Nobel Should Ask for Obama’s Peace Prize Back

One of my best friends is a retired national journalist, professional skeptic and keen observer of the political scene in this country. He has been saying for five or six years now that when the Nobel Committee awarded newly minted President Barack Obama the Peace Prize in 2009, it made a huge mistake. I was inclined to agree but only sort of mildly.

obamaI’ve come in from the cold. Obama has, during his terms in office, progressively worsened the cause of world peace. Most recently, he has authorized deliberate saber-rattling provocation of China over the latter’s admittedly shaky claims to territorial waters off its coast and tacitly approved Israel’s recalcitrant refusal to disclose whether or not it has a nuclear arsenal.

Both of these moves — only the latest in a continuing series of foreign policy initiatives and positions taken by Obama, Clinton and Kerry during the past 6+ years along similar lines — have increased global tensions, reduced the nearly non-existent notion of international cooperation and bolstered the causes of belligerents to ever-more-dangerous heights.

While he takes popular credit for ending the war in Iraq, we have seen lately that he hasn’t ended it, he’s merely transitioned it and modified its terms. In Afghanistan, he continually backs down from his commitment to bring things to a final conclusion. He eschews any talk of a political component in dealing with the Islamic State of Israel and the Levant (ISIL). He has greatly expanded the unconscionable use of unmanned drone attacks to further sanitize and isolate warmaking. And he has continued many of the previous Administration’s immoral, ineffective and illegal national espionage programs.

In fact, I’m hard pressed to think of a legitimate step toward peace this President can lay claim to.

If he is indeed a disappointment to the Nobel Prize Committee, think how much a disappointment he is to us peace-loving people in his own nation who supported him, however reluctantly, in his first bid for the White House.

IMPORTANT: Bush’s Ex-Deputy CIA Director Admits Iraq War Based on Lies

This is explosive.

On MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews tonight, George Bush’s ex-Deputy CIA Director (and onetime Acting Director) MIchael Morrell admitted that when he briefed President George W. Bush on Iraqi activity around nuclear weapons in the run-up to the Iraq War, what he said on the subject “was not true.”

We’ve known this for some time, of course. But Morrell is the highest-ranking Bush Administration official to admit the truth in public. Morrell is the guy who was responsible for presenting the CIA’s intelligence analysis to Bush every day. And he now says his briefings, “in some aspects” at least, were outright lies and he knew it.

When President Obama took office, he almost immediately dismissed the idea of investigating or charging Bush or any of his cronies for their lies to the public about the war or for their role in carrying out illegal and immoral acts of torture. That was a huge mistake, as we are now continuing to see confirmed. In refusing to prosecute, Obama demonstrated that there is no fundamentally different moral compass for the two parties. It will always be policy based on their narrow views of what it means for America to do whatever it wants to get its way in the world.

 

Conservative Nebraska Abolishes Death Penalty

The unicameral legislature of the state of Nebraska just voted overwhelmingly to abolish the death penalty. They garnered enough votes to override a promised veto by first-term Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Assuming the veto and the override, Nebraska becomes the first politically conservative state since 1973 to abolish capital punishment. North Dakota was the last state to do so.

anti-death-penalty-buttonThis is quite a noteworthy event because Republicans in general and conservatives specifically have been the last holdouts against the nationwide abolition of the death penalty. The two most persuasive arguments that prevailed in Nebraska were, according to press reports, religious objections and fiscal concerns. As a lifelong opponent of the death penalty on moral grounds, I have often wondered why conservatives, who are supposedly interested in reducing government costs and taxes, would continue to oppose such an obvious fiscal advantage. Study after study (see this summary) has demonstrated that when you add up the extra trial costs, the long appellate costs and the greater expense of incarceration on death row, the differences across the board and the nation are in the billions of dollars. And that doesn’t take into account the fees paid to largely taxpayer-subsidized appellate defense counsel.

While I believe there are numerous persuasive reasons for doing away with the barbaric death penalty in the only “civilized” nation on earth that still kills people as a matter of public policy, cost is one that ought to get everyone’s attention. Any fiscal conservative who looks plainly at the facts can only maintain support for the death penalty out of pure vengeance.

 

A Strange Sight

walking-reading-bookI saw a strange, strange sight on my way to my office this afternoon. It’s something I thought I’d never see again as long as I lived.

There was this man walking along the sidewalk. He was quite young, probably a student at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. His eyes were down, fixated on what was in his hands.

But what was in his hands was not a smartphone. It wasn’t a tablet, either. Nope, this guy was walking along on a sunny but chill afternoon reading a book! I mean, an honest-to-goodness, printed and bound, physically real book printed on dead trees! I almost slammed on my brakes!

it’s good to know that reading and books aren’t dead.

Phew.

 

How Now, Brown Cow, Take That!

dead-cowUK police have shot and killed a wandering cow that escaped from a small park because, they said, it posed a threat to motorists on a nearby highway.

According to The Independent, “The large domesticated ungulate, according to police, was in a highly distressed state and was considered by them to be a “significant risk” to members of the public and motorists. Bystanders said the cow was not moving.”

The death of a cow is sad. But the incredible over-militarization brought to bear on this incident was a microcosm of our times and demonstrates the problem is global in nature. On reports of three cows — COWS! — escaping the park, police scrambled as many as 20 cars, a helicopter and three snipers — SNIPERS! — to deal with them. Two were recaptured but “Bessie” (what else would you nickname a milking cow, right?) apparently refused to go peacefully. So officers opened fire.

By the way, this wasn’t the first time a heavily armed police department used overwhelming force on a bovine. In December 2014, police in Pocatello, Idaho, shot and killed a cow that escaped from a slaughterhouse.

I imagine animal rights activists will be up in arms over this. Doubtful they’ll have any more success than the millions protesting police violence against humans, but, hey, the more voices the better. It’s well past time to stop the police state’s rapid expansion in its tracks. I welcome President Obama’s announcement of new Federal policies on the sale or donation of military equipment to local police, even though I think he didn’t go far enough.

 

 

Some Good Climate News: China Cuts CO2 More Than UK Total Output

A report on the Independent site Sunday said that China reduced its CO2 emissions during the first four months of this year by the same amount that the UK produced during that period. Assuming they are accurate, those numbers are encouraging.

China is the world’s largest or second largest contributor to global climate change (depending on whose numbers you like) and this reduction comes almost entirely in the coal sector, the biggest offending producers of CO2 throughout the world. China has shuttered more than 1,000 coal plants in recent months. If the trend line continues, by the end of this year China will have effected the largest cuts in greenhouse gases of any nation.

This is quite an about-face from a government that two years ago indicated no interest in discussing the problem or contributing to its solution and it seems to me to be a positive, encouraging sign that world leaders are beginning to pay attention even if it is too little, too late.

 

Easy Solution to HRC and Similar Scandals: Ban Personal Financing of Campaigns

In the latest round of financial scandal disclosures, it seems Hillary Clinton personally and directly pocketed a significant amount of money from companies that lobbied her as a Senator and in the State Department.

hillaryAccording to Vox.com — hardly a conservative watchdog — information from her financial disclosure form filed on Friday night isn’t the same-old, same-old. “The latest episode in the Clinton money saga is different than the others because it involves the clear, direct personal enrichment of Hillary Clinton, presidential candidate, by people who have a lot of money at stake in the outcome of government decisions.”

So far, Democratic friends of Secretary Clinton have kept up the repeated refrain that there has been no quid pro quo to allege or demonstrate in numerous previous reports of financial shadiness. But those disclosures involved money contributed to the Clinton Foundation and could always be ameliorated to some degree by the knowledge that the money didn’t line the pockets of the Clintons, an upper-middle-class couple who grew fabulously wealthy in public service. This latest money went straight to her pockets.

I don’t know how many more of these revelations Clinton can survive before her candidacy collapses from their collective weight. But I’m becoming more and more certain that, although the centrist wing of the Democratic Party that backs her is unendingly forgiving of her misconduct, the popular electorate is getting an uneasy taste in its mouth. She’s certainly going to be hard to dislodge from the nomination but I don’t know that she’s the obvious winner against the clown car that is the GOP field this year that we once saw.

And that, frankly, scares the crap out of me.

So, Were They Wearing Pajama Footies?

camo-footiesPresident Obama promised us no “boots on the ground” in the latest round of the Mideast war he’s perpetuating without calling it a war. So when U.S. Special Operations forces yesterday reportedly killed a high-ranking leader of ISIL, I wondered what they were wearing.

Maybe the Army came up with some new hardened socks? It’s sandy out there, maybe they gave them snowshoe-like implements so they could avoid sinking? Or, given it was a night raid, maybe they just stayed in their PJs with reinforced booties?

It’s sad and I’m sorry to say it, but this is really starting to feel like 1968 all over again. I can’t just immediately trust anything Obama and his administration cronies say any more.

Obama’s Environmental Legacy is Forever Tarnished With Sticky Black Petroleum

Illustration Courtesy of Living Green Magazine

Illustration Courtesy of Living Green Magazine

At this point in his presidency, Barack Obama should be focused on his long-term legacy. And there is, I continue to argue, no long-term issue of greater importance than global climate change. On that subject, his legacy has been a mixed bag when circumstances demanded concerted focus. A strategy he and his team have called “all of the above” is an inevitable disaster. Today, he drove the final nail into the coffin, perhaps of humanity.

By approving oil exploration and drilling in the Arctic Ocean off the coast of Alaska in the Chukchi Seas, Obama and his energy experts have gone all in on the last barrier on earth to the unwise and ultimately suicidal exploitation of fossil fuel deposits. This blisteringly idiotic policy is so incredibly irresponsible that it’s hard to imagine its largest backer — the President himself — can sleep with himself in its wake. Every shred of scientific evidence available on the subject that isn’t tainted by research grants from Big Oil and its cronies screams at the clear and present danger this policy poses, not just (or even primarily) for America but for the planet.

By attempting to be the Great Compromiser on every significant issue of his Presidency, Mr. Obama has dragged his legacy through the muck and grime of the criminally profitable petroleum industry. “All of the above” doesn’t work when any of the above is permanently and unarguably fatal. Faced with the real opportunity to lead this nation into the leadership position on the environment and to guide humanity to an avoidance of at least the most severe effects of climate change, this President chose instead to kowtow to those who saw jobs as being opposed to environmentally sound policy, who argued that financial health trumped human survival, who stuck their heads in the oil-drenched sand and promised that technology would somehow magically come forth to solve the problem before mankind became extinct.

That will almost certainly not be the scenario that plays out here. Instead, what is left of humanity in 50 or 100 years will look back on Barack Obama as one of the most short-sighted, poorly advised centrist leaders in world history. But I guess if you preside over the ultimate destruction of the race, you don’t have to think about your legacy.

Sure, Obama has done some short-term good. Sure he was better than either of his Republican opponents would have been. But “better than the other guy” almost never translates to “good”. He was and is the lesser of two bad choices but he was a bad choice nonetheless.

I cry when I stop to think that my beautiful grandchildren will likely grow to maturity in a world that is hostile, dominated by a small handful (perhaps even just one) of cabals who own everything and all the governments. Our last glimmer of hope — which I had foolishly thought would be advocated and carried forward by a young outsider with a social conscience — lies in the creation of a New Earth. A New Earth dominated by a higher consciousness that makes the sacred journey from Me to We. A New Earth that recognizes the planet as our home and our partner, not a resource to be exploited unthinkingly for pure profit. A New Earth which elects leaders with the future generations in mind.

In my brighter, more optimistic, calm moments, I believe we will get there before it’s too late. But there are times when I doubt that. It seems so few of us are thinking about this problem existentially.

And the President we elected twice has, by compromising where no accommodation could or would work, turned his back on all of us.

That is his legacy.