Monday, 22 December 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.

May 06

Blair: The Neocon

By Dr James J Zogby, The Arab American Institute | Op-Ed

Like many a "hawkish" liberal before him, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair crossed over to the dark side of neo-conservatism. This was on display last week in a keynote address Blair delivered at Bloomberg's London headquarters. After reading and rereading the speech, "Why the Middle East Matters", I was struck by how similar it was to the "agitprop" used by George W. Bush in the lead-up to the Iraq war.

Like Bush, Blair began and ended his Bloomberg speech on an alarmist note, designed to mobilize the public by preying on fear. Troubled that in the post-Iraq war era, public opinion in the West has become weary and wary of any further Middle East adventures, he sought to frighten his audience into joining the fight against what he called this century's "biggest threat to global security"— radical, extremist Islam. In near hysterical language he warned that this "radicalized and politicized view of Islam...is growing. It is spreading across the world...And in the face of this threat we seem...powerless to counter it effectively." In the stark, apocalyptic Manichean language, so-loved by the neo-cons, Blair terms this conflict between good and evil as "the essential battle" of our time— one in which "we must take a side."

Across the United States and the world, there is an emerging movement calling for the end of solitary confinement. The Illinois Coalition Against Torture (ICAT) is part of that movement. ICAT is currently engaged in the initial steps of a campaign to bring solitary confinement to an end in the state of Illinois. An ambitious goal but one that can be achieved. All that is needed is a groundswell of ordinary people raising their voices and declaring that solitary confinement IS torture! It is TORTURE and it must stop and now. Join us. Sign our petition. Spread the word.

Personally, I've learned a lot about torture over the last ten years.

On the show this week: CNN goes to Iran nuclear expert... Benjamin Netanyahu? Plus new nonsense on Benghazi, and Meet the Press presents a discussion on affirmative action with mostly conservative white guys–showing media's need for some affirmative action of their own.

I'm looking forward to speaking on Saturday, May 10, at the United We Stand Festival in Los Angeles (and at an earlier event) where dozens of speakers and musicians will be standing together against such evils as: "the PATRIOT Act, NDAA, NSA, war on drugs, drones, ... war, GMO, ... central banks, corporatism," and in favor of "Internet freedom, election reform, honest media/music/art, education/student leadership, the environment, ...."

This is nice timing, with Vermont having just become the first state to call for a Constitutional Convention to strip legalized bribery out of U.S. politics, and with the U.S. Senate planning a vote on a Constitutional amendment to allow Congress to limit said bribery. Sixteen states have urged Congress to act, which remains a quixotic pursuit. Even more disturbing than Congressional dithering is the failure of each of those 16 states to tack on a few words to do what Vermont has done and create a work-around should Congress members choose not to bite the greasy hand that feeds them. Think about what must motivate that failure to add a call for a Constitutional Convention.

May 05

VIPS Calls for Obama-Putin Summit on Ukraine

By Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, SpeakOut | Press Release

The buck stops with you, Mr. President. If you want to stop a bloody civil war between east and west Ukraine and avert Russian military intervention in eastern Ukraine, you may be able to do so before the violence hurtles completely out of control. You need to take the initiative and do it now.

We recommend that you publicly disavow any wish to incorporate Ukraine into NATO and that you make it clear to Moscow that you are prepared to meet personally with Russian President Vladimir Putin without delay to discuss ways to defuse the crisis and recognize the legitimate interests of the various parties.

You are surely aware by now that some of your key advisers do not share the goal of heading off even more serious violence. Or, if they do, it is hard to understand why they are giving you such a one-sided picture of the genesis of and the culpability for what has become an almost inexorable slide toward still wider hostilities and untold human misery among Ukrainians.

The law is a social code put into place by those who have property and personal interests to protect. Contrary to what those who hold the scepter proclaim, the law is written neither by god, nor by popular opinion. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of capitalist politics understands that the laws are made through a series of money transfers and corporate-friendly loopholes, and are then enforced through again another set of bribes and underhanded deals. It is, of course, in the interest of the state to promote the idea that the law is established by general consensus, mirroring the universal consciousness of the nation - even among an educated population the law is seen with a sort of divinity, as though god is personally invested in the law of any given state. Yet, when the will of two different states contradict, of course god always seems to jump to the side of whoever has the bigger weapons and deeper pockets. Strange, it seems, that god would seek to exert his will through corporate corruption, bourgeois bribes, and devious drones.

Today, after four years of servility and weak leadership in the face of a Harper government bent on an aggressive agenda of assimilation and termination of First Nations, National Chief Shawn Atleo was forced by popular pressure and a brewing chiefs’ revolt to resign, the first time a national chief has resigned since the creation of the institution. Throughout his term, Atleo has been more concerned with keeping Ottawa happy than with representing the aspirations of FirstNations people. When people rose up during Idle No More, he undermined the movement by legitimizing the government’s empty posturing by attending a controversial meeting with the Prime Ministers’ Office on January 11, 2013 without the mandate of the Chiefs in Assembly.

Most recently, he has served as the fig leaf for the government’s Orwellian First NationsEducation Act, which aims to finish the job of “killing the Indian in the child” that residential schools began by placing First Nations education under the control of governments and central authorities remote from the realities of First Nations - all while disingenuously claiming to placeeducation under First Nations control. This was too much for First Nations peoples, and many chiefs, to bear.

May 05

Rev Billy Exorcises Robobee from Harvard University

By Reverend Billy HoneyBeeLujah, SpeakOut | Video

OBOEE VS. REVEREND BILLY. The Robobee lab in Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) is exorcised by New York's Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir, who are dressed up as queen bees and sing a song in honor of the threatened Honey Bee. The Robobee would replace the Honey Bee with the capacity for artificial pollination. It is likely that the drone-makers (DARPA) at the Pentagon are also looking to use the science developed in this lab. (The lead scientist at the Micro-Robotics Lab is a DARPA fellow.) The Stop Shopping Choir left at the display case full of Robobee prototypes, fruits and vegetables that are pollinated by the Honey Bee.

DENVER - Yesterday, a bill failed to pass the Colorado House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs committee that would have added post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of 'debilitating medical conditions' that qualify for a medical marijuana recommendation. This timely bill (HB14-1364) would have addressed a major gap in access to medical marijuana in Colorado for veterans and all those suffering from PTSD. The bill sought to ensure that veterans won't lose their VA benefits for following their physician's recommendation to use medical marijuana.

On average a veteran commits suicide every hour in the United States – and medical marijuana has been proven to reduce suicide. But, Colorado veterans who use marijuana to manage their symptoms of PTSD risk losing their Veterans Administration (VA) benefits. VA policy permits veterans in compliance with their state medical marijuana law to continue to receive all their benefits and remain eligible for care in the VA medical system.

WASHINGTON - New analysis of 2011 Census data reveals an acute racial and ethnic wealth gap that is causing a group of leading experts to call for important policy and regulatory changes. In the recovery period following the Great Recession, the average African American and Latino household still owns only six and seven cents respectively for every one dollar in wealth held by the typical white family, an increase of a penny per group since 2009.

The gap is especially noticeable when it comes to access to immediate cash. Over two-thirds of African Americans (67 percent) and nearly three-fourths of Latinos (71 percent), but only one-third of whites (34 percent), are considered "liquid asset poor", meaning that they do not have cash or assets readily converted into cash that will cover their basic living expenses if they are without income for three months. In fact, the average liquid wealth of whites ($23,000 in cash reserves) is now over 100 times that of African Americans and more than 65 times that held by Latinos.

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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 06

Blair: The Neocon

By Dr James J Zogby, The Arab American Institute | Op-Ed

Like many a "hawkish" liberal before him, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair crossed over to the dark side of neo-conservatism. This was on display last week in a keynote address Blair delivered at Bloomberg's London headquarters. After reading and rereading the speech, "Why the Middle East Matters", I was struck by how similar it was to the "agitprop" used by George W. Bush in the lead-up to the Iraq war.

Like Bush, Blair began and ended his Bloomberg speech on an alarmist note, designed to mobilize the public by preying on fear. Troubled that in the post-Iraq war era, public opinion in the West has become weary and wary of any further Middle East adventures, he sought to frighten his audience into joining the fight against what he called this century's "biggest threat to global security"— radical, extremist Islam. In near hysterical language he warned that this "radicalized and politicized view of Islam...is growing. It is spreading across the world...And in the face of this threat we seem...powerless to counter it effectively." In the stark, apocalyptic Manichean language, so-loved by the neo-cons, Blair terms this conflict between good and evil as "the essential battle" of our time— one in which "we must take a side."

Across the United States and the world, there is an emerging movement calling for the end of solitary confinement. The Illinois Coalition Against Torture (ICAT) is part of that movement. ICAT is currently engaged in the initial steps of a campaign to bring solitary confinement to an end in the state of Illinois. An ambitious goal but one that can be achieved. All that is needed is a groundswell of ordinary people raising their voices and declaring that solitary confinement IS torture! It is TORTURE and it must stop and now. Join us. Sign our petition. Spread the word.

Personally, I've learned a lot about torture over the last ten years.

On the show this week: CNN goes to Iran nuclear expert... Benjamin Netanyahu? Plus new nonsense on Benghazi, and Meet the Press presents a discussion on affirmative action with mostly conservative white guys–showing media's need for some affirmative action of their own.

I'm looking forward to speaking on Saturday, May 10, at the United We Stand Festival in Los Angeles (and at an earlier event) where dozens of speakers and musicians will be standing together against such evils as: "the PATRIOT Act, NDAA, NSA, war on drugs, drones, ... war, GMO, ... central banks, corporatism," and in favor of "Internet freedom, election reform, honest media/music/art, education/student leadership, the environment, ...."

This is nice timing, with Vermont having just become the first state to call for a Constitutional Convention to strip legalized bribery out of U.S. politics, and with the U.S. Senate planning a vote on a Constitutional amendment to allow Congress to limit said bribery. Sixteen states have urged Congress to act, which remains a quixotic pursuit. Even more disturbing than Congressional dithering is the failure of each of those 16 states to tack on a few words to do what Vermont has done and create a work-around should Congress members choose not to bite the greasy hand that feeds them. Think about what must motivate that failure to add a call for a Constitutional Convention.

May 05

VIPS Calls for Obama-Putin Summit on Ukraine

By Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, SpeakOut | Press Release

The buck stops with you, Mr. President. If you want to stop a bloody civil war between east and west Ukraine and avert Russian military intervention in eastern Ukraine, you may be able to do so before the violence hurtles completely out of control. You need to take the initiative and do it now.

We recommend that you publicly disavow any wish to incorporate Ukraine into NATO and that you make it clear to Moscow that you are prepared to meet personally with Russian President Vladimir Putin without delay to discuss ways to defuse the crisis and recognize the legitimate interests of the various parties.

You are surely aware by now that some of your key advisers do not share the goal of heading off even more serious violence. Or, if they do, it is hard to understand why they are giving you such a one-sided picture of the genesis of and the culpability for what has become an almost inexorable slide toward still wider hostilities and untold human misery among Ukrainians.

The law is a social code put into place by those who have property and personal interests to protect. Contrary to what those who hold the scepter proclaim, the law is written neither by god, nor by popular opinion. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of capitalist politics understands that the laws are made through a series of money transfers and corporate-friendly loopholes, and are then enforced through again another set of bribes and underhanded deals. It is, of course, in the interest of the state to promote the idea that the law is established by general consensus, mirroring the universal consciousness of the nation - even among an educated population the law is seen with a sort of divinity, as though god is personally invested in the law of any given state. Yet, when the will of two different states contradict, of course god always seems to jump to the side of whoever has the bigger weapons and deeper pockets. Strange, it seems, that god would seek to exert his will through corporate corruption, bourgeois bribes, and devious drones.

Today, after four years of servility and weak leadership in the face of a Harper government bent on an aggressive agenda of assimilation and termination of First Nations, National Chief Shawn Atleo was forced by popular pressure and a brewing chiefs’ revolt to resign, the first time a national chief has resigned since the creation of the institution. Throughout his term, Atleo has been more concerned with keeping Ottawa happy than with representing the aspirations of FirstNations people. When people rose up during Idle No More, he undermined the movement by legitimizing the government’s empty posturing by attending a controversial meeting with the Prime Ministers’ Office on January 11, 2013 without the mandate of the Chiefs in Assembly.

Most recently, he has served as the fig leaf for the government’s Orwellian First NationsEducation Act, which aims to finish the job of “killing the Indian in the child” that residential schools began by placing First Nations education under the control of governments and central authorities remote from the realities of First Nations - all while disingenuously claiming to placeeducation under First Nations control. This was too much for First Nations peoples, and many chiefs, to bear.

May 05

Rev Billy Exorcises Robobee from Harvard University

By Reverend Billy HoneyBeeLujah, SpeakOut | Video

OBOEE VS. REVEREND BILLY. The Robobee lab in Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) is exorcised by New York's Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir, who are dressed up as queen bees and sing a song in honor of the threatened Honey Bee. The Robobee would replace the Honey Bee with the capacity for artificial pollination. It is likely that the drone-makers (DARPA) at the Pentagon are also looking to use the science developed in this lab. (The lead scientist at the Micro-Robotics Lab is a DARPA fellow.) The Stop Shopping Choir left at the display case full of Robobee prototypes, fruits and vegetables that are pollinated by the Honey Bee.

DENVER - Yesterday, a bill failed to pass the Colorado House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs committee that would have added post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of 'debilitating medical conditions' that qualify for a medical marijuana recommendation. This timely bill (HB14-1364) would have addressed a major gap in access to medical marijuana in Colorado for veterans and all those suffering from PTSD. The bill sought to ensure that veterans won't lose their VA benefits for following their physician's recommendation to use medical marijuana.

On average a veteran commits suicide every hour in the United States – and medical marijuana has been proven to reduce suicide. But, Colorado veterans who use marijuana to manage their symptoms of PTSD risk losing their Veterans Administration (VA) benefits. VA policy permits veterans in compliance with their state medical marijuana law to continue to receive all their benefits and remain eligible for care in the VA medical system.

WASHINGTON - New analysis of 2011 Census data reveals an acute racial and ethnic wealth gap that is causing a group of leading experts to call for important policy and regulatory changes. In the recovery period following the Great Recession, the average African American and Latino household still owns only six and seven cents respectively for every one dollar in wealth held by the typical white family, an increase of a penny per group since 2009.

The gap is especially noticeable when it comes to access to immediate cash. Over two-thirds of African Americans (67 percent) and nearly three-fourths of Latinos (71 percent), but only one-third of whites (34 percent), are considered "liquid asset poor", meaning that they do not have cash or assets readily converted into cash that will cover their basic living expenses if they are without income for three months. In fact, the average liquid wealth of whites ($23,000 in cash reserves) is now over 100 times that of African Americans and more than 65 times that held by Latinos.