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.
Part I - The Best of the Worst
Given the dangerous results of the recent election in the United States - one that saw the Republicans, a right-wing party increasingly populated with neocon warmongers, reactionaries, and plutocrats, take control of both houses of Congress - it might be time to take a look at a sober look at US democracy.
We can begin be taking note of the generic observation made by Winston Churchill: “Democracy is the worse form of government, except for all the other forms that have been tried from time to time.” The implication here is that democracy is really not the God-blessed system so many of Americans take it to be. For instance, the public in a democracy is as just as vulnerable to manipulation by various elites and interest groups as are those in non-democratic environments. The difference is that a democracy has a built-in procedure which allows citizens to have second thoughts about past manipulation. Thus they can kick out the bastards they were originally persuaded to kick in - even if it is often only to replace them with a new set of bastards. This repeated procedure results in a time limit on the damage elected leaders can do. It is, of course, possible that democratically elected politicians can come close to ruining a nation (their own as well as others) even given their limited tenure.
The United States is a society incapable of producing a major documentary film opposing the institution of war and explicitly advocating its abolition. If it did so, the major corporate media outlets would not sing such a film's praises.
Yet Watchers of the Sky is beloved by the US corporate media because it opposes genocide, not war. I'm not aware of any opponents of war who don't also oppose genocide. In fact, many oppose the two as a single evil without the stark distinction between them. But the anti-genocide academic nonprofit industrial complex has become dominated by leading advocates for war.
Following a worldwide day of actions of 100,000 registered nurses and health workers demanding substantial improvements in safeguards for the deadly Ebola virus, California officials have announced landmark mandatory Ebola guidelines that should be a model for federal and state action for all US hospitals, National Nurses United said today.
NNU, which has sponsored two months of actions to upgrade Ebola protections, and its California affiliate, California Nurses Association, praised the new standards released today by the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal-OSHA) under the leadership of Gov. Jerry Brown.
It’s been 100 days since Darren Wilson killed unarmed young African American Michael Brown and the world is watching and waiting to hear the forgone conclusion of white officer Wilson’s non-indictment. Many expect a violent reaction from an angry community when there is no indictment.
There is little mainstream coverage of the many groups within the St. Louis region that have begun important conversations, nonviolence trainings and planning to make positive change in their communities. It is important to understand and challenge violence in all of its forms (direct and structural). While we are all familiar with direct violence, it is just as important to understand structural violence, which includes many forms of injustice ultimately backed by the threat of violence. If you have warehouses of food and our families are starving you need guns to keep us from taking what we need. Poverty is structural violence.
This is the outline of a talk I once gave at the FOR Peacemaker Training Institute.
FIRST, DO NO HARM (Hippocrates): consider consequences short term and long term, intended and otherwise.
EARTH FIRST/GAIA (Lovelock): the earth, its creatures and its elements are a single organism of interacting, interdependent parts; avoid tribalism, nationalism, classism.
The film, Kill the Messenger, based on a true story, recounts a California reporter named Gary Webb. It discussed his real life effort to link the CIA with the 1980s crack epidemic and funding of the Contras. Webb implied that drug smuggling by Nicaraguans into American cities was intentionally overlooked by the CIA and a Reagan Administration weapons program in order to supply right wing anti-democratic fighters in Nicaragua. Webb maintained that the CIA knew of the drug trafficking operation. Reagan needed that operation since following passage of the Boland Amendment Congress would not help fund any Contra-oriented operation.
The movie essentially shows how Webb took on the world while no one else listened. The San Jose Mercury News decided to let him run his "Dark Alliance" series in 1996 and the story brought Webb notoriety. Other larger newspapers such as the LA Times, New York Times and Washington Post coalesced to marginalize the Mercury's editors and Webb, claiming that the story lacked credibility. They argued this was justified since Webb never nailed down a completely verifiable CIA source. They thought the story was plausible and interesting, but too circumstantial in proportion to the magnitude of its accusations and assertions. There is however, now evidence, based on the work of Robert Parry, that the CIA used its connections with the major print news publications to undermine Webb's work. Webb put himself out there and the mainstream news media (as well as his own publication) left him hanging out to dry.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Google is so rapidly expanding both its information-collecting capabilities and its political clout that it could become too powerful to be held accountable, a new Public Citizen report finds.
“Mission Creep-y: Google Is Quietly Becoming One of the Nation’s Most Powerful Political Forces While Expanding Its Information-Collection Empire” looks at the ways Google is accruing power both in terms of the information it collects about the public and the sway it has over federal and state governments, as well as civil society.
The Conference on Land Policy in Africa starts, November 12, 2014, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Government officials, representatives from international institutions, aid agencies, and civil society organizations have gathered around the theme “ensuring agricultural development and inclusive growth.”
Given the recent explosion of land grabs across the African continent, this international conference seems pertinent and timely, especially for the millions of smallholder farmers and citizens across the continent. But let’s not allow some key facts to be drowned by the enthusiasm expressed from those attending.
Washington- The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, today released its third annual report assessing LGBT equality in 353 cities across the nation, including 55 in California.
The 2014 Municipal Equality Index (MEI), the only nationwide rating system of LGBT inclusion in municipal law and policy, shows that cities across the country, including in California, continue to take the lead in supporting LGBT people and workers, even when states and the federal government have not.
In 2013, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and venture capitalist Yuri Milner designed the Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. This is an annual award given to individual mathematicians. The prize is worth $3 million. The Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics and The Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences are also given to individual scientists and are worthy of each $3 million as well. This essay focuses on the prize in mathematics only.
The prize in mathematics was given to four mathematicians on Sunday, November 9, 2014 in a ceremony in Silicon Valley, California. There has been some criticism of the huge financial amount of the prize. Even Terence Tao, who is one of this year's prize recipients, suggested that more prizes of smaller amount might be more effective. It is not hard to see it would be much more beneficial if a smaller amount is given to more mathematicians. Another way of helping mathematicians in a better way is to fund centers of research in mathematics and mathematics institutions.