Letters written and sent to Middletown Media for publishing. If you feel compelled to write to us for sharing, you can send your letters to the: Editor’s email.
To the Editor:
When Donald Trump was in office, he and Mitch McConnell made three-lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court. McConnell went so far as to defy Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dying wish—that the next president appoints her replacement—by packing the Court with Amy Coney Barrett just eight days before the 2020 election.
The result? Today’s Supreme Court has been taken over by a hyperpartisan supermajority that is on the verge of dismantling abortion care in America.
But there’s something we can do. The Judiciary Act of 2021 would add four seats to the Supreme Court bench—restoring balance to the court. It’s the solution we need to move away from the extremely partisan rulings that now threaten our fundamental freedoms. Recent polling showed that the majority of voters support expanding the court.
Congress has changed the size of the Supreme Court seven times already in our nation’s history. It’s time to do it again. I’m urging our representatives to back this important bill now so we know they want to protect the rights of the American people. The stakes are too high to stay quiet on this important issue.
It is time to give our schools back to our community. It is time for Gary’s parents and families to have a voice again in our children’s education.
State Rep. Tim Brown’s new bill, House Bill 1187, would make permanent the state takeover of Gary schools—even after the Gary Community School Corp. reaches financial solvency. This bill would create a permanent state-appointed board and a permanent emergency manager to run Gary’s schools—instead of an elected school board—with virtually unlimited power over our schools and no way for parents and residents to hold them accountable.
It also attempts to take away Gary teachers’ rights to come together and advocate for schools and students, leaving them vulnerable to discipline for speaking out – something we think violates state law. If educators are silenced by union-busting, and our community is silenced by creating a permanent state-appointed school board, we will have no one to fight for the schools Gary students deserve.
We must have a school board that reflects our community. Our schools belong to us. State lawmakers should vote NO on HB 1187. They should remember that we live in a democracy and give our schools back to our community.
President Biden has a choice to make: Does he want to establish his legacy as a president who protected our freedom to vote, or not?
Now that Senate Republicans have filibustered the Freedom to Vote Act—a bill that was designed to get them on board—we have irrefutable proof that voting rights won’t make it through the Senate unless we abolish the filibuster.
If Biden wants to be remembered as a president who fought for voting rights, he must do more than ask the Senate to pass voting rights legislation. Biden must publicly and unequivocally support abolishing the filibuster to clear the way for these crucial reforms.
It’s time for our president to be the leader he promised to be and call on the Senate to end the filibuster and protect our right to vote.
We’re counting on him to do the right thing.
In its push to control runaway climate change, the 26th Conference of the Parties must assist developing nations
BERKELEY, Calif., Oct. 28, 2021 — World leaders meet in Glasgow beginning October 31 for the United Nations COP26 Climate Change Conference, to address the conclusions of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report: that human activities have unequivocally warmed and damaged the planet. Share International attributes 80 percent of the warming to human actions, and says sharing resources to mitigate the inevitable consequences is key to solving climate change.
As early as 2007, an article by a Master of Wisdom, recorded by the late British author Benjamin Creme and published in Share International magazine, gave this 80 percent figure and stated that we have a pivotal choice to make: to reap the beneficial results of immediate action or face the destruction that would ensue from doing nothing, or too little.
The article stated that the World Teacher for this age, Maitreya, who is gradually emerging into public view, “will advocate a simpler form of living, one more in keeping with the planet’s situation. When enough people are convinced that this is necessary,” it presaged, “there will be a growing movement to simplify throughout the planet.” It further predicted that “faced with the dilemma of necessary change, men will come to realize the inevitability of accepting the principle of sharing. Only sharing will make these changes practical and possible.”
Although the effects of climate change are coming faster than scientists anticipated, the IPCC report affirms there is still time to slow or even reverse some changes by reducing CO2 emissions to at least net zero. But to accomplish this globally, the wealthier countries must not only curb their own emissions but also share resources and technology with less-developed nations, to ensure that all can make the necessary rapid transition to sustainable energy sources.
Three of the four goals of COP26 require potentially large financial investments: radical emissions reductions, strengthening adaptation to climate impacts, and mobilizing finances. The fourth is for countries to work together to accomplish these pressing but inescapable measures. The COP26 website indicates, however, that developed countries have not even made good on their 2009 Copenhagen Accord pledge to mobilize by 2020 at least $100 billion in climate finance per year for developing nations. Another impediment noted by Jeffrey Sachs, president of the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network, is that poor countries must borrow internationally at rates of 5 to 10 percent, and many have no access to capital markets at all, while rich countries benefit from near-zero interest rates.
Clearly, politicians have not yet responded to the climate crisis at levels commensurate with the danger, but COP26 offers a pivotal opportunity. To succeed at their stated goal of “uniting the world to tackle climate change,” COP26 participants will need to go beyond inequitable loan financing and fast-track unconditional sharing of the financial and technological resources necessary to bring all countries on board. This is in line with Maitreya’s rallying call to humanity: “Share and save the world.”
Share International USA is a non-profit educational organization established to disseminate information about the presence in the world of the Masters of Wisdom, led by Maitreya. More information can be found at https://www.share-international.us/learn/WorldTeacher/.
Biden must urge the Senate to end the filibuster
Between January 1 and September 27 of this year, at least 19 states enacted 33 laws that make it harder for Americans to vote—and more will come out of GOP-held state legislatures unless we end the filibuster and protect our voting rights.
So far, I’ve seen more talk than action in the way President Biden has handled our voting rights crisis. He’s advocated for voting rights legislation and asked Congress to take action, but he failed to do one very obvious thing needed to win this fight: support ending the filibuster.
The Jim Crow filibuster is the biggest obstacle standing in the way of passing critical legislation like the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Neither of these bills will even be debated in the Senate as long as the filibuster remains.
If Biden actually wants the Senate to pass voting rights bills, he needs to use his influence as president to get the Senate to abolish the filibuster. Anything less is a failure of leadership.
Mr. President, Abolish the Filibuster
In 2006, 192 House Republicans voted to renew the Voting Rights Act. But in 2021, we can’t get a single Republican senator to come out and unequivocally support protecting the freedom to vote for the American people. Senate Republicans wouldn’t even let the Freedom to Vote Act—a bill that was designed to get them on board—go to the floor for debate!
That should tell you everything you need to know about our hopes for passing voting rights legislation without abolishing the filibuster. It’s time for President Biden to recognize this reality and use the power of his office to demand the Senate abolish the filibuster. Supporting voting rights legislation alone is simply not enough. Please, President Biden, we need a strategy.
Put the freedom to vote of the American people ahead of any reservations you have about abolishing the filibuster. The stakes are too high and we need your leadership.
Sincerely, Sabrina Glidden
Freedom to Vote Act
A recent surge of state-wide voter suppression bills and ongoing attempts to erode fair and secure elections requires federal action. Congress must act now to implement national standards for federal elections to protect our democracy. The Freedom to Vote Act would protect people’s right to vote, end partisan gerrymandering, and help to eliminate the undue influence of dark money in our elections.
Major Protests at the White House Will Urge President Biden to Act on Fossil Fuels
“We have everything to lose and no time to wait.”
Washington, D.C. — Thousands of people are expected to take part in a week of protests at the White House this October 11-15 to pressure President Biden to declare a climate emergency and end all new fossil fuel projects.
Composed of hundreds of Indigenous, Black, environmental, climate justice, youth, and social justice organizations, the Build Back Fossil Free coalition will launch the People Vs. Fossil Fuels: Biden’s Test week of action in advance of the Glasgow COP26 Climate Summit. With that summit representing what many consider to be our “last, best chance” to avoid climate catastrophe, the week of action will urge the Administration to take action already within its authority to finally begin to fulfill its climate commitments.
To announce the event, the coalition released a new video inviting communities from across the country to join them in solidarity in D.C as they demand President Biden and his administration pick a side: People Vs. Fossil Fuels.
“As fires burn, oceans rise and cities flood, we’re mobilizing to Washington D.C. to demand that President Biden act on climate justice right now. The fossil fuel industry has brought devastation to our homelands and it’s time that we bring this fight to Biden’s doorstep,” said Joye Braun, Frontline Community Organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Despite President Biden’s climate rhetoric, his administration has failed to stop major projects like the Line 3 tar sands pipeline, defended oil drilling in the Arctic, promoted fossil fuel exports, and allowed drilling, mining and fracking to continue on Native and public lands. We showed up to vote and we will continue to show up to make him uncomfortable in his inaction until the drastic needed steps are taken to mitigate climate change and protect Mother Earth.”
While the Biden Administration has proclaimed the climate crisis to be a “code red” situation, there are numerous fossil fuel projects that could be rejected by executive action that are moving forward right now — and each would contribute significantly to exacerbating the climate crisis. Activists representing many of these individual fights against fossil fuel projects — from the Formosa Plastics facility to the Line 3 pipeline that is scheduled to begin operations this weekend — are planning to attend the week of action to pressure the Biden Administration.
“I’m looking forward to going to D.C. to speak to President Biden to ask him to refuse all fossil fuel projects. If Formosa Plastics is built, it would be a death sentence for the people over here. We want to live and we want to breathe clean air,” said Sharon Lavigne, the executive director of Rise St James and a recent recipient of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.
“We’re going to make it clear that we’re here to protect our land and waters,” said Siqniq Maupin, director of Sovereign Inupiat for a Living Arctic, who is fighting oil drilling in Alaska.
Their message to the White House is clear: “President Biden, you cannot claim to be a climate leader when you are still supporting fossil fuels. Stand with frontline communities, stand with future generations, stop approving fossil fuel projects, declare a climate emergency now.”
“Biden is faced with a momentous decision, and I and others will be gathering in Washington to encourage that decision: to declare a climate emergency, stop the petrochem build-out, and usher in a just transition to a clean, green renewables economy,” said John Beard, director of the Port Arthur Community Action Network, which is fighting oil and gas refineries and export facilities in the Gulf Coast.
President Biden’s failure to act on fossil fuels is undermining the administration’s own climate goals. Drilling on public lands contributes nearly a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., while the emissions from a single pipeline, Line 3, will add the equivalent emissions of 50 coal-fired power plants.
“President Biden came into office promising bold action to transform our economy with renewable energy and good jobs, but he passed the buck to a dysfunctional Congress,” said Jean Su, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Energy Justice program. “Biden has immense executive powers to speed the end of the fossil fuel era and ignite a just, renewable-energy revolution. Without executive action on fossil fuels, there’s no way for the president to protect us from the climate emergency. We’re calling on Biden to reclaim his power from coal- and gas-state Senators and show us he can be our Climate President.”
Meanwhile, the impacts of the climate and pollution crisis have only grown worse. Hurricanes have devastated communities from New Orleans to New York City. Wildfires have burned millions of acres across the West. Historic droughts and heatwaves have gripped most of the country. And every day, millions of Americans, especially Black, Brown, and Indigenous People, breathe air and drink water poisoned by fossil fuel pollution.
Actions will take place every day between October 11 and 15, starting at 8 am at Freedom Plaza. The themes of each day are as follows:
- Monday, October 11: Indigenous Peoples Day.
- Tuesday, October 12: Fossil fuels are driving the climate crisis.
- Wednesday, October 13: Climate chaos is happening now.
- Thursday, October 14: We need real solutions, not false promises.
- Friday, October 15: We did not vote for fossil fuels. Youth-led action.
Groups involved in Build Back Fossil Free and the mobilization include 350.org, Arm in Arm, Bold Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Climate Justice Alliance, Food and Water Watch, Fridays for Future USA, Friends of the Earth USA, Future Coalition, Global Exchange, Global Grassroots Justice Alliance, GreenFaith, Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy, Honor the Earth, Indigenous Environmental Network, NDN Collective, Oil Change International, Our Revolution, Power Shift Network, Presente, Pueblo Action Alliance, Rainforest Action Network, Seventh Generation, Sierra Club, Sunrise Movement, Unitarian Universalist Mass Action, WildEarth Guardians, Zero Hour, and more.
For more information visit: peoplevsfossilfuels.org
The China Initiative, a flawed and dysfunctional policy
by: Mel Gurtov
President Biden is continuing the disengagement policy toward China that began under Donald Trump, with strong bipartisan support.
Many people may not be aware that the opposite policy once had equally strong support across the political spectrum with respect to educational and scientific exchanges with China. Approximately 370,000 students and scholars from China are in the US, nearly a third engaged in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) research.
But now, as relations with China have deteriorated, Democrats and Republicans alike view Chinese graduate students and researchers, especially those in science and technology, with suspicion and even hostility. Sadly, many Chinese students are no longer feeling welcome.
Following Trump’s lead, the Biden justice department and FBI are engaged in intense oversight of universities and laboratories that have agreements with Chinese entities. This so-called China Initiative is designed to catch not only Chinese nationals but American citizens, especially those of Chinese descent, who is believed to be engaging in theft or transfer of information that benefits Beijing.
The scope of the Initiative is exceptionally wide, extending beyond the theft of trade and intellectual property secrets to “potential threats to academic freedom,” surveillance of Chinese registered as foreign agents, prevention of threats to supply chains, and identification of possible corruption in Chinese companies that compete with US companies.
The China Initiative is deeply flawed in two respects: its built-in bias and its failure to recognize the many benefits of exchanges with China.
The bias stems from a presumption of guilt and guilt by association, hallmarks of the McCarthyism era. That much is clear from the mindless attacks on Confucius Institutes, which are typically attached to US universities and provide language and cultural learning to nearby communities.
From personal research as well as the research of others who have actually interviewed university officials and community members, I can say with confidence that charges against these institutes of being communist party organs and seeking to undermine academic freedom are spurious. Yet the charges persist and have been backed by tighter visa requirements and threats to universities to either eliminate their Confucius Institute or lose federal funding. The threats have worked, reducing the number of CIs from over 100 to fewer than 40.
The federal government’s bias also has a racial element. In response to complaints from academic and Asian American groups, some Democratic Congress members urged the justice department to investigate “the repeated, wrongful targeting of individuals of Asian descent for alleged espionage . . . ”
Their letter reminded the department of America’s long history of anti-Asian prejudice and its contemporary consequences—the increased violence against people of Asian ethnicity. What they failed to call out was the hostility toward China that had prompted the violence. Still, the letter gives voice to the view of Chinese researchers in the United States, including those with American citizenship, who believe they are being targeted for having any connection with China, however ordinary.
Costs and Benefits
Scientists have also voiced their concerns. As one group put it, while the government has a legitimate need to tighten rules governing research security, “a response that chokes off legitimate scientific contacts only compounds the problem it seeks to solve.”
Regarding the FBI arrests, these scientists wrote that “many of those now accused are accomplished scientists engaged in university research in fundamental science, with close collaborations in China.” Putting Chinese science students under scrutiny, the group added, defied the facts and “could deprive our country of some of its most talented future scientists.”
Fact is, exchanges with China benefit the US as much as they benefit China.
They bring language and cultural training to K-12 classrooms in small communities.
They staff laboratories and medical research facilities working, for example, on cancer.
Their research produces patents valued at billions of dollars.
Their tuition and other costs of study are a major source of revenue for universities and colleges.
Their time spent in the US exposes Chinese to the virtues of free expression, cross-cultural awareness, independent research, and respect for human rights.
The overwhelming endorsement of these exchanges by everyone from university administrators to small-town teachers reflects a positive aspect of US engagement with China that should be honored. Failure to do so leads to reciprocal punitive action by China, as seen in crackdowns on US social media and journalists there, the closure of once-thriving joint educational programs, and refusal to cooperate on finding the origins of COVID-19.
The bottom line is that restricting scientific collaboration stifles innovation and undermines the very competitiveness that President Biden is depending on for US economic recovery. As Caroline Wagner, who specializes in exchange programs, writes:
The US government’s scrutiny of Chinese Americans and Chinese scholars runs up against the value of open scientific exchange. My research on international collaboration in science has shown that open nations have strong science. Nations that accept visitors and send researchers abroad, those that engage richly in cross-border collaborations and fund international projects produce better science and excel in innovation. Closing doors inhibits the very trait that makes the US innovation system the envy of the world.
The department of justice has prosecuted some Chinese and a few Americans who do indeed seem to have stepped over the line in their research. But some people have been released for lack of evidence and others have failed to report ties to China rather than committed economic espionage.
Moreover, the numbers of accused are minuscule when placed beside the tens of thousands of Chinese who abide by US law and have no political motive for being here. Those people should be considered an asset and treated with respect.
It is particularly disappointing that the Biden administration has taken Trump’s road, failing to distinguish China’s harmful behavior from its cooperative behavior. Our schools, our economy, and our society suffer the consequences.
Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University and blogs at In the Human Interest.
A national rite of passage: Beyond war
by Robert C. Koehler
A recent New York Times op-ed was perhaps the strangest, most awkward, and tentative defense of the military-industrial complex — excuse me, the experiment in democracy called America — I’ve ever encountered, and begs to be addressed.
The writer, Andrew Exum, was an Army Ranger who had deployments in the early 2000s to both Iraq and Afghanistan, and a decade later served for several years as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy.
The point he is making amounts to this: The last twenty years of war have been a disaster, with our pullout from Afghanistan sealing history’s final judgment: We lost. And we deserved to lose. But what a crushing blow to the men and women who served with courage, indeed, who sacrificed their lives for their country.
To be a part of this ambitious American project is to be a part of something so much grander and so much larger than yourself. I know now, in a way I did not fully appreciate two decades ago, those fallible or outright malign policymakers can take my service and twist it into fruitless or even cruel ends.
Yet I would do it again. Because this country of ours is worth it.
I hope my children someday feel the same way.
Right or wrong, in other words: God bless America. Patriotism mixed with militarism has the magnetic pull of religion, and service matters even when its ends are, to put it politely, questionable. This is a flawed argument, to be sure, but I actually have a sliver of sympathy for Exum’s point: The transition to adulthood requires a rite of passage, an act of courage, sacrifice, and, yes, service, to an end larger than yourself.
But first, put the gun down. Volunteering to serve a murderous lie is not a rite of passage, it’s a recruitment goal. For many, it’s a step into hell. Real service is not a farce, and it involves more than limitless obedience to a medal-bedecked higher authority; even more significantly, real service is not dependent on the presence of an enemy, but rather, just the opposite . . . it values all life.
“We are only now getting a clearer picture of the war’s costs,” Exum writes. “We spent trillions of dollars — dollars we might as well have set on fire in the many ‘burn pits’ that once littered Afghanistan and Iraq. We sacrificed thousands of lives . . .”
And he proceeds to lament the thousands of American service members killed in Afghanistan and Iraq and the lives of our partners who were killed, and then, finally “the many thousands of innocent Afghans and Iraqis who perished in our follies.”
I couldn’t help but sense an order of importance here: American lives first, “innocent” Iraqi, and Afghan lives last. And there’s one category of war deaths he fails completely to mention: vet suicides.
Yet, according to Brown University’s Costs of War Project, an estimated 30,177 active-duty personnel and veterans of the country’s post-9/11 wars have died by suicide, four times the number who died in actual conflict.
Furthermore, intensifying the horror of this even further, as Kelly Denton-Borhaug points out: “. . . an additional 500,000 troops in the post-9/11 era have been diagnosed with debilitating, not fully understood symptoms that make their lives remarkably unlivable.”
The term for this is moral injury — a wound to the soul, a “seemingly eternal imprisonment in the hell of war,” which, as far as the defenders and beneficiaries of militarism are concerned, is the vets’ problem and theirs alone. Don’t bother the rest of us with it and, definitely, don’t disrupt our celebrations of national glory with it.
Moral injury is not simply PTSD. It’s a violation of an individual’s deepest sense of right and wrong: a wound to the soul. And the only way to transcend this entrapment in the hell of war is to speak about it: share it, make it public. Each person’s moral injury belongs to all of us.
Denton-Borhaug describes hearing a vet named Andy speaks for the first time about his personal hell at the Crescenz VA Hospital in Philadelphia. “While deployed in Iraq,” she notes, “he had participated in calling in an airstrike that ended up killing 36 Iraqi men, women, and children.
“. . . With palpable anguish, he told how, after the airstrike, his orders were to enter the bombed structure. He was supposed to sift through the bodies to find the supposed target of the strike. Instead, he came upon the lifeless bodies of, as he called them, ‘proud Iraqis,’ including a little girl with a singed Minnie Mouse doll. Those sights and the smell of death were, he told us, ‘etched on the back of his eyelids forever.’
“The day of that attack, he said, he felt his soul leave his body.”
This is war, and its nature — its truth — must be heard. It’s the essence of a truth commission, which I suggested was the next step for the country to take after pulling the troops out of Afghanistan.
Such a truth commission will almost certainly shatter the myth of war and patriotic glory and, let us hope, veer the country — and the world — away from war itself. Obeying orders, participating in the murder of our “enemies,” including children, is a hell of a way to serve.
The whole country — “USA! USA!” — needs a rite of passage.
Biden must do more to end the filibuster
To the Editor:
Since the 2020 presidential election, state Republicans have passed 31 voter suppression laws in 18 states across the country. And there will be more coming out of GOP-held state legislatures before the end of the year unless Congress acts swiftly to protect our voting rights.
So far, I have seen more talk than action in the way President Biden has handled our voting rights crisis. He’s advocated for voting rights legislation and asked Congress to take action, but he’s failed to do one very obvious thing that would change this fight: unequivocally support ending the filibuster.
The Jim Crow filibuster is the thing standing in the way of passing once-in-a-generation legislation like the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. If Biden actually wants the Senate to pass those bills, he needs to use his influence as president to get the Senate to abolish the filibuster.
Anything less is a failure to meet this crisis.
Hartford City, IN 47348
September 16, 2021
Biden needs to support ending the filibuster
To the Editor:
In November 2020, millions of voters like me went to the polls and cast a ballot for Joe Biden.
Now, with a relentless GOP attack on our voting rights underway, I’m asking President Biden to return the favor. It’s time for Biden to go further than talking about supporting voting rights legislation. Instead, we need him to come out and fully support ending the filibuster so the Senate can finally pass voting rights legislation like the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
With the filibuster intact, these bills stand little chance of passing. So we need the president to use his official power to pressure the Senate to end the filibuster and clear a path for voting rights reform.
We can’t out-organize voter suppression. History will remember how President Biden handles these attacks on our right to vote. I’m urging him to do the right thing.
Muncie, IN 47304
September 15. 2021