Sunday, 02 August 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.

In 1993, I was a young Desert Storm veteran with few academic skills. I entered a community college to start an education journey that led to a career as a high school teacher.

I landed a part time job at UPS that offered a consistent work schedule, four hours a day, five days a week. My work schedule enabled me to plan my classes around my job. I was able to get my required classes that allowed me to transfer from community college to a private liberal arts college. I would graduate 3 years later and attend graduate school, earning a Master's degree and teaching credential.

Around the world, an estimated 52 million people are employed as domestic workers, providing services such as child care, cleaning, and elder care, in private homes. In the United States alone,official estimates indicate that about two million people are engaged in such work, but because of the large number of undocumented immigrants involved, the real number is likely much higher.

While there is not yet nationally representative data about trafficking and forced labor in domestic work, there are a number of smaller studies, as well as individual cases, that have shed light on the problem and helped shape an analysis of how and why exploitation manifests.

Last night, activists, organizers, and change makers around Chicago are celebrating a surprising turn of events. A mayor who has dealt devastating blows to some of the most marginalized members of our city was unexpectedly held accountable for his actions, and has been pushed into an electoral runoff with his most popular opponent, Chuy Garcia. Organizing for electoral campaigns has never been part of my movement building praxis, and that's not about to change, but I did vote for Chuy today, because sometimes, in defense of our lives, our children, and our sick and wounded, I believe we simply need to do whatever it takes to bring down a target.

I feel sure that this is one of those times.

Feb 24

Three Takeaways From Chapel Hill

By Huma Munir, Truthout | Op-Ed

Based on several conversations I have had with family and friends after the Chapel Hill shooting, many have expressed frustration about the way media handled the coverage. We are simply left wondering how news organizations would have reacted if the perpetrator had been a Muslim. Some in the Muslim community have concluded that there is a double standard in the news industry in how it portrays crimes committed by Muslims versus crimes committed by other groups.

Last week, I was invited by the BBC World to talk about the Chapel Hill shooting. Based on my conversation with the other guests, I have learned a few things.

In the wake of prominent media reports about supposed scientific agreement on the safety of genetically engineered food, including a cover story in National Geographic that equates concerns about GMOs with climate change denial, U.S. Right to Know is calling on media to accurately report that the science on GMOs is contradictory, unsettled, and has been largely controlled by corporations that profit from GMO seeds and the pesticides that go with them.

"Unfortunately, many members of the media, and even some scientists, have been snookered by PR firms about a supposed scientific consensus on GMOs that doesn't exist," said Stacy Malkan, media director of U.S. Right to Know.

I first met Veteran for Peace Bernie Friel on the corner of the Chester County Courthouse in West Chester, Pennsylvania seven years ago when we were both at a demonstration for peace and protesting American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. In this interview Friel not only discusses his experiences as a combat vet in World War II and the Korean War, but more particularly his experience in combat on the streets as a peace activist.

Dan Falcone for Truthout: Tell me about Veterans for Peace.

Bernard Friel: Veterans for Peace is an organization for combat veterans; it is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. There is a chapter I belong to - Chapter 31 in Philadelphia - and they are combat veterans. A lot of what they do is show up and protest. Now that is where you met me.

I begin this reflection with a personal note. When the Euromaidan protest movement erupted in central and western Ukraine in December of 2013, I had a discussion with a Canadian political scientist about the opposing, "Anti-Maidan" movement. He made condescending remarks about the people who came to Anti-Maidan in Kiev from the regions of eastern and southern Ukraine - Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizzhia, Kherson, Odessa. He followed a popular narrative of the pro-Western, "democratic" Ukrainian media - these people were brought to Kiev by the Party of Regions in an old Soviet style: "Get on the train to Kiev or you will lose your jobs."

Somehow, these people were a priori deprived of even a chance of having their own opinion, their own agency. What are you talking about? These people, according to many Ukrainian media, are Downbass (a play on words, referring to Down's syndrome), kolorady ("beetles" or "roaches," referring to the black-orange colors of the Georgian ribbon, symbol of Soviet victory in WW2, which are similar to the colors of the Colorado potato beetle, a widespread insect pest in Ukraine), slow-witted Sovky (from the word "Soviet" - a sarcastic, pejorative name people for those who are nostalgic for Soviet times), slaves who will obey whatever their Party bosses tell them to do.

As an American writer, I often examine the story of our nation for emergent archetypes of US identity. Several are terribly embarrassing for a citizen of conscience: the Couch Potatoes of Consumer-Capitalist Society, the American Gladiator of War-Rage and Bigotry, the Avaricious and Appalling Wall St. Tycoon.

Yet, one plucky character threads its way stolidly through the story of the US, challenging the apathy and atrocities of other archetypes, marginalized in the media, misrepresented in history, proposing itself as an audacious, eternal figure in the identity of this nation: the Activist, linking arms with fellow citizens and striving for change. Flawed and heroic, with blind spots the size of Texas, with imperfect vision yet awe-inspiring determination, this character has appeared in many millions of Americans of all races, genders, sexualities, classes, faiths, creeds, and ages.

On the evening of Saturday, February 21, a group of activists and allies took to the subway in Chicago to make some noise about this week’s election and the much discussed reparations ordinance. The ordinance, which would provide care and compensation to individuals tortured by Chicago police under Jon Burge, will not be on the ballot, but the man who has prevented it from getting a hearing before the City Council will be: Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The majority of the City Council supports the ordinance, but in Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago, such details aren’t really relevant. Emanuel has never seen police torture victims, or other victims of police violence, as a political priority. Given this mayor’s overall treatment of communities of color – shuttering dozens of schools and clinics in black communities – his failure to prioritize the safety and dignity of those most affected by police violence is unsurprising.

The Federal Aviation Administration, bowing to persistent corporate and congressional drone caucus pressure, has [ issued further regulations on February 15 facilitating the commercial and governmental flight of small (under 55 lbs.) domestic drones. The FAA, charged with keeping our airways safe, is opening wider the door to the multi-billion domestic drone industry...impairing both our safety and our civil liberties.

The drone industry is drooling. Like their military counterparts, commercial drones are being rushed off assembly lines with insufficient quality control. With drones crowding the air, crashes and collisions - accidental and otherwise - can and will happen. And not only on the White House lawn.

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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 1993, I was a young Desert Storm veteran with few academic skills. I entered a community college to start an education journey that led to a career as a high school teacher.

I landed a part time job at UPS that offered a consistent work schedule, four hours a day, five days a week. My work schedule enabled me to plan my classes around my job. I was able to get my required classes that allowed me to transfer from community college to a private liberal arts college. I would graduate 3 years later and attend graduate school, earning a Master's degree and teaching credential.

Around the world, an estimated 52 million people are employed as domestic workers, providing services such as child care, cleaning, and elder care, in private homes. In the United States alone,official estimates indicate that about two million people are engaged in such work, but because of the large number of undocumented immigrants involved, the real number is likely much higher.

While there is not yet nationally representative data about trafficking and forced labor in domestic work, there are a number of smaller studies, as well as individual cases, that have shed light on the problem and helped shape an analysis of how and why exploitation manifests.

Last night, activists, organizers, and change makers around Chicago are celebrating a surprising turn of events. A mayor who has dealt devastating blows to some of the most marginalized members of our city was unexpectedly held accountable for his actions, and has been pushed into an electoral runoff with his most popular opponent, Chuy Garcia. Organizing for electoral campaigns has never been part of my movement building praxis, and that's not about to change, but I did vote for Chuy today, because sometimes, in defense of our lives, our children, and our sick and wounded, I believe we simply need to do whatever it takes to bring down a target.

I feel sure that this is one of those times.

Feb 24

Three Takeaways From Chapel Hill

By Huma Munir, Truthout | Op-Ed

Based on several conversations I have had with family and friends after the Chapel Hill shooting, many have expressed frustration about the way media handled the coverage. We are simply left wondering how news organizations would have reacted if the perpetrator had been a Muslim. Some in the Muslim community have concluded that there is a double standard in the news industry in how it portrays crimes committed by Muslims versus crimes committed by other groups.

Last week, I was invited by the BBC World to talk about the Chapel Hill shooting. Based on my conversation with the other guests, I have learned a few things.

In the wake of prominent media reports about supposed scientific agreement on the safety of genetically engineered food, including a cover story in National Geographic that equates concerns about GMOs with climate change denial, U.S. Right to Know is calling on media to accurately report that the science on GMOs is contradictory, unsettled, and has been largely controlled by corporations that profit from GMO seeds and the pesticides that go with them.

"Unfortunately, many members of the media, and even some scientists, have been snookered by PR firms about a supposed scientific consensus on GMOs that doesn't exist," said Stacy Malkan, media director of U.S. Right to Know.

I first met Veteran for Peace Bernie Friel on the corner of the Chester County Courthouse in West Chester, Pennsylvania seven years ago when we were both at a demonstration for peace and protesting American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. In this interview Friel not only discusses his experiences as a combat vet in World War II and the Korean War, but more particularly his experience in combat on the streets as a peace activist.

Dan Falcone for Truthout: Tell me about Veterans for Peace.

Bernard Friel: Veterans for Peace is an organization for combat veterans; it is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. There is a chapter I belong to - Chapter 31 in Philadelphia - and they are combat veterans. A lot of what they do is show up and protest. Now that is where you met me.

I begin this reflection with a personal note. When the Euromaidan protest movement erupted in central and western Ukraine in December of 2013, I had a discussion with a Canadian political scientist about the opposing, "Anti-Maidan" movement. He made condescending remarks about the people who came to Anti-Maidan in Kiev from the regions of eastern and southern Ukraine - Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizzhia, Kherson, Odessa. He followed a popular narrative of the pro-Western, "democratic" Ukrainian media - these people were brought to Kiev by the Party of Regions in an old Soviet style: "Get on the train to Kiev or you will lose your jobs."

Somehow, these people were a priori deprived of even a chance of having their own opinion, their own agency. What are you talking about? These people, according to many Ukrainian media, are Downbass (a play on words, referring to Down's syndrome), kolorady ("beetles" or "roaches," referring to the black-orange colors of the Georgian ribbon, symbol of Soviet victory in WW2, which are similar to the colors of the Colorado potato beetle, a widespread insect pest in Ukraine), slow-witted Sovky (from the word "Soviet" - a sarcastic, pejorative name people for those who are nostalgic for Soviet times), slaves who will obey whatever their Party bosses tell them to do.

As an American writer, I often examine the story of our nation for emergent archetypes of US identity. Several are terribly embarrassing for a citizen of conscience: the Couch Potatoes of Consumer-Capitalist Society, the American Gladiator of War-Rage and Bigotry, the Avaricious and Appalling Wall St. Tycoon.

Yet, one plucky character threads its way stolidly through the story of the US, challenging the apathy and atrocities of other archetypes, marginalized in the media, misrepresented in history, proposing itself as an audacious, eternal figure in the identity of this nation: the Activist, linking arms with fellow citizens and striving for change. Flawed and heroic, with blind spots the size of Texas, with imperfect vision yet awe-inspiring determination, this character has appeared in many millions of Americans of all races, genders, sexualities, classes, faiths, creeds, and ages.

On the evening of Saturday, February 21, a group of activists and allies took to the subway in Chicago to make some noise about this week’s election and the much discussed reparations ordinance. The ordinance, which would provide care and compensation to individuals tortured by Chicago police under Jon Burge, will not be on the ballot, but the man who has prevented it from getting a hearing before the City Council will be: Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The majority of the City Council supports the ordinance, but in Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago, such details aren’t really relevant. Emanuel has never seen police torture victims, or other victims of police violence, as a political priority. Given this mayor’s overall treatment of communities of color – shuttering dozens of schools and clinics in black communities – his failure to prioritize the safety and dignity of those most affected by police violence is unsurprising.

The Federal Aviation Administration, bowing to persistent corporate and congressional drone caucus pressure, has [ issued further regulations on February 15 facilitating the commercial and governmental flight of small (under 55 lbs.) domestic drones. The FAA, charged with keeping our airways safe, is opening wider the door to the multi-billion domestic drone industry...impairing both our safety and our civil liberties.

The drone industry is drooling. Like their military counterparts, commercial drones are being rushed off assembly lines with insufficient quality control. With drones crowding the air, crashes and collisions - accidental and otherwise - can and will happen. And not only on the White House lawn.