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.

Sep 12

Suckered Again?

By Winslow Myers, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Why must vengefulness be the default strategy for humans—the very thing we dislike and fear most about our adversaries? Mob rule is a temptation we assume we have grown beyond, but have we? The media hounds and the war lovers like Senators Graham and McCain bay for blood, putting enormous pressure on the President to get suckered into a third Middle East war. To avoid the label of wimp, Mr. Obama had to say what he said in his speech to the nation on his strategy against ISIS, but what he said was only a palatable version of the vengefulness paradigm.

The agony of loss the parents of Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff must feel is beyond comprehension. But is their pain any different from the universal pain of violence and war that has been felt by the parents of murdered children time out of mind?—the pain of Aleppo, the pain of mothers in Gaza, the pain of innocents in Baghdad who found themselves on the wrong end of Shock and Awe, the pain of wedding participants in Afghanistan blown up under the pitiless eye of US drones, the horror of people having to jump from the twin towers to avoid being burned alive.

Washington DC - A new paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) provides details on an interesting trend in part-time employment over the last year. In the months leading up to the opening of the ACA exchanges, some critics argued that the law would increase involuntary part-time employment. The rationale most often suggested was that employers would cut back workers' hours to less than 30 per week to avoid penalties associated with not providing insurance under the ACA. However, involuntary part-time employment been trending downward throughout the recovery.

Voluntary part-time employment, though, did increase in the first six months of 2014 compared to the first six months of 2013. The paper gives a breakdown of the distribution of part-time employment by age, gender, and whether or not the household has children. The data show that the biggest increase in voluntary part-time employment is for young people with children. This would be consistent with a story where many workers who previously needed to work full-time to get health care insurance at their job are taking the option of buying insurance on the exchanges and working part-time jobs in order to have more time to be with young children.

Letter includes seven things trade promotion authority should include:

  1. Congressional role in selecting appropriate trade partners.
  2. Mandatory negotiating objectives to ensure trade agreements deliver broad benefits.
  3. Enhanced transparency to ensure meaningful congressional and public input.
  4. Congressional certification that trade goals have been met before trade negotiations are concluded.
  5. Congressional approval of trade agreements and authorization for the executive branch to sign and enter into agreements.  
  6. A mechanism for a sizeable minority of the House or Senate to obtain a vote on a resolution to remove an agreement from expedited consideration.
  7. Trade negotiating authority must be considered in conjunction with related trade and economic policy legislation.

As the American public school year begins, parents and guardians across the country are getting to know new teachers, bus routes, routines and worrying increasingly about violence and bullying as we send our children into the semi-unknown. It’s a busy, nervous time of year. Parents of school-aged children in Syria and Iraq have other worries. An August 2014 United Nations Human Rights Council report states that both state and non-state armed groups in the region have been recruiting children for combat and non-combat support roles in violent conflict – both war crimes and violations of international human rights. Some of these armed groups use schools as recruitment, training and living quarters. The Islamic State (ISIS) has “established training camps to recruit children into armed roles under the guise of education,” according to the August 2014 UNHRC report. For their participation, ISIS offers children education, employment and the glory of military service.

Valdemar W. Setzer graduated in Electronic Engineering in 1963 and earned a PhD in Applied Mathematics from the Polytechnic School of Universidade de São Paulo in 1967. He retired in 1995, but continues to guide students and teaching. Setzer has extensive experience as a lecturer on history and philosophical aspects of computing, electronic media, education and philosophical issues of technology. He is also a member of the Anthroposophical Society. In Setzer's younger years, he was the soloist flutist of the former Chamber Orchestra of São Paulo under the conductor Olivier Toni. Dr. Setzer is the author of numerous books and articles on education, technology, philosophy and a number of other issues.

I personally carried around, as a general guide, his essay, The Obsolescence of Education for my entire teaching career. When I reached out to him a couple of weeks ago, he informed me that it needed to be updated. I was stunned to see that the article was updated as late as August 21, 2014, after having it intact since the year 2000, when I started teaching. Dr. Setzer is a very inspiring intellectual. I asked him about the obsolescence of education.

Sep 10

Scottish Independence: Now Is the Time

By Jim McCluskey, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

We are all citizens of the world now.

Potentially, the internet interconnects everyone on the planet. International trade forms a network of interlinked states. Weapons are so powerful that local war could bring death anywhere on the globe. The fate of the planet is interlinked with the fate of each one of us.

All this renders the old concepts of nationalism meaningless: the view that we look after our own interests regardless of its effect on others.

Washington, DC - The UN General Assembly passed a historic resolution to begin treaty negotiations to enact a global bankruptcy process and stop predatory hedge funds. The resolution passed by a super-majority vote of 124-11 with 41 abstentions. The US voted no along with 10 other countries. The bankruptcy process could make it more difficult for hold-out investors to block countries from debt restructuring and could limit future defaults. 

"The strong majority vote shows how powerful the global consensus is to stop predatory financial behavior," noted Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious debt relief organization, Jubilee USA. "If we are going to solve what global leaders believe is the root cause of inequality, we need a bankruptcy system in place." LeCompte serves on UN expert groups working to create an international bankruptcy process.

Sep 10


By Lee R. Haven, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

“Oh oh.”

“What now?”

“Looks like we’re having another ‘They hate our freedoms’ moment.”

“'They hate our freedoms?’ Oh, what Bush said when….”

“Yeah - when 9-11 eleven happened. The definitive answer. And no reporter in that room followed up on it then when he said it or later.”

“They aren’t that crazy about our culture.”

The New York Times gave readers only part of the story in an article on the Democratic primary race for governor of Rhode Island. It notes that state Treasurer Gina M. Raimondo is currently the frontrunner.

On Sept. 21, 2014, the People’s Climate March will commence in New York City as world leaders gather for a United Nations emergency summit on climate change. Thousands of organizations have signed on and many demonstrations have been planned across the country on that day. Perhaps more than one million people will descend on Manhattan Sept. 21 to support environmental and human survival. Almost inevitably, someone from the media or a prior or the current administration will throw around the label “tree hugger” and no one will be shocked. In preparation for the march and in reflecting on the perceived negativity of this label, I’ve been thinking about the heroines of the Chipko (“tree-hugging”) movement in India.

In 1730, Amrita Devi watched men with axes enter her village with an order from the Maharajah — to cut down trees needed to build his new palace. The trees were the villagers’ source of life, the only green in an otherwise barren landscape. The forest shielded the people from the desert, protected their fragile water supply and provided fodder for the cows and twigs for the fire. What’s more, the trees and animals were sacred and not to be harmed, according to the rules of their Hindu sect.