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.

Mark Helprin's novel, In Sunlight and in Shadow, tries to articulate as noble as possible a justification for the tragic violence of war. The novel is set just after World War II, so it is not surprising that the rationale is based in the Churchillian mind-set of the campaign to defeat Hitler. In the novel, an older veteran argues: "How many millions have to die, Harry, before we stop worrying about unintended consequences?"

Harry, a younger vet, responds: "What if all nations decided to kill off what in their eyes was mortally dangerous leadership? It would become a Hobbesian world."

I'm in the thick of teaching at Vassar College at the moment. I just came off sabbatical and with lab activities to prepare, quizzes to grade, homework assignments to critique, office hours to keep for eager and inquisitive students, sometimes I long for the luxurious hours of reading and freewriting with production of the occasional "blessay."

But this morning all the effort I put in on behalf of my Vassar students seems worth it; this week they've made me especially grateful for the gift that it is to teach them. Thank you Vassar students for responding to the hateful call by the Westboro Baptist Church to protest in our school community. As reported in the Huffington Post, Vassar students responded to a notice from WBC calling attention to its plan to protest on our campus.

lan Dershowitz's opposition to the recent BDS panel discussion at Brooklyn College was easy for many people to dismiss, correctly, as Zionist chutzpah, but Norman Finkelstein's sharp attack on the BDS movement (see his You Tube interview here) as "disingenuous" and "silliness, childishness and a lot of leftist posturing" deserves more attention from those of us who support the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement.

Finkelstein's argument goes like this:

When it came to financial collapse, Iceland did the opposite of us. The results are not allowed on our mainstream media; to learn more watch this clip, and to read about the return of debtor's prisons, go here.

Feb 15

Gun Control in the US: The “Cohen Act”?

By Matthew Feldman and Leonard Weinberg, Fair Observer | News Analysis

In the weeks following the Newtown, Connecticut shootings on December 14, 2012, there have been highly publicized appeals for Congress and the Obama Administration to enact measures prohibiting certain guns (e.g. assault rifles) and requiring background checks on those wishing to purchase firearms. Most notably, in the days after Adam Lanza's massacre of twenty-six children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary, Vice-President Biden was given the difficult task of proposing recommendations to restrict rampant American gun violence – responsible for some 30,000 American deaths each year. Biden's recommendations were endorsed by Obama on January 16, 2013, with "universal" background checks now a "top priority" for ensuing legislation.

Statement in Response to Third DPRK Nuclear Explosive Test

We come from diverse backgrounds and hold a range of analyses (or perspectives) approaching the proposed North Korean nuclear weapons test and the further militarization of Asia and the Pacific.

We oppose the development, possession of, and threats to use nuclear weapons by any nation. We are committed to creating a world free of nuclear weapons. We have deep concerns that North Korea's third nuclear weapons test contributes to an increasingly dangerous region-wide nuclear arms race. We understand the North Korean test was part of a cycle of threat and response to previous U.S. nuclear threats, and to continued military provocations. We cannot ignore the double standards and hypocrisies of the members of the "nuclear club" who refuse to fulfill their Article VI disarmament commitments of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty commitments by "modernizing" their omnicidal arsenals while insisting that other nations refrain from becoming nuclear powers. While North Korea has conducted three explosive nuclear tests, compared to the United States' 1,054.

Today’s article is sort of a potpourri. Pronounced by an English-speaker, that sounds like Popery, which is currently very relevant. When Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005, the first German Pope since Victor II (1055-1057 - succeeded by a Pope Stephen), the dominant mass rag here, the Springer syndicate’s BILD newspaper, had a page-high headline “We Are Pope!” Now alas, this distinction will disappear, which may especially sadden the big L-shaped Roman Catholic area of Germany – the Southern tier, especially Bavaria, then northward along the Rhine valley. The rest is largely Evangelical (Lutheran), including eastern Germany; other religious faiths are small minorities, aside from the Turks and other Muslims. Or the pagans! Both Catholic and Evangelical churches had hoped for big gains after East Germany was “freed from atheist repression”. To their disappointment, there was no rush into the churches. One reason was widespread lack of interest or any belief in a God or heaven. Another key factor is the church tax, automatically taken out of all wages, salaries, even royalty fees for every member of the Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish and some other faiths - a stiff 8 or 9 percent! Less than 30 percent of Easterners decided to pay, even though it made them ineligible for church weddings and funerals.

Saeed is speaking across Skype's video messaging service. He wears a woolly hat, a jacket and dresses exactly as a European in his early 20s might. There is a hint of stubble across his chin. Saeed smiles and he appears friendly and relaxed. Behind him, a Palestinian flag is draped across his bedroom wall and occasionally members of his family walk through the room.

Saeed has just returned from delivering a series of lectures across Europe. He leans forward from his chair and reminiscently lists the countries he visited. "I have been to Sweden, to Germany, to Finland, France, Spain, Italy," he says. "I have been invited by different groups and organisations and schools and universities and local TV. I have spoken to thousands of people."

I just want to bring this to your attention. I've been making the point for a while that while power-holding Democrats are getting better on identity issues (issues around minority rights and related issues), they've been universally bad on economic issues. In fact, the whole bipartisan Beltway consensus is built around both parties making sure that billionaires never lose.

The centerpiece (and original sin in the modern era) for that movement is these NAFTA-style trade agreements, the ones that protect capital and profit — and nothing else in the world. Not environments; not labor; not the climate; not the sovereignty of national governments; not humans in any form but the baronial. Nothing else in the world.

Climate change is acting like an ever-tightening vise on our energy options. Each year that passes without dramatic decreases in our use of carbon-emitting fuels means the cuts we have to make simply get more drastic. By 2030, say experts, we must entirely replace coal with efficiency and renewable energy, or fry. Even the most intrepid environmentalists wonder if it can be done without huge price hikes and wholesale changes in how we live and use energy–changes that society may not accept.