Chris Hedges
Op-Ed

The public reaction to the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., exposes the shifting dynamic of rebellion and repression in the United States. Spontaneous uprisings against the lethal force routinely employed by militarized police units will probably not erupt at first out of the old epicenters of unrest—Watts, Detroit, Harlem, Newark and others—but suburban black communities such as Ferguson, near St. Louis. In most of these communities, the power structures remain in the hands of white minorities although the populations have shifted from white to black. Only three of the 53 commissioned officers in Ferguson’s police department are black. These conditions, which approximate the racial divides that set off urban riots in the 1960s, have the potential to trigger a new wave of racial unrest in economically depressed black suburbs, and perhaps later in impoverished inner cities, especially amid a stagnant economy, high incarceration and unemployment rates for blacks and the rewriting of laws to make police forces omnipotent. “We are headed into a period of increased social protest,” said Lawrence Hamm, one of the nation’s most important community organizers and the longtime chairman of the People’s Organization for Progress. POP, which has roughly 10,000 members, is based in Newark and has 13 chapters, most of them in New Jersey. I met with Hamm in a downtown coffee shop in Newark. Hamm said that the declining populations of primarily black cities—Newark, where he has spent most of his life as an organizer, has seen its population drop from 400,000 to about 250,000 in the last few decades—coupled with the election of black officials and the integration of blacks into police forces mean that the old centers of rebellion are less polarized.“The pendulum swung far to the right after 9/11. Now it is swinging back,” Hamm said. “Fear and paralysis gripped the country after 9/11 and the creation of our authoritarian police state. We are overcoming this fear. The rebellion in Ferguson was not planned. It was spontaneous. People said, ‘Enough.’ They struck out in the only way they knew how. All the other ways—and I have no doubt that the people in Ferguson and St. Louis, as we have, marched peacefully, sent letters and went to city council meetings to protest police violence—have proved ineffective. We will see other incidents like this one, but because of demographic changes these rebellions will occur in places that did not rebel previously.” “These [changes] helped to ameliorate the overt racism and will probably prevent a recurrence of open rebellion in these urban areas,” he said. “In cities like Newark you no longer have a blatant apartheid structure. This dynamic dampens, to a degree, the movement for social justice. It dampens the outrage. It dampens the ability to mount opposition to ongoing institutional racism and oppression. But we have suburbs around Newark [much like the St. Louis suburb] Ferguson that were once white and are now black and that replicate the racial power ...

The Disease of American Democracy
Robert Reich
Op-Ed

Americans are sick of politics. Only 13 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, a near record low. The President’s approval ratings are also in the basement. A large portion of the public doesn’t even bother voting. Only 57.5 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in the 2012 presidential election. Put simply, most Americans feel powerless, and assume the political game is fixed. So why bother? A new study scheduled to be published in this fall by Princeton’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern University’s Benjamin Page confirms our worst suspicions. Gilens and Page analyzed 1,799 policy issues in detail, determining the relative influence on them of economic elites, business groups, mass-based interest groups, and average citizens. Their conclusion: “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” Instead, lawmakers respond to the policy demands of wealthy individuals and monied business interests – those with the most lobbying prowess and deepest pockets to bankroll campaigns. Before you’re tempted to say “duh,” wait a moment. Gilens’ and Page’s data come from the period 1981 to 2002. This was before the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to big money in “Citizens United,” prior to SuperPACs, and before the Wall Street bailout. So it’s likely to be even worse now. But did the average citizen ever have much power? The eminent journalist and commentator Walter Lippman argued in his 1922 book “Public Opinion” that the broad public didn’t know or care about public policy. Its consent was “manufactured” by an elite that manipulated it. “It is no longer possible … to believe in the original dogma of democracy,” Lippman concluded. Yet American democracy seemed robust compared to other nations that in the first half of the twentieth century succumbed to communism or totalitarianism. Political scientists after World War II hypothesized that even though the voices of individual Americans counted for little, most people belonged to a variety of interest groups and membership organizations – clubs, associations, political parties, unions – to which politicians were responsive. “Interest-group pluralism,” as it was called, thereby channeled the views of individual citizens, and made American democracy function. What’s more, the political power of big corporations and Wall Street was offset by the power of labor unions, farm cooperatives, retailers, and smaller banks. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith approvingly dubbed it “countervailing power.” These alternative power centers ensured that America’s vast middle and working classes received a significant share of the gains from economic growth. Starting in 1980, something profoundly changed. It wasn’t just that big corporations and wealthy individuals became more politically potent, as Gilens and Page document. It was also that other interest groups began to wither. Grass-roots membership organizations ...

Op-Ed

Factory-style livestock production is a critical driver of agricultural industrialization. Its remorseless expansion is contributing to climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and human-rights violations – all to satisfy Western societies’ unhealthy appetite for cheap meat.

Europe and the United States were the largest meat consumers in the twentieth century, with the average person eating 60-90 kilograms (132-198 pounds) annually – far more than is required to meet humans’ nutritional needs. Though Western consumption rates are now stagnating and even declining in some regions, they remain far higher than in most other regions in the world.

Meanwhile, in emerging economies – especially the so-called BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) – members of the burgeoning middle class are changing their diets to resemble those of their rich-country counterparts. In the coming decades, as incomes continue to rise, so will demand for meat and dairy products.

To meet this demand, the world’s agribusiness firms will attempt to boost their annual meat output from 300 million tons today to 480 million tons by 2050, generating serious social challenges and ecological pressures at virtually every stage of the value chain (feed supply, production, processing, and retail).

One major problem with factory-style livestock production is that it leads to considerable greenhouse-gas emissions – and not just because the digestive processes of ruminant animals produce methane. The waste from the animals, together with the fertilizers and pesticides used to produce feed, generate large quantities of nitrogen oxides.

Indeed, the factory model implies significant land-use change and deforestation, beginning with the production of feed. As it stands, about one-third of existing agricultural land is used for feed production, with the total share used for livestock production, including grazing, amounting to about 70%.

With expanded meat consumption, soybean production alone would nearly double, implying a proportional increase in the use of inputs like land, fertilizer, pesticides, and water. Increased crop diversion to feed livestock will put upward pressure on food and land prices, making it increasingly difficult for the world’s poor to meet their basic nutritional needs.

Making matters worse, the shift from mixed-use or indigenous systems of raising livestock to large-scale operations jeopardizes rural livelihoods, particularly in developing countries. Pastoralists, small producers, and independent farmers simply cannot compete with low retail prices that fail to account for the industry’s true environmental and health costs. And the industrial livestock system, with its low wages and poor health and safety standards, does not provide a good alternative for ...

Neither Imitate Nor Hate
Micah White
News Report

As righteous people, how can we live in a world that is poisonous to our souls, harmful to our minds and at odds with our ideals? Common sense counsels us that we have only two options: either imitate or hate the world. But if we remain stuck within this binary opposition, we will lose ourselves: if we imitate the world we sacrifice our spirit; if we hate the world we succumb to being reactionary and lose the positive passion that grounds our affirmation. What then can we do? This is the question that Seneca, the great Stoic sage, posed nearly two millennia ago. And his answer speaks to today’s struggle of being true to oneself in a corporatist society. Roman imperial culture was as ruinous to Seneca’s ideals as endgame corporatism is to ours. In a well-known letter to his friend Lucilius, Seneca writes that exposure to crowds and the entertainment they consume ought to be avoided because within the crowd we lose our inner resolve for living a good life. “To consort with the crowd is harmful,” Seneca writes in Letter VII of Epistulae morales ad Lucilium, “[because] there is no person who does not make some vice attractive to us, or stamp it upon us, or taint us unconsciously therewith. Certainly, the greater the mob with which we mingle, the greater the danger.” To prove his point, Seneca tells of his experience watching a gladiator death-match and returning home feeling “more greedy, more ambitious, more voluptuous and even more cruel and inhuman” than before. In our era, Seneca’s observation will often be rejected on the presumption that his critique of mass culture is based on an aristocratic or antidemocratic philosophy. Proponents of this position will argue that Seneca’s dislike of crowds is due only to a prejudice toward common people and that his position is therefore not worthy of consideration. But this argument misses the deep philosophical insight that Seneca opens for us—there is a correlation between the culture that surrounds us and our inner life. If Seneca is correct then each of us has a legitimate reason to be concerned about involuntary exposure to violence, pornography, and lies because these cultural forms are destructive to our spirit. In other words, Seneca’s stoic philosophy provides another way to understand spiritual insurrection. The pressing concern is how to resist the dominant culture in such a way that our ideals remain intact and our will to fight stays strong. And it is on this question that Seneca is most articulate. For Seneca, we must be on our guard at all times. He writes: “much harm is done by a single case of indulgence or greed; the familiar friend, if he be luxurious, weakens and softens us imperceptibly; the neighbor, if he be rich, rouses our covetousness; the companion, if he be slanderous, rubs off some of his rust upon us, even though we be spotless and sincere. What then do you think the effect will be on ...

Jim Hightower
Op-Ed

And the meter is still running. The Pentagon, White House and Congress intend to keep a contingent of soldiers and trainers in both countries for the foreseeable future, plus provide more billions of our tax dollars to both countries for building their infrastructure and education systems. Meanwhile, a trillion dollars and so many American lives later, Iraq is in chaos and falling apart, and Afghanistan is mired in corruption and facing a Taliban takeover.

And — ready or not — here we go again. Our military has been hurled back into the chaos of Iraq. Apparently, "Mission Accomplished" is "Mission Never-ending."

We're told that, for now, America will provide only jet fighters, drones, weaponry, humanitarian airdrops, military advice, training — and, of course, our money — to the cause of making this unworkable country work. At least President Obama has put his foot down and sensibly pledged that there will be no American "boots on the ground."

However, in the politics of Iraq, don't count on "sensible" surviving the chaos. The Shia-Sunni-Kurdish divide still rages on there, now exacerbated by the theocratic Islamic State's sudden sadistic invasion. Plus, Iraq's former prime minister (a corrupt autocrat who our foreign policy geniuses installed during the disastrous Bush-Cheney reign of errors) was so detested by practically everyone that the parliament dumped him. However, he added slapstick to Iraq's chaos by desperately trying to cling to power, finally having to be almost physically hauled away.

But the least sensible factor affecting Iraq is our own red-faced, militaristic, warmongering members of Congress, demanding that we must go to war. For example, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham is filled with bloodlust over the ferocious rise of the Islamic State in Iraq, so he says we have no choice but to return there to destroy the fanatics.

Of course, by "we," congressional warriors like Lindsey don't mean them, their loved ones or anyone else they actually know.

Since the end of World War II, practically every American president, backed by Congress, has sent our troops to die in wars of lies and political flimflam. From Vietnam to Grenada to Iraq, our soldiers have been in senseless wars nearly non-stop for 70 years. It's time to tell the perennial political sword-rattlers that they should wield the swords themselves. War is hell ... and this one is stupid.

 

VOICES FOR CHANGE

What We've Paid for War and Afghanistan and Iraq
Jim Hightower
"

War is Hell.Major General Harold Greene could certainly tell you all about that — but, sadly, he's dead. On Aug. 5, General Green became the highest-ranking American soldier ...

" ::
Rebellion in Ferguson: A Rising Heat in the Suburbs
Chris Hedges
"

The public reaction to the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., exposes the shifting dynamic of ...

" ::
The Disease of American Democracy
Robert Reich
"

Americans are sick of politics. Only 13 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, a near record low. The President’s approval ratings are also in the basement.

" ::
Nestle/Gerber Won’t Listen: Boycott the Company Who Puts GMO Bt Toxins in Baby Food
Christina Sarich
"

Like many food producers supplying some of the most popular foods, some baby food companies, such as Purity Brands, are going GMO-free due to public demand. But other companies stuffed with the hot air of their own inflated CEO’s egos refuse – Nestlé International, the parent company of both Nestlé USA and Gerber baby foods – is adamant ...

" ::
How to Bypass Mega Grocery Chains and Buy Direct from Organic Farms
Christina Sarich
"

There are three reasons that Big Ag can’t compete with the small farm in the long-term:

  • Research at the land grant universities in the United States is often 

" ::
The Carnage of Capitalism
Paul Buchheit
"

Capitalism is expanding like a tumor in the body of American society, spreading further into vital areas of human need like health and education.

" ::
Rampant: Monsanto’s RoundUp Causing Deformities, Infertility
Christina Sarich
"

In January of this year, Natural Society reported on a Danish farmer’s plea for other keepers of livestock to stop giving their pigs, cattle, and other animals GMO feed because it was causing serious ...

" ::
Ranting About Robin Williams, Limbaugh Exposes a Hole in His Own Soul
Joe Conason
"

Having infuriated millions of Robin Williams fans with insensitive remarks on the late actor's suicide, Rush Limbaugh now blames the "liberal media" and "despicable leftists" for distorting his innocent message.

" ::
John Boehner’s Kabuki Dance
Jim Hightower
"

If John Boehner is so worried about the president’s executive orders, why didn’t he sue George W. Bush?What a hoot to see House Speaker John Boehner up on his hind legs, braying like a goofy mule as he declares that by golly he’s filing a lawsuit against President Barack Obama for “aggressive unilateralism.” Or, was it unilateral ...

" ::
Is Corruption a Constitutional Right?
David Sirota
"

Wall Street is one of the biggest sources of funding for presidential campaigns, and many of the Republican Party's potential 2016 contenders are governors, from Chris Christie of New Jersey and Rick Perry of Texas to Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin. And so, last week, the GOP filed a federal lawsuit aimed ...

" ::

NOC BULLHORN

Gun Rights

Take action today and sign the petition telling Congress to update Second Amendment. Sign the petition.

Agriculture

Even more pollinations is likely to help farmers yield more flourishing bountiful food.

Human Rights

As protests continue in Ferguson, Missouri, residents of Gaza tweet tips to protesters in dealing with militarization of police.

Workers’ Rights

With more than 13 million restaurant workers in the U.S., most tipped employees are living below the poverty line, let’s get with the times and make a change.

Terror Suspect

Muslim Americans have filed a suit against the federal government for routinely adding their names to the Terror Screening database without their right to due process.

Human Rights

Female environmental activists are part of an international movement against environmental destruction.

Environment

City bike share programs are popping up in metropolitan areas nationwide and the cost benefit of these programs are huge.

Fracking

A small popular coastal city of Hermosa Beach in California is ready to stand up against called E&B Natural Resources Management in hopes of deterring them away from drilling in their town.

Human Rights

America’s youth do not usually have an outlet to express their opinions and solutions of world issues until now.

Environment

Deforestation rates are much lower in areas overseen by local communities rather than when overseen by governments or private entities.

Workers’ Rights

A New England supermarket chain is emerging as one of the most compelling labor fights of the summer as their employees and customers fight for workers rights.

Water

Water shortages continue to plague the world, but a new solar-powered device might be the answer to this global crisis.

Politics

His art work shows just how divided we are as a nation.

Environment

We can stop the illegal harvesting of sea turtles through ecotourism. Take action and sign the petition.

The Supreme Court

Join the dissent and stop CEOs in America from “forcing their personal beliefs on employees.” Take action and tell lawmakers to give females back control of their own bodies.

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