Saturday, 22 November 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.

In his State of the City speech today, Mayor Bloomberg announced a new police policy: those arrested for marijuana in New York City will no longer have to spend a night in jail.

The Mayor said:

"But we know that there's more we can do to keep New Yorkers, particularly young men, from ending up with a criminal record. Commissioner Kelly and I support Governor Cuomo's proposal to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a violation, rather than a misdemeanor and we'll work to help him pass it this year. But we won't wait for that to happen.

Ten years ago, millions of people around the world said "no" to war on February 15, 2003. Now, we say "yes" to peace; "yes" to demilitarizing, to having decent lives, including economic lives, determined by democratic principles.

The invasion of Iraq still began after the 2003 protests, but the violence wreaked by Bush was more limited than the U.S. government inflicted on Vietnam a generation earlier. Our vigilance was part of the reason for that. Had we acted sooner, we might have been able to avert the disastrous invasion. The lesson is we need more global protest and solidarity, not less. Indeed, had we continued vigorously protesting, we might not have seen the years since 2003 show a lack of accountability for the war makers, even as conscientious whilstleblowers are prosecuted.

Feb 20

Review of: The Unlikely Secret Agent

By Eleanor J. Bader, SpeakOut | Book Review

It's a cliché that people don't know how strong they are until they're in a bind, but it's also true, and Ronnie Kasrils' loving tribute to his deceased wife, white anti-apartheid freedom fighter Eleanor Kasrils [1936-2009], proves the point.

Eleanor was the daughter of liberal Scots who immigrated to South Africa shortly after her birth. They reared her to love books and intellectual banter but were not themselves activists.

This was not enough for Eleanor and as she came of age she sought to become a participant in political life. After meeting Ronnie Kasrils—he was a founding member of Umkhonto we Sizwe [Spear of the Nation, or MK], the military wing of the African National Congress—she became increasingly involved.

A new report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) attributes staggering growth in the federal prison population over the last 30 years in part to failed sentencing and correctional policies. The ACLU, a longtime advocate for significantly decreasing the federal prison population, supports some of the report's recommendations, but not all—including transferring prisoners to private prisons, which are not subject to public scrutiny and accountability. The ACLU released a report in 2011 on the successful efforts of several states to reduce their prison populations and reform our country's broken criminal justice system.

"States are truly leading the charge on this and leaving the federal government behind," said Vanita Gupta, ACLU Deputy Legal Director. "While states are making smart reforms to their own ineffective and costly criminal justice systems, the federal criminal justice system is more bloated than ever. If we are going to safely end our addiction to incarceration, the feds should draw inspiration from the states and push for data-driven criminal justice policies that will focus on public safety and reduce the number of people behind bars."

The words in President Obama’s “State of the Union” speech were often lofty, spinning through the air with the greatest of ease and emitting dog whistles as they flew.

Let’s decode the president’s smooth oratory in the realms of climate change, war and civil liberties.

“For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.”

We’ve done so little to combat climate change -- we must do more.

Dennis Trainor Jr. sits down with Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) to discuss money in politics, corporate personhood, overturning citizens united and amending the constitution.

As the world continues to ignore the damage that big business is inflicting on the planet, we are paying to maintain our ignorance. Lee Camp reports.

Feb 19

At the End of Capitalism's Rope

By Benjamin J George, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Capitalism has an amazing duality inherent in its structure. It can build homes in Fordist fashion, yet yields homelessness. It can produce enough food for all, yet turns a blind-eye as much of the world starves. It discovers cures for diseases, but denies them to those afflicted. In short, this polarity is exactly that: profoundly positive at one end and woefully negative at the other.

One of the most shameful aspects at capitalism's negative end of the spectrum is that far too often its victims are voiceless, nameless individuals. Here we might think of a starving baby in Mogadishu or an AIDS victim in Botswana. Although I can remember pleas from NGOs and charity organizations that gave some voice to these victims while at the same time legitimating states and corporations by concealing the larger crimes from which such victims are suffering - but that is another part of the larger story. Instead, let's turn our attention to the 2,500 Greeks who have killed themselves since economic crisis beset the ancient land in 2010 or to US veterans who, also unable to find solace, take similar means toward that ultimate end at a rate of roughly 20 suicides per day.

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.

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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.

In his State of the City speech today, Mayor Bloomberg announced a new police policy: those arrested for marijuana in New York City will no longer have to spend a night in jail.

The Mayor said:

"But we know that there's more we can do to keep New Yorkers, particularly young men, from ending up with a criminal record. Commissioner Kelly and I support Governor Cuomo's proposal to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a violation, rather than a misdemeanor and we'll work to help him pass it this year. But we won't wait for that to happen.

Ten years ago, millions of people around the world said "no" to war on February 15, 2003. Now, we say "yes" to peace; "yes" to demilitarizing, to having decent lives, including economic lives, determined by democratic principles.

The invasion of Iraq still began after the 2003 protests, but the violence wreaked by Bush was more limited than the U.S. government inflicted on Vietnam a generation earlier. Our vigilance was part of the reason for that. Had we acted sooner, we might have been able to avert the disastrous invasion. The lesson is we need more global protest and solidarity, not less. Indeed, had we continued vigorously protesting, we might not have seen the years since 2003 show a lack of accountability for the war makers, even as conscientious whilstleblowers are prosecuted.

Feb 20

Review of: The Unlikely Secret Agent

By Eleanor J. Bader, SpeakOut | Book Review

It's a cliché that people don't know how strong they are until they're in a bind, but it's also true, and Ronnie Kasrils' loving tribute to his deceased wife, white anti-apartheid freedom fighter Eleanor Kasrils [1936-2009], proves the point.

Eleanor was the daughter of liberal Scots who immigrated to South Africa shortly after her birth. They reared her to love books and intellectual banter but were not themselves activists.

This was not enough for Eleanor and as she came of age she sought to become a participant in political life. After meeting Ronnie Kasrils—he was a founding member of Umkhonto we Sizwe [Spear of the Nation, or MK], the military wing of the African National Congress—she became increasingly involved.

A new report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) attributes staggering growth in the federal prison population over the last 30 years in part to failed sentencing and correctional policies. The ACLU, a longtime advocate for significantly decreasing the federal prison population, supports some of the report's recommendations, but not all—including transferring prisoners to private prisons, which are not subject to public scrutiny and accountability. The ACLU released a report in 2011 on the successful efforts of several states to reduce their prison populations and reform our country's broken criminal justice system.

"States are truly leading the charge on this and leaving the federal government behind," said Vanita Gupta, ACLU Deputy Legal Director. "While states are making smart reforms to their own ineffective and costly criminal justice systems, the federal criminal justice system is more bloated than ever. If we are going to safely end our addiction to incarceration, the feds should draw inspiration from the states and push for data-driven criminal justice policies that will focus on public safety and reduce the number of people behind bars."

The words in President Obama’s “State of the Union” speech were often lofty, spinning through the air with the greatest of ease and emitting dog whistles as they flew.

Let’s decode the president’s smooth oratory in the realms of climate change, war and civil liberties.

“For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.”

We’ve done so little to combat climate change -- we must do more.

Dennis Trainor Jr. sits down with Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) to discuss money in politics, corporate personhood, overturning citizens united and amending the constitution.

As the world continues to ignore the damage that big business is inflicting on the planet, we are paying to maintain our ignorance. Lee Camp reports.

Feb 19

At the End of Capitalism's Rope

By Benjamin J George, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Capitalism has an amazing duality inherent in its structure. It can build homes in Fordist fashion, yet yields homelessness. It can produce enough food for all, yet turns a blind-eye as much of the world starves. It discovers cures for diseases, but denies them to those afflicted. In short, this polarity is exactly that: profoundly positive at one end and woefully negative at the other.

One of the most shameful aspects at capitalism's negative end of the spectrum is that far too often its victims are voiceless, nameless individuals. Here we might think of a starving baby in Mogadishu or an AIDS victim in Botswana. Although I can remember pleas from NGOs and charity organizations that gave some voice to these victims while at the same time legitimating states and corporations by concealing the larger crimes from which such victims are suffering - but that is another part of the larger story. Instead, let's turn our attention to the 2,500 Greeks who have killed themselves since economic crisis beset the ancient land in 2010 or to US veterans who, also unable to find solace, take similar means toward that ultimate end at a rate of roughly 20 suicides per day.

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.