Monday, 22 December 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.

Sixteen major US news organizations and a hunger-striking detainee have asked a federal judge not to hold the first-ever trial of force-feeding practices at Guantánamo Bay in secret.

The hearing in Dhiab v. Obama, scheduled for October 6-7 in Washington, DC in front of Judge Gladys Kessler, will be the first ever to determine the lawfulness of force-feeding practices at Guantánamo Bay.

I wrote a column that went up this morning at The Atlantic about the ProPublica/This American Life story about the New York Fed. The gist of the argument is that we all knew the New York Fed was captured; for people like Tim Geithner, that’s a feature, not a bug.

There was a paragraph in my original draft that I really liked, but I can completely understand why the editors didn’t want it:

In some ways the system is set up to bring young men against one another - to get by with any means necessary - and it's a particular race that it targets. That's where young men made a mistake and need to fix it - because there shouldn't be any system that makes you feel like you have to do something or allows you to turn on your fellow peers making you go down that path of failing. In a world of economic inequality and racial injustice, the blame is on everyone who promotes violence and does not want to see change. Why promote violence if you just want it to stop? The way young men in our community continue to make bad choices for unnecessary causes is making it become true, setting bad examples for the generation that comes after them, making it hard for them to turn it around and get it together. Making those bad choices could easily make it easier to be accused of something they didn't do and having to pay the price for it. If they want to be viewed better, then it starts within yourself before it moves on to everyone else: it only takes that one person to turn everything around. Everybody wants to succeed; we don't need conflict among young men in our community since each one has a family that deeply cares about them. Families don't want to see their loved ones fall in the cracks or end up in a jail.

On Saturday, September 20th, a homeless 42-year-old veteran - Omar J. Gonzalez - was charged with trespassing and carrying a deadly weapon after jumping the White House fence. He served three tours in Iraq. Gonzalez was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after his first tour in Iraq, but he was sent back for a second tour, during which a portion of his foot was amputated when a homemade explosive device hit his Humvee in Baghdad. He was honorably discharged about two years ago. His wife reports he had such trauma during his second tour, something that "involved little children," that he cannot bear to report it, and that he does not need punishment but help.                                

Omar Gonzalez is now in jail, being held without bail. The purpose of the legal and judicial systems are to administer and oversee the practice of justice, the doing right, being good and fair, always in line with what is true. However, how did Omar Gonzalez travel from honorable warrior in the combat zone to broken, alienated, and unseen at home? How did he become a throwaway rather than an honored citizen? 

“Jesusland” by Ben Folds includes a powerful verse against the energetic piano and soaring harmonies:

Town to town
broadcast to each house, they drop your name
but no one knows your face
Billboards quoting things you’d never say
you hang your head and pray

The New York Times editorial board has finally awakened to Obama’s “strategy” in the “war” (as it is officially called now) against ISIS. It is essentially the same strategy that has guided literally hundreds of US military operations abroad since World War II: achieve the maximum objective with the minimum commitment of US power and prestige. Trouble is, the strategy just doesn’t work, mainly because the enemy won’t cooperate and friendly forces are either inept or unpopular (or both). Thus begins the slippery slope to wider and deeper involvement.

The Sept. 16, 2014 testimony of General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is what got the Times’ attention: “If we got to the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I’ll recommend that to the president.”  A day later on Sept. 17, the Army chief of staff, General Ray Odierno, chimed in: “You’ve got to have ground forces that are capable of going in and rooting [IS forces] out.”  In short, Obama’s supposed commitment not to deploy US ground troops to combat in Iraq or Syria—“a profound mistake,” he said Sept. 7 on the NBC News program Meet the Press—is as firm as mud.  As happened in Vietnam, there will be “advisers,” more and more of them, as it becomes plain that the mini-max strategy of relying on air power to “degrade and destroy” ISIS proves insufficient.

On September 23, 2014, the world gathered to watch history being made: the tail end of the largest climate march ever and a UN Climate Summit where leaders reaffirmed their commitment to stringent mitigation measures.

Meanwhile, some things never change. At the Summit, Barack Obama gave what was called by a New Republic reporter as a "toothless speech." Just a day before, the Pentagon announced that they commenced air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria. These two moves seem unrelated, but are they? In fact, both of these decisions are based on risk assessments of possible threats. So then why are we so unwilling to take on climate change, compared with other things where we assess risk and act accordingly?

Oct 01

Ban Weaponized Drones!

By Elsa Rassbach, SpeakOut | Press Release

Berlin- Anti-drone campaigns in the US, the UK, and continental Europe are mounting the first Global Action Day Against the Use of Drones for Surveillance and Killing on October 4, 2014. 

More than 40 actions will take place in several countries. Founded at an international meeting in Berlin in December, Global Action Day is working together with the US Network to Stop Drone Surveillance and Warfare, the UK Drone Campaign Network's Week of Action and the Global Network's Keep Space for Peace Week. Both action weeks begin on October 4th. 

Oct 01

War Polls Obstruct Democracy and Peace

By Erin Niemela, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

US-led coalition airstrikes targeting the Islamic State (ISIL) have opened the floodgates of war journalism reporting by corporate mainstream media – to the detriment of American democracy and peace. This has been recently evident in a traditionally democratic tool used by American press: public opinion polls.  These war polls, as they should be called during wartime, are an affront to both respectable journalism and an informed civil society. They’re byproducts of rally-round-the-flag war journalism and without constant scrutiny, war polls results make public opinion look a lot more pro-war than it actually is.

Public polling is meant to signify and reinforce the role of media in a democracy as reflecting or representing mass opinion. Corporate mainstream media are considered credible in providing this reflection based on assumptions of objectivity and balance, and politicians have been known to consider polls in their policy decisions.  In some cases, polls may be useful in engaging the feedback loop between political elites, media and the public.

Oct 01

Tithing, Tax Time and Specialization

By Dr. Marc Gopin , SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Complex advanced civilization, more than at any other time in human history, is providing millions of people with unprecedented prosperity, health and longevity—except for those who it does not provide for, who suffer immensely by missing this boat of freedom. But the primitive nature of poverty relief is exactly the problem, unlike ancient forms of poverty intervention whose sophistication dwarfs that of modern libertarian society. Every farmer in ancient Jewish society had to be a part of the solution for every poor person who lost his farm, just as a small example.

It is complexity and specialization, however, that gives us our modern prosperity. A successful citizen relies on a massive variety of specialists, from x-ray readers, to retirement investor specialists, to train engineers, to architects of hardware and software, to specialists in dental prosthetics, to chemists of tar for roads that prevent crashes. The variety is infinite. Therefore, when we want to reconstruct a fallen life, why is it reduced to a social worker, and an unemployment bureaucrat? This is a primitive response to the foundations of human prosperity. 

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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.

Sixteen major US news organizations and a hunger-striking detainee have asked a federal judge not to hold the first-ever trial of force-feeding practices at Guantánamo Bay in secret.

The hearing in Dhiab v. Obama, scheduled for October 6-7 in Washington, DC in front of Judge Gladys Kessler, will be the first ever to determine the lawfulness of force-feeding practices at Guantánamo Bay.

I wrote a column that went up this morning at The Atlantic about the ProPublica/This American Life story about the New York Fed. The gist of the argument is that we all knew the New York Fed was captured; for people like Tim Geithner, that’s a feature, not a bug.

There was a paragraph in my original draft that I really liked, but I can completely understand why the editors didn’t want it:

In some ways the system is set up to bring young men against one another - to get by with any means necessary - and it's a particular race that it targets. That's where young men made a mistake and need to fix it - because there shouldn't be any system that makes you feel like you have to do something or allows you to turn on your fellow peers making you go down that path of failing. In a world of economic inequality and racial injustice, the blame is on everyone who promotes violence and does not want to see change. Why promote violence if you just want it to stop? The way young men in our community continue to make bad choices for unnecessary causes is making it become true, setting bad examples for the generation that comes after them, making it hard for them to turn it around and get it together. Making those bad choices could easily make it easier to be accused of something they didn't do and having to pay the price for it. If they want to be viewed better, then it starts within yourself before it moves on to everyone else: it only takes that one person to turn everything around. Everybody wants to succeed; we don't need conflict among young men in our community since each one has a family that deeply cares about them. Families don't want to see their loved ones fall in the cracks or end up in a jail.

On Saturday, September 20th, a homeless 42-year-old veteran - Omar J. Gonzalez - was charged with trespassing and carrying a deadly weapon after jumping the White House fence. He served three tours in Iraq. Gonzalez was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after his first tour in Iraq, but he was sent back for a second tour, during which a portion of his foot was amputated when a homemade explosive device hit his Humvee in Baghdad. He was honorably discharged about two years ago. His wife reports he had such trauma during his second tour, something that "involved little children," that he cannot bear to report it, and that he does not need punishment but help.                                

Omar Gonzalez is now in jail, being held without bail. The purpose of the legal and judicial systems are to administer and oversee the practice of justice, the doing right, being good and fair, always in line with what is true. However, how did Omar Gonzalez travel from honorable warrior in the combat zone to broken, alienated, and unseen at home? How did he become a throwaway rather than an honored citizen? 

“Jesusland” by Ben Folds includes a powerful verse against the energetic piano and soaring harmonies:

Town to town
broadcast to each house, they drop your name
but no one knows your face
Billboards quoting things you’d never say
you hang your head and pray

The New York Times editorial board has finally awakened to Obama’s “strategy” in the “war” (as it is officially called now) against ISIS. It is essentially the same strategy that has guided literally hundreds of US military operations abroad since World War II: achieve the maximum objective with the minimum commitment of US power and prestige. Trouble is, the strategy just doesn’t work, mainly because the enemy won’t cooperate and friendly forces are either inept or unpopular (or both). Thus begins the slippery slope to wider and deeper involvement.

The Sept. 16, 2014 testimony of General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is what got the Times’ attention: “If we got to the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I’ll recommend that to the president.”  A day later on Sept. 17, the Army chief of staff, General Ray Odierno, chimed in: “You’ve got to have ground forces that are capable of going in and rooting [IS forces] out.”  In short, Obama’s supposed commitment not to deploy US ground troops to combat in Iraq or Syria—“a profound mistake,” he said Sept. 7 on the NBC News program Meet the Press—is as firm as mud.  As happened in Vietnam, there will be “advisers,” more and more of them, as it becomes plain that the mini-max strategy of relying on air power to “degrade and destroy” ISIS proves insufficient.

On September 23, 2014, the world gathered to watch history being made: the tail end of the largest climate march ever and a UN Climate Summit where leaders reaffirmed their commitment to stringent mitigation measures.

Meanwhile, some things never change. At the Summit, Barack Obama gave what was called by a New Republic reporter as a "toothless speech." Just a day before, the Pentagon announced that they commenced air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria. These two moves seem unrelated, but are they? In fact, both of these decisions are based on risk assessments of possible threats. So then why are we so unwilling to take on climate change, compared with other things where we assess risk and act accordingly?

Oct 01

Ban Weaponized Drones!

By Elsa Rassbach, SpeakOut | Press Release

Berlin- Anti-drone campaigns in the US, the UK, and continental Europe are mounting the first Global Action Day Against the Use of Drones for Surveillance and Killing on October 4, 2014. 

More than 40 actions will take place in several countries. Founded at an international meeting in Berlin in December, Global Action Day is working together with the US Network to Stop Drone Surveillance and Warfare, the UK Drone Campaign Network's Week of Action and the Global Network's Keep Space for Peace Week. Both action weeks begin on October 4th. 

Oct 01

War Polls Obstruct Democracy and Peace

By Erin Niemela, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

US-led coalition airstrikes targeting the Islamic State (ISIL) have opened the floodgates of war journalism reporting by corporate mainstream media – to the detriment of American democracy and peace. This has been recently evident in a traditionally democratic tool used by American press: public opinion polls.  These war polls, as they should be called during wartime, are an affront to both respectable journalism and an informed civil society. They’re byproducts of rally-round-the-flag war journalism and without constant scrutiny, war polls results make public opinion look a lot more pro-war than it actually is.

Public polling is meant to signify and reinforce the role of media in a democracy as reflecting or representing mass opinion. Corporate mainstream media are considered credible in providing this reflection based on assumptions of objectivity and balance, and politicians have been known to consider polls in their policy decisions.  In some cases, polls may be useful in engaging the feedback loop between political elites, media and the public.

Oct 01

Tithing, Tax Time and Specialization

By Dr. Marc Gopin , SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Complex advanced civilization, more than at any other time in human history, is providing millions of people with unprecedented prosperity, health and longevity—except for those who it does not provide for, who suffer immensely by missing this boat of freedom. But the primitive nature of poverty relief is exactly the problem, unlike ancient forms of poverty intervention whose sophistication dwarfs that of modern libertarian society. Every farmer in ancient Jewish society had to be a part of the solution for every poor person who lost his farm, just as a small example.

It is complexity and specialization, however, that gives us our modern prosperity. A successful citizen relies on a massive variety of specialists, from x-ray readers, to retirement investor specialists, to train engineers, to architects of hardware and software, to specialists in dental prosthetics, to chemists of tar for roads that prevent crashes. The variety is infinite. Therefore, when we want to reconstruct a fallen life, why is it reduced to a social worker, and an unemployment bureaucrat? This is a primitive response to the foundations of human prosperity.