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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.

Apr 05

Honoring Dr King's Legacy

By Len Ellis, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

On the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, I believe his words and actions are no less relevant today than they were forty-five years ago. More than just his words, but in particular, his actions. I know I will never be the orator that he was, but I can be a similar active, participating force, an agent for change, a contributor to peace and nonviolence. In voicing his commitment to nonviolence, he said "If I am the last, lone voice speaking for nonviolence, that I will do." And so the relevant question today is "am I willing to be the last, lone voice speaking for nonviolence"? Am I willing to express my deep desire for peace? Am I willing to do whatever it takes to never give up hope, never give up the message, never submit to apathy, never to say "oh, let THEM take care of it"?

Because what I see today, and I think what Dr. King saw in his day, too many people are too quick to say "I don't have time", "What difference could it make?," "My friends/family don't agree."

Zombies dominate our nation's airwaves. They have already devoured much of our rational public discourse and now threaten our social sanity. Zombies are hot commodities. They sell. That's why they cannot be stopped or killed. Some editors and producers understand that zombies carry dangerous mental and moral infections that may already have doomed civilization as we (used to) know it. But profits outweigh the risks of parading zombies in prominent places.

Two factions promote the prevalence of zombies in mass media: True Believers and Snarky Ironists. Believer media managers feature the living dead as hosts or guests to flaunt their twisted catechism. Media Ironists recognize zombies for the frightening freaks they are, but trumpet their grotesque views anyway to whip up outrage and energize their often demoralized "normal" base.

According to a recent Harvard report, the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will end up costing U.S. taxpayers up to $6 trillion in the long term. The report by Linda Bilmes, professor at the Harvard Kennedy School estimates the final cost to be around $4-6 trillion. It is staggering that the estimate ranges by $2 trillion given that just five years ago, Bilmes co-authored a book called "The Three Trillion Dollar War."

While long term costs are difficult to accurately calculate, the estimates are overwhelming. War costs through the end of 2013 are around $1.4 trillion, or roughly 23% of the total expected cost. This figure covers the Pentagon, State and Veterans Administration (not the CIA or other covert operators). The U.S. will budget for less than $100 billion for Afghanistan war funding in 2014 and significantly less than that annually beyond 2014.

Every person who works in this country – regardless where he or she was born and regardless how long he or she has been here – must be entitled to the full range of workplace and civil rights America provides. It's not enough to stop US House leaders from turning undocumented immigrants and the people who help them into criminals.

Progressives who care about the rights of immigrants should be working together to fix the Senate immigration compromise as well.

The compromise legislation has two fatal flaws: a guest worker program that would institutionalize and expand a second-class workforce easily exploited by employers and an unjust, inhumane and unworkable three-tier system of treatment for immigrants who are in this country.

Earlier today, the National Rifle Association released a set of alarming proposals to increase the number of armed personnel in schools as a response to the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School late last year. The effort, called the National School Shield Program, calls for funding and legislation to support NRA-sponsored model training programs for School Resource Officers and armed school personnel in our nation's public schools.

Many who remember the aftermath of the shootings at Columbine High School will recall a similar rush to adopt high-security measures that do not succeed in making our schools any safer. In fact, metal detectors, increased police presence and zero-tolerance discipline practices have succeeded only in pushing students out of school and making schools feel more like a prison than a safe place to learn.

Monsanto has successfully made themselves invincible in each different branch of government.

The second week of the historic Floyd v. City of New York trial challenging the constitutionality of the NYPD's stop-and-frisk program featured a shortened court schedule because the week was bookended by religious holidays. It was only fitting, therefore, that the week ended with faith leaders from a broad cross-section of the city's many faith communities packing the courtroom and speaking about the negative impacts of stop and frisk on their communities.

In court, the bulk of the week's testimony was from police officers and supervisors who had been involved in the illegal stops of our plaintiffs and witnesses. Skillful questioning by CCR and co-counsel lawyers laid bare contradictions in their stories, showed that the reasons they now cite for stops weren't cited at the time, and revealed that supervisors failed to meaningfully review stops throughout the entire NYPD chain to ensure they were lawful.

I’ve been writing about Obama’s Legacy Tour (sorry, his second term) from time to time without focusing on the legacy itself. So this post will lay down a marker — in brief, what’s on Obama’s economic legacy list, and what will he get if he succeeds? Consider this the Legacy View from 10,000 feet.

I think the whole of Barack Obama’s two-term economic agenda is topped by these four items:

  1. Health care “reform” — a privatized alternative to Medicare expansion
  2. A “grand bargain” in which social insurance benefits are rolled back
  3. Plentiful oil & gas and passage of the Keystone Sludgepipe (KXL pipeline)
  4. Passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement

It should come as no surprise to many of you to find out that Monsanto actually authored the wording of its own Monsanto Protection Act hidden in the recently passed and signed Continuing Resolution spending bill. How could a major corporation write its own laws and regulations, you ask?

Quite frankly I think it's important to understand that the entire Senate passed the bill containing the Protection Act, but the politician who actually gave Monsanto the pen in order to write their very own legislation is no others than Roy Blunt — a Republican Senator from Missouri. As the latest IB Times article reveals, the Missouri politician worked with Monsanto to write the Monsanto Protection Act. This was confirmed by a New York news report I will get to shortly.

The NRA says it's against illegal guns and dealers. Yet it has pushed through laws that are the straw buyer and crooked gun dealer's best friend. In fact, the NRA plays both sides of the legal guns/illegal guns street so well--it is like the friend who steals your wallet and helps you look for it. Who me?

One crooked gun dealer floods the streets with hundreds of crime guns. During an inspection last year, a single dealer had 997 guns that were unaccounted for and 93 that were not logged in, reports the Center for American Progress. 1,300 illegal Chicago guns were traced to Chuck's Gun Shop since 2008. And Bull's Eye Shooter Supply in Tacoma, Washington lost 238 guns in three years--one of which was used during the 2002 sniper murder spree that left 10 dead across Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia.