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.
This is an opportunity to explore a vexing but significant topic in the field of human rights: self-determination. The right of self-determination has been celebrated for ages. It is a basic principle of the United Nation Charter which has been reaffirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and applied countless times to the settlement of international disputes. The concept played a significant part in the post-world war I settlement, leading for example to plebiscite in a number of disputed border areas, even though no reference was made to self-determination in the League of Nations Covenant.
The concept seems to be as old as Government itself and was the basis of French and American revolutions. In 1916, President Wilson stated that self-determination is not a mere phrase. He said that it is an imperative principle of action and included it in the famous 14-point charter. This gave a prominence to the principle.
In February 2013, I visited Old and New Delhi, India. I went to see several important places such as the Red Fort (Lal Qila) and the Raj Ghat - which is the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi (Gandhi was cremated at Raj Ghat on 31 January 1948). I also visited the India Gate which commemorates the more than 70.000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British Army during the First World War. I was impressed seeing all the names of Indian soldiers who gave their lives during WWI. I immediately made the comparison with the Menen Gate in Ypres, Flanders where 54.389 names of persons from the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Countries are written on the walls. More names, and unknown soldiers, are mentioned on the thousands and thousands of graves in the different cemeteries in Flanders Fields. Chemical weapons have been first used in Steenstraete, nearby Yper. That is why that weapon got the name "Yperite."
The main reaction after WWI was: No more war ever again! Several initiatives were launched right after WWI, working for stronger international solidarity and disarmament. What does this mean for the European Union and the European continent at large? What lessons can be learned by the international community?
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.
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.
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.