Friday, 04 September 2015 / 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.

Grassroots leaders of Baltimore's Human Rights Organization, the United Workers, are calling for dialogue and reconciliation with neighbors and city policy makers to address the systemic racism and poverty that has plagued the City for 40 years and get below the surface of this evolving and troubling crisis in our city.

Why do 40,000 properties sit vacant while 4,000 are homeless, and another 154,000 face foreclosure and eviction annually?  Why do 62% of job seekers report that they are unable to find a job that offers a living wage, and almost one in four cited their own criminal histories as a barrier to employment?

An unprecedentedly united movement of labor, environmental, family farm, consumer, faith, Internet freedom and other organizations escalated their campaign to defeat Fast Track trade authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) today with a joint 2,009-group letter urging Congress to oppose it. 

As the TPP text leaks revealed that the pact replicates and expands on the most damaging provisions of past U.S. trade pacts, thousands of organizations nationwide have educated their members about the TPP's threats to American jobs and wages, food safety, affordable medicines, the environment, financial stability and more. The pact also replicates the labor and environmental framework first established in George W. Bush's final trade agreements, which recent U.S. government reports reveal has proved ineffective. These facts have generated wide opposition to the agreement and undermined the White House effort to characterize it as "progressive."

The Greek tragic playwright Aeschylus was a combat veteran.  More than 2,400 years ago he said, "The first casualty of war is truth." As our nation approaches the 40th anniversary of the end of the VietnamWar (April 30, 2015), a major effort is underway to change how we view the war, how history records it, how future Americans will think about it.  Much celebration and re-interpretation will take place. Our government, military and some veteran and civilian groups are working to recast the war in honorable and moral terms and help veterans and all Americans look at it through more positive lenses.

Let us try to heal that first casualty and view the Vietnam War through the lens of truth.  Consider these ten facts and their related myths about the Vietnam War.

Apr 28

The Science Fiction of Freddie Gray

By Dominique Hazzard, Black Youth Project | Op-Ed

Imagine, for a second, that Maryland governor Larry Hogan called for a state of emergency when Freddie Gray’s spine was broken and his voice box was smashed he arrested for no reason.

Imagine that such violence toward a black life was so out of the ordinary, so horrifying, so damning, such a sign that swift and meaningful change was necessary, that it was enough to make an elected leader say, “This has crossed the line. The police state is out of control. We need to suspend our normal  operations and get some help from the National Guard. We need some outside resources to help quell these people, these actors of the state who are disturbing the peace.” Imagine that, in the absence of years of racial oppression, Baltimore ever knew peace in the first place.

What would you do if your loved one was struggling with an addiction? And not just struggling, but potentially dying? How much would you pay? The answer is, when you're in crisis, a lot.

When I agreed to direct THE BUSINESS OF RECOVERY, I didn't know exactly what I'd find. It's no secret that excessive alcohol accounted for 88,000 American deaths and drugs overdoses another 39,000 deaths. But the degree to which this health crisis seems to be worsening as an entire unchecked industry arose around it captured my attention. While the addiction treatment industry grew into a $34 billion a year business, overdose death rates had tripled in the past 25 years. How was this possible? I had to know what was really happening behind the veil of treatment.

Four activists were arrested this morning at the Embassy of El Salvador where they staged a sit- in to call attention to 17 Salvadoran women currently serving extreme prison sentences for having had miscarriages. Protesters included Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of Latin America solidarity organization School of the Americas Watch; Ed Kinane, of Syracuse, NY, retired educator and nonviolent peace activist; John Honeck, a counselor and activist from Hamlin, NY; and Paki Wieland, of Northampton, MA, longtime peace and justice activist and member of Grandmothers for Peace. The group delivered a letter to the embassy to express their solidarity and to seek the release of the 17 women. Julienne Oldfield of Syracuse, NY, and Palma Ryan of Cliff Island, ME, also participated in the sit-in.

"The 17," as they are now known in the global movement advocating their release, are 17 women in El Salvador serving decades in prison for having had miscarriages. A country with deeply conservative abortion laws, El Salvador has convicted these 17 and charged as many as five more. According to Amnesty International, the charges are for aggravated homicide and receiving illegal abortions, though there is little to no evidence as to the causes of their miscarriages. Carmen Guadalupe Vásquez Aldana made international headlines last month as the first of the 17 to be released.

Apr 28

Why Should We Care?

By JP McCormick, Truthout | Op-Ed

Surely one of the questions that comes to mind as we read the various commentaries on the skirmish between Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson is "Why Should We [those of us who sit way up in the 'cheap seats'] Care?" Permit me to offer an answer that is both simple and a bit more involved. While, ostensibly, this debate appears to be about an ego-driven flap between two high profile Black intellectuals, it is significant to some of us because it involves our efforts to interpret some of the actions (both instrumental and symbolic) of the nation's first bi-racial President. This flap involving West and Dyson would not have occurred were the current occupant of the White House Caucasian.

As we enter the fourth quarter of our current President's second term, we will no doubt be treated with more debates around President Obama's multi-dimensional legacy. Many Black intellectuals are likely to raise the question, "What did Barack Obama do for Black people?" This question is problematic for two reasons: (a) it reflects what might be called the "fallacy of phenotypical thinking," i.e., someone who is phenotypically Black shouldchampion policy issues and causes of particular importance to many Black people; and (b) this question tends to ignore the formal-legal/institutional circumstances under which the President of the United States (POTUS) operates.

Apr 28

Censorship at Southampton University: An Analysis

By Lawrence Davidson, Truthout | News Analysis

Here is the situation: the threat of aggressive public protests against those assembling to critically discuss the behavior of Israel has become an excuse to shut down such gatherings. The latest example of this tactic, which is really a form of blackmail to impose censorship, took place last week at the University ofSouthampton in the UK.

An international conference entitled "International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism" was scheduled for 17-19 April 2015 at the University of Southampton. It was to bring together lawyers and scholars to examine the legal basis for the establishment of the State of Israel and the rationales (or lack thereof) for its historical treatment of the Palestinian people. The standard by which these issues were to be judged was international law. The conference would also have examined the issue of exceptionalism when it came to the inadequate legal and diplomatic response to Israeli policies and behavior. Conference participants were to include both those critical of Israel and those who would present a defense of Israeli practices. 

Philosopher Thomas Pogge in his seminal book on World Poverty and Human Rights asks a deceptively simple and ultimately moral question on the nature of what he calls the "global institutional order": can authentic reform be made of this international order, and can any proposed reform better align with our moral values in order to alleviate the suffering of the global poor?

By Global Institutional Order (GIO), Pogge refers to the architecture of global economic, financial and political governance, for example the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, and increasingly private actors such as multinational corporations and financial investment instruments; private equity and hedge funds for example.

Apr 28

Earth Day on the River of Grass

By Grant A Mincy, Truthout | Op-Ed

The Everglades are among the last sub-tropical wilderness areas in the United States. Their Floridian air is thick with humidity, but a cool breeze is commonly felt from both the fresh and saltwater systems that spread throughout the landscape. Open prairies provide relief from the dangers of the swamp. A mosaic of forest, from pinelands nourished by ancient limestone, to tropical hardwoods, coral reef communities and mangroves, supports an incredible array of wildlife. These unique systems are habitat for numerous endemic species including aquatic birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians — of which many are endangered or threatened.

Hard to think of a landscape quite like the fragile Everglades, but it is politics that brought US President Barack Obama to such splendor on Earth Day. In the backyard of Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, both GOP presidential contenders (with checkered environmental legacies), Obama talked of climate change impacts on the imperiled wetland community. He went on to highlight the 100 year anniversary of the Park Service, coming up in 2016, and a new report that notes National Parks store 14 million tons of carbon each year. Point after point was made for conservation.

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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.

Grassroots leaders of Baltimore's Human Rights Organization, the United Workers, are calling for dialogue and reconciliation with neighbors and city policy makers to address the systemic racism and poverty that has plagued the City for 40 years and get below the surface of this evolving and troubling crisis in our city.

Why do 40,000 properties sit vacant while 4,000 are homeless, and another 154,000 face foreclosure and eviction annually?  Why do 62% of job seekers report that they are unable to find a job that offers a living wage, and almost one in four cited their own criminal histories as a barrier to employment?

An unprecedentedly united movement of labor, environmental, family farm, consumer, faith, Internet freedom and other organizations escalated their campaign to defeat Fast Track trade authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) today with a joint 2,009-group letter urging Congress to oppose it. 

As the TPP text leaks revealed that the pact replicates and expands on the most damaging provisions of past U.S. trade pacts, thousands of organizations nationwide have educated their members about the TPP's threats to American jobs and wages, food safety, affordable medicines, the environment, financial stability and more. The pact also replicates the labor and environmental framework first established in George W. Bush's final trade agreements, which recent U.S. government reports reveal has proved ineffective. These facts have generated wide opposition to the agreement and undermined the White House effort to characterize it as "progressive."

The Greek tragic playwright Aeschylus was a combat veteran.  More than 2,400 years ago he said, "The first casualty of war is truth." As our nation approaches the 40th anniversary of the end of the VietnamWar (April 30, 2015), a major effort is underway to change how we view the war, how history records it, how future Americans will think about it.  Much celebration and re-interpretation will take place. Our government, military and some veteran and civilian groups are working to recast the war in honorable and moral terms and help veterans and all Americans look at it through more positive lenses.

Let us try to heal that first casualty and view the Vietnam War through the lens of truth.  Consider these ten facts and their related myths about the Vietnam War.

Apr 28

The Science Fiction of Freddie Gray

By Dominique Hazzard, Black Youth Project | Op-Ed

Imagine, for a second, that Maryland governor Larry Hogan called for a state of emergency when Freddie Gray’s spine was broken and his voice box was smashed he arrested for no reason.

Imagine that such violence toward a black life was so out of the ordinary, so horrifying, so damning, such a sign that swift and meaningful change was necessary, that it was enough to make an elected leader say, “This has crossed the line. The police state is out of control. We need to suspend our normal  operations and get some help from the National Guard. We need some outside resources to help quell these people, these actors of the state who are disturbing the peace.” Imagine that, in the absence of years of racial oppression, Baltimore ever knew peace in the first place.

What would you do if your loved one was struggling with an addiction? And not just struggling, but potentially dying? How much would you pay? The answer is, when you're in crisis, a lot.

When I agreed to direct THE BUSINESS OF RECOVERY, I didn't know exactly what I'd find. It's no secret that excessive alcohol accounted for 88,000 American deaths and drugs overdoses another 39,000 deaths. But the degree to which this health crisis seems to be worsening as an entire unchecked industry arose around it captured my attention. While the addiction treatment industry grew into a $34 billion a year business, overdose death rates had tripled in the past 25 years. How was this possible? I had to know what was really happening behind the veil of treatment.

Four activists were arrested this morning at the Embassy of El Salvador where they staged a sit- in to call attention to 17 Salvadoran women currently serving extreme prison sentences for having had miscarriages. Protesters included Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of Latin America solidarity organization School of the Americas Watch; Ed Kinane, of Syracuse, NY, retired educator and nonviolent peace activist; John Honeck, a counselor and activist from Hamlin, NY; and Paki Wieland, of Northampton, MA, longtime peace and justice activist and member of Grandmothers for Peace. The group delivered a letter to the embassy to express their solidarity and to seek the release of the 17 women. Julienne Oldfield of Syracuse, NY, and Palma Ryan of Cliff Island, ME, also participated in the sit-in.

"The 17," as they are now known in the global movement advocating their release, are 17 women in El Salvador serving decades in prison for having had miscarriages. A country with deeply conservative abortion laws, El Salvador has convicted these 17 and charged as many as five more. According to Amnesty International, the charges are for aggravated homicide and receiving illegal abortions, though there is little to no evidence as to the causes of their miscarriages. Carmen Guadalupe Vásquez Aldana made international headlines last month as the first of the 17 to be released.

Apr 28

Why Should We Care?

By JP McCormick, Truthout | Op-Ed

Surely one of the questions that comes to mind as we read the various commentaries on the skirmish between Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson is "Why Should We [those of us who sit way up in the 'cheap seats'] Care?" Permit me to offer an answer that is both simple and a bit more involved. While, ostensibly, this debate appears to be about an ego-driven flap between two high profile Black intellectuals, it is significant to some of us because it involves our efforts to interpret some of the actions (both instrumental and symbolic) of the nation's first bi-racial President. This flap involving West and Dyson would not have occurred were the current occupant of the White House Caucasian.

As we enter the fourth quarter of our current President's second term, we will no doubt be treated with more debates around President Obama's multi-dimensional legacy. Many Black intellectuals are likely to raise the question, "What did Barack Obama do for Black people?" This question is problematic for two reasons: (a) it reflects what might be called the "fallacy of phenotypical thinking," i.e., someone who is phenotypically Black shouldchampion policy issues and causes of particular importance to many Black people; and (b) this question tends to ignore the formal-legal/institutional circumstances under which the President of the United States (POTUS) operates.

Apr 28

Censorship at Southampton University: An Analysis

By Lawrence Davidson, Truthout | News Analysis

Here is the situation: the threat of aggressive public protests against those assembling to critically discuss the behavior of Israel has become an excuse to shut down such gatherings. The latest example of this tactic, which is really a form of blackmail to impose censorship, took place last week at the University ofSouthampton in the UK.

An international conference entitled "International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism" was scheduled for 17-19 April 2015 at the University of Southampton. It was to bring together lawyers and scholars to examine the legal basis for the establishment of the State of Israel and the rationales (or lack thereof) for its historical treatment of the Palestinian people. The standard by which these issues were to be judged was international law. The conference would also have examined the issue of exceptionalism when it came to the inadequate legal and diplomatic response to Israeli policies and behavior. Conference participants were to include both those critical of Israel and those who would present a defense of Israeli practices. 

Philosopher Thomas Pogge in his seminal book on World Poverty and Human Rights asks a deceptively simple and ultimately moral question on the nature of what he calls the "global institutional order": can authentic reform be made of this international order, and can any proposed reform better align with our moral values in order to alleviate the suffering of the global poor?

By Global Institutional Order (GIO), Pogge refers to the architecture of global economic, financial and political governance, for example the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, and increasingly private actors such as multinational corporations and financial investment instruments; private equity and hedge funds for example.

Apr 28

Earth Day on the River of Grass

By Grant A Mincy, Truthout | Op-Ed

The Everglades are among the last sub-tropical wilderness areas in the United States. Their Floridian air is thick with humidity, but a cool breeze is commonly felt from both the fresh and saltwater systems that spread throughout the landscape. Open prairies provide relief from the dangers of the swamp. A mosaic of forest, from pinelands nourished by ancient limestone, to tropical hardwoods, coral reef communities and mangroves, supports an incredible array of wildlife. These unique systems are habitat for numerous endemic species including aquatic birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians — of which many are endangered or threatened.

Hard to think of a landscape quite like the fragile Everglades, but it is politics that brought US President Barack Obama to such splendor on Earth Day. In the backyard of Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, both GOP presidential contenders (with checkered environmental legacies), Obama talked of climate change impacts on the imperiled wetland community. He went on to highlight the 100 year anniversary of the Park Service, coming up in 2016, and a new report that notes National Parks store 14 million tons of carbon each year. Point after point was made for conservation.