Saturday, December 26, 2015

End of the Year Dreams


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Here is a sampling of the type of news you can find there. It has been a main source of information for me since ever since. Here is a sample of the news you can find there from just the past week. 


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'Whatever It Takes': Okinawa Sues Tokyo in Effort to Block US Base

Prefecture's governor vows to take anything necessary to block construction of American military camp
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Okinawa officials on Friday filed a lawsuit against the central Japanese government in a new bid to block the slated construction of a U.S. military base in the prefecture's Henoko region.
"We will do whatever it takes to stop the new Henoko base," Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga said during a press conference Friday. "Okinawa's argument is legitimate, and I believe that it will be certainly understood."

Residents and officials charge that the Japanese government's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism illegally intervened in Onaga's order earlier this year that halted preliminary work on the base. The prefecture said that the ministry acted unlawfully when it suspended Onaga's permit cancellation for work needed to move the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to its slated spot in Henoko.

The legal challenge is the latest effort to block the continued militarization of the southern Japanese island, which has long served as home base for more than half of the 50,000 American military service members in Japan, as well as over two-thirds of U.S. bases in the country. In late October, hundreds of Okinawa residents, largely elders, linked arms and physically blocked vehicles transporting building materials to the base.

"Don't the people of Okinawa have sovereignty?" one protester, 70-year-old Katsuhiro Yoshida, told Japanese paper The Asahi Shimbun at the time. "This reminds me of the scenes of rioting against the U.S. military before Okinawa was returned to Japan (in 1972). Now we are facing off against our own government. It is so contemptible."

Residents have long expressed anger and frustration over the crime and pollution they say comes along with the presence of foreign troops.

"Democracy and local self-determination in Japan are in severe condition," Onaga, who was elected on an anti-base platform, said Friday. "We want the rest of the world to know how the Japan-U.S. security treaty is affecting us."

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War is Over! - If You Want It: Christmas Celebrates Nonviolence

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“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?” That’s the question which John Lennon puts to us in his famous Christmas song. In the chorus, he gets right to the point, to the heart of Christmas: “War is over, if you want it.”

For some, that might seem like a leap of faith, but I think John Lennon’s theology was better than most. If you want to celebrate Christmas, he says, work for the end of war and the culture of war. Spend your life pursuing a new culture of peace for everyone.

Christmas celebrates the birth of the most active person of nonviolence in the history of the world, as Gandhi once described Jesus. In the Gospel account of Jesus’ birth to homeless refugees, angels announce to poor shepherds the coming of peace on earth. He grew up to become a great peacemaker, a nonviolent activist who denounced war and systemic injustice and offered the gift of peace to everyone near and far.
The life of Jesus is a record of pure, radical nonviolence, like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught the methodology and vision of nonviolence--“Offer no violent resistance to one who does evil,” “Love your enemies,” “Hunger and thirst for justice,” “Blessed are the peacemakers.” He formed a community of nonviolent resisters and organized a grassroots movement of nonviolence to disarm everyone. He led his campaign of nonviolence from the countryside to Jerusalem where he engaged in dramatic nonviolent civil disobedience and was immediately arrested and killed. But he lived on in the community and the movement, and that creative nonviolence continues today.

To claim the name of Christian is to be a practitioner of Gospel nonviolence. To celebrate the birth of the nonviolent Jesus is to do our part in his ongoing grassroots movement of nonviolence to welcome the gift of peace on earth. “War is over,” Jesus announced. “Peace is yours, if you want it. Get involved and join the movement of nonviolence.”

To be a Christian is to renounce every trace of violence and carry on Jesus’ grassroots movement of Gospel nonviolence. It is to see life through the eyes of peace, and the nonviolent struggle for peace on earth. It means renouncing our own violence and our complicity in the culture of violence. We get rid of our guns, stop supporting the military, serve the poor, welcome the refugee, advocate for justice, and work for disarmament. It means upholding a whole new vision of shared humanity, a whole new world of nonviolence.

What’s so interesting is that more than a hundred years ago, Gandhi discovered that every religion is rooted in nonviolence. He realized that nonviolence lay at the heart of Hinduism. With his friend Abdul Gaffer Khan, he learned that nonviolence was central to Islam. His Jewish friends taught him that shalom/nonviolence was key to Judaism. Buddhism, he saw, places nonviolence in the air we breathe. And he began reading the Sermon on the Mount every day and found there what he considered the best blueprint of nonviolence ever written.

We all need to rediscover the nonviolence at the heart of every spiritual tradition. That will help us discern the prejudice and false claims we hear these days. It will also help us pursue a new culture of interfaith nonviolence.

But Christians first and foremost need to rediscover their nonviolence. We have not just ignored the nonviolence of Jesus; we have outright rejected it and mocked it. In its place, we have created cults of violence that have nothing to do with the nonviolent Jesus. In the name of the false gods of war, we justify
Each year, Christmas invites Christians to reject violence and war, to break with the betrayal of past Christian history, and to start over again on the journey of nonviolence in the footsteps of the nonviolent Jesus.

Christmas is a celebration of nonviolence, pure and simple. It invites us to repent of violence and choose once again Jesus’ way of nonviolence. It summons us to name warfare as obsolete and get on with the work of practicing nonviolence in our personal lives; joining the global grassroots movement of nonviolence for disarmament and justice; and institutionalizing nonviolent conflict resolution.
Christmas calls us to a high ideal: the abolition of war itself, and along with it, the abolition of poverty, corporate greed, racism, executions, empire, fascism, nuclear weapons, and environmental destruction. This goal is achievable, if we want it.

That’s the message of Christmas. Peace is ours, if we want it. John Lennon was right. So were Gandhi and Dr. King. We, too, can side with the voices and visionaries of peace and do our part to hasten the abolition of war and injustice and the coming of a new world of nonviolence.

That’s a goal, a vision, a way of life worth celebrating.

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The Trans-Pacific Trade Scam

Despite what President Obama says, the TPP does indeed create a corporate end run around our laws.

Last spring, President Barack Obama got downright crabby about people criticizing the mammoth Trans-Pacific Partnership he’s trying to sell to Congress and the public.

More and more Americans are learning that the TPP would undermine America’s very sovereignty, giving multinational corporations direct access to secretive tribunals that could roll back any consumer, labor, or environmental laws that global corporate giants don’t like.

Yet an irked Obama denies that this is true: “They’re making this stuff up,” he cried. “No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.”

Perhaps he was misinformed. Perhaps he hasn’t actually read the deal he’s pushing. Or — dare we say it? — perhaps he’s lying.

In unmistakable language, the TPP does indeed create the private, corporate-run mechanism for changing our laws. Moreover, surely Obama knows that foreign corporations are already doing this indirectly.

Through little-known provisions in past trade scams, powerful corporations in other countries have pressured their governments to challenge our laws in similar tribunals.

From Canada to Malaysia, many countries have — on behalf of their corporate powers — successfully forced Congress and U.S. agencies to weaken or eliminate everything from environmental protections to consumer right-to-know laws.

In fact, this very year, Obama’s own administration has been told by the World Trade Organization that it must alter or repeal America’s laws on labeling foreign agricultural products.

This TPP flimflam would elevate profiteering corporations to the legal status of sovereign nations, empowering them to sue directly in rigged corporate courts “to force us to change our laws.” Obama knows this—and if he doesn’t, he should.

Either way, it destroys his presidential credibility and moral authority to keep pushing this giveaway of our people’s sovereignty.

National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.

 
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Happy Holidays, Super PACs: FEC Removes Yet Another Block Against Dark Money

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Little-noticed rule allows candidates to solicit money for super PACs as long as it's done in a small meeting
 
The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) has quietly released a new advisory opinion that will make it even easier for candidates and their staffers to solicit for super PACs donations.

The opinion states that candidates can ask for funds from donors as long as they are meeting in small groups—as small as three people, according to the Washington Post, which first reported on the story Thursday.

In addition, campaign staffers and consultants will be allowed to solicit large donations for a super PAC as long as they make clear they were not directed to do so by the candidate, the Post's Matea Gold reports.

Gold continues:
Federal candidates are still not permitted to explicitly ask a donor to give more than $5,000 to a super PAC. But the latest decision means that an elected official or candidate can meet privately with just one wealthy donor and one super PAC operative to discuss fundraising for the group, said Ellen Weintraub, one of two Democrats on the six-member panel who opposed loosening the rules.
All that is required under the guidelines is a written invitation, a formal program and a disclaimer that the candidate is appearing as a “special guest” who is not soliciting large checks.
 
 
The new rules further blur the lines between candidates seeking public office and the private entities that fund their election campaigns, removing yet more safeguards against political malfeasance and raising new transparency concerns. According to the Postthe opinion came in response to a request from two Democratic super PACs, including one with ties to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev).

"This is actually very dangerous if you’re worried about corruption, the notion that these kind of small back-room meetings can take place," Weintraub told the Post. "The fewer people you have in the room, the fewer protections you have against something unsavory happening."

FEC's opinion, largely unnoticed since it was offered in November, comes after years of criticism from throughout the progressive sphere over the agency's weak enforcement of campaign finance rules that have become precious since the Supreme Court in 2010 ruled in favor of corporate dark money interests in Citizens United v. FEC. In October, a coalition of activists and organizations released a letter slamming the agency's weak enforcement of those rules and calling on commissioners to simply do their jobs.

"Today's flood of dark money in federal elections via both electioneering communications and independent expenditures is almost wholly the creation of the Federal Election Commission and the Commission should take responsibility for correcting this problem," the letter stated.

The cost of the 2016 election cycle is expected to top $10 billion. The coalition, which includes Public Citizen, Friends of the Earth, and the Center for Media and Democracy, called on the FEC to, among other things, "update its coordination rule to ensure that unregulated super PACs and other outside electioneering groups are truly independent of candidate and party committees."
 

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