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Common Cause

January 29, 2015 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Politics, Robert C. Koehler

Healing the Criminal Justice System

by Robert C. Koehler

“It’d be really hard to have a higher recidivism rate than we have in Cook County.” Maybe this is the place to start a brief meditation on changing the world, or at least Chicago . . . known to some of its residents as “Chiraq.”

commoncauseThe speaker is Elena Quintana, executive director of the Adler Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice, which, in partnership with Roosevelt University’s Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation, recently completed a study on Cook County’s dysfunctional juvenile justice system.

What we’re doing isn’t working, justice-wise, order-wise, sanity-wise. The state of Illinois is bankrupt and yet its jails are full to bursting, at a cost, per occupant, equal to or greater than the cost of luxury suites at its ritziest hotels. And 90 percent of the teenagers who enter the system come back within three years of their release. This is no surprise: The system is a spiral of entrapment, especially for young men of color. Read the rest of this entry →

Golden Rule

January 19, 2015 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Jerry Elmer

Sea Level Rise, Eniwetok, and Bert Bigelow

by Jerry Elmer

One of the most talked-about consequences of climate change is sea-level rise. The melting glaciers of Greenland could cause a rise of 7 meters, and in March 2014 scientists learned that Greenland’s glaciers are melting much faster eniwetok2than previously believed. The melting West Antarctic ice shelf could cause an additional sea-level rise of 5 meters – and in May 2014 it was learned that that ice mass is also melting far more quickly than previously known.

Two-thirds of the world’s cities with populations above 5 million people would be inundated by a sea level rise of only 3.5 meters – and that is not even accounting for storm surges from increasingly powerful hurricanes (think Katrina and Sandy). Bangladesh, Vietnam, China, Indonesia and the Philippines (the last two are archipelagos) will be particularly vulnerable by the rising sea level, and atoll nations such as Maldives and the Marshall Islands may literally cease to exist.

It is in this context that the long-forgotten name of Bert Bigelow may re-emerge in the twenty-first century. But before I tell you about Bigelow, I need to tell you something about Eniwetok. Read the rest of this entry →

The Moment Is Now!

January 15, 2015 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Matt Meyer, Politics

African Civil Resistance in 2015

by Matt Meyer

“I am younger than I was YEARS AGO!” proclaimed South African activist Zenzile Khoisan, known to many around the world as the exiled freedom fighter who spent many years in New York City as an intrepid reporter for Pacifica panpen2radio. A skilled journalist, he returned to his homeland as a lead investigator for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Khoisan’s optimistic outlook in the face of increasingly bleak domestic conditions is not only a grand way to start the new year, or – as it were – to start the first morning plenary of the War Resisters’ International (WRI) conference held at Cape Town’s historic City Hall. It is also symptomatic of the hope still evident in the country with the current highest per capita rate of mass mobilizations, civil society protests, labor strikes, and general unrest. It is a fitting cry of exuberance and excitement from a continent bubbling over with grassroots initiatives and actions in every corner of its vast land mass, built by diverse people who are coming together with growing enthusiasm and a unified perspective that the power of the people – greater than any government or even transnational corporate giant – will be the determining factor in the years to come. Read the rest of this entry →

Children Matter

December 11, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Diane Lefer, Family

Coping with the Trauma of Incarcerated Parents

by Diane Lefer

Imagine that as you read these words, someone bursts into the room and holds a gun to your head. Your body and brain react instantly to the threat in ways that can be measured scientifically as cortisol floods your system.

Children with Incarcerated ParentsThe same level of cortisol is found in young children when separated from a primary caregiver. That absence feels as life-threatening as a loaded gun, explained Ann Adalist Estrin, currently the Director of National Resource Center on Children of Incarcerated Parents.

The adult calms down, she continued, when the threat is ended. Dopamine floods the system with relief. But in a young child, the dopamine response comes from contact with the caregiver. So what happens if the caregiver is gone? Toxic stress can change the chemistry and actual architecture of the developing brain, potentially with lifelong consequences.

Today, approximately 2.7 million American children are separated from a parent because of arrest and lockup in prison or jail. Do we simply accept that these kids will be collateral damage in our culture of mass incarceration? Read the rest of this entry →

Reflections on Ferguson

November 26, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Politics, Randall Amster

Cover of Darkness, Rays of Light

by Randall Amster

The announcement arrived at the telegraphed moment, conveniently scheduled for prime time in most zones. A decision said to shed light on a matter of national importance is revealed only after dark, with the lede buried under a pile of prosecutorial dereliction. When the decisive words newfergseasonsare finally uttered, they echo with unintended irony as a broken system delivers its own self-indictment: “No True Bill.”

We’ve been here before, far too many times. Anguish fills the air, slowly replaced by tear gas and smoke. Rage smolders from the friction of perpetual despair, finally igniting fires that engulf a handful of structures. People are urged to lodge their complaints but keep their place, to express their views but only from the sidelines, to follow the rule of law but relegate their quest for justice. The convenient spectacle of “violence in the streets” obscures the perpetuation of “structural violence” everywhere. Read the rest of this entry →

The Art of Satyagraha

May 09, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: David Swanson, Michael N. Nagler, Politics

Achieving ‘Victory’ With, Not Over, the Forces of Conflict

by David Swanson

Michael Nagler has just published The Nonviolence Handbook: A Guide for Practical Action, a quick book to read and a long one to digest, a book that’s rich in a way that people of a very different inclination bizarrely imagine Sun Tzu’s to be.  That is, rather than a collection of misguided platitudes, this book proposes what still remains a radically different way of thinking, a habit of living that is not in our air. In fact, Nagler’s first piece of advice is to avoid the airwaves, turn off the television, opt out of the relentless normalization of violence.

We don’t need the art of war applied to a peace movement. We need the art of satyagraha applied to the movement for a peaceful, just, free, and sustainable world.  This means we have to stop trying to defeat the Military Industrial Complex (how’s that been working out?) and start working to replace it and to convert the people who make up its parts to new behaviors that are better for them as well as for us.

It can seem out of place to shift from a discussion of the world’s largest military to personal interactions. Surely giving John Kerry a complete personality transplant would leave in place corrupt elections, war profiteering, complicit media outlets, and the assumption held by legions of career bureaucrats that war is the way to peace. Read the rest of this entry →

Losing Another Decade

April 30, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Economy, Robert C. Koehler

Can We Turn the Tide While There’s Still Time?

by Robert C. Koehler

“We cannot afford to lose another decade.”

My God. There’s more darkness in this quote than the New York Times intended. I winced when I read these words of Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chairman of the committee that wrote the latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC report, which the Times quoted in a recent editorial headlined “Running Out of Time.”

Suddenly, ten years felt vital, alive with possibility. Edenhofer wasn’t referring to some abstract decade embedded in the history of the human race, or the history of the planet, but ten years gouged out of our own lifetimes and certainly out of our children’s lifetimes. We can’t afford to lose … ten years of breath and heartbeat. Read the rest of this entry →