Monday, June 30, 2014


In a small town in Pennsylvania, parents and friends of Americans killed in Iraq are joining the ranks of Cindy Sheehan and asking what possible reason could there be for the sacrifice of soldiers from their town in the war in Iraq?

     They are reacting to the swift collapse of Northern Iraq in the face of aggression from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forces...attacks which resulted in Iraqi army personnel refusing to fight, running away, stripping off their uniforms and banging on doors begging for civilian clothes to disguise the fact they were in their own nation's army.  These are the same Iraqis that American taxpayers spent billions training and equipping only to see them fold like a house of cards at the first sign of danger.

     It would appear Americans died to set up a sham-democracy so corrupt and venal that Sunni citizens would rather be conquered by al Qaeda-like forces than be governed by the central authorities in Baghdad led by Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki.

     Ironically, all of this was predicted by President George Herbert Walker Bush (Bush 41) when he rejected pleas by national security advisors like Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Pearl, Douglas Feith and politicians ranging from John McCain to Lindsay Graham to Mitch McConnell who all wanted him to keep American tanks rolling into Baghdad in the first gore in the Gulf.  Bush famously proclaimed Saddam Hussein wasn't worth one more American life and added taking Baghdad would leave a power vacuum which America would have to fill to prevent civil war.  Unfortunately for almost 5,000 American soldiers, those same voices were able to con Bush's son (Bush 43) into thinking he was wiser than his daddy and America could impose democracy in an area where Sunnis and Shiites had not shared power since 950 CE.

     Now these same American parents and friends, who lost sons and daughters in a war to prevent Iran from controlling the entire region, face the prospect of America coordinating and cooperating with Iran to try and save Iraq.  They have to watch as Iran increases its influence over Iraq, and at the same time props up the Assad government in Syria and attempts to control Lebanon, while pursuing a nuclear weapons program and yet might end up as an ally with America in an attempt to stabilize a nation on the brink.  What?  We are imposing crippling economic sanctions on Iran to force it to give up its nuclear ambitions yet now want, or have to beg? for their help?  This is through the looking glass sort of stuff.

     While Iraq is in crisis, in this country the same voices who got us into this situation...who cost America over $ 1 Trillion, 5,000 dead, hundreds of thousands wounded...who created a deeply divided nation which is now decisively isolationist...are at it again.  John McCain wants airstrikes and boots on the ground now.  Cheney attacks a weakened President Obama as Lindsey Graham accused the president of being soft on terrorism, all laying the current disaster, one of their creation, at Obama's feet.

     Columnists in the Wall Street Journal are harkening back to the scare tactics of Vietnam creating a new "domino" theory which goes if Iraq falls there goes Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and eventually ISIS will be on the border with Texas.

   A new poll says the majority of Americans disapprove of Obama's handling of foreign policy.  So, are these Americans saying he shouldn't have ended our involvement in Iraq?  Do they want a continued military presence in Afghanistan?  Do these recently polled Americans want U.S. military forces introduced into the Syrian civil war and are they also in favor of a military strike and war with Iran?  Aren't these the same Americans who tell pollsters America should fix problems at home and stop trying to be the world's cop and stay out of foreign adventures?  House Speaker John Boehner accuses the President of napping while Mosul burns, but when asked what he would do differently, he runs for cover saying he doesn't have enough information to offer a solution.  What?  This is the mantra of all the regressives and the regressive corporate media...Obama is a weak-kneed sissy-boy, a modern Chamberlin presiding over a new Munich, but when confronted with questions about what the foreign policy of the GOP would be, the silence is deafening from most and positively frightening from McCain, Cheney and Graham among others who want to use a broken military and young Americans as cannon fodder to prop up a government in Iraq so hated and corrupt people would rather be conquered than continue to live under Maliki's oppression.

     Maliki has been told unless he reforms his government...unless he includes Sunni officials in key positions...unless he stops persecuting minorities...unless he puts Sunnis and Kurds in top positions in the military, America will not act.  So far he has refused to do any of it.  Now, Obama is saying Maliki needs to go even though he was just re-elected.  This is nuts.  Iran is sending troops into Iraq to fight and diverting more from Syria while refusing to yield on its nuclear program.  Should American military assistance be used to help Iran solidify its control over this Islamic crescent?

     Critics of Obama want airstrikes in Iraq and the use of American Special Forces.  (boots on the ground)  They want America to arm "moderate" rebels in Syria even though no one can define what is a moderate and the so-called moderates in Syria can't fight any better than the Iraqi army.

     To his credit, Obama refuses to be stampeded like Bush 41, and perhaps can avoid another disaster.  He is actively listening to his constituents who tell him they oppose the use of military force in foreign adventures while at the same time knocking him for listening to them.  America is schizophrenic right now on this subject and Obama knows it.  Whatever he does it has to be measured and limited and not capable of drawing us back into the quicksand which is Baghdad.

Friday, June 6, 2014


  A number of people have written to me to let me know Randi Rhodes is going to retire.  According to their accounts, she has decided to move to Costa Rica, what a wonderful place to live, with a male friend.  One writer claimed she had just signed a new three-year deal to do her show, but decided to pull the plug anyway.  All who wrote expressed both sadness and dismay about her departure.  I share those feelings.  It also seemed to them Rhodes left feeling defeated and cynical and convinced America is going to hell in a hand basket.

     I was jealous of Randi for a long time.  She was tapped by Air America as one of their national "liberal" hosts and I thought I was as good, if not better, than Randi.  (I thought I was better than all the Air America hosts, but then again I didn't get to where I am today due to a regular sized ego.)  However, when I began to listen to Randi I saw what they saw and realized how good she was and how the information she relayed daily to her audience was solid and prescient.  She did great research and uncovered facts and perspectives which put events into the proper context...a context you were not going to get from the corporate media.  She was also funny and acerbic and summoned up outrage which revealed a passion for her work.  It was clear she wasn't just getting a pay check...these issues were vitally important to her and she wanted her audience to care as much as she cared.

     Perhaps in this way we see the essential difference between progressive and regressive talk shows.  On the regressive side, whether it's Hanbaugh, O'Reiley, Coulter, Ingram, Beck, it has always seemed clear that at the end of the day they were performers who figured out a good gig and milked it for all it's worth.  Perhaps the best example of this is "the Weiner".  The "Weiner" came to San Francisco as a Berkeley educated professor, sponsored and championed by the left of the left including people like Alan Ginsburg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti and fit in nicely with the beat generation.  He was going nowhere until he got a shot on KSFO.  He quickly discovered vitriol and hate and bigotry sold and it was a recipe for making allot of money.  What gets ratings is extreme regressivism, anger and bombast.  He never looked back and has been irate all the way to the bank.  In this same vein, Glenn Beck has now admitted he was making up and faking the attacks and the propaganda he spewed forth and apologized for his performance.

     In contrast, people like Randi and Rachel Maddow and Keith Oberman, Peter B. Collins and Stephanie Miller, Ray Taliaferro and even myself, did what we did because we looked out on a landscape dominated by corporate interests and a news environment where every debate started in the center and moved away from us.  No one has or is in it for just a paycheck and no one shape shifted like their counterparts on regressive radio.

     If you perceive a world in which the audience is misinformed or lied to or truth is covered up and obfuscated, it almost gets to feel prophetic.  A prophet, in Hebrew scripture, acted as the conscience of the people reminding them what is true and valuable and calling them back to ethical and caring behavior.  This is why a prophet is never accepted in his or her own country.  People don't want to hear what they may be doing wrong or how they may have screwed up or that they need to clean up their act and governments and the 1% hate it even more.  (there is nothing prophetic about regressive's a call to retrench and re-turn to a time of dominance by white males.  It's why it goes down so easily for most ditto-heads.  None of their values or prejudices are challenged.)

     Since 2001, Randi watched a nation stampeded into two wars by the use of lies and faux patriotism and fought off criticism she was soft on terrorism or hated her country or was a commie or socialist and any other number of attacks.  She railed against a Patriot Act which eviscerated the 4th amendment and a government which cut taxes for the rich, put two wars on a credit card and then used the excuse of the debt and deficit to gut the social safety net, crush the labor movement and increase the financial distance between most of America and its moneyed elite.  While she was on the air, an entire generation went to college and graduated with debt equivalent to a first mortgage and no jobs.  She watched as Bill Clinton and George Bush deregulated Wall Street leading to a depression surpassed only by 1929.  Then she had to watch Obama bail out Wall Street and destroy Main Street.  (have you read Geithner's book yet?  It is an admission of exactly what Randi and so many said was really going on) The war on terrorism morphed into a war on civil liberties and privacy.  (thank you Edward Snowden)  Randi has a 2016 presidential race to look forward to between Clinton and Bush again?

     Despite the first 14 years of this century, which would render any optimist moot, I do not share Randi's's cynicism, if that is accurately how she felt, about the direction of the country.  All is not lost and knowledge is still power.  The American people will respond when given the information.  If it isn't going to be on terrestrial radio then it may be through pod-casts and Internet streaming, but there is a thirst which needs to be slaked.

     I sit in a prison where I have experienced random acts of kindness convincing me of the goodness of so many people.  It is also a system which begs for reform and when the average American finds out how their taxes are wasted and how this system just perpetuates itself, they will demand change.  When they are informed about the need to change the college system...change the tax code so it treats the 1% the same way the other 99% are treated...resists the building pressure to export domestic oil and natural gas and the war drums beating informed enough to resist the call for military force to replace diplomacy and demands a government who cares about the middle class more than the uber class, change will come.

     There is still a need for prophetic talk and information, but being a prophet takes its toll.  You paint a target on your back and you fight every day and lose more fights than you win.  One day you wake up and long for someone else to come along and take up the cause and let you rest.  Randi Rhodes gave her all and says she has had enough.  She has served her nation and audience well.  The thought of living in Costa Rica is very attractive.  In her stead others will have to continue the fight...continue to entertain and inform...continue to inspire...continue to expose the truth about capitalism and the 1%...continue to call on the best of people rather than appealing to selfishness and greed...continue to progress into the future and not champion a regression into the past.  You will have to support them and listen and rally to causes so cynicism does not triumph.

     Please email or tweet or write to Randi and thank her and wish her well.  She is a class act who deserves a "well done."

PS Would one of you be kind enough to email her, or whatever, and send her my best wishes.