Friday, 28 November 2014 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

Speakout

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.

May 10

The Neoliberal Harvest: Routine Economic Fraud

By Dr. Jörg Wiegratz, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Are you tired of yet another revelation of fraud in the food industry or the banks? Are you paying less attention to those stories? Are you getting numb, thinking more and more "that's just how the system works?"

If so, congratulations! You're learning to lower your expectations to meet the new normal: pervasive, institutional economic fraud. This used to be the sort of thing you read about in income-poor countries in Africa and South America. Nowadays, though, it turns out (yet again) that We Do It Too, and not just the usual suspects in the shadowy corners of the arms trade. Supermarkets and the rest of the food industry, pharmaceutical firms, hospitals and care homes, housing and construction, great swaths of the financial sector - tales from all of these show that fraud and trickery are in the mainstream, the New Black of commercial life. In particular, there appears to be an expansion of organized fraud in the economies and markets for legal, everyday goods and services; the recent horsemeat scandal in Europe is one example of this. And it is not just companies. There's corruption and crime in governments here and around the world: crony capitalism, powerful oligarchies, elite criminality.

As we recognize and celebrate Mother's Day, let us first remember and honor Julia Ward Howe. Julia Ward Howe was heartbroken and distressed seeing the ravages of the American Civil War. She wrote "The Battle Hymn of The Republic" as a way to express her anguish and outrage, and saw this was not enough to bring about change. I see her as one of the first feminists, striving to make equality of the sexes a reality. A true visionary, she also saw that peace, the end of war as a way to resolve conflict, was equally as important.

In 1870, the Franco-Prussian war erupted, and Julia Ward Howe began to organize women, her goal to petition Congress to end all wars. A true activist, she took her campaign international, issuing a "Manifesto For Peace" at conferences in Paris and London. In 1872 she put forth and promoted the idea of a "Mother's Day For Peace" to be celebrated on June 2 each year, and in 1873 women in 18 U.S. cities made this a reality.

What is it that makes young men, reasonably well educated, in good health and nice looking, with long lives ahead of them, use powerful explosives to murder complete strangers because of political beliefs?

I'm speaking about American military personnel of course, on the ground, in the air, or directing drones from an office in Nevada.

Do not the survivors of US attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya and elsewhere, and their loved ones, ask such a question?

The survivors and loved ones in Boston have their answer – America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We are the workers who are employed by private companies through federal contracts, concessions and leases. Yet, while our employers reap billions of dollars in profits from taxpayers every year, we are paid such low wages that we are unable to afford basic needs such as food, clothing, and even rent.

We are uniting to call on the federal government to stop being America's leading poverty job creator by paying us living wages and benefits. We are fighting to make America a Good Jobs Nation once again

We're told the economy is in recovery. But is it really? Recovery for who?

Some of the facts from this episode are from an Alternet article by Les Leopold.

May 09

Three Things Obama Can Do To Close Guantanamo

By Palina Prasasouk, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

May 21, 2009, Protecting Our System and Our Values speech by Obama:

"So going forward, my administration will work with Congress to develop an appropriate legal regime" to handle such detainees "so that our efforts are consistent with our values and our Constitution."

April 30th, 2013, White House news conference when asked about the hunger strike:

"I've asked my team to review everything that's currently being done in Guantanamo, everything that we can do administratively, and I'm going to re-engage with Congress to try to make the case that this is not something that's in the best interests of the American people."

May 09

Financial Institutions Admit Austerity Failed

By Ken Klippenstein, SpeakOut | News Analysis

2013 has been something of a confessional period for the economic managerial class. The IMF's chief economist perhaps demonstrated this point best when he conceded that "forecasters significantly underestimated the increase in unemployment and the decline in domestic demand associated with fiscal consolidation (a polite term for "austerity)." Other ranking figures from the IMF, US Treasury, EU, and other financial institutions have similarly reversed their position on austerity.

Meanwhile, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, the Harvard economists responsible for one of the more influential studies used to defend austerity have admitted, "austerity is not the only answer to a debt problem." This came after three economists at the University of Massachusetts accused them of "selective exclusion" of data. Reinhart and Rogoff have since admitted that their critics "correctly identified a spreadsheet coding error." In my view, their most striking error is being ignored: the failure to recognize that austerity didn't work during the Great Depression and won't work now, during the Great Recession. Anyone can make a spreadsheet error. It takes a Harvard professor to forget basic history.

May 09

Cinderella Redux

By Richard Waddell, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Ronald Reagan said that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." Notice he spoke of a problem (singular), but conservatives seem to believe government is not the solution to any problem. Many hold this attitude even though we, through our federal government, prevailed in 2 world wars and a "cold war."

We have also, through our government, made some incredibly smart investments. These investments include, of course, the massive transportation grids, including especially the highways and railroads. They also include ports, airports, and other infrastructure investments.

Jason Collins has announced to the world that he is a gay.

This is a marvelous act. It is being congratulated by many including many NBA players and many other professional athletes as well as politicians, team owners, and celebrities. Good. Jason Collins exhibits admirable courage and eloquence albeit that this announcement would have been more difficult to make five or ten years ago. And even greater than that fifteen or twenty years ago. Yet, alas, how much the better thingswould now be in many ways if an athlete not yet retired could have made such an announcement twenty, fifteen, ten or five years ago. Because the social and socio-political resonances and permutations of this could have played a role, small but significant, in what would have been a historically even more beneficial impetus towards helping to reduce the sum of suffering, anguish, fear, and indecision, particularly among LGBT children and young people, and the sum of prejudice and violence against this community. If something is truly possible at an earlier historical moment, and I believe such an annoncement was, then better sooner rather than later. Better positive effects and their potential to proliferate earlier rather than later. 2013 is very late in relation to what could have happened five and ten and even fifteen years ago and this missed possibility can give us much upon which we can reflect and particularly in terms of what those who did not have contemplate the kind of announcement that Collins had now made.

 

The Obama administration has seemingly painted itself into yet another military corner by announcing that use of chemical weapons by Syria would constitute a red line that would mandate military action on the part of the United States. Now we are hearing reports that the red line may have been crossed, and some prominent officials are calling for the U.S. to step up its aid to the rebels and/or impose a no-fly zone. Proponents of military action such as Secretary of State John Kerry and hawkish Senator John McCain seem to think that the U.S. can sort out the "good guys" in the Syrian civil war, and use U.S. military assets to help the rebels take down the Assad government.

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Speakout

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.

May 10

The Neoliberal Harvest: Routine Economic Fraud

By Dr. Jörg Wiegratz, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Are you tired of yet another revelation of fraud in the food industry or the banks? Are you paying less attention to those stories? Are you getting numb, thinking more and more "that's just how the system works?"

If so, congratulations! You're learning to lower your expectations to meet the new normal: pervasive, institutional economic fraud. This used to be the sort of thing you read about in income-poor countries in Africa and South America. Nowadays, though, it turns out (yet again) that We Do It Too, and not just the usual suspects in the shadowy corners of the arms trade. Supermarkets and the rest of the food industry, pharmaceutical firms, hospitals and care homes, housing and construction, great swaths of the financial sector - tales from all of these show that fraud and trickery are in the mainstream, the New Black of commercial life. In particular, there appears to be an expansion of organized fraud in the economies and markets for legal, everyday goods and services; the recent horsemeat scandal in Europe is one example of this. And it is not just companies. There's corruption and crime in governments here and around the world: crony capitalism, powerful oligarchies, elite criminality.

As we recognize and celebrate Mother's Day, let us first remember and honor Julia Ward Howe. Julia Ward Howe was heartbroken and distressed seeing the ravages of the American Civil War. She wrote "The Battle Hymn of The Republic" as a way to express her anguish and outrage, and saw this was not enough to bring about change. I see her as one of the first feminists, striving to make equality of the sexes a reality. A true visionary, she also saw that peace, the end of war as a way to resolve conflict, was equally as important.

In 1870, the Franco-Prussian war erupted, and Julia Ward Howe began to organize women, her goal to petition Congress to end all wars. A true activist, she took her campaign international, issuing a "Manifesto For Peace" at conferences in Paris and London. In 1872 she put forth and promoted the idea of a "Mother's Day For Peace" to be celebrated on June 2 each year, and in 1873 women in 18 U.S. cities made this a reality.

What is it that makes young men, reasonably well educated, in good health and nice looking, with long lives ahead of them, use powerful explosives to murder complete strangers because of political beliefs?

I'm speaking about American military personnel of course, on the ground, in the air, or directing drones from an office in Nevada.

Do not the survivors of US attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya and elsewhere, and their loved ones, ask such a question?

The survivors and loved ones in Boston have their answer – America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We are the workers who are employed by private companies through federal contracts, concessions and leases. Yet, while our employers reap billions of dollars in profits from taxpayers every year, we are paid such low wages that we are unable to afford basic needs such as food, clothing, and even rent.

We are uniting to call on the federal government to stop being America's leading poverty job creator by paying us living wages and benefits. We are fighting to make America a Good Jobs Nation once again

We're told the economy is in recovery. But is it really? Recovery for who?

Some of the facts from this episode are from an Alternet article by Les Leopold.

May 09

Three Things Obama Can Do To Close Guantanamo

By Palina Prasasouk, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

May 21, 2009, Protecting Our System and Our Values speech by Obama:

"So going forward, my administration will work with Congress to develop an appropriate legal regime" to handle such detainees "so that our efforts are consistent with our values and our Constitution."

April 30th, 2013, White House news conference when asked about the hunger strike:

"I've asked my team to review everything that's currently being done in Guantanamo, everything that we can do administratively, and I'm going to re-engage with Congress to try to make the case that this is not something that's in the best interests of the American people."

May 09

Financial Institutions Admit Austerity Failed

By Ken Klippenstein, SpeakOut | News Analysis

2013 has been something of a confessional period for the economic managerial class. The IMF's chief economist perhaps demonstrated this point best when he conceded that "forecasters significantly underestimated the increase in unemployment and the decline in domestic demand associated with fiscal consolidation (a polite term for "austerity)." Other ranking figures from the IMF, US Treasury, EU, and other financial institutions have similarly reversed their position on austerity.

Meanwhile, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, the Harvard economists responsible for one of the more influential studies used to defend austerity have admitted, "austerity is not the only answer to a debt problem." This came after three economists at the University of Massachusetts accused them of "selective exclusion" of data. Reinhart and Rogoff have since admitted that their critics "correctly identified a spreadsheet coding error." In my view, their most striking error is being ignored: the failure to recognize that austerity didn't work during the Great Depression and won't work now, during the Great Recession. Anyone can make a spreadsheet error. It takes a Harvard professor to forget basic history.

May 09

Cinderella Redux

By Richard Waddell, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Ronald Reagan said that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." Notice he spoke of a problem (singular), but conservatives seem to believe government is not the solution to any problem. Many hold this attitude even though we, through our federal government, prevailed in 2 world wars and a "cold war."

We have also, through our government, made some incredibly smart investments. These investments include, of course, the massive transportation grids, including especially the highways and railroads. They also include ports, airports, and other infrastructure investments.

Jason Collins has announced to the world that he is a gay.

This is a marvelous act. It is being congratulated by many including many NBA players and many other professional athletes as well as politicians, team owners, and celebrities. Good. Jason Collins exhibits admirable courage and eloquence albeit that this announcement would have been more difficult to make five or ten years ago. And even greater than that fifteen or twenty years ago. Yet, alas, how much the better thingswould now be in many ways if an athlete not yet retired could have made such an announcement twenty, fifteen, ten or five years ago. Because the social and socio-political resonances and permutations of this could have played a role, small but significant, in what would have been a historically even more beneficial impetus towards helping to reduce the sum of suffering, anguish, fear, and indecision, particularly among LGBT children and young people, and the sum of prejudice and violence against this community. If something is truly possible at an earlier historical moment, and I believe such an annoncement was, then better sooner rather than later. Better positive effects and their potential to proliferate earlier rather than later. 2013 is very late in relation to what could have happened five and ten and even fifteen years ago and this missed possibility can give us much upon which we can reflect and particularly in terms of what those who did not have contemplate the kind of announcement that Collins had now made.

 

The Obama administration has seemingly painted itself into yet another military corner by announcing that use of chemical weapons by Syria would constitute a red line that would mandate military action on the part of the United States. Now we are hearing reports that the red line may have been crossed, and some prominent officials are calling for the U.S. to step up its aid to the rebels and/or impose a no-fly zone. Proponents of military action such as Secretary of State John Kerry and hawkish Senator John McCain seem to think that the U.S. can sort out the "good guys" in the Syrian civil war, and use U.S. military assets to help the rebels take down the Assad government.