Wednesday, 01 July 2015 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

Speakout

SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

According to the mostly ignored and hardly covered piece of news from a couple of weeks ago, it turns out that 11 of the 28 European Union countries have been scolded by the European Commission for failing to implement a new set of rules intended to prop up failed banks. Known as the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD), the stated purpose of the newly required rules is to purportedly protect taxpayers from having to cover the losses of any possible future bank failures, similar to the failures that occurred back in 2008. Taking the place of the more conventional taxpayer-funded "bail-outs," banks would see their losses recapitalized with the newly-minted practice of the "bail-in."

A bail-in, in case you aren't familiar with it, is the emerging alternative to the well-known bail-out. Back in 2008 when a slew of "too big to fail" (TBTF) banks crumbled due to $147 barrels of oil and the bursting of the housing bubble, the entire financial system was put at risk and was deemed to be in need of a rescue. What occurred was an influx of money from outside sources to cover the bank losses, one example being the $700 billion life-line from the US government (which essentially means from the US taxpayer). This is known as a bail-out.

As crews continue to clean Santa Barbara beaches from the 100,000-gallon oil spill that began when a corroded pipeline ruptured off Refugio State Beach on May 19, environmental and community groups are urging Governor Jerry Brown and state officials to stop increased offshore drilling that would depend on the same oil pipeline that burst last month. 

While Governor Brown, other state officlals and the mainstream media continue to falsely portray California as a "green" state, the devastation of the oilspill shows the fragility of California's ocean waters - and exposes the failure of state and federal  officials to stop a disaster like this, due to the capture of the state's regulatory apparatus by Big Oil.

Like many millions of Americans, I will not be voting in the 2016 presidential election. And while the pundits bemoan voter apathy as a leading cause for the mass no-shows on Election Day, I will be on the sidelines because I will not be permitted to participate. I am a felon, and in prison, and even when I am released, I might never be allowed to vote again.

Though the election is over a year away, with the recent announcements of both Democratic and Republican potential nominees, the question of the disenfranchisement of over 5 million American citizens has once again come to the fore. It doesn't seem possible that millions of Americans have been stripped of their right to participate in that most fundamental duty and right of citizenship: the right to vote. But that's a reality that I, and millions of others convicted of crimes, face upon release from prison. And it's the question Americans need to ask of themselves: do they want to see felons completely disengaged from the society they are re-entering, or do they want to see a population "connected to civic life"?

The once-and-only - and hugely popular and successful - plebiscite so far in this country's history has been on the 1982 nuclear-freeze issue. In view of the 99%'s fury over today's unanswered and crucial domestic issues, the winning presidential candidate might be smart enough to junk expensive polls, focus groups, and "closed" circuit audiences and, instead, resurrect an informal plebiscite on those issues.

No need for an Executive Order to set one up. Or Congressional or local legislation. Or voter-registration officials' approval. Just get the local campaigners and/or grass-roots groups to run them at state fairs or other major events - but especially at shopping malls the weekend before schools open.

Jun 23

A Doctor's Degree at 102

By Victor Grossman, Truthout | Op-Ed

The frail, white-haired little lady stepping slowly up onto the stage of the Babylon cinema theater in Berlin – to giant applause – was not wearing a collegiate cap and gown. But she had undoubtedly made academic history. Two weeks earlier Ingeborg Rapoport had been awarded a doctor’s degree – at the age of 102! And after 78 years!

Her amazing story had just been show in a full-length TV documentary film to an audience filling every last seat. Not so many had known the Rapoports, wife and late husband, but all had read the news item a few days earlier about how she had properly defended her dissertation of 1938 about diphtheria and paralysis, then gone to the university in Hamburg two weeks later to receive a degree denied her many years ago. That news story filled the theater.

Books about how World War I started, and to a lesser degree how World War II started, have tended in recent years to explain that these wars didn'tactually come as a surprise, because top government officials saw them coming for years. But these revised histories admit that the general public was pretty much clueless and shocked.

The fact is that anyone in the know or diligently seeking out the facts could see, in rough outline, the danger of World War I or World War II coming years ahead, just as one can see the threats of environmental collapse and World War III approaching now. But the general public lacked a decent understanding prior to the first two world wars and lacks it now on the looming dangers created by environmental destruction and aggressive flirtation with World War III.

Pakistan needs to be consistent on Muslim hot-zones worldwide and not just in Palestine.

The Rohingya Muslim situation offers Pakistan two distinct choices: It can either sever diplomatic ties with Myanmar over the "slow genocide," orrecognize the Jewish State of Israel as extending to its pre-1967 borders. A failure to act now will confirm Pakistan's status as a money-stuffed mouthpiece of the Arab League. 

Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) member and activist Scott Olsen was the featured guest on Tim "Sole" Holland's podcast titled Solecast on June 3, 2015. The Occupy Wall Street movement galvanized after the life-threatening attack on Olsen when he was put into a coma after being hit in the head with a bean bag round shot by police at an Occupy Oakland protest on October 25, 2011. In March 2015, Olsen was awarded 4.5 million by the city of Oakland after a federal lawsuit was filed concerning his injury. Olsen discussed IVAW, militarization of the police, Occupy Oakland, ISIS, the surveillance state and creating cultures of resistance. 

Remember the World Trade Organization, which slipped into the shadows after massive Seattle protests in 1999? The same day last week that Congress initially blocked the possibility of fast track approval for the TPP trade agreement, the House voted to overturn rules requiring country-of-origin labeling for meat. Those supporting the vote said they were responding to a World Trade Organization ruling, judging US country-of-origin labeling unfair competition with meat coming from foreign countries like Canada and Mexico, and therefore a violation. They said they had no choice for fear of triggering sanctions or lawsuits from countries exporting meat across our borders.

I don't know about you, but I like knowing whether my meat comes from Iowa or Uzbekistan, Montana or Mexico, Kentucky or Kenya. So do 93% of Americans, according to a Consumer's Union survey. People like supporting US farmers, cutting down distance travelled, knowing there will be at least minimal inspection standards, even if the delights of e coli occasionally slip through. It seems commonsensical that we'd want at least the chance to become informed consumers, whether with the origins of our meat, GMO-derived crops, or the amount of sugar and calories in our baked goods.

Jun 22

Corporations Over People

By Laura Finley, Peace Voice | Op-Ed

Here we go again. Another court decision favoring businesses over human rights. Sadly, it is no shock that the Supreme Court is friendlier to business more than anything or anyone else. From its 2010 Citizens United blunder that allowed even greater corporate influence on our political process to the 2014 Hobby Lobby case affirming the "religious beliefs" of private corporations, the court's continual siding with corporate entities over individual rights is maddening and ludicrous, but not surprising.  Now, we learn that the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled in favor of employers in a case that addressed whether persons with lawful medical marijuana cards can be fired for testing positive for the substance.

In a 6-0 decision, Colorado's highest court ruled that an employer's zero tolerance law trumped the state's medical marijuana legislation. The court held that employers can fire employees for testing positive for the substance even if usage was lawful under state law and occurred when the individual was off duty. Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic after a car accident, has been lawfully using medical marijuana to control leg spasms. Dish Network, his employer, fired him in 2010 after he tested positive on a random drug test. Coats had informed his employer before the test about his use of medical marijuana and displayed his state-certified medical marijuana card.

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Speakout

SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

According to the mostly ignored and hardly covered piece of news from a couple of weeks ago, it turns out that 11 of the 28 European Union countries have been scolded by the European Commission for failing to implement a new set of rules intended to prop up failed banks. Known as the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD), the stated purpose of the newly required rules is to purportedly protect taxpayers from having to cover the losses of any possible future bank failures, similar to the failures that occurred back in 2008. Taking the place of the more conventional taxpayer-funded "bail-outs," banks would see their losses recapitalized with the newly-minted practice of the "bail-in."

A bail-in, in case you aren't familiar with it, is the emerging alternative to the well-known bail-out. Back in 2008 when a slew of "too big to fail" (TBTF) banks crumbled due to $147 barrels of oil and the bursting of the housing bubble, the entire financial system was put at risk and was deemed to be in need of a rescue. What occurred was an influx of money from outside sources to cover the bank losses, one example being the $700 billion life-line from the US government (which essentially means from the US taxpayer). This is known as a bail-out.

As crews continue to clean Santa Barbara beaches from the 100,000-gallon oil spill that began when a corroded pipeline ruptured off Refugio State Beach on May 19, environmental and community groups are urging Governor Jerry Brown and state officials to stop increased offshore drilling that would depend on the same oil pipeline that burst last month. 

While Governor Brown, other state officlals and the mainstream media continue to falsely portray California as a "green" state, the devastation of the oilspill shows the fragility of California's ocean waters - and exposes the failure of state and federal  officials to stop a disaster like this, due to the capture of the state's regulatory apparatus by Big Oil.

Like many millions of Americans, I will not be voting in the 2016 presidential election. And while the pundits bemoan voter apathy as a leading cause for the mass no-shows on Election Day, I will be on the sidelines because I will not be permitted to participate. I am a felon, and in prison, and even when I am released, I might never be allowed to vote again.

Though the election is over a year away, with the recent announcements of both Democratic and Republican potential nominees, the question of the disenfranchisement of over 5 million American citizens has once again come to the fore. It doesn't seem possible that millions of Americans have been stripped of their right to participate in that most fundamental duty and right of citizenship: the right to vote. But that's a reality that I, and millions of others convicted of crimes, face upon release from prison. And it's the question Americans need to ask of themselves: do they want to see felons completely disengaged from the society they are re-entering, or do they want to see a population "connected to civic life"?

The once-and-only - and hugely popular and successful - plebiscite so far in this country's history has been on the 1982 nuclear-freeze issue. In view of the 99%'s fury over today's unanswered and crucial domestic issues, the winning presidential candidate might be smart enough to junk expensive polls, focus groups, and "closed" circuit audiences and, instead, resurrect an informal plebiscite on those issues.

No need for an Executive Order to set one up. Or Congressional or local legislation. Or voter-registration officials' approval. Just get the local campaigners and/or grass-roots groups to run them at state fairs or other major events - but especially at shopping malls the weekend before schools open.

Jun 23

A Doctor's Degree at 102

By Victor Grossman, Truthout | Op-Ed

The frail, white-haired little lady stepping slowly up onto the stage of the Babylon cinema theater in Berlin – to giant applause – was not wearing a collegiate cap and gown. But she had undoubtedly made academic history. Two weeks earlier Ingeborg Rapoport had been awarded a doctor’s degree – at the age of 102! And after 78 years!

Her amazing story had just been show in a full-length TV documentary film to an audience filling every last seat. Not so many had known the Rapoports, wife and late husband, but all had read the news item a few days earlier about how she had properly defended her dissertation of 1938 about diphtheria and paralysis, then gone to the university in Hamburg two weeks later to receive a degree denied her many years ago. That news story filled the theater.

Books about how World War I started, and to a lesser degree how World War II started, have tended in recent years to explain that these wars didn'tactually come as a surprise, because top government officials saw them coming for years. But these revised histories admit that the general public was pretty much clueless and shocked.

The fact is that anyone in the know or diligently seeking out the facts could see, in rough outline, the danger of World War I or World War II coming years ahead, just as one can see the threats of environmental collapse and World War III approaching now. But the general public lacked a decent understanding prior to the first two world wars and lacks it now on the looming dangers created by environmental destruction and aggressive flirtation with World War III.

Pakistan needs to be consistent on Muslim hot-zones worldwide and not just in Palestine.

The Rohingya Muslim situation offers Pakistan two distinct choices: It can either sever diplomatic ties with Myanmar over the "slow genocide," orrecognize the Jewish State of Israel as extending to its pre-1967 borders. A failure to act now will confirm Pakistan's status as a money-stuffed mouthpiece of the Arab League. 

Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) member and activist Scott Olsen was the featured guest on Tim "Sole" Holland's podcast titled Solecast on June 3, 2015. The Occupy Wall Street movement galvanized after the life-threatening attack on Olsen when he was put into a coma after being hit in the head with a bean bag round shot by police at an Occupy Oakland protest on October 25, 2011. In March 2015, Olsen was awarded 4.5 million by the city of Oakland after a federal lawsuit was filed concerning his injury. Olsen discussed IVAW, militarization of the police, Occupy Oakland, ISIS, the surveillance state and creating cultures of resistance. 

Remember the World Trade Organization, which slipped into the shadows after massive Seattle protests in 1999? The same day last week that Congress initially blocked the possibility of fast track approval for the TPP trade agreement, the House voted to overturn rules requiring country-of-origin labeling for meat. Those supporting the vote said they were responding to a World Trade Organization ruling, judging US country-of-origin labeling unfair competition with meat coming from foreign countries like Canada and Mexico, and therefore a violation. They said they had no choice for fear of triggering sanctions or lawsuits from countries exporting meat across our borders.

I don't know about you, but I like knowing whether my meat comes from Iowa or Uzbekistan, Montana or Mexico, Kentucky or Kenya. So do 93% of Americans, according to a Consumer's Union survey. People like supporting US farmers, cutting down distance travelled, knowing there will be at least minimal inspection standards, even if the delights of e coli occasionally slip through. It seems commonsensical that we'd want at least the chance to become informed consumers, whether with the origins of our meat, GMO-derived crops, or the amount of sugar and calories in our baked goods.

Jun 22

Corporations Over People

By Laura Finley, Peace Voice | Op-Ed

Here we go again. Another court decision favoring businesses over human rights. Sadly, it is no shock that the Supreme Court is friendlier to business more than anything or anyone else. From its 2010 Citizens United blunder that allowed even greater corporate influence on our political process to the 2014 Hobby Lobby case affirming the "religious beliefs" of private corporations, the court's continual siding with corporate entities over individual rights is maddening and ludicrous, but not surprising.  Now, we learn that the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled in favor of employers in a case that addressed whether persons with lawful medical marijuana cards can be fired for testing positive for the substance.

In a 6-0 decision, Colorado's highest court ruled that an employer's zero tolerance law trumped the state's medical marijuana legislation. The court held that employers can fire employees for testing positive for the substance even if usage was lawful under state law and occurred when the individual was off duty. Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic after a car accident, has been lawfully using medical marijuana to control leg spasms. Dish Network, his employer, fired him in 2010 after he tested positive on a random drug test. Coats had informed his employer before the test about his use of medical marijuana and displayed his state-certified medical marijuana card.