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The Green New Deal Promises Peace and Progress. Will Nuclear Advocates Undermine it?


Harvey Wasserman

With Thanks to The Progressive Magazine

The environmental policy centerpiece of the Democratic House of Representatives is what’s now known as “The Green New Deal.” But it’s already hit deeply polarizing pushback from the old-line Democratic leadership. And it faces divisive jockeying over the future of nuclear power.

The Green New Deal’s most visible public advocate, newly elected twenty-nine-year-old U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, has laid out a preliminary blueprint advocating an energy economy meant to be based entirely on “renewable” and “clean” sources. According to a report in The Hill, fossil fuels and nuclear power are “completely out” of her plan.

Harvey Wasserman September 15, 2018 photo by Kriss Perras

By Harvey Wasserman

The draft proposal has ignited tremendous grassroots enthusiasm, with massively favorable poll readings, even among some Republicans. Substantial grassroots pressure has grown on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to form a Green New Deal Committee chaired by Ocasio-Cortez.

But on December 20, the Democratic leadership announced it will not support a separate House Committee on the deal. Instead, it will proceed with a panel on climate change, to be chaired by Florida Representative Kathy Castor, who has taken substantial funding from the fossil fuel industry. It remains unclear whether Ocasio-Cortez will even get a seat on the committee.

“The draft proposal has ignited tremendous grassroots enthusiasm, with massively favorable poll readings, even among some Republicans. ” Harvey Wasserman

But the grassroots push for a Green New Deal is clearly not going to go away. The youthful Sunrise Movement has vowed to fight for it, along with a wide range of others, including Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, a likely 2020 presidential contender.

The Green New Deal idea conjures visions of the vast “alphabet agency” programs birthed by Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in the 1930s.

With unparalleled pageantry, New Deal Democrats put millions of Americans to work building roads, bridges, schools, libraries, museums, public swimming pools, local and national parks, and more. They proved that immense communal good could come from a solid government blueprint administered through a competent, well-orchestrated brain trust.

In contrast, the Trump Administration’s promise to deal with “infrastructure” has involved none of the above. While denying the disaster of climate change, its energy policies have focused purely on handing cheap fossil drilling leases on public land (and waters) to Trump cronies.

It’s also granted a $3.7 billion low-interest loan (added to $8.3 billion previously granted by President Obama) to private developers of the last two U.S. nuclear reactors under construction, at Vogtle, Georgia. Already years behind schedule and billions over budget, the project may soar beyond $20 billion and still never be finished.

The fate of the Vogtle plant underscores a nuclear war that will cut to the heart of the Green New Deal and the climate issue as it plays out in the new Congress.

Already, The New York Times, with its long history of reactor advocacy, has featured an op-ed by U.S. Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, advocating more nukes as a solution to the climate crisis. In an article running under a photo of a Chinese reactor under construction, Barrasso argues “nuclear energy is produced with zero carbon emissions.”

While denying the disaster of climate change, Trump energy policies have focused purely on handing cheap fossil drilling leases on public land (and waters) to Trump cronies.

In fact, nuclear reactors do emit trace quantities of radioactive Carbon-14. The fuel rods that power reactor are produced with significant carbon in mining, milling, and enrichment. They pump huge quantities of waste heat directly into the eco-sphere, operating far less efficiently even than coal burners. They yield large quantities of radioactive waste, directly related to nuke weapons production. And five of them (Chernobyl 4 and Fukushima 1-2-3-4) have blown up.

Reactor enthusiasts like Barrasso invariably conjure visions of a “new generation” of small, modular nukes, and other techno-variants like molten salt and thorium, alleged to be safe, cleaner and cheaper that the current fleet. But there are few tangible indications such alternative reactors can come on line anytime soon, or beat the price of wind and solar, which continue to plummet. The criticism that renewables are intermittent is also losing its sting as large-scale battery arrays are also dropping in price while rising in efficiency and capacity.

Barrasso also advocates the continued use of fossil fuels, with various pipeline-related schemes for storing and using the resultant CO2. “The United States and the world,” he says, “will continue to rely on affordable and abundant fossil fuels, including coal, to power our economies for decades to come.

These pro-nuke arguments are echoed even by some self-proclaimed supporters of the Green New Deal. According to a report from DataforEnergy, principally written by Greg Carlock, at least part of the Green New Deal should be powered by “clean sources such as nuclear and remaining fossil fuel with carbon capture.”

Such rhetoric will be tested by advocates characterizing atomic energy as “clean.” Their fight for new reactor funding may quickly engulf much of the Green New Deal debate.

So will the struggle over the 98 U.S. reactors still licensed to operate. As they age, they continue to deteriorate and embrittle. Opponents of nuclear power want them shut down before they explode; advocates argue that without them, more fossil fuels will be burned.

But such choices are made in corporate boardrooms, not even by the free market. Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), owner of two aging reactors near San Luis Obispo, has already admitted it could replace both with renewable energy while burning no more coal, oil, or gas. If Green New Deal activists are to make a dent in our aging nuclear fleet, they’ll have to make sure the slew of reactors about to close is replaced by renewables, not the fossil fuels the utilities still own and love.

Finally, along with nuke power, the question of how to fund the Deal will be center stage. Mainstream proposals will focus on a new range of taxes.

But outspoken peace groups like CODEPINK are eager to move the money out of the military and into the social/infrastructure programs that can rebuild the nation. High-profile campaigns led by activists including Jodie Evans and Medea Benjamin were integral to the shocking defection of seven Republican Senators to deny the Trump Administration funding to support the Saudi war in Yemen.

Activists must now argue the trillion-plus dollars we spend annually on arming the Empire should instead fund those wind turbines and solar panels at the heart of the Green New Deal.

Harvey Wasserman

Harvey “Sluggo” Wasserman’s prn.fm podcast is Green Power & Wellness. His show, California Solartopia broadcasts at KFPK-Pacifica 90.7FM Los Angeles. His books include the forthcoming The Life & Death Spiral of US History.

ON THE WEB:

http://prn.fm/


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What’s The Matter With Harvard?


Dorothy Reik

Special To Topanga Journal

When people think of Harvard they think of John F. Kennedy, not Henry Kissinger – but war criminal Kissinger, the architect of US regime change and genocide worldwide, is still on the faculty of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.  And the Koch Brothers are major funders of the School of Government named after JFK.   Is it any wonder that Sean Spicer, Corey Lewandowski and Betsy DeVos were offered visiting fellowships while the fellowship offer to Chelsea Manning – who might actually teach the students something – was withdrawn! 

Dorothy Reik, President of the Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains

By Dorothy Reik

There is, of course, a cabal of conservative professors encouraging these people along their paths to this radical right wing mindset – especially the sexist 85 year old Harvey Mansfield and economist Marty Feldman who is currently predicting a recession – about that he is probably right!  The others cited are Greg Makiw, Ruth Wisse and Peter Berkowitz.  How can five professors create so much chaos?  

“With these professors it’s no wonder Harvard graduates plenty of radically conservative wingnuts who “serve” in the Senate, the House and on the Supreme Court where they wreak havoc on the lives of women, children, the poor, the sick and anyone who is in need of help the government might provide.” Dorothy Reik

With these professors it’s no wonder Harvard graduates plenty of radically conservative wingnuts who “serve” in the Senate, the House and on the Supreme Court where they wreak havoc on the lives of women, children, the poor, the sick and anyone who is in need of help the government might provide. They think abortion is murder, ketchup is a vegetable and if you are sick and can’t afford care that is your personal problem. 

The most visible of the Senators is Ted Cruz who filibustered the Senate by reading Green Eggs and Ham in an effort to shut down the government to stop the Affordable Care Act. Everybody hates him except the voters of Texas!  Running a close second is Tom Cotton who is single handedly is trying to stop the criminal justice reform act that could finally come up for a vote in the Senate. They are joined by Senator Ben Sasse,  who said he would not support Trump – but then he did,  Pat Toomey who won the seat once held by Arlen Specter after failing to defeat him previously when he charged that Specter was not conservative enough and Mike Crapo whose name tells the whole story.

And then there is the Congress where we find David Vitter – the evangelical who consorted with prostitutes but was re-elected anyway in a precursor to the election of adulterer Donald Trump with evangelical support. He is joined by fellow Harvard alums and back benchers Dan Sullivan and Elise Stefanik.  

Finally we have to look at the Supreme Court where Harvard radicals follow the lead of the late Antonin Scalia, another proud Harvard alum. Right now we have Neil Gorsuch who ruled that a truck driver should die rather than abandon his rig to seek help, and John Roberts who oversaw the dismantling of Voting Rights Act. Nice going guys! 

But I would be remiss if I ended this article without mentioning Harvard’s latest investment – California water! Harvard is busy buying up low lying vineyards with lots of underground water – a good investment for their 39 billion dollar endowment!  Maybe that’s what’s wrong with Harvard – too much money! Stay tuned and pray for rain! 

ON THE WEB:

https://medium.com/@dorothyreik


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Revealing The Fringes Of Paris: Benoît Fougeirol’s Award Winning Book Zus


Special To Topanga Journal

The photographer of the award winning book Zus is Benoît Fougeirol. He is based in and around Paris. Zus was published by X Artists’ Books. The publishing company is a collaboration between actor and writer Keanu Reeves, Los Angeles-based artist and writer Alexandra Grant, designer Jessica Fleischmann and editor Florence Grant. X Artists’ Books is an independent publisher, versus a self publisher, or vanity press. The books coming out of this little press are of value and on engaging subjects.

Kriss Perras headshot by Alan Weissman

By Kriss Perras

Zus documents, via a sociological photographic essay, sensitive suburban zones, or ZUS, a French acronym for Les Zone urbaine sensible. These forgotten pockets are located on the peripheries of the major metropolis of Paris, France. The ZUS are documented on the book’s cover by what appear to be mere confetti dots. These fringe districts were defined by administrative boundaries brought about by the “emergence of a social problem,” reports X Artists’ Books.

Fougeirol’s. “realistic approach allowed the viewer to explore these territories…through his photographs without a judgmental, hierarchical or authoritarian point of view.”   ADAGP Jury

With the help of security, Fougeirol photographed these marginalized areas sometimes in wide aerial shots showing what appear to be successful housing zones and in other shots close details depicting the decay and frailty of the projects’ failures. The honest and shocking photos are of walled in housing units that seem to be of buildings that were previously architecturally beautiful. Once beyond the walls, we see doors with faded paint that appear permanently jarred open. Tastefully designed staircases are fenced in with wired gates. In another disconcerting visual, the ZUS are laid out like war zone maps inside the book. The photos portray an innate sadness, a sense society is tearing a certain segment of people apart from the main group and setting them into a fringe society. Zus is a photojournalistic investigation into these areas that makes the viewer wince, if you care at all about people.

According to writer and professor Jean-Christophe Bailly, whose essay accompanies Fougeirol’s images: “We [were] not expecting so much immobility, or such ruins. Strangely, and as if by a flourish of tragic irony, this emptiness of space brings to mind the Ideal City in Urbino. There, too, the anonymous painter omitted all human figures. But where the imaginary scene from the Quattrocento was offered as the theatre of an existence yet to come, the images of the real city, the images of the ZUS, come across as decaying segments of a bygone existence: ‘people lived here.'”

Zus was nominated for the 2018 Les Prix du Livre at Arles. Zus recently won the Third Edition of the 2018 ADAGP Revelation Artists Book Award. This was part of MAD (Multiple Art Days), France’s national association of graphic and fine artists (Société des Auteurs dans les Arts graphiques et plastiques). June marked the month where 20 artists’ books were selected for consideration for the ADAGP Revelation Artists’ Book Award, which would also be exhibited during the fair. It was announced September 13 that Fougeirol had won the ADAGP Revelation Artists Book Award. 

The ADAGP jury stated Zus had, “renewed the approach to how the [Parisian] banlieues are represented.” The jury also stated Fougeirol’s. “realistic approach allowed the viewer to explore these territories…through his photographs without a judgmental, hierarchical or authoritarian point of view. The open configuration of the edition itself is free to be explored and leads to a sense of discovery of places so radically determined by their architecture they are almost impossible to access in real life. (Zus) is an edition to read, to leaf through, to unfold, to display, in short, to discover even while it captures the volatility of the ZUS.” 

The limited edition of Zus is in the collections of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Centre Georges Pompidou and the Bibliothèque d’Art et d’Archéologie, Genève. The limited edition sold for $900 each, and as of the writing of this article is sold out. 

The paperback edition of Zus is 9 ½ × 12 inches and 375 pages. It can be purchased from X Artist’ Books for $60.

ON THE WEB:

https://www.xartistsbooks.com/books/zus

http://www.multipleartdays.fr


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Martin Sheen Gives Impassioned Speech At Malibu Topanga Families Belong Together Immigration Rally


Special To Topanga Journal

Saturday about 100 people were in Malibu joining forces with the nationwide Families Belong Together immigration rallies, organized by MoveOn.org, and locally by Reverend Paul Elder of the St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Malibu. There were handmade signs voicing support for the children locked in cages in the immigration child detention centers: “Monsters belong in cages not kids” and “I do care and you should too,” plus “America has zero tolerance for Trump” were a couple of the phrases on the signs.

Kriss Perras headshot by Alan Weissman

By Kriss Perras

Actor and activist Martin Sheen gave an impassioned plea for justice from the microphone. His words strongly resonated with the crowd.

 

“I am the son of immigrants, so I have a voice in this issue,” said Sheen. “A deeply personal voice. If this issue is not personal, it’s impersonal. If it’s impersonal, nobody cares. But your presence and your voice here this afternoon is going to make all the difference, because you have taken a personal interest in what’s being done in our name. We’re being called to lift up this nation and all it’s people to that place where the heart is without fear, and the head is held high. Where knowledge is free. Where the world has not been broken up into fragments. The narrow domestic walls where words come out from the depths of truth, and powerless striving stretches its arm towards perfection. Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sands of dead habit. Where the mind is led forward by ever widening thought and action into that heaven of freedom. Dear father, let our country awake! Amen.”

Protestors across the nation came together fo this rally in more than 750 cities. On a map, this is what the national protest looked like.
Protestors across the nation came together for this rally in more than 750 cities. On a map, this is what the national protest looked like. Hundreds of thousands gathered together June 30, 2018 to protest Trump's Immigration Policies. | Map Credit: MoveOn.org

“If this issue is not personal, it’s impersonal. If it’s impersonal, nobody cares.” Martin Sheen

The crowd came to an arousing applause from his fiery words. Martin Sheen was born Ramón Gerard Antonio Estevez in Dayton Ohio to immigrant parents.

The crowd protested along the street at Webb Way and PCH. The protest started out alongside of the Malibu clinic at that corner. It grew to encompass all four corners at that intersection with people from Malibu, Topanga, Santa Monica and beyond.

Asking the protestors what they felt was the central problem with Trump and immigration the answers were varied, but each had a heated response.

“The biggest problem is we’re subject to the invasion of the baby snatchers,” said Eric Wald from the unincorporated area of Malibu. “Our tax dollars are being used to separate little kids from their mothers and their fathers. That’s terrible. This here is a very modest turnout. I’m thinking very seriously about leaving the country. I’m trying to figure out some way so that none of my tax dollars go to the federal government. In other words we’re in more trouble than we realize. Things are really bad. If you can take little babies away from their mothers, things are really bad. I’m seriously considering leaving. I’m pretty old, and I want to live the rest of my life in a democracy. The United States of America is no longer a Democracy. We’re ruled by a group of right wing extremists.”

“I understand Trump wants limits on immigration,” said Tamara Davis from Malibu. “I think that’s something we can all have a conversation about. But having a policy of zero tolerance where you take children away from their parents is not the solution to controlling immigration in our country.”

“It distresses me that everybody is making this out of fear, terror and prejudice, when it really is overpopulation. We’re just trying to find out way through it,” said Carolyn Sargent, a 48 year resident of Malibu.

Kim from Santa Monica had a simple but powerful answer as to what is the central problem to Trump and immigration in the US right now, “Lack of empathy.” For her the solution was, “more empathy.”

And empathy may be the keyword for the left on child detention centers, but for the right it is not. The keyword on the other side of the aisle is money. The Trump Administration is paying Southwest Key $458 million to run immigration child detention centers.

Juan Sanchez, the chief executive of the non-profit Southwest Key, was making a salary of $1.5 million while his organization raked in a $458 million federal grant to shelter detained children taken from their parents. Southwest Key has been awarded almost half of the $948 million budgeted for the care of unaccompanied immigrant children by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) at detention centers.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has previously reported alternatives to detention center programs have resulted in a 99.6 percent appearance rate for asylum seekers in court. These alternatives save tax payer money to the tune of $1.44 billion. Alternatives typically cost .70 cents to $17 a day compared to $298 a day for just one family detention bed.

The children are taken often in the darkness of the night while news media and the world are asleep. Leaks of these children being transported by US commercial airlines were anonymously posted on Facebook. The airline attendants posted they had seen thirty two “scared little souls” on a cross-country flight to a detention facility in the middle of the night. The children ranged in age from 11 to perhaps 6 years old, the flight attendant stated in the anonymous post. She said the sweet innocent children were dressed as criminals in black and gray cheap sweats suits. One little girl with streaming tears hugged the flight attendant, who hugged back. The adult escort scorned the flight attendant for hugging the frightened little child.

The child detention centers where Sanchez is detaining these children are in Texas, in old abandoned warehouses and an old Walmart store. Sanchez is not the only private organization running these child detonation centers. There are others, as well as companies and government agencies running the child dentation centers, all on behalf of HHS. Southwest Key has approximately a dozen detention centers in Texas, including the old Walmart store in Brownsville. That particular location has drawn the attention of members of Congress and news media. In all, Southwest Key runs 27 immigrant children detention centers in Texas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, New York, Wisconsin and California.

Trump and his attorney general Jeff Sessions enacted a policy of “zero tolerance” for those who crossed the border between ports of entry. Asylum seekers who went between ports of entry did so as a result of being turned away at the port of entry by Trump’s policy to disallow asylum seekers period. Asylum seekers are those fleeing extreme violence. When they crossed the border, Trump orders that they be accused of a federal offense and their children be taken away. These children were then placed in a Southwest Key immigrant child detention center, including Casa Padre, the converted WalMart store in Brownsville, Texas that currently holds at a minimum 1,500 children.

At a recent meeting of the Progressive Democrats of Santa Monica, a proposed resolution by Superdelegate Susie Shannon was endorsed. The resolution described the horror the ACLU saw and heard and made a written record of from activity at detention centers on our Southern border. Susie Shannon also heard the cries of the children at a San Diego immigrant child detention center.

The ACLU describes in its report, and Shanon reiterates in her resolution, “pervasive physical, sexual and emotional abuse of migrant children by Homeland Security and ICE agents, including, but not limited to, teenagers run over by border protection officials and subsequently beaten; a young girl who was forced to spread her legs and was molested by federal agents, a pregnant teen whose cry for medical attention was ignored which resulted in a stillborn birth; multiple children threatened with rape and death; children forced to sleep in holding pens on concrete floors; all of which has led to an overwhelming atmosphere of fear, isolation, medical emergencies and death at our Southern border.”

Marco Antonio Munoz, a Honduran father, committed suicide after being separated from his wife and child, said Amrit Cheng, Communications Strategist for the ACLU.

“Three siblings were told they couldn’t hug each other in an immigrant child detention center,” said Cheng. “Parents deported four months ago are still waiting for the return of their baby.”

All of this begs the question, is there a law that requires family separation? Trump has wrongly blamed Democrats for separately families at the border.

June 15, Trump told reporters, “I hate the children being taken away,” and added, “The Democrats have to change their law — that’s their law.”

Secretary Nielsen repeated this falsehood at a briefing on June 18 saying, “Surely it is the beginning of the unraveling of democracy when the body who makes the laws, instead of changing them, tells the enforcement body not to enforce the law.”

The answer is no, there is no law that requires separating families.

“This crisis stems from a series of policy choices the Trump Administration made,” said Cheng. “In fact, reports arose as early as December 2017 that the administration was considering a plan to separate border-crossing parents from their children. In March, then-DHS Secretary John Kelly confirmed this saying it would help deter Central Americans from coming to the United States.”

Neither do the courts require separating families, despite the claims from the GOP leadership.

“Both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Chuck Grassley have blamed family separation on the courts, specifically a decades-old court agreement known as the Flores settlement which established protections for children to prevent their indefinite detention in unlicensed facilities,” said Cheng. “Getting rid of the protections in the 1997 Flores settlement would only further the administration’s goal of being able to indefinitely imprison families. But ending family separation doesn’t require family prisons. The Trump Administration knows full well that alternatives exist — because it went out of its way to sabotage them.”

According to the ACLU, in June 2017 the Trump Administration ended the Family Case Management Program, which was what allowed families to be placed into a program together.

The 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement (Flores) was the result of over a decade of litigation. It addressed the US detention policy of children. Flores set the national standard on the detention, release and treatment of all immigrant children held in detention. It was about family unity and requires:

Juveniles be released from custody without unnecessary delay, and in order of preference to the following: a parent, legal guardian, adult relative, individual specifically designated by the parent, a child welfare licensed program, or, alternatively when family reunification is not possible, an adult seeking custody deemed appropriate by the responsible government agency.
Where they cannot be released because of significant public safety or flight risk concerns, juveniles must be held in the least restrictive setting appropriate to age and special needs, generally, in a nonsecure facility licensed by a child welfare entity and separated from unrelated adults and delinquent offenders.

According to Sarah Rodriguez, an ICE spokesperson, the Family Case Management Program caters to “special populations, such as pregnant women, nursing mothers and families with very young children.”

The Department of Justice (DOJ) as of June 29 put forth draft regulations that would bar many refugees who are being persecuted and fleeing extreme violence, including those who entered the US between ports, from protection in this country. Such regulations violate both US law and international conventions, of which the US is a signatory. The sweeping regulations appear to be targeted at South Americans. Attorney General Jeff Sessions drafted the plan that would totally overhaul the asylum seeker policy.

Under his draft regulations people who enter the US between ports of entry would be prosecuted for illegal entry. Those who have gone through more than one country to get here would be barred from asylum seeking— this is very common for asylum seekers to travel through more than one country to arrive here. It specifically mentions Central Americans making it extremely difficult for them to qualify for asylum. Sessions codifies in his own words an opinion that restricts asylum victims of domestic and gang violence. Sessions draft regulations redefines a “particular social group” to exclude from protection refugees whose claims have not previously been challenged by this or any other administration in the last 25 years; require asylum seekers, many of whom lack any form of legal assistance, to provide an exact definition of any “particular social group” on which they are basing their claims or face denial with no possibility of appeal. The draft regulations also greatly expands the range of criminal convictions that would result in denial of asylum to include traffic offenses.

These draft regulations will go through a process of review then be open to a period of public notice and comment.

Sessions now has hundreds of fellow Methodist church members who signed a letter claiming his “zero tolerance” immigration policy has harmed “thousands of vulnerable children,” and this resulted in Church charges, including child abuse, being brought against Sessions. Under United Methodist Church (UMC) rules, any member can bring a complaint against any other member based on their conduct, or an alleged violation of the Church’s Book of Discipline. Typically efforts are made to de-escalate the situation. On occasion the charges are brought before the UMC’s Judicial Council. Usually these formal charges are lobbed against a pastor. It is unusual for a lay person to rise to the level of formal charges that go before the Council, in the history of the Church.

ON THE WEB:

https://youtu.be/sYY6NdgTKyY


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Opiate of the Masses: Democracy


Special To Topanga Journal

By Lance Simmens

Statue of Liberty

“Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”(Churchill by Himself: The Definitive Collection of Quotations, p. 574).

“Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Winston Churchill

Democracy is still in its experimental phase, although begun in Athens over 2,500 years ago. It is now being tested unlike any time since the eruption of two world wars. Certainly the 20th century was punctuated by a great struggle between authoritarian/dictatorial rule and modern democratic governance. As we muddle our way through a contemporary world where political systems and politicians wrestle with efficiency and power versus civil liberties, freedom, and equality in a seemingly endless battle to gain advantage over both adversaries and allies alike, it appears as though economic considerations may supplant traditional core social values like the rule of law and justice.

The current battlefield is littered with skeletons of what used to be vibrant civil liberties callously abandoned in favor of consolidated wealth. No clearer illustration of such a dismal landscape is evident than what is currently underway in the United States where the blinding light of freedom and liberty is dimming under the weight of Trumpism. Power is increasingly associated with wealth and strength is being measured in military prowess, while science, empathy, tolerance and diversity fall victim to a resurgent Age of Greed.

I attended a conference last week sponsored by The Thomas Mann House in Los Angeles entitled The Struggle For Democracy (https://www.laprogressive.com/struggle-for-democracy/) where German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier implored those participating to value diversity and immigration as key building blocks for sustaining democracy. Contrast that with the zero tolerance prescription currently being toyed with on the Mexican border and the Supreme Court decision to allow the President unfettered constitutional permission to pursue virtually any policy couched in terms of national security and a disturbing transformation in what we view as democracy here in the United States starts to emerge.

A cursory review of literature on the definition of a democracy is replete with concepts such as rule of law, judicial independence, separation of powers, judicial review, due process, full and free voter participation, and checks and balances, just to highlight a few. The damage of Republican congressional efforts to effectively hijack the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016 were in full view in the 5-4 decision to essentially validate Trump’s Muslim ban. That such chicanery was successfully carried out in full view with not even a hint of embarrassment or shame should serve as a clarion call for reconsideration of our traditional commitment to democratic principles. We are currently traversing dangerously narrow mountain trails without guardrails and democracy is precariously perched upon rugged cliffs while the driver of this bus is seemingly oblivious to either the map or the brake.

Gerrymandering and the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision stipulating the designation of corporations as people have greatly aided the one-party domination that is now a part of a democratic process to deny fair representation to the electorate. Active voter suppression legislation throughout the states deny fair and full voter participation, another dagger to the heart of democratic process. Our long tainted history with literacy tests and poll taxes have given way to blatant purges of voter registration lists by the very judicial body that once served as an enlightened arbiter of democratic principles.

When the levers of government; executive, legislative, and judicial are all skewed towards one political party the only remaining check against oligarchic power is a vibrant free press, and as we have seen with this administration attacks against the First Amendment not only signal a populist purge against religious belief if you are a Muslim but also against the Fourth Estate if you happen to find yourself on the side of the so-called Fake News. The President’s disdain for leaders of the Western alliance and embrace of dictatorial regimes in Russia, Turkey, the Philippines and even recently North Korea raise serious questions for the perpetuation of democracies in Europe and North America. Flattery is the currency that opens the door to corruption and renders strategic long-term thinking meaningless. Charismatic leadership is simply not a sufficient antidote to procedural dysfunction. No matter how skilled the driver, a bus without brakes heading down a mountainside is a prescription for disaster.

Democracy in the United States is under severe pressure right now and a concerted effort to obfuscate, obstruct, confuse, and depress the truth, also known as facts, is undermining confidence in institutions and leadership. The overwhelming degree of outright lying is so blatantly destructive to the national psyche that there is a weakening desire to even participate in a system so incompetent, dysfunctional and corrupt. The dangers of such a diabolical scheme to defraud the American people carry with it potential disruption of a world order that has so persistently been nurtured since the end of World War II that global conflict once thought of as a thing of the past is now seen as threatening.

I am not one willing to chuck democracy overboard. It is an imperfect system to be sure but if advanced in a spirit of compassion and humanitarianism can achieve positive results not only within this nation but throughout the world. America has led in the past and can again lead in the future, but we are straying from our core convictions, those so deliberately laid out in the constitution, where unalienable rights, liberty and justice for all, all men are created equal, and all are afforded due process and the right to participate in our government, must serve as the rallying cry for a more peaceful and productive world.

Trade wars, economic advantage, and greed will only fuel greater inequality and conflict in a world already under siege from our withdrawal from trade agreements, climate change, and strategic alliances. We are foregoing our moral authority and headed in the wrong direction and we must trust our faith in representative democracy in order to salvage leadership throughout the globe. Bombastic narcissism is now the opiate of an increasing percentage of the masses and democracy offers a cure. We the voters must restore an effective check on tyranny through the ballot box. It is all up to us now.

ON THE WEB:

http://www.lsimmens.com


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