Media’s Direct Reporting Omits Deep Background
The President wants to extend wilderness designation and concomitant environmental protections to millions more acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a move opposed by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and other Republicans, who would prefer to drill the crap out of ANWR. Showcasing her famed policy chops and keen intellect, Murkowski commented, “I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska.”
Speaking of negotiations with Iran, Republicans are hell-bent on screwing those up too. Tuesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will conduct what it risibly describes as a “hearing” on the status of the negotiations. As Congress lurches toward additional sanctions, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned the other day that such a move would “kill the joint plan of action that we adopted last year in Geneva.” In another odd development, Zarif has been summoned to explain to his nation’s parliament why he went for a “15-minute walk” with John Kerry in Geneva on January 14. Uh-oh…
“Winter Storm Juno” is bearing down on the Northeast, with blizzard conditions expected to affect up to 28 million people. Juno’s worst impact will last from Monday evening into Tuesday, with snowfall rates of two to four inches an hour and total accumulations of two feet or more forecast for some areas of New England. The suspiciously enthusiastic Henry Margusity, an Accuweather meteorologist, took to Twitter to announce, “It will be like a tidal wave of snow into New England tonight into Tuesday.”
Tuesday, the President will pass up a planned trip to the Taj Mahal and cut short his stay in India to head for Saudi Arabia for a meeting with its new king, Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, our latest staunch ally and wonderful, not at all duplicitous partner in the Middle East. Salman succeeds his recently deceased brother Adbullah, our previous staunch ally and wonderful, not at all duplicitous partner in the Middle East.
The legendary Ernie Banks will be honored by a public memorial Wednesday at Chicago’s Daley Plaza. The statue of “Mr. Cub” at Wrigley Field will be moved to Daley Plaza for the occasion. Banks, 83, died Friday following a heart attack. Funeral arrangements are still pending. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 1/26/15
Mouse: What is that all about? How is simply asking the extremely wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes soaking them? How is asking those who have benefited the most from the past 30 years of economic policy to pay up soaking them?
Doesn’t the middle class deserve a break? A chance to share in the wealth of the country they help make great? And what about the poor? Don’t they deserve a break and a chance too?
How ridiculous did the Republicans look sitting there like statues during President Obama’s SOTU speech? They refused to applaud anything that would help the average American. I’m sure that was on orders from the Koch brothers.
Grumpy: Oh, don’t get me started on the Koch brothers. We’ll be here for a month before I finish my rant.
You are absolutely right about tax fairness. The conservative side likes to point out that the wealthy pay the majority of the taxes, but they never talk about whether those at the top are paying proportionally the same as the average middle-income workers pay. In some cases under today’s tax system, many of the wealthiest (I’m looking at you, Mitt) pay less than the doorman at their fancy Park Avenue digs or the mechanics that install their car elevators.
Mouse: I could speak for a month on Willard and his never-seen tax statements. I wonder what he’s hiding? Too many offshore bank accounts?
Grumpy: The Teapublicans didn’t always sit on their hands, though. Remember that moment when President Obama said he didn’t have to campaign for office anymore. Why, I think that brought a standing ovation.
Mouse: That was my favorite part of the SOTU. President Obama could beat the Republicans a third time. What a shame he doesn’t get to try. I bet Republican heads popped with a dry, dusty sound when they once again attempted to disrespect the President and didn’t succeed.
So, Grumpy, what do you think about two years of community college being paid for by the government? How many people currently stuck in low-wage jobs might have a glimmer of hope of improving their lives with a bit of education?
Grumpy:I have a couple of grandchildren who will soon be ready to take advantage of such a program. It will certainly give them a leg up whether they go on to a four-year college or not.
Of course the Teapublicans never saw an Obama idea that they like and they have been grumbling about this one since he first mentioned it before the SOTU. Grumbling is what they seem to do best. And they call me Grumpy! Meh!
Mouse: Teapublicans hate education. They hate to think anyone might be smarter than them. After all, it’s elitist to be educated, don’tcha know? And then of course someone who is educated is less likely to vote Republican. They know the only way they can stay in power is to keep people ignorant of what is happening in the world. Continue reading Soak the Rich?
Witness Thoreau’s idea of civil disobedience at its unimagined worst: a Congress in rebellion against itself and its oath, whose continual looting has brought inattention and cynicism to the treasures carefully hidden and being lifted out of its ruins. The powerful have long been known for the benefits that can be reclaimed from the trough of moral morass. Pull out freedom; its leverage becomes an element of theft.
Before any great political theft, the ground must be made ready. Money must be put in in order for money to be taken out. Politics must reach beyond logic and ignore facts and details to ignite passion, a passion tied to fear and prejudice that becomes push-pull factors that block and bend the attractions of voters and drive their preferences. A push-pull factor that combines fear and prejudice into a powerful package is death.
Death is a common bedfellow of politics. Death is the political spear of politicians. Its push-pull offers the satisfactions of blood lust to followers and offers a palate of fear that dismantles opponents. Other than martyrs, death defines losers.
Socrates’ sentence of suicide is a part of the politics of the ancient Greeks. Crowds in the 1800s gathered in festive moods outside of London’s Newgate Prison for hangings as vendors set up shop for food and sold relics of the hangman’s ropes. In Charleston, during this period, the heads of convicted slaves were mounted on wood columns at the foot of the city’s entry bridges as a warning and assurance to all who passed. These few examples are among the many ways civilizations dealt death as punishment and tried to prime the social environment for political theft.
The use of African-American deaths in politics begins with the journey of the Middle Passage from Africa to America; bodies were jettisoned during the Atlantic crossings, and these deaths incited rebellion and despair—and a raft of insurance claims. Later, the enslaved were hunted and murdered at night by special horseback patrols. The Civil War brought the Fort Pillow massacre; the blood spilled by black Union troops turned the Mississippi red. At Ebenezer Creek, in December 1864, 30 miles from Savannah, the bodies from a refugee train killed by Wheeler’s Cavalry dammed the creek.
After the Civil War came the organized, methodical killing of KKK units across the South; then came the mob violence of lynchings in which bodies were hanged and burned. The violence caused black schoolteacher and former Civil War nurse Susan King Taylor to write in her reminiscences:
In 1923, a riot resulted in six blacks and two whites killed and destroyed the self-sufficient black town of Rosewood, Florida.
And then the Civil Rights movement came. It brought a new wave of white violence that targeted blacks: the deaths mounted, from the violent beating with a cotton weight that bashed in the skull and tore out the eye of visiting teenager Emmett Till, to the shooting on his porch of Mississippi NAACP President Medgar Evers, to the explosion that killed Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, four young girls attending Sunday school in a Birmingham Baptist church on September 15, 1963, to the three civil rights workers, James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Henry Schwerner, killed less than a year later in June 1964, to three college students in South Carolina, killed on campus by state police at South Carolina State in February 1968. The name of the college’s basketball arena memorializes Samuel Ephesians Hammond Jr., Delano Herman Middleton and Henry Ezekial Smith.
From 1882 to 1968, over 3,400 blacks were lynched, killed in anger and hate, without due process, murdered by mobs and individuals that got away scot-free. And last week, in a rally across from the White House, caught on an open microphone, the cry to hang Obama was seconded by a voice that said, “He wouldn’t be the first.”
Death and theft are not separate in politics, but in America, death has been the throwaway; it launches a political payload and drops away. Texas executions, school massacre (there has been a school shooting every five day, on average, since Newton), street violence; in recent days, the misuse of police authority has brought hundreds of thousands to the streets from New York and Chicago to Berkeley and San Francisco to the stadiums of pro sports, where outraged police officials have demanded apologies but have sent none of their own to the families grieving from police killings. Not a single card of sorrow for their loss, not an expression (except for Ferguson and New York) of compassion or sympathy.
Death is a muscle memory in black communities. Every local town has an incident etched in memory.
Yet the effect of the grief and the lost of the dead themselves are denied. The dead are blamed for being killed while unarmed, blamed for being choked to death, shot to death, lied about, blamed for disobedience, until the primal taste of the lynch mob fills the mouths of those who cannot find a way to say, “I’m sorry.”
What guides the killings, expanded now to a global stage (this week: Pakistan, Australia), is a culture that revels in its hidden impulses. This era has seen the world’s largest sustained impulse for wealth. The heads of state of African countries (Angola, Nigeria) are billionaires. Fines for illegal conduct by big banks in the US run into the billions. Russia, once the world’s great communist regime, has billionaires sitting in its parliament. China, a socialist nation, has the world’s second largest number of billionaires, after the US. The world’s richest person is a Mexican business mogul who controls much of Latin America’s telecommunications and cell phone business. The sovereignty of Argentina is being threatened by US Federal Court judgments made on behalf of hedge funds that own large bundles of Argentina’s defaulted debt; the country’s President flies commercial when she leaves the country; an Argentine navy ship was seized but returned when it docked in Africa.
Within the global culture that desires and celebrates wealth is an out-of-control ideal expressed as greed. Greed argues for shortcuts to wealth: not work hard and climb the ladder, but kill and steal. Greed flourishes where there is destabilization. Killing weakens the bonds of the society’s structure. Insurgencies are getting rich. ISIL is the creation of this paradox.
Faith lost, and greed spreads. More die. It repeats again. Ancillary breakdowns of society occur. The irrational widespread fear of Ebola, and crowds of adults blocking buses of immigrant children who had reached our borders to stop their entry into facilities in their communities foretell a loss of inner strength and inner truth.
Through seemingly unconnected, death is one of the elements that sets the ground for greed and leads to theft. The connection is the way their interior values attract and repeal, push and pull.
The worst form of civil disobedience is robbery, the taking of what belongs to others by law or natural right. The law is broken when Congress or the crowd goes against government measures and protections and when the law itself becomes a tool to steal and rob, as it supposedly comforts our loss. Murder can occur only once in a life, but robbery can be repeated. When done under law, it is protected by force, and justified as stopping intrusion.
For example, out goes the cry: the Affordable Care Act robs us of the right of choice. But those insured clients dropped after the purchase of insurance were robbed of the right of choice in a time of need; at precisely the point where insurance took on greater importance and would provide security against health catastrophes and the cost of catastrophic illness, it vanished, without appeal or recourse.
The point here is political theft is often committed in the name of freedom, and this flag-wrapped theft often stands on bloody ground. But rarely are these connections direct. In modern cultures, blood money will have two phases, seemingly unconnected. The first destabilizes, the second resets the rules.
Witness the budget bill swiftly approved by the two chambers of Congress last week. After six years of destabilization, its resets included riders on potatoes, whole grains and salt in school lunches, on clean water, on truck drivers’ working hours, on farmers with livestock killed by wolves, and on campaign gifts, all passed without debate, swept forward, tucked in neatly with the $1.1 billion in spending that in some places was as much vendetta as budget.
Despite its size, the central issue of this mundane list of special interest riders is an overarching fact: its business-as-usual is destroying democracy. It places special interests beyond the reach of public accountability. It replaces Congress’ fear of discovery with the cold glare of indifference, and while it claims to condemn government as the enemy of business, it deliberately hides the use of government for gifts to business friends. The doors of democracy are unlocked to the rich. Those same doors are closed and sealed shut to the poor.
If government is the enemy, look again to find out who its friends are. Too often, it is those who criticize it as being the enemy. This blame and embrace is an old favorite of corruption. Cast the blame elsewhere; haul in the spoils. Continue reading Murder and Theft
Grumpy: Mouse, I am trying so hard to be myself (you know, grumpy) these last weeks but the season keeps intruding. I’m sure that come January when the bills arrive and a new Congress takes over I’ll be back to my old self again, but for now my grump seems to have abandoned me!
Mouse: It’s impossible for me not to enjoy this time of year. How could you have the holiday without the mouse in the poem that doesn’t stir on Christmas Eve? Ya wanna know why it’s not stirring? ‘Cause it’s beat from running up and down the tree putting decorations on it and then wetting its whistle with some nice Cognac. Oh yeah… I looove this time of year!
Mouse: For a group that is supposed to admire Jesus, the man who preached peace, Republicans sure love war… any and all war, even if they have to make one up. It’s terribly sad.
Mouse: I pity Stephanie Miller. She won’t have the good times of poking fun of Bachmann any more on her show, and we won’t have the laughter of it all. But what’s that you’re saying? We’ll have other Republicans for comic relief?
The 113th Congress, having covered itself with neither dust nor glory, holds its last session Friday. Members have a whopping five days to try and figure out how to keep the government funded, along with all sorts of other pending measures that – darn the luck! – they were just too busy to get to sooner. Ironically, the only thing that might keep the 113th out of the history books as a singular national disgrace is the incoming 114th; with Republicans running the show in both chambers, nothing good can possibly come out of it.
MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who recently made controversial remarks about the crafting of the Affordable Care Act (a process in which he participated as a consultant) will sit down with Darrell Issa and the rest of the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday. Committee Republicans are desperate to leverage Gruber’s remarks to prove that the White House used deception to win passage of the bill. And if that effort fails, they can just go back to squawking about Benghazi. To that end, the Select Committee on Benghazi holds its second hearing on Wednesday. Beats working, I guess.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will testify Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on efforts to halt the Ebola epidemic. Just in time, too. Come January when Republicans become the majority in the chamber, the loftiest discussion will probably be restricted to topics like whether to reintroduce Freedom Fries in the Capitol cafeterias.
Rain in New York City over the weekend temporarily quieted ongoing protests over police violence in the aftermath of a grand jury failing to indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo for killing Eric Garner. In contrast, weekend demonstrations in Berkeley and Seattle, goaded by the response of law enforcement officers, turned violently confrontational.
Kings County DA Kenneth Thompson has started the process of impaneling a grand jury to weigh charges against rookie NYPD officer Peter Liang, who killed Akai Gurley, another unarmed African-American man, on November 20. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 12/8/14