SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.
We have all heard of the city of Idu. Right? Thousands of families living there, carrying out their normal lives, government housed in lavish buildings, written documents, trade, religion, etc. Well, it was lost. A whole city lost. Idu flourished in the 13th century B.C. We knew it had existed from some ancient Assyrian records, but had no idea where it was. Archeologists finally found it last year, buried in northern Iraq. And then there is the case of Richard the Third, one of the most famous kings of England who died in one of the most famous battles in the year1485, just 528 years ago. You would think his tomb would have been a carefully preserved site viewed by thousands of tourists today. But in fact no one knew where he was buried until last year when archeologists found him under a parking lot! Let's consider nuclear power plants and weapons manufacturing in the light of Idu and Richard.
Dropping cargo meant to kill invasive species will only lead to more environmental predicaments. But try telling this to U.S. personnel in helicopters descending upon Guam, and their $8 million mission parachuting 2,000 mice injected with Tylenol into canopies to try and kill overpopulated brown tree snakes.(1) It was also reminiscent of another dubious mission when in the 1950's, the World Health Organization bombarded Borneo with massive doses of DDT, part of the Green Revolution, and to fight malaria spread by mosquitoes. As wasps ate the mosquitoes and other so-called pests, and then cockroaches ate the wasps which were then eaten by lizards, DDT, an extremely deadly toxin, worked its way up the food chain to Borneo's cats. Before long, cats had all but died out and millions of rats took over the island, devouring the fruit and grains of the fields while spreading typhus and other diseases. Faced with this unforeseen invasion of rats, the experts convened another crisis committee and decided to parachute in hundreds of cats.
I'm a huge fan of peace studies as an academic discipline that should be spread into every corner of what we call, with sometimes unclear justification, our education system. But often peace studies, like other disciplines, manages to study only those far from home, and to study them with a certain bias.
I recently read a book promoting the sophisticated skills of trained negotiators and suggesting that if such people, conversant in the ways of emotional understanding, would take over the Palestine "peace process" from the aging politicians, then ... well, basically, then Palestinians would agree to surrender their land and rights without so much fuss. Great truths about negotiation skills only go so far if the goal of the negotiation is injustice based on misunderstanding of the facts on the ground.
Almost a year to the date of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, and we are faced with another school shooting, this one at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado. The details, at this point, are still hazy, but one thing remains clear: we desperately need to have a sensible, real discussion about gun control.
Of course, those already convinced otherwise, those so-called defenders of the Second Amendment, will scream: the solution is not less guns, but more—arm teachers if you have to! Arm everyone! The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
It is shocking that Republicans have refused to include an extension of unemployment benefits in today’s budget agreement. At the end of December, federal unemployment benefits will expire for 1.3 million jobless workers. Lawmakers must not desert these workers by going home for their own holidays without extending the federal unemployment benefits program.
The budget agreement negotiated by Rep. Ryan and Sen. Murray provides temporary relief from sequestration budget cuts over the next two years, but does not represent the clean break from budget austerity that our economy so urgently needs.
Three years ago Tunisians ousted long-time dictator Ben Ali. They fought for liberty and dignity, inspiring a global wave of resistance. Today, the structures of the regime remain largely intact. A new constitution has yet to be finalized and police violence continues with impunity. There's no transitional justice, and many who speak out are judged by the laws of the old system. Among them, there are artists who are defying the state and re-imagining society by freely expressing themselves.
President Obama's 2013 Drug Control Strategy, which supports "a public health approach to drug control," is a positive step toward dealing with the complex web of issues surrounding drug use in a more sophisticated way. However, in framing its approach as a rejection of the "false choice between an enforcement-centric 'war on drugs' and drug legalization," the Office of National Drug Control Policy is clinging to a law enforcement paradigm that is in disarray. State after state is voting to defy federal marijuana laws, resulting in a chaotic patchwork of legalization schemes that has put the Justice Department in the awkward position of setting a policy to selectively enforce the law. In the unique case of marijuana, a substance that has been in common use by constructive contributors to society of every stripe for several generations, now, the institutionalized drug enforcement system is blind to the false choice between prohibition and chaos that, under prohibition, ranges from this kind of legal disorder to the social disharmony caused by inherent racism and unequal justice to corruption, violence, and war.
There exists a puzzling yet repeating trend among commentators, politicians, and now federal judges. It is to distinguish Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower of the Pentagon Papers (and often-hailed hero), from actors like army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and recently sentenced hacktivist Jeremy Hammond. This is notwithstanding the fact that Ellsberg vocally supports and identifies with all three. The differential treatment was first acknowledged two years ago by journalist Glenn Greenwald, responding to reports on how Manning was contrasted to Ellsberg. He called it “intellectual cowardice.” Today, the persistence of this argument highlights a continuing strategic challenge for opponents of whistleblowers of government misconduct. How can these opponents distinguish Ellsberg, a hero, from those they seek to vilify for engaging in the same character of activity?
It is a melancholy object to those who travel through these American towns, or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads and public places crowded with beggars, welfare recipients, the perennially unemployed, the wastrel gadabouts, the gangbangers, malcontents and whiners, the Losers of scant ambition but to feed on the Winners, importuning at every turn the Federal Government for all manner of "freebies."
This lot, instead of being willing to work for their honest livelihood, spend all their energies scheming for food stamps, unemployment compensation, rent control, legal aid, earned income tax credit, welfare without work, Medicaid benefits and all that can be gotten when a politics of endless aid to the parasites of our society is at the wheel of government. I propose a zero-tolerance for such devilment and the Federal Government from which it originates.
I’ve been reading a lot about education recently, for reasons that are not worth going into here. I don’t know that much about the area, so I’ve been reading some background stuff and review articles, including a Hamilton Project white paper by Michael Greenstone, Adam Looney, and Paige Shevlin.
It’s pretty mainstream, self-professed “third way” stuff, with a heavy dose of measurement and performance evaluation. Basically they repeat over and over again that educational policies should be based on evidence and new programs should go through rigorous assessments. There are a fairly strong tilt toward market mechanisms and some idealistic naivete about practical problems (e.g., “One way to [improve accountability systems] is to develop tests that measure the skills children should learn”), but nothing too outrageous in substance.
The white paper, however, betrays a certain conceptual bias that I find disturbing, even in topical areas where it seems otherwise reasonable.