Monday, 22 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.

We are living and breathing history every day. Every demonstration, every march, every person that walks out into the cold winter to demand justice is in lockstep with those who have come before us. As such we continue to move forward because, quite simply, we have yet to see this ever-elusive "justice." In fact, history should remind people why we've engaged in a sustained movement: our collective outrage for the lives taken from us. Calls for us to hang our heads or go away are a slap in the face to the legacy of those, like Martin Luther King Jr., who were often criticized and jailed for what many decried as illegitimate agitation. We will not go away. We are committed to changing our collective destinies.

While we are often simply described as "protesters:;, we are in fact mothers, fathers, workers, sons, daughters. The families of victims of violence, both by police and others, have always been close to our heart. That's why we march, why we organize. We want justice first and foremost, not a continued cycle of blood. Mayor de Blasio and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who both support the racist Broken Windows theory of policing, purposely fail to understand that as they call for a suspension of protests - which are within our rights. Outrage does not go on suspension as long as those who've murdered us walk free. 

The World Bank’s landmark annual publication, Doing Business, ranks countries around the world based on how well their regulatory systems serve narrow corporate interests. Typically this creates a global competition to lower public interest regulations, diminish environmental and social safeguards, and reduce corporate tax responsibilities.

There has been considerable pushback on this ranking system from civil society groups around the world. One of the critics, the Oakland Institute, invited me to provide an alternative business perspective on the Doing Business report at an event last October at the World Bank.

Wednesday was a day of great emotion for all Cuba and supporters worldwide of the Cuban Five, to see Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio step down from the plane, to be received by President Raúl Castro and their loving families and the Cuban people in celebration.

The day that we all waited for came as a wonderful surprise for its suddenness but in reality, the sense of freedom was in the air, as the movement for the Five's freedom was growing greatly in depth and size.

It isn’t until Episode 7  of the certified podcast sensation Serial, that listeners learn about the show’s silent partner. Quietly, and with little fuss, the University of Virginia Innocence Project has been looking again at the case of Adnan Syed since March 2014.

Serial’s presenter Sarah Koenig has taken listeners on a journey as she explores whether Adnan could have been wrongly convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. Adnan and Hae were both 17-year-old high school students in Baltimore County when she was strangled on January, 13, 1999. Adnan was sentenced to 30 years in prison, largely due to the evidence of his friend Jay. Adnan has always denied his involvement in Hae’s murder.

Dec 22

My Donbas Challenge

By Yulia Malkina, The New Cold War | Op-Ed

It is December 19, 2014. It is as terrible a year as I have ever known. I wish only for the year to end as soon as possible. Right now, I’m sitting at the coffee shop of the town of Konstantinovka, Donetsk region. Outside the window, there are people in camouflage uniform with guns. I do not know for whom they fight, but they are so young that I would like to give them cocoa with milk and cookies. Maybe I will do that.

There are Christmas trees on sale in local markets. ATMs are still working, so people have come from the nearby villages early in the morning to get cash. And beautiful women lead their children by hand on the way to school. Time has sped up; shops are open from 6 am and I have a feeling that people are running fast to slip past the war…

After years of excoriating Congress for not legislating, Americans got a crash course Tuesday night about the mischief that can transpire when Congress actually fulfills its duties.

With both parties (for a change) committed to passing a spending bill by Thursday to avoid a government shutdown, the comprehensive legislation became a lobbyist's delight. These omnibus last-minute bills traditionally pass Congress with virtually no debate. And since Barack Obama would never veto legislation to fund the government over minor provisions, anything small snuck into the bill is as good as inscribed into law.

Dec 22

Culture of Torture

By Jason Flores-Williams, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The culture of torture is The Voice, Dancing With The Stars, The PBS News Hour, Charlie Rose, Guggenheim, The NFL, NBA, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, Fox, Hannity and Rick Steves. The culture of torture is the soundtrack of our lives, Spotify, YouTube, the apps that make us feel so free. We are not redeemed by the freedom of our expression. Turns out, the First Amendment is just a gateway drug to the high grade corporate dope.

The hallmark of our age is that we don't exist in the here and now. Everything we engage in - i.e. the media - is designed to distract us from it. Better put: to relieve us of its demands. The standard analysis of contemporary culture is centered on distraction. They, whoever "they" are, are always trying to distract us. They stick enough crap in front of us and we'll forget about everything. This doesn't fly. (Just because a girl walks by in a bikini doesn't mean that I'm going to wreck my car into the telephone pole.) The better analysis is that we have constructed a culture for the sole purpose of getting us off the hook. All the art, books, films, technology, grand expressions of our complicated souls are constructed to vindicate our passivity, make us feel like doing nothing is doing something. In a contemporary capitalist society, it's not religion that's the opium of the people, it's culture.

The government is rarely, if ever, transparent or honest about its true intentions. From the reasons stated for going to war ("to defend freedom" or to "fight terror") to the reasons given for why domestic surveillance is needed ("to make sure the American people are safe"), the public is given an official narrative; but the true - and often far less benevolent - aims of those in power tend to make themselves known in some form or fashion eventually. Take Ferguson, Missouri on August 12, 2014; the US government agreed to a police request to institute a 37 square mile no-fly zone for 12 days. The official reason given for having the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) restrict airspace was due to a police helicopter being fired upon. Some weeks later, on November 2, 2014; the Associated Press published a story revealing that, after submitting a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, it was able to obtain recordings of conversations between FAA personnel which confirmed that the no-fly zone was requested for the sole purpose of keeping the media out. It was also revealed that there was no incident report of shots fired at a police helicopter at all. This is just one of the latest attempts of federal and/or local government officials to mislead the public with an official narrative while concealing their true motives. It is also a blatant attack on press freedoms, which are protected by the very first amendment of the constitution. There are also several videos that went viral showing police directly targeting journalists with arrestsforce and tear gas canisters. This wouldn't be the first time the government actively sought to shut down press freedom and probably won't be the last. There are numerous examples of this happening in the past and it doesn't matter who is in the White House – it is institutional.

Vienna, Austria – December 2014 –– In a remarkable show of strength and unity, the Youth Division of Soka Gakkai in Japan presented to Tony de Brum, Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands, more than 5,000,000 signatures in support of the Nuclear Zero campaign. The presentation took place in Vienna at the Civil Society Forum sponsored by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

The Nuclear Zero petition is part of a global campaign calling for a world free of nuclear weapons. The petition states, “To protect humanity’s future, we support the Marshall Islands, a small island nation that is courageously seeking to enforce the Nuclear Zero promise – a world free of nuclear weapons.” The petition goes on to call upon the nuclear-armed nations to fulfill their moral and legal obligations to begin negotiations for complete nuclear disarmament. To sign the petition, visit nuclearzero.org.

US military academies are neither Spartan in being dedicated to war, nor are they Athenian in recognizing humanism (even the humanism of war).  They are Archimedean.  They focus on engineering and the machinery of war.  But two millennia ago even Archimedes with his clever war machinery could not save Syracuse from defeat at the hands of Rome.

There is a lesson here for America’s military academies – if only they spent more time studying history and the humanities and less time solving equations.  But they do not.  I taught history at the Air Force Academy (AFA) for six years.  My experience?  The AFA was far too focused on STEM subjects (science/tech/engineering/math) to the neglect of history, political science, and the humanities.  Today, America’s military cadets still concentrate on STEM, and they still receive Bachelor of Science degrees, even when they choose to major in subjects like history.

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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.

We are living and breathing history every day. Every demonstration, every march, every person that walks out into the cold winter to demand justice is in lockstep with those who have come before us. As such we continue to move forward because, quite simply, we have yet to see this ever-elusive "justice." In fact, history should remind people why we've engaged in a sustained movement: our collective outrage for the lives taken from us. Calls for us to hang our heads or go away are a slap in the face to the legacy of those, like Martin Luther King Jr., who were often criticized and jailed for what many decried as illegitimate agitation. We will not go away. We are committed to changing our collective destinies.

While we are often simply described as "protesters:;, we are in fact mothers, fathers, workers, sons, daughters. The families of victims of violence, both by police and others, have always been close to our heart. That's why we march, why we organize. We want justice first and foremost, not a continued cycle of blood. Mayor de Blasio and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who both support the racist Broken Windows theory of policing, purposely fail to understand that as they call for a suspension of protests - which are within our rights. Outrage does not go on suspension as long as those who've murdered us walk free. 

The World Bank’s landmark annual publication, Doing Business, ranks countries around the world based on how well their regulatory systems serve narrow corporate interests. Typically this creates a global competition to lower public interest regulations, diminish environmental and social safeguards, and reduce corporate tax responsibilities.

There has been considerable pushback on this ranking system from civil society groups around the world. One of the critics, the Oakland Institute, invited me to provide an alternative business perspective on the Doing Business report at an event last October at the World Bank.

Wednesday was a day of great emotion for all Cuba and supporters worldwide of the Cuban Five, to see Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio step down from the plane, to be received by President Raúl Castro and their loving families and the Cuban people in celebration.

The day that we all waited for came as a wonderful surprise for its suddenness but in reality, the sense of freedom was in the air, as the movement for the Five's freedom was growing greatly in depth and size.

It isn’t until Episode 7  of the certified podcast sensation Serial, that listeners learn about the show’s silent partner. Quietly, and with little fuss, the University of Virginia Innocence Project has been looking again at the case of Adnan Syed since March 2014.

Serial’s presenter Sarah Koenig has taken listeners on a journey as she explores whether Adnan could have been wrongly convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. Adnan and Hae were both 17-year-old high school students in Baltimore County when she was strangled on January, 13, 1999. Adnan was sentenced to 30 years in prison, largely due to the evidence of his friend Jay. Adnan has always denied his involvement in Hae’s murder.

Dec 22

My Donbas Challenge

By Yulia Malkina, The New Cold War | Op-Ed

It is December 19, 2014. It is as terrible a year as I have ever known. I wish only for the year to end as soon as possible. Right now, I’m sitting at the coffee shop of the town of Konstantinovka, Donetsk region. Outside the window, there are people in camouflage uniform with guns. I do not know for whom they fight, but they are so young that I would like to give them cocoa with milk and cookies. Maybe I will do that.

There are Christmas trees on sale in local markets. ATMs are still working, so people have come from the nearby villages early in the morning to get cash. And beautiful women lead their children by hand on the way to school. Time has sped up; shops are open from 6 am and I have a feeling that people are running fast to slip past the war…

After years of excoriating Congress for not legislating, Americans got a crash course Tuesday night about the mischief that can transpire when Congress actually fulfills its duties.

With both parties (for a change) committed to passing a spending bill by Thursday to avoid a government shutdown, the comprehensive legislation became a lobbyist's delight. These omnibus last-minute bills traditionally pass Congress with virtually no debate. And since Barack Obama would never veto legislation to fund the government over minor provisions, anything small snuck into the bill is as good as inscribed into law.

Dec 22

Culture of Torture

By Jason Flores-Williams, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The culture of torture is The Voice, Dancing With The Stars, The PBS News Hour, Charlie Rose, Guggenheim, The NFL, NBA, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, Fox, Hannity and Rick Steves. The culture of torture is the soundtrack of our lives, Spotify, YouTube, the apps that make us feel so free. We are not redeemed by the freedom of our expression. Turns out, the First Amendment is just a gateway drug to the high grade corporate dope.

The hallmark of our age is that we don't exist in the here and now. Everything we engage in - i.e. the media - is designed to distract us from it. Better put: to relieve us of its demands. The standard analysis of contemporary culture is centered on distraction. They, whoever "they" are, are always trying to distract us. They stick enough crap in front of us and we'll forget about everything. This doesn't fly. (Just because a girl walks by in a bikini doesn't mean that I'm going to wreck my car into the telephone pole.) The better analysis is that we have constructed a culture for the sole purpose of getting us off the hook. All the art, books, films, technology, grand expressions of our complicated souls are constructed to vindicate our passivity, make us feel like doing nothing is doing something. In a contemporary capitalist society, it's not religion that's the opium of the people, it's culture.

The government is rarely, if ever, transparent or honest about its true intentions. From the reasons stated for going to war ("to defend freedom" or to "fight terror") to the reasons given for why domestic surveillance is needed ("to make sure the American people are safe"), the public is given an official narrative; but the true - and often far less benevolent - aims of those in power tend to make themselves known in some form or fashion eventually. Take Ferguson, Missouri on August 12, 2014; the US government agreed to a police request to institute a 37 square mile no-fly zone for 12 days. The official reason given for having the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) restrict airspace was due to a police helicopter being fired upon. Some weeks later, on November 2, 2014; the Associated Press published a story revealing that, after submitting a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, it was able to obtain recordings of conversations between FAA personnel which confirmed that the no-fly zone was requested for the sole purpose of keeping the media out. It was also revealed that there was no incident report of shots fired at a police helicopter at all. This is just one of the latest attempts of federal and/or local government officials to mislead the public with an official narrative while concealing their true motives. It is also a blatant attack on press freedoms, which are protected by the very first amendment of the constitution. There are also several videos that went viral showing police directly targeting journalists with arrestsforce and tear gas canisters. This wouldn't be the first time the government actively sought to shut down press freedom and probably won't be the last. There are numerous examples of this happening in the past and it doesn't matter who is in the White House – it is institutional.

Vienna, Austria – December 2014 –– In a remarkable show of strength and unity, the Youth Division of Soka Gakkai in Japan presented to Tony de Brum, Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands, more than 5,000,000 signatures in support of the Nuclear Zero campaign. The presentation took place in Vienna at the Civil Society Forum sponsored by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

The Nuclear Zero petition is part of a global campaign calling for a world free of nuclear weapons. The petition states, “To protect humanity’s future, we support the Marshall Islands, a small island nation that is courageously seeking to enforce the Nuclear Zero promise – a world free of nuclear weapons.” The petition goes on to call upon the nuclear-armed nations to fulfill their moral and legal obligations to begin negotiations for complete nuclear disarmament. To sign the petition, visit nuclearzero.org.

US military academies are neither Spartan in being dedicated to war, nor are they Athenian in recognizing humanism (even the humanism of war).  They are Archimedean.  They focus on engineering and the machinery of war.  But two millennia ago even Archimedes with his clever war machinery could not save Syracuse from defeat at the hands of Rome.

There is a lesson here for America’s military academies – if only they spent more time studying history and the humanities and less time solving equations.  But they do not.  I taught history at the Air Force Academy (AFA) for six years.  My experience?  The AFA was far too focused on STEM subjects (science/tech/engineering/math) to the neglect of history, political science, and the humanities.  Today, America’s military cadets still concentrate on STEM, and they still receive Bachelor of Science degrees, even when they choose to major in subjects like history.