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.
On 8 July 2013 the New York Times (NYT) published an editorial on the issue of National Security Agency (NSA) spying on Americans. The editorial described the issue as one of "overwhelming importance" worthy of national debate, and noted that President Obama said that he welcomed such a debate. Then the NYT pointed to a core problem: "This is a debate in which almost none of us know what we're talking about."
It turns out that everything about the NSA surveillance operation is "classified" and therefore done in secret. As a result there is no public access to the information needed for a debate. That is, until the "leaker" Edward Snowden risked all to tell the American public and, indeed, the whole world, about it.
Protests are sweeping the nation in response to the George Zimmerman acquittal. New York, Philadelphia, DC, Miami, Houston, St. Louis, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, and LA are just some of the locations. But what is the nature and purpose of these protests and are they effective?
This brief essay is not intended to speak for anyone. People have their own reasons and motivations for protesting, and their responses to the acquittal are personal and their own. But making some general observations and delving into some of the root issues can correct some of the misinterpretations and clarify some of the occurrences.
We bought tickets to see Fruitvale Station, a film about Oscar Grant, a young black man shot dead by an Oakland transit cop when a text beeped my cell phone; it read – George Zimmerman acquitted. Waves of rage and grief rolled through me. Swaying on my feet, I stared at the phone.
Here I was about to see a film about twenty-two year old Grant, who was killed by Officer Johannes Mehserle, when another man, George Zimmerman, was acquitted for the murder of sixteen year old Trayvon Martin – who, like Grant, was just on his way home. Two black men, young, innocent and dead. I saw their faces float over each other in my mind and overlap.
Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights appealed the dismissal of a federal lawsuit challenging the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) as a violation of the First Amendment. The case, Blum v. Holder, was filed on behalf of five long-time animal rights activists who allege that the 2006 law violates their right to free speech. In March, Judge Joseph L. Tauro of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, ruled that the activists did not have standing to bring the suit, without addressing central First Amendment questions raised in the case. Today's appeal argues that the Judge incorrectly dismissed the case by misinterpreting the AETA as criminalizing only property destruction and threats, despite the law's broad prohibition on causing an animal enterprise any loss of property, including profits.
Today, Amnesty International has also issued a press release "USA: End inhumane treatment of California prison hunger strikers" regarding the retaliation by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) against prisoners participating in the peaceful hunger strike. Veterans for Peace in their letter specifically asked for a guarantee that "reprisals against peaceful hunger strikers not be taken," but the CDCR continues to withhold medications, freeze prisoners in their cells, hold prisoners' confidential legal papers, forbid exercise time, and take official disciplinary action against strikers.
Any day, the US 2nd Circuit Court will rule between Argentina and hedge funds; the ruling will impact global poverty and poor country access to credit. Argentina preemptively filed an appeal with the US Supreme Court. Christine Lagarde, International Monetary Fund Managing Director, is requesting the Fund's executive board file an amicus curiae brief to the US Supreme Court urging Argentina's case be heard.
"The IMF understands the ruling will go well beyond Argentina - it will have serious repercussions on poverty around the globe. If these hedge funds win it will harm legitimate investors and poor people," stated Eric LeCompte, Jubilee USA Network's Executive Director.
The New York Times, the most respected newspaper in the world, evidently remains unpersuaded of the illegality of American drone strikes, and continues to take a bizarre, tortured approach to discussing the matter in its news articles. That launching drone strikes in a foreign country whose government does not consent to said strikes is a violation of that country's sovereignty is hardly in dispute. As Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism who led an investigation into U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan said in March, the drones "involve the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty." If attacking a country's residents with missiles fired from flying robots against that country's will does not constitute a breach of sovereignty, then nothing does.
When you are born black, brown, red, yellow, or female in America no one tells you that you are destined to rule, to become king of the mountain. But if you are a white man, the echoes of colonialism and domination are pervasive and shape an expectation of supremacy that our current culture is failing to fulfill.
Women are fighting openly for autonomy. Racism, though still prevalent, is no longer welcome in the public square. Economic power resides in unreachable corporate castles that may themselves be male and white, but admit only the rare few. LGBT citizens are demanding the right to live full lives that reject the basics of gender politics and male domination.
The struggle of Texan women against dangerous anti-choice legislation - the struggle that made Senator Wendy Davis an overnight hero for the reproductive health movement - suffered a blow on Thursday, July 18 when Governor Rick Perry signed the notorious HB2 into law. The law which has inspired such passionate opposition from Texas' "feminist army" places restrictions that would shut down most abortion clinics in the state, depriving countless women, especially poor or minority women, of access to services that could save their lives. While advocates of reproductive freedom in Texas will continue to oppose these measures, conservatives in other states also strive to make legal abortions expensive, if not impossible. Virginia, in the midst of a heated gubernatorial election between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli, may be the next battleground state to gain such national attention.