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.

Feb 15

Gun Control in the US: The “Cohen Act”?

By Matthew Feldman and Leonard Weinberg, Fair Observer | News Analysis

In the weeks following the Newtown, Connecticut shootings on December 14, 2012, there have been highly publicized appeals for Congress and the Obama Administration to enact measures prohibiting certain guns (e.g. assault rifles) and requiring background checks on those wishing to purchase firearms. Most notably, in the days after Adam Lanza's massacre of twenty-six children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary, Vice-President Biden was given the difficult task of proposing recommendations to restrict rampant American gun violence – responsible for some 30,000 American deaths each year. Biden's recommendations were endorsed by Obama on January 16, 2013, with "universal" background checks now a "top priority" for ensuing legislation.

Statement in Response to Third DPRK Nuclear Explosive Test

We come from diverse backgrounds and hold a range of analyses (or perspectives) approaching the proposed North Korean nuclear weapons test and the further militarization of Asia and the Pacific.

We oppose the development, possession of, and threats to use nuclear weapons by any nation. We are committed to creating a world free of nuclear weapons. We have deep concerns that North Korea's third nuclear weapons test contributes to an increasingly dangerous region-wide nuclear arms race. We understand the North Korean test was part of a cycle of threat and response to previous U.S. nuclear threats, and to continued military provocations. We cannot ignore the double standards and hypocrisies of the members of the "nuclear club" who refuse to fulfill their Article VI disarmament commitments of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty commitments by "modernizing" their omnicidal arsenals while insisting that other nations refrain from becoming nuclear powers. While North Korea has conducted three explosive nuclear tests, compared to the United States' 1,054.

Today’s article is sort of a potpourri. Pronounced by an English-speaker, that sounds like Popery, which is currently very relevant. When Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005, the first German Pope since Victor II (1055-1057 - succeeded by a Pope Stephen), the dominant mass rag here, the Springer syndicate’s BILD newspaper, had a page-high headline “We Are Pope!” Now alas, this distinction will disappear, which may especially sadden the big L-shaped Roman Catholic area of Germany – the Southern tier, especially Bavaria, then northward along the Rhine valley. The rest is largely Evangelical (Lutheran), including eastern Germany; other religious faiths are small minorities, aside from the Turks and other Muslims. Or the pagans! Both Catholic and Evangelical churches had hoped for big gains after East Germany was “freed from atheist repression”. To their disappointment, there was no rush into the churches. One reason was widespread lack of interest or any belief in a God or heaven. Another key factor is the church tax, automatically taken out of all wages, salaries, even royalty fees for every member of the Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish and some other faiths - a stiff 8 or 9 percent! Less than 30 percent of Easterners decided to pay, even though it made them ineligible for church weddings and funerals.

Saeed is speaking across Skype's video messaging service. He wears a woolly hat, a jacket and dresses exactly as a European in his early 20s might. There is a hint of stubble across his chin. Saeed smiles and he appears friendly and relaxed. Behind him, a Palestinian flag is draped across his bedroom wall and occasionally members of his family walk through the room.

Saeed has just returned from delivering a series of lectures across Europe. He leans forward from his chair and reminiscently lists the countries he visited. "I have been to Sweden, to Germany, to Finland, France, Spain, Italy," he says. "I have been invited by different groups and organisations and schools and universities and local TV. I have spoken to thousands of people."

I just want to bring this to your attention. I've been making the point for a while that while power-holding Democrats are getting better on identity issues (issues around minority rights and related issues), they've been universally bad on economic issues. In fact, the whole bipartisan Beltway consensus is built around both parties making sure that billionaires never lose.

The centerpiece (and original sin in the modern era) for that movement is these NAFTA-style trade agreements, the ones that protect capital and profit — and nothing else in the world. Not environments; not labor; not the climate; not the sovereignty of national governments; not humans in any form but the baronial. Nothing else in the world.

Climate change is acting like an ever-tightening vise on our energy options. Each year that passes without dramatic decreases in our use of carbon-emitting fuels means the cuts we have to make simply get more drastic. By 2030, say experts, we must entirely replace coal with efficiency and renewable energy, or fry. Even the most intrepid environmentalists wonder if it can be done without huge price hikes and wholesale changes in how we live and use energy–changes that society may not accept.

They say that ignorance is bliss and never has that been truer than in the case of modern consumer products. It seems like the more we know about the things we buy, the more we want to punch ourselves right square in the jaw. Diamonds are an obvious example, especially their "blood" variety i.e. those gems which are mined in war zones and help finance ethnic genocide in Africa.

The (relatively) good news is that at least today we're more or less aware of that particular problem and can adjust our jewelry purchases accordingly. The bad news is that there are many more "blood" items out there which contribute to hundreds—maybe even thousands—of deaths each year and most of us are probably guilty of buying them, including...

"The tension between what he said at his confirmation hearing and what he is doing as a justice is a blow to Roberts's reputation for candor and a further debasement of the already debased currency of the testimony of nominees at judicial confirmation hearings." [Conservative icon Judge Richard A. Posner, "How Judges Think," Harvard University Press.]

The multitude of advocates for the Repeal Amendment of Citizens United are in fact,faced with a choice of two paths:

  1. relying on 2/3 of a corrupt Congress and ¾ of equally corrupt State legislatures to amend the Constitution – or
  2. waiting for a change in one of the most corrupt Supreme Courts in our history, and hoping that a new Court will hear a case that will induce it to overturn a decision that80% of Americans disagree with. Although both remedies seem immediately improbable, evidence indicates the latter is more likely to succeed in time.
Feb 14

I'm a Mother, Not a Terrorist

By Shannon McLeish, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

If you walked by me on the street, if you noticed me at all, it would probably be due to how much I looked like your 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Jones, or your professor for English Comp I in community college. I don't think you'd see me and run to find the nearest police officer as you thought I might have a bomb in my purse. You would never categorize me as someone you might find listed in FBI surveillance documents collected on a "terrorist" group engaged in "criminal activity."

I'm an ordinary, middle class (or actually, probably lower-middle class, now), middle aged, married mother of two young children. I'm a small business owner active in my neighborhood and my community who organized an organic produce co-op several years ago that's still going strong and who bakes cookies for my neighbors and friends every year for the holidays. Last year, I was the social justice committee chair for the Unitarian Universalist society, where I attend service pretty much every Sunday. I've even spoken (haltingly) from the pulpit a few times on subjects ranging from climate change to economic inequality and corporate personhood.

In the consumer paradigm, one is induced to exist by Eric Hoffer's dictum: "You can never get enough of what you really don't need." Wherein: The individual exists in a state of perpetual adolescence, emotionally oscillating between life lived as a bliss ninny and evincing chronic dissatisfaction.

Ever shifting, inchoate compulsions and endless distractions define the days of the denizens of the consumer state. Text messages and tweets gibber like souls stranded in a limbo realm between the worlds of the living and the damned.