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THE CENTURION

A series of pertinent – and impertinent – observations about the Armed Forces,

with an emphasis on military justice

 

Changing times: NPR reports that one out of every seven marriages today is inter-racial.  Perhaps times are changing for the better about race after all.  We are reminded of a dear friend, Walter Jackson, a retired sailor.  He could remember riding the streetcar in Washington DC and coming to the Virginia state line – yes, he had to move to the back of the streetcar….

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The dangers of war: The Washington Post reports that the United States military dropped more bombs on Laos than in Germany/Japan combined in World War II. Allegedly, Laos was left with so much unexploded ordinance that – in the past four decades – leftover bombs killed 20,000 Laotians.

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Behind bars?  Safe streets?: Retired Federal Judge Shira Scheindin cautions about what she sees as the injustice of mandatory minimum sentences.   She reports a steady rise in the prison population from 338,000 in 1970, to 2.2 million in 2010.

 

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Washington’s Farewell Speech: CNN political  analyst John Avlon comments that President  Washington retired some 20 years after the Declaration of Independence. Historically, it was far from clear that the American experiment would survive.  There was talk of civil war, and regional divisions festered.   Washington’s speech warned about the forces that had toppled republics in the past – hyper-partisanship, excessive debt, and foreign wars.  Washington feared that political factions could turn citizens against each other, agitating with “ill-founded jealousies and false alarms.”

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Hate  Groups: the Southern Poverty Law Center reports a dramatic growth in anti-Muslim hate groups – from 34 in 2015 to 101 today.

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Inequality: Author Gamesh Sitaramam warns about an economy “designed to stack the deck in favor of the big guys.” Today, he reports, the 20 wealthiest Americans own more than the bottom half of the population.  America is not the first nation to face such a disparity, he reports; in ancient Athens, Plutarch was complaining about the disparity between the rich and poor — a situation which should put that Republic “in an altogether perilous condition.” And after less than 20 years under the Roman Republic, plebes were so disgusted with domination by the rich that they abandoned the city in the middle of a war and refused to fight.

Mr. Sitaramam comments that equality was more a possibility in former generations because of an open frontier and the abundance of land.  In more recent days, he argues, America enjoyed relative equality from 1945 to the mid-1970s as women and people of color began to share a bit more in the national prosperity. He reports that about 47% of Americans identify themselves as working class, compared with 42% who call themselves middle class.   He also asserts that the decline of unions accounts for about half the growth of income inequality from 1980 to 2010.


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