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.
Part I - A Problem with a History
The problem of special interests or lobbies was one of the foremost concerns of the Founding Fathers of the United States. In their day they were called factions. James Madison, who is considered the architect of the US Constitution, devoted the entire tenth Federalist Paper (1787) to the problem. He defined a faction as “a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority … actuated by some common … interest, adverse to … the aggregate interests of the community,” and believed that within the context of liberal republicanism, they could never be eliminated. However, he did feel they could be controlled. To this end he sought to create representative bodies with high numbers of delegates and a wide diversity of interests in the hope that they would counterbalance each other.
Angels by the River: A Memoir by James Gustave Speth is pleasantly written but painful to read. Speth knew about the dangers of global warming before the majority of today's climate change deniers were born. He was an advisor to President Jimmy Carter and advised him and the public to address the matter before it became a crisis.
Carter and the US capital of his day weren't about to take the sort of action needed. Remember, Carter was despised for a speech promoting green energy and celebrated for a speech declaring that the United States would always go to war over Middle Eastern oil. Ronald Reagan and his followers (in every sense) Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama wouldn't come within 10 miles of a reasonable approach to climate. But Speth has spent the decades since the Carter administration trying to maintain a career within the system, a choice that he acknowledges has required compromises. Now he's pushing for radical change and takes himself to be a radical because he was arrested at the White House opposing a tar sands pipeline.
Corporate agribusiness interests, the largest users of federal and state water project water exported through the Delta pumping facilities, have donated a total of $850,000 to the Yes on Prop. 1 campaign. The California Farm Bureau Federation contributed $250,000 and the Western Growers Service Association donated $250,000.
Stewart Resnick, the Beverly Hills agribusiness tycoon, owner of Paramount Farms and largest orchard fruit grower in the world, contributed $150,000 and the California Cotton Alliance contributed $200,000 to the Yes on Prop. 1 campaign.
Seattle's Garfield High School has once again moved into collective struggle!–and we may to find out today if one of us is to be displaced from the building or if the power of protest has kept us safe from the budget-cut ax for now.
The Seattle School District announced on Friday, October 17, that Garfield High School would be forced to cut and transfer one teacher in a core subject area by Friday, October 24—or come up with $92,000. But on Thursday October 23, almost the entire building emptied in a mass walkout of students and educators against the budget cuts and has so far convinced the district to delay the cut.
Okay, there are a few hundred people who believe that the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars pocketed by CEOs reflect their worth in the market. (And most of those people write for newspapers or teach in business schools.) The rest understand that CEOs get incredibly rich by being able to rip off the companies that they supposedly work for. This is because the rules are rigged to give them effective control over the company.
Gretchen Morgenson has a good piece explaining one way in which CEOs and other top management rig the deck. Her column today talks about a Delaware court ruling that allows companies to write by-laws that make shareholders pay the company's legal cost if they lose a case filed against the company. For example, this could mean that if shareholders sued a company because it rewrote the strike price on options given to an incompetent CEO, and then lost the case, then the shareholders would have to pay the company's legal expenses.(Most U.S. companies are chartered in Delaware, so this ruling makes a big difference.)
Trenton—Advocates across the state have launched a campaign to support Public Question No. 1 on November 4th. Public Question No. 1 asks voters to change the New Jersey Constitution to give judges the ability to deny bail to dangerous suspects and will usher in comprehensive bail reform in New Jersey.
The proposed Constitutional Amendment also authorizes the Legislature to pass laws to operationalize the amendment—an important action that the Legislature has already accomplished. At the same time that the Legislature passed the resolution to put the bail reform question to the voters, it also passed, with bi-partisan support, groundbreaking legislation to comprehensively reform New Jersey's broken bail system. This legislation only goes into effect if the Constitutional amendment on the ballot wins a majority on November 4th.
A UN body that tracks forced disappearance has reiterated its call to Yemen to produce a US citizen who has been missing from a prison in the country for nearly nine months.
Sharif Mobley, a father of two from New Jersey, was last seen by lawyers from legal charity Reprieve on 27 February 2014, as he awaited trial at Sana'a's central prison. When they returned three weeks later, they were told that Mr Mobley had been transferred to another, secret location. All attempts by Mr Mobley's family and lawyers to trace him have since failed.
California's Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) just published a draft plan that would allow the CDFA to spray any pesticide anywhere, at any time, for any pest, with no opportunity for public input – indefinitely.
Under the guise of its mandated mission to prevent the introduction and spread of injurious insect pests, plant diseases and noxious weeds in California, this overarching, dictatorial proposal is clearly an insidious covert ploy to overtly destroy organic farming in the state of California, an egregious assault on public health and a racket. It is an irresponsible, unconscionable mandate for chemical toxin industrial manufacturers to sell and apply poisons - cancer causing, pollinator- bird- and bee-killing pesticides and herbicides throughout the state of California, and a trial run to, if successful, apply the same toxic martial spraying laws across the entire United States.
As the Ebola outbreak continues to dominate headlines, so too do the stories of health care workers fighting to contain the disease. The climate crisis is morphing into a public health crisis, forcing nurses to join the ranks of other workers on the front lines of climate change: firefighters battling ever more destructive fires, farmers struggling to coax crops from drought-ravaged fields, fishermen hauling empty nets from warming waters. The nature of work is changing and we're not prepared.
For nurses, the risks became strikingly clear when news leaked out that Amber Vinson and Nina Pham, two nurses at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, had contracted Ebola while caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national infected with the disease. While both nurses thankfully recovered, their situation highlights nurses as a new generation of "climate workers" exposed to expanding dangers on the job.