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.
The signing season has begun.
Look through your local newspaper for the next few weeks, and you'll see a lot of posed pictures of high school athletes.
Everyone will be at a desk or table.
Around each one will be their parents and their coach. In some cases, add in an athletic director, a principal, and someone representing a college the young athlete is planning to attend.
The gun lobby likes to say "outlaw guns and only outlaws will have guns." The fear mongering drives gun sales which is the NRA's purpose. (Why else would Wayne LaPierre's make $970,300 a year like the "elites" he rails against?)
But a quick look at England shows what really happens when only "outlaws" have guns. Handguns are illegal in England and police officers are not armed. Private citizens are limited to long guns for hunting which only shoot two bullets at a time. That means that in England, only "outlaws" have guns, though Brits hunt, collect guns and value marksmanship like we do.
We have a little bit of a debt problem here in the USA.
Thankfully for us, a group of concerned citizens, leaders, and patriots understand just how we got into this mess in the first place and they have a plan to get us out. The group Fix The debt has gathered 350,000 signatures promoting a solution the impending disaster of Armageddon like proportions that will befall us if we don't take common sense steps towards putting American on a better path towards economic growth. According to Fix The Debt that means that the gravy train is over for entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid, for there is no way that the Wall st. companies that Fix The Debt is fronting for can continue to pay ZERO in taxes if the elderly and the poor want to see a doctor. Just aint gonna happen.
Now that Bradley Manning has admitted to giving classified documents to WikiLeak, the government insists his crimes are tantamount to support for al-Qaida and international terrorism. These leaks, I would like to suggest, are analogous to somebody violating a jaywalking law in an attempt to save a pedestrian from on oncoming Mac truck. Joining me today by phone from New York to discuss the wide area in between those two extremes is Alexa O'Brien. Alexa is a journalist, researcher, and social activist. She is a co-plaintiff, along with Christopher Hedges in the NDAA suit against the Obama administration trying to overturn the National Defense Authorization act, which states that US citizens can be indefinitely detained without charge or trial. She is currently investigating the Bradley Manning trial and the US government's pursuit of WikiLeaks. And if you have read the 10,00 word plus transcript of Bradley Manning's statement to the court last week, you have Alexa to thank because she is the journalist who transcribed it.
If history is messy and you nonviolently change and revolutionize society with the movement you have, then things look ever so bleak in the United States. One reason for this lack of participatory history and absent minded imagination can be observed in how Rosa Parks and Black History month is currently memorialized and celebrated. There is much more to Rosa Park's refusal to give up her segregated seat to a white man when a bus driver ordered her too do so in December 1955. But in a consumer oriented and profit-driven society, in an era that egregiously reflects the Me Generation, and in a time in which the "individual sphere" has replaced the "public sphere" with bouts of flash mob frenzy and passive bouts of digital entertainment, the genuine and historical Rosa Parks and Black History Month is missing, as is the goal to transform and remake society.
Some images move us, or at least should move us, to sudden insight into the consequences of our actions. Images of innocent victims of violence, particularly children, should have the capacity to penetrate the most hardened defenses and touch our hearts. However, the truth is that this does not always occur. Skewed information environments, operating over time, may condition us to react with compassion only to images depicting the suffering of our own community. When many of us see the anguish we have caused an "enemy," we feel not compassion or regret but annoyance. The reaction is: "Why are you showing me that? Don't you know it is their (the other's) own behavior that made us hurt them? It is their own fault." That we react this way to the horrors we are capable of causing is a sure sign that those same actions have dehumanized us.
I am a parent of a third grader and volunteer parent organizer for Kansas City Public Schools, an unaccredited school district.
As an organizer, I serve on the District Advisory Committee, chair the Parent Advocacy Task Force and work with other parent leaders to research local education issues, provide unbiased information to parents and community members, gather parent and community feedback, and use research and feedback to advocate at the school, district and state levels. In 2009 and 2010, as we closed 28 of our 61 schools, much of my work focused on school closings.
Like many urban school districts facing school closures, Kansas City has been struggling to maintain enrollment since the 1960's when the district served more than 70,000 students. By 1980 enrollment dropped to 35,000. In 2010, with an enrollment of 17,000, many of our schools were operating at less than 40% capacity.
The individual focus of President Obama's assassination drone strikes suggests that the United States has an alternative criminal justice procedure for al-Qaida terrorists. Unlike one-on-one assassination, drone strikes eliminate more than the target. They inflict collateral damage killing innocent civilians and traumatizing drone operators. Should we accept this alternative criminal justice procedure that in one instant captures, tries, convicts, and executes a suspected terrorist?
Recently The New York Times news analyst Peter Barker wrote that it was President Obama's turn to be criticized for his counter-terrorism excesses and for striking the wrong balance between civil liberties and national security. "Particularly stark has been the secret memo authorizing targeted killing of American citizens deemed terrorists under certain circumstances without judicial review..."
My seven years as a junior Foreign Service Officer with the Department of State left me with a profound admiration for the ability of the Department to ignore reality at the behest of its political, military, economic - and in particular - immediate superior in the career pecking order - overlords. This ability to manufacture whole-cloth cover for manifest stupidity truly is a thing of rare beauty that serves our nation well. As the new Secretary of State recently put it, "Americans have a right to be stupid," and so does the nation as a whole in some of its policies, and the Department of State must of course loyally find a way of presenting the various 'shit accompli' in socially presentable ways. It is, alas, some of what they have to do.
The American labor movement is once again facing a most controversial issue — the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. While the KXL debate has largely centered around the environmental risks, from labor's perspective opening up the Canadian Tar Sands is often seen as an economic, not an environmental, issue. And it's no wonder: Construction unemployment is double the national average and, from a worker's perspective, Keystone jobs will be good-paying union jobs in an economy that increasingly offers up only minimum-wage service work.
As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka explained last year, "mass unemployment makes everything harder and feeds fear. . . opponents of the pipeline [need to] recognize that construction jobs are real jobs, good jobs." KXL advocates have worked hard to capitalize on this fear by arguing that labor must choose between creating jobs and protecting the planet.