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Abel Collins
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Abel Collins is an environmental and social justice advocate, small scale farmer, poet, and politician. He works for the Sierra Club in Rhode Island where he lives with his wife Amber and their children.

Entries by Abel Collins

Be the 'Disruption'

(2) Comments | Posted September 9, 2014 | 7:28 PM

It was a beautiful day in Rhode Island on Sunday (unless you were a die-hard Pats fan), not the kind of day you want to spend inside. Nevertheless, I found myself in a darkened classroom on the campus of Brown University in order to watch Disruption, a documentary that dropped...

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Chomsky on McCutcheon: 'Let's Forget Any Pretense of Being a Democratic Society'

(27) Comments | Posted March 27, 2014 | 6:38 PM

On the day McCutcheon v FEC was heard before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), I sat down for an interview with Noam Chomsky to ask him about the case and a host of other issues.

Imagine David and Charles Koch or George Soros stepping into any political race and directly showering their pet candidate with however much money it will take them to win. The result would be an assortment of politicians utterly enthralled by the ultra wealthy. It is a nightmare scenario for our democratic republic.

Since the five Justices remain on the Court who decided a corporation's right to spend unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns is protected by the 1st Amendment in Citizens United v FEC, there is reason to believe that in their impending decision in McCutcheon v FEC, SCOTUS will proceed on the grounds of free speech to do away with any limits on donations directly to parties and candidates. Whatever pretense of free and fair U.S. elections is still intact would disappear in another decisive victory for the .1 percent.

Yet there is a spark of hope in my soul that the Justices will realize this danger and decide that siding with Shaun McCutcheon would be a step too far. Perhaps Justice Kennedy will repent.

One way or the other it's going to be a huge story. Big headlines will be printed proclaiming that either the 1 or the 99 percent have won a major victory. Pundits will pontificate about what it means for the future of Democrats and Republicans until some tragedy or celebrity drama pushes it out of the spotlight. It'll be talked about in platitudes during the run up to election day, and if we're being honest with ourselves, that talk is not going to change who gets elected. The McCutcheon decision will bring either outrage or joy, but either way it will fade out of awareness except in the minds of good governance advocates.

The problem is whichever way the Supreme Court goes with this decision, the bigger story that's never in the headlines is the same. Even if McCutcheon's complaint is denied, we will remain in a post-Citizens United world in which corporations and their 1 percent masters have enormous sway in elections. Even before Citizens United, the story was the same. Money talks in our political system. The public is ignored. At this point it's so obvious that we just accept it.

Our only real hope for democracy is that we get the money out of politics entirely and establish a system of publicly funded elections. In a world with an unbiased and independent media befitting our 1st Amendment, the big story would not be who won in the McCutcheon case, it would be that there are ways of creating a democratic society, and it would use this case to demonstrate if and how we are failing or succeeding to that end.

This is the real irony of the situation. Free speech has been used by the Supreme Court to give immense power to the wealthiest members of our society. Meanwhile the "free press" fails miserably to meet the civic responsibility enshrined in the 1st Amendment. Let's not hold our breath waiting for this to change. The money in politics is a cash cow for the media.

The irony and blame do not belong solely to the media, of course. The citizens, we the people of the United States of America, could stand to exercise our 1st Amendment rights to a greater extent, too.

We have the numbers. Let us freely assemble, muster our forces, and occupy politics from the bottom up. Put your name in the hat for city or town council. Start a blog, plan street theater, get arrested and be heard. By all means, we should start by reversing the effects of Citizens United. Municipal and statewide resolutions calling on Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to say that corporations aren't people and political campaign spending isn't protected speech can get the ball rolling. Amending State Constitutions via voter initiative or legislative referendum to this same effect as I have proposed in Rhode Island is another step. Whatever else, let us not cede the political sphere to the corporations, whether they are people in the eyes of the Supreme Court or...

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Chomsky: Putting the Eco Back in Economy

(17) Comments | Posted February 13, 2014 | 6:33 PM

The prefix "eco" connotes the natural system. Ecology is defined as the study of the relationships between living things and the resources they need for survival. The suffix, "-nomy," means distribution, arrangement, and management. It follows that economy is broadly defined as the management of resources by living things to...

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Weather on Steroids: Elaborating on Jon Stewart's Takedown of Trump

(3) Comments | Posted January 22, 2014 | 1:37 PM

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It's freezing all over the country, you look at places like Texas they're setting record lows and Oklahoma where they've never had problems, they're having snow... well it's a hoax. -- Donald Trump, Fox and Friends, January 6, 2014

This winter has seen...

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Getting Serious With the Gospels: Chomsky on the Church

(30) Comments | Posted December 5, 2013 | 9:24 AM

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Pope Francis is shocking. Finally, one of the figureheads of the Western World is confessing the sins of the unjust economic model that is driving us all over a cliff. It is perhaps ironic that this humble and resolute man, who...

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Expect Resistance

(1) Comments | Posted June 18, 2013 | 1:51 AM

Global temperatures are rising; literally, figuratively, anyway you spin it.
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Despite the desperate cheerleading of economists and Wall Street pundits, despite the cheap credit of suppressed interest rates and the ingenious accounting gimmicks of the big banks, the veneer of financial stability...

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Externalities Kill

(35) Comments | Posted February 25, 2013 | 11:07 AM

I can almost stretch my memory back to the day of Dec. 14, back through the fog of politicized media spin, the miasma of special interests spreading to capitalize on crisis and grief in one way or another. I can almost remember the overwhelming flood of empathy, the consolation, the...

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Dr. Occupy, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Run for Congress

(1) Comments | Posted January 16, 2013 | 4:26 PM

A bold prediction for 2013: at least two of the Too Big To Fail banks will be implicated in major crimes and they will be fined less than the profits that they made engaging in those crimes.

As a Congressional candidate, I did not distance myself from my association with...

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The Fight of -- and for -- Our Lives

(5) Comments | Posted December 11, 2012 | 11:20 AM

The fight is not the fiscal cliff, the manufactured and overhyped battle to rein in our deficit. Though it is certainly economic. "It's Global Warming, Stupid." Yes, while the Businessweek headline is impolite, it is also appropriate. Our big fight is against global warming, and we're losing badly.

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Campaigning on the Cheap: An Independent Path Forward

(34) Comments | Posted November 26, 2012 | 7:31 PM

Following the elections, there are still no Independent/Third Party members of the House of Representatives. This is despite the abysmal approval rating Congress has had for well over a year, despite the feeling held by the majority of voters that the country is moving in the wrong direction, and despite...

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