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  • May 7, 2018
    Next Year in Tehran?

    As President Obama faced the looming re-election campaign in the spring of 2012, he issued a stern challenge to those critics of his approach to the Iranian nuclear program. "When I see some of these folks who have a lot of bluster and a lot of big talk but when you actually ask them specifically what they would do," Obama pointed out, "It turns out they repeat the things that we've been doing over the last three years." Slamming the "casualness" of their incendiary rhetoric, President Obama declared, "This is not a game." And that wasn't all:

    "If some of these folks think that it's time to launch a war, they should say so. And they should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be. Everything else is just talk."

    Six years later and on the eve of the third anniversary of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed to by Iran and the P5+1 powers, the cheap talk is back. That's because Donald Trump has set himself a May 12 deadline to reimpose sanctions on Iran if Tehran does agree to major new concessions beyond the scope of the deal. And while France, Germany, the U.K., and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have pleaded with him to continue the agreement with which Iran has consistently complied (the International Atomic Energy Association [IAEA] has now certified that compliance 9 times), Trump is threatening to rip up the accord. And if he does, Donald Trump could unleash a devastating regional conflict that will make the Iraq war seem like a walk in the park.

    As it turns out, that next disaster is being encouraged by many of the same voices who brought you the first one. Despite opposition from much of his current and former military leadership, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu re-emerged this week to urge Trump to back out of the deal. His English-language PowerPoint presentation only supported what American intelligence had concluded in its 2007 and 2011 National Intelligence Estimates: Iran had a clandestine nuclear weapons program which it halted in 2003. (Of course, Bibi was silent about the last time he pressed Americans to attack an Israeli foe in 2002, when he predicted, "If you take out Saddam's regime, I guarantee you it will have positive reverberations on the region.")

    Former Bush National Security Adviser and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice--the same Condi Rice who in the fall of 2002 warned "we don't what the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud"--proclaimed on Tuesday that "I don't think it's the end of the world if the administration leaves the agreement." And failed Iraq war cheerleader-turned-Trump national security adviser John Bolton, who in 2015 penned a New York Times op-ed titled simply "To Stop Iran's Bomb, Bomb Iran," promised a conference of the Iranian resistance group "People's Mujahedeen" (MEK) in Paris last year that the United States would go Old Testament on the Ayatollah's government in Iran:

    "The declared policy of the United States should be the overthrow of the mullahs' regime in Tehran. The behavior and the objectives of the regime are not going to change and, therefore, the only solution is to change the regime itself. That's why, before 2019, we here will celebrate in Tehran!"

    Leave aside for the moment America's calamitous experience with regime change and preventive war in 21st century. Bolton, Bibi, Condi, and their ilk are casually omitting two vital points when it comes to preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Either the United States and its allies will immediately need a robust inspection regime to foreclose the possibility of Iranian cheating or they will need to launch a massive military campaign to thoroughly destroy the Iranian nuclear infrastructure. To put it another way, choosing to "jettison" the current JCPOA agreement means the Trump administration will either need a new accord very much like it or it will have to go to war.

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 10:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    May 1, 2018
    America in Black and White in Alabama

    In an age of "both sides do it" and "teach the debate," some issues are simply black and white. So it was this week in Alabama, where truth and myth, hate and hagiography collided in two stories of the ongoing legacy of the Civil War and white supremacy. On Monday, the "Heart of Dixie" celebrated "Confederate Memorial Day," a holiday whose origins unsurprisingly date back to 1866. But while Alabama state offices and courts closed on the 23rd to honor the Confederacy's fallen soldiers and their "Lost Cause," just three days later the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice opened its doors in Montgomery. There, visitors were presented with the stark reality of the South's decades of racial lynching at a location just a few blocks from the expansive Montgomery slave market those Confederate dead fought to preserve.

    While Confederate Memorial Day is part of the sinister, 153-year effort "to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity," the non-profit Equal Justice Initiative has documented 4,400 of the thousands of lynchings of African Americans across the South which followed its fall. No patriotic American worthy of that name can look away from horrifying truths like these. As the New York Times described just a few:

    The magnitude of the killing is harrowing, all the more so when paired with the circumstances of individual lynchings, some described in brief summaries along the walk: Parks Banks, lynched in Mississippi in 1922 for carrying a photograph of a white woman; Caleb Gadly, hanged in Kentucky in 1894 for 'walking behind the wife of his white employer'; Mary Turner, who after denouncing her husband's lynching by a rampaging white mob, was hung upside down, burned and then sliced open so that her unborn child fell to the ground.

    And what noble cause and lofty principles inspired this bestial, bloodthirsty cruelty? Why were Dangerfield Newby's ears cut off as trophies after John Brown's Harpers Ferry raid of 1859, as were the ears, nose, and genitals of Sam Hose during his torture and dismemberment in 1899? Why did Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest butcher hundreds of surrendering black Union troops at Fort Pillow in 1864 and white militiamen slaughter 100 African-Americans in Colfax, Louisiana, who were merely trying to safeguard the results of the local elections there in 1873? As Jane Coaston recently explained ("Confederate Memorial Day: when multiple states celebrate treason in defense of slavery"), Alabama Confederates like Stephen F. Hale made no secret of the obvious in December 1860:

    What Southern man, be he slave-holder or non-slave-holder, can without indignation and horror contemplate the triumph of negro equality, and see his own sons and daughters in the not distant future associating with free negroes upon terms of political and social equality, and the white man stripped by the heaven-daring hand of fanaticism of that title to superiority over the black race which God himself has bestowed?

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 5:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    April 23, 2018
    Abortion, Free Speech, and the Right to Lie

    In a recent episode of Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver led a 20-minute deep dive into the world of "crisis pregnancy centers" (CPCs). With more than 3,500 such locations around the nation (more than double the number of facilities providing abortion services in the United States), CPCs exist to dissuade women from choosing to terminate their pregnancies. In pursuit of their mission to prevent abortions by almost any means necessary, crisis pregnancy centers can and do deceive their clients about what "care" they do offer (counseling, literature, videos, and "jelly on the belly") and don't provide (most notably abortion information and procedures). And as Oliver highlighted, no falsehood is too egregious--whether about the nonexistent link between abortion and breast cancer, mythical "post-abortion syndrome," fraudulent "facts" on fetal pain, or bogus statistics on the supposed dangers of the procedure--to keep it out of the talking points of the centers' ardent anti-abortion proprietors.

    But for all the eye-opening moments in his hilariously disturbing segment, John Oliver omitted two points of badly needed context when it comes to the disinformation campaign being waged by America's crisis pregnancy centers. In March, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, a challenge to a California law requiring the 200 CPCs there to notify women that the state provides free or low-cost health care, contraception services, and abortion. From their questioning, the justices seemed skeptical of California's effort to limit the free speech rights of the Golden State's crisis pregnancy centers. Yet even as the Roberts-led court seems likely to protect the principle that these anti-abortion enterprises may lie to American women, Republican-controlled states around the country continue to mandate that abortion providers must lie to their patients.

    At the heart of this and future cases are two considerations central to the free speech law in the United States.

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 1:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    April 13, 2018
    Gingrich: Fox News Must Punish Me for Comparing FBI to Gestapo and Stalin

    By now, most Americans know not to take former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at his word. The Fox News regular and failed GOP presidential candidate, after all, is on his third religion and his third wife. (Callista Bisek, currently Mrs. Gingrich No. 3 and U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, was previously known as Newt's "frequent breakfast companion" during his marriage to wife No. 2.) So it is with Gingrich's comparison Wednesday of FBI agents to Hitler's Gestapo and Stalin's secret police. As it turns out, back in 2005, Newt demanded the Senate censure Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin for saying much the same thing about American torturers at Guantanamo Bay.

    Appearing on Fox and Friends on April 11, Gingrich was appalled that federal agents acting under lawfully-obtained search warrants had raided the homes and offices of Donald Trump's former campaign manager and current personal lawyer. Despite Michael Cohen's admission that the FBI team was "professional" and "courteous" in obtaining evidence of possible crimes, Gingrich invented a myth of lawless, goose-stepping storm troopers kicking down doors:

    "The fact is, that Rod Rosenstein has not done his job. He has not supervised Mueller. This whole thing is an absurdity.

    We've now had one Paul Manafort and his wife in their pajamas at 3:00 in the morning, having the FBI break down the door. We've had this real last week, Cohen, the lawyer have the door taken off the hinges at 6:00 in the morning.

    We're supposed to have the rule of law. It ain't the rule of law when they kick in your door at 3:00 in the morning and you're faced with armed men and you have had no reason to be told you're going to have that kind of treatment. That's a -- that's Stalin. That's the -- that's the Gestapo in Germany. That shouldn't be the American FBI." [Emphasis added.]

    But while Trump water-carrier Gingrich is content to slander the Federal Bureau of Investigation now, it was a different story when Dick Durbin was telling the truth about America's shame in Gitmo.

    On June 14, 2005, Senator Durbin took to the Senate floor to address his colleagues about the disturbing revelations of detainee abuse surfacing from Guantanamo Bay. Reading a statement from an FBI agent about the mistreatment of and cruelty towards prisoners he observed there, Durbin lamented:

    "If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners."

    The response from the right was fast and furious. Leading the charge in defense of America's "enhanced interrogation techniques" (a term, by the way, introduced in the original German by the Gestapo), was Newt Gingrich. Four days later, Gingrich demanded the Senate censure Durbin for having "dishonored the United States and the entire Senate." As the Washington Post's Richard Cohen noted at the time:

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 8:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    March 11, 2018
    Democrats Proven Right--Again--on Tax Cut Windfall for the Rich

    During the run-up to the passage of the "Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" late last year, one technical paper from the Treasury Department's Office of Tax Analysis suddenly went missing. Why "Distributing the Corporate Income Tax: Revised U.S. Treasury Methodology" alone among the office's four-decade online archive of reports and analyses disappeared in September 2017 was never a mystery. The May 2012 update to a 2008 Bush administration assessment concluded that 82 percent of the benefits of a corporate tax cut would go to capital and only 18 percent to labor. That forecast wasn't just a damning indictment of the $1 trillion corporate tax cut from 35 to 21 percent at the heart of the GOP's $1.5 trillion, 10-year plan. That predicted windfall for wealthy shareholders also made a mockery of the comical claims by Trump administration mouthpieces like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that workers would win big:

    On Fox News, Mnuchin claimed that "most economists believe that over 70 percent of corporate taxes are paid for by the workers." At an event in Kentucky, he declared that "over 80 percent of business taxes is borne by the worker."

    Mnuchin's tall tale wasn't just well outside the consensus of most economists and the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation. Two months into the new tax regime, a survey by Morgan Stanley found that "only 13% of companies' tax cut savings will go to pay raises, bonuses and employee benefits" while "43% will go to investors in the form of stock buybacks and dividends." American companies, already sitting on mountains of cash, have already spent over $170 billion on stock buybacks alone in 2018, the most ever this early in the year. As it turns out, Democrats warned that these gigantic gains for gilded-class shareholders would come to pass. And it's hardly the first time. For decades, Democrats have been proven right about what tax code changes would or wouldn't do for the rich and the economy over all.

    Writing in the Washington Post, Paul Waldman pointed that the data so far confirm Democrats' warning that the GOP corporate tax cut was "a scam."

    They charged that workers would see only a fraction of the benefits, and instead corporations would use most of their windfall for things like stock buybacks, which increase share prices and benefit the wealthy people who own the vast majority of stocks.

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 9:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

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    Next Year in Tehran?
    May 7, 2018
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