Monday, 30 March 2015 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

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.

Feb 19

Arduous Battle of Kurdish Socialist Forces in Rojhelat

By Bruno Jäntti, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

For the past two years, I have had the opportunity to engage in countless, thorough discussions about the history of socialist political organizing in Iran with members of the relevant movements. My conversations have been with Kurdish and Persian Iranians.

Compared to their counterparts in Kurdistan's Southern, Northern and Western regions, the organizational structures of Iranian Kurdish socialists have endured the harshest fate. Furthermore, the toughest challenges faced by Kurdish socialism lie in Rojhelat (Kurdish for "East," refers to Eastern Kurdistan or Iranian Kurdistan).

Rojava is undergoing and cementing a revolution; Iraqi Kurdistan is maneuvering towards independence and the reluctant Turkish government has ultimately been compelled to commence dialogue with the PKK largely on the PKK's terms. There may have been flashes of spring in parts of the Arab world and the prospects for breakthroughs for the realization of Kurdish self-determination in many corners of Kurdistan are real. But the Islamic regime of Iran has solidified in Rojhelat over a thirty-year long winter that shows little signs of vanishing.

Feb 18

Resolving the Ukraine Crisis

By John Pedler, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

It's a great relief that at last the European Union (Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande) have begun to talk directly about the Ukraine with Russia (President Putin) without the US being directly involved, yet getting both sides in the Ukraine conflict involved. If the Minsk ceasefire holds, these discussions could result in, albeit prolonged, negotiations to end the civil war and later determine the future status of the Ukraine. Because the true national interests of both the EU and Russia coincide, these could yet succeed if this background is kept in mind:

Mr. Gorbachev's grave warning of 29 January and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's annual news conference of 21 January seem now to being taken seriously, accepting that Russia has a vital national interest in the Ukraine and the European Union has an important interest. The United States has no political interest so long as the Ukraine is a hyphen joining the EU east and the Russian west of Europe. Flouting Russia's vital interest has led to the present crisis.

Americans consider themselves citizens of "the Land of the Free" with a tradition of rugged individualism that still provides mythical fodder for organizations such as the Tea Party and the National Rifle Association. People associated with such organizations (and their numbers are in the millions) also exhibit a deep suspicion of government. They believe that the politicians they elect should, as one-time Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater put it, "aim not to pass laws, but to repeal them." They believe that the fewer rules and laws there are (except those promoting their own peculiar brand of morality), the greater is the citizen's freedom.

It takes just a little bit of historical knowledge to know that this attitude is dangerous nonsense. The fact is you cannot have a stable and safe human environment without rules and laws. That is one reason why they have always existed in one form or another at multiple levels of human society, in the family, the classroom, private clubs, the town, the state, the country, and so forth. In fact, human history can be read as the expansion of enforceable rules or laws from smaller to larger groupings. Wider circles obeying the same set of hopefully humane rules.

Key witnesses against a British grandmother on death row in Texas have said that prosecutors in her 2002 trial threatened or 'blackmailed' them into testifying against her.

Among them is the only person who claimed to have seen Linda Carty (56) carry out the murder of Joanna Rodriguez, who has now admitted that Texan District Attorneys (DAs) "threatened me and intimidated me" into identifying Ms Carty as the culprit. Christopher Robinson, who was the key to the prosecution case, admits that he never saw Ms Carty kill anyone and his testimony to this extent at trial was a lie.

Yesterday there was some news coverage and commentary about our use of the state Freedom of Information Acts to obtain the correspondence of professors who wrote for the agrichemical industry's PR website, GMO Answers. We're glad to have a public conversation about this topic with the professors involved. We believe that transparency and open dialogue are fundamental values by which we must operate in a democratic society and a truly free market. To that end, I thought it would be useful to explain why we FOIA.

Since 2012, the food and agrichemical industries have spent at least $103 million dollars on a massive PR and political campaign to deceive the public about genetically engineered foods. As the public relations firm Ketchum bragged in a recent video, "positive media coverage had doubled" on GMOs following this PR campaign, and it has put agrichemical industry spin front and center in the debate over GMOs. The purpose of this PR campaign is to repel grassroots efforts to win GMO labels that are already required in 64 countries, and to extend the profit stream from GMOs, and the pesticides that go with them, for as long as possible – not to foster an authentic public dialogue about GMOs.

Feb 17

Obama: Sound Theology and Smart Politics

By Dr James J Zogby, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

President Obama's remarks, last week, at the annual National Prayer Breakfast were theologically sound and politically smart. In spite of this, his comments set off a storm of criticism from conservative critics who took him to task for both his theology and his politics. While I cannot read their hearts, their rhetoric was so predictable and so harsh, that I suspect some were prompted by a mixture of blind ideology and anti-Muslim animus, coupled with a tinge of racism. More to the point, the President's critics are just plain wrong -  theologically and politically.

What President Obama said was so profound, it bears repeating...

Retired black and brown police officers applaud FBI Director James Comey's honesty and will meet with Congressman John Lewis in DC to further discussion on race relations between police and the black community.

In a recent speech on relations between police and blacks, FBI Director James Comey echoed what members of the black and brown communities have complained about for years: Some police officers enforce the law with a racial bias that is "brutally unfair to disfavored groups." It is for this reason that retired and former black and brown police officers have joined together to create the National Coalition of Law Enforcement Officers for Justice, Reform and Accountability (NCLEO).

Feb 17

Mending "Axis of Resistance": Hamas Returns to the Start

By Ramzy Baroud, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Despite its success of rebelling Israeli military advances in Gaza, Hamas’s regional political maneuvers of recent years are not bearing fruits. Jointly isolated by Israel and other Arab parties, unaided by the Palestinian Authority (PA) of Mahmoud Abbas, the Islamic Resistance Movement is once again facing difficult choices, and it seems to be choosing a cautious return to its old camp of Iran and Hezbollah. The maneuver this time is particularly risky.

Hamas’ other options, however, are too limited or simply don’t exist. The movement is facing formidable challenges: a mired economy, ruined infrastructure, destroyed Rafah tunnels and a persisting Israeli siege.

Washington, DC - As couples and spouses prepare to celebrate their love this Valentine’s day weekend, We Belong Together issues its newly updated report, Heart of the Matter: Women, Children, and the Way Forward on Immigration Policy.

The newly updated report evaluates the likely benefits of executive action for immigrant women and families and demonstrates the need for additional steps for both the White House and Congress to take with featured profiles of women actually impacted by current policies.

“The President’s executive action was a leap forward for this country. Unfortunately, after wasting many opportunities to enact legislative reform of the immigration system, Congress is now advancing tired and outdated enforcement-only approaches and attacking women and children, such as the individuals highlighted in Heart of the Matter who are mothers, workers and survivors. These attacks are mean-spirited distractions,” explains Andrea Mercado, co-chair of We Belong Together, “The temporary and limited nature of executive action leaves much more for Congress to do to promote family reunification, fairness for women workers, and restore justice in the immigration system.”

Freedom came early for former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge on Friday, February 13. It was expected that Burge would begin his parole on Valentine's Day, but it appears the system would rather not attend to such matters on a Saturday. So, rather than make Burge wait it out through a long weekend, the system cut this confirmed torturer yet another break, and gave him a head start on his new life.

And so it goes.

As an abolitionist, I do not expect justice from carceral solutions. But like anyone who values black and brown lives, I am always pained by the disparities that manifest themselves within this system, not because indictments or prison sentences heal societal wounds, but because the disproportionate administration of carceral penalties is a constant reminder that, under this system, some lives matter, while others are deemed utterly disposable.

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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.

Feb 19

Arduous Battle of Kurdish Socialist Forces in Rojhelat

By Bruno Jäntti, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

For the past two years, I have had the opportunity to engage in countless, thorough discussions about the history of socialist political organizing in Iran with members of the relevant movements. My conversations have been with Kurdish and Persian Iranians.

Compared to their counterparts in Kurdistan's Southern, Northern and Western regions, the organizational structures of Iranian Kurdish socialists have endured the harshest fate. Furthermore, the toughest challenges faced by Kurdish socialism lie in Rojhelat (Kurdish for "East," refers to Eastern Kurdistan or Iranian Kurdistan).

Rojava is undergoing and cementing a revolution; Iraqi Kurdistan is maneuvering towards independence and the reluctant Turkish government has ultimately been compelled to commence dialogue with the PKK largely on the PKK's terms. There may have been flashes of spring in parts of the Arab world and the prospects for breakthroughs for the realization of Kurdish self-determination in many corners of Kurdistan are real. But the Islamic regime of Iran has solidified in Rojhelat over a thirty-year long winter that shows little signs of vanishing.

Feb 18

Resolving the Ukraine Crisis

By John Pedler, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

It's a great relief that at last the European Union (Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande) have begun to talk directly about the Ukraine with Russia (President Putin) without the US being directly involved, yet getting both sides in the Ukraine conflict involved. If the Minsk ceasefire holds, these discussions could result in, albeit prolonged, negotiations to end the civil war and later determine the future status of the Ukraine. Because the true national interests of both the EU and Russia coincide, these could yet succeed if this background is kept in mind:

Mr. Gorbachev's grave warning of 29 January and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's annual news conference of 21 January seem now to being taken seriously, accepting that Russia has a vital national interest in the Ukraine and the European Union has an important interest. The United States has no political interest so long as the Ukraine is a hyphen joining the EU east and the Russian west of Europe. Flouting Russia's vital interest has led to the present crisis.

Americans consider themselves citizens of "the Land of the Free" with a tradition of rugged individualism that still provides mythical fodder for organizations such as the Tea Party and the National Rifle Association. People associated with such organizations (and their numbers are in the millions) also exhibit a deep suspicion of government. They believe that the politicians they elect should, as one-time Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater put it, "aim not to pass laws, but to repeal them." They believe that the fewer rules and laws there are (except those promoting their own peculiar brand of morality), the greater is the citizen's freedom.

It takes just a little bit of historical knowledge to know that this attitude is dangerous nonsense. The fact is you cannot have a stable and safe human environment without rules and laws. That is one reason why they have always existed in one form or another at multiple levels of human society, in the family, the classroom, private clubs, the town, the state, the country, and so forth. In fact, human history can be read as the expansion of enforceable rules or laws from smaller to larger groupings. Wider circles obeying the same set of hopefully humane rules.

Key witnesses against a British grandmother on death row in Texas have said that prosecutors in her 2002 trial threatened or 'blackmailed' them into testifying against her.

Among them is the only person who claimed to have seen Linda Carty (56) carry out the murder of Joanna Rodriguez, who has now admitted that Texan District Attorneys (DAs) "threatened me and intimidated me" into identifying Ms Carty as the culprit. Christopher Robinson, who was the key to the prosecution case, admits that he never saw Ms Carty kill anyone and his testimony to this extent at trial was a lie.

Yesterday there was some news coverage and commentary about our use of the state Freedom of Information Acts to obtain the correspondence of professors who wrote for the agrichemical industry's PR website, GMO Answers. We're glad to have a public conversation about this topic with the professors involved. We believe that transparency and open dialogue are fundamental values by which we must operate in a democratic society and a truly free market. To that end, I thought it would be useful to explain why we FOIA.

Since 2012, the food and agrichemical industries have spent at least $103 million dollars on a massive PR and political campaign to deceive the public about genetically engineered foods. As the public relations firm Ketchum bragged in a recent video, "positive media coverage had doubled" on GMOs following this PR campaign, and it has put agrichemical industry spin front and center in the debate over GMOs. The purpose of this PR campaign is to repel grassroots efforts to win GMO labels that are already required in 64 countries, and to extend the profit stream from GMOs, and the pesticides that go with them, for as long as possible – not to foster an authentic public dialogue about GMOs.

Feb 17

Obama: Sound Theology and Smart Politics

By Dr James J Zogby, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

President Obama's remarks, last week, at the annual National Prayer Breakfast were theologically sound and politically smart. In spite of this, his comments set off a storm of criticism from conservative critics who took him to task for both his theology and his politics. While I cannot read their hearts, their rhetoric was so predictable and so harsh, that I suspect some were prompted by a mixture of blind ideology and anti-Muslim animus, coupled with a tinge of racism. More to the point, the President's critics are just plain wrong -  theologically and politically.

What President Obama said was so profound, it bears repeating...

Retired black and brown police officers applaud FBI Director James Comey's honesty and will meet with Congressman John Lewis in DC to further discussion on race relations between police and the black community.

In a recent speech on relations between police and blacks, FBI Director James Comey echoed what members of the black and brown communities have complained about for years: Some police officers enforce the law with a racial bias that is "brutally unfair to disfavored groups." It is for this reason that retired and former black and brown police officers have joined together to create the National Coalition of Law Enforcement Officers for Justice, Reform and Accountability (NCLEO).

Feb 17

Mending "Axis of Resistance": Hamas Returns to the Start

By Ramzy Baroud, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Despite its success of rebelling Israeli military advances in Gaza, Hamas’s regional political maneuvers of recent years are not bearing fruits. Jointly isolated by Israel and other Arab parties, unaided by the Palestinian Authority (PA) of Mahmoud Abbas, the Islamic Resistance Movement is once again facing difficult choices, and it seems to be choosing a cautious return to its old camp of Iran and Hezbollah. The maneuver this time is particularly risky.

Hamas’ other options, however, are too limited or simply don’t exist. The movement is facing formidable challenges: a mired economy, ruined infrastructure, destroyed Rafah tunnels and a persisting Israeli siege.

Washington, DC - As couples and spouses prepare to celebrate their love this Valentine’s day weekend, We Belong Together issues its newly updated report, Heart of the Matter: Women, Children, and the Way Forward on Immigration Policy.

The newly updated report evaluates the likely benefits of executive action for immigrant women and families and demonstrates the need for additional steps for both the White House and Congress to take with featured profiles of women actually impacted by current policies.

“The President’s executive action was a leap forward for this country. Unfortunately, after wasting many opportunities to enact legislative reform of the immigration system, Congress is now advancing tired and outdated enforcement-only approaches and attacking women and children, such as the individuals highlighted in Heart of the Matter who are mothers, workers and survivors. These attacks are mean-spirited distractions,” explains Andrea Mercado, co-chair of We Belong Together, “The temporary and limited nature of executive action leaves much more for Congress to do to promote family reunification, fairness for women workers, and restore justice in the immigration system.”

Freedom came early for former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge on Friday, February 13. It was expected that Burge would begin his parole on Valentine's Day, but it appears the system would rather not attend to such matters on a Saturday. So, rather than make Burge wait it out through a long weekend, the system cut this confirmed torturer yet another break, and gave him a head start on his new life.

And so it goes.

As an abolitionist, I do not expect justice from carceral solutions. But like anyone who values black and brown lives, I am always pained by the disparities that manifest themselves within this system, not because indictments or prison sentences heal societal wounds, but because the disproportionate administration of carceral penalties is a constant reminder that, under this system, some lives matter, while others are deemed utterly disposable.