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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 28

Militarist Threat to Japan's Democracy

By Tom Clifford, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Yasukuni apologists will say that this a place where the war dead can be remembered and that Shinzo Abe's offering of a Masakaki "sacred tree" branch to the shrine on Monday 21 April was perfectly within the remit of a Japanese prime minister.

You can imagine the outrage if German politicians visited or gave offerings to a shrine that denied the Holocaust. 

It is not just the fact that not a single body is buried at Yasukuni shrine, though more than 2,466,000 souls are enshrined there. By going to that shrine, by giving offerings to the shrine, Japanese politicians are turning their backs on another option. Just up the road is the Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery with the remains of 352,297 unknown Japanese soldiers and civilians. It is tranquil, serene, respectful. Its evergreen trees provide ample places of shade. It is close to Yasukuni and is served by the same subway stop, Kudanshita. Like Yasukuni, it is near the Imperial palace. The emperor, who shuns Yasukuni, even though his ministers go there, is a frequent visitor.

On Friday, April 18, 2014, the Alabama Supreme Court issued a 8-1 decision in Ex Parte Hicks upholding the conviction of Sara Hicks, who gave birth to a healthy baby who tested positive for cocaine in 2008. This decision affirmed the Court's prior ruling in Ex Parte Ankrom, holding that that the plain meaning of the word "child" in the Alabama law unambiguously includes fertilized eggs and that pregnantwomen may be arrested for using a controlled substance while pregnant.

As a result of the rulings in Ankrom and Hicks, there is no exception from prosecution for pregnant women who used controlled substances that are prescribed by physicians. (See "Your Epidural is Against the Law: What Alabama Women and Doctors Need to Know".) Because Justice Moore's concurring opinion in Hicks relies on Biblical citations and God's authority, the decision may also raise First Amendment establishment clause questions.

Yesterday, a federal appeals panel ordered the government to release of a classified Justice Department memo outlining the legal justification for the 2011 drone strike that killed U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki. The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law joined an amicus brief in the case arguing that the government’s attempt to withhold the legal memo results in “secret law” and runs contrary to the Freedom of Information Act.

In yesterday’s ruling, the federal appeals panel held that the government waived any claim to secrecy of the memo due to public statements made by the administration about the lawfulness of drone strikes, including a “white paper” issued by the JusticeDepartment. A judge on the appeals panel wrote that these disclosures preclude the government from claiming that the legal justification for drone strikes cannot be made public.

An Institute for Policy Studies report released today puts a price tag on how much taxpayers are subsidizing exorbitant executive pay at the nation’s top restaurant chains.

The report focuses on the loophole that allows corporations to deduct unlimited amounts from their income taxes for the cost of executive compensation—as long as the pay is in the form of stock options and other so-called “performance pay.” This loophole serves as a massive subsidy for excessive executive compensation.

Restaurant Industry Pay: Taxpayers' Double Burden calculates the cost of CEO pay subsidies at the 20 largest corporate members of the National Restaurant Association, a leading opponent of efforts to raise the minimum wage. The NRA is organizing a major lobby drive in Washington on April 29-30.

Hon. Secretary of State John Kerry:

Uganda's foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa could become President of the United Nations General Assembly  in June unless the world comes to its senses.

As President, Mr. Kutesa would preside over important meetings including the General Assembly, when you and President Obama attend in the Fall.

As you are aware his boss and partner Gen. Yoweri Museveni has now presided over a repressive and brutal dictatorship in Uganda for 28 years.

An Open Letter:
Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick said in a radio interview on April 15, 2014: "I respect the authority of the Supreme Court to make those decisions" that have corrupted politics, like McCutcheon. I write the Governor to clarify his position, and to express opposition to this statement.
To "respect" authority in the abuse of its power is to align oneself with and further enable that same abuse. Experience shows that resisting rather than respecting such abuse, especially in the case of the U.S. Supreme Court, has the effect of curbing it.

Converting a democracy into a plutocracy is a crime of constitutional dimensions. If the Governor does sincerely believe that the Roberts Court legitimately has the power to amend the Constitution for this purpose, I would like him to point out precisely where in the Constitution that power is given to five unelected judges? Article V seems to have a different, much more difficult, process in mind than the vote of a single Supreme Court justice in a 5-4 decision. The constitutional process involves an intentionally – and for any such major political change all but impossibly – difficult 2/3 vote of each house of Congress. Then three-fourths of the state legislatures must ratify Congress' proposal. The elected representatives of those bodies, through their legislative acts, give not the remotest sign of agreeing with the Roberts 5 about the constitutional validity of allowing big money into politics.

Five judges' radical amendment of the Constitution by their series of seven decisions to which the Governor gives his "respect" flouts the established process for making such an enormous constitutional change.

In what the New York Times describes as "a net neutrality turnaround" the Obama administration's new FCC chairman is proposing rules that will create an Internet for the wealthy. The new plan to create a pay to play Internet came to light Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal.

Under the plan wealthy corporations will be able to purchase faster service, while those that cannot do so will have slower service. Rather than an open Internet for all the US will be moving to a class-based Internet. Of course, this will mean that when Netflix and other corporations purchase faster Internet, the consumers who use their service will be paying more to watch movies and download information. As a result, more money will be funneled from working Americans to wealthy telecom giants.

SANTA FE—Yesterday, the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program's Medical Advisory Board voted unanimously to add neurodegenerative dementia including Alzheimer's disease (AD) to the list of medical conditions eligible for the Medical Cannabis Program. The Secretary of Health will have the final decision. Medical cannabis is currently available to Alzheimer's patients in thirteen of the states that authorize its use.

The Drug Policy Alliance filed the petition on behalf of all New Mexicans who suffer from Alzheimer's disease. Although Alzheimer's disease was specifically petitioned for, the board chose to expand their recommendation to include all types of neurodegenerative dementia.

Inexplicably, some still argue that there's no scientific consensus on anthropogenic – i.e., man-made - climate disruption (ACD). Perhaps it's necessary to first define consensus.

Merriam-Webster defines consensus as "a general agreement" or "the judgment arrived at by most of those concerned." Clearly, consensus does not mean unanimity. Nor is it normally understood to denote a simple (50% plus 1) majority. So, at what point does an opinion become "consensual"? At 75% of those qualified to speak on a particular matter? At 80%?

San Francisco, CA - The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) today filed an unprecedented lawsuit in the U.S. Federal District Court in San Francisco to hold the United States government accountable for its flagrant violations of the international nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The small island nation, once used as a testing ground for nuclear bombs, says the United States has repeatedly broken its promise to pursue the abolition of nuclear weapons. Article VI of the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires the U.S. to pursue negotiations "in good faith" for an end to the nuclear arms race "at an early date" and for nuclear disarmament.