Sunday, 19 April 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.

Dec 01

Dr. Huxtable's Lessons

By Damian Kolodiy, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

I grew up as a kid in the 80s watching the Cosby show every week. Cliff Huxtable made us all laugh, and his deep voice with its specific cadence was very much hardwired into our childhood memories. He was a household father figure, a moral and ethical rock that broke down walls of perception of black families. Today I believe it is quite hard for the general public to disengage the Cliff Huxtable character portrayed on TV with the real life person that is Bill Cosby. This is a ubiquitous perception problem that exists within celebrity culture in general, actors achieve cult status and thereby power because of the almost seamless association of the actor and the "larger than life" character they play when they perform. 

Bill Cosby, however, appears quite clearly to be guilty of using his power and status to entice aspiring actresses and models into one on one situations where he was able to drug them and then have sex with their unconscious bodies. Over 17 different women have stepped forward with strikingly similar stories of Cosby's predatory behavior. 

Violence, you are killing our children,
in our streets, our schools, our homes.

Violence, you are killing our children,
in Mexico and Nigeria, in Iraq and Syria.

Violence, you are killing our children,
in our cities, our towns, everywhere.

We’re all familiar with the tired old meme, “there aren’t any atheists in foxholes” or lifeboats, or fill in the blank. But at the end of the day, really, there’s seldom any empirical evidence coming out of foxholes on the god or no god argument. More likely there aren’t any atheists on the front lines of wars because most wars today are rooted in religious feuds, leaving atheists home to watch the game, eat dinner or make love. While the atheist meme doesn’t really work unless you’re already prone to believe the unquantifiable, I think with a little twist, the basic linguistic device can work. Let’s try this out: There aren’t any libertarians in a Buffalo Blizzard. This is empirically quantifiable.

Now I’m employing a bit of artistic license here, using “any,” when I mean “many,” as one should always avoid absolutes in an argument. As in, given their proclivity to dogmatic idiocy, there will be a few. That said, the first time one asks, “Where the hell is the damn plow?,” they cease to be a libertarian. This is a simple binary. Do you want the government to rescue you, or not? There’s a simple rule of thumb here. When the snow covers your Ron Paul bumper sticker, it’s ok to ask big government to come and save your ass.

Some people at the New York Times apparently feel so strongly about pushing the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Pact (TTIP) that it is prepared to abandon the longstanding separation between the news and editorial pages. A news article reporting on a statement from the new European trade commissioner on her commitment to achieving a deal with the United States described the deal as:

"a pact aimed at lowering tariffs and reducing regulatory barriers to encourage job creation and economic growth in Europe and the United States."

Amsterdam – Yesterday, the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam featured the groundbreaking documentary film Silenced. Screening from November 21st to November 24th, the film focuses on prominent Government Accountability Project (GAP) clients – National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) whistleblower John Kiriakou – along with GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack, a whistleblower herself.

Silenced showcases the serious and life-altering decisions whistleblowers make when they are forced to choose between following their conscience and sacrificing their careers or their very freedom. John Kiriakou faced that choice when he refused to be trained in "enhanced interrogation techniques" and instead blew the whistle on the George W. Bush-era torture program, becoming the first CIA official to expose the use of torture as government policy. Silencedchronicles the government's prosecution of Kiriakou under the Espionage Act, a century-old law intended to target spies, not whistleblowers.

Dec 01

Economists Without Borders

By Thomas Palley, Thomas Palley's Blog | Op-Ed

Inspired by the work of Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières), I have recently started a project called Economists Without Borders (Economistes Sans Frontières). Its purpose is to inoculate the global economy against the virus of neoliberalism. Last week, I had two difficult “missions” to Vienna and Warsaw.

In Vienna, I confronted an outbreak of the neoliberal globalization – free trade strain of the virus. Without doubt, this is the most virulent and dangerous of all strains. People who get infected become blind to all evidence, deaf to all argument and prone to intellectual condescension. Massachusetts Avenue in Washington DC is a hot zone of infection. The bad news is that if you are over forty and infected it is doubtful you can be cured. However, younger patients have a chance of recovery. Here is the anti-viral I prescribed titled “The Theory of Global Imbalances: Mainstream Economics vs. Structural Keynesianism”.

On November 20th, President Obama finally announced his plan to fix the country's dysfunctional immigration system. After the disastrous midterm election defeat, the administration started to make quick executive moves on critical issues, such as climate change and net neutrality. Based on corporate media's relentless effort to sensationalize the administration's swift actions, it seemed as though the Obama administration would also make a "Big Move" on immigration. Nonetheless, once the official announcement was made, his plan was a hollow branding effort, just like his presidency.

Under the new plan, it is estimated that about 5 million out of 11.5 million undocumented immigrants will receive temporary relief. It is great that 5 million folks will be relieved from the fear of deportation. However, his plan rather shamelessly revealed the administration and his party's honest views toward undocumented immigrants.

Over the many years I have been involved working within the Arab American community, I have had to contend with a range of myths and misunderstandings about both the nature and composition of the community as well as their attitudes toward major issues of concern facing the United States.

On the one hand, we have engaged in demographic work to better know who we are, where we come from, and where we are living in the US today. Our first major effort, in this regard, was "Arab America Today" a wonderful book, based on US census data, written in 1990 by my brother, John Zogby. At the same time, since 1996 we have conducted a biannual poll of Arab American voters in order to better understand not only how the community votes in elections but how they self-identify personally and politically and how they see the issues facing the country.

Nov 26

Who Stands for Rural Americans?

By Jason Cervone, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

For a long time in the US, liberals have questioned why rural Americans so often vote against their own self-interest. The question that needs to be asked, however, is who actually represents rural interests? Conservatives and their neoliberal economic policies have long exploited rural America, while liberals sit back in a "told you so" manner as if to say, "If you'd voted for us, things would be better." Are the Democrats' policies really in the interest of rural America? Or is it more likely that rural Americans vote against their own interests because there is nobody to vote for who has their interests at heart?

When President Barack Obama appointed venture capitalist and former Verizon and ATT lobbyist Tom Wheeler as chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), it sent shudders down the spines of anyone concerned with the concept of net neutrality. 

Last spring, it may have seemed an impossible task for activists and the Internet itself to defend itself, but in fact, it has.

Gloriously so. 

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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.

Dec 01

Dr. Huxtable's Lessons

By Damian Kolodiy, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

I grew up as a kid in the 80s watching the Cosby show every week. Cliff Huxtable made us all laugh, and his deep voice with its specific cadence was very much hardwired into our childhood memories. He was a household father figure, a moral and ethical rock that broke down walls of perception of black families. Today I believe it is quite hard for the general public to disengage the Cliff Huxtable character portrayed on TV with the real life person that is Bill Cosby. This is a ubiquitous perception problem that exists within celebrity culture in general, actors achieve cult status and thereby power because of the almost seamless association of the actor and the "larger than life" character they play when they perform. 

Bill Cosby, however, appears quite clearly to be guilty of using his power and status to entice aspiring actresses and models into one on one situations where he was able to drug them and then have sex with their unconscious bodies. Over 17 different women have stepped forward with strikingly similar stories of Cosby's predatory behavior. 

Violence, you are killing our children,
in our streets, our schools, our homes.

Violence, you are killing our children,
in Mexico and Nigeria, in Iraq and Syria.

Violence, you are killing our children,
in our cities, our towns, everywhere.

We’re all familiar with the tired old meme, “there aren’t any atheists in foxholes” or lifeboats, or fill in the blank. But at the end of the day, really, there’s seldom any empirical evidence coming out of foxholes on the god or no god argument. More likely there aren’t any atheists on the front lines of wars because most wars today are rooted in religious feuds, leaving atheists home to watch the game, eat dinner or make love. While the atheist meme doesn’t really work unless you’re already prone to believe the unquantifiable, I think with a little twist, the basic linguistic device can work. Let’s try this out: There aren’t any libertarians in a Buffalo Blizzard. This is empirically quantifiable.

Now I’m employing a bit of artistic license here, using “any,” when I mean “many,” as one should always avoid absolutes in an argument. As in, given their proclivity to dogmatic idiocy, there will be a few. That said, the first time one asks, “Where the hell is the damn plow?,” they cease to be a libertarian. This is a simple binary. Do you want the government to rescue you, or not? There’s a simple rule of thumb here. When the snow covers your Ron Paul bumper sticker, it’s ok to ask big government to come and save your ass.

Some people at the New York Times apparently feel so strongly about pushing the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Pact (TTIP) that it is prepared to abandon the longstanding separation between the news and editorial pages. A news article reporting on a statement from the new European trade commissioner on her commitment to achieving a deal with the United States described the deal as:

"a pact aimed at lowering tariffs and reducing regulatory barriers to encourage job creation and economic growth in Europe and the United States."

Amsterdam – Yesterday, the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam featured the groundbreaking documentary film Silenced. Screening from November 21st to November 24th, the film focuses on prominent Government Accountability Project (GAP) clients – National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) whistleblower John Kiriakou – along with GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack, a whistleblower herself.

Silenced showcases the serious and life-altering decisions whistleblowers make when they are forced to choose between following their conscience and sacrificing their careers or their very freedom. John Kiriakou faced that choice when he refused to be trained in "enhanced interrogation techniques" and instead blew the whistle on the George W. Bush-era torture program, becoming the first CIA official to expose the use of torture as government policy. Silencedchronicles the government's prosecution of Kiriakou under the Espionage Act, a century-old law intended to target spies, not whistleblowers.

Dec 01

Economists Without Borders

By Thomas Palley, Thomas Palley's Blog | Op-Ed

Inspired by the work of Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières), I have recently started a project called Economists Without Borders (Economistes Sans Frontières). Its purpose is to inoculate the global economy against the virus of neoliberalism. Last week, I had two difficult “missions” to Vienna and Warsaw.

In Vienna, I confronted an outbreak of the neoliberal globalization – free trade strain of the virus. Without doubt, this is the most virulent and dangerous of all strains. People who get infected become blind to all evidence, deaf to all argument and prone to intellectual condescension. Massachusetts Avenue in Washington DC is a hot zone of infection. The bad news is that if you are over forty and infected it is doubtful you can be cured. However, younger patients have a chance of recovery. Here is the anti-viral I prescribed titled “The Theory of Global Imbalances: Mainstream Economics vs. Structural Keynesianism”.

On November 20th, President Obama finally announced his plan to fix the country's dysfunctional immigration system. After the disastrous midterm election defeat, the administration started to make quick executive moves on critical issues, such as climate change and net neutrality. Based on corporate media's relentless effort to sensationalize the administration's swift actions, it seemed as though the Obama administration would also make a "Big Move" on immigration. Nonetheless, once the official announcement was made, his plan was a hollow branding effort, just like his presidency.

Under the new plan, it is estimated that about 5 million out of 11.5 million undocumented immigrants will receive temporary relief. It is great that 5 million folks will be relieved from the fear of deportation. However, his plan rather shamelessly revealed the administration and his party's honest views toward undocumented immigrants.

Over the many years I have been involved working within the Arab American community, I have had to contend with a range of myths and misunderstandings about both the nature and composition of the community as well as their attitudes toward major issues of concern facing the United States.

On the one hand, we have engaged in demographic work to better know who we are, where we come from, and where we are living in the US today. Our first major effort, in this regard, was "Arab America Today" a wonderful book, based on US census data, written in 1990 by my brother, John Zogby. At the same time, since 1996 we have conducted a biannual poll of Arab American voters in order to better understand not only how the community votes in elections but how they self-identify personally and politically and how they see the issues facing the country.

Nov 26

Who Stands for Rural Americans?

By Jason Cervone, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

For a long time in the US, liberals have questioned why rural Americans so often vote against their own self-interest. The question that needs to be asked, however, is who actually represents rural interests? Conservatives and their neoliberal economic policies have long exploited rural America, while liberals sit back in a "told you so" manner as if to say, "If you'd voted for us, things would be better." Are the Democrats' policies really in the interest of rural America? Or is it more likely that rural Americans vote against their own interests because there is nobody to vote for who has their interests at heart?

When President Barack Obama appointed venture capitalist and former Verizon and ATT lobbyist Tom Wheeler as chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), it sent shudders down the spines of anyone concerned with the concept of net neutrality. 

Last spring, it may have seemed an impossible task for activists and the Internet itself to defend itself, but in fact, it has.

Gloriously so.