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.
Dear Treasury Secretary Lew,
Thank-you for the invitation to meet with you to discuss solutions to the problem of economic inequality. It is wonderful that you are reaching out to economists to find new solutions to this pressing and challenging problem. I very much regret not being able to attend, and wanted to send you my thoughts and a suggestion.
As you know, and Thomas Piketty's book Capital in the 21st Century shows, inequality has gotten much worse in the last half-century. The middle class is disappearing. A country of proud, industrious and entrepreneurial people is fast becoming a casino economy of gated communities, surrounded by a precariat of low wage workers and the unemployed. Our cherished democratic political process has been severely corrupted by the power of concentrated wealth, making it difficult for citizens to pass policies which would correct the situation.
Six days of testimony at the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling have proven the agency’s obsession with proclaiming its competence. Many of the two-dozen witnesses from the Central Intelligence Agency conveyed smoldering resentment that a whistleblower or journalist might depict the institution as a bungling outfit unworthy of its middle name.
Some witnesses seemed to put Sterling and journalist James Risen roughly in the same nefarious category — Sterling for allegedly leaking classified information that put the CIA in a bad light, and Risen for reporting it. Muffled CIA anger was audible, coming from the witness stand, a seat filled by people claiming to view any aspersions on the CIA to be baseless calumnies.
It was with heavy heart I started reading a recent report of Oregon Health Authority, an agency of the state of Oregon. This report finalized a state and federal investigation into the 2011 poisoning of Oregonians by timber companies.
The poisoned victims live near private forests in the Highway 36 corridor in western Lane County. Ninety-five percent or 173,152 acres of the land in the scene of the crime is forest, almost equally divided between federal and private owners.
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has just announced its latest nuclear Doomsday Clock moving ahead the minute hand to three minutes till midnight. The clock represents the count down to zero in minutes to nuclear apocalypse - midnight. This significant move of TWO minutes is the 22nd time since its inception in 1947 that the time has been changed.
In moving the hand to 3 minutes to midnight, Kennette Benedict the Executive Director of the Bulletin identified in his comments: "the probability of global catastrophe is very high"... "the choice is ours and the clock is ticking"..."we feel the need to warn the world" ..."the decision was based on a very strong feeling of urgency". He spoke to the dangers of both nuclear weapons and climate change saying, "they are both very difficult and we are ignoring them" and emphasized "this is about doomsday, this is about the end of civilization as we know it". The Clock has ranged from 2 minutes to midnight at the height of the Cold War to 17 minutes till midnight with the hopes that followed the end of the Cold War. The decision to move the minute hand is made by the Bulletin's Board of Directors in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 18 Nobel Laureates.
Metropolitan Transit Authority spokesperson told media that Reverend "got physical" and "attacked police."
Video, witnesses and DA's charges oppose MTA.
New York, New York -- In the midst of a 24-hour vigil honoring 170 unarmed civilians killed by police, activist-performer William Talen, also known as “Reverend Billy,” was arrested by Metropolitan Transportation Authority police while delivering a sermon in Grand Central Terminal. Talen has been charged with disorderly conduct and obstruction of governmental administration.
Many people are completely unaware of social injustices in their community and they are complacent towards major challenges facing the planet. They take an active role of ignorance and entitlement, and they are apathetic towards poverty, war, and climate change. They lack enthusiastic political beliefs, and few have meaningful interests or convictions. This is what it means to be socially unconscious.
This can be attributed to many different things. Working, raising children, and doing day-to-day activities consumes a lot of time and energy. Who wants to think about police brutality, racial discrimination, or homelessness after work? It is easier to find relief from unpleasant realities with cheap distractions. Pop culture, sports, shopping, and smartphones provide superficial means of escape. During the Roman Empire this was recognized as "bread and circus." It is easier to be entertained than it is to be informed. This is not only true for middle-class Americans with disposable income, but it is especially true for those who are sick, unemployed, or have limited resources. A single mother who has difficulty finding work has very little time for anything else. It is easy to ignore problems in the community when one has problems of their own.
This morning I posted an article over at Medium about the question—raised again by Goldman analysts earlier this month—of whether JPMorgan should be broken up. The answer is obviously yes. The interesting thing is that this is not a socialist-vs.-capitalist, academic-vs.-manager, regulator-vs.-businessman sort of argument. It’s a shareholder-vs.-manager issue, and the shareholders are wondering why Jamie Dimon insists on defending an empire that is best known for crime and ineptitude.
"How does it feel to be a problem?" wrote the black sociologist W. E. B. Dubois in 1903. This is the poignant question also asked by native inhabitants and foreigners in France, and throughout Europe, who are Muslim or presumed to be Muslim. The massacre at Charlie Hebdo and the hostage-taking and murders at a kosher supermarket, perpetrated by an armed commando of three French combatants claiming ties with al-Qaeda and the "Islamic State," only exacerbate political and social tensions that already existed in French society. For some, these killings were merely the macabre realization of literary and journalistic prophecies in which the "Muslim community" is perceived as "a people within the people," whose problematic presence can only be resolved by "re-emigration", a euphemism for deportation. For others, who stress that it is important not to lump together Islam and terrorism, the solution to this violence lies nonetheless in a "reform of Islam," which theologians and responsible Muslims are urged to undertake.
Berlin Bulletin No. 83
Recent events here in Germany remind me of a playground see-saw, with constant ups and downs of one side and the other.
All autumn we watched the upward swing of PEGIDA, “Patriotic Europeans against Islamization of the West”, most rapidly but not only in Saxony’s capital Dresden. Its main features were a fast-talking, shady leader with some eerie charisma, plus foggy dissatisfaction with just about everyone and everything: most politicians, the media, but especially poor job, rent and pension situations and fears for the future, plus, most dangerously, the channeling of such fears and worries into a dull hatred of anything and anyone “foreign”, especially the often arbitrary placement of newly-arrived Syrian and Iraqi refugees into their hitherto close communities. PEGIDA’s Monday “walks”, though ambling and non-violent, recalled disturbingly the murderous stamp of booted, brown-shirted marchers of a previous generation. And some gimlet-eyed neo-Nazis reinforced such recollections.
Military recruiters must feel like Hansel and Gretel’s “wicked witch,” fattening up the children to eat them. With sexual violence, endless wars of occupation, fatalities, brain trauma, permanent disabilities and an epidemic of suicides, what they’re selling these days looks like a lot like a bad horror show.
With the chance of being sent into quagmires in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, etc. on one hand, the likelihood of being sexually assaulted on the other - and the specter of suicide among vets of all stripes - you have to wonder how recruiters get anyone in the door. Newbies must not be reading the papers; all four active-duty services and five out of six reserve components met their recruiting goals in 2014, according to the Pentagon.