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.

Apr 09

The NYT’s Trouble with Drones

By Frank Ascaso, No Flag | Op-Ed

The New York Times is trying to push the administration on Obama’s illegal drone program.  Their appraisal is that the Obama administration is dragging its feet when it comes to reforming the program.  They want to make sure the drones have a modicum of legal cover, and advocate a judicial review panel similar to the FISA court, the oversight body charged with reviewing the federal government’s use of foreign wiretaps.

The problem, for the Times, is not the morality of the strikes themselves, for the use of drones, in the eyes of Americans, have “become a permanent fixture of national policy.”  Nor is it secretive role of the CIA and the lack of transparency.  They see the division between military strikes and those carried out by the CIA is crucial because, “if American military forces hit Pakistan,” now largely the CIA’s role, “it could be an act of war.” A legal nicety the victims of the strikes, overwhelming civilian, no doubt appreciate.

Calm down, white people. You're going all Michael Vick again. You'd think these cheating teachers were there with Vick when he created the sport of dog fighting. What's that you say? Vick didn't invent dog fighting? Well, he must have considering all that uproar. Geeze, remember that uproar?

But yeah, if they did what they did, those teachers should be fired. If the administrators created such an atmosphere, especially let them go. Where it involved money, if they stole any, make them pay it back. If it was a lot, yeah, those folks should go to jail. But I haven't read where a lot of money was stolen.

But a $7 million bail for former Superintendent Beverly Hall and other astronomical amounts for the other defendants (all since reduced)? Did they off someone that someone failed to mention?

Today, four leading experts in law, medicine, and addiction treatment, Robert G. Newman, MD, MPH, Lynn M. Paltrow, JD, Sharon Stancliff, MD, FAAFP and Mishka Terplan, MD, MPH, FACOG, Diplomate, ABAM, released to Task Force members and the public their analysis of theFinal Report issued by the Florida Statewide Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns, urging Florida to give greater attention to existing well-established medical protocols and to address the needs of pregnant women, including the need for greater access to Medication Assistance Treatment and health services that are not linked to punitive criminal justice and unnecessary child welfare interventions.

The Florida Statewide Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns, created by the 2012 Florida Legislature and chaired by Attorney General Pam Bondi, was charged with "examining the scope of [Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome "NAS"] in Florida, its long-term effects and the costs associated with caring for drug exposed babies, and which drug prevention and intervention strategies work best with pregnant mothers." Their report was issued in February 2013.

Representatives of IHH, the international humanitarian organization that organized the passengers on the Mavi Marmara in the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla, have told the author that families of the nine murdered by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) commandos on May 31, 2010, consider the "apology" of the Israeli government to the Turkish government as meaning very little until the Israeli government lifts the blockade on Gaza.

Their family members were killed on a non-violent mission to challenge the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza and the families do not consider either an Israeli government apology or the offer of compensation for the death of their loved one as any form of fulfillment of their mission—only the lifting of the blockade on Gaza will assuage their deaths.

We are writing to express the deep concerns of Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) regarding the hunger strike of the detainees at the detention center at Guantánamo Bay. While accounts differ as to the exact numbers, all sources agree that dozens of prisoners are currently refusing food. Reports from habeas attorneys suggest that many of these individuals have lost considerable weight and that some are reaching the stage where their health may be permanently impaired.

As psychologists and other mental health professionals and behavioral scientists, we are well aware of the deleterious effects of hopelessness and powerlessness on physical and mental health and wellbeing. These conditions result in elevated rates of depression, anxiety, and other emotional disturbances, as well as increased susceptibility to disease, heart attacks, and other serious medical conditions.

It has been ten years since the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq spearheaded by the George W. Bush administration. It is an occasion for remembrance, reflection and deep regret. It was a war built on lies that harmed everything it touched. Most of all, it has harmed the children of Iraq and their families, and it continues to harm them even though the United States and its allies have officially left Iraq.

The war has also done deep and possibly irreparable damage to the credibility and decency of the United States, the country that led in choosing war over peace. It is an ongoing disgrace to America that we do not hold those who initiated aggressive warfare to account for their individual crimes, as the Allies did at Nuremberg following World War II. Short of public international criminal trials, the best we can do now is commit ourselves to never again allowing an aggressive war to be committed in our names, build a world at peace, and be a force for peace in our personal and communal lives.

This morning, activist Daniel McGowan was picked up from the halfway house where he has been residing and taken into custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. McGowan, who was released from prison in December and is serving out the last six months of his sentence at a halfway house, is a plaintiff in a Center for Constitutional Rights lawsuit, Aref v. Holder, challenging the constitutionality of the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) experimental Communications Management Units (CMUs) where he was kept for four years. New documents uncovered in the case indicate he was placed in these highly restrictive experimental units as retaliation for his political writings on the environment while he was in prison.

Apr 05

Honoring Dr King's Legacy

By Len Ellis, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

On the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, I believe his words and actions are no less relevant today than they were forty-five years ago. More than just his words, but in particular, his actions. I know I will never be the orator that he was, but I can be a similar active, participating force, an agent for change, a contributor to peace and nonviolence. In voicing his commitment to nonviolence, he said "If I am the last, lone voice speaking for nonviolence, that I will do." And so the relevant question today is "am I willing to be the last, lone voice speaking for nonviolence"? Am I willing to express my deep desire for peace? Am I willing to do whatever it takes to never give up hope, never give up the message, never submit to apathy, never to say "oh, let THEM take care of it"?

Because what I see today, and I think what Dr. King saw in his day, too many people are too quick to say "I don't have time", "What difference could it make?," "My friends/family don't agree."

Zombies dominate our nation's airwaves. They have already devoured much of our rational public discourse and now threaten our social sanity. Zombies are hot commodities. They sell. That's why they cannot be stopped or killed. Some editors and producers understand that zombies carry dangerous mental and moral infections that may already have doomed civilization as we (used to) know it. But profits outweigh the risks of parading zombies in prominent places.

Two factions promote the prevalence of zombies in mass media: True Believers and Snarky Ironists. Believer media managers feature the living dead as hosts or guests to flaunt their twisted catechism. Media Ironists recognize zombies for the frightening freaks they are, but trumpet their grotesque views anyway to whip up outrage and energize their often demoralized "normal" base.

According to a recent Harvard report, the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will end up costing U.S. taxpayers up to $6 trillion in the long term. The report by Linda Bilmes, professor at the Harvard Kennedy School estimates the final cost to be around $4-6 trillion. It is staggering that the estimate ranges by $2 trillion given that just five years ago, Bilmes co-authored a book called "The Three Trillion Dollar War."

While long term costs are difficult to accurately calculate, the estimates are overwhelming. War costs through the end of 2013 are around $1.4 trillion, or roughly 23% of the total expected cost. This figure covers the Pentagon, State and Veterans Administration (not the CIA or other covert operators). The U.S. will budget for less than $100 billion for Afghanistan war funding in 2014 and significantly less than that annually beyond 2014.