Wednesday, 22 October 2014 / 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.

Apr 22

Radical Philosophy and the Free Alabama Movement

By Lisa Guenther, New APPS | News Analysis

Last summer, thousands of prisoners in California launched a 60-day hunger strike to protest and transform oppressive policies in the California Department of Corrections. One member of the organizing team called their strike action a "multi-racial, multi–regional Human Rights Movement to challenge torture."

This weekend, another prisoner-led human rights movement is gaining momentum in Alabama. The Free Alabama Movement (FAM) seeks to analyze, resist, and transform prison slavery from within the Prison Industrial Complex.

A White House official told Yahoo that President Obama is prepared to use his pardon power to grant clemency to "hundreds, perhaps thousands" of people who have been jailed for nonviolent drug crimes. The report said that the administration is making moves that will help it handle the increase in petitions that Mr. Obama is planning to sign off on before he leaves office. Last Tuesday, White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said Obama has directed the Justice Department to improve its clemency recommendation process and recruit more applications from convicts.

The White House's new moves would follow in the footsteps of a January announcement that the Obama administration would taking the unprecedented step of encouraging defense lawyers to suggest inmates whom the president might let out of prison early, as part of its effort to curtail severe penalties in low-level drug cases.

Apr 21

Incarcerated Workers Launch Nonviolent Work Strike Against "New Jim Crow" Across Alabama Prisons

By Staff, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee | Press Release

BIRMINGHAM, AL – Hidden from public view by barbed-wire fences and windowless concrete walls, a movement is brewing in Alabama that could change America. This Monday, hundreds of men incarcerated in St. Clair and prisons across the state will stop work, adding economic muscle to their demands for wages for their labor, an end to overcrowding and inhumane conditions, an end to the “New Jim Crow” of mass incarceration of African-Americans, and the repurposing the prison system as a tool for genuine rehabilitation in a wounded world. The demands of the peaceful strike action are outlined in detail in the Education, Rehabilitation, and Re-Entry Preparedness Bill (FREEDOM Bill), which was presented to the state legislature by the Free Alabama Movement in January.

Apr 21

Open Letter to President Obama

By Staff, Waging Peace | Open Letter

Dear President Obama,

During the closing session of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on March 25, 2014, you cited a number of concrete measures to secure highly-enriched uranium and plutonium and strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime that have been implemented as a result of the three Nuclear Security Summits, concluding: “So what’s been valuable about this summit is that it has not just been talk, it’s been action.”

Would that you would apply the same standard to nuclear disarmament! On April 5, 2009 in Prague, you gave millions of people around the world new hope when you declared: “So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” Bolstered by that hope, over the past three years, there has been a new round of nuclear disarmament initiatives by governments not possessing nuclear weapons, both within and outside the United Nations. Yet the United States has been notably “missing in action” at best, and dismissive or obstructive at worst. This conflict may come to a head at the 2015 Review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Apr 21

Defending Kickbacks

By James Kwak, The Baseline Scenario | News Analysis

The Wall Street Journal  reports that the SEC will soon decide (well, sometime this year) whether brokers should be subject to a fiduciary standard in their dealings with clients, as registered financial advisers are today. At present, brokers only need to show that investments they recognize are “suitable” for their clients—roughly speaking, that they are in an appropriate asset class.

Not surprisingly, the brokerage industry is up in arms. They want to be able to push clients into the products for which they receive the highest commissions—a practice that (they say) could be more difficult under a fiduciary standard.

Apr 21

The 'Stable' West Bank Dilemma

By Ramzy Baroud, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Ze’ev Elkin, is a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and his predominantly rightwing cabinet. In a recent interview with The Economist, Elkin used the familiar tone of being conceited and oblivious to such notions as international or human rights, and reaffirmed his rejection of a Palestinian state.

Instead, Elkin wants Israel to annex a chunk of the West Bank. There is nothing new here, as such language is now official Israeli discourse. But one statement stood out, one that many Palestinians would find bewildering and exasperating. 

These days, said Elkin with a chuckle, the West Bank is “the most stable part of the Middle East.”

Apr 21

Obama Made Me Lose My Facebook Friends

By Sasha Brookner, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

I don’t remember exactly when it happened. It may have been vaguely somewhere circa Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 12:03pm that I noticed a paradigm shift of epic proportions in the previously held belief system of my Democrat compadres, and social media devotees. The change wasn’t subtle, it didn’t offer shades of gray or delicate nuance, instead it rattled the framework of civilization: imperialism became cool, previous critics of violating Article 2 of the Geneva Code now believed JSOC and our 101st Airborne were the only entities left protecting our nation from desert nomads riding air camels across the Atlantic to institute Sharia Law, and by posting photos of dismembered Afghani, Pakistani, Libyan, Palestinian and Yemeni children on Facebook I was engaging in bad-mannered “war porn.” Oh you didn’t know? Becoming the next David Morrell has always been a dream of mine deferred.  Perhaps nobody was paying attention to my lifelong Rambo vs. Taliban infants fantasy because they were too busy plugging Sasha and Malia’s birthdays into their “As-it-Happens” Google Alerts. What’s a 6-year continuation of war in the Graveyard of Empires sans Ahmad Shah Massoud, when Leave it to Beaver looking dresses are flying off the shelves and J. Crew is reaching milestone sales? Gag me with a Cluster Bomb, guys.

Apr 19

Thank You, NSA.

By Niall McLaren, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Diligent devourers of news from far-off places may have noticed a flurry of activity recently in the South-West Pacific. No, nothing to do with a missing airliner, just a bottle of wine that went missing a few years ago. But this was no ordinary bottle of wine; it was a $3000 bottle of a 1959 vintage delivered to the home of Mr. Barry Farrell, the leader of the New South Wales Liberal Party, to congratulate him on his election victory. It came from the chief fund-raiser for the NSW Liberal Party, a Mr. Nick Di Girolamo. Strangely, when Premier Farrell (as he was until the morning of April 16) was questioned before the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), just two weeks ago, he said he hardly knew Mr. Di Girolamo and he had never received a bottle of wine from him. However, it emerged that they had had quite a lot of meetings over the years and, some months after the Liberal Government was installed, Mr. Di Girolamo was appointed to the board of directors of Sydney's municipal water supply.

There the plot thickens, as major contracts were let that favored a tiny company with no assets which just happened to be run by close friends and business associates of Mr Di Girolamo. These people in turn had been prominent members of the Labor Party Government that the Liberals had defeated. Suffice it so say that the ICAC is delving closely into the details of the twisted dealings of these people and, to their surprise, uncovered a hand-written note from Mr. and Mrs. Farrell to Mr. and Mrs. Di Girolamo, thanking them warmly for the wine. When Mr. Farrell was told of this, he promptly resigned as Premier of NSW.

NEW ORLEANS—The Drug Policy Alliance filed an amicus brief yesterday urging the Louisiana Supreme Court to review the egregious prison sentence of Bernard Noble, a 48-year old man who was sentenced to 13.3 years of hard labor in prison without the opportunity for parole for possessing the equivalent of two marijuana cigarettes.

Noble's original sentencing judge considered the 13 and a third-year sentence egregious and imposed a sentence of five years of hard labor. But the Orleans Parish District Attorney wasn't satisfied with this punishment and appealed the sentence. Ultimately, the district attorney sought and obtained a prison term of close to triple the sentence imposed by the original sentencing judge.

Apr 18

Homeless and Unemployed in America

By Staff, MPHonline | Info Graphic

If you've ever watched the TV comedy Seinfeld, you might have seen the episode where Jerry's kooky neighbor Cosmo Kramer takes in some Japanese tourists overnight due to an incident. Kramer convinces the tourists to indulge themselves and blow their 50,000 yen cash on cowboy hats and boots — not realizing that's only a few hundred dollars, causing them to lose their hotel accommodations due to lack of funds. When Kramer borrows extra pillows from Jerry and thanks Elaine for her friend's gift of a chest of drawers, Jerry asks dismayed, "You have them sleeping in drawers?!" Kramer responds, "Jerry, have you seen the business hotels in Tokyo? They sleep in tiny stacked cubicles all the time. They feel right at home."

Absurd but nearly correct. Kramer is referring to the Japanese "kapuseru" or capsule hotels and their efficient use of space for short-term use. These business hotels have been around for over 30 years, and some of the sleeping pods are barely larger than a coffin. While a sleeping pod might be uncomfortable for long-term use, it brings up the point that we don't necessarily need a lot of space to live in. In fact, there's a "tiny home" movement going on in the USA and other places with an emphasis on sustainability — something that we need to take a good hard look at on a wide scale, given the giant economic crisis we're having, and how it's disrupted millions of lives.

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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.

Apr 22

Radical Philosophy and the Free Alabama Movement

By Lisa Guenther, New APPS | News Analysis

Last summer, thousands of prisoners in California launched a 60-day hunger strike to protest and transform oppressive policies in the California Department of Corrections. One member of the organizing team called their strike action a "multi-racial, multi–regional Human Rights Movement to challenge torture."

This weekend, another prisoner-led human rights movement is gaining momentum in Alabama. The Free Alabama Movement (FAM) seeks to analyze, resist, and transform prison slavery from within the Prison Industrial Complex.

A White House official told Yahoo that President Obama is prepared to use his pardon power to grant clemency to "hundreds, perhaps thousands" of people who have been jailed for nonviolent drug crimes. The report said that the administration is making moves that will help it handle the increase in petitions that Mr. Obama is planning to sign off on before he leaves office. Last Tuesday, White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said Obama has directed the Justice Department to improve its clemency recommendation process and recruit more applications from convicts.

The White House's new moves would follow in the footsteps of a January announcement that the Obama administration would taking the unprecedented step of encouraging defense lawyers to suggest inmates whom the president might let out of prison early, as part of its effort to curtail severe penalties in low-level drug cases.

Apr 21

Incarcerated Workers Launch Nonviolent Work Strike Against "New Jim Crow" Across Alabama Prisons

By Staff, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee | Press Release

BIRMINGHAM, AL – Hidden from public view by barbed-wire fences and windowless concrete walls, a movement is brewing in Alabama that could change America. This Monday, hundreds of men incarcerated in St. Clair and prisons across the state will stop work, adding economic muscle to their demands for wages for their labor, an end to overcrowding and inhumane conditions, an end to the “New Jim Crow” of mass incarceration of African-Americans, and the repurposing the prison system as a tool for genuine rehabilitation in a wounded world. The demands of the peaceful strike action are outlined in detail in the Education, Rehabilitation, and Re-Entry Preparedness Bill (FREEDOM Bill), which was presented to the state legislature by the Free Alabama Movement in January.

Apr 21

Open Letter to President Obama

By Staff, Waging Peace | Open Letter

Dear President Obama,

During the closing session of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on March 25, 2014, you cited a number of concrete measures to secure highly-enriched uranium and plutonium and strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime that have been implemented as a result of the three Nuclear Security Summits, concluding: “So what’s been valuable about this summit is that it has not just been talk, it’s been action.”

Would that you would apply the same standard to nuclear disarmament! On April 5, 2009 in Prague, you gave millions of people around the world new hope when you declared: “So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” Bolstered by that hope, over the past three years, there has been a new round of nuclear disarmament initiatives by governments not possessing nuclear weapons, both within and outside the United Nations. Yet the United States has been notably “missing in action” at best, and dismissive or obstructive at worst. This conflict may come to a head at the 2015 Review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Apr 21

Defending Kickbacks

By James Kwak, The Baseline Scenario | News Analysis

The Wall Street Journal  reports that the SEC will soon decide (well, sometime this year) whether brokers should be subject to a fiduciary standard in their dealings with clients, as registered financial advisers are today. At present, brokers only need to show that investments they recognize are “suitable” for their clients—roughly speaking, that they are in an appropriate asset class.

Not surprisingly, the brokerage industry is up in arms. They want to be able to push clients into the products for which they receive the highest commissions—a practice that (they say) could be more difficult under a fiduciary standard.

Apr 21

The 'Stable' West Bank Dilemma

By Ramzy Baroud, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Ze’ev Elkin, is a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and his predominantly rightwing cabinet. In a recent interview with The Economist, Elkin used the familiar tone of being conceited and oblivious to such notions as international or human rights, and reaffirmed his rejection of a Palestinian state.

Instead, Elkin wants Israel to annex a chunk of the West Bank. There is nothing new here, as such language is now official Israeli discourse. But one statement stood out, one that many Palestinians would find bewildering and exasperating. 

These days, said Elkin with a chuckle, the West Bank is “the most stable part of the Middle East.”

Apr 21

Obama Made Me Lose My Facebook Friends

By Sasha Brookner, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

I don’t remember exactly when it happened. It may have been vaguely somewhere circa Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 12:03pm that I noticed a paradigm shift of epic proportions in the previously held belief system of my Democrat compadres, and social media devotees. The change wasn’t subtle, it didn’t offer shades of gray or delicate nuance, instead it rattled the framework of civilization: imperialism became cool, previous critics of violating Article 2 of the Geneva Code now believed JSOC and our 101st Airborne were the only entities left protecting our nation from desert nomads riding air camels across the Atlantic to institute Sharia Law, and by posting photos of dismembered Afghani, Pakistani, Libyan, Palestinian and Yemeni children on Facebook I was engaging in bad-mannered “war porn.” Oh you didn’t know? Becoming the next David Morrell has always been a dream of mine deferred.  Perhaps nobody was paying attention to my lifelong Rambo vs. Taliban infants fantasy because they were too busy plugging Sasha and Malia’s birthdays into their “As-it-Happens” Google Alerts. What’s a 6-year continuation of war in the Graveyard of Empires sans Ahmad Shah Massoud, when Leave it to Beaver looking dresses are flying off the shelves and J. Crew is reaching milestone sales? Gag me with a Cluster Bomb, guys.

Apr 19

Thank You, NSA.

By Niall McLaren, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Diligent devourers of news from far-off places may have noticed a flurry of activity recently in the South-West Pacific. No, nothing to do with a missing airliner, just a bottle of wine that went missing a few years ago. But this was no ordinary bottle of wine; it was a $3000 bottle of a 1959 vintage delivered to the home of Mr. Barry Farrell, the leader of the New South Wales Liberal Party, to congratulate him on his election victory. It came from the chief fund-raiser for the NSW Liberal Party, a Mr. Nick Di Girolamo. Strangely, when Premier Farrell (as he was until the morning of April 16) was questioned before the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), just two weeks ago, he said he hardly knew Mr. Di Girolamo and he had never received a bottle of wine from him. However, it emerged that they had had quite a lot of meetings over the years and, some months after the Liberal Government was installed, Mr. Di Girolamo was appointed to the board of directors of Sydney's municipal water supply.

There the plot thickens, as major contracts were let that favored a tiny company with no assets which just happened to be run by close friends and business associates of Mr Di Girolamo. These people in turn had been prominent members of the Labor Party Government that the Liberals had defeated. Suffice it so say that the ICAC is delving closely into the details of the twisted dealings of these people and, to their surprise, uncovered a hand-written note from Mr. and Mrs. Farrell to Mr. and Mrs. Di Girolamo, thanking them warmly for the wine. When Mr. Farrell was told of this, he promptly resigned as Premier of NSW.

NEW ORLEANS—The Drug Policy Alliance filed an amicus brief yesterday urging the Louisiana Supreme Court to review the egregious prison sentence of Bernard Noble, a 48-year old man who was sentenced to 13.3 years of hard labor in prison without the opportunity for parole for possessing the equivalent of two marijuana cigarettes.

Noble's original sentencing judge considered the 13 and a third-year sentence egregious and imposed a sentence of five years of hard labor. But the Orleans Parish District Attorney wasn't satisfied with this punishment and appealed the sentence. Ultimately, the district attorney sought and obtained a prison term of close to triple the sentence imposed by the original sentencing judge.

Apr 18

Homeless and Unemployed in America

By Staff, MPHonline | Info Graphic

If you've ever watched the TV comedy Seinfeld, you might have seen the episode where Jerry's kooky neighbor Cosmo Kramer takes in some Japanese tourists overnight due to an incident. Kramer convinces the tourists to indulge themselves and blow their 50,000 yen cash on cowboy hats and boots — not realizing that's only a few hundred dollars, causing them to lose their hotel accommodations due to lack of funds. When Kramer borrows extra pillows from Jerry and thanks Elaine for her friend's gift of a chest of drawers, Jerry asks dismayed, "You have them sleeping in drawers?!" Kramer responds, "Jerry, have you seen the business hotels in Tokyo? They sleep in tiny stacked cubicles all the time. They feel right at home."

Absurd but nearly correct. Kramer is referring to the Japanese "kapuseru" or capsule hotels and their efficient use of space for short-term use. These business hotels have been around for over 30 years, and some of the sleeping pods are barely larger than a coffin. While a sleeping pod might be uncomfortable for long-term use, it brings up the point that we don't necessarily need a lot of space to live in. In fact, there's a "tiny home" movement going on in the USA and other places with an emphasis on sustainability — something that we need to take a good hard look at on a wide scale, given the giant economic crisis we're having, and how it's disrupted millions of lives.