Thursday, 30 October 2014 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG
  • 'Tis the Season to Be Frightened

    Ebola, Dengue fever, West Nile virus ... Republican ideology created some of these threats in the first place, or managed to make others worse. The climate crisis, which Republicans dismiss en masse, is a key ingredient in all of them.

  • The 0.01 Percent's "I Reap All" Accounts

    At least 9,000 wealthy Americans have amassed $5 million-plus sized IRAs. Multimillionaires and billionaires are shielding vast fortunes from taxation with monstrously huge IRAs.

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.

May 20

Sometimes They Should See You Perspire

By Lee R. Haven, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

"I say they should keep the Confederate soldiers there and I'm from the North."
I'd heard Susie (not her real name) say she was from Pennsylvania and she gave her age as late fifty-something. She was the lone white person in the work area that day--- among, including me, the some four or five blacks about---and she was responding to a story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the local daily, about how some people were upset about the laser-light patriotic shows at Stone MountainPark. The shows, you see, feature images of Rebel soldier-heroes carved on a side of the mountain to accompany the fireworks and twangy jingoistic numbers. The artwork is rather impressive, but it's still a commemoration of Robert E. Lee and the boys. I saw the show twice, both times with family that included my grandchildren. The first time, many moons ago, I thought I was at a Klan rally, or how I imaged one would be. It wasn't so bad the second time---someone must have convinced me things had improved---but it was still a celebration of a time and a people not kind to blacks.

"It's history," Susie continued, pressing her case, "and how are you gonna deny history? If it happened, it happened. Let them celebrate it."

Today, the Green Shadow Cabinet sent President Obama and others in the administration a report that recommends the federal government respect democracy and federalism by allowing implementation of laws that would regulate and tax marijuana in Washington and Colorado, as well as laws in 18 states and the District of Columbia that allow its medical use.

In a letter to President Obama, Jill Stein, MD the president of the Green Shadow Cabinet wrote: "More than 3 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges, approximately 90 people per hour, since you became president," and urged President Obama to follow the lead of voters writing "The people are providing you a path out of the marijuana war quagmire." She also highlighted the racial unfairness of the marijuana laws saying "unfair enforcement practices exacerbate racial divisions at a time when the United States should be taking steps to heal these wounds and end racism."

What's extraordinary about the brewing controversy over the Internal Revenue Service's review of Tea Party groups' application for tax-free status is that the Obama administration enjoys the flagellation, the groveling, the humiliation. What's striking about the scandal over the Justice Department's seizure of two months worth of Associated Press reporters' phone records is that the administration enjoys inflicting pain, tightening the screws on the press and paddling the Constitution. This is governance as sadomasochism.
Obama and team play both dominant and submissive. On most issues most days, the administration cowers before its masters in the Republican Party and the conservative media. Bold progressive policy? Exciting new initiative? Sharp break with the lawlessness of the past? Not a chance. The more important the matter, the more central to peace or social justice, the more certain it is that Obama trims sails, pulls punches, and retreats rather than advances. Should one detect, however, the slightest whiff of whistleblower-inspired transparency on defense or foreign policy, moments for example when the War on Terror is exposed as Murder.gov, or when an agency is caught doing its job, the dungeon door slams shut on the offender. Even the use of universally recognized safewords, old-fashioned phrases like freedom of the press, or the peoples' right to know, will not reopen it.

May 20

Hit and Stay

By David Swanson, War is a Crime | Op-Ed

The CIA has been so busy consulting on Zero Dark Thirty, not to mention funding Hamid Karzai, bribing Russians, lying about weapons, and conducting humanitarian drone murders, that it didn't have any time at all to help out withHit and Stay, and yet arguably the latter turned out to be the better film despite such a severe handicap. You can check it out at http://hitandstay.com

This is a film about people taking risks to prevent killing rather than to engage in it. The focus is on the Catonsville Nine action on May 17, 1968, 45 years ago this Friday. That action, in which activists burned draft cards and apologized for burning papers rather than children, was preceded by the Baltimore Four action of October 27, 1967, in which four activists poured their blood on draft papers. It was followed by countless other actions, leading right up to the Transform Plowshares action in Tennessee for which three are currently awaiting sentencing.

Adobe Systems Incorporated recently announced that it will soon exit the software business—meaning all of Adobe's current software applications will be moved completely to the cloud—potentially holding hostage the artistic and intellectual property of an end user should one lapse in payment of monthly fees.

For more than a decade, it's been an open secret that Adobe has a monopoly on many, if not most, of the first-choice tools for digital creativity, and creatives everywhere have allowed the company that great privilege of power. Adobe now seems to interpret that power as divine right, but the earthquake of Adobe's heavy handedness has triggered a tsunami that now threatens to capsize its long-standing and cozy relationship with a worldwide legion of artists and photographers, graphic designers, filmmakers and illustrators, who are showing resentment and resistance, and a willingness to put up a global fight against this corporate friend.

As the hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay approach their 100th day of refusing to eat this Friday, May 17, we urge President Obama to take specific steps now to release or transfer prisoners and close the prison.

More than 100 of the 166 prisoners at Guantanamo are participating in a hunger strike. More than two-dozen are being brutally force fed. We join with those throughout the United States and world calling for their release or transfer and ending the injustice of indefinite detention without trial. We also call for the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison which has become a human rights embarrassment to the Obama administration and the United States.

May 17

Neglecting to Forget: Lessons from Guatemala

By Julie R Butler , SpeakOut | News Analysis

On Friday, May 10, 2013, José Efraín Ríos Montt became the first head of state to be tried in their own country for genocide and found guilty. It was a hard-won battle to bring a modicum of justice in a country still divided along racial lines, still separated into the very poor rural indigenous class and the wealthy and powerful white privileged class.

This outcome heralds a warning to the most powerful war criminals in the world, that impunity cannot withstand the patient perseverance of the truth that they try so hard to suppress. And it is a commanding message, as even Ríos Montt's "scorched-earth" policy of destroying entire villages suspected of supporting Marxist guerillas and blaming the violence on the guerillas, themselves, could not obliterate all of the truth. Even his campaign of horrifying terror could not silence the few surviving victims, once they were convinced that their voices could make a difference. Nor could it annihilate the pangs of conscience that haunted a few of the soldiers who participated in the horrors.

Today, as the majority of men detained at Guantánamo enter their fourth month on hunger strike in protest of their indefinite detention, the Center for Constitutional Rights participated in a congressional briefing on Guantánamo titled, "From Crisis to Solution."

The briefing was co-sponsored by Members of Congress James P. Moran and Gerry Connolly of Virginia, The Constitution Project, The New America Foundation, and The National Religious Campaign Against Torture. Panelists included CCR Senior Staff Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei, along with Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson who served as Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Brigadier General David R. Irvine, and the ordained Presbyterian minister Dr. George Hunsinger. It was moderated by Kristine Huskey, counsel on Rasul v. Bush (2004) and Boumediene v. Bush (2008).

Today, ten House Judiciary Committee members joined together to pass a resolution to form the Over-Criminalization Task Force of 2013 to examine and make recommendations for paring down the federal criminal code, which has expanded rapidly in recent years. The Task Force will conduct hearings and investigations on over-criminalization issues within the Committee on the Judiciary's jurisdiction, and has the opportunity to issue reports to the Committee on its findings and provide policy reform recommendations. This is the first review of the expansive federal criminal code since a Department of Justice review in the 1980s.

The Task Force could choose to examine federal marijuana policy because only Congress can remove federal criminal penalties for marijuana – even for individuals who are in compliance with state laws (such as the 18 medical marijuana states plus the District of Columbia and the two states, Colorado and Washington, that are legally regulating marijuana). More broadly, the Task Force will likely also explore the draconian drug sentencing policies of the last three decades that have contributed to severe overcrowding in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

In order to see the 9/11 Memorial in lower Manhattan you must first remove your belt and anything metal, pass through airport-level security, and show your ticket at six separate check points. After making it past all this on a sunny afternoon I did not feel especially free by the time I entered the site.
Still, the Memorial can provoke powerful emotions that tend to eclipse the oppressive experience of being processed, prodded and examined before acceptance. Standing in the wide court surrounding the two pools, built on the same spots where the Twin Towers stood, you cannot help sensing what is missing. Still water circulates below the names of victims, each die-cut into bronze, and then descends the thirty-foot waterfall into a void.
The guide touts it as the largest water cascade in North America.

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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.

May 20

Sometimes They Should See You Perspire

By Lee R. Haven, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

"I say they should keep the Confederate soldiers there and I'm from the North."
I'd heard Susie (not her real name) say she was from Pennsylvania and she gave her age as late fifty-something. She was the lone white person in the work area that day--- among, including me, the some four or five blacks about---and she was responding to a story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the local daily, about how some people were upset about the laser-light patriotic shows at Stone MountainPark. The shows, you see, feature images of Rebel soldier-heroes carved on a side of the mountain to accompany the fireworks and twangy jingoistic numbers. The artwork is rather impressive, but it's still a commemoration of Robert E. Lee and the boys. I saw the show twice, both times with family that included my grandchildren. The first time, many moons ago, I thought I was at a Klan rally, or how I imaged one would be. It wasn't so bad the second time---someone must have convinced me things had improved---but it was still a celebration of a time and a people not kind to blacks.

"It's history," Susie continued, pressing her case, "and how are you gonna deny history? If it happened, it happened. Let them celebrate it."

Today, the Green Shadow Cabinet sent President Obama and others in the administration a report that recommends the federal government respect democracy and federalism by allowing implementation of laws that would regulate and tax marijuana in Washington and Colorado, as well as laws in 18 states and the District of Columbia that allow its medical use.

In a letter to President Obama, Jill Stein, MD the president of the Green Shadow Cabinet wrote: "More than 3 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges, approximately 90 people per hour, since you became president," and urged President Obama to follow the lead of voters writing "The people are providing you a path out of the marijuana war quagmire." She also highlighted the racial unfairness of the marijuana laws saying "unfair enforcement practices exacerbate racial divisions at a time when the United States should be taking steps to heal these wounds and end racism."

What's extraordinary about the brewing controversy over the Internal Revenue Service's review of Tea Party groups' application for tax-free status is that the Obama administration enjoys the flagellation, the groveling, the humiliation. What's striking about the scandal over the Justice Department's seizure of two months worth of Associated Press reporters' phone records is that the administration enjoys inflicting pain, tightening the screws on the press and paddling the Constitution. This is governance as sadomasochism.
Obama and team play both dominant and submissive. On most issues most days, the administration cowers before its masters in the Republican Party and the conservative media. Bold progressive policy? Exciting new initiative? Sharp break with the lawlessness of the past? Not a chance. The more important the matter, the more central to peace or social justice, the more certain it is that Obama trims sails, pulls punches, and retreats rather than advances. Should one detect, however, the slightest whiff of whistleblower-inspired transparency on defense or foreign policy, moments for example when the War on Terror is exposed as Murder.gov, or when an agency is caught doing its job, the dungeon door slams shut on the offender. Even the use of universally recognized safewords, old-fashioned phrases like freedom of the press, or the peoples' right to know, will not reopen it.

May 20

Hit and Stay

By David Swanson, War is a Crime | Op-Ed

The CIA has been so busy consulting on Zero Dark Thirty, not to mention funding Hamid Karzai, bribing Russians, lying about weapons, and conducting humanitarian drone murders, that it didn't have any time at all to help out withHit and Stay, and yet arguably the latter turned out to be the better film despite such a severe handicap. You can check it out at http://hitandstay.com

This is a film about people taking risks to prevent killing rather than to engage in it. The focus is on the Catonsville Nine action on May 17, 1968, 45 years ago this Friday. That action, in which activists burned draft cards and apologized for burning papers rather than children, was preceded by the Baltimore Four action of October 27, 1967, in which four activists poured their blood on draft papers. It was followed by countless other actions, leading right up to the Transform Plowshares action in Tennessee for which three are currently awaiting sentencing.

Adobe Systems Incorporated recently announced that it will soon exit the software business—meaning all of Adobe's current software applications will be moved completely to the cloud—potentially holding hostage the artistic and intellectual property of an end user should one lapse in payment of monthly fees.

For more than a decade, it's been an open secret that Adobe has a monopoly on many, if not most, of the first-choice tools for digital creativity, and creatives everywhere have allowed the company that great privilege of power. Adobe now seems to interpret that power as divine right, but the earthquake of Adobe's heavy handedness has triggered a tsunami that now threatens to capsize its long-standing and cozy relationship with a worldwide legion of artists and photographers, graphic designers, filmmakers and illustrators, who are showing resentment and resistance, and a willingness to put up a global fight against this corporate friend.

As the hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay approach their 100th day of refusing to eat this Friday, May 17, we urge President Obama to take specific steps now to release or transfer prisoners and close the prison.

More than 100 of the 166 prisoners at Guantanamo are participating in a hunger strike. More than two-dozen are being brutally force fed. We join with those throughout the United States and world calling for their release or transfer and ending the injustice of indefinite detention without trial. We also call for the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison which has become a human rights embarrassment to the Obama administration and the United States.

May 17

Neglecting to Forget: Lessons from Guatemala

By Julie R Butler , SpeakOut | News Analysis

On Friday, May 10, 2013, José Efraín Ríos Montt became the first head of state to be tried in their own country for genocide and found guilty. It was a hard-won battle to bring a modicum of justice in a country still divided along racial lines, still separated into the very poor rural indigenous class and the wealthy and powerful white privileged class.

This outcome heralds a warning to the most powerful war criminals in the world, that impunity cannot withstand the patient perseverance of the truth that they try so hard to suppress. And it is a commanding message, as even Ríos Montt's "scorched-earth" policy of destroying entire villages suspected of supporting Marxist guerillas and blaming the violence on the guerillas, themselves, could not obliterate all of the truth. Even his campaign of horrifying terror could not silence the few surviving victims, once they were convinced that their voices could make a difference. Nor could it annihilate the pangs of conscience that haunted a few of the soldiers who participated in the horrors.

Today, as the majority of men detained at Guantánamo enter their fourth month on hunger strike in protest of their indefinite detention, the Center for Constitutional Rights participated in a congressional briefing on Guantánamo titled, "From Crisis to Solution."

The briefing was co-sponsored by Members of Congress James P. Moran and Gerry Connolly of Virginia, The Constitution Project, The New America Foundation, and The National Religious Campaign Against Torture. Panelists included CCR Senior Staff Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei, along with Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson who served as Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Brigadier General David R. Irvine, and the ordained Presbyterian minister Dr. George Hunsinger. It was moderated by Kristine Huskey, counsel on Rasul v. Bush (2004) and Boumediene v. Bush (2008).

Today, ten House Judiciary Committee members joined together to pass a resolution to form the Over-Criminalization Task Force of 2013 to examine and make recommendations for paring down the federal criminal code, which has expanded rapidly in recent years. The Task Force will conduct hearings and investigations on over-criminalization issues within the Committee on the Judiciary's jurisdiction, and has the opportunity to issue reports to the Committee on its findings and provide policy reform recommendations. This is the first review of the expansive federal criminal code since a Department of Justice review in the 1980s.

The Task Force could choose to examine federal marijuana policy because only Congress can remove federal criminal penalties for marijuana – even for individuals who are in compliance with state laws (such as the 18 medical marijuana states plus the District of Columbia and the two states, Colorado and Washington, that are legally regulating marijuana). More broadly, the Task Force will likely also explore the draconian drug sentencing policies of the last three decades that have contributed to severe overcrowding in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

In order to see the 9/11 Memorial in lower Manhattan you must first remove your belt and anything metal, pass through airport-level security, and show your ticket at six separate check points. After making it past all this on a sunny afternoon I did not feel especially free by the time I entered the site.
Still, the Memorial can provoke powerful emotions that tend to eclipse the oppressive experience of being processed, prodded and examined before acceptance. Standing in the wide court surrounding the two pools, built on the same spots where the Twin Towers stood, you cannot help sensing what is missing. Still water circulates below the names of victims, each die-cut into bronze, and then descends the thirty-foot waterfall into a void.
The guide touts it as the largest water cascade in North America.