Saturday, 20 December 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.

Since its publication in 2004, Voices of a People’s History of the United States has played a vital role in my classroom—not only revealing the voices of social justice from the past so often choked into lifelessness by the standard issue corporate textbooks, but also inspiring my students to take actions of their own. Over the semesters and over the years, I repeatedly point students towards this collection of primary sources when they want to understand the ideas that helped propel social change: Bartolome De Las Casas' “The Devastation of the Indies;” Tecumseh's "Speech to the Osages;" Fredrick Douglass’ “What to the slave is the forth of July;” Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?;” Eugene Deb’s statement to the court upon being arrested for speaking out against WWI; Helen Keller’s “Strike Against War;” Billie Holliday’s “Strange Fruit;” Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War;” Malcolm X’s “Message to the Grassroots,” and many others.

One of the many great actions that students at my school participated in was the 2013 boycott of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test. When teachers announced that year they would refuse to give thedeeply flawed MAP test, the student government voted unanimously to support that boycott. When teachers wouldn’t give the test, the school district decreed that the building administration would have to pull students out of class and march them off to the computer labs to take the test. It was then that students staged a sit-in—in their own classrooms!—refusing to have their class time wasted by a test that was not relevant to what they were learning in class.

That’s the stuff to give the troops!

The transcript (via WaPo):

Mr. President, I’m back on the floor to talk about a dangerous provision that was slipped into a must-pass spending bill at the last minute to benefit Wall Street. This provision would repeal a rule called, and I’m quoting the title of the rule, “PROHIBITION AGAINST FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BAILOUTS OF SWAPS ENTITIES.”

On Wednesday, I came to the floor to talk to Democrats, asking them to strip this provision out of the omnibus bill and protect taxpayers.

A year ago SISMEC pointed out that, although most of the victims of US drone strikes have ostensibly been “militants,” the White House definition of “militant” is extremely vague(generally, any fighting-aged male). Moreover, the purpose of the program isn’t to target any and all possible combatants, but instead to eliminate high-value targets from international terror organizations who pose a substantial threat to the US homeland. So the best measure of the “hit-rate” of the drone program wouldn’t be to compare the number of civilian casualties v. militants, but instead to ask how many of the total dead were the sort of high-value enemies the program is supposed to be targeting. If we approach the question from this angle, the hit-rate of the drone campaign is abysmal, despite the fact that most of its victims have been “militants.”

Dec 15

RootsAction Congratulates James Risen

By Staff, RootsAction | Press Release

RootsAction.org co-founder Norman Solomon praised the US Department of Justice's apparent decision to drop its threat to imprison author and journalist James Risen unless he reveals his source in reporting the story of Operation Merlin.

RootsAction.org coordinated the petition campaign "We Support James Risen Because We Support a Free Press." Addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama, the petition -- which gained more than 100,000 signers this year -- told Holder and Obama: "We urge you in the strongest terms to halt all legal action against Mr. Risen and to safeguard the freedom of journalists to maintain the confidentiality of their sources."

MRFF's December 12, 2014 Demand Letter to Colonel Richard Boutwell, 99th Air Base Wing Commander:

Dear Colonel Richard Boutwell,

As Commander of the 99th Air Base Wing, which controls the Creech Dining facility (DFAC), please timely reply to MRFF's demand [please see below] on behalf of its 54 Creech clients ASAP, sir.

Thank you,

Mikey Weinstein

President and Founder, MRFF

What if there was a way to address climate change, halt police brutality, heal the environment, end unemployment, take the profit out of exploitation and racism, and put an end to endless war?  It stands to reason that the powers that be would do all they could to keep it from us.  Those who profit from the violence, injustice and destruction all around us have every incentive to obfuscate, misrepresent and undermine anything that might threaten their privilege.

Well it turns out there is a concrete, eminently practical way to build a better world.  But don’t expect to read about it in the New York Times or the Washington Post.  Don’t look for it to be featured on network TV news.  It’s called A Bill of Rights for Working People and it’s detailed below.

The BRWP is more than just a set of ideas; it’s an action plan.  As more and more people come to realize that solving any one of the big social or economic problems we face will require a complete system overhaul, the BRWP outlines how to get it done.

On 9 December 2014, the US Senate released its CIA torture report. The investigation confirmed what globally has been known for many years: the US Central Intelligence Agency and US-outsourced national authorities in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere have been involved in an extensive range of torture applications.

Compelling evidence has become available, especially since 2001, the beginning of the Afghanistan war, through investigations by the European Parliament and national judicial authorities, as well as two major reports presented by Swiss Senator Dick Marty in 2006 and 2007 to the Council of Europe, on secret CIA detention centres in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere.

On 15th November, 2014, Mr, Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, was in Canberra addressing the Australian Parliament. He was flaunting his aggressive macho/militaristic credentials. His speech included the following words.

"For the first time since the 1970s, the UK is expanding our presence east of Suez, opening diplomatic posts across Asia."

"Our economic prosperity underpins our national security and we are using it to modernise our armed forces with the most modern equipment - new fighters; new hunter-killer submarines; renewing our nuclear deterrent; type 26 global combat ship, the world's most advanced frigate; and two new aircraft carriers, the most powerful the Royal Navy has ever put to sea in its history."

Dec 12

What Hitler and ISIS Have in Common

By Huma Munir, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

One of the tactics Hitler used to control public opinion in Germany was limiting access to knowledge or eradicating it completely. The Nazis tried to ‘cleanse’ the society by burning thousands of books that did not fit their wicked ideology.

Books would have encouraged freedom of thought— something Hitler wanted to avoid. He wanted people to follow him without questioning his ideals. He knew that restricting access to knowledge would breed ignorance, which would prove vital to his strength as an oppressor.

Unfortunately, ISIS has also figured this out.  

Recently uncovered by archeologists in Java, Indonesia, is a 500,000 year old "purposefully made graphic art or writing form" on a mollusk shell. I lived with native peoples observing first-hand how elders with great simplicity intertwine teaching children Sacred Geometry, Spirituality and the Tangible World through storytelling at preverbal (ages 1 through 6) ages using nature (vines, sunflowers, etc.) in a way youngsters understand without the use of "technical or scientific jargon, written language or symbol"' yet most adults cannot grasp with a high school education. If an infant/child can learn and understand higher level mathematics and geometry through storytelling, how does this relate to our interpretations of the scribbling and artifacts discovered from past civilizations?

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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.

Since its publication in 2004, Voices of a People’s History of the United States has played a vital role in my classroom—not only revealing the voices of social justice from the past so often choked into lifelessness by the standard issue corporate textbooks, but also inspiring my students to take actions of their own. Over the semesters and over the years, I repeatedly point students towards this collection of primary sources when they want to understand the ideas that helped propel social change: Bartolome De Las Casas' “The Devastation of the Indies;” Tecumseh's "Speech to the Osages;" Fredrick Douglass’ “What to the slave is the forth of July;” Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?;” Eugene Deb’s statement to the court upon being arrested for speaking out against WWI; Helen Keller’s “Strike Against War;” Billie Holliday’s “Strange Fruit;” Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War;” Malcolm X’s “Message to the Grassroots,” and many others.

One of the many great actions that students at my school participated in was the 2013 boycott of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test. When teachers announced that year they would refuse to give thedeeply flawed MAP test, the student government voted unanimously to support that boycott. When teachers wouldn’t give the test, the school district decreed that the building administration would have to pull students out of class and march them off to the computer labs to take the test. It was then that students staged a sit-in—in their own classrooms!—refusing to have their class time wasted by a test that was not relevant to what they were learning in class.

That’s the stuff to give the troops!

The transcript (via WaPo):

Mr. President, I’m back on the floor to talk about a dangerous provision that was slipped into a must-pass spending bill at the last minute to benefit Wall Street. This provision would repeal a rule called, and I’m quoting the title of the rule, “PROHIBITION AGAINST FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BAILOUTS OF SWAPS ENTITIES.”

On Wednesday, I came to the floor to talk to Democrats, asking them to strip this provision out of the omnibus bill and protect taxpayers.

A year ago SISMEC pointed out that, although most of the victims of US drone strikes have ostensibly been “militants,” the White House definition of “militant” is extremely vague(generally, any fighting-aged male). Moreover, the purpose of the program isn’t to target any and all possible combatants, but instead to eliminate high-value targets from international terror organizations who pose a substantial threat to the US homeland. So the best measure of the “hit-rate” of the drone program wouldn’t be to compare the number of civilian casualties v. militants, but instead to ask how many of the total dead were the sort of high-value enemies the program is supposed to be targeting. If we approach the question from this angle, the hit-rate of the drone campaign is abysmal, despite the fact that most of its victims have been “militants.”

Dec 15

RootsAction Congratulates James Risen

By Staff, RootsAction | Press Release

RootsAction.org co-founder Norman Solomon praised the US Department of Justice's apparent decision to drop its threat to imprison author and journalist James Risen unless he reveals his source in reporting the story of Operation Merlin.

RootsAction.org coordinated the petition campaign "We Support James Risen Because We Support a Free Press." Addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama, the petition -- which gained more than 100,000 signers this year -- told Holder and Obama: "We urge you in the strongest terms to halt all legal action against Mr. Risen and to safeguard the freedom of journalists to maintain the confidentiality of their sources."

MRFF's December 12, 2014 Demand Letter to Colonel Richard Boutwell, 99th Air Base Wing Commander:

Dear Colonel Richard Boutwell,

As Commander of the 99th Air Base Wing, which controls the Creech Dining facility (DFAC), please timely reply to MRFF's demand [please see below] on behalf of its 54 Creech clients ASAP, sir.

Thank you,

Mikey Weinstein

President and Founder, MRFF

What if there was a way to address climate change, halt police brutality, heal the environment, end unemployment, take the profit out of exploitation and racism, and put an end to endless war?  It stands to reason that the powers that be would do all they could to keep it from us.  Those who profit from the violence, injustice and destruction all around us have every incentive to obfuscate, misrepresent and undermine anything that might threaten their privilege.

Well it turns out there is a concrete, eminently practical way to build a better world.  But don’t expect to read about it in the New York Times or the Washington Post.  Don’t look for it to be featured on network TV news.  It’s called A Bill of Rights for Working People and it’s detailed below.

The BRWP is more than just a set of ideas; it’s an action plan.  As more and more people come to realize that solving any one of the big social or economic problems we face will require a complete system overhaul, the BRWP outlines how to get it done.

On 9 December 2014, the US Senate released its CIA torture report. The investigation confirmed what globally has been known for many years: the US Central Intelligence Agency and US-outsourced national authorities in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere have been involved in an extensive range of torture applications.

Compelling evidence has become available, especially since 2001, the beginning of the Afghanistan war, through investigations by the European Parliament and national judicial authorities, as well as two major reports presented by Swiss Senator Dick Marty in 2006 and 2007 to the Council of Europe, on secret CIA detention centres in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere.

On 15th November, 2014, Mr, Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, was in Canberra addressing the Australian Parliament. He was flaunting his aggressive macho/militaristic credentials. His speech included the following words.

"For the first time since the 1970s, the UK is expanding our presence east of Suez, opening diplomatic posts across Asia."

"Our economic prosperity underpins our national security and we are using it to modernise our armed forces with the most modern equipment - new fighters; new hunter-killer submarines; renewing our nuclear deterrent; type 26 global combat ship, the world's most advanced frigate; and two new aircraft carriers, the most powerful the Royal Navy has ever put to sea in its history."

Dec 12

What Hitler and ISIS Have in Common

By Huma Munir, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

One of the tactics Hitler used to control public opinion in Germany was limiting access to knowledge or eradicating it completely. The Nazis tried to ‘cleanse’ the society by burning thousands of books that did not fit their wicked ideology.

Books would have encouraged freedom of thought— something Hitler wanted to avoid. He wanted people to follow him without questioning his ideals. He knew that restricting access to knowledge would breed ignorance, which would prove vital to his strength as an oppressor.

Unfortunately, ISIS has also figured this out.  

Recently uncovered by archeologists in Java, Indonesia, is a 500,000 year old "purposefully made graphic art or writing form" on a mollusk shell. I lived with native peoples observing first-hand how elders with great simplicity intertwine teaching children Sacred Geometry, Spirituality and the Tangible World through storytelling at preverbal (ages 1 through 6) ages using nature (vines, sunflowers, etc.) in a way youngsters understand without the use of "technical or scientific jargon, written language or symbol"' yet most adults cannot grasp with a high school education. If an infant/child can learn and understand higher level mathematics and geometry through storytelling, how does this relate to our interpretations of the scribbling and artifacts discovered from past civilizations?