Truthout

Speakout

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.

Aug 21

Has Our Species Become Insane?

By Jim McCluskey, SpeakOut | Op-Ed
Helen Caldecott is the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and a world renowned campaigner against nuclear weapons. She says that our species is ‘mentally sick... The whole society is sick’1. We are in the grip of a death wish. She points out that 1 in 25 people are sociopaths with ‘no moral conscience’ and these are the people who rise to the top; who are in charge. Is she right? Have we really become insane? There is good reason to believe so. Byinsane behaviour I am referring to avoidable behaviour which will result in our own destruction and would be seen as such if we were ‘in our right minds’. There are many reasons for the belief that much of our behaviourhas become insane. Here are some of them.
Aug 20

Deadly Theater-of-the-Absurd

By William Manson, Dissident Voice | Op-Ed

Absurd -“wildly illogical; nonsensical, preposterous”

 — Oxford Desk Dictionary

The individual human mind, with its inherent capacity for critical analysis of received “truths,” remains the final, not yet entirely colonized, frontier.  I remain convinced that this capacity, if resistant to the flood of unremitting propaganda, can still find its way to real understanding of perplexing, camouflaged governmental policies and crimes.  It is not that the average U.S. citizen is incapable of critical thinking, but that there is little incentive to exercise it.  Everywhere she turns, she feels boxed-in, blocked from the free exercise of her principles and values.  From the perspective of the authoritarian “managers” of mass society, it is “most efficient” for 300 million people to exhibit merely “one” mind—credulous, tranquilized, acquiescent—shaped by mass media and government “mis-information.”  (And it is “most efficient” to monitor the communications, not just of “suspected terrorists,” but of the entire citizenry.)  Students suppress their awareness of their teachers’ intermittent ignorance, and learn the “lesson” of accommodation and conformity (test-taking, GPA, degree, “job search,” etc.).  Employeeslearn to suppress their justifiable grievances and perform in the required manner—in order to keep the jobs necessary for their survival. 

Aug 20

Court Allows Groundbreaking Case Against Anti-Gay Religious Leader to Proceed

By The Center for Constitutional Rights, SpeakOut | Report

Historic ruling confirms LGBTI rights as internationally recognized.

August 14, 2013, Springfield, MA – Today, in a first-of-its kind case brought by a Ugandan LGBTI advocacy organization against a prominent U.S. anti-gay extremist, a federal judge ruled that persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is a crime against humanity and that the fundamental human rights of LGBTI people are protected under international law. The ruling means that the case brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG), a Uganda-based coalition of LGBTI rights and advocacy groups, can move forward over defendant Scott Lively’s request to dismiss the lawsuit.

“Widespread, systematic persecution of LGBTI people constitutes a crime against humanity that unquestionably violates international norms,” said Judge Michael Ponsor. “The history and current existence of discrimination against LGBTI people is precisely what qualifies them as a distinct targeted group eligible for protection under international law. The fact that a group continues to be vulnerable to widespread, systematic persecution in some parts of the world simply cannot shield one who commits a crime against humanity from liability.”

Aug 20

Bad Precedent and Bad Faith

By Lawrence Davidson, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Back in January of 2012 former war correspondent Christopher Hedges and others, including Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg, filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and specifically the Act’s Section 1021(b)(2), which allows for indefinite detention by the U.S. military of people “who are part of or substantially support Al Qaeda, the Taliban or associated forces engaged in hostilities against the United States.” This detention denies those held of the ability to “contest the allegations against them because they have no right to be notified of the specific charges against them.” In this suit filed by Hedges et al., the issue in question was the vagueness of the terms “substantially support” and “associated forces.” For instance, could this vagueness lead to apprehension and detention of journalists who publish interviews with members of Al Qaeda or the Taliban? Could it lead to the same treatment against political activists protesting U.S. policies against these or “associated” groups?

The case, now designated Hedges v. Obama, was initially heard in New York District Court by Judge Katherine Forrest. The plaintiffs claimed that the NDAA violated the 1st (free speech), 5th (due process as well as the stipulation that people must be able to understand what actions break the law) and 14th (equal protection) Amendments to the Constitution. To address the question Judge Forrest asked the government lawyers if they could assure the court that the activities of the plaintiffs would not result in indefinite detention under the act. If they could give such assurances it would, as far as the judge was concerned, eliminate the plaintiff’s “standing” to challenge the law. 

Aug 19

Why We Will Be Marching on August 24

By Tithi Bhattacharya and Bill V Mullen, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

As Professors at Purdue University, like many others, we were horrified and angered by the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquittal of George Zimmerman. But these events are not something that happened in isolation in a gated community in distant Florida. Recent events at our land grant University and in our state, Indiana, have forced us to understand the alarming connections between the national drive for privatization of education, and the variety of dangers and threats they pose to people of color.

The "War on Women" debate gives us an interesting insight into the Republican Party. The "War" began when Republicans voted against the Lilly Ledbetter pay act, then they refused to renew the Violence Against Women Act, then tried to prevent women from accessing birth control. Then they said some really stupid things about rape and were generally buttholes about the whole business.But now the Republicans think they have ammunition against the Democrats. "We just pass legislation that make it women harder to get fair wages, get an abortion in the case of rape and report sex abuse," they say, "Democrats hurt real women by harassing them at work." As the AP oddly puts it, "While the controversies surrounding Akin and Murdock focused on words, the spectacles involving Weiner and Filner center on actions."

While writing this, I hear gunshots. Soon a police helicopter circles the next door Louis Armstrong Projects; its spotlight sweeps their rooftops like a submarine inspecting an ocean floor.
I turn off the lights so the shooter won't see me, move the curtain and study the roof where gunfire echoed. No one was there. Scanning the city beyond, I know mostly Black and Latino men are shooting or being shot.

Light headed with adrenaline, I close the curtain. In Bed-Stuy, the fear of violence never fades but throbs under the surface of everyday life. On my stoop, a young man was shot dead. His father sits there nearly every day, as if waiting for his son to return. Between the killings are random shots like tonight that send me peering through the window.

Aug 18

Four Tasks for College Professors

By Laura Finley, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

A few days ago, I read on Facebook the re-posting of an essay, authored by a young college professor, which discussed the five things students should never say to their professors. Originally published in USA Today, the list includes such gems as "Did I miss anything important," "I took this class for an easy A," "I didn't know we had anything due," "I was studying for another course so couldn't do my work for this class," and "Did you answer my email yet."

While I, like so many professors, have been asked all of these questions during my teaching career, I want to offer a different list, this one for professors. Too often, educators, and especially professors, seem to operate from the perspective that "this job would be Ok if it weren't for the kids." That list of questions not to ask, in my mind, comes from the same place. While it may have been intended to help students get in good with their professors, it seems to suggest that students are clueless dolts who are annoyingly self-centered.

With the recent announcement by the Netanyahu government that it intends to build 1,200 more settlement homes on disputed land in the West Bank – even in the face of proposed peace talks – it serves us well to look back at seminal events in the region's history that might shed a light on the sort of exceptionalism and, frankly, hubris demonstrated by Netanyahu and previous Israeli administrations in promoting and subsidizing these settlements deemed illegal by most of the international community. The incident from Brunner's documentary above provides a clue. It was just one moment in a systematic campaign by IDF forces to empty Palestinian towns and villages of their native inhabitants at the height of the 1948 War. What is significant is that as each town and village was overtaken and its inhabitants driven off, the business of expulsion took on an air of normalcy, rationalized at first as an unfortunate consequence of war, then embraced as a legitimate national policy. This experience has habituated segments of Israeli society to the practice of wresting property from others and moving in, a practice at the core of the current strife in the Occupied Territories.