Bush AND Obama Both Responsible for Screwing Up the Middle East

army teamwork

Regime Change Was Their Common Theme

By John Lawrence

Obama wanted it to be part of his legacy that he ended two wars, those in Iraq and Afghanistan, which were started by his predecessor, George W Bush along with his vice President Dick Cheney. Only it’s not working out entirely as he planned, and he’s coming in for a lot of criticism from, among others, Cheney himself. In a new book, Exceptional, Why the World Needs a Powerful America, written with daughter Liz Cheney, Cheney criticizes Obama while defending his own legacy. Cheney has been in full self-rehabilitation mode ever since he stepped down as George W Bush’s brain.

The criticism now is that Obama left Iraq too soon and thus created a power vacuum that ISIS has filled. No doubt ISIS stepped into the vacuum created by the departure of Saddam Hussein, but the part that Cheney is missing is that his administration took out Saddam for no valid reason whatsoever and created the power vacuum in the first place. As long as Saddam was in power, no group such as al Qaeda or ISIS could possibly have gained a foothold in Iraq.

As Colin Powell said recently on Meet the Press, and I paraphrase, you can’t take out the guy at the top if there is no structure beneath him to support a stable government and expect good results. Certainly neither George W Bush, who wanted to create western style democracies in the Middle East using war as a means, nor Barack Obama, who wanted to do the same thing by encouraging the youth to rise up after getting rid of despicable dictators, have achieved the results they were hoping for.   [Read more…]

The Pope Makes the Case for Climate Change and Helping the Poor


By John Lawrence

The Pope is visiting the US this week to make the case that we should take climate change seriously and start doing something about it. He is really making the case that we should change our paradigm from one of individual self-fulfillment to one of “we’re all in this together,” from individual salvation to collective salvation of our earthly home. This has far-reaching implications. We need to be concerned about what’s happening to the earth as a whole, to humanity as a whole, and not just to our own family, town, state, country.

The Pope doesn’t mince words. Far from being the conservative head of a 2000 year old bureaucracy, he is using his moral megaphone and authority to speak out on the major problems of our day – global warming and capitalism – and the two are interrelated. You can’t have the entire sum of people on the planet involved with saving the planet from runaway climate change without getting involved with the collective plight of all those people in their daily lives. The Pope is putting the emphasis and focus on the plight of the poor, which is really what Jesus was all about. Finally.   [Read more…]

The Fight Against GMOs and Toxic Food

sdfp gmo0 label

While Other Countries Ban GMOs, US Congress Endorses Them

By John Lawrence

Scotland has banned genetically modified organisms (GMOs) within its country. “Scotland is known around the world for our beautiful natural environment—and banning growing genetically modified crops will protect and further enhance our clean, green status,” said rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead. Here in the US the fight is just for the right to know that a food product should be labeled as GMO, and that’s not going so well.

Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015. This is BS, of course, since the bill’s real purpose is to preempt the rights of state and local governments to pass laws requiring the mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), to overturn GMO labeling laws already in place in several states, and to prevent the passage of any federal mandatory GMO labeling law in the future. So there is no free speech insofar as knowing what’s in something we are eating is concerned. The law’s attempt is to suppress truth in labeling.

GMOs were developed primarily to be resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup so that Roundup could be sprayed directly on crops and only the weeds would die. So whether or not GMO corn and soybeans are good or bad for you, the presence of poison sprayed on them can’t be too good for human consumers when they eat such crops. Especially crops such as grapes and apples which have very thin skins and are vulnerable to soaking up the herbicides and pesticides sprayed on them.   [Read more…]

Extreme Weather Watch: August 2015 – The Western US Burns Up


By John Lawrence

Wildfires swept through the states of Washington, Idaho, Oregon and northern California in a record setting conflagration. Thousands of firefighters from all over the world tried to protect houses, but, nevertheless, hundreds burned. A call went out for volunteers and thousands have responded.

Thousands have been evacuated. The cost is soaring past what state and Federal budgets can afford. The choice is to let the West burn up or bankrupt state and national budgets. The Forest Service is spending $10 million a day to fight wildfires.

In 1995 16% of the Forest Service’s budget went to fight forest fires. Today it’s 52% with 70% predicted in the next decade if present trends continue. US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “No one wants our Forest Service to become one large fire department,” but that is exactly what is happening. Vilsack said the federal government has spent more than $1 billion fighting this year’s deadly wildfires   [Read more…]

Upgrading the U.S. Constitution: Guns for Everyone!

my first rifle

By John Lawrence

It has come to my attention that some of my conservative friends think that the American Constitution was chiseled in stone. Well, no, actually unlike the Ten Commandments which were written in stone, the American Constitution was written on parchment. I have a lot of respect for the Founding Fathers who came up with this document based on the best Enlightenment thinking at the time with the help of French philosophes such as Montesquieu who believed in the separation of powers and checks and balances. Unfortunately, the Founders didn’t heed the advice of the Marquis de Condorcet who came up with a better voting system than majority rule.

Condorcet and my other friends, Voltaire and Rousseau are entombed in the basement of the Pantheon in Paris where I visited them a while back and thanked them for their efforts in getting the fledgling United States off the ground. But speaking of being “written in stone”, did God really hand Moses two tablets or did Moses have a little workshop up on the mountaintop where he meticulously chiseled out the Ten Commandments?

If Moses had handed them out on a piece of paper to his constituents, they would have laughed in his face so he had to make them believe that they were inviolable because they came directly from a Higher Power.   [Read more…]

Tyranny of the Majority: The American Winner Take All System

tyranny of the majority

No wonder that, among the 21 democracies in Western Europe and North America, the United States is next to last in voter turn-out…

By John Lawrence

A lot of people these days are concerned with getting the money out of politics. That’s an admirable goal, but it doesn’t solve the problem that’s built right into the American political system: a voting system in which the majority rules and there is no minority representation because the winner takes all. At every level the US is divided up into districts whether its state assembly and senatorial districts, US Congressional districts, San Diego city council districts or what have you. Citizens in a particular district can only vote for one candidate and the candidate with the most votes wins in that district.

Even states can be considered voting districts and in each state you can vote for two US Senators, just not at the same time. If there are candidates you like outside of your district, you have no democratic decision making process with which to vote for them. For example, I can’t vote for Bernie Sanders for Senator because I’m not a resident of Vermont. Similarly, I can’t vote for Elizabeth Warren because I’m not a citizen of Massachusetts. The US voting system on every level is archaic.   [Read more…]

Bernie Sanders, American Socialist


By John Lawrence

Bernie Sanders has been drawing huge crowds to his rallies. The American media cannot ignore that. But they will never use the S word to describe Bernie even though that is how he describes himself. Bernie represents those who would tax Wall Street to preserve social security and a host of other common sense proposals. He dares to suggest that college should be free rather than the first stage of a life of indentured servitude and indebtedness.

People are listening – especially young people. Bernie has been saying these things for years but the media for the most part has been ignoring him. Now he has a bigger megaphone. His decision to run for President in order to get his message out there is paying off.

As Bernie himself has said: “the ideas and the points that we are making are reverberating very strongly with the American people.” Whoever would have thought that Bernie Sanders, Socialist, would be reverberating with the American people, the American people who love freedom and think that society should be set up in such a way that everybody has a chance, no matter how small, of getting rich?   [Read more…]

US Mayors Fed Up With Paying Wall Street Interest and Fees

wall street flags

They Will Consider Establishment of Public Banks

By John Lawrence

At their meeting on June 19-22, the US Conference of Mayors considered the possibility of establishing public banks as an alternative to Wall Street. Instead of spending a fortune in Wall Street fees and interest, a public bank would keep the money right in each Mayor’s jurisdiction. Finally, Mayors are wising up. The Mayors Resolution on Strengthening Municipal Finances addresses the millions of dollars in fees that Wall Street banks charge cities and challenges mayors to negotiate with bankers to reduce these fees or to consider the possibility of a public bank.

Public banking is distinguished from private banking in that its mandate begins with the public’s interest. Privately-owned banks, by contrast, have shareholders who generally seek short-term profits as their highest priority. Public banks are able to reduce taxes within their jurisdictions, because their profits are returned to the general fund of the public entity. The costs of public projects undertaken by governmental bodies are also greatly reduced, because public banks do not need to charge interest to themselves. Eliminating interest has been shown to reduce the cost of such projects, on average, by 50%.   [Read more…]

Extreme Weather Watch: July 2015 – Huge Number of Wildfires in CA Force Evacuations


By John Lawrence

As July drew to a close, 8000 firefighters were battling 18 large fires in the state of California. A lot of people are being forced to evacuate their homes. In fact evacuations are becoming a way of life. Triple digit temperatures, bone-dry vegetation and gusty winds are spreading fires everywhere.

A fast-spreading wildfire north of San Francisco has torched homes and is threatening more than 450 structures. At least 650 residents have been evacuated from their homes as the blaze raged in hills covered in dense brush and oak trees and dotted with ranch homes. 23 square miles near Lower Lake, south of Clear Lake, have been charred.

A separate fire near the small town of Isleton in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta burned six or seven mobile homes. Residents of 200 homes in the central California community of Cascadel Woods were ordered to evacuate last Thursday.   [Read more…]

Pope Francis: “We’ve Turned the Earth into a Pile of Filth”

pope francis

By John Lawrence

Add Pope Francis to the world’s leaders who are calling for immediate action to combat climate change. In the Pope’s own words the earth has become a pezzo di merda, a piece of you know what. He has also described unbridled capitalism as the “dung of the devil.” Popes are not often given to scatological imagery to describe the predominant American economic system.

However, the Pope’s words are very important because he wields enormous moral authority. Would that the leading moral authorities from the world’s other major religions had the gumption to stand up and add their voices in the fight against climate change.

The Pope blames human greed for exploitation of the environment and an economic system that is geared to profit making rather than to rational development of natural resources which would benefit all mankind rather than just those at the top. The Pope’s 184 page encyclical is a radical statement: a condemnation of business as usual and a call for a restructuring on political and economic priorities.   [Read more…]

1915: It Was a Very Good Year


By John Lawrence

1915 was a very good year because three giants of twentieth century music were born that year: Frank Sinatra, Billie Holliday and Billy Strayhorn. This year is the hundredth anniversary of their births.

By far the best known is Frank Sinatra, born in Hoboken, NJ to a middle class Italian family. His mother, Dolly, was a real go getter who became a political force in Hoboken. She secured Frank his first real job as a singer with the Hoboken Four, and got her husband hired by the Fire Department. When they told her they didn’t have any openings, she told them, “Make one.” They did.

Frank’s stories of growing up poor were so much BS. The Sinatra family moved into a $13,400. house in Hoboken in the middle of the Depression, an astronomical sum in those days. She had befriended so many people in Hoboken that, when the Democratic machine needed votes, Dolly could deliver them. She also had a thriving business as a midwife and an abortionist. Unfortunately, she died in a plane crash, a plane that Frank had chartered to bring her from Palm Springs to Las Vegas for his opening at Caesar’s Palace.   [Read more…]

Natalie Cressman and Band a Hit at Dizzy’s Jazz Club

natalie 2

By John Lawrence

Singer-songwriter-trombonist Natalie Cressman brought her quintet to Dizzy’s Jazz Club Saturday, July 11. Natalie has been creating quite a stir lately with her 8th place finish in the trombone category of the Down Beat Critics poll, Rising Star division.. Her band has a very contemporary sound, sort of a jazz-rock groove. And groove they did.

Natalie wrote most of the songs. I’m assuming she did the arrangements too which were fantastic. She made the most out of two horns – trumpet and trombone – and a killer rhythm section consisting of Mike Bono on guitar, Michael Mitchell on drums and Adam Goldman on bass. I particularly enjoyed the drummer although he stayed in the background the whole time. There was an energy to this band especially when they cut loose on the last number.   [Read more…]

Extreme Weather Watch: June 2015 – Deadly Heat Wave in Pakistan

Extreme Weather Watch

By John Lawrence

Pakistan’s heat wave took a toll of more than 1200 dead, the deadliest heat wave on record. Power outages added to the misery, leaving many without fans, water or light at the beginning of Ramadan, when many Muslims do not eat or drink during daylight hours. More than 14,000 people were hospitalized in Karachi, the nation’s largest city. The heat wave came just weeks after torrid temperatures caused nearly 2,200 deaths in neighboring India. This devastating weather is being seen as the effects of human-caused climate change. The Pakistan heat wave will join the heat wave in India as one of the 10 deadliest in world history.

Observant Muslims, who make up the majority of Karachi’s 20 million residents, were abstaining from food and water during long summer days. A single sip of water invalidates the fast, but Muslims are discouraged from fasting if they are sick or if doing so would cause physical harm. “The deadly heat wave that has killed several hundred people in Karachi, Pakistan, is clearly a harbinger of things to come with the changing climate,” said Saleemul Huq, director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh and a prominent climate scientist.   [Read more…]

Student Loan Default a Growing Trend?

student loan debt

By John Lawrence

With over a trillion dollars in outstanding student loans, young college graduates are being forced to take jobs they hate in order to pay them back. Their futures consist of debt peonage for as far as the eye can see. Some are opting out of a lifetime of death-in-debtorhood and choosing instead to start over living the life that they foresaw when they enrolled in college in the first place. Such a one is Lee Siegle whose June 6 opinion piece in the New York Times laid out his rational for defaulting on his student loan.

His decision was made based on choosing life over death …   [Read more…]

Why Don’t Corporations Contribute to Charity Instead of Hitting Up Their Customers?

petco charity 1

By John Lawrence

Do you find it annoying to be hit up for a donation every time you make a purchase? You’re out buying groceries or cat food or mouthwash and you get asked to make a donation to some charity. “Would you like to contribute a dollar to help homeless dogs?”, the check out person asks. I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you reduce my total by $1.00 and contribute that to charity? Do you think Walgreen’s or Petco could afford that? Give me a dollar off my freakin’ bill. I just scraped enough money together to make sure our cat is adequately fed and doesn’t go homeless.

I really think I am capable of making my own decisions about what charities I want to donate to. I don’t want to be prompted every time I buy something. And is Walgreen’s CEO who made over $13 million in 2013 contributing anything in this campaign? Heck no, and neither are the Board of Directors who make tons of money in stock grants for attending a few meetings per year.   [Read more…]

Qualcomm Exec Gets Jail Time for Insider Trading


By John Lawrence

Some guys just can’t resist the temptation to score an extra couple of hundred thousand bucks by using their position inside a company such as Qualcomm and the information they are privileged to know in order to buy and sell stock before the public has access to that information. Such a guy was Derek Montague Cohen, who knew about Qualcomm’s plans to buy Atheros Communications in 2011.

He knew that Atheros’ stock value would go up after it was publicly announced that Qualcomm would buy them. So he bought Atheros stock before it was announced publicly and before the stock price went up. After the announcement and the resultant surge in Atheros’ stock value, he sold the stock making a tidy $200,000 profit. But he was not the only one. Several other Qualcomm employees did the same thing.

Now Cohen faces jail time, something that rarely happens in white collar crimes.   [Read more…]

Getting Money Out of Politics in San Diego City Elections

Patrick Gensel/Flickr

By John Lawrence

Wouldn’t it be nice if money didn’t influence who gets elected and what they do after they get elected? The Clean Elections Initiative aims to get money out of politics so that one vote will truly equal one vote like it’s supposed to in a democracy. Right now money controls elections and lobbyists have too much influence over elected officials which are in turn dependent on rich donors for their campaign funds.

The San Diego Clean Elections Initiative is being sponsored by Neighborhoods for Clean Elections, a grass roots coalition that is aiming to place the Clean Elections Initiative on the 2016 ballot. The initiative, which is also supported by Common Cause, will provide public funding for candidates for mayor and City Council who agree to a Clean Elections Pledge: The pledge requires that they refrain from soliciting any campaign contributions from private sources and that they further agree to refrain from spending any of their own money for their campaign.

Voters in Maine, Arizona, Connecticut and Albuquerque, NM already have Clean Elections. Why not here in San Diego?   [Read more…]

Extreme Weather Watch: May 2016 – It’s Either Global Warming or a Flood of Biblical Proportions


Torrential Rain, Floods in Texas, Oklahoma

The Blanco River overran its banks sweeping houses and people in its course. At least 41 people have died in the severe weather over the past several days, from either tornadoes or flooding brought on by epic rainfall. Those deaths include 29 in Texas and Oklahoma. Eleven people have been missing for a week. In Mexico at least 13 people died in a tornado that hit the border city of Ciudad Acuna, Mexico. At least 200 homes were destroyed.

I’ll bet you one thing: no one in the media will mention the words: GLOBAL WARMING. But what else can you say when 11 inches of rain fall in six hours? With that much rain in such a short time, any river is subject to flash flooding?   [Read more…]

The Greek Tragedy: A Labyrinth of Debt

Photo by quapan

By John Lawrence

How to figure out the ongoing crisis that is Greece? What exactly is going on there? As per usual it’s another chapter in the strange saga that involves Wall Street’s stranglehold over the world economy.

What happened to Greece is similar to what happened to American mortgage holders after they were encouraged to go in over their collective heads borrowing more money than they could reasonably expect to be in a position to pay back. Greece did the same.   [Read more…]

Going Homeless to Pay For College


My daughter was entering the freshman class at UCSD in 1992 and the plan was for me to move out of our condo where we had lived for 18 years and in with my girlfriend. Renting out the condo would bring in $1000. a month and let me pay for a good share of my daughter’s college expenses. After about a year when the relationship didn’t work out, I decided that rather than rent an apartment which would cost me what I needed to pay my daughter’s expenses, I would go homeless instead.

It wasn’t that I was desperate; I could have rented an apartment. I just decided I’d rather collect rent than pay it, and not only would I be saving $1000. a month in rent, I wouldn’t have a cable bill, an internet bill or an SDG&E bill either. Such a prospect appealed to the Scotsman in me.   [Read more…]

Gov. Brown on Climate Change: “We’re dealing with it and it’s damn serious.”

Photo by USACE HQ

Then Why Haven’t You Put Any Restrictions on Big Oil and Big Ag?

Governor Jerry Brown is leading the nation and perhaps even the world in his efforts to do something about climate change and global warming which is causing epic drought conditions in California.

He has mandated that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced to 40 percent below 1990 levels over the next 15 years. Brown called this the most aggressive benchmark enacted by a government in North America. All well and good.

But the Governor, formerly known as Governor Moonbeam, has done little to refrain Big Oil and Big Ag from using most of the water in the state.   [Read more…]

Extreme Weather Watch: April 2015 – Tornadoes, Floods Devastate the South


April Showers Turn Violent

As April drew to a close, drenching rain expanded across the Southeast states, bringing the threat of flooding and travel delays. Strong thunderstorms were also a concern for Florida.

April has been a particularly wet month across the Southeast due to several slow-moving storms that soaked the region over the past several weeks. Mobile, Alabama, has been one of the wettest cities in the entire country last month from a series of storms – recording over 13 inches of rain.   [Read more…]

Fined by China, Qualcomm Losing Chip Business as CEO Departs

Qualcomm Sucks Up To China

By John Lawrence

Qualcomm has been fined almost a billion dollars by China for violating its anti-monopoly law. China has the world’s most internet users and the largest smartphone market so Qualcomm has to tread gingerly with the authorities there since it doesn’t want to be booted out of the world’s most lucrative market. The fine will knock 58 cents a share off Qualcomm’s earnings for the year. Qualcomm CEO Steven M. Mollenkopf thinks paying the fine will make Qualcomm better positioned to cash in in the future.

This could be another front in the brewing economic conflicts between China and the US. To sweeten the pot Qualcomm has offered China deep discounts on licensing its patents for certain systems and agreed to partner with Chinese companies. But all this could be construed as a bribe in order to get access to the Chinese market.   [Read more…]

Public Banking Advocate Ellen Brown Speaks at San Diego State

By John Lawrence

On Thursday April 16, there was a panel discussion at San Diego State with the title: Crisis in American Democracy: Answers Beyond the Two Party System.

There were three people on the panel representing three political parties. The Socialist Equality Party was represented by Mr. John Burton. Dr. Matt Zwolinski spoke for the Libertarians, and the Green Party was represented by Dr. Ellen Brown.

The promo said: “The content of the event will be a debate about their solutions to the problems facing American Democracy today.” The event allowed 15 minutes per person for initial discussion. After the initial discussion, the event was open for public comment and questions. Then there was time for closing statements and rebuttals from each speaker.   [Read more…]

Green Capitalism: A Contradiction in Terms?

Conversion to Renewable Energy is Going Too Slow to Avoid Catastrophe – Part 6

By John Lawrence – This is the sixth and final part of this series. Part 5 can be found here.

Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate, debunks the idea that all we have to do is to cooperate with the extractive industries and urge them to get greener. We do not have to go to extremes, but can phase in renewable sources of energy gradually. The gradualist approach is the essence of green capitalism. This will not work Klein says:

[The] bottom line is … our economic system and our planetary system are now at war. Or, more accurately, our economy is at war with many forms of life on earth, including human life. What the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources; what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it’s not the laws of nature.   [Read more…]