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.
On the title page of my copy of The Big Short, in black ink, it says:
"For James Kwak
And then a scrawl that I take to be Michael Lewis's signature. (Christopher Lydon got the book signed for me, since Lewis was on his radio show a few days before I was.) It may be the only book I've ever bothered to get autographed.
January 27, 2013 was the fortieth anniversary of the signing of theParis Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Viet Nam (Paris Agreement). Probably not one American in a thousand is aware of the occasion.
But here in Vietnam this anniversary is hugely important and is being marked with much pomp and festivities. The main event was an official commemoration ceremony in the National Conventional Center. Vietnam's President, Truong Tan San, important cabinet members, and leading Communist Party officials all attended, as did ambassadors from many countries and delegations from around the world. The program included a multimedia performance that included dance and music; and the President awarded a medal to the now-elderly Madame Nguyen Thi Binh, the lead negotiator in Paris for the Provisional Revolutionary Government, or PRG (referred to in the United States pejoratively, and inaccurately, as the Viet Cong).
Each of the last few years I have compiled an annual list of the year's best films and divided them into fiction and non-fiction categories. Since "best of the year" lists are so prolific, my own focus is on non-fiction documentaries that don't receive as much media attention.
The term "non-fiction" should not be confused with reality or "the truth". There's no better example of a deliberate manipulation of facts than this year's top grossing documentary, 2016: Obama's America. Written and directed by conservative author Dinesh D'Souza, it is essentially a paid partisan polemic based on the premise that Barak Obama is a radical socialist who was informed by his long deceased Kenyan father. Although the Naro was harassed with multiple harangues by "true believers" who tried to persuade us to play the film, we would not program this latest example of fear-mongering. Nevertheless we'd like to draw more conservatives to join our political documentaries and discussions, but unfortunately there has been little interest in our film events.
There's nothing special about the Arma family. They're like countless other American households, with parents working hard to raise their kids right in a blue-collar sunbelt immigrant community in Phoenix. And sadly, when immigration agents came to take away the Guatemalan-born father of three, Edi; when his 11 year-old son tried to defend his father and was pushed away, and watched his dad whisked away to detention in what might have been their last seconds together–there was nothing unusual about that, either. It's happened hundreds of thousands of times in just the last few years. The epidemic of family separation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been a pillar of President Obama's immigration policy, proudly presided over by the very same politicians who are now crafting a "reform" plan that purportedly aims to fix the broken system and "secure the border."
As part of their work examining the East- West divide, my students at New York University's Abu Dhabi campus designed a survey to be administered in the U.S. and an Arab country in order to better understand how Americans and people in the Arab World understand themselves and each other. Last year we examined the perceptions that Americans and Egyptians had of each other. This year we focused our study on the U.S. and the UAE. The survey, conducted on-line by jzanalytics, a New York-based polling company, found a striking gap in understanding between the two peoples.
The report tells the judicial battle fought by participants of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in Turkey and across the world.
The report, prepared by IHH Human Rights and Judicial Commission, includes information about the Mavi Marmara trial as part of which Israeli commanders stand trial in Turkey and judicial work carried out by national and international judicial organs regarding the Mavi Marmara raid.
There is a new documentary movie about Israel, called The Gatekeepers. It is directed by Dror Moreh, and features interviews with all the former leaders of the Shin Bet, the country's internal security organization. The Shin Bet is assigned the job of preventing Palestinian retaliatory attacks on Israel and, as described by Moreh, the film "is the story of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories as told by the people at the crossroads of some of the most crucial moments in the security history of the country." Along the way it touches on such particular topics as targeted assassinations, the use of torture, and "collateral damage."
Violence in American culture is increasingly finding its way into the media spotlight. With numerous mass shootings having happened–in Colorado, Connecticut and Arizona–within the last year, some members in congress are asking that gun control laws be tightened, which has prompted an expected backlash from gun rights advocates, including the National Rifle Association (NRA).
As well, some in politics and the press are also asking to what degree does gun related violence have to do with "manhood?" This comes on the heels of a string of suicides by several celebrated sports icons. "Too many of us have been taught manhood in a way that is not healthy...men do not cry, man up..." is what CNN sports journalist, Keven Powell, wrote in a December 2nd editorial, entitled "Manhood, football and suicide." Powell's commentary was in response to the murder/suicide of Kansas City Chief's linebacker, Jovan Belcher, who fatally shot his girlfriend, and himself.
No city is an island, Entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.
I write from Charlottesville, Va., but am hopeful that this message applies to your city, town, or county as well.
In the absence of state or federal laws, localities around the United States are proceeding to put unmanned aerial vehicles in our skies as they see fit. The federal government has authorized the flight of 30,000 drones, and the use of drones up to 400 feet by police departments, at least 300 of which already have surveillance drones in operation.
A few days ago, I pointed out that the House Republicans' five-page bill to raise the debt ceiling offends two different provisions in the Constitution. I wish this were an isolated instance. It's not.
Most House Republicans are Tea Partiers, and Tea Partiers are in love with three things:
(1) those three-sided felt hats,
(2) those overly snug vests with lots and lots of brass buttons, and
(3) calling themselves "constitutional conservatives."