“There are numerous problems with the U.S. political system. First and foremost, there is the fact that we allow private, for-profit partisan companies to secretly program our election computers and central tabulators. Also, both major parties have been so compromised by Big Money and corporate money, they offer no real solutions to working U.S. citizens and those most in need of government services. We have the least electorally competitive legislative branch among the western industrial democracies. Ninety percent of our Congressional seats are gerrymandered and rigged in favor of an incumbent. So it is no surprise that recently Harvard and the University of Australia ranked the U.S. dead last, the least democratic of all the 47 long-standing democracies in the world.”
The Bayer – Monsanto merger, announced last week, will no doubt be good for shareholders in the short term, with the sale price of seed and GMO giant Monsanto ending up at $66 billion, or $128 cash for each share. But the result for farmers across the globe will likely be far less rosy.
The Bayer – Monsanto merger deal, which took months of negotiations to finalize, will create the largest agribusiness in the world. Bayer, mostly known for their aspirin and other pharmaceutical products (including, long ago, heroin) are actually an agriculture product giant in and of themselves,with a large chunk of their yearly profits being from the sale of agricultural chemicals.
The All India Strike, conducted across India, is likely the largest labor strike in human history, with some estimates putting the figure of striking workers at 150 million. Occurring during the fanfare of the United State’s Labor Day holiday, a long weekend mostly known in American culture as a time to drink beer and grill hot dogs, the All India Strike has disrupted many public sector industries and brought Indian workers into the international spotlight.
The strike began after talks between the representatives of ten major public sector unions and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley failed to reach a compromise. The unions have accused the national government, currently run by the majority National Democratic Alliance, of institutions “anti-worker, anti-national, and anti-worker” policies.
The DEA has announced the scheduling of Kratom, a southeast Asian plant used extensively in traditional medicine, to Schedule 1 beginning 30 September. According to the DEA website, “Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
Kratom, a plant native to Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, has long been used in traditional medicine. Advocates claim the substance has great potential to mitigate the effects of opioid addiction and in the treatment of chronic pain, which is typically treated now with opioid drugs like Oxycodone.
Washington, DC (TFC) – TIME ran a piece on 16 August entitled “Russia and Iran Fly Across a Key Threshold in the Middle East” which opens with the following quote: “Looks like the U.S. and its allies have a new “axis of evil” in the Middle East: Syria, Iran and Russia.” A desire for an attention-grabbing opening line notwithstanding, this sort of propagandist statement only serves to cloud the already murky waters of the Syrian Civil War and reveals the Western bias of the mainstream media. The problems don’t end at the first line, but let’s unpack that first, and perhaps along the way we can find a more salient discourse on the Syrian conflict.
The phrase “axis of evil” is an echo of a speech by then President George W. Bush, who named Iraq, Iran, and North Korea in the positions TIME writer Mark Thompson assigns to Syria, Iran, and Russia. It’s hardly a surprise that Iran again made the cut; the demonization of that country in the West has continued virtually without pause in the intervening years. The phrase is in itself a reference to the Axis Powers of World War Two, a rhetorical device designed to associate the named countries with Nazism, genocide, and the ever-amorphous “Evil.” The veracity of this comparison has to be called into question, however.
The Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), Bob Avakian’s pseudo-Maoist group, held a guerrilla rally at a cannabis legalization event at the Democratic National Convention in downtown Philadelphia. The event was marked by their normal enthusiasm and soap boxing, but also with a brief altercation. The RevCom delegation marched in with chants of “One, Two, Three, Four, Slavery Genocide and War! Five, Six, Seven, Eight, America was Never Great!” and began speaking.
As you can see in the beginning of the below video, there was a heated verbal exchange taking place between a young man who appears to be a Sanders supporter and another man who had been heckling the RCP presenters; it is unclear whether or not the Sanders supporter was a RCP member, but he clearly was supporting their position in this context. To the right, a man, who was reported as being a “Clinton supporter,” is knocked down, and an altercation begins. See below:
Sanders intended on starting a political revolution, and he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams – they are continuing on without him. Behind this unrest, not just on the Left, but the Right as well, is a sense that the political machine is rigged in the favor of the capitalist class – the rich. This is something that seems to be almost an intuition, something that was felt by everyone I spoke with. The rise of the Internet and independent media, as well as the obvious crumbling of the system as a whole, has pulled back the curtain and the machinery has been revealed. In a time when the young are facing crippling debt with few job opportunities, when technology has allowed everyone to see the discrimination and brutality that people of color face in their communities in real time, when the prisons are owned and operated by private entities seeking to incarcerate for profit, when the entire world seems to be at war with itself, and when the planet is spiraling rapidly into an unfixable cycle of climate change, the only answer many seem to have is to embrace any potential, any real change. Not ideology; desperation – a sense, right or wrong, that this could be the last chance, and they seem motivated to seize it.
I woke this morning to the news that there were five dead and seven wounded after a shooting in Dallas. I wasn’t shocked; I was hardly even surprised. It seems like every day in America, there is some shooting, some mass murder. As Malcolm X said in the 1960’s, “violence is as American as cherry pie,” and that certainly has not changed in the intervening period of time. When I learned that the victims in this case were police officers, I was still utterly unsurprised. It was, sadly, only a matter of time.
I woke this morning with the intention of writing about Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. My point, in that piece, was to contrast their slayings by police with the recent extrajudicial police killings in the Phillipines. If people can be killed on the street without trial, I was going to argue, why bother with legal proceedings at all? We can simply elect a strongman dictator and allow the police to act as judge, jury, and executioner. My goal was to show the inherent immorality of such a system, how such a system is inherently prone to abuse, and how it would only lead to civil unrest and increased violence.
On 12 February, 13 employees of the Mill Creek MetroParks, one of the largest municipal park systems in the United States, were dismissed without notice. These employees were not permitted to gather their belongings or to speak with their co-workers, and were escorted off the premises by MetroPark police officers. Two of these employees, Ray Novotny and Keith Kaiser, were department heads and had worked as public servants at Mill Creek for over 30 and 27 years, respectively. This is an ongoing series to examine the causes of these firings, and what the culture of the Mill Creek MetroParks says about local government.
You can view the original Pontiac Tribune article on this issue here.
Much of the controversy surrounding the February firings, as well as numerous other issues relating to Mill Creek Metroparks management, has centered around Executive Director Aaron Young, who was hired in January 2015. The circumstances surrounding Young’s appointment were themselves controversial, and are partially the subject of Part One in this series. This installment will focus on the mercurial character of Aaron Young, his leadership, and interactions with members of the community in order to help show why broad executive powers should not be vested in unelected officials.