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.
Last spring I was invited to the Earth School in the East Village of New York City to speak at a forum about the lessons of the MAP test boycott that I helped to organize in Seattle. Earth School 4th and 5th grade teacher Jia Lee, along with insurgent teacher union activists in MORE and parents in Change The Stakes, helped organize the event and a powerful conversation about organizing test resistance ensued.
Now, a year later, you can imagine my elation when I received an email from Jia announcing that three teachers at the Earth School declared to their administration and public schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña that they will not proctor Common Core state standardized tests this year — or ever — saying in a letter that they "can no longer implement policies that seek to transform the broad promises of public education into a narrow obsession with the ranking and sorting of children."
April 7, 2014, Seattle – Today, the Washington State Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by five members of the Olympia Food Co-op against current and former members of the Co-op's Board of Directors for their decision to boycott Israeli goods. The court held that the lawsuit was a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, or SLAPP, and that participation in the boycott is protected by the First Amendment. The court also affirmed $160,000 in statutory damages, as well as attorneys' fees and costs for the board members, and awarded attorneys' fees for the appeal. The lawsuit is part of a broader pattern of targeting pro-Palestinian activists in the United States, particularly in legislatures and across college campuses.
"Those who would try to intimidate concerned citizens speaking out on behalf of Palestinian human rights should take note," said CCR Senior Staff Attorney Maria LaHood. "The law and history are on the side of peaceful boycotts for social change, and today's ruling reaffirms that this time-honored tradition is protected by the First Amendment. Instead of trying to suppress speech calling for Palestinian human rights, opponents should address such speech on the merits."
Annapolis, MD - As the Maryland General Assembly completed its work on the state budget bill, legislators inserted language that weakly condemns the American Studies Association (ASA) decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions complicit in Israel's long record of human rights violations. This language serves to placate proponents of HB998/SB647, which stalled in committee after civil rights and community groups resoundingly condemned the legislation as an unconstitutional assault on academic freedom. Delegate Ben Kramer of Montgomery County then introduced the bills' language as an amendment to the state budget bill.
Earlier in the legislative session, Delegate Kramer introduced HB998/SB647. This legislation, had it passed, would have withdrawn some funding from Maryland universities and academic departments with ties to ASA and other groups supportive of boycott. Diverse voices called the bill an attempt to silence debate, including the UMD President's Office, the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace, the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, the Defending Dissent Foundation and others. Most recently, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Prize winner who played a central role in ending apartheid in South Africa criticized the legislation. Even staunchly pro Israel organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington opposed the bill.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Friday that the Obama administration would be willing to work with Congress if lawmakers want to reschedule marijuana.
Re-categorizing marijuana would not legalize the drug under federal law, but it could ease restrictions on research intomarijuana's medical benefits and allow marijuana businesses to take tax deductions.
“Rescheduling would be a modest step in the right direction, but would do nothing to stop marijuana arrests or prohibition-related violence,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Now that the majority of the American public supports taxing and regulating marijuana, this debate about re-scheduling is a bit antiquated and not a real solution to the failures of marijuana prohibition.”
Any courtroom in China or Iran could have been the scene: An 84-year-old Catholic nun in prison garb, chained hand-and-foot and surrounded by heavy Marshals, is shuffled jangling into court. Her attorney asks if she might be allowed one free hand in order to take notes. The nun has been convicted of high crimes trumped up after her bold political protest embarrassed the state. A high-ranking judge lectures her about law and order and then imposes a three-year prison term.
Like a Mullah thundering against an Infidel, the judge absurdly orders the penniless convict, who has lived her entire adult life within a vow of poverty, to pay $53,000 in restitution — what the government said was cost to fix four cuts in wire fences and repaint a wall.
Michael Jay Rosenberg is a well-known, sharp-minded critic of the Israeli government. But he is also a “liberal Zionist” who believes in the legitimacy and necessity of a Jewish state. This point of view has led him to attack the BDS (Boycott Israel) movement in a recent piece, “The Goal of BDS is Dismantling Israel”. In the process he seriously underestimates the movement’s scope and potential in an effort to convince himself and others that BDS has no chance of actually achieving the goal he ascribes to it. However, the only evidence he cites of the movement’s weakness is the recent failure of the University of Michigan’s student government to pass a divestment resolution. At the same time he fails to mention an almost simultaneous decision by Chicago’s Loyola University student government to seek divestment. Rosenberg also makes no reference to BDS’s steady and impressive efforts in Europe.
For a country with a historical memory as short as ours, the mall might seem like it has been a permanent fixture in American life. In the churn'em and burn'em world of corporate consumer culture though, everything has a shelf life. And these cavernous and tacky monuments to conspicuous consumption that we call shopping malls have reached theirs. The mall occupied a central place in America for nearly fifty years: It provided an outlet for socializing for generations of bored teenagers; the mall served as a place of bonding for overworked adults and their children on weekend trips; and perhaps most of all, for a time, it served as an insufficient replacement for the vacuum suburbanization created in the communal life of so many areas of the country.
Shopping malls will, of course, not entirely exit stage left; they remain popular among the moneyed classes. However, they are slowly fading away from the middle class areas of the country, as is American consumer culture, as we once knew it. The mall will be both maligned and recalled fondly by those of us who grew up with it, but it will not be replaced by another equally potent symbol of consumerism.
The Drug Policy Alliance praised the FDA for continuing to address the opiate overdose problem in the U.S. “We applaud the FDA making naloxone more available among people in a position to prevent opiate deaths and save lives,” said Meghan Ralston, harm reduction manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “While any new technology that makes using naloxone more user-friendly is a welcome development, intramusucular and intranasal forms of naloxone continue to remain available and affordable. We encourage people to acquire whichever form of naloxone is most convenient and affordable for them. And we encourage the manufacturers to ensure the affordability of this life-saving product,” added Ralston.
On March 3, 2014, the House Budget Committee, chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan, released a report on what it considered the results of the "War on Poverty," a set of policies begun by President Lyndon B. Johnson after massive social pressure. The problem with this report, "The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later," at least from my perspective, is not its apparent misuse of statistics or its sensationalizing of trivial matters. After all, statistics are misused regularly, as numbers are ripe for manipulation when removed from their specific context. And, sensationalizing everything, from who stole a child's candy to which politician banged what lover in the bathroom, is par for the course in a country where the mass of the population is marginalized from participation in the decision-making process. This all seemed to me to be the norm for partisan reports of this kind, attacking programs that are quite popular according to polling data.
Rather, what I found grotesquely appalling was the a-historical presentation of the report. It was as if decades of policy and decisions had never been made, except when considered useful to their talking points by those preparing the report. Labor, as well, was absent from the report, except in the most superficial way. Taken together, it was as if political economy had been reduced to zero. All of these absences make the report a mockery of much of the hard academic labor put into the studies brutalized to make the report's ridiculous claims. In this, a qualitative corrective is needed with history as my weapon. Foolishly I enter this endeavor, understanding well what Hegel wrote, "that peoples and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it." Alas, I hope they learn now - the people that is.