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.

Among the many fine remarks given by speakers at last Saturday's 50th Anniversary March on Washington, one in particular, we hope, might have caught President Obama's ear. In her brief tribute to the protesters and march organizers 50 years ago, Clayola Brown, president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute and first vice president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, linked their demand for civil rights and economic justice in 1963 to the plight of two million low wage workers who today are being brazenly exploited by private companies that make billions of dollars in contracts, concessions and property leases from the federal government.

Aug 28

The Human Hill: A Scary Urban Legend

By Sergei Morozov, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

An ant hill is a complicated construction, in which an equally complicated colony lives. But who rules the ant hill? No one does. Ants have no consciousness. They are biological mechanisms programmed from birth. The program specifies an algorithm while the ant's body merely obeys this algorithm. Ants never learn. They are born with inherent abilities. These abilities were formed a long time before, and when born an ant acquires them as a heritage of bygone processes, as an instant of momentum. An ant executes a built-in program when carrying pieces of wood or food, or attacking an enemy in accordance with its instructions, but it is never conscious of building an ant hill.

An ant is a biological machine in which an inherited momentum program is built. To see how it is with humans, first assume that free will really exists (philosophers, by the way, have not proven it yet). Thereafter, it is possible to consider to what extent it does. Ants have no free will while humans seem to have it.

Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine" shows you exactly how the disaster capitalists are extracting the wealth out of our world. The book is five years old, but it continues to predict the future. This episode is a quick rundown of what it says.

Three conservation groups filed a lawsuit today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service for approving a 50-year plan by Fruit Growers Supply Co. to accelerate logging of occupied spotted owl habitat and for granting "take permits" for endangered species on 150,000 acres of forest in Siskiyou County, Calif. The agencies approved a "habitat conservation plan" for Fruit Growers that continues a history of overharvesting, allowing the company to log thousands of acres in the next 10 years in exchange for promised future habitat improvements that are highly uncertain. Included in the plan is approval to "take," that is, harm or kill, more than 80 northern spotted owls that are protected by the Endangered Species Act.
"Fruit Growers' 50-year plan targets endangered species and the forests that sustain them in the first 10 years in exchange for 40 years of empty promises to do good after the habitat and the species are gone," said George Sexton, conversation director of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center. "The plan fails rare species and is a big step backwards for healthy forests and rivers in Northern California."

Around the Lastarria neighborhood, downtown Santiago, Chile, you get a glimpse every once in a while of a tall, fat man in a skirt, pushing a shopping cart, a handkerchief tied round his head like its keeping his jaw from falling off. The shopping cart could have come from anywhere, or it's one of a series of shopping carts, probably from the Lider down the block.

He calls himself the Divino Anticristo (Divine Antichrist). Only a few people, some bookstore owners and waiters who work in the area, know his real name. They say he was a podiatrist before a vagabond. They say he was forced to check himself into an old, discontinued psych hospital around the age of 30 or so, and came out crazier then he went in. He writes poetry from time to time, and he'll sell you some of his verse, along with a pair of old tennis shoes, or a scratched up brass doorknob, or a small duster made of duck feathers. Whatever he's found in the dumpsters lining Merced Avenue or back alleyways.

In his book Civilization and its Discontents, Sigmund Freud touches on the two conflicting drives that exist within us all. The life drive and the death drive. According to Freud, the life drive pursues positive experiences of pleasure and happiness, while the death drive protects happiness by avoiding pain. Rather than aspire for what it wants, the death drive avoids that which it does not. Both seek happiness, though their approaches conflict. Traumas like the Boston bombing force this tension into the limelight, and offer an opportunity to reassess what we are willing to risk for the life we want, and conversely, how far we will go to avoid pain.

Words can have various meanings, depending on who is doing the defining and for what purpose. Word definitions can strongly influence how we think and act. The author George Orwell made this point devastatingly clear in his classic dystopia 1984, in which the English language was turned on its head in order to protect the interests of "Big Brother." Employing the methods of doublespeak and doublethink, the language created by this fictional totalitarian government was called "Newspeak."

Today's governments and news sources and their ready usage of doublespeak and doublethink is revealed in such otherwise whimsical turns of phrase as Department of Defense, War on Terror, the peace process, progressive Democrat, fair and balanced reporting, and job creators, to name a few.

Reversing its prior decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled today that Burbank, Calif., police officer Angelo Dahlia was engaging in speech protected by the First Amendment when he disclosed the abuse of suspects by his fellow officers. Therefore, the court held, Dahlia may sue the city of Burbank for retaliating against him for the disclosures.

"We are pleased that the court has reinstated this important case to allow Mr. Dahlia to vindicate his free speech rights and the rights of police officers throughout California," said attorney Michael A. Morguess of Lackie, Dammeier, McGill & Ethir of Upland, Calif., who argued the case.

Today, for the first time since August 21, 2003, the National Labor Relations Board has a full complement of five Senate confirmed members. Four new members, all nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed last month by the U.S. Senate have been sworn into office. NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce was also confirmed last month to an additional five year term on the Board.

"The idea of universal suspicion without individual evidence is what Americans find abhorrent and what black men in America must constantly fight. It is pervasive in policing policies — like stop-and-frisk, and . . . neighborhood watch -- regardless of the collateral damage done to the majority of innocents. It's like burning down a house to rid it of mice."