Tuesday, 30 August 2016 / 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.

May 26

Who's to Blame for the Mess in Iraq?

By Dr. James J. Zogby, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Despite the prolonged US-led coalition bombing campaign, the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) recently won victories in Iraq expanding the area under its control. In the wake of these advances, fingers of blame have been pointing in every direction.  Democrats continue to blame President Bush for beginning the war, in the first place, while Republican candidates are attempting to turn the tables by blaming President Obama for abandoning Iraq. 

What is most disturbing is not the finger pointing, it is the degree to which the pointers have let politics trump history. In reality, Republicans and Democrats both share responsibility for Iraq's dismal state of affairs.  

May 26

International Law and Crimes Against Humanity

By Lawrence Davidson, SpeakOut | News Analysis

The promulgation of International law addressing crimes against humanity was one of the major legal achievements resulting from World War II. As Robert Jackson, the lead American prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials put it, the crimes bred by that conflict were "so malignant, and so devastating that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated."

Crimes against humanity include government-initiated or -assisted policies or practices resulting in massacre, dehumanization, unjust imprisonment, extrajudicial punishments, torture, racial/ethnic persecution, and other such acts. In reference to the last-cited crime, in 1976 the United Nations General Assembly declared the systematic persecution of one racial group by another (for instance, the practice of apartheid) to be a crime against humanity. 

On Wednesday, U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) reintroduced the Private Prison Information Act (PPIA) in Congress. The bill, H.R. 2470, requires non-federal correctional and detention facilities that house federal prisoners to comply with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by making certain records available to the public.

The bill was introduced with 12 cosponsors, including Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN).

The terrifying film, "The Man Who Saved the World," has been showing in London. Stanislaw Petrov, who appears himself in the film, was the lieutenant colonel in charge of the Russian early warning system when the electronic alarms blared deafeningly and insistently in his command center. All checks confirmed that there was no malfunction.

They confirmed a nuclear attack from the US was on its way. It was not possible to wait for radar confirmation of the incoming ballistic missiles because by that time it would be too late to retaliate. Petrov knew that if he reported the alarm to the high command, they would immediately order a retaliatory strike initiating a globalnuclear war and the end of most of the human race. On his own imitative, he decided that he did not trust the computers and did nothing.

May 22

Memorial Day: It Is for Us, the Living

By Gregory D. Foster, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Memorial Day is a day for remembrance and commemoration of those who have died in military service – not least in America’s perpetual wars. Even more, though, should it be a time for reflection and reevaluation of the warring impulse and the human price it exacts. I speak as one whose life journey has progressed from small-town boy possessed of patriotic impulses and martial dreams, to eager and ambitious military officer, to dutiful practitioner of failed war, to disillusioned military officer, to unregenerate opponent of all war, whatever its form or purpose.

My journey began when I left home for West Point. I was then captive of an unquestioningly patriotic mentality bestowed on me, unknowingly, by my high school principal. Picture this woman – in her Nurse Ratched shoes; her hair in a severe perm that prefigured Ruth Buzzi’s Gladys Ormphby and Dana Carvey’s Church Lady; her physique the envy of offensive linemen everywhere; her demeanor akin to Knute Rockne and Vince Lombardi. Addressing us, her charges, in our cramped high school auditorium, she sought to fan the flames of fiery football fanaticism (thank you, gods of alliteration) by relating her experience at that year’s Sugar Bowl. Some around her had failed to stand for the playing of the National Anthem. At which point, she barked – she didn’t just speak, she barked (doggedly) – “If there are any red-blooded Americans among you, STAND UP!”

Santa Barbara, California - The company that owns the pipeline involved in Tuesday’s major oil spill in Santa Barbara has had 175 “spill incidents” nationwide since 2006, including 11 in California, according to a Center for Biological Diversity analysis of federal documents.

Plains Pipeline (a subsidiary of Plains All-American Pipeline) has also had federal enforcement actions initiated against it 20 times since 2006 for its operations across the country, according to data from the U.S. Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Many of those cases involve corrosion control and maintenance problems on its pipelines, including two cases in 2009 for which the company was fined $115,600.

May 22

Dear Garry McCarthy

By Kelly Hayes, Transformative Spaces | Op-Ed

Chicago's top cop announced the commencement of his "listening tour" - a project inspired by events in Ferguson and Baltimore, that will involve McCarthy and his rank and file "asking what they are doing wrong, and what they can do better." The idea of Chicago's chronically abusive and largely inept police organizing an effort of this kind would be laughable if the issues involved weren't so pressing, painful, and potentially deadly.

For starters, there's no need. "Listening" is a skill that McCarthy and his people could have answered all of their questions with long before tensions boiled over in Baltimore. .

The author examines a recently-released study from the US Government Accountability Office, titled: "Unmanned Aerial Systems: Actions Needed to Improve DOD Pilot Training." Below is a summary of his conclusions.

A new collection of specters haunts the earth: 72 workers killed May 13 in a slipper factory fire in the Valenzuela district of Manila. There was no accident. That fire and those workers burning to death are part of the brutal architecture of industrial production. Every report covers up more than it reveals, and the workers, charred beyond recognition, wait for nothing now.

The fire "started" when sparks set off an explosion. The slaughter of the innocents began long before the spark. The windows were covered, sealed tight, by metal gratings. Even now, the local mayor isn't sure the building had any fire escapes.

Today was an incredible step forward in the struggle to fully fund education in Washington state: our union, the Seattle Education Association (SEA), went on a one day strike, joining over 50 local educators' unions in a rolling strike wave to demand that the State Legislature spend billions of more dollars on the schools.

I have been part of a rank-and-file organization in Seattle called the Social Equality Educators (SEE) who have argued for years that if we want to achieve the schools our students deserve, we will have to take collective action to force those in power to back down.  We have helped organize collective action in the victorious MAP test boycott, the successful Garfield High School walkout against the proposed displacement of one of our teachers, and to support the mass boycotts of the SBAC testing this year.  However, we have said that if the union as a whole were to take up these struggles, the power of our thousands of  educators across the city would be strong enough to reverse the attack by the corporate education reformers.

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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.

May 26

Who's to Blame for the Mess in Iraq?

By Dr. James J. Zogby, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Despite the prolonged US-led coalition bombing campaign, the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) recently won victories in Iraq expanding the area under its control. In the wake of these advances, fingers of blame have been pointing in every direction.  Democrats continue to blame President Bush for beginning the war, in the first place, while Republican candidates are attempting to turn the tables by blaming President Obama for abandoning Iraq. 

What is most disturbing is not the finger pointing, it is the degree to which the pointers have let politics trump history. In reality, Republicans and Democrats both share responsibility for Iraq's dismal state of affairs.  

May 26

International Law and Crimes Against Humanity

By Lawrence Davidson, SpeakOut | News Analysis

The promulgation of International law addressing crimes against humanity was one of the major legal achievements resulting from World War II. As Robert Jackson, the lead American prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials put it, the crimes bred by that conflict were "so malignant, and so devastating that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated."

Crimes against humanity include government-initiated or -assisted policies or practices resulting in massacre, dehumanization, unjust imprisonment, extrajudicial punishments, torture, racial/ethnic persecution, and other such acts. In reference to the last-cited crime, in 1976 the United Nations General Assembly declared the systematic persecution of one racial group by another (for instance, the practice of apartheid) to be a crime against humanity. 

On Wednesday, U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) reintroduced the Private Prison Information Act (PPIA) in Congress. The bill, H.R. 2470, requires non-federal correctional and detention facilities that house federal prisoners to comply with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by making certain records available to the public.

The bill was introduced with 12 cosponsors, including Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN).

The terrifying film, "The Man Who Saved the World," has been showing in London. Stanislaw Petrov, who appears himself in the film, was the lieutenant colonel in charge of the Russian early warning system when the electronic alarms blared deafeningly and insistently in his command center. All checks confirmed that there was no malfunction.

They confirmed a nuclear attack from the US was on its way. It was not possible to wait for radar confirmation of the incoming ballistic missiles because by that time it would be too late to retaliate. Petrov knew that if he reported the alarm to the high command, they would immediately order a retaliatory strike initiating a globalnuclear war and the end of most of the human race. On his own imitative, he decided that he did not trust the computers and did nothing.

May 22

Memorial Day: It Is for Us, the Living

By Gregory D. Foster, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Memorial Day is a day for remembrance and commemoration of those who have died in military service – not least in America’s perpetual wars. Even more, though, should it be a time for reflection and reevaluation of the warring impulse and the human price it exacts. I speak as one whose life journey has progressed from small-town boy possessed of patriotic impulses and martial dreams, to eager and ambitious military officer, to dutiful practitioner of failed war, to disillusioned military officer, to unregenerate opponent of all war, whatever its form or purpose.

My journey began when I left home for West Point. I was then captive of an unquestioningly patriotic mentality bestowed on me, unknowingly, by my high school principal. Picture this woman – in her Nurse Ratched shoes; her hair in a severe perm that prefigured Ruth Buzzi’s Gladys Ormphby and Dana Carvey’s Church Lady; her physique the envy of offensive linemen everywhere; her demeanor akin to Knute Rockne and Vince Lombardi. Addressing us, her charges, in our cramped high school auditorium, she sought to fan the flames of fiery football fanaticism (thank you, gods of alliteration) by relating her experience at that year’s Sugar Bowl. Some around her had failed to stand for the playing of the National Anthem. At which point, she barked – she didn’t just speak, she barked (doggedly) – “If there are any red-blooded Americans among you, STAND UP!”

Santa Barbara, California - The company that owns the pipeline involved in Tuesday’s major oil spill in Santa Barbara has had 175 “spill incidents” nationwide since 2006, including 11 in California, according to a Center for Biological Diversity analysis of federal documents.

Plains Pipeline (a subsidiary of Plains All-American Pipeline) has also had federal enforcement actions initiated against it 20 times since 2006 for its operations across the country, according to data from the U.S. Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Many of those cases involve corrosion control and maintenance problems on its pipelines, including two cases in 2009 for which the company was fined $115,600.

May 22

Dear Garry McCarthy

By Kelly Hayes, Transformative Spaces | Op-Ed

Chicago's top cop announced the commencement of his "listening tour" - a project inspired by events in Ferguson and Baltimore, that will involve McCarthy and his rank and file "asking what they are doing wrong, and what they can do better." The idea of Chicago's chronically abusive and largely inept police organizing an effort of this kind would be laughable if the issues involved weren't so pressing, painful, and potentially deadly.

For starters, there's no need. "Listening" is a skill that McCarthy and his people could have answered all of their questions with long before tensions boiled over in Baltimore. .

The author examines a recently-released study from the US Government Accountability Office, titled: "Unmanned Aerial Systems: Actions Needed to Improve DOD Pilot Training." Below is a summary of his conclusions.

A new collection of specters haunts the earth: 72 workers killed May 13 in a slipper factory fire in the Valenzuela district of Manila. There was no accident. That fire and those workers burning to death are part of the brutal architecture of industrial production. Every report covers up more than it reveals, and the workers, charred beyond recognition, wait for nothing now.

The fire "started" when sparks set off an explosion. The slaughter of the innocents began long before the spark. The windows were covered, sealed tight, by metal gratings. Even now, the local mayor isn't sure the building had any fire escapes.

Today was an incredible step forward in the struggle to fully fund education in Washington state: our union, the Seattle Education Association (SEA), went on a one day strike, joining over 50 local educators' unions in a rolling strike wave to demand that the State Legislature spend billions of more dollars on the schools.

I have been part of a rank-and-file organization in Seattle called the Social Equality Educators (SEE) who have argued for years that if we want to achieve the schools our students deserve, we will have to take collective action to force those in power to back down.  We have helped organize collective action in the victorious MAP test boycott, the successful Garfield High School walkout against the proposed displacement of one of our teachers, and to support the mass boycotts of the SBAC testing this year.  However, we have said that if the union as a whole were to take up these struggles, the power of our thousands of  educators across the city would be strong enough to reverse the attack by the corporate education reformers.