Wednesday, 22 October 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.

Apr 30

Gaza's Ark Attacked

By Robert Naiman, SpeakOut | Report
Gaza's Ark was badly damaged and partially sunk by a large explosion at about 3:45 AM Gaza time on April 29th. No-one was injured. Mustafa Abu Awad, the guard who was on duty at the time, was taken to the hospital for tests and he has now been discharged.
 
The Ark was in the port of Gaza being readied to put to sea in June. Whether and when the boat can be repaired is something we will not know for sure until it can be pulled out of the water for inspection.
 
Awad said he had been warned to leave the area by an anonymous caller. "I was [sleeping] near the boat and someone phoned me — an unidentified caller. I answered and he told me: 'Mustafa, leave the boat right now because we are going to blow it up.'" 

I have lived and worked always in the state of South Carolina. SC is a high-poverty state (see here and here) with a racially diverse population (ranked 12th highest). And, like many comparable states across the Deep South, SC is a right to work state.

Combined, these characteristics of my home state confirm, I think, my claim about the self-defeating South. However, when it comes to the Great American Worker, the entire U.S. shares that self-defeating nature.

Statement From "Pivoting For Peace In Asia/Pacific: Challenging U.S. Militarisim And Corporate Dominance"

Pivot for peace, not for war! No to "Fast Track" and the Trans-Pacific Partnership!

President Obama travels to East Asia this week to reinforce his administration's military pivot to Asia and the Pacific and to rescue the faltering Trans-Pacific Partnership "free trade" agreement. On the eve of his trip, sixty leading peace activists, labor and community leaders, and engaged scholars from across New England met to build the U.S. peace and justice movements' capacities to prevent war and to work for peace in Asia and the Pacific; to create more just economic relations; and to learn how to address the domestic impacts of the Pivot, including increased bias directed against Asian-Americans.

In 1988 Yasser Arafat declared independence for Palestine based upon the notion of two states living in peace in historic Palestine. The border between those two states was to be set roughly at the armistice line established at the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The Palestinian state's capital was to be located in East Jerusalem.

That was 26 years ago. Then on14 April 2014, the editorial board of the New York Times (NYT) decided that Arafat was correct and the "principles" that "must undergird a two-state solution" are those he had proposed. Of course the board did so without ever referencing the great Palestinian leader.

Apr 29

The Enemies of Economic Stimulus

By Philip A Farruggio, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Private Mortgage banks - Imagine if we had local community owned and operated mortgage banking; Nonprofit, charging only what overhead mandated. Thus, in real terms, a mortgage that a for profit bank would charge at today's 30 year fixed rate of let us say 4% would now be only perhaps 1.5%. Think of how many out there could afford to own their own home or apartment instead of having to rent. Think of how much more new construction and refurbishing would occur. True economic stimulus, as the lower rates would translate into more money for the home owner.

The Land Lord - The term comes to us from Feudalism, when we had lords and barons and manors and estates owned by the few and worked by the many. We had serfs who labored for the manor owners and paid rents to these land lords for a roof over their heads. Why not have societies whereupon the community (town or city) owns the property and rents it out without profit? One would suspect that the charges for an apartment should be at least 25% to 50% less than under this current private landlord system. Thus, as with the above idea, more money in the hands of the renter.

Apr 29

The Power of Co-Ops

By Staff, GRITtv | Op-Ed

The New York Times made an interesting discovery recently, when the paper featured a commentary by a woman who belongs to a collectively-owned and operated bed and breakfast in Brooklyn. She claims that it was living and working at a co-op bed and breakfast that allowed her both the financial support and thus the free time necessary to write her first novel, something that can be a notorious struggle for young writers living in expensive cities.

The headline read, "A Way for Artists to Live." But co-ops aren't only for artists.

Technology-land is abuzz these days about net neutrality: the idea, supported by President Obama, (until recently) the Federal Communications Commission, and most of the technology industry, that all traffic should be able to travel across the Internet and into people's homes on equal terms. In other words, broadband providers like Comcast shouldn't be able to block (or charge a toll to, or degrade the quality of), say, Netflix, even if Netflix competes with Comcast's own video-on-demand services.*

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the FCC is about to release proposed regulations that would allow broadband providers to charge additional fees to content providers (like Netflix) in exchange for access to a faster tier of service, so long as those fees are "commercially reasonable." To continue our example, since Comcast is certainly going to give its own video services the highest speed possible, Netflix would have to pay up to ensure equivalent video quality.

On the heels of our news release yesterday (please see below), Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressman Peter DeFazio sent a strongly worded letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack criticizing the recent power grab usurping power from the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).

Leahy and DeFazio were prime authors of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA) which created a unique public-private partnership in governing the organic industry. The creation of the NOSB was an essential part of the structure allaying fears that corporate agribusiness and regulatory bureaucrats could eventually undermine the true meaning of the organic farming movement.

Apr 28

California's Big Oil Dirty Dozen

By Dan Bacher, SpeakOut | Report

California is a state where many powerful corporate interests are based, ranging from corporate agribusiness in the San Joaquin Valley to the computer and technology industry in the Silicon Valley, but none are more influential in state politics than the oil industry.

Stop Fooling California recently released a chart revealing that the oil industry, including the Western States Petroleum Association, Chevron, BP and other oil companies, spent over $56.63 million on lobbying at the State Capitol in the five years from 2009 through 2013.

This money is enough to spend $471,000 on each California Senator and Assemblymember, according to the organization (http://www.stopfoolingca.org), "an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to mislead and confuse Californians.

Today, Brooklyn elected officials, community groups, and advocates rallied on the steps of Borough Hall to support District Attorney Ken Thompson’s proposal to stop prosecuting people arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana. A memo outlining DAThompson’s proposal, shared with the press, states that when the police make a low-level marijuana arrest and the defendant has no criminal record or a minimal criminal record, “there will be a presumption that such case will be immediately dismissed.” With this bold and smart initiative, DA Thompson is using his discretionary authority as the top law enforcement officer in Brooklyn to refocus limited law enforcement resources on serious public safety issues, address and reduce unwarranted racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and ensure that Brooklynresidents are no longer saddled with lifelong arrest records for simple possession of marijuana.

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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.

Apr 30

Gaza's Ark Attacked

By Robert Naiman, SpeakOut | Report
Gaza's Ark was badly damaged and partially sunk by a large explosion at about 3:45 AM Gaza time on April 29th. No-one was injured. Mustafa Abu Awad, the guard who was on duty at the time, was taken to the hospital for tests and he has now been discharged.
 
The Ark was in the port of Gaza being readied to put to sea in June. Whether and when the boat can be repaired is something we will not know for sure until it can be pulled out of the water for inspection.
 
Awad said he had been warned to leave the area by an anonymous caller. "I was [sleeping] near the boat and someone phoned me — an unidentified caller. I answered and he told me: 'Mustafa, leave the boat right now because we are going to blow it up.'" 

I have lived and worked always in the state of South Carolina. SC is a high-poverty state (see here and here) with a racially diverse population (ranked 12th highest). And, like many comparable states across the Deep South, SC is a right to work state.

Combined, these characteristics of my home state confirm, I think, my claim about the self-defeating South. However, when it comes to the Great American Worker, the entire U.S. shares that self-defeating nature.

Statement From "Pivoting For Peace In Asia/Pacific: Challenging U.S. Militarisim And Corporate Dominance"

Pivot for peace, not for war! No to "Fast Track" and the Trans-Pacific Partnership!

President Obama travels to East Asia this week to reinforce his administration's military pivot to Asia and the Pacific and to rescue the faltering Trans-Pacific Partnership "free trade" agreement. On the eve of his trip, sixty leading peace activists, labor and community leaders, and engaged scholars from across New England met to build the U.S. peace and justice movements' capacities to prevent war and to work for peace in Asia and the Pacific; to create more just economic relations; and to learn how to address the domestic impacts of the Pivot, including increased bias directed against Asian-Americans.

In 1988 Yasser Arafat declared independence for Palestine based upon the notion of two states living in peace in historic Palestine. The border between those two states was to be set roughly at the armistice line established at the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The Palestinian state's capital was to be located in East Jerusalem.

That was 26 years ago. Then on14 April 2014, the editorial board of the New York Times (NYT) decided that Arafat was correct and the "principles" that "must undergird a two-state solution" are those he had proposed. Of course the board did so without ever referencing the great Palestinian leader.

Apr 29

The Enemies of Economic Stimulus

By Philip A Farruggio, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Private Mortgage banks - Imagine if we had local community owned and operated mortgage banking; Nonprofit, charging only what overhead mandated. Thus, in real terms, a mortgage that a for profit bank would charge at today's 30 year fixed rate of let us say 4% would now be only perhaps 1.5%. Think of how many out there could afford to own their own home or apartment instead of having to rent. Think of how much more new construction and refurbishing would occur. True economic stimulus, as the lower rates would translate into more money for the home owner.

The Land Lord - The term comes to us from Feudalism, when we had lords and barons and manors and estates owned by the few and worked by the many. We had serfs who labored for the manor owners and paid rents to these land lords for a roof over their heads. Why not have societies whereupon the community (town or city) owns the property and rents it out without profit? One would suspect that the charges for an apartment should be at least 25% to 50% less than under this current private landlord system. Thus, as with the above idea, more money in the hands of the renter.

Apr 29

The Power of Co-Ops

By Staff, GRITtv | Op-Ed

The New York Times made an interesting discovery recently, when the paper featured a commentary by a woman who belongs to a collectively-owned and operated bed and breakfast in Brooklyn. She claims that it was living and working at a co-op bed and breakfast that allowed her both the financial support and thus the free time necessary to write her first novel, something that can be a notorious struggle for young writers living in expensive cities.

The headline read, "A Way for Artists to Live." But co-ops aren't only for artists.

Technology-land is abuzz these days about net neutrality: the idea, supported by President Obama, (until recently) the Federal Communications Commission, and most of the technology industry, that all traffic should be able to travel across the Internet and into people's homes on equal terms. In other words, broadband providers like Comcast shouldn't be able to block (or charge a toll to, or degrade the quality of), say, Netflix, even if Netflix competes with Comcast's own video-on-demand services.*

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the FCC is about to release proposed regulations that would allow broadband providers to charge additional fees to content providers (like Netflix) in exchange for access to a faster tier of service, so long as those fees are "commercially reasonable." To continue our example, since Comcast is certainly going to give its own video services the highest speed possible, Netflix would have to pay up to ensure equivalent video quality.

On the heels of our news release yesterday (please see below), Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressman Peter DeFazio sent a strongly worded letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack criticizing the recent power grab usurping power from the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).

Leahy and DeFazio were prime authors of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA) which created a unique public-private partnership in governing the organic industry. The creation of the NOSB was an essential part of the structure allaying fears that corporate agribusiness and regulatory bureaucrats could eventually undermine the true meaning of the organic farming movement.

Apr 28

California's Big Oil Dirty Dozen

By Dan Bacher, SpeakOut | Report

California is a state where many powerful corporate interests are based, ranging from corporate agribusiness in the San Joaquin Valley to the computer and technology industry in the Silicon Valley, but none are more influential in state politics than the oil industry.

Stop Fooling California recently released a chart revealing that the oil industry, including the Western States Petroleum Association, Chevron, BP and other oil companies, spent over $56.63 million on lobbying at the State Capitol in the five years from 2009 through 2013.

This money is enough to spend $471,000 on each California Senator and Assemblymember, according to the organization (http://www.stopfoolingca.org), "an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to mislead and confuse Californians.

Today, Brooklyn elected officials, community groups, and advocates rallied on the steps of Borough Hall to support District Attorney Ken Thompson’s proposal to stop prosecuting people arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana. A memo outlining DAThompson’s proposal, shared with the press, states that when the police make a low-level marijuana arrest and the defendant has no criminal record or a minimal criminal record, “there will be a presumption that such case will be immediately dismissed.” With this bold and smart initiative, DA Thompson is using his discretionary authority as the top law enforcement officer in Brooklyn to refocus limited law enforcement resources on serious public safety issues, address and reduce unwarranted racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and ensure that Brooklynresidents are no longer saddled with lifelong arrest records for simple possession of marijuana.