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.
I felt like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, except only one "golden ticket" was stuffed in a loaf of cheap white bread, and I, the holder of that ticket, won the prize, the opportunity to interview the masters of the universe, the top one per centers in the United States, the ruling class. I anxiously gazed out among the assembled crowd of Wall Street barons, tech billionaires, hedge funders, private equity hucksters and banksters with my prepared questions in hand. I guessed they only wanted some lower-working-class interviewer, or why else would they stick the ticket in a loaf of bread you can only buy at Dollar stores? Oh well, I won and was excited to be among them. The interview began:
This examination and analysis of Julian Assange's new book When Google Met WikiLeaks that documents his meeting with Google chairman Eric Schmidt and their exchanges about the future of the internet and society reflects on the oppositions represented by the two organizations.
Many there are, who seeing the violent turmoil raging throughout large parts of the world, together with the devastating impact of man-made climate change, fear humanity and the planet are on the verge of destruction. Those religiously inclined – particularly those sitting on the far right of the spectrum, point towards various passages in sacred texts, which they believe accurately describe these times and proclaim them to be "the end times." Apocalyptically understood, through the prism of doctrine, to be not simply the annihilation of a sin-drenched humanity who according to the "judgment of the just" no doubt deserve it, but the obliteration of the Earth itself. This doom-laden interpretation of events cultivates fear, suffocates hope and fails to recognize the good amongst the black flags and chaos.
Fortunately there is an alternative, sunnier view of the present time, a common sense albeit controversial vision that creates hope (something that is in short supply), not fear and despair. In a quieter voice which remains largely buried under the worldwide blanket of anxiety and insecurity, it says these are not "the end times," but transitional times; that we are not witnessing the "end of the world" or the slow demise of humanity, but the final cries of a crumbling civilisation in terminal decline. A civilisation built over the last two thousand years or so in response to certain conditioning influences promoting specific values and ways of living; an out-dated and in many ways, to many people, inadequate mode of organizing society that is now collapsing - and rightly so.
San Francisco is no longer what it used to be. "San Francisco is becoming a city of the rich and poor" says Randy Shaw from the article The Chronicle Discovers Gentrification in San Francisco. Society tries to blend the barriers between the rich neighborhoods and the poor neighborhoods: some are in plain sight, while others need a closer look. A family member of mine was walking down the street with her boyfriend and after a few blocks stopped and asked, "Did we just walk through a set?" "Set" meaning a gang affiliated neighborhood which can be dangerous.
As time goes by, the homes of the poor are ripped out and condos of the rich are built in their place. The natives of San Francisco are no longer the top priority. San Franciscans are being pushed out due to daily struggles, breaking their backs to make ends meet. Meanwhile the "Stand In" – AKA, the rich - are moving in, forcing landlords to tear down and rebuild to accommodate the new uninterrupted money.
Sixteen major US news organizations and a hunger-striking detainee have asked a federal judge not to hold the first-ever trial of force-feeding practices at Guantánamo Bay in secret.
The hearing in Dhiab v. Obama, scheduled for October 6-7 in Washington, DC in front of Judge Gladys Kessler, will be the first ever to determine the lawfulness of force-feeding practices at Guantánamo Bay.
I wrote a column that went up this morning at The Atlantic about the ProPublica/This American Life story about the New York Fed. The gist of the argument is that we all knew the New York Fed was captured; for people like Tim Geithner, that’s a feature, not a bug.
There was a paragraph in my original draft that I really liked, but I can completely understand why the editors didn’t want it:
In some ways the system is set up to bring young men against one another - to get by with any means necessary - and it's a particular race that it targets. That's where young men made a mistake and need to fix it - because there shouldn't be any system that makes you feel like you have to do something or allows you to turn on your fellow peers making you go down that path of failing. In a world of economic inequality and racial injustice, the blame is on everyone who promotes violence and does not want to see change. Why promote violence if you just want it to stop? The way young men in our community continue to make bad choices for unnecessary causes is making it become true, setting bad examples for the generation that comes after them, making it hard for them to turn it around and get it together. Making those bad choices could easily make it easier to be accused of something they didn't do and having to pay the price for it. If they want to be viewed better, then it starts within yourself before it moves on to everyone else: it only takes that one person to turn everything around. Everybody wants to succeed; we don't need conflict among young men in our community since each one has a family that deeply cares about them. Families don't want to see their loved ones fall in the cracks or end up in a jail.
On Saturday, September 20th, a homeless 42-year-old veteran - Omar J. Gonzalez - was charged with trespassing and carrying a deadly weapon after jumping the White House fence. He served three tours in Iraq. Gonzalez was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after his first tour in Iraq, but he was sent back for a second tour, during which a portion of his foot was amputated when a homemade explosive device hit his Humvee in Baghdad. He was honorably discharged about two years ago. His wife reports he had such trauma during his second tour, something that "involved little children," that he cannot bear to report it, and that he does not need punishment but help.
Omar Gonzalez is now in jail, being held without bail. The purpose of the legal and judicial systems are to administer and oversee the practice of justice, the doing right, being good and fair, always in line with what is true. However, how did Omar Gonzalez travel from honorable warrior in the combat zone to broken, alienated, and unseen at home? How did he become a throwaway rather than an honored citizen?
“Jesusland” by Ben Folds includes a powerful verse against the energetic piano and soaring harmonies:
Town to town
broadcast to each house, they drop your name
but no one knows your face
Billboards quoting things you’d never say
you hang your head and pray
The New York Times editorial board has finally awakened to Obama’s “strategy” in the “war” (as it is officially called now) against ISIS. It is essentially the same strategy that has guided literally hundreds of US military operations abroad since World War II: achieve the maximum objective with the minimum commitment of US power and prestige. Trouble is, the strategy just doesn’t work, mainly because the enemy won’t cooperate and friendly forces are either inept or unpopular (or both). Thus begins the slippery slope to wider and deeper involvement.
The Sept. 16, 2014 testimony of General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is what got the Times’ attention: “If we got to the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I’ll recommend that to the president.” A day later on Sept. 17, the Army chief of staff, General Ray Odierno, chimed in: “You’ve got to have ground forces that are capable of going in and rooting [IS forces] out.” In short, Obama’s supposed commitment not to deploy US ground troops to combat in Iraq or Syria—“a profound mistake,” he said Sept. 7 on the NBC News program Meet the Press—is as firm as mud. As happened in Vietnam, there will be “advisers,” more and more of them, as it becomes plain that the mini-max strategy of relying on air power to “degrade and destroy” ISIS proves insufficient.