The strange case of Dennis Hastert

I am in Washington, DC for a conference and so read the hard-copy version of the local paper the Washington Post. One thing about reading the hard copy is that one tends to go through the entire paper rather than zeroing in on the main topics you are interested in when you read it online. The big story today was the indictment of the former speaker of the House of Representatives Dennis Hastert, who retired from Congress in 2007 and (surprise!) became a high-paid lobbyist.
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The US and Israel block the creation of a nuclear-free Middle East

The US and Israel repeatedly use the threat of nuclear weapons being developed by other countries as the basis for going to war. They used that fear of an ‘imminent’ nuclear threat in the case of Iraq even though that was known to be false. And now they are using that same argument against Iran. So you would think that they would welcome a move towards nuclear non-proliferation in that region, right?
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Update on the status of the USA Patriot Act

Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept interviewed the ACLU’s Deputy Legal Director, Jameel Jaffer about the maneuvering behind the USA Patriot Act whose provisions under section 215 will expire because of sunset provisions on June 1 unless Congress acts to pass something. The House has passed something known as the USA Freedom Act that revised some key provisions of section but that failed to pass in the Senate.
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Book review: The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

For many people of my generation, the Vietnam war was a turning point that radicalized us. For the first in our lives, we saw a cruel war waged by a massive military power that used chemical and biological weapons on a massive scale against a much weaker nation and a defenseless population and whose effects will be felt for generations to come. But we also saw how that military could be defeated by a determined population that was fighting to repel foreign invaders and their local puppets. We saw first hand how the US government and its allies lied shamelessly in the effort to advance its imperialist ambitions, cloaking its real goals behind the rhetoric of democracy. That undoubtedly colored our view of geopolitics and is maybe why we saw so clearly the lies that led to the Iraq war and can also see the same dynamic trying to be resurrected against Iran.
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The Irish vote for marriage equality is a victory for humanity

I was of course pleased that the Irish voted in favor of same-sex marriage and delighted that the margin of victory (62% in favor) was so large. The fact that a country that is so closely identified with Catholicism gave such a strong affirmation that all people should be treated equally regardless of their sexual orientation has sent shock waves through not only the Catholic establishment but through much of the anti-gay world.
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This time the Republican debates should be fun

I usually don’t watch the presidential primary debates, seeing them as a waste of time. But this time, I may watch some, especially the early ones, because they promise to be quite entertaining. I wrote before about the problem that the Republican party is having because the large numbers of declared and undeclared candidates (with estimated numbers running as high as 20) makes it logistically difficult to hold debates.

Toles cartoon
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Bernie Sanders announces presidential campaign

Yes, I know that he already had said that he was running for the presidential nomination but in the strange way that American elections are run and dragged out for so long, it makes sense to get the most publicity by first saying you are interested in running, then setting up exploratory committees, then letting it be known that you are definitely running, and then formally kicking off the campaign. In Sander’s case, that last step will be taken today at 5:00 pm in his home town of Burlington, Vermont, where he was first elected to office as mayor.
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