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.
Today, the Progressive Change Institute and a trans-partisan coalition of surveillance whistleblowers, civil liberties advocates, and organizations representing millions of Americans are urging Congress to reject the Senate version of the USA Freedom Act.
The civil liberties coalition's joint letter outlines numerous concerns with the legislation, including ambiguous language that is open to abuse, the failure to include provisions specifically protecting the rights of Americans, blanket legal immunity for corporations that help spy on Americans, and the reauthorization of key sections of the USA PATRIOT Act relating to intelligence gathering. As the coalition's letter states:
New York, NY – Lack of poll workers and low numbers of voting machines are key contributors to long voting lines, and precincts with more minorities experienced longer waits, according to a new study released today by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.
Although many factors may contribute to long lines at the polls, little research has assessed how polling place resource allocation contributes to delays. In advance of the 2014 midterm election, Election Day Long Lines: Resource Allocation attempts to fill that gap by analyzing precinct-level data from states where voters faced some of the longest lines in the country in 2012: Florida, Maryland, and South Carolina.
After thousands of years of bloody wars among contending tribes, regions, and nations, is it finally possible to dispense with the chauvinist ideas of the past?
To judge by President Barack Obama's televised address on the evening of September 10, it is not. Discussing his plan to "take out" ISIS, the extremist group that has seized control of portions of Syria and Iraq, the president slathered on the high-flying, nationalist rhetoric. "America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth," he proclaimed. "Our technology companies and universities are unmatched; our manufacturing and auto industries are thriving. Energy independence is closer than it's been in decades. . . . Our businesses are in the longest uninterrupted stretch of job creation in our history. . . . I see the grit and determination and common goodness of the American people every single day -- and that makes me more confident than ever about our country's future."
Monday at 9:00 am, large numbers of protestors, dressed in blue to represent the seas that surround – and may one day engulf - NYC, will gather at Battery Park in lower Manhattan to begin a rally and a mass civil disobedience demonstration, aimed at confronting the root cause of the climate crisis; an economic system "based on exploiting frontline communities, workers, and natural resources."
"Runaway climate change and extreme weather events, such as the extreme flooding that we saw here in New York City with Hurricane Sandy, are fueled by the fossil fuel industry," said Michael Premo, an organizer of the action who was also a driving force in the Occupy Sandy recovery effort. "We are flooding Wall Street because we know that there's no greater cause of runaway climate change than an economic system that puts profit before people — and before the planet."
My mother was fond of saying "if you want someone to hear you, you must first listen to them"—know them, understand the questions they are asking, and be sensitive to their concerns. If you do this, she would say, "you will be able to speak with people and not at them".
What happens when you don't follow this simple rule of communication was on display during the "In Defense of Christians" conference that was held in Washington from September 9th to the 11th.
If you're reading this, then you weren't for the War in Iraq. You protested, probably got arrested, sat in that filthy jail for four days while the cops mocked your beliefs, made lewd comments about your wife, called you a hippie because that's all they got in well-developed intellect of American authoritah. It is the sign of a sick country when the people worship authority. Cops are heroes. All soldiers are great. Even corporate CEOs are seen as having some kind of tribal wisdom. The optionless crucifixion is the real American religion. Every day we climb up on the cross of capitalism and say there ain't nuthin we can do. Eli eli lama sabacthani with two cheeseburgers and a coke. Chevy Truck staring at god. I'll get there someday cuz the lord jesus christ is my savior. I can do anything because I an American and we is saved. Do you accept? And meanwhile you're sitting on the goddamn train, or bus, or some increasingly disappearing public place where they have the temerity to come up to you and preach the word. The subtext of it all is that they are the real Americans. They are the ones who hold this country together despite Obamacare. They are the ones who work despite the lazy blacks, illegals and spoiled kids like you who never worked for nothing, but just bitch all the time. And you sit quiet, digging the Buddhism you been reading about, saying to yourself like a mantra that it's still America, land of a revolution where people like you fought and died for the human ideals that you are watching slip away.
How foolish Americans are, or rather, until a few years ago, we Americans. This writer himself got caught up in the greatest of all confidence games: The Two Party Monte! Using an embedded media, the ‘Two Party, One Party ‘political system (created by our Military Industrial Empire) keeps chugging along. Whether it is a Reagan or Clinton, a Bush or a Kerry, a Romney or an Obama, it matters not to the puppeteers who run things. They choose who the so called ‘field of candidates ‘ will be, and then most of the time let the suckers (we voters) make the final decision from Column A or Column B. Of course, sometimes, when the empire’s agenda is too urgent, they go ahead and fix the game a bit. Case in point the elections of 2000 and 2004. The movers and shakers decided that they needed a malleable dope in the White House sign off on what then followed: The illegal and immoral invasions and occupations of Iraq & Afghanistan. As if right out of a scene from Scorsese’s Casino, when the five Mafia leaders were discussing their puppet union leader Andy Stone’s future. Four of the dons stated how Andy was a good guy and could be trusted to not ‘flip ‘and turn against them with the Feds. They then all looked to the head of the commission, the fifth don, and he quietly offered: “Why take a chance? “ Soon after Andy Stone was murdered.
Part I - The Importance of International Law
International law is vital to the welfare of every man, woman and child on this planet, although the vast majority of them do not know this is so. The vital aspect lies in the fact that the universally applicable nature of human rights - which prohibit such actions as the use of torture, arbitrary arrest and detention while supporting freedom of movement, conscience, cultural rights and the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being, among other things - has its primary foundation in international law. Examples of this can be found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the various Geneva Conventions.
To understand just how important international law is to the universal application of human rights, one has to consider just how inadequate to this end are national and local laws. This inadequacy should come as no surprise. For hundreds of years now, the dominant form of political organization has been the nation-state. The most common sort of law is that specific to the state, and in the vast majority of cases, protection of rights under such law is reserved for the citizen. In other words, if you are not a citizen of a particular state, you cannot assume you have any rights or protections within that state’s borders. Worse yet, if you happen to be stateless (and the number of such people is rapidly increasing), you are without local legal rights just about everywhere.
"I guess I was hoping you might have something to tell me. I mean, I have a two-year old."
"Holy shit," I am thinking as I look at my young student, twisting her foot back and forth as she demands from me what they all demand from me--hope. In the past, I could spit something out like, "well, you are the light of the future," or "you are the new hope for the future" or "you get to create the new paradigm" (congratulations!!) or even more lame, "you always have the option to go to your local legislators" (please) but this time, nothing comes out of my mouth. Anyone that knows me knows I have no shortage of ideas and opinions but the words won't form in my mouth to comfort this beautiful new mother, my student. All I can get out is "well, uhm," as she sees her husband who has arrived to pick her up, the new baby in the backseat. She waves goodbye while I stand in place, mumbling like an idiot.