2016 election

I, Virginia Bergman, pledge not to vote for a male presidential candidate in 2016 just because he's male.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Herman Cain sings his faith (video)


You have to admit that Herman Cain is adding excitement to the GOP presidential campaign for 2012. John Ward reports:

WASHINGTON -- Herman Cain escaped.

The Republican presidential candidate made it off the stage at the National Press Club on Monday relatively unscathed, swatting back allegations that he sexually harassed two women in the 1990s and then closing out his appearance by singing about redemption.

He is by no means out of the woods in dealing with the accusations. But the charismatic political performer survived his first high pressure moment in the spotlight with a dash of style.


Watch the video below to hear Herman Cain’s rendition of the gospel song, “He Looked Beyond My Faults.”

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A respite from the daily news

White Pelicans, photo by Mary Lundeberg

 
The combination of photos and music at Mary Lundeberg’s website, Nature Connections, offers a wonderful respite from the daily news.
 

“Is the Great Uncertainty of 2010-11 coming to an end?”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis host a joint press conference after their bilateral meeting in Athens, Greece, on July 17, 2011. Secretary Clinton and the Foreign Minister met to discuss economic issues as well as other topics. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

The editorial board at the CS Monitor is asking a good question regarding the economy:  Is the Great Uncertainty of 2010-11 coming to an end? And the answer is: It will when and if Washington gets its act together. Here’s the word from the Monitor:

Consumer spending is up, ever so slightly. Wall Street indexes ticked up this past week. The American economy grew faster than expected. Europe may now have a handle on Greek debt. 

There are even hints of Washington breaking the budget impasse in November. But hints only.

Ever since the Great Recession of 2008-09, the economy has been stuck in a cautionary mode about the staying power of the recovery. And one big cause is investor and consumer uncertainty about government action – or inaction.

“We are uncertain about the future,” say William Dunkelberg, chief economist for the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small, job-creating firms. “And government is a high source of our uncertainty.”

Read more:





Friday, October 28, 2011

A toast to the occupiers taking flight on Gandhi's wings


Gandhi

It's my home -- last night I dreamt that I grew wings
I found a place where they could hear me when I sing

--"Wings" by Josh Ritter


Occupy Wall Street is about anxiety, and the courage of young people to fly into conflict on Gandhi's wings. This is the noble legacy of civil disobedience on display at Zuccotti Park. We are seeing that anxiety channeled by courage can transform a society.


What does anxiety look like? You can see this drama played out as the demonstrators meditate surrounded by police whose anxiety is palpable, perhaps because the police cannot figure out which side they should really be on. You see it and hear it and feel it from all of the media pundits who are trying to "figure out," discredit, or dismiss OWS. You see it in the angry denunciations emanating from Wall Street financiers who beat their breasts and cling to the image of their legitimacy because they work so hard that they deserve their top 0.1% style mega incomes. (Doctors and tool and die makers work long and hard too, but their skill and hard work and education, often far beyond that of a financier, do not produce 7 and 8 figure incomes). You feel it in the desperate rhetoric of George Will, as he tries to discredit Elisabeth Warren's assertion of the obvious, namely that the very successful are highly dependent on society and did not create their wealth and achievements in a vacuum. You sense it in the desperate smearing by David Brooks, whose efforts to behead this movement lie in planting the seeds that this protest is about anti Semitism rather than an unjust society.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Celebrating a drummer from Occupy Chicago

It’s Occupy Chicago, although not the same drummer described by Thorngate, but you get the drift. Photo courtesy of neighborhoods.redeyechicago.com

I follow the Christian Century, a magazine on faith issues enlightened enough to use as its motto: “Thinking Critically. Living Faithfully.” Assistant Editor Steve Thorngate is self described at the Century “as also a church musician and a grad student in theology. He has quit many bands and one literature Ph.D. program.

Given his background as a musician and theologian, Steve’s well-qualified to post at the Century’s blog on “A good natured protest drummer,” especially one from Occupy Chicago.

Steve writes:

The other day I left the office around lunchtime and walked over to the Occupy Chicago gathering outside the Board of Trade. At the corner waiting for the light to change, I stood next to a protest drummer who fit the stereotype well: unshorn, unkempt and not much over 20.

While he drummed away, a man in his 60s joined us at the corner. This man was dressed crisply and professionally. It's possible he works at a small nonprofit—here at the Century, we all have reason to put on our fancy clothes once or twice a year—but I suspect his game is finance. I suspect this both because of the location and because of the unpleasantness he displayed toward the drummer.




Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A way out of our nation’s violent mindset


With our government’s emphasis since 9/11 on “killing” those we define as our enemies, as opposed to capturing them and bringing them to trial, I continue to post on the worrisome upsurge of violence in our culture.

In the meantime, I practice mindfulness meditation and host a bi-weekly mindfulness meditation group. When we met yesterday afternoon, we read and discussed Dom Roberti’s article, Thich Nhat Hanh: Engaged Buddhism, which offers a way out of the violent mindset plaguing our nation these days. The article concludes:

There are more elaborate forms of Metta (loving kindness), but this simple one is powerful enough. If enough people on earth could reach the state which the loving kindness meditation envisions, there would no longer be any need for war. Put simply, that is what Thich Nhat Hanh's work is all about.

Following the discussion, I presented the following guided meditation on loving kindness, which I found at http://www.buddhamind.info/leftside/lifestyl/medi/medi.htm

STOP FOR A FEW MOMENTS. Sit quietly, with a straight back and gently close your eyes. Feeling the rhythm of the breath as it enters and leaves the body, allow yourself to let go of past and future, and come into the present moment; being with exactly what is – now. 

Bring your attention to the feeling of the body, accepting it just the way it is – with kindness. Allow yourself to accept all the sensations and feelings of the body completely.
Breathe in deeply, with a sense of trust and well-being: breathe out, letting go of tension, allowing any tightness to dissolve. 

Then, focus on the normal breathing; just the feeling of breathing in, breathing out.
Imagine yourself surrounded by light – perhaps a golden-coloured light if you like gold. Being with the sensation of the body breathing in, breathing out, draw the light into the body as you breathe – maybe through the nostrils, the heart or the head. Imagine light saturating the body, through every pore. 

Think to yourself: ‘May this being be well,’ and turn the calming effect of the meditation towards this being: ‘May this being be calm.’ Suffuse your whole body with this calm and kindly attention.

Then, let your awareness explore the body: moving around the head and face, gradually down the neck, the back and the chest, spreading right down the finger-tips; then down the legs, to each toe; drawing on the good energy of the breath, expanding and embracing the heart. 

Focusing more on the out-breath, let go of the memories, the grudges, the grievances; let it all go. Begin again with each breath.

Picture yourself in your mind’s eye as you are now. Make peace with this view of yourself, through forgiveness, compassion, gentleness. ‘May this being be well.’ Suffuse this picture with gentle, warm light from the heart, then let it go. 

Next, picture your parents, let them into your mind. Make peace with their image: ‘May you be well,’ bathing them with soft light, with gratitude.

Observe thoughts arising. Memories of yourself as a child, perhaps something painful or something you have never made peace with. Let it be in the mind, in the light.
Then bring up an image of your daily situation, at home or wherever, with the people it involves. People you like or dislike, feel conflict with, love, fear or worry for. ‘May these beings be well.’ Put aside aversion, fear, worry, guilt; at this moment, allow yourself to be kind.

Think of someone you know who is having a difficult time; send these feelings of kindness towards them. Breathe in light, breathe out wishing them well. 

Gradually open up more and more, from the people you see every day to nobody special; and even those for whom you have hardly a memory. Recognise them as human beings with ambitions, hopes, problems, anxieties, joy – just like you! Give them some life in your perceptions. 

And, even more remote, acknowledge all the people you can conceive of in this world. This may be a faint feeling, but open up the heart to allow them into consciousness, to be felt. See what the mind does, how it reacts indignantly about some people – such as political figures. Let go of that indignation for this moment. Allow a sense of peace to envelop all beings: the liked, the disliked, familiar and unfamiliar. 

And then imagine the planet Earth as seen from space. Extend this sense of peace to the planet we live on, embracing it with your heart, surrounding it with light. 

Turning your attention to that sense of peace and light allow it to expand outwards, without limit, letting the sense of ‘me’ and ‘the world’ dissolve in the stillness of the present. Then turn your attention back in towards itself; upon the feeling of knowing ‘the screen of the mind’, the place where images arise. Let it be quite empty or full, choiceless, being illuminated by the soft light from the heart, light from the breath; warm, gentle; beginning, letting go, patient kindness. 

Gently come back to the rhythm of the breath, and when you are ready, slowly open your eyes.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Reducing war to an antiseptic video game

Syed Wali Shah age 7 was killed  in  CIA Drone Attack in Pakistan on Aug. 21, 2009. Photo courtesy of blog.alexanderhiggins.com 

The Christian Science Monitor’s Anna Mulrine reports on “unmanned drone attacks and shape-shifting robots” in America’s growing arsenal for reducing war to an “antiseptic video game.” Mulrine's article is chilling:

In the shadow of a heavily fortified enemy building, US commanders call in a chemical robot, or what looks like a blob. They give it a simple instruction: Penetrate a crack in the building and find out what's inside. Like an ice sculpture or the liquid metal assassin in "Terminator 2," the device changes shape, slips through the opening, then reassumes its original form to look around. It uses sensors woven into its fabric to sample the area for biological agents. If needed, it can seep into the cracks of a bomb to defuse it.

Soldiers hoping to eavesdrop on an enemy release a series of tiny, unmanned aircraft the size and shape of houseflies to hover in a room unnoticed, relaying invaluable video footage.

A fleet of drones roams a mountain pass, spraying a fine mist along a known terrorist transit route – the US military's version of "CSI: Al Qaeda." Days later, when troops capture suspects hundreds of miles away, they test them for traces of the "taggant" to discover whether they have traversed the trail and may, in fact, be prosecuted as insurgents.



Friday, October 21, 2011

Syrian activist nails the difference between vengeance and justice in Qadaffi’s death

Photo courtesy of newson6.com
Scanning the mostly shallow online news coverage this morning celebrating Qaddafi’s violent death, I was heartened to read David Kirkpatrick’s report from Tunisia on the front page of the NY Times. Kirkpatrick quotes a Syrian activist who points out the difference between vengeance and justice in how Qaddafi died – a distinction American and other world leaders appear to have forgotten since 9/11.

Kirkpatrick writes:

TUNIS — Like the flight of Tunisia’s dictator or the trial of Egypt’s, the capture of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi on Thursday afternoon captivated the Arab world, giving a renewed sense of power and possibility. But the photographs of his bloody corpse that circulated just moments later on cellphones and television screens quickly tempered that exhilaration with a reminder of the many still-unresolved conflicts that the Arab Spring has also unleashed.

“This isn’t justice,” Mustafa Haid, 32, a Syrian activist, said as he watched Al Jazeera’s broadcast in a Beirut office. Colonel Qaddafi should have been put on trial, his crimes investigated, Libya reconciled to trust in the law, he said, as though he still hoped better from the regional uprising that began with peaceful displays of national unity in Tunis and Cairo. 

Across the region, Colonel Qaddafi’s bloody end has brought home the growing awareness of the challenges that lie ahead: the balancing of vengeance against justice, impatience for jobs against the slow pace of economic recovery, fidelity to Islam against tolerance for minorities, and the need for stability against the drive to tear down of the pillars of old governments. 



Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gaddafi’s violent death (video)


After watching the video (see below) of the violent death of Libya's former leader Muammar Gaddafi shown at dinner time on the CBS Evening News. I'm left once again longing for the day when humanity recognizes that when we choose to mete out “eye for an eye”  justice, we lower ourselves to the level of our enemy.

That day appears to be far off as world leaders, including our president and secretary of state, increasingly use the word “kill” as casually as one might order buttered toast and coffee for breakfast at the local diner.

The trend took off when the Bush Administration launched the so-called war on terror, but the real terror is the growing acceptance of barbaric behavior in achieving our goals – behavior that includes the Obama Administration’s love affair with Predator drones, that “tool for assassination from 10,000 feet.”


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wall Street Occupiers integrate militant liberation theology with the potency of process theology

Photo courtesy of yesmagazine.org

All I could say this morning upon reading visiting Harvard Islamic Society chaplain, Nuri Friedlander’s post, From Tahrir to Wall Street: The Role of Religion in Protest Movements was “Amen and amen!”

Friedlander beautifully integrates the energy of liberation theology that can spark revolutions with the peace-making power of process theology, which eschews the use of force, and the result is what Thomas Merton and his close friend Thich Nhat Hanh would call “engaged spirituality.”

Friedlander concludes with words that would gladden the hearts of leading process theologians:

It is by rejecting the narrative that religions are fighting each other, and that reason is fighting faith, that we will disarm those forces that truly stand in the way of our success, and we will enable ourselves to co-create a more just society, one that thrives in its diversity, and revels in its singularity.

Read the entire article here.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Occupiers “R” us!

photo courtesy of dnforum.com

The Nation’s John Nichols skewers the attempts of Wall Street’s defenders to dismiss the spokespersons for the 99% of the population struggling with unemployment, underwater mortgages, low wages, and the rising cost of living. 

Open your eyes, folks: the Occupiers “R” us.

In his thoughtful analysis of the Occupy movement, Nichols writes:

How did Occupy Wall Street suddenly become Occupy Los Angeles? Occupy Cleveland? Occupy Janesville? Occupy Pocatello? How did a sleep-in beneath the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan inspire kayakers clad as Robin Hood to paddle up the Chicago River under a banner reading, Wall St. Takes From the 99%. Gives to the Rich? And how did those giant cutouts of JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon end up dancing with all those San Franciscans chanting, “Make banks pay”? Despite what Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain suggests, it was not some “orchestrated” attempt to deflect blame from the flawed policies of the Obama administration. It was not the media looking for a “left-wing Tea Party.” And it certainly was not a poll-tested, focus-grouped PR campaign that billionaire-funded front groups employ to gin up movements.

Occupy Wall Street started small, took a beating from the cops and struggled for weeks to get the attention of the political class, the media and even its own natural allies. The only thing going for this unlikely intervention has been the pitch-perfect resonance of its founding premises. The American people understood Occupy Wall Street, and began to embrace its promise, long before the mandarins who presume to chart our national discourse noticed that everything was changing. That’s because the generators of this movement—and it is a movement—have gotten three things right from the start:

The target is right. This has been a year of agitation, from Wisconsin to Ohio to Washington. It has seen some of the largest demonstrations in recent American history in defense of labor rights, public education, public services. But all those uprisings attacked symptoms of the disease. Occupy Wall Street named it. By aiming activism not at the government but at the warren of bankers, CEOs and hedge-fund managers to whom the government is beholden, Occupy Wall Street went to the heart of the matter. And that captured the imagination of Americans who knew Michael Moore was right when he finished his 2009 documentary Capitalism: A Love Story with an attempted citizen’s arrest of the bankers who not only avoided accountability after crashing the economy but profited from a taxpayer-funded bailout. Like the populists, the socialists and the best of the progressive reformers of a century ago, Occupy Wall Street has not gotten distracted by electoral politics; it has gone after the manipulator of both major parties—what the radicals of old referred to as “the money power.”

The numbers are right. If Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter With Kansas? taught us anything, it was that the great accomplishment of the money power in contemporary politics has been to divide the overwhelming mass of Americans over social and cultural issues, thus deflecting attention from fundamental economic debates. The brilliance of Occupy Wall Street’s message, “We are the 99 percent,” is that it invites just about everyone who isn’t a billionaire to recognize themselves as members of the class that has suffered what Thomas Jefferson once described as “a long train of abuses and usurpations.” For all the efforts of Wall Street’s media and political defenders to dismiss the persistent protesters as somehow un-American, the vast majority of Americans recognize that kids in sleeping bags did not shutter this country’s factories, mangle our mortgage markets or create a pay-to-play system. The 99 percent did not ask for or approve a system that always has money for wars and bank bailouts but won’t, as former Congressman Alan Grayson notes, help the 24 million Americans who can’t find full-time work, the 50 million Americans who can’t see a doctor when they’re sick, the 47 million Americans who need government aid to feed themselves, the 15 million American families who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.

The demands are right. The most comic complaint about Occupy Wall Street—not just from critics but even from some elite sympathizers—is that it lacks well-defined demands. In fact, the objection of the occupiers to a system of corporate domination and growing inequality, and their desire to change that system, makes a lot more sense to a lot more Americans than anything being said by politicians. Polling confirms this point: Barack Obama’s approval ratings are dismal, but the approval ratings for the Republicans in Congress are dramatically worse. The American people desperately wanted this movement. That is proven not only by the polls but by the practical embrace of the Occupy Wall Street ethos in more than a thousand communities across the nation. Some are already occupying public spaces, others are marching and rallying. Beyond Wall Street, there will be more specific complaints, more adventurous alliances, more practical politics, but there’s no reason why a diversity of issues and tactics cannot build the movement that was invited when the call to Occupy Wall Street was issued.



Friday, October 14, 2011

“Democrats have Mr. Romney squarely in their sights”


According to Michael Shear at the Caucus (NY Times), the Romney camp is justified in asking if the Democrats are nervous:


It appears the Dems have decided Mitt  Romney will be their Republican opponent in 2012:

Republicans are heading into an intense period of presidential campaigning as their candidates jockey to be the party’s nominee next year.

But Democratic leaders appear to have already decided who will win that contest: Mitt Romney.

In the last several days, President Obama’s political allies have made a series of attacks on Mr. Romney’s character and record, virtually ignoring the other Republican candidates and the continuing primary campaign.

It is as if the Democrats have fast-forwarded to the spring of 2012.

In a new Web video released Friday morning, the Democratic National Committee continued to hammer Mr. Romney for referring to the president’s proposed payroll tax cut as a “little Band-Aid” for the middle class.

“Fifteen hundred dollars might be a Band-Aid to Mitt Romney,” the video says. “But to a middle-class family, fifteen hundred goes a long way. Mitt Romney, he’s wrong for the middle class.”



Thursday, October 13, 2011

Elizabeth Warren’s life story (video)


Watch this moving video in which Elizabeth Warren shares her life story and explains why she’s opposing Scott Brown in the U.S. Senate race in Mass.:

Minn. Congressman Keith Ellison stands with Occupy Wall Street protestors

http://www.flickr.com/photos/keithellison/

As co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. Keith Ellison (D. Minn.) has some worthwhile insights to offer on the demands of Occupy Wall Street, and the powers that be – as well as our perpetually uniformed media - would be wise to lend an ear:

Occupy Wall Street activism is gaining strength daily, but pundits and politicians are struggling to understand the emergence of this movement. The reaction in Washington says more about us -- the political insiders -- than it does about the thousands of participants. Almost as soon as it formed, the protesters were criticized for not having concrete demands. No one could identify the group's "leader." Even the media didn't take the New York occupation seriously until YouTube videos showed people being arrested. Now in their fourth week, the protests are proving that it is not the concreteness of their demands but the staying power and resonance of their anger that have caught our attention.

The Occupy movement is attracting ordinary Americans through concrete action that conveys a clear message. The message is that working Americans want Wall Street to be accountable. The message is that working Americans want a fair tax system. Americans want the Congress to pass legislation that produces jobs.



Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Federal budget: weapons more important than visas

It's sad that the State Department has to compete with the Defense Department for adequate funding to support all of the programs it sponsors and services it provides, e.g. issuing visas to foreign visitors.

You'd think peaceful endeavors would trump war-making paraphernalia like drone fleets, wouldn't you?


Well, not necessarily.  M.J. Lee at Politico reports:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is warning Congress the State Department cannot meet all of its obligations if foreign aid and the department’s budget are deeply cut.
“Well, they wanted us to keep doing what we were expected to do in Iraq, doing in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and, oh by the way, what you’re trying to do in Yemen, what you’re trying to do in Somalia, what you’re trying to do in Sudan, etc., etc.,” she told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday. “But we don’t want to give you as much money, so you just keeping doing that.”







Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Elizabeth Warren for Massachusetts raises $3.15 million!


 You heard it first here!

The following is a letter I just received from Elizabeth Warren for Massachusetts:

Virginia,

Our campaign to give working families a voice in Washington is just starting, but we are already gaining strong support from across Massachusetts and our nation. Today, I've got some great news to share, and I wanted you to be the first to know:

In the first few weeks of our campaign, we raised $3.15 million, and the overwhelming majority of those contributions -- 96 percent -- were $100 or less. More than 11,000 people here in Massachusetts contributed.

These are pretty amazing numbers for our first official finance report, raised in a very short period of time, so you can understand why I want to say thanks a million -- and more! -- for this remarkable support. I couldn't do it without you. 

With the big banks and special interests lining up against us, we know it's going to take a strong, grassroots campaign to win. In fact, did you see the headline in Politico a few weeks ago? Wall Street Readies Assault on Elizabeth Warren. The article says that the big banks and their legions of lobbyists are plotting "a strategy to hit hard," and they are "getting ready to pounce." We know they'll pay any price to try to stop us. 

That's why your support is more important than ever. I need you to help us build the strongest grassroots campaign we can by encouraging your friends and family to join us, too:

Forward this email and invite everyone you know to sign up at ElizabethWarren.com


However you do it, add to the momentum.

We are in this together. We are fighting back for the middle class families who are getting hammered here in Massachusetts and across the country. We are fighting for the future of America.  

Thank you for being a part of this.

Elizabeth Warren
Donate

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Nudging the hapless Obama Administration and our dysfunctional Congress

Wall Street protestors, photo courtesy of wn.com


In 2008 Naomi Klein tried to break through the mindless euphoria of the Obama campaign with a sharp dose of economic realism, but here we are three years later, slogging through our prolonged recession.   

You’d think the support the Occupy Wall Street protestors received yesterday from Klein in the Guardian and this morning from the NY Times editorial board would nudge the hapless Obama Administration and our dysfunctional Congress into taking seriously the wakeup call that Elizabeth  Warren has been sounding for months now.

But at least some of us out here are paying attention. Klein’s Guardian piece begins:

If there is one thing I know, it's that the 1% loves a crisis. When people are panicked and desperate, that is the ideal time to push through their wishlist of pro-corporate policies: privatising education and social security, slashing public services, getting rid of the last constraints on corporate power. Amidst the economic crisis, this is happening the world over.

There is only one thing that can block this tactic, and fortunately, it's a very big thing: the 99%. And that 99% is taking to the streets from Madison to Madrid to say: "No. We will not pay for your crisis."


The Times editorial board doesn’t mince words in this one:

As the Occupy Wall Street protests spread from Lower Manhattan to Washington and other cities, the chattering classes keep complaining that the marchers lack a clear message and specific policy prescriptions. The message — and the solutions — should be obvious to anyone who has been paying attention since the economy went into a recession that continues to sock the middle class while the rich have recovered and prospered. The problem is that no one in Washington has been listening.

At this point, protest is the message: income inequality is grinding down that middle class, increasing the ranks of the poor, and threatening to create a permanent underclass of able, willing but jobless people. On one level, the protesters, most of them young, are giving voice to a generation of lost opportunity.



Saturday, October 8, 2011

Nobel Peace Prize Committee redeems itself by recognizing three women activists


The Nobel Peace Prize lost  a little of its luster when the Committee awarded it to recently inaugurated President Barack Obama, not for anything he had accomplished, but for what they hoped his role would be as a peacemaker, and we all know how that has turned out.

The Committee redeemed itself with this year’s award to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen "for their nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work.” Watch the video:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A collective statement from Occupy Wall Street (video)


As regular readers know, Keith Olbermann is not one of my favorite commentators and ironically he, too, is guilty of the criticisms of the media offered in Occupy Wall Street’s collective statement.  But in this Special Comment (Current TV), it must be acknowledged that Olbermann performs a valuable public service by reading Occupy Wall Street’s statement in its entirety. Watch the video:



Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Amanda Knox comes home after four-year ordeal (video)

Photo courtesy of arabnews

Story follows video of Amanda Knox’s return home.



By PHUONG LE and MANUEL VALDES, The Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) -- Amanda Knox returned to her hometown of Seattle on Tuesday and was as overcome with emotion as she was a day earlier in Italy, when she was acquitted on murder charges after four years in prison. "Thank you for being there for me," she tearfully told her supporters in front of a crowd of international reporters.

"I'm really overwhelmed right now," she said at a news conference minutes after she was escorted off a British Airways flight out of London. "I was looking down from the airplane, and it seemed like everything wasn't real."



Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Elizabeth Warren "whacks Scott Brown" in her debate debut (video)


The Boston Herald’s Dave Wedge reports:

Elizabeth Warren officially kicked off her much-anticipated foray into the political arena by whacking U.S. Sen. Scott Brown on the economy and trumpeting her record of going “toe-to-toe” with financial behemoths, as she did battle with five Democrats in this first 2012 Senate debate.

Wedge quotes Warren:

“Forbes magazine named Scott Brown Wall Street’s favorite senator. I was thinking that’s probably not an award I’m going to get,” Warren said, storming out of the gate in her first public debate, which was streamed live on bostonherald.com.”’

Here’s the video from the US Senate debate in Lowell, MA this evening, Oct. 4:

Elizabeth Warren to debate other Democrats opposing Scott Brown today, Oct. 4

Photo courtesy of http://www.hapblog.com/

Heads up: Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats challenging incumbent US Senator Scott Brown, MA will debate today, on Tuesday, Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. on the University of MA Lowell campus.

The following was posted by the Univ. of MA, Lowell, Sunday, Oct. 2:

LOWELL, Mass. – Elizabeth Warren is in a virtual dead heat against U.S. Sen. Scott Brown and holds a commanding lead over other Democratic challengers in the Senate race, according to a UMass Lowell-Boston Herald poll released today.

Thirty-six percent of potential Democratic primary voters surveyed say they’d prefer to have Warren face Brown, a Republican, in November 2012, according to the independent, nonpartisan poll of more than 1,000 registered voters across Massachusetts. None of the other five candidates – state Rep. Tom Conroy, immigration attorney Marisa DeFranco, City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, Global Reporting Initiative co-founder Bob Massie and engineer and activist Herb Robinson – garnered more than 5 percent support from those surveyed. 

The poll is the first for a new partnership between the Boston Herald and UMass Lowell’s Center for Public Opinion. The partners will also co-host a debate on Tuesday, Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. on the UMass Lowell campus. All six of the declared Democratic candidates have said they will participate in the debate, which is free and open to the public. The debate will be streamed live at www.uml.edu and www.bostonherald.com, and the public can participate on Twitter using #UMLDebate.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Why Obama can kill Americans


With the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaqi has Barack Obama set a precedent that hereafter will allow U.S. presidents to kill Americans anywhere in the world without due process? That’s what the Department of Justice’s secret memo suggests. This is scary stuff.

Conor Friedersdorf at the Atlantic has the story:

Outside the U.S. government, President Obama's order to kill American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki without due process has proved controversial, with experts in law and war reaching different conclusions. Inside the Obama Administration, however, disagreement was apparently absent, or so say anonymous sources quoted by the Washington Post. "The Justice Department wrote a secret memorandum authorizing the lethal targeting of Anwar al-Aulaqi, the American-born radical cleric who was killed by a U.S. drone strike Friday, according to administration officials," the newspaper reported. "The document was produced following a review of the legal issues raised by striking a U.S. citizen and involved senior lawyers from across the administration. There was no dissent about the legality of killing Aulaqi, the officials said."

Isn't that interesting? Months ago, the Obama Administration revealed that it would target al-Awlaki. It even managed to wriggle out of a lawsuit filed by his father to prevent the assassination. But the actual legal reasoning the Department of Justice used to authorize the strike? It's secret. Classified. Information that the public isn't permitted to read, mull over, or challenge.




Sunday, October 2, 2011

A stealth campaign against scientific validation of a more egalitarian and humanistic political order



Glenn W. Smith’s post today at FDL highlights one of those recurring controversies between liberals and conservatives. 

This one goes deep. It’s about the human capacity for empathy over against our need for aggression in defending our rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” 

It reminds me of the debate that erupted in the 60s and early 70s between authentic anthropologists, who argued that human beings were as wired for cooperation as they were for competition, and pseudo-anthropologist Robert Ardrey, who theorized in “The Territorial Imperative” that we were all innate killers.

Smith is taking on NY Times columnist David Brooks, the modern day incarnation of Robert Ardrey:

New York Times columnist David Brooks has long been engaged in a stealth campaign against the discoveries of science – especially neuroscience – that validate a more egalitarian and humanistic political order.

Brooks has skillfully branded himself as the Pundit Who Will Tell You About New Findings in the Human Sciences. But in Brooks’ hands all the new science somehow becomes justification for top-down, conservative and even authoritarian government. It’s all just a magical confirmation of Hobbes.

Smith continues:

Conservative political philosophy is built upon the Hobbesian premise that only an elite authority can keep us from killing one another. So, when the human sciences are discovering that we are hard wired for empathy and cooperation – not self-interest and war – Brooks & Company move into action.

They first attack empathy, misrepresenting it as some kind of hippy conceit that would lead us to a peaceful utopia if we’d only pay attention. This is Brooks’ ploy in last week’s column, “The Limits of Empathy.”



Saturday, October 1, 2011

Analysis: why the Left crucified both the Clintons in 2008

Photo courtesy of CentralIllinois912project.com.

Whether they admit it or not, most semi-conscious Americans are now aware of how the Left dug up the right’s discredited talking points from the 1990s in its efforts to destroy Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primary, well described by Melissa McEwan and Maureen McCluskey in their two-part post at the Guardian.

What hasn’t been so clearly elucidated has been why the Left, allied with Democratic party leaders and so-called liberal pundits, chose to crucify both Bill and Hillary Clinton in 2008.

In his post titled 20 Years Later: How Bill Clinton Saved Liberalism From Itself, Sean Wilentz, professor of history and social studies at Princeton and contributing editor of The New Republic, clearly outlines why the Left so disdained the Clinton Administration and would continue to show such contempt for both Bill and Hillary Clinton.

In a nutshell, according to Wilentz:

Clinton aimed to win back alienated traditional Democrats not by shifting to the right, as some pundits have claimed, but by retrieving basic political principles enunciated by FDR and those successful liberal Democrats who followed him.

Wilentz, the Princeton historian continues:

Nothing cost Clinton more political capital inside the left wing of his party than his advocacy of welfare reform. “We should expect people to move from welfare rolls to work rolls,” he proclaimed in his announcement speech. “We should give them the skills they need to succeed and then insist that they move into the workforce to become productive members of society.” These were fighting words to some liberal Democrats. Yet in 1936, in a rip-roaring attack on Republican callousness, FDR had defended those forced on the relief rolls while adding, “Of course we will provide useful work for the needy unemployed; we prefer useful work to the pauperism of a dole.” As a matter of policy, Clinton aimed to return liberalism to its basic ideas, not to forsake its ideals. And in doing so, he would help accomplish the crucial political task of removing from national politics one of the issues that had helped Republicans inflame the middle class against the poor, especially the minority poor, as well as against the Democratic Party.

In an era in which the government is mistrusted as never before and poll numbers for both the administration and congress continue to head south, Wilentz reports (emphasis mine):

In order to overcome the Reagan ascendency Democrats needed to advance the rights secured during the 1960s while returning to more traditional political bedrock. To a remarkable extent, Clinton delivered on that promise. In doing so, he made the nation comfortable once again with the idea that the well-being and future prospects of most Americans require strong and effective leadership by the federal government.

How’s that again? Strong and effective leadership by the federal government? !!