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.
Fifty years ago this August the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom established the place of the Civil Rights Movement in the core of the national consciousness. Commemorating the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, filling the memorial dedicated to the president who proclaimed it, the march positioned the Movement in its historical context. National attention focused on the speaker introduced that day as the “moral leader of the nation.” Opening with an appeal to the hopes embodied in emancipation, Martin Luther King moved to a stirring invocation of the Declaration of Independence, locating the moral headwater of the Movement in the most fundamental aspirations of the nation’s first text. After the “dream” speech, the Civil Rights Movement could not be discounted as the regional activity of a minority. Its activism was the movement of the nation toward self-realization. How we remember the Movement became, that day, an index of how we remember what we once set out to become; how we teach it, an index of the vigor -- or senility -- of the national memory.
US hacker-troll-activist Andrew Auernheimer, AKA Weev, has appealed his March conviction for unauthorized access of AT&T's web site in violation the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). The conviction, and the CFAA - the ever-debated "worst law in technology," per Columbia Law Professor Tim Wu - are a convenient and apt way to contemplate America’s treatment of the "other" in national security, and to recognize its tendency to criminalize what it cannot subdue.
When full-body scanners were introduced at American airports three years ago, there was a brief public outcry. But just as quickly, it died down. Travelers interviewed shrugged off the loss of privacy in the name of safety, using terms like "trade-off" and "compromise." One frequent traveler seemed to sum up the general attitude when he said he'd grown "immune to the procedures."
In other words, Americans don't want to be groped or scanned, don't want our personal spaces invaded, but we're willing to endure both in the name of security. Such is the contract between the people and the state in the new, post-9/11 America.
A clean-shaven man in a fresh-pressed shirt and spotless dress shoes is waiting outside a hospital for Syrian refugees as I walk out the door. We start talking about the civil war across the border, less than 1 km from were we stood, and he tells me:
"The presence of Islamists groups in our rebel forces could ruin our chance to end this war within the next year. They make up less than one percent of the men fighting against Bashar al-Assad, but all that seems to matter to foreign media is the fact they exist and they are beside us."
The man introduces himself as Ahmad al-Soud, Lieutenant of the Free Syrian Army and Commander of the 13th Division based in Idlib. He was originally an officer in Assad's army, but switched sides when regime forces bombed Idlib, his hometown, and he witnessed a high number of civilian casualties. I asked him to sit down for an interview and he agreed.
I know the White Man Has Spoken and that the trial is pretty much over since what he said he saw, as the media have been loudly reminding us, backs up what George Zimmerman says what happened before he was, well, forced, in self defense, to kill Trayvon Martin.
We can all go home now. Nothing more to see here. The only question is why did they wait so long before we saw anyone with genuine authority to speak, and not waste precious court and TV time with those... women who say they also saw the scuffle and, most important, with that borderline human being who, when not speaking in Ebonics, mumbled in the sub-language, and who gave us attitude, and just lied.
There are some questions.... that won't go away.
The Roberts 5 richly deserve the label of Ku Klux Kourt that Greg Palast ["Ku Klux Kourt Kills King's Dream Law, Replaces Voting Rights Act With Katherine Harris Acts"] pinned on them. The black robed five are as much vigilantes running roughshod over law and the Constitution on behalf of the money power who would enslave us all as were those white robed terrorists who served the racist slave power of an earlier time.
These legislators in robes no longer deserve the dignity of calling themselves a "court" because in case after case it is not "judicial power" that they are exercising. The word "kangaroo" comes to mind. Just because they work in a court building does not make their every order "judicial."
I met Mohammed Hassan Aazab earlier this year over tea at a table of young anarchists in downtown Cairo. The anniversary of the revolution had just passed with massive protests and the emergence of a Western-style black bloc that appeared to have little to do with anarchists in the city. At the time, much of the ongoing grassroots organizing was against sexual violence — in particular, the mob sexual assaults that have become synonymous with any large gathering in Tahrir. The trauma of such violence carried out against protesters was apparent in our conversation. In fact, Aazab told me that he was done with protests and politics, and had resigned himself to the dysfunction of day-to-day life in Egypt.
Then came June 30. Crowds reportedly as large as 33 million took to the streets to call for the Muslim Brotherhood to step down from power, just a year after Mohammed Morsi took office. In the pre-dawn moments of June 1, as Aazab's phone battery dwindled steadily, I reconnected with him to chat a bit about his return to resistance.
No one has ever accused Justice Antonin Scalia of timidity. So it's not surprising that his opinion in United States v. Windsor, the case that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), fairly screams: I'm not a bigot. I'm not. I'm not.
"The majority says that the supporters of this Act acted with malice," he claims in his dissent. And of course by dissenting he became a supporter of the act. So he must defend himself against the charge that he harbors malice toward gays and lesbians. "I am sure these accusations are quite untrue," he retorts flatly. "To defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements... To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution." In other words, "It demeansme!"
There are three ways to deal with your enemies: ignore them, kill them or engage them in dialogue to seek a mutually beneficial arrangement for living together.
We all know that ignoring them doesn't work. So, most countries these days – including the post-9/11 United States — has chosen to try to kill them. There are a couple of problems with that strategy, however. It violates the principle of due process so dear to Western democracies. It leaves collateral damage in its wake, injuring and killing innocents no matter how "clean" drones and other technologies are billed. The Stanford University report, Living Under Drones, found that the number of "high-level" militants killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low – estimated at just 2% of deaths.And, in the long term, the strategy simply doesn't work. Kill one militant and another will take his place, as the root causes of rebellion continue to simmer. In fact, although it is an issue of some dispute, many observers believe that drone strikes actually serve as a recruitment tool for non-state armed groups, motivating further violent attacks.
The Senate's failure to reach a deal to avoid a doubling of interest rates on federally subsidized student loans has once again thrust the magnitude of student debt into the spotlight. Most agree that an increase in the interest rate for subsidized Stafford loans from 3.4% to 6.8% is a bad idea for students, but Democrats and Republicans unsurprisingly disagree on how to stave it off. Republicans and, we should add, President Obama, want to provide a long-term fix to the recurring problem by tying interest rates to market rates. Democrats want to temporarily extend the current rate, and take up the issue again at a later date. Unable at this point to reach a passable compromise, it looks like the rate increase will go into effect July 1, as discussions have, at least for now, run aground on the July 4th recess.