Wednesday, 02 September 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.

Jun 25

Medicare at 50: Strengths to Build On

By John Geyman, Truthout | Op-Ed

Traditional, or Original Medicare, turns 50 on July 30, having had many challenges and achievements from the days of its passage to today. It is time to celebrate its many successes, note some of its current challenges and threats to its future, and briefly discuss how it gives us a strong foundation upon which to build still-needed health care reform.

When it was enacted in 1965, about one-half of seniors in the U. S lacked health insurance, and many could not afford necessary health care. When it was passed with strong bipartisan support (313-116) in the House, and 70-24 in the Senate), 20 million Americans age 65 and older gained health insurance.

Fast track passes. Our Congress – the supposed representatives of We the People – voted to cut themselves and us out of the process of deciding what "the rules" for doing business "in the 21st Century" will be.

How do the plutocrats and oligarchs and their giant multinational corporations get what they want when a pesky democracy is in their way? They push that pesky democracy out of their way.

Jun 24

Peace Activists Relaunch Protest Ship

By Arnold Oliver, PeaceVoice | News Analysis

Along the rugged coast of northern California's Humboldt County, maritime history is being made. June 20th marked the launch ceremony of the rebuilt sailing ketch, the Golden Rule, after four years of hard work by a restoration team led by Veterans for Peace. As we shall see, the Golden Rule is no ordinary sailboat.

If you are old enough, you may recall that in the 1950's, the U.S. military used the Marshall Islands as the primary site for its atmospheric nuclear weapons testing. As is now known, those huge nuclear detonations in the Western Pacific were wreaking havoc on the environment and human health. In fact, with each monstrous explosion, readily detectable clouds of radioactive fallout wafted around the planet, and contamination began to turn up in cows' and mothers' milk. Increasingly, skepticism grew about government assurances that there was no danger.

Washington, DC – The dome was encased in a rigid web of scaffolding as I rushed by. Looking up at it on my way to the corner of Independence Avenue and New Jersey Avenue SE, I saw a country trying to hide a fatal illness. It's beyond repair, I mumbled to myself, thinking about the deep underlying rot I see everywhere I look.

Walking in the shadow of the Capitol Building in the day's rising heat, my ears were still ringing. Made uneasy by the inadequate yet intensifying public scrutiny faced by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the captive government agency that receives its funding from the very industry it purports to regulate, the rule-makers there no longer allow its outspoken critics inside the room where monthly public meetings are held. Instead, we're relegated to an overflow room where we have to watch the meeting's proceedings on a screen. That's where I'd just come from.

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.

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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.

Jun 25

Medicare at 50: Strengths to Build On

By John Geyman, Truthout | Op-Ed

Traditional, or Original Medicare, turns 50 on July 30, having had many challenges and achievements from the days of its passage to today. It is time to celebrate its many successes, note some of its current challenges and threats to its future, and briefly discuss how it gives us a strong foundation upon which to build still-needed health care reform.

When it was enacted in 1965, about one-half of seniors in the U. S lacked health insurance, and many could not afford necessary health care. When it was passed with strong bipartisan support (313-116) in the House, and 70-24 in the Senate), 20 million Americans age 65 and older gained health insurance.

Fast track passes. Our Congress – the supposed representatives of We the People – voted to cut themselves and us out of the process of deciding what "the rules" for doing business "in the 21st Century" will be.

How do the plutocrats and oligarchs and their giant multinational corporations get what they want when a pesky democracy is in their way? They push that pesky democracy out of their way.

Jun 24

Peace Activists Relaunch Protest Ship

By Arnold Oliver, PeaceVoice | News Analysis

Along the rugged coast of northern California's Humboldt County, maritime history is being made. June 20th marked the launch ceremony of the rebuilt sailing ketch, the Golden Rule, after four years of hard work by a restoration team led by Veterans for Peace. As we shall see, the Golden Rule is no ordinary sailboat.

If you are old enough, you may recall that in the 1950's, the U.S. military used the Marshall Islands as the primary site for its atmospheric nuclear weapons testing. As is now known, those huge nuclear detonations in the Western Pacific were wreaking havoc on the environment and human health. In fact, with each monstrous explosion, readily detectable clouds of radioactive fallout wafted around the planet, and contamination began to turn up in cows' and mothers' milk. Increasingly, skepticism grew about government assurances that there was no danger.

Washington, DC – The dome was encased in a rigid web of scaffolding as I rushed by. Looking up at it on my way to the corner of Independence Avenue and New Jersey Avenue SE, I saw a country trying to hide a fatal illness. It's beyond repair, I mumbled to myself, thinking about the deep underlying rot I see everywhere I look.

Walking in the shadow of the Capitol Building in the day's rising heat, my ears were still ringing. Made uneasy by the inadequate yet intensifying public scrutiny faced by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the captive government agency that receives its funding from the very industry it purports to regulate, the rule-makers there no longer allow its outspoken critics inside the room where monthly public meetings are held. Instead, we're relegated to an overflow room where we have to watch the meeting's proceedings on a screen. That's where I'd just come from.

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.