Friday, 03 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.

Plutocracy and its Discontents

Shortly after the 2014 mid-term election, Fred Wertheimer, President of the reform group, Democracy 21, wrote in his Huffington Post article, "A Call to Arms", that "In 1789, the Founding Fathers created a constitutional system of government by the People. In 2010, five Supreme Court Justices – Roberts, Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas and Alito – changed it to a constitutional system of government by millionaires, billionaires and corporations." Wertheimer's article portrays a new system where the systemic corruption of elections has been defined away so that the corporate CEOs and the plutocratic few who fund elections exercise so much influence that they, not the people, rule. Referring to the congressional elections he wrote:

Never has so much money from so few people been so pervasive in our congressional elections. Never has so much money in huge contributions, corporate funds and secret donations flooded our congressional elections and created so much opportunity for buying and selling. Never has the foundational principle of one person one vote been so undermined by a Supreme Court majority that apparently believes money is king.

Obama made some pretty impressive promises before he was president. If you're still an apologist for his administration, then you aren't paying attention. Here are the facts! 

The state of the juvenile correction system in America is dreadfully lacking in effectiveness and is increasing in population year-over-year. The US has the highest youth incarceration rate in the world with 336 juvenile incarcerations per 100,000 youth – nearly five times as many as the second highest country.

If you were to believe the tabloid hype around Davos you might be forgiven for thinking it’s a giant party where elite business types meet celebrities and dole out a few quid to the less fortunate of the world while cheering their good fortune. There is another side, and there is genuine value for science and scientists in the middle of this icy melting pot.

As a busy academic working on the oceans I had been peripherally aware of Davos but had never really engaged with the World Economic Forum (WEF). Like me, many environmental scientists have experienced the financial world only through the squeeze on national science budgets as a result of the global economic crisis. However, to be asked to attend the WEF on the behalf of the University of Oxford was an honour, although for many of us this is a demanding time of year in terms of teaching, dealing with graduate applications, writing references … you get the picture. So the question is, was it worth it?

Former Army Ranger Rory Fanning has a thoughtful article at TomDispatch.com on why young men should not join the Army to fight the war on terror in distant lands.

Here’s an excerpt:

Believe me, it [the Afghan War] was ugly. We were often enough targeting innocent people based on bad intelligence and in some cases even seizing Afghans who had actually pledged allegiance to the US mission… I know now that if our country’s leadership had truly had peace on its mind, it could have all been over in Afghanistan in early 2002.

A quarter century after the end of the Cold War and decades after the signing of landmark nuclear arms control and disarmament agreements, are the US and Russian governments once more engaged in a potentially disastrous nuclear arms race with one another? It certainly looks like it.

With approximately 15,000 nuclear weapons between them, the United States and Russia already possess about 93 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenal, thus making them the world’s nuclear hegemons. But, apparently, like great powers throughout history, they do not consider their vast military might sufficient, especially in the context of their growing international rivalry.

When I was growing up, I remember a saying that was used to describe the behavior of persons who were so cocky that they did really dumb things—"He's so smart, he's stupid".

I thought of this expression when I heard Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, announce that he had invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress in order to challenge President Obama's handling of "the grave threats of radical Islam and Iran".

My nephew, Charles Goodridge, was killed by an off duty policeman in Texas this past summer. Charles' killing is not an uncommon occurrence. A policeman kills a black person every 28 hours. Because of my loss, hurt and anger, I am drawn to write this piece.

People have responded to these injustices by protesting to express their justified anger and rage. Some protests have gotten unruly and led to burning and looting. The media and so-called spokespeople for the injured parties implore us to remain calm and not burn and riot. Violence gets us nowhere and leaves our neighborhoods in ashes. We must remain calm.

OK.  I should know better.  When you pay attention to what conservatives are saying at the Iowa Freedom Forum, attended as it is by religious activists, you’re going to hear kookiness and craziness.  But what’s sad is how the “red meat” issues raised by the likes of Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, and Rick Santorum are so devoid of nutritional value.  Empty calories, all of it.

You hear the usual talk about lower taxes and less governmental regulation, even though Republicans under Reagan and the Bushes (along with the Democrats as well) oversaw expansions in government.  George H.W. Bush famously said, “Read my lips — no new taxes,” before proceeding to raise taxes once he became president.  Along with lower taxes and smaller government, Republicans also claim to support “family values,” a vapid phrase that basically means whatever you want to read into it.  I’m not a fan of Obama’s priorities and policies, but one thing I can say for the man is that his life, his wife, and his teenage girls have exuded family values, Thanksgiving controversy or no.

The existence of nuclear weapons makes Armageddon possible. If there were no nuclear weapons on the planet, the human race would have a dire threat lifted and could focus on the other, less instantaneous, threats to the survival of our species.

In certain cops and robbers films, a scene arises when protagonists are lined up opposite each other, both factions pointing weapons at their opponents. Obviously this is a highly risky scenario which typically ends badly - in a bloodbath. One of the protagonists decides he can win if he fires first; a passing waiter drops a tray of glasses and a gunman thinks the shooting has started; someone can't stand the tension, panics, and starts the slaughter. Occasionally, sanity prevails and everyone carefully puts down their weapons. Such a confrontation is the posture adopted on a nuclear scale by our leaders to make us feel safe! All the nuclear states resist an agreement to give up their nuclear weapons. In fact, they are all renewing them.

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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.

Plutocracy and its Discontents

Shortly after the 2014 mid-term election, Fred Wertheimer, President of the reform group, Democracy 21, wrote in his Huffington Post article, "A Call to Arms", that "In 1789, the Founding Fathers created a constitutional system of government by the People. In 2010, five Supreme Court Justices – Roberts, Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas and Alito – changed it to a constitutional system of government by millionaires, billionaires and corporations." Wertheimer's article portrays a new system where the systemic corruption of elections has been defined away so that the corporate CEOs and the plutocratic few who fund elections exercise so much influence that they, not the people, rule. Referring to the congressional elections he wrote:

Never has so much money from so few people been so pervasive in our congressional elections. Never has so much money in huge contributions, corporate funds and secret donations flooded our congressional elections and created so much opportunity for buying and selling. Never has the foundational principle of one person one vote been so undermined by a Supreme Court majority that apparently believes money is king.

Obama made some pretty impressive promises before he was president. If you're still an apologist for his administration, then you aren't paying attention. Here are the facts! 

The state of the juvenile correction system in America is dreadfully lacking in effectiveness and is increasing in population year-over-year. The US has the highest youth incarceration rate in the world with 336 juvenile incarcerations per 100,000 youth – nearly five times as many as the second highest country.

If you were to believe the tabloid hype around Davos you might be forgiven for thinking it’s a giant party where elite business types meet celebrities and dole out a few quid to the less fortunate of the world while cheering their good fortune. There is another side, and there is genuine value for science and scientists in the middle of this icy melting pot.

As a busy academic working on the oceans I had been peripherally aware of Davos but had never really engaged with the World Economic Forum (WEF). Like me, many environmental scientists have experienced the financial world only through the squeeze on national science budgets as a result of the global economic crisis. However, to be asked to attend the WEF on the behalf of the University of Oxford was an honour, although for many of us this is a demanding time of year in terms of teaching, dealing with graduate applications, writing references … you get the picture. So the question is, was it worth it?

Former Army Ranger Rory Fanning has a thoughtful article at TomDispatch.com on why young men should not join the Army to fight the war on terror in distant lands.

Here’s an excerpt:

Believe me, it [the Afghan War] was ugly. We were often enough targeting innocent people based on bad intelligence and in some cases even seizing Afghans who had actually pledged allegiance to the US mission… I know now that if our country’s leadership had truly had peace on its mind, it could have all been over in Afghanistan in early 2002.

A quarter century after the end of the Cold War and decades after the signing of landmark nuclear arms control and disarmament agreements, are the US and Russian governments once more engaged in a potentially disastrous nuclear arms race with one another? It certainly looks like it.

With approximately 15,000 nuclear weapons between them, the United States and Russia already possess about 93 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenal, thus making them the world’s nuclear hegemons. But, apparently, like great powers throughout history, they do not consider their vast military might sufficient, especially in the context of their growing international rivalry.

When I was growing up, I remember a saying that was used to describe the behavior of persons who were so cocky that they did really dumb things—"He's so smart, he's stupid".

I thought of this expression when I heard Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, announce that he had invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress in order to challenge President Obama's handling of "the grave threats of radical Islam and Iran".

My nephew, Charles Goodridge, was killed by an off duty policeman in Texas this past summer. Charles' killing is not an uncommon occurrence. A policeman kills a black person every 28 hours. Because of my loss, hurt and anger, I am drawn to write this piece.

People have responded to these injustices by protesting to express their justified anger and rage. Some protests have gotten unruly and led to burning and looting. The media and so-called spokespeople for the injured parties implore us to remain calm and not burn and riot. Violence gets us nowhere and leaves our neighborhoods in ashes. We must remain calm.

OK.  I should know better.  When you pay attention to what conservatives are saying at the Iowa Freedom Forum, attended as it is by religious activists, you’re going to hear kookiness and craziness.  But what’s sad is how the “red meat” issues raised by the likes of Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, and Rick Santorum are so devoid of nutritional value.  Empty calories, all of it.

You hear the usual talk about lower taxes and less governmental regulation, even though Republicans under Reagan and the Bushes (along with the Democrats as well) oversaw expansions in government.  George H.W. Bush famously said, “Read my lips — no new taxes,” before proceeding to raise taxes once he became president.  Along with lower taxes and smaller government, Republicans also claim to support “family values,” a vapid phrase that basically means whatever you want to read into it.  I’m not a fan of Obama’s priorities and policies, but one thing I can say for the man is that his life, his wife, and his teenage girls have exuded family values, Thanksgiving controversy or no.

The existence of nuclear weapons makes Armageddon possible. If there were no nuclear weapons on the planet, the human race would have a dire threat lifted and could focus on the other, less instantaneous, threats to the survival of our species.

In certain cops and robbers films, a scene arises when protagonists are lined up opposite each other, both factions pointing weapons at their opponents. Obviously this is a highly risky scenario which typically ends badly - in a bloodbath. One of the protagonists decides he can win if he fires first; a passing waiter drops a tray of glasses and a gunman thinks the shooting has started; someone can't stand the tension, panics, and starts the slaughter. Occasionally, sanity prevails and everyone carefully puts down their weapons. Such a confrontation is the posture adopted on a nuclear scale by our leaders to make us feel safe! All the nuclear states resist an agreement to give up their nuclear weapons. In fact, they are all renewing them.