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.
Conversation in Germany these days, when not about soccer, dealt often with beef which was part horsemeat, high-priced organic "bio" eggs which weren't all they claimed to be or, in thrilling, moving detail, the last weeks, days and hours of the one and only German Pope (since 1058 A.D.).
Also under often heated debate was the court decision that either member of a homosexual "life partnership" can legally adopt the child or children of the other member, as part of a family. This was one more step towards normalizing homosexual relationships and someday, it is hoped, legalizing regular marriages. Most political parties supported the decision, opposed were only the Christian Social Union, the further-right Bavarian branch of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, and some other Christian Democrats who also mourned the good old days with the old "Biblical" family formula. But they were a small minority in the Bundestag; how ideas have changed in ten or twenty years!
Hugo Chávez was the President of Venezuela from 1999 until his death in 2013. To discuss the legacy of Chavez, I talk with Kevin Zeese, who states that "The death of Hugo Chávez is a great loss to the people of Venezuela who he lifted out of poverty and brought a deep participatory democracy. He was a leader who in unity with the people was able to free Venezuela from the grips of US Empire, brought dignity to poor and working class, and was central to a Latin American revolt against US domination."
"America is a racist country," Mychal Denzel Smith wrote earlier this month in an articleat the Nation. Smith called on whites to acknowledge racism's pervasiveness and eliminate it. I won't debate the accuracy of Smith's assessment of what America is, and I don't know whether or not he was using hyperbole to make his point. Either way, however, his demand that white people admit its truth as part of their pledge to fight racism only discourages some of them from doing what the article's title rightly demands, to "give up racism."
Smith reduces a complex topic to a yes-no question: is America racist? Sixty years ago racial discrimination was legal; most blacks were barred from voting and sending their children to integrated schools. Now, we have a black First Family. As Smith indicates, that does not mean racism has disappeared. But it does mean a simplistic approach to American racism is inadequate.
Joshua Hagler is a self-taught artist, but one would not readily suspect that due to his academic prowess and brilliance. Hagler's work presents subject matter that is visually lush and lyrical. And from a safe distance, his color-filled paintings hang on the wall like innocuous eye candy. As the viewer comes closer, however, each piece explodes and morphs into a radical discourse on philosophy and religion, simultaneously challenging the fact and fiction of American history.
Hagler is based in Oakland, California, and in the following interview he talks about the roots of his work, and the mind space from which he creates.
There have been some fascinating studies about the effects of meditation. Buddhist monks and Trappist friars have been hooked up to EEG machines to record subtle changes in their brainwaves during their spiritual practices. Scores of clinical trials have also been conducted to assess the impact of meditation and prayer on physiological processes ranging from blood pressure and immune system response to recovery rates from surgery. There have even been controversial studies which purport to show that the practice of Transcendental Meditation lowers crime rates when a critical mass of meditators become active in a community.
But scientists have not explored the impact of meditation on that most un-meditative of all disciplines - politics - until now.
Yesterday, two holdout vulture funds, including Paul Singer's NML Capital, were in a New York Federal court versus Argentina. The Financial Times has dubbed the proceeding the "'the trial of the century' in sovereign debt restructuring." After the hearing, judges at the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that will issue their ruling in the coming weeks.
Jubilee USA Network is bringing attention to the effect that this case could have on poor countries: "If these vulture hedge funds win, it will mean they will more aggressively target poor countries in fragile financial recovery. If we win, it will mean that it will be harder for vulture funds to target the monies that develop social infrastructure in many poor countries," said Eric LeCompte, Jubilee USA Network's Executive Director.
The historical debates surrounding the legacy of Hugo Chavez have begun. Perhaps one day I will join these debates. But not now. Attacks on Chavez "the dictator" or Chavez the charismatic "opponent" of the United States will demand from the left a spirited defense. Perhaps I will join such an effort in the months and years ahead. But not now. In this brief space I want to speak about Hugo Chavez as a leader who inspired a generation to believe that an alternative to capitalism could be fashioned from a reinvention of the state by the popular majorities.
The popularity of Chavez had a world-historical reach and it would not be a mistake to analyze his charismatic leadership in the context of a personality cult like that of Fidel, Che, or Subcommandante Marcos, for instance. To do this is not to diminish the importance of his role as a figure that could galvanize millions on the left and animate their faith that a more humane alternative to capitalism was a possibility, once the battle against US imperialism was won.
As the sequester kicks in, automatic cuts will kick in across the board- including cuts to the defense budget. However, when one considers how completely out of whack our defense budget is in the post 9/11 age of perpetual war, the cuts will still leave us with a military budget that dwarfs all other countries- combined.
The Washington Post's Ezra Klein breaks it down this way:
Over the past decade, we've been at war. And our spending went way up.
Former DEA Heads Urge Justice Department to Block Historic Marijuana Regulation Implementation in Colorado and WashingtonBy Staff, Drug Policy Alliance | Press Release
For the second time in six months, former DEA heads have collaborated to urge Attorney General Eric Holder to oppose state-level efforts to tax and regulate marijuana. Today, they sent a letter to Holder calling on him to block implementation of new laws in Colorado and Washington. Holder will appear tomorrow before a U.S. Senate judiciary committee hearing.
The ex-DEA directors sent a similar letter to Holder back in September, urging him to speak out against the marijuana legalization initiatives in Colorado and Washington, as he had done before the California legalization initiative in October 2010. The White House and attorney general chose instead to remain silent, allowing citizens in those states to vote without the threat of federal obstruction.
One would think that that a certain troubled country seeking absolute security from the possibility of a terrorist attack - by trashing its constitution and giving its president the power to execute at will, breaking its own laws with illegal wars and the use of torture, abandoning all but the pretense of protecting civil liberties and human rights - that such a country would at least have found a modicum of hard-security peace. In fact, of course, like anaphylactic shock, this country's overreaction to the tragic lashing out of a few individuals driven to desperation by yes, this same country's previous intrusive overreactions (in supporting dictators, despots, thugs, etc.) has simply ramped up the level of carnage and extremism: all in support of yet higher levels of feedback-howl paranoia.