March 6, 2013  By Jack Jodell.

This is the first post in an intermittent series which will deal with a number of persons who have, in varying degrees, done tremendous harm to our country. Unlike the popular History Channel program The Men Who Built America, my series will not necessarily be in chronological order. Nor will it be confined to captains of industry, big bankers, or famous inventors. It will instead be a random sampling of those whose efforts have had a harmful effect on this nation, so that we may learn from the dangerous examples they set and hopefully never again repeat their mistakes! I will begin this series by featuring first a former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court whose negative influences are sorely felt even to this day. 

LEWIS F. POWELL, JR. (1907 – 1998) was never known as a conservative firebrand, (unlike Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, or Samuel Alito, each of whom plague us today). In fact, progressive journalist Edward R. Murrow was one of his closest friends. While on the Supreme Court,  Powell was regarded as a moderate, even though many of his opinions were conservative in nature and origin. He became known as a skillful master of compromise and consensus-building. He was born and raised in segregated Virginia, and, like most white southerners of the day, did little to resist that state’s opposition to the Supreme Court’s landmark 1054 pro-civil rights Brown vs the Board of Education decision, even though he was chairman of the Richmond School Board at the time. He did, however, develop a close relationship with many black civil rights leaders as time went on. He received his law degree from Washington and Lee University in Virginia, and later earned his Masters from Harvard.

Powell’s legal career was a mixed bag, if judged from a progressive perspective. He settled into and became a partner in one of Virginia’s hugest law firms and stayed with them for more than 25 years. He devoted most of his time there  to  corporate law (particularly in the area of acquisitions and mergers), and represented numerous tobacco companies, and even lobbied for the Tobacco Institute. He was a board member of tobacco conglomerate Philip Morris until his nomination to the Supreme Court in 1971. Yet he also was a leader in the attempt to bring legal services to the poor and threw his support behind the Federal government’s Legal Services Program.

What I have found most detrimental about Powell’s legal activities was his issuing of what has become known as the Powell Memorandum. Written to a friend at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce while Powell was lobbying the Virginia legislature for the Tobacco Institute, it called for corporate America to become far more aggressive in shaping American politics, government, and law. And oh, did corporate America become much more aggressive in not only politics, law, and government, but in many other aspects of American culture as well! Powell’s memorandum sparked the creation of several far-right think tanks and was directly responsible for transforming our Chamber of Commerce into the rabid and malignant reactionary political beast it is today!

That’s right, friends: this nefarious memorandum, inspired by an irrational fear of “socialism” the short-sighted Powell shared with today’s far-right, anti-labor wackos like the Koch brothers, Fox “News”, Rush Limbaugh, Michele Bachmann, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul,  and the five very activist-corporatist-extremists who currently occupy our present Extreme Court, have all been influenced by this trash! When you hear some lying wing-nut accuse the President of having a “socialist” agenda, you can blame Lewis F. Powell, Jr. for this nonsense. When you hear talk praising job-outsourcing “free trade” economics, you can blame Lewis F. Powell, Jr. for this craziness. When you hear some fanatic railing against an increase in the minimum wage, or denigrating the influence of our ever-shrinking labor unions, you can blame Lewis F. Powell, Jr. for such idiocy! Even the accelerating call for privatization of many government services can be laid squarely at the feet of Lewis F. Powell, Jr. Don’t like the wealth disparity we have undergone? Blame Lewis F. Powell! Don’t like the Citizens United Ruling, which opened the floodgates for huge corporations to bombard you with millions of lying, slanted TV ads which insult your intelligence and which YOU ultimately pay for with higher product prices?  Blame Lewis F. Powell, Jr.! Don’t like how commercials on television have increased from 8 minutes per hour to the current 22 minutes per hour (and rising)? Blame Lewis F. Powell, Jr.!

Powell’s memorandum has had a horrible effect on our society. It has cheapened our way of life while laying the groundwork for very definite corporate overreach in a great many areas. Yesterday, on March  5, 2013, the Dow reached an all-time record high. Recently released statistics confirm that corporate profits are at 60 YEAR HIGHS, but that job creation has remained abysmally low, while workers’ salaries have failed to match corporate profits or productivity gains for many, many years now. It would appear from this firm evidence that the complaints leveled at corporate America by those “socialists” on the left were fully accurate, and that Powell was gravely wrong to issue the memorandum as he did! Lewis F. Powell, Jr. simply did not have the foresight to envision the disastrous consequences his call for “corporate aggression” would unleash upon this country. For that reason, I have deemed him to be one of the men who ruined America!                                  

Posted in "free market" economics, capitalism, corporate greed, corporatist, extremists, Fox "News", labor unions, lobbyists, Lying TV ads, Politics, Progressives, reactionary Republicans, special interests, Tea Party, Tea Party-infested reactionary Republicans, very activist Supreme Court, wealth disparity | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


March 1, 2013  By Jack Jodell.

The dreaded sequester is now upon us, thanks to Republican unwillingness to budge on closing unneeded tax loopholes for the very rich and their bitterly partisan desire to shift blame for this action solely onto the President. The trouble is, while Republicans once again place playing political games far above the needs and wants of the people, millions of Americans will suffer needlessly. Thousands of teachers, police, firefighters,and government employees will lose their jobs, and our defense and disaster-relief options will become limited. Additionally, a great many section 8 housing people will literally be thrown out on the streets to swell the already far too numerous ranks of the homeless,  just because reactionary Republicans felt this was the opportune time to make a foolish, short-sighted political point. In doing so, these heartless clods will be throwing the baby out along with the bath water!

The way democracy has been practiced in the United States has always included compromise and give-and-take, both inside and outside of our branches of government as well as our political parties – until very recently. The party out of power has nearly always employed the very wise tactic of “give a little to get a little back.” This has served the nation reasonably well, albeit at times imperfectly, over its 200+ years of existence. It has also shown the world an enviable method to achieve progress among disparate groups as each works with the other to achieve positive solutions to pressing problems. Most regrettably, it now appears that this American method of practicing democracy is on the wane.

Thanks to the overbearing rigidity and unyielding stodginess of the now far-right, Tea Party-infested Republican Party, compromise has become equated with surrender. Uncompromising,  total governmental gridlock has been the result. It has wrought only unneeded and dangerous economic and political instability. Its only real achievement has meant the end of progress as well as repeated, unheard-of attempts to shut down our federal government. This, my friends, is regression in action, and it is destroying our democracy one manufactured crisis at a time.  These modern Republicans have voted in near lock-step unison against all Democratic Party initiatives ever since Barack Obama was first inaugurated President in January of 2009.  They opposed his economic stimulus program, even though it saved our automotive industry and prevented our economy from sliding into a second Great Depression. Then they opposed his Affordable Care Act of 2010, which permanently ended the ability of overly profit-hungry insurance companies to discriminate against persons with pre-existing conditions and made it illegal to dump customers undergoing prolonged, expensive treatments. They opposed all efforts to implement a badly-needed federal jobs program. They have systematically and routinely failed to act on hundreds of presidential judicial appointments. They have unprecedentedly voted to hold the Attorney General in contempt of Congress on the flimsiest of politically-driven charges. They have abused the practice of filibuster in the Senate, making it possible for one single, solitary Senator to secretly block any bill whatsoever without having to give any type of public explanation at all. They also voted in near-unison against any tax increases on the very wealthiest Americans, even though those wealthy Americans have enjoyed ridiculously low tax rates for 11 years (with numerous tax loopholes as well) and have unfairly held down everyone else’s wages while exporting millions of good-paying American jobs to foreign slave labor markets.  This nearly-unanimous voting pattern by the GOP more closely resembles European-style parliamentary democracy more than its traditional American counterpart. For the European version usually has one party or one coalition of parties voting as a bloc in an effort to achieve a vote of no-confidence in the existing government, which they hope  will force a special new election to topple that existing government,  allowing them to take power. Unfortunately for these Republicans, that is NOT the way we do things in this country!

Voters today are fed-up with congressional stalling, obstruction, and inaction. They are sick to death of manufactured crises every few months. They want cooperation and compromise between parties and the various branches of government. They want a return to GOOD government: government without name-calling, brinksmanship, or back-stabbing. They want government to work properly – the way it did before reactionaries took control of the Republican Party, and especially before the Tea Party began its unhealthy infestation of the GOP.

In European and South American parliamentary democracies, the effective head of state (usually a Prime Minister) can and sometimes does dissolve the Parliament and will, for a time, rule by decree, if he or she believes an imminent threat to the country’s security exists. In 1958, French President Charles De Gaulle did precisely that, and eventually saved French democracy as a result. Perhaps President Obama should emulate De Gaulle by DISSOLVING CONGRESS ALTOGETHER and calling for brand-new congressional elections! After all, this current Congress is showing itself to be unworthy of representing the country as a whole, in that it places grandstanding and political gamesmanship far above the pressing needs of the citizenry. After all, Congress has repeatedly in recent years shown that it is more devoted to the wants and needs of special interests than it is in the common good of the populace. In some cases, notably in terms of Hurricane Sandy relief and in its steadfast refusal to place an outright ban on assault weapons, it has even voted AGAINST what the voters wanted and needed!

Perhaps it would be good for members of the Tea Party and other reactionary Republicans to actually experience that which they have falsely claimed we have been living under: a dictatorial and fascist  presidency under Barack Obama. Then and only them, they may recognize the foolhardiness and ridiculousness of those reckless and meritless accusations. It would serve them right to be forced out of power long enough to come to their senses and realize that compromise is the only way to get things done in a democracy like ours, where ALL parties have the right to provide an input, and being a strict, doctrinaire hard-ass is simply not allowed!

I realize that what I have proposed above is unprecedented for American politics and would, for many reasons, be impractical. It is, in effect, based on fantasy more than reality. Nonetheless, I am calling out loudly for AN END TO THIS PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY GAME the Republicans have been playing!                                              

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February 25, 2013  By Jack Jodell.

This being the age of information, we are literally swamped with trivia, advertising, and a sorry lot of DISinformation as well as an ample supply of useful and factual data, all thanks to the internet and other forms of newly-emerging social media. The information we ravenously consume arrives through our televisions, iPads, and computers instantly, at the touch of a button. Disinformation finds us through lying, very slanted extremist media sources like Fox “News”, far right-wing talk radio (a la Savage Nation and Rush Limbaugh, to name just two), as well as crackpot journals like Newsmax. Irresponsible politicians like Ted Cruz, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Rand Paul, and Mitch McConnell constantly spew out falsehoods in an effort to warp or conceal the truth from our eyes. They do this in utter contempt of, and disregard for, the American voters who pay their bloated $174,500 annual salaries, and at the behest of corrupt corporate lobbyists, whose contributions to them vastly dwarf those salaries. Is it any wonder, then, that so many of these politicians lie as they constantly do, or that so many of our citizens, tired of unending political strife, accept what these liars feed them as the gospel truth? Is it any wonder that so many angry, confused, low-information voters respond heartily (with little critical thought) to the loudest and most persistent voices around them, namely those belonging to the Tea Party- infested, reactionary Republican Party?

It is a paradox (and a disgusting shame as well) that in this time of unprecedented access to factual information, so many ignorant and badly-informed people abound as they do. But that is unfortunately the case, and it is our duty as progressives to continually strive to transform these low-information types into much better informed citizens and voters. We should approach this task completely devoid of any airs of condescension or elitism. But complete this task we MUST, for the benefit of the country as a whole! 

I would strongly urge each of you to read a most amazing book: A People’s History of the United States, by the late great Boston University political science professor, Dr. Howard Zinn. This phenomenal work was originally published in 1980, and was updated in 2010, just before the author’s death at the age of 88. It deals with the entire history of our country, only instead of focusing exclusively on the accomplishments of prominent political, economic, or social elites of each era as most histories do, it places major emphasis on history being presented through the eyes of ordinary common people (including minorities) instead. A look at the chapter titles, along with a very short digest of what each includes, will help you understand why this book should be on your must-read list:

Chapter 1 – “Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress” – gives the story of North America’s indigenous population and includes info on genocide and enslavement practiced by the early settlers here.

Chapter 2 – “Drawing the Color Line”  -examines African-American enslavement and the way poor British citizens were mistreated in the 13 original colonies.

Chapter 3 – “Persons of Mean and Vile Condition” – examines how poor people were treated in colonial America, and how their opposition to poverty was handled.

Chapter 4 – “Tyranny is Tyranny” probes the causes of the American Revolution and presents an outline by which our Founding Fathers and subsequent leaders have waged war to avert the nation’s attention away from undesired attention on the economy. 

Chapter 5 - “A Kind of Revolution” – deals with our Revolutionary War, its effect on native Americans, resistance to participation in that war, plus early opposition to federal taxation.

Chapter 6 -”The Intimately Oppressed” – features stories on early American feminists and how they resisted the gender inequalities of their day.

Chapter 7 – “As Long as Grass Grows or Water Runs” – covers the 19th century struggles between native Americans and the American government, including Indian removal, particularly during the presidencies of Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren.

Chapter 8 – “We Take Nothing by Conquest, Thank God” – shows how, despite its unpopularity, the Mexican-American War occurred due to the expansionist policies of then-President James Polk aided by elements of the American press, which misreported the actual popular sentiment. Hmmm – sound familiar?

Chapter 9 – “Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom” deals with the Civil War, its effect on African-Americans, the abolitionists, plus slave rebellions.

Chapter 10, – “The Other Civil War” focuses on the abuses labor endured as it resisted the government control directed against it by domination from 19th century corporations.

Chapter 11 – “Robber Barons and Rebels” – features info on how corrupt industrial institutions like railroads and banks became so dominant and how various groups like the Knights of Labor, the Farmers’ Alliance, the Haymarket martyrs, and the Populist Party all emerged to fight this corruption.

Chapter 12 – “The Empire and the People” – shows how the Spanish-American War, which obtained Cuba and the Philippines for us, was imperialist and racist in nature, and was once again sold to an unwilling American populace by a trigger-happy, jimgoistic American press.

Chapter 13 – “The Socialist Challenge” – describes the rise of socialism and anarchism as popular ideologies in the U.S. and covers the radical activities of the slowly-emerging American labor movement.

Chapter 14 - “War is the Health of the State” – covers World War I, our opposition to, and eventual entry into it, and describes how we became involved to expand our foreign markets and gain greater economic influence. 

Chapter 15 - “Self-Help and Hard Times” – shows how our government worked to destroy the radical International Workers of the World labor movement, and points out how the notion of 1920s’ prosperity was a myth to all but a privileged few. It provides solid info on the real causes of the Great Depression. 

Chapter 16 – “A People’s War?” – here Zinn, a World War II veteran himself, presents little-known facts on widespread opposition to the war among minority communities as well as covering the effects of Japanese internment. This chapter also offers evidence that use of atomic bombs may not have been necessary and explores sordid government attempts to control public opinion during the early days of the Cold War.

Chapter 17 – “Or Does it Explode?” – deals with the civil rights movement, and alleges that our government often made reforms simply to improve its international image, and often did not fully enforce the civil rights laws it passed. 

Chapter 18 – “The Impossible Victory: Vietnam” – presents a very accurate view of the Vietnam War in that it examines in detail the intense opposition to it among all classes of American people and the complete ambivalence toward it which existed among the Vietnamese people themselves.

Chapter 19 - “Surprises” – covers the myriad of new movements which sprang up in the 1960s, from modern feminism to abortion rights to the counterculture to the Native American rights movement and even beyond.

Chapter 20 – “The Seventies: Under Control?” – explores America’s growing disillusionment with its government during the 1970s and the political corruption it exposed among the CIA and the FBI. Zinn maintains that corrective measures taken by the government were superficial and merely cosmetic, and failed to truly reform it as should have been done.

Chapter 21 - “Carter – Reagan – Bush: The Bipartisan Consensus” – describes how both the Democratic and Republican parties came to their current practice of producing legislation favorable to corporations as opposed to the people themselves.

Chapter 22 – “The Unreported Resistance” – describes important movements which rose up but were largely ignored by the pathetic mainstream media from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s. These movements included The Council for a Nuclear Weapons Freeze, the Citizens’ Clearinghouse for Nuclear Waste, LGBT social movements, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, and a very great many others. 

Chapter 23 – “The Coming Revolt of the Guards” – offers Zinn’s view of a possible leftist revolt against the growing inequality now existing in the country. He predicts it will even include the middle class, and he may not be too far off the mark…

Chapter 24 – “The Clinton Presidency” – examines the effect that era had on the U.S. and the world, and the assertion is made that, while Bill Clinton offered a great amount of change, once the dust was all settled, we ended up with pretty much the same scenario as we had during the Reagan-Bush years. 

Chapter 25 – “The 2000 Election and the War on Terrorism” – covers the fiasco of the Bush / Cheney years, and strongly suggests that the 9/11 attacks did not occur because these Islamists hated freedom (as W had claimed), but rather in direct response to American foreign policy (support of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands, the stationing of American troops inside Saudi Arabia, etc.).

Howard Zinn was a most remarkable man. He became a pacifist after having come to the realization that he had murdered an unknown (and unknowing) number of people by dropping bombs on them in France during the closing months of World War II. The horror of what he had done began gnawing at him and eventually led to a lifetime of pacifistic and social acyivism. His story can be ciewed in a phenomenal documentary called You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, which is shown occasionally on LINK-TV, but may also be purchased through Netflix or Amazon. com. He was also interviewed regularly on Amy Goodman’s show Democracy Now. Clearly, were his book to be read by a few of the ignorant Tea Party faction, it would have a transformative effect on them. I urge you to buy a copy and give it to a reactionary right-winger you may know for his or her birthday or Christmas gift!                                                                        

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February 16, 2013  By Jack Jodell.

Happy Presidents’ Day weekend, readers. Today and this entire week we in America will  celebrate the lives of two of our greatest Presidents: George Washington, the father of our country, and Abraham Lincoln, the savior of our Union. It is regrettable that, were each of these men alive today, they would be sorrowfully hanging their heads in utter shock, disbelief, and horror at the state of our government today. They would recoil from the way large multinational corporations have turned our once proud democracy into a plutocracy designed to overwhelmingly aid the very wealthy and powerful. They would be alarmed at the infestation of the Republican Party by tax and federal government-hating Tea Party rabidly-extremist fanatics. They would be appalled at this party’s obstructionist tactics: its refusal to aid victims of natural disasters; its utter refusal to raise taxes in the face of mounting debt; its refusal to curb reckless and wasteful spending on both a bloated military and on ridiculously unneeded projects like bridges to nowhere; as well as the contempt it has shown the current President for nearly four years now – from holding his Attorney General in contempt of Congress for groundless political reasons to refusing to allow a confirmation vote on a perfectly-qualified war hero candidate’s bid to become the President’s next Secretary of Defense during a time of war.  They would also be greatly upset with the way this wretched party has liberally and routinely abused the filibuster to turn what was once settled by a simple majority vote into now needing a super-majority of 60 Senate votes to pass! Finally, they would NEVER have approved the perverted change of the Second Amendment from not impeding the citizens’ right to bear arms only as part of a locally-organized militia to this insane current misperception that everybody has the absolute right to his or her own personal handgun, semi-automatic, or automatic military-grade weapon!

These great Presidents would be completely justified in hanging their heads in utter disgust at how this nation they helped forge and preserve has deteriorated to its current miserable state.

A little more than two years ago, on Wednesday, June 10, 2010, I posted  a piece called “The Un-tied States of America” over at my first, location for this site. I did this prior to my moving the site over here to In this post I observed how politically fragmented we were becoming. This, of course, was long before the evidence of the disastrous influence of Tea Party infestation had become fully apparent. Judging from the number of dissenting comments I received from that piece, it was clear to me that a number of these dissenters had missed my point and thought I was referring to mainly geographical or economic differences, as we had undergone during the Civil War of Lincoln’s time. The points that were missed were that I was referring to the hugely prominent differences we are experiencing now socially, culturally, politically, and economically rather than geographically. Today, for example, many evangelical Christians have little time or use for liberals, minorities, Catholics, Muslims, or Jews, and vice-versa. The wealthy, with rare exception, avoid the poor and working class like the plague. It was abundantly clear from the 2012 election campaign that the major conservative Republican candidates not only didn’t understand those below them on the income scale – they looked down on them in utter contempt and disregard as well. Conservative Christians by and large view Muslims with deep suspicion and make little effort, if any, to try and understand the history, social mores, or the actual teachings of the religion of Islam. Altogether too many ethno-centric Americans look upon Europeans with disdain, and automatically assume, without even bothering to first investigate, that all things American are somehow or in some way “better” and that foreign-made goods and systems are therefore automatically inferior or suspect – and thus, so too must be their people. Those of us who reside in the real world know how baseless these beliefs are, and one need look no further than imported automobiles, electronics, or even European health care systems for abundant proof of the fallacy of such ignorance! This is especially true when it comes to politics and economics. Here, many Americans simply refuse to believe that our form of government and our economic system are not always the world’s best, or that they are often rife with corruption and economic policies blatantly favoring the very wealthiest citizens. Instead, many make absolutely no effort at all to learn about possibly better alternatives, and prefer to go on living in blind faith that all things American are always the world’s best and can’t, or shouldn’t, be improved upon. Worse yet, they often dismiss other possible alternatives by referring ro them as “socialist” or “fascist” without having the slightest clue as to what constitutes socialism or fascism!

Our country cannot remain a world leader in an increasingly competitive global environment while fostering such ignorant, narrow-minded, and delusional beliefs!

We have become an intellectually lazy people. We are immersed and inundated with entertainment and fantasy rather than reality. When the “adventures” of “Honey Boo Boo” are allowed to dominate our thoughts, we are ALL in VERY deep trouble! We constantly take the easy way out rather than allowing ourselves to be challenged and then successfully overcoming the challenge at hand. We claim to be the land of the free, but we quickly try to limit and sometimes eliminate the social and economic freedom  of immigrants, minorities, or dissenters. We demand that poorer countries adopt our political and economic systems, even as we exploit them and even as we exploit our own labor force! 

We CANNOT keep living like this – something MUST change! 

We desperately need to broaden our horizons and re-establish our original tendencies of tolerance, innovation, dedication to learning, and community spirit. We must renew our tradition of civility to others and acceptance of new ideas which marked the early decades of the country. Failure to do so will inevitably result in a dissolution of unity and our collapse as a nation. We can no longer afford to be a warring, un-tied country of individual nation states with conflicting ideologies within its population.  We must again become the truly UNITED States, with the federal government leading the way. 

The best way to achieve this, in my opinion, would be to institute a program of UNIVERSAL, COMPULSORY NATIONAL SERVICE, in which ALL persons, regardless of race, background, or creed, would be required at age 18 to begin. This would be a two-year, government-supported tour of duty in either the Peace Corps, VISTA, or the military. This huge force of able, energetic young people could be used to clean up and renew our decaying inner cities, repair our sagging bridges and highways, help construct a much-needed new electrical grid, or help growers in the fields. They would be paid and taxed at a fair market value by either the federal government, a combination of the federal government and private employers, or the military. In each case, the participant would be awarded a specified number of school funds upon successful completion of the tour and participating employers bwould be awarded tax breaks once the participant had finished the tour of duty satisfactorily. 

This is not my original idea. Democratic New York 12th District Congressman Charles Rangel has long supported such a plan, and various similar plans have been successfully implemented in Europe and Israel for many years. In our case, young participants would, over an extended period of time, learn teamwork, self reliance, proper work ethic, self discipline, self awareness, consideration and respect for others, knowledge of the world beyond that of their home, and a sense of community, among dozens of valuable and important other lessons in the process. Wealthy suburban kids would be paired with and forced to interact with various minority, inner-city, poor, and middle class kids. and each would receive an eye-opening understanding of the others along the way. Such understanding would continue well into each participant’s adult working careers and would completely dispel today’s tendency toward avoidance, self-indulgence, or arrogance. It would produce a country filled with intelligent and responsible employees for industry, rather than saddling business and government with an unsuitable lot of misfits, malcontents, dropouts, or loafers with no goals or future in sight. Instead, the entire nation would benefit tremendously from the civility, respect for fellow citizens, and instilled work ethic which would invariably result. It would also promote good, responsible citizenship.

I would strongly urge you to write or call your Representative and Senator – and even the White House – TODAY- and urge them to forge a successful plan of this nature! Let’s all line up behind and strongly endorse and support an idea whose time has definitely come: the creation of a universal, compulsory National Service program for young Americans!        

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February 13, 2013  By Jack Jodell.

Today is Ash Wednesday, which in the Christian churches marks the beginning of Lent. This Lenten season commemorates the passion and death of Jesus Christ, whom Christians believe is the son of God. It is a season of self-reflection, penance, abstinence,, and charity which lasts approximately 6 weeks.

Regardless of whether you are a believer or not, this is an excellent time for self-examination. It is never a bad thing for us to actively reflect on what we have done as well as what we have failed to do over the past year. Doing so is healthy and can often lead us to positive outcomes. For example, have we been selfish, greedy, thoughtless, wasteful, overly aggressive, deceitful, or dishonest? Have we been overly impatient, rude, or thoughtless with friends, family, co-workers, or employers? Have we invariably unnecessarily hurt their feelings in the process? Have we been bitter, scornful, or gluttonous? Have we ignored others in need when we could have just as easily given them aid or comfort? On a more serious level, have we been guilty of murder, theft, or an illicit sexual affair? Have we  graciously forgiven those who may have done us wrong? Have we always tried to practice the Golden Rule of do unto others as you would have them do unto you?

Since none of us is perfect, I’m sure we all have been guilty of one or more of these things. If we can honestly recognize our own faults and transgressions, and work to overcome or reverse them over the next 6 weeks and beyond, we will not only find we are happier with ourselves, but each of us, in our own individual way, will have made this world a better place for everyone. Shall we give it a try?                                      

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February 9, 2013  By Jack Jodell.

“Every American has the right to know  when their government believes that it is allowed to kill them.”
- Oregon Senator Ron Wyden -

THANK GOD for Ron Wyden! He is perhaps the only American in Congress to clearly grasp the horrible implications of the recently released secret “white paper” the Obama administration has used to “justify” its use of deadly drones to attack and kill not only suspected al Qaeda members, but hundreds of innocent civilians as well. It is a sad and sorry indictment on my country to see that it has devolved to the point where it wantonly and carelessly dismisses these tragic deaths as mere “collateral damage” supposedly justified by the obsessive need to promote and defend “liberty.” We have been obsessed with our security ever since the tragic 9/11 attacks which occurred more than 11 years ago! Rather than merely making us become more cautiously watchful, this unhealthy and overboard obsession has led us into two very costly and draining wars, one of them completely unnecessary and the other becoming a long quagmire. I apologize to the rest of the world and especially to the victims’ friends and families for the murderous callousness as well as the condescending arrogance of my countrymen and their government. 

I fully recognize that my country remains engaged in a war against terrorism that it never asked for, and that, in war, there are inherent and often necessary negative side effects. I recognize that al Qaeda is a savage and brutal lot which has little to do with honest practitioners of Islam. Yet I am filled with sorrow and regret at the thought of my President regularly sitting with his security staff to decide whom they will kill in the next drone attack, and that those invariably killed in the crossfire will callously be dismissed as mere collateral damage. It gnaws at my very soul that my countrymen are accepting this as a normal and necessary occurrence when in fact it is often indiscriminate murder. It bothers me even more that this is being conducted not only against foreigners but that the right to do this is supposedly reserved for the President to use even against American citizens like you or I, whom he may believe are helping the terrorists! This smacks of old wild west vigilante-ism. The only real difference I see is that, in the old west, it was considered unmanly and even cowardly to shoot your opponent in the back while he wasn’t looking.

Whatever became of the writ of habeas corpus – the right of a supposedly free person to notified of a specific charge and be given a fair trial before a jury of his or her peers before he or she is to be meted out justice for their supposed crime?  Who gave the President the moral right to act as judge, jury, and executioner in the complete absence of such a trial? Who gave the President the authority to exact this “justice” on an unknowing, unsuspecting, and possibly even innocent person?  Both  Hitler and Stalin held at least show trials before passing sentence on their victims! We justifiably accused each of them of committing war crimes for the mass murders they caused. Is what we are engaged in today all that different?

In this writer’s humble opinion, there is no justification whatsoever in the President assuming such power. Such an extra-constitutional action would have been unthinkable in previous times. We as a nation have often faced danger from abroad. Hitler, Tojo, and Stalin were all committed to our destruction, and they had the armies and possible wherewithal to achieve their aim. Yet never once, in our attempt to defend ourselves against them, did we ever stoop to such depravity as that which we are engaged in during this current threat. We never tortured our prisoners of war as DICK Cheney was so fond of doing, nor did we suspend our civil liberties for so long or as gravely as we have done during our current post-9/11 war on terror. Of course, in previous times there were no neocons running the defense and intelligence efforts; saner, cooler heads were at the helm. What we are engaged in today is a neocon’s pre-emptive dream come true, and it is disgraceful. In our current attempt to defend liberty and democracy we are destroying both and have become, in a very real sense, terrorists ourselves. It was Osama bin Laden’s avowed ambition to destroy western democracy, and he has succeeded, unbelievably, with our help!

Our Founding Fathers – literally ALL of them – are undoubtedly spinning in their graves in absolute shock and horror at this wicked development. It us high time for us to return to sanity, honor, and democracy. Our security must NOT trump our liberty!                                                                   

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February 6, 2013  By Jack Jodell.

It’s official: the Republican Civil War has begun. This week, Karl Rove began a new fundraising campaign aimed directly against the Tea Party, which has infested the GOP for too long and has cost them dearly at the ballot box in several relatively recent notable races. Any normal party with a wing as extremist, uncompromising, and ideologically rigid as the Tea Party would react as the Republicans are doing, and it is a good sign.

It has been a favorite ploy of the reactionary Tea Party to invade Republican primaries and oust sitting and/or moderate Republicans and replace them with unelectable crackpot extremist candidates. In Indiana, longtime sitting Senator Richard Lugar was ousted by Tea Party favorite Richard Mourdock . Lugar, who had overwhelmingly won in his previous general elections, would have triumphed this time, too, were it not for the Tea Party. This time, by endorsing Mourdoch instead, the Republicans lost the seat to  the much more moderate Democrat, Joe Donnelly. In Missouri, Democrat Claire McCaskill was polling very poorly and would have been defeated – had the Tea Party-infested Republicans  not chosen the ignorant reactionary Todd Akin to be her opponent. She, too, won an easy victory in the general election. Previously, in Nevada,  Senator Harry Reid had proven himself to be very vulnerable. But when the far, far right Republicans of that state chose crackpot Tea Partier Sharron Angle to be his opponent, voters naturally found Angle’s “second amendment solutions” to be a most undesirable way of settling political conflicts, so Reid sailed on to victory.  Are we beginning to see a pattern here? You bet we are, and not only the voting public, but growing numbers of Republicans are also coming to the realization that nominating extremist, reactionary candidates to run against moderate or even liberal Democrats in general elections is NOT the way to go! For most voters are fed-up with obstruction and justly blame the Tea Party for causing and aiding it. Voters are sick to death of shelling out $174,500 to each and every member of Congress only to see them engage in mere political grandstanding which inevitably ends in gridlock and nothing at all being accomplished.  Voters deservedly feel put-upon by their Congresspersons setting for themselves only a 2 or 3 day workweek, with huge breaks for vacation and fundraising, even as the voters themselves are forced to work 2 or more jobs, at stagnant wages, with decreasing benefits and vacation, just to make ends meet. They are coming to see unyielding reactionary Republicans (i.e. Tea Party candidates) as the root cause of this problem. Sensible Republicans (yes, Virginia, there are a few of these left) are starting to feel the heat and want to do something about it.

In recent weeks, we have seen some hopeful signs. For one, the power of that tax and government-hating trust-funder Grover Norquist has been sharply reduced and his threat of running primary challengers against any Republican voting for any kind of tax increase has been muted. This has made him and his movement largely irrelevant for the first time in decades. For another, Republicans are starting to abandon their wildly extremist and radical push to recalculate state-by-state how presidential electoral college votes will be counted.  They are dropping their ridiculous push to have these votes awarded by congressional districts won rather than by the current, longstanding winner-takes-all majority rule. For yet another, they are starting to effect bipartisanship once more on a few key issues, notably immigration-reform and taxation.

We have seen New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie lambasting the national party leadership, and Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal exhorting Republicans to “stop being the stupid party.” We have also seen Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio advocating a far more sensible immigration policy. These are call signs that the unyielding Tea Party-infested Republican Party is slowly starting to wake up a bit. The insane blabbermouths Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell are gone, as is the crackpot Jim DeMint. They will not be missed in the least.

Enter Karl Rove and his newly-proposed Conservative Victory Project PAC. Desperate to once more restore his credibility in the face of his dismal performance in the last presidential election, Rove is attempting to weed out  potentially unelectable Tea Party crackpots from the next round of Republican primaries. He is determined to get a conservative Republican-controlled Senate and win back the White House for the Republican Party. His announced effort has infuriated the far right and threatens to blow the GOP all apart. For, by focusing huge amounts of campaign funds against Tea Party Republicans rather than Democrats, he may spawn bitter recriminations which could last decades, thereby guaranteeing Democratic control over the government for years to come and destroying the Tea Party in the process.

The Republican Civil War has begun. Regardless of whomever emerges victorious, the GOP will still remain far to the right of where it was in the more moderate and sensible days of the latter 1950s – the mid-1070s. Thus, I will be perfectly content to sit back and watch as this warfare leads to that wretched party’s complete annihilation!         

Posted in commentary, Democratic Party, extremists, Politics, reactionary Republicans, taxes, Tea Party, Tea Party-infested reactionary Republicans | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments