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09.20 Al Gore Is Still Optimistic [24:06 video; rather than future Frankenstein governments, how can we better ensure having brilliantly efficient & competent governments?]

09.20 Florence sparks pollution fears after excrement-filled 'hog lagoons' overflow

09.20 EU must end new petrol and diesel car sales by 2030 to meet climate targets – report

09.19 Air pollution linked to much greater risk of dementia

09.19 Shell and Exxon's secret 1980s climate change warnings [that capitalists suppressed this for continuing profit is the most unforgivable crime ever]Trump administration rolls back methane pollution rule despite harmful health impacts [continuing in the tradition of stupid capitalism at all costs]

09.18 'I was horrified that children are breathing air this dirty inside the school' [if your government isn't working, change it!]

09.17 California plans to show the world how to meet the Paris climate target

09.16 Universal healthcare was unthinkable in America, but not any more

09.16 Air pollution particles found in mothers' placentas

09.16 Portugal’s radical drugs policy is working. Why hasn’t the world copied it?

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09.20 Morning Edition’s Think Tank Sources Lean to the Right

09.19 Taibbi: Bernie Sanders’ Anti-Amazon Bill Is an Indictment of the Media, Too

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09.18 Voters Are Ready for a Green New Deal. Are Democrats?

09.18 'This Election Is Last Chance to Stop Them': Kudlow Confirms Trump and GOP Ready to Gut Safety Net After Midterms [Yes, there are far too many sociopaths]

09.18 You'll miss Trump one day

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09.20 Trump Should Be More Worried About the Brennan Dossier

09.19 'Killing a generation': one million more children at risk from famine in Yemen [Does America's government have empathy? Does it understand the concept of morality? The Saudi Air Force would be ineffective without U.S. military assistance...]

09.19 ‘Tied to trees and raped’: UN report details Rohingya horrors

09.16 Merchants of Death Profit from the Bombing of Children as a US-Backed War Goes Largely Ignored

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09.16 If Jeff Bezos wants to help low-income people why not just pay them better?

09.16 Central Banks Have Gone Rogue, Putting Us All at Risk

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09.18 Racist rioting in Chemnitz has reopened Germany’s east-west split [We are all mixed-race after 10,000 generations. Helping suffering people makes us feel good, so become their friends instead.]

09.18 'Unconscionable' and 'Appalling': In Affront to Those Fleeing US-Backed Wars and Persecution, Trump Slams Door on Refugees

09.17 For Whom the Climate Bell Tolls

09.17 How to Humanely Solve Europe's Migration Crisis

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  Howard Zinn and the State of the Union

BEYOND RHETORIC:

Howard Zinn and the State of the Union

by Tom H. Hastings

Barack Obama is possibly the only public speaker capable of telling us that he's going to violate us in the name of saving us and we all choke up with gratitude.

Howard Zinn has crossed over. He was a mensch, a historian and a peace and justice activist. He was not convinced that nonviolence was always the answer, but he often provided expert testimony for nonviolent resisters seeking help in conducting a robust defense of their actions in opposition to militarism and injustice. He was a public intellectual of staggering stature, producing his germinal People's History of the United States that shattered myths and provided comfort to people who had been written out of history or misrepresented in our standard histories.

At the same time that the news of Zinn’s death flashed throughout the peace and justice world, we listened to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address. It is both inspiring and chilling. He is justifying more military, more nuclear reactors, and more coal plants. His righteous rhetoric is great, and I hope more Americans understand that Republicans shame themselves constantly by their disinformation and obdurate obstructionism. But Obama’s actual policies are quite disappointing in many ways. Yes, he's a pragmatist, but he is also a brilliant orator. He builds up the citizenry's hopes in his integrity, and he seems to be working to honor his promises, but many of his promises are actually harmful.

Nuclear power is not a solution to any problem we have and will in fact exacerbate them all. Those power plants are the only power that is permanently poisonous.

An increased military budget is not wise, humane, or in anyone's enlightened self-interest. It squanders our resources and alienates our world neighbors.

Coal power is unnecessary and takes away sacred mountains, wild wooded creeks, and our clean air, and it will worsen global warming.

There was no serious mention of disarmament, ecological protection, a drawdown of our 1,000 foreign military bases, energy conservation, cessation of small arms and light weapons exports, and no realistic plan for either ending our Afghanistan quagmire or making Rooseveltian strides toward full employment.

Barack Obama is possibly the only public speaker capable of telling us that he's going to violate us in the name of saving us and we all choke up with gratitude. He is truly charismatic, truly talented, and, I'm chagrined to say, truly unable to change the war system.

Obama, problematic as his policies are, is light-years ahead of what we might well have endured otherwise with McCain as President.

That all said, I am so very glad it was not John McCain delivering the SOTU. Bush was an emetic speaker; McCain would have been harshly flogging a herd of dead peacenik horses with his faux populism and bellicosity—he just looks like hot conflict ready to explode, a barely suppressed bundle of hatred who paid some horrific prices decades ago and has been cashing in ever since, representing all that is most churlish and pugnacious in ‘his people,’ not the majority. Obama, problematic as his policies are, is light-years ahead of what we might well have endured otherwise.

I expect that Howard Zinn would have said, well, here is what you could do today to help promote peace and justice, and here are several historical examples from which you could draw inspiration. While I know Howard will rest in peace, I’m hoping the rest of us will act in peace and empower the best in Obama. The war profiteers have moved from the limelight to just off-stage, but their power is still a massive influence, an invisible hand of a marketplace that leaves the working middle class of this country increasingly bereft and no one—no individual—can match their power.

I believe Howard Zinn would remind us that only in our collective good and brave actions can we right our ship of state. o you, Howard Zinn, who crossed over at 87: those of us who teach and write will draw endless inspiration and challenge from your lifetime body of work and your example that, in life, was so very living.


Tom H. Hastings is core faculty in the graduate program of Conflict Resolution at Portland State University and is on the Governing Council of the International Peace Research Association.



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This story was published on February 4, 2010.
 

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