Recently I have been reading about the situation in the Middle East, specifically the Israel/Palestine impasse, and started to wonder what has happened to create such a divisive atmosphere when there was so much hope at different times since the Oslo Accords were signed in the early 1990′s, and also the agreement entered into between Rabin and Arafat in the mid-1990′s. During my reading I asked myself one very important question when it came to the most recent volatility in the peace process: Has Israel poisoned the process? Sadly, while both sides have caused impasses and problems, Israel, under Netanyahu, has severely damaged the process and weakened the prospects for a peaceful settlement of the issues. Read more
A few days ago I was asked which of the Justices on the US Supreme Court I admire the most. My answer shocked the friend who asked the question: Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Stephen Breyer. His reaction was almost immediate. "How can you admire two justices who are so different (i.e., conservative and liberal respectively, though the use of the political terms is somewhat inaccurate)??? I would like to take a moment today and explain why I feel we (the general public) have a tendency to look at the wrong aspects when evaluating our judges.
For decades Judges, especially Supreme Court Justices, have been labeled either liberal or conservative, judicial activists or practitioners of judicial restraint, strict constructionists or living constitutionalists…. The list goes on and on. Oddly enough, none of these terms are accurate in terms of what judges actually do, or rather, the processes by which they do their work. As a result, there is a very skewed perception of what is being done by the courts (see my blog on judicial review posted in February of this year). Read more
Crimea is a peninsula on the northern coast of the Black Sea. The Autonomous Republic of Crimea occupies most of the peninsula, while the City of Sevastopol occupies the rest.
In Russia, Pussy Riot's post-prison protests lead to arrest under Putin's police power and assault by Cossack militia members.
In Ukraine, anti-government unrest has exploded into clash and confrontation with a death toll dangerously rising.
Syria's Civil War is anything but civil, yet attempts at talks are just as tumultuous while the world fails as good neighbors or negotiators.
Country after country faces upheaval, some democratic, some downright destructive, but government actions and global reactions have inflamed, infuriated and fed the fires.
It's a time of civil unrest and the uncivil rest. If only everyone could take a breath and a rest.
For now take a break to share a beer while sharing ideas with old friends and new at your local progressive social club.
DRINKING LIBERALLY Find - or start - a chapter near you.
Now that the government shutdown is a reality, I want to take this opportunity to register my disgust at how this played out. I try and take a reasonable approach to the issue of who is responsible for government problems, and have a rather evenhanded focus, but in this, I am rather upset at the Republicans in the House of Representatives. Read more
Michael Stinnett - 9/03/2013: Legal rulings such as Citizens United and lax campaign financing laws have undermined the democratic process allowing wealthy donors to buy elections; so-called Super PACs are a pernicious influence on society and should be abolished. A Super PAC, or independent expenditure-only committee, “may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates. Super PACs must, however, report their donors to the Federal Election Commission on a monthly or quarterly basis – the Super PAC's choice – as a traditional PAC would. Unlike traditional PACs, Super PACs are prohibited from donating money directly to political candidates” (Super PACs). The recent ruling protects political spending by corporations in candidate elections, citing the First Amendment's protection of freedom of speech. In justifying the ruling, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote that “'If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech'” (The New York Times). Read more
The subject of Father Scott's homily on Sunday was "tunnel vision," something our local parish priest knows a lot about since it was not until he was in his twenties and well out of high school that Father Scott finally got his driver's license. "Tunnel vision," said the state trooper who flunked him. "Stop focusing on the straight lines in front of you and see everything around you."
But it wasn't to whine about being the only kid in his senior class who still rode a bike to school that Father Scott brought up the subject of "tunnel vision." Instead, it was as a prod to urge the rest of us to stop fixating on the bright lines defining our own narrow prejudices, or tribes, or self-imposed prisons so that we might see the larger world around us.
That is because, as Father Scott explained, "God colors outside the lines."
Mine is a parish, as I have mentioned before, that lies on the outskirts (and mostly under the radar screen) of the larger Boston Archdiocese. It's a town that is predominantly Jewish but which has a protestant church on three of the town square's four corners and also a mosque all our own. Read more
There has been some ongoing debate about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and some comments she made about constitution making in countries that are endeavoring to rewrite, or develop whole new constitutions. I would like to examine whether she is being unfairly attacked in these debates. Read more
I spent a little time in California over the summer. It had been awhile. I remember going there as a kid and being so impressed. It seems that the days when everyone in the nation looked up to California, that magical land filled with perfect weather, sandy beaches, gorgeous women, and glamorous movie stars, have gone the way of the VCR and the cassette deck.
The first condition that I noticed was that the check stations, that used to manned by friendly, professional, state officials, who welcomed you to California and asked if you were bringing fruits or vegetables to or from that state, now look like the ruined shacks from Fallout 3. I was waiting to be attacked by "Mole-Rats".
Oh, and the rest areas are all closed so don't bother trying. You have no choice but to pee at truck stop as you're paying $6.02 a gallon for gas. Read more
We have all been seeing for years now the arguments put forward by some that President Barack Obama was ineligible to run for President because he was not a "natural born citizen" as his father was from Kenya. Despite Hawaii finally giving over a copy of the long form of Obama's birth certificate, and the repeated refusal of courts to entertain the issue, many are still making the same, tired arguments. Well, we have a debunking of that argument in the form of an Obama opponent who was born in Canada, holds dual citizenship due to Canadian law, and one parent who was not a US citizen at the time of his birth. That person? None other than Tea Party favorite and ultra conservative politician from Texas, Senator Ted Cruz. Read more
Mickey Edwards steals a page from those early Progressives who believed the cure for democracy was more democracy. Joining a long list of Republican "reformers" who are trying mightily to help the GOP avoid a rendevous with hostile demographics, the one-time Oklahoma Congressman wants to scrap the two-party system altogether in favor of a more participatory "nonpartisan" democracy able to govern itself without party labels.
It's an appealing vision of a restored "civic republicanism" that Edwards offers in his latest book, The Parties Versus the People: How to Turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans. Appealing to me, at any rate, because it reflects my own belief that it is far more important how a party or a country thinks than what it thinks - since, as Edwards says, "democracy is not about policy but about process" and "how we select our leaders, how we deliberate, how we decide" are what really determine whether Americans are fit for self-government. Read more
In May 2009, former International Monetary Fund chief economist Simon Johnson wrote an important essay in The Atlantic on the origins and implications of the 2008 financial collapse, called "The Quiet Coup."
The financial gloom that swept over the US economy at the twilight of the George W. Bush administration was "shockingly reminiscent" of other Third World, emerging economy crises Johnson had witnessed during his days at the IMF.
In each case, he said, concerns that the financial sector could not pay off the debts it had accumulated caused capital markets to seize up, forcing firms like Lehman Brothers into bankruptcy as fear of insolvency became a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Weaknesses in the banking system "quickly rippled out into the rest of the economy," said Johnson, "causing a severe economic contraction and hardship for millions of people." Read more
My first memory of any recognition of race was the day I brought my new friend home for lunch. My grandma must have been watching us come up the steps because she met us at the door and said it wasn't convenient to have guests for lunch. She sent my new friend packing and then set me down and told me to never do that again. She said we don't mix with Blacks. That's all she would say.
Later, I asked my mom what she meant. Mom said that grandma had moved to the city from the farm and she had no experience with people of other races. She said Grandma was prejudiced. I asked what that meant. Mom said prejudice was fear of others because they are different from us. She said there were lots of ways to be prejudiced but race was the most common. I went to public school and in the 50's there wasn't much integration so I didn't have many interactions with other races. Read more
It seems puzzling that Harvard University would grant tenure, let alone appoint someone to be the chairman of its economics department, who fundamentally doesn't believe in economics. But there it is, all spelled out in a much talked about new paper, "Defending the One Percent," by Harvard economics professor and former Mitt Romney advisor, N. Gregory Mankiw, in the June issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives.
After summarily dispensing with the arguments offered by those on "the left" for greater income equality, specifically those of Joseph Stiglitz who condemns today's yawning wage gap as not only unjust and obscene but economically inefficient as well, Mankiw concludes his 25-page apologia for the bulging portfolios of today's plutocrats by asserting that taxing the wealthy to support socially useful purposes is just plain "wrong." Read more
Yes. I busted my ass for Obama the first time around.
Opened my checkbook, campaigned, knocked on doors. Did everything I could to see that he carried Florida in the Presidential election.
Not easy in a place where Fred Thompson signs were as common as plastic pink flamingos at the time during the primary and right wing nuts carried Soviet flags outside of local Obama campaign headquarters. Where women thought Palin was the essence of true feminism. I had the lone Obama sign on my lawn in a sea of McCain - Palin cardboard.
But I got the last laugh. At least I thought so at the time.
We had elected a Democratic President and controlled the two Houses of Congress. And we carried Florida.
Maybe something would get done.
Maybe universal healthcare. Maybe peace would come. Maybe a society which would leave behind racism. Maybe repeal of the Bush tax giveaways to billionaires. Maybe we would spend money on people rather than aircraft carriers. Maybe we would stop torturing people. Maybe Gitmo would close.
Maybe. Read more