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Guest Op/Ed – Ukraine Crisis: Lessons Obama Should Learn

By Daphne - Last updated: Monday, March 17, 2014

Recent events in Crimea carry political consequences in the United States, calling the Obama administration to action in response to Vladimir Putin’s show of strength in the region.  Already fettered by friction due to Edward Snowden being granted asylum by Russia last year, and noted diplomatic discord between Obama and Putin since they have shared the world stage, negotiations have gone nowhere between the two leaders.

According to some pundits, Obama has no leverage in this game of chicken, due to his wavering on the Syrian chemical weapons issue last year.  What they fail to understand, however, is that Putin has a long history of human rights abuses and it should be no surprise to see his emboldened behavior in this case; regardless of Obama’s diplomatic prowess.  The situation is complicated, and while we may be in the early stages of the conflict, Putin appears to be rolling onward with his agenda, despite the Obama administration’s attempts to rein him in.

An important lesson for Obama, which he appears to be coming to terms with, is that President Bush’s foreign policy yielded many of the same characteristic responses from Putin as those seen by the current President’s administration.  As much as Republicans would like to point out differences between the two Presidents’ approaches, it is hypocritical to say Bush’s diplomatic track record with Putin was any more successful than Obama’s (outside of Bush gazing longingly into Putin’s eyes to see the soul of a man after his own heart. – Mugsy)

Putin’s Position

Simply put, Putin’s justification for acting in Ukraine is to protect the rights of native Russians settled there, in the face of attacks from Ukrainian nationalists.  On the other hand, Crimea is of strategic importance, so it is easy to extrapolate motivations beyond protecting human rights.  Putin does not acknowledge the legitimacy of the Kiev government, so he claims his actions are reasonable and just.

President Obama has initiated diplomacy by phone, recently issuing a warning of sorts, which appears to have fallen flat.  To conservative analysts, Obama’s true message is that we will not intervene in the affair; prompting Putin to disregard the President altogether.  While the President spoke of consequences, the political right believes him to have patronized Putin and weakened United States foreign policy.  Unfortunately for detractors, Putin’s past behavior mirrors his agenda here, so hanging the Obama administration out to dry for foreign policy failures does little to acknowledge Putin’s tendencies to act unilaterally and aggressively.

Abuse of Power Plagues Putin

Putin retains leadership in Russia as a result of his own willingness to abuse power.  After serving two terms as President, he became Prime Minister only to transfer the powers of government to his new position.  After Putin regained the presidency in 2012, term limits were extended; cementing Putin’s iron-fisted rule for years to come.

Based on centralized control of elections and media, Putin’s legacy is one of “power at any price”, including the lives and well-being of his countrymen.

Putin [and his cronies – editor] is believed to have siphoned billions off of the Russian economy for himself; distributed across Europe among a myriad of business ventures, to launder the funds. (As we saw with the “SuperBowl Ring” dust-up last year, Putin clearly takes whatever he wants. – Mugsy) Since gaining power in 2000, independent television does not operate in Putin’s Russia.  Instead, conditions resemble Soviet-era control of media and other segments of society.  Political opposition is quashed and foreigners are expelled at the whim of Russian leadership.  Even the way local government is established favors Putin.  By replacing elected governors, and local representation, Putin extended central control by creating a system where regional leaders are appointed by the Kremlin.

As clear as the autocratic message has been from Putin, there is another case-study showing exactly how the Ukrainian situation is likely to unfold.  Putin’s invasion of Georgia provides a blueprint to study, furnishing valuable insight into what we can expect in today’s Ukrainian conflict.  In 2008 Putin relentlessly bombed Georgia, despite warnings from the West.  Eventually he reached accord with the European Union to cease occupation there, but never really complied.  There are many similarities present in the prevailing actions of Putin in Crimea, which show no signs of shifting significantly.

Georgia: Russia bombed village (CNN, Aug 8, 2008)

Russian jets attack Georgian town (BBC, Aug 9, 2008)

Georgia, Russia move closer to full-blown war (LA Times, Aug 10, 2008)

To understand where Putin is headed, Obama detractors and the President himself should lean heavily on the Russian President’s history of transgressions, for clues.  Republicans’ politicizing the Ukrainian issue at home ignores Putin’s potential to act aggressively and unilaterally, despite the United States’ stance. Even in opposition to the present administration’s foreign policy, Republicans need to see Putin for who he is – looking to the similar way the Russian leader treated Bush over Georgia.  For Obama, the clear lesson to be learned is that despite diametric foreign policy divides between he and Bush, both leaders have seen the same Putin.

Author:

Daphne Holmes contributed this guest post. She is a writer from ArrestRecords.com and you can reach her at daphneholmes9@gmail.com.


Addendum by Mugsy

In keeping this post current, I felt it necessary to comment on recent events.

Crimea voted to rejoin Russia over the weekend. In a landslide victory typically only seen in Communist dictatorships, Crimeans voted overwhelmingly, “95.7%”, in support of rejoining Russia. While the outcome was never really in doubt, Russia still felt it necessary to intimidate its critics, with one local man showing an NBC Nightly News reporter flyers that were being posted in his neighborhood alerting local residents that “a traitor” lies in their midst’s.

I couldn’t help but be reminded, oddly, of the Watergate Break-in. The 1972 Presidential campaign was going just awful for Democrats and there was little doubt that President Nixon would win re-election, and still he felt it necessary to bug Democratic headquarters to find out their campaign strategy. But Nixon was just that obsessed with winning, unwilling to leave anything to chance. Putin showed himself to be quite Nixonian in this regard.

Republican critics on the major network news talk shows yesterday continued to repeat the latest nonsense talking point that some apparent display of “weakness” by President Obama in dealing with Syria, that only Republicans and former-KGB spies can detect, somehow “emboldened” Putin to invade Crimea. As noted above, Putin needed no such “display of weakness” by President Bush when he invaded Georgia in 2008… a fact that Sen. Durbin (D-IL) pointed out to Sen. Corker (R-TN) on Meet the Press. This fact has been brought up repeatedly, yet it hasn’t seemed to have made a wit of difference as they continue to accuse a president that got both bin Laden and Kadaffy as well as a prolific use of drones and initiated a troop surge in Afghanistan, of “weakness”, continuing to ignore the facts and make their ridiculous claim anyway (sound familiar? It’s a pattern with them.)

The Rachel Maddow Show last week also picked on on Putin’s “pattern of behavior” and what to look out for next:
 


 



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Filed in fake scandals, Guest Blogger, National Security, Politics, rewriting history, War March 17th, 2014 by Daphne | • 1 comment | Add/View

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Guest Blogger: A Degree Of Civilization; The American Prison System

By Ebon - Last updated: Monday, January 20, 2014

The degree of civilization in a society may be judged by entering it’s prisons” ~ Dostoevsky

Pop quiz, kids: Which nation has more of it’s populace imprisoned than any other country on earth?

Nope, it’s not China. It’s not Russia either. Cuba? Good guess but they’re number five. According to Wikipedia (which has it’s problems but is generally fairly reliable), the number one prison population on earth is the USA, both per capita and in sheer numbers. In per capita terms, the US locks up around 743 people per 100k. In absolute terms, the BBC tells me that there are 2,193,798 people in prison in the USA. Obviously, that number rises and falls slightly each day as people get imprisoned and released but still, over 2 million people. Red China, where the government is outright oppressive and dictatorial, has around 1.5 million under lock and key but free and democratic America has two million and change locked down.

Of those, around a quarter are there for drug offenses of various kinds. That’s the population of San Bernadino locked up for drug offenses. According to the Department of Justice, 17% of state and 18% of federal prisoners committed their crimes to obtain money for drugs (Bureau of Justice). According to DrugWarFacts.org, around fifty thousand total are held purely for offenses relating to cannabis. Full disclosure: I haven’t smoked pot in about twenty years but I did when I was a teenager and I’m sure a fair few of you did as well. Were we dumb to smoke pot as teenagers? Yeah, probably. But we were teenagers, making dumb decisions is what teenagers do. Another piece of full disclosure: I think pot should be legalized. Age-restricted but otherwise legal, just like alcohol. I still wouldn’t smoke it because taking any form of mind-altering substance is a very bad idea but it makes no difference to me if my neighbour chooses to smoke a joint rather than have a drink. I also don’t want to turn this into a rant about the virtues of legalising weed (although, if you’ve a mind, Salon has a chilling piece about pot sentences) so let’s move on.

Around 40% of the US prison population are black. According to the Census, black people comprise about 14% of the US population but around 40% of prisoners. What explains that? Well, partly, it’s because black people are more likely to live in poverty and poverty is the most reliable indicator of criminal acts during life but it’s mostly because the average prison sentence handed down to a black guy is 20% longer than the sentence for the same crime committed by a white guy (Wall Street Journal). The 100-1 ratio of crack to cocaine sentences has led to the incarceration of thousands of non-violent drug offenders. Even though that difference has been reduced to 18-1, those prisoners remain in the system. The US prison population was mostly static from 1925 onwards. It started to rise in the late Seventies (as crime always rises during recessions) but then it exploded during the Eighties and onwards (Wikimedia). Why is that?

Two reasons. Firstly, the drug war. Let’s be honest here, the drug war has been lost. It is no more difficult to buy a hit of heroin now than it was in 1975. It hasn’t been a success and it can’t be a success. It can’t be a success due to a basic fact of human nature: Where a demand exists, people will appear to meet that demand. That’s just how things work, a basic law of humanity. So the laws against drugs are commonly broken and, by that breaking, a massive number of people are classified as criminals. Now, proponents of the drug war would argue that the laws against murder are commonly broken so should we abandon them too? That’s a fair question. The difference is that murder harms someone else whereas taking drugs, in and of themselves, harms only the taker. What about the crimes committed to support a drug habit, like theft? What about them? We already have laws against theft and I’m not proposing the legalization of all drugs anyway, just of certain soft drugs like pot.

The other thing that changed was the rise of mandatory minimum sentencing laws. This is one of the stupidest movements in human history. The whole reason we have a judge deciding sentencing is so that the sentence can reflect the circumstances of the crime and the perp. Mandatory minimums throw out all that human wisdom in favour of flat sentencing that pays no attention to circumstances. In New York, for example, possessing (note that’s possession, not supply) more than four ounces of any hard drug will get you a minimum of fifteen to life. There are easily found stories of people locked up for life under three-strikes laws for offenses as minor as stealing a slice of pizza or a loaf of bread.

And the US does a lousy job of rehabilitating prisoners as well. We’ve all been shown on tv that prisoners get to complete their education. There are good reasons to educate prisoners. A prisoner who earns their GED inside is half as likely to re-offend. A prisoner who earns their college degree will almost certainly never see the inside of a prison again. You might say it’s unfair that people get sent to prison and get a free education. I would respond that firstly, I’d like to make everyone’s education free and secondly, look at the facts. According to a study conducted by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, every dollar spent on inmate education saves twelve dollars in future crimes (ABC News). Another study by UCLA found that a million dollar investment in incarceration produced 350 jobs while that same million invested in education, produced 600 jobs (ibid.). Prisoners used to be able to apply for Pell grants to cover the cost of their courses but that was eliminated in the mid-Nineties. The result is that there isn’t funding for prisoners to get educated. Prison budgets are constantly being cut and the first thing to go, after the gyms that tv thinks are in every prison, are education programs.

Oh, and your prisons are over capacity as well.

So what happens when the average prisoner gets released? He probably hasn’t had a chance to finish his education. Because of the prejudice against ex-cons (in fairness, not entirely undeserved prejudice), he’s probably not going to be able to get a job. Ex-cons are routinely discriminated against in housing, public assistance and education (Guardian). So what does he do simply to get by? Chances are pretty good he goes back to crime. That’s why the recidivism rate in 2004 was about 67% (Bureau of Justice). In countries that take rehabilitation seriously, like Sweden or Canada, it’s about 35% (Released & Restored).

Some would say that we send people to prison to be punished. But we don’t. The prison is the punishment. With the exception of lifers, we send people to prison in the hopes that prison will, in some rough and ready fashion, turn them into honest people. The lifers, we’re just warehousing them until they die (or, in some cases, executing them) but for the rest, we have to acknowledge that they will eventually be released and, if we want them to become productive members of society, we have to equip them to be productive members of society. That means educating them. It means drug rehab facilities, preferably at the end of their prison stay (works better that way). It means making an effort to ensure that ex-cons can find work. Look, I’m not saying that we can just open the gates and let all prisoners free. That would be stupid and, more importantly, unjust. But it’s also unjust that people whose only offense was puffing a joint years ago should be rotting in jail twenty years later. It’s unjust to impose a life as a member of the underclass on someone who has paid their debt to society.

And that’s not even touching on the subject of private prisons. This is another incredibly stupid idea brought to you by the worship of private enterprise. The states and the Fed already do prisons about as cheaply as it’s possible to do them so the only way private prisons can do it cheaper is to cut corners. Less guards, less nutritious food, less education. And the corporations that run private prisons are going to behave like any other corporation, they’re going to try to maximize their profits. That means they’re going to lobby for more and longer prison sentences. That means that your government, which is already thoroughly corrupted by campaign contributions and lobbying, have every incentive to create more crimes with longer sentences. That means your prison population will continue to grow. And those prisoners are increasingly being used as a profit centre for big businesses too (Global Research). Workers who work for pennies an hour, can’t unionize, can’t refuse to work or quit, who have very few rights and to whom their employers owe nothing. The corporate dream. The rich against the rest, as always.
 



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Filed in Crime, Greed, Guest Blogger, Money, Taxes January 20th, 2014 by Ebon | • 1 comment | Add/View

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Guest Op/Ed: The Hunting Of Yet Another President

By Ebon - Last updated: Wednesday, October 23, 2013

They’re going to impeach President Obama.

I don’t know what their justification will be yet. The right is still obsessed with Benghazi so it might be that (wanna have some fun, ask a winger exactly what happened at Benghazi that they’re pissed about). It might be something to do with the budget. Maybe they’ll find some minor breach of protocol that they can use as an excuse like they did with Bill Clinton. But they’re going to impeach President Obama, it’s just a matter of time and if they have the votes in the House.

During the Nineties, David Brock, now founder of the Liberal media watchdog site “Media Matters for America”, was one of the worst Conservative mudslingers of his time. He “broke” a lot of the scandals that plagued the Clinton administration (most notoriously, “Troopergate”). Brock never outright fabricated anything but he didn’t bother to distinguish between rumour, hearsay, unfounded accusation and responsible reportage. Simply making an accusation became something the Clinton’s had to defend themselves against. It was the attitude of the Inquisitions, accusation is itself proof. Brock did a lot of damage in his day, something he now regrets. Over time, Brock gained a conscience and did an about-face. Since then, he’s written a fair biography of Hillary Clinton and several books in conjunction with Media Matters.

Brock also wrote his account of being at the centre of the right-wing effort to smear the Clinton’s in Blinded By The Right. The book is enlightening for it’s account of the organized effort to destroy the Clinton’s (Hillary wasn’t entirely wrong when she talked of a “vast right-wing conspiracy”) but there’s also a fascinating explanation of the right-wing mentality. The power players of the far-right felt that they were entitled to the Presidency, that any Democratic President was, by definition, illegitimate and therefore, it was not just their right but their duty to destroy him by any means necessary. Elections were meaningless. To some extent, so were policies. It was entirely about whether the President had a (D) or an (R) after his name.

In Brock’s day, that mentality was largely confined to the far-right. It’s difficult to understand now but there was a time when there was a divide, a firewall, between the craziness of the far-right and the governance of the centre-right. But during the Clinton years, several things erased that divide. Firstly, the rise of conservative talk radio which was dedicated to attacking Clinton 24/7. It’s no coincidence that Rush Limbaugh hit the big time during the Clinton administration. Secondly, the religious right completed it’s takeover of the Republican party at the state level. One has to understand, the religious right was never simply a case of pushing for Christian values. In fact, a lot of positions currently put forward by the religious right are directly counter to Jesus’ teachings. The objective from the start was to turn politics into holy war, to give divine backing to Republican policies. Thirdly, Fox News launched in 1996. I’m not going to bother enumerating examples of Fox’s bias here because it goes without saying but suffice to say that Fox brought the 24/7 ceaseless antagonism of conservative talk radio into the TV studio.

Those three factors meant that the divide between the crazy right and the respectable right was gradually erased, first to attack Clinton and later to cheerlead Bush. It became unremarkable to say any crazy thing about the President. Accusations of socialism, communism, fascism (all mutually exclusive) and a quite staggering level of racism, all of this would once have been confined to the crazies on the far-right but with that divide erased, all of this became mainstream. Even elected officials said it. That mentality, that any Democratic president was illegitimate by definition, moved from the far-right to the mainstream right. Accusations started on some far-right blog, got picked up by Drudge, then repeated by Limbaugh and would then be reported on by Fox (who would then attack responsible media outlets for not reporting on them).

During the recent shutdown of the government, Louie Gohmert (R-Crazytown) said that the debt ceiling being broken would be an impeachable offense by the President. Remember, it was Republicans who shut down the government by refusing to bring up a clean CR (“Continuing Resolution”). It was always up to Republicans when the government was going to come back and whether the debt ceiling was breached. So what Gohmert was actually saying was that if Republicans breached the debt ceiling, it would be grounds to impeach a Democratic president (elected twice by large margins) for not appeasing Republicans enough.

These people are not interested in governing. They have proven this time and again through an unprecedented abuse of the filibuster to block virtually everything. It’s that same mentality that the President is illegitimate and therefore by definition must be destroyed by any means necessary. They’re not worried about getting re-elected in their exquisitely gerrymandered districts and the crazies that were once confined to the fringes are now running the party. They obstructed everything. That didn’t work. They’ve shut down the government. That didn’t work. They’ve threatened a debt default. That didn’t work. They feel that their only remaining option is impeachment. So they’re going to impeach Obama on the first excuse they can find (or outright invent) and they’re probably going to try doing it in the run-up to the 2014 midterms.

Now, this approach didn’t work too well for them during the Clinton administration but hell, if Republicans had any sense of history, they’d be Democrats.



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Filed in Guest Blogger, Partisanship, Politics, Predictions, Right-wing Facism October 23rd, 2013 by Ebon | • 2 comments | Add/View

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Guest Post: The Public And The Strings That Bind Us

By Ebon - Last updated: Monday, July 22, 2013

This week’s guest post is by Ebon (formerly of “Ebon’s Bear Cave”) in the UK. Ebon worked for Beliefnet.com for many years (until Fox fired everyone on the Community team), and openly writes about his own struggles with mental illness to mitigate the stigma associated with it. – Mugsy

 
Rewriting history.
Scene from 1992 HBO film “Fatherland” set in a world in which WWII ended in stalemate

I got into an argument some days ago with a fellow who saw an “Orwellian world order” behind current events in the USA. Naturally, I argued against the motion. Where we differ is that I see many orders (sometimes competing, sometimes complimentary) rather than one. And yes, they are Orwellian and have been since before Orwell wrote his prophecy. Even the Nazis phrased their attack on Poland as self-defense (the oppressor pretending to be the real victim is so common, there’s an internet abbreviation for it: DARVO for Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender). And they’re not conspiracies in the sense that they’re not really hidden. It’s more like a group of people who share the same views and tend to support one another.

I have said before that all politics is, ultimately, about the rich versus the rest (although that’s a shortened version of my original version: the rich bastards with all the power versus the rest). These days, that gets called things like “class warfare” (by the people who have been waging class war on behalf of the rich for decades, they only call it class war when we fight back) and “SOCIALISM!” in much the same tone as people once shouted “WITCH!” (for the record, I’m a Social Democrat which is a related but different thing). Because these aren’t really rebuttals, they’re labels, accusations, words used to shut down a discussion instead of answering it. And the people have been so well programmed that the ones being oppressed parrot the opressor’s arguments. Malcolm X once said “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing” and damn if he wasn’t right on that. He understood, without ever being taught, how susceptible the human mind is to repetition. The only thing he got wrong was that he didn’t foresee the all-pervasive power of tv. And how many episodes of Honey Boo-Boo or Jeremy Kyle (think a British, moralistic, judgmental Jerry Springer) does a person have to see before they start thinking that maybe the rich bastards have a point? Maybe the poor aren’t really deserving of any money? And then you’re onto the slippery slope, the race to the bottom, because the only difference between cutting off that annoying mouthy woman and letting people starve in the gutter is the price you’re willing to pay.

The rich versus the rest, always. And the rich want what they’ve always wanted. They want a labor pool desperate enough to work for pennies that they have no obligations to, they want a market for their products and they want to pay as little taxes as possible. And that’s why the tax burden has slowly been shifted from the rich to you, that’s why labor protections are being stripped away, the minimum wage hasn’t been raised in years, why it’s now everyone on minimum wage instead of just teenagers and, by the way, some bastard Republican wants to take away overtime too. The US (and UK if the Tories get their way) are being turned into the ideal labor pool for the rich. Forget about selling their products in the US, they’ll sell to the much bigger markets in Asia and maybe a little to the European economies where people still make decent wages (not the UK, we’re a lot closer to the US culturally than we are to Europe). Fun fact: If the minimum wage had risen with inflation since the Sixties, it would now be around twenty dollars an hour. You want to go back to the Fifties? Support a union, raise wages and top tax rates and buy American.

And that’s why it was possible to raise a family on a single working-class income in the Fifties and Sixties but takes at least two incomes today. Because the rich stopped wearing furs and ermine while they oppressed you and started wearing suits. The traits that make someone a psychopath are the same traits that corporations select for: Ruthlessness, callousness, lack of empathy, remorse or guilt. Capitalism has become sacred writ in both our nations, a creed adhered to more strongly than the Scripture (I’m with Ghandi, who when asked what he thought of “Western Civilization” replied that it “sounded like a good idea”). Say a word against the most egregious excesses of capitalism and you’re a pariah. No-one wants to accept that capitalism inherently creates winners and losers, that it requires a percentage of unemployed to keep wages down (Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan once said that his job was “to create a certain level of income insecurity” so that people were less likely to change jobs, complain about the ones they had, and work for less. – Mugsy). Our culture believes so strongly in free markets’ uber alles that people would rather see the poor as just lazy rather than victims of the system. And I just know that someone is going to trot out a tired “I knew an unemployed person who exploited the system/did XYZ unwise thing”. It’s tired, it’s trite but that’s how powerful, how embedded the programming is. People would rather believe that the (very few) exploiters are the rule than accept that the system doesn’t always work to everyone’s benefit. It’s like a dog-eat-dog version of Candide.

See, it’s child’s play to manipulate the human mind. It’s so easy that psychologists have to be trained in how to avoid doing it unintentionally. Humans are instinctively conformist, Ashe proved that. Humans will instinctively obey perceived authority, Milgram proved that. And all you need to do is combine those traits with how ridiculously malleable the human memory is. People think memory is like a photograph, something the same every time. It’s not. Memory isn’t recalled, it’s reconstructed, incorporating new data as it goes. That’s why, whenever a serial killer is caught, his neighbors always say they knew there was something off about him. They didn’t know at the time (otherwise killers would be a lot easier to catch) but they remember it as if they did. Give me twenty minutes of your life (in person) and I can convince you that you like peanut-butter tuna fish pudding (well, maybe not). And I’m not special. Any psychologist can do that trick and, while I’d like to pretend that every member of the profession was virtuous and above this sort of thing, the rule of human nature means that’s not true. The rich bastards with all the power can afford to employ a lot of people who know exactly how to manipulate the public. Maybe it doesn’t work on you, maybe it doesn’t work on anyone reading this board (although that’s statistically unlikely and I know it’s untrue) but it works on most people.

Because most people are not bad. They’re not evil. But they are self-involved and selfish and shortsighted and easily distracted and very, very short on memory. And if they see a homeless guy, it’s easier to say “get a job” than it is to think about his story and what brought him to this. Most people don’t want to think about things. They want to regurgitate whatever pablum they’ve been fed and get complimented about how deep they are (Objectivists are the worst people in the world for this, sheep who think they’re cooler than the other sheep) but they don’t want to actually think about it. Because that requires real mental effort and might lead to uncomfortable cognitive dissonance. “People will say they want truth and justice for all. But what they really want is an assurance that life will go on, much as it did before, and tomorrow will be very much like today”. Terry Pratchett said that (through his consummate politician, Havelock Vetinari) and it’s one of the truest statements about human nature that’s even been written. People are puppets and most people want to be puppets. They want to be puppets because it’s easier than having to see things as they actually are. It’s easier to be a jerk to the homeless guy than toss him a quid or buy him a burger (or whatever healthy meal you prefer), people don’t want to make the effort because hey, they’re already being driven like a slave at work, working harder than their grandparents did and getting paid worse, why shouldn’t they coast through the rest of life? It’s easier being a puppet.

And I’m a puppet too, in my own way. I use Facebook. I play Minecraft. I love wrestling and still follow it avidly. I trained in law originally because that’s what people said someone like me should do. I was part of the drug crowd in school but never really fitted in there because I preferred booze. I’m a mentally ill psychologist. In my own way, I’m a puppet too. The only difference is that I can see the strings.
 

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Filed in Economy, General, Guest Blogger, Money, Politics July 22nd, 2013 by Ebon | • No comments | Add/View

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Guest Post: My Way or the Highway…

By Grant in Texas - Last updated: Monday, July 8, 2013

I’d like to welcome guest blogger “Grant in Texas” for taking over posting duties for me this week as I shuttle back & forth between home and the hospital to tend to my ailing mother. I know it is unusual for a host to hand the reins of an entire blog over to one of its visitors, but I hope you, Dear Reader, appreciate Grant’s time & effort as much as I enjoyed bringing it to you. If you too have some experience writing and are interested in sharing your ideas/rants/concerns with the rest of the world, drop me a note (information below). Also, your words of support for Mom have been most appreciated. Thanks. – Mugsy

 
Watching Fourth of July celebrations on PBS, NBC, ABC….in D.C., NYC, and Houston respectively. I feel some sadness, little joy this year. Maybe in part due to my fighting cancer for 8 months now and uncertain if I will see another Fourth, but mostly sad for the state of our nation that has become so partisan. I have lived through the rancorous times of the “do nothing 80th Congress” under President Harry Truman, marched in civil rights and anti-war demonstrations during the tense 1960’s and yet don’t believe I’ve ever seen this nation I love, so divided as it is today. We now know that on the night of President Obama’s first inauguration Republican leaders were plotting to obstruct him at every turn, fearful that any perceived Obama victory would help him be re-elected. The GOP mindset was that it was more important to keep many millions of Americans miserable, jobless and poor for at least 4 years, than to allow Obama to enact any of the programs on which he was elected. How “patriotic”! Now conservatives continue their obstructive ways, seemingly hell bent on preventing a positive legacy for Barack Obama in the history books. The right lusts over power, and instead of smaller government desire to increase their hold over Americans on social issues like invading the sanctity of our medical offices.

I have been reading blogs, commenting on several of them since the mid-90’s. I avoid right-wing sites, spending my time on “progressive” blog-sites. However, often there is not much difference between trolls on the right and those on the far left. I have been attacked, eventually run off a few “liberal” sites because I was suspected of being a DINO. My feeling is that even the most conservative of “blue dog” Democrats is better to have in office than most any Republican. I don’t cope well with ideologues, whether right or left. I was raised in a very activist moderate Republican family and didn’t vote for my first “D” until age 33, for Sen. George McGovern. I left the “Party of Lincoln” when Nixon relented to advisers like Pat Buchanan whose Southern Strategy actively invited racist Dixiecrats, embittered by LBJ’s Civil Rights agenda, to come on over to a welcoming GOP in order to turn the old Democratic South into a new GOP stronghold. I couldn’t stay in the party any longer and as I’ve told many, I didn’t leave the GOP, it left me.

I was moderate as a Republican and still a moderate as a Democrat as I enjoy WINNING. I chose to register as a Democrat in 1972 as the party has a history of inclusion. I wanted to belong to a party that looks out for the “least among us” whether we be old, sick, minorities, women, children, immigrants, gay, etc. But I also fear too many on the left would rather just be “right” than have real power in our government. I was attacked by Nader supporters in 2000 who smugly bragged that they didn’t care if they were the reason Bush was elected over Gore as they had “clear consciences”. I guess their hallowed conscience remained “clear” during Bush’s “Shock and Awe” and feel no guilt over 100,000 dead Iraqis, and thousands of American military.

I’ve had left wing attacks on my comments recently because I don’t chime in rebuking President Obama on various issues. I don’t agree with everything the President has done but I have never been of the mindset, my way or the highway. I am not an Obamabot or “bot” of any kind. I often don’t criticize Obama because I am not privy to his daily security briefings, but do feel he has helped keep our nation safe. He has wanted to close Gitmo, and make good on other campaign promises but has had an obstructionist Congress that most always opposes anything he comes up with even though some of his programs are the same the Republicans once promoted themselves. But that was before they were consumed with hatred for our first black president, and yes IMO, race hate drives many in the GOP.

Lately, I have been chided for not joining “progressives” over the Edward Snowden fiasco. (Editors Note: M.R.S. likewise is of the mindset that Snowden took FAR more classified material than he could possibly have read, released it to sources without determining whether or not that release might be dangerous, and continued to release information out of spite & personal gain. For those reasons, Snowden qualifies neither as a “whistle-blower”, nor as a hero. – Mugsy) It’s as if a real “liberal” should either support Greenwald and Snowden or needs to shut up. I have to laugh at the strange bedfellows both right and left supporting them like Rand Paul and Michael Moore. Greenwald has his army of supporters who will attack anyone who takes an opposing viewpoint. The article below gives me déjà vu of those days I was attacked for not supporting Ralph Nader.

As a child of WWII, I remember early on the slogans like “Loose lips sink ships”. I understand a need for having classified information that younger generations don’t appreciate (even though I think way too many have security clearances). Can you imagine what might have been the results of the Normandy invasion if we had had the mindset of an Edward Snowden back then?
 



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Filed in Guest Blogger, Partisanship, Politics, Rants July 8th, 2013 by Grant in Texas | • 2 comments | Add/View

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Guest Op/Ed: Does passing laws stop abortion?

By discontinued_user - Last updated: Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Special guest-commentary today by user “Tom J.” I met Tom during an OFA Viewing Party of President Obama’s big convention speech last August, where he posed some interesting questions about life in countries with strict anti-abortion laws vs those that keep abortion legal & freely available. Impressed, I asked him to share those thoughts with you today.

Several years ago I invited a public school colleague that I worked with to join the teachers’ union. Very unexpectedly he went off into a passionate discourse about “dead babies.” I didn’t get the connection at first until I later figured out that he associates the Union with Democrats and Democrats with abortion. His reaction was so emotional that I decided to investigate this issue. I have never lived abroad. I did read Jimmy Carter’s book “Our Endangered Values” which prompted the conclusions below, I have also included links to the World Health Organization website with the statistics cited.

Conservatives claim that life begins at the moment of conception and should not be taken once a woman is pregnant. OK, but what is their solution to stop it? All they have ever offered is to make it illegal. Will doing that stop abortions from happening? There is no correlation at all between illegality and abortion rates (PDF).

Let’s look at some other countries where this is being tried. In most South American countries abortion is completely and totally illegal and yet women still seek them out and obtain them illegally at the rate of 32 per thousand child-bearing aged women. The baby is still dead whether abortion is legal or not.

Now stop and examine countries like Belgium and the Netherlands. There abortion is legal under many circumstances and yet women seek out and obtain them only at the rate of just 7 per thousand even though it is legal. Quite a difference. What is happening? Well in those two countries and others like them they have universal health care and comprehensive sex education for young people. Turns out this is what stops abortion, not passing laws.

So, to those people who claim that the sanctity of human life is all important, I say this: If you really care about those unborn babies like you say you do, and this is not really about controlling women, then you have no choice but to support the political party that is promoting universal health care and comprehensive sex education for young people because that and only that is what has been proven to drastically curb abortion. Passing Laws doesn’t stop it!

Source: Our Endangered Values by Jimmy Carter (page 74 hard cover edition).
 

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Filed in Abortion rights, Election, Guest Blogger, Healthcare, myth busting, Politics, Religion October 16th, 2012 by discontinued_user | • No comments | Add/View

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Special guest comment: Our Changing Relationship with Gaza

By Grant in Texas - Last updated: Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Special Guest blogger “Grant from Texas” recalls his time working in Israel in the mid-1970’s and how much our relationship with the people in that region has changed since then. Minor edits, a few corrections and some supporting links were added for clarity.

Romney is on TV this morning accusing President Obama of “sympathizing” with the protesters in Libya and Egypt that killed four Americans. How offensive! Now it looks like Lebanon may be next!!!

I lived in Israel in 1975 working as a supervisor on a $23 million U.S. funded project to build military bases from Port Said along the east side of the Suez all the way down to Sharm el-Sheikh. I went to work there 100% behind Israel mostly based upon the propaganda I grew up with in the U.S.A.. I even had to fill out a 10 page extensive questionnaire to be reviewed by the MOSSAD (that took weeks) and ended up with a higher security classification than many in the Israeli Defense Forces. However, I broke some rules like never talking to an Arab, but it was hard not to have contact. The ones I befriended I liked. We Texans on the job called Arabs the “Mexicans” of Israel as they did most of the service work at the time in hotels, restaurants, taxis.

I also drove through Gaza weekly on the way to and from our job in the Sinai as it was the shortest route. The detour through Israel was longer. We 33 American supervisors (had an Israeli work force) lived at the Ramada Intercontinental (now the Renaissance on the beach) four days every other weekend. I was warned that with yellow Jewish license plates on my truck, I would take rocks or worse bullets. However, stopping for gasoline, food and drinks in El Arish, I was always treated with respect, even admiration for being an American (however, this was 1975). I was appalled at the time seeing Israel building a high fence topped with razor wire and gun towers on the Gaza border. Since then, Gaza has become most similar to the Warsaw Ghetto, a cramped prison for Gazans. Gazans used to commute daily to jobs in Israel, but now banned those jobs are now mostly filled by low wage Eastern Europeans.

I would like to go back to visit Israel but maybe with some of the comments I’ve made online now, that might keep me from getting a visa. One never knows the extent of MOSSAD review. I left Israel in the autumn of 1975 with my viewpoints changed nearly 180 degrees. I saw much mistreatment of Arabs, and sadly, some of the Israelis were visiting the same injustices done to them by fascists, now visiting similar upon the Arabs. However, there is a peace-seeking liberal minority in Israel who don’t go along with Likud, and The Jerusalem Post (where Wolf Blitzer once worked) is most right-wing, but there is a liberal voice in Ha-aretz.

Also of note, I am seriously worried about the election this fall. I see that our Texas Republican Secretary of State sent a list of 80,000 supposedly deceased voters to counties saying these voters need to be purged from the voter roles (fortunately, the list was challenged and rejected, but it’s not the first attempt nor is not likely to be the last – Mugsy). The state says they got their list from the Social Security Administration but people who received letters from the state checking to see if they are dead are saying if they are dead, then “why are our Social Security checks coming every month?” So far the undead have one thing in common… most of them voted in the Democratic Primary! You’d think maybe the GOP here is afraid that Obama might take our electoral votes? How absurd with all of the gerrymandering and voter suppression tricks they are trying to pull.
 

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Filed in General, Guest Blogger, Middle East, Politics, Rants, Religion, Terrorism, War September 12th, 2012 by Grant in Texas | • 6 comments | Add/View