Saturday, 20 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.

Nov 13

Stifling Activism, the Bureaucratic Way

By Laura Finley, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

I am writing and raging. Raging because I am tired, oh so tired, of my activism being repressed or limited by bureaucratic minutia and ridiculous protocol. I am even more upset at the ways bureaucracy stifles my students who, because they are informed and outraged, want to act and are told they can't, or can only under certain conditions...blah, blah, blah.

I am coming to realize that this squelching of real activism happens on so many fronts, even those we typically associate with freedom to assembly and expression. As a college professor, I have witnessed the difficulty of enacting a true mission for social justice because, any time we get "too controversial," we might alienate a donor, future donor, or other bureaucratic big-wig. Thus final approval for activism, it seems, must come from, of all places, a division devoted to making money for the institution, not one devoted to its mission or to the empowerment of students as leaders.

In his book, The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson writes: "I was told by some New Zealand sheep farmers that sometimes a particularly smart lamb will learn to undo the latch of a gate, evidently not an uncommon skill, and the sheep farmer then worries that the lamb might teach his less clever companions to do the same."

Masson asked a group of farmers, "What do you with sheep who can undo the latch?"

"We shoot them," came the reply, "so they can't pass on their knowledge."

I wrote this song, "Privatize Everything," back in 2000. The song was meant as political satire, but unfortunately, many of these lyrics have already become reality in recent years, as evidenced by the federal "catch shares" program, the state's fake "marine protected areas," the Obama administration's tentative approval of Frankenfish and the state-federal Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the twin tunnels.

Catch Shares - The oceans are being privatized under the Obama administration's "catch shares" program that concentrates ocean fisheries in fewer, increasingly corporate hands.

On November 19, people in the city of Albuquerque will vote on whether to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The very fact that a fundamental right of women – the right to abortion at whatever point in her pregnancy and for whatever reason she decides – can be put up for a vote is entirely illegitimate and reveals something profoundly wrong with the system that rules over us. It is yet another indication as to why the courts and the official political process in this country cannot be relied upon to protect the rights of women, or of any other oppressed group.

Family farm and consumer advocates have been working for weeks to ensure meaningful public comment on the FDA's proposed food safety rules. Now the government website that serves as a portal for the public's comments on food safety is offline, out-of-service, or even refusing to accept comments.

"This is potentially disenfranchising thousands of farmers and consumers, and is flat-out unacceptable," says Will Fantle, Codirector of the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute. "We have been working for months, as have many other organizations across the country, to raise public awareness of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the proposed rules developed to implement it. With the public comment period set to close on November 15, we have received numerous reports from our members that they cannot send in timely comments because the portal for doing so, regulations.gov, is not working."

The Saint Paul Federation of Teachers is in one of the most important struggles to defend public education and have taken one of the boldest stances against standardized testing in the country. While the state mandates that students take the MCA standardized test, the SPFT—with the support of their many parent and community allies—know that it is a waste of time and resources and are attempting to bargain it out of their contract.

In response to an appeal filed today by former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr, seeking to overturn his conviction before a military commission, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued the following statement. Khadr's appeal comes on the heels of an appeal filed this week by CCR client David Hicks, who, like Khadr, was convicted in the military commissions of a crime not recognized under international law: "material support for terrorism"

On Friday, November 8, Typhoon Haiyan smashed into the island of Samar, on the eastern central part of the archipelago, completely destroying many towns and villages on the sea shore. so far reports estimate over 1,200 deaths but that number is expected to rise. Many were evacuated to higher ground prior to Haiyan's arrival as meteorologists had been tracking it and put out warnings. The Philippines is along the Ring of Fire and is prone to earth quakes and typhoons. Many of the Philippines poorest live on the sea shore. I believe The Philippines,with a population of 98 million, consisting of 7,107 islands,of which only 2,000 are inhabited, should have a public works program to assist the newly homeless poor with housing and with aid organization and/or other funding rebuilding homes etcetera on higher ground poor to higher ground, particularly after this.

Nov 12

The Awesome Power of the American Working Class

By E. Douglas Kihn, SpeakOut | News Analysis

The slightest threat of its use will influence the behavior of others. If you had a .44 Magnum pointed at you, or even if you just glimpsed it sitting on your neighbor's kitchen table, your behavior would be influenced big time!

Contrary to what we have always been told by the bosses, their government and press, as well as by many liberal and conservative commentators, the American working class and their unions are not weak and irrelevant. In fact, they are powerful, as full of power as a 9.5 earthquake. That workers still believe this weakness fiction is the principle obstacle standing in the way of their liberation from poverty and repression.

Rola!Sami (EJ Assi) and Najla (Nada Shouhayib)'s courtship takes place in the 'cage' of the gas station. (Photo: Rola Nashef)

For those of us who've worked with Dearborn Michigan's Arab American community during the past three decades, victories in this past week's municipal elections were more than just big news. They represent vindication and confirmation of our belief in the strength and vitality of the Arab American community. After this election, the president of Dearborn's City Council will be Arab American, Susan Dabaja, and, overall, four of the city's eleven member City Council are now of Arab descent.

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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.

Nov 13

Stifling Activism, the Bureaucratic Way

By Laura Finley, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

I am writing and raging. Raging because I am tired, oh so tired, of my activism being repressed or limited by bureaucratic minutia and ridiculous protocol. I am even more upset at the ways bureaucracy stifles my students who, because they are informed and outraged, want to act and are told they can't, or can only under certain conditions...blah, blah, blah.

I am coming to realize that this squelching of real activism happens on so many fronts, even those we typically associate with freedom to assembly and expression. As a college professor, I have witnessed the difficulty of enacting a true mission for social justice because, any time we get "too controversial," we might alienate a donor, future donor, or other bureaucratic big-wig. Thus final approval for activism, it seems, must come from, of all places, a division devoted to making money for the institution, not one devoted to its mission or to the empowerment of students as leaders.

In his book, The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson writes: "I was told by some New Zealand sheep farmers that sometimes a particularly smart lamb will learn to undo the latch of a gate, evidently not an uncommon skill, and the sheep farmer then worries that the lamb might teach his less clever companions to do the same."

Masson asked a group of farmers, "What do you with sheep who can undo the latch?"

"We shoot them," came the reply, "so they can't pass on their knowledge."

I wrote this song, "Privatize Everything," back in 2000. The song was meant as political satire, but unfortunately, many of these lyrics have already become reality in recent years, as evidenced by the federal "catch shares" program, the state's fake "marine protected areas," the Obama administration's tentative approval of Frankenfish and the state-federal Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the twin tunnels.

Catch Shares - The oceans are being privatized under the Obama administration's "catch shares" program that concentrates ocean fisheries in fewer, increasingly corporate hands.

On November 19, people in the city of Albuquerque will vote on whether to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The very fact that a fundamental right of women – the right to abortion at whatever point in her pregnancy and for whatever reason she decides – can be put up for a vote is entirely illegitimate and reveals something profoundly wrong with the system that rules over us. It is yet another indication as to why the courts and the official political process in this country cannot be relied upon to protect the rights of women, or of any other oppressed group.

Family farm and consumer advocates have been working for weeks to ensure meaningful public comment on the FDA's proposed food safety rules. Now the government website that serves as a portal for the public's comments on food safety is offline, out-of-service, or even refusing to accept comments.

"This is potentially disenfranchising thousands of farmers and consumers, and is flat-out unacceptable," says Will Fantle, Codirector of the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute. "We have been working for months, as have many other organizations across the country, to raise public awareness of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the proposed rules developed to implement it. With the public comment period set to close on November 15, we have received numerous reports from our members that they cannot send in timely comments because the portal for doing so, regulations.gov, is not working."

The Saint Paul Federation of Teachers is in one of the most important struggles to defend public education and have taken one of the boldest stances against standardized testing in the country. While the state mandates that students take the MCA standardized test, the SPFT—with the support of their many parent and community allies—know that it is a waste of time and resources and are attempting to bargain it out of their contract.

In response to an appeal filed today by former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr, seeking to overturn his conviction before a military commission, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued the following statement. Khadr's appeal comes on the heels of an appeal filed this week by CCR client David Hicks, who, like Khadr, was convicted in the military commissions of a crime not recognized under international law: "material support for terrorism"

On Friday, November 8, Typhoon Haiyan smashed into the island of Samar, on the eastern central part of the archipelago, completely destroying many towns and villages on the sea shore. so far reports estimate over 1,200 deaths but that number is expected to rise. Many were evacuated to higher ground prior to Haiyan's arrival as meteorologists had been tracking it and put out warnings. The Philippines is along the Ring of Fire and is prone to earth quakes and typhoons. Many of the Philippines poorest live on the sea shore. I believe The Philippines,with a population of 98 million, consisting of 7,107 islands,of which only 2,000 are inhabited, should have a public works program to assist the newly homeless poor with housing and with aid organization and/or other funding rebuilding homes etcetera on higher ground poor to higher ground, particularly after this.

Nov 12

The Awesome Power of the American Working Class

By E. Douglas Kihn, SpeakOut | News Analysis

The slightest threat of its use will influence the behavior of others. If you had a .44 Magnum pointed at you, or even if you just glimpsed it sitting on your neighbor's kitchen table, your behavior would be influenced big time!

Contrary to what we have always been told by the bosses, their government and press, as well as by many liberal and conservative commentators, the American working class and their unions are not weak and irrelevant. In fact, they are powerful, as full of power as a 9.5 earthquake. That workers still believe this weakness fiction is the principle obstacle standing in the way of their liberation from poverty and repression.

Rola!Sami (EJ Assi) and Najla (Nada Shouhayib)'s courtship takes place in the 'cage' of the gas station. (Photo: Rola Nashef)

For those of us who've worked with Dearborn Michigan's Arab American community during the past three decades, victories in this past week's municipal elections were more than just big news. They represent vindication and confirmation of our belief in the strength and vitality of the Arab American community. After this election, the president of Dearborn's City Council will be Arab American, Susan Dabaja, and, overall, four of the city's eleven member City Council are now of Arab descent.