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.
Part I - The Importance of International Law
International law is vital to the welfare of every man, woman and child on this planet, although the vast majority of them do not know this is so. The vital aspect lies in the fact that the universally applicable nature of human rights - which prohibit such actions as the use of torture, arbitrary arrest and detention while supporting freedom of movement, conscience, cultural rights and the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being, among other things - has its primary foundation in international law. Examples of this can be found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the various Geneva Conventions.
To understand just how important international law is to the universal application of human rights, one has to consider just how inadequate to this end are national and local laws. This inadequacy should come as no surprise. For hundreds of years now, the dominant form of political organization has been the nation-state. The most common sort of law is that specific to the state, and in the vast majority of cases, protection of rights under such law is reserved for the citizen. In other words, if you are not a citizen of a particular state, you cannot assume you have any rights or protections within that state’s borders. Worse yet, if you happen to be stateless (and the number of such people is rapidly increasing), you are without local legal rights just about everywhere.
"I guess I was hoping you might have something to tell me. I mean, I have a two-year old."
"Holy shit," I am thinking as I look at my young student, twisting her foot back and forth as she demands from me what they all demand from me--hope. In the past, I could spit something out like, "well, you are the light of the future," or "you are the new hope for the future" or "you get to create the new paradigm" (congratulations!!) or even more lame, "you always have the option to go to your local legislators" (please) but this time, nothing comes out of my mouth. Anyone that knows me knows I have no shortage of ideas and opinions but the words won't form in my mouth to comfort this beautiful new mother, my student. All I can get out is "well, uhm," as she sees her husband who has arrived to pick her up, the new baby in the backseat. She waves goodbye while I stand in place, mumbling like an idiot.
To the extent that the US public is newly, and probably momentarily, accepting of war -- an extent that is wildly exaggerated, but still real -- it is because of videos of beheadings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
When 9-11 victims were used as a justification to kill hundreds of times the number of people killed on 9-11, some of the victims' relatives pushed back.
Now James Foley is pushing back from the grave.
The fossil/nuclear corporations have been given human rights but no human responsibilities. They’re about to gut our most crucial means of communication.
The workers should own the means of production and enjoy the fruits of the surplus value they create. This has been and continues to be one of the most radical economic demands reverberating from the working and middle classes since the 19th century. Its rationale is simple; a political democracy without democracy in the workplace is a half-formed social entity, one where half of life is lived for the enrichment of others without representation or proper remuneration. The working classes during the 19th century and into the first half of the 20th century saw any selling of labor as wage slavery. Even the pre-Civil War era Republican Party compared earning a wage to slavery, only being different in that one was temporary.
Beginning in the 20th century and continuing into the 21st century is an idea of democratizing capital within certain parameters of the present political economy, whereby workers could and should become owners of the businesses they work at. The model I am focusing on is known as the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) and is one more tool the working class can utilize to reorganize firms' ownership structures along more democratic lines. It is a way to smash illegitimate authority and ravage the centralization of economic power, while acting as a fundamental break on autocratic decision-making, restoring power to the predominantly working-class majority and communities. It could also be accomplished by ethical human beings who own companies and no longer wish to espouse the crude arguments of eternal ownership, economic dictatorship and chasing ever cheaper labor.
On the eve of 9/11 2014, President Obama admitted, "Still, we continue to face a terrorist threat," adding:
We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. That's why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge....
Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.
September 11, 2014, Urbana-Champaign, IL – Prof. Steven Salaita and his attorneys responded today to the announcement that the Board of Trustees voted to terminate him from a tenured position at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign (UIUC) over his tweets about Gaza.
"I am disappointed in the majority of the Trustees and the action they took today," said Prof. Salaita. "Being at the school on Tuesday surrounded by so many supportive students and faculty was a professional high point for me and reinforced how rewarding it would be to work in that community. I have offered to meet with both the Board and the Administration, but not one of them has spoken with me or ever heard my side of the story. They have no reason to doubt the high standard I have always maintained in the classroom. As I said in a less-notorious tweet, 'I refuse to conceptualize #Israel/#Palestine as Jewish-Arab acrimony. I am in solidarity with many Jews and in disagreement with many Arabs.' If they had cared to learn, they would have seen this and other tweets reflecting a similar sentiment. Given the Board's vote, I am speaking with my attorneys about my options."
Today's historic vote will be remembered as an important moment in the democracy movement's successful effort to win a constitutional amendment to rescue our elections, our politics and our country from the scourge of Big Money dominance.
We owe thanks to the Senate champions who brought forward the legislation, fought for a vote and explained so eloquently on the Senate floor why our country desperately needs the Democracy for All Amendment. But today's achievement is much more a testament to the growing grassroots movement that refuses to cede control of our nation to a relative handful of corporations and the super-rich.
President Obama's Wednesday night address on the Islamic State (ISIL) reintroduced a war weary nation to more violent intervention in Iraq, another war weary nation. The Obama administration claims that airstrikes, military advisors and a Muslim states-American military coalition are the most effective counterterrorism tactics, but that is demonstrably false for two major reasons.
One, the history of US military action in Iraq is a repeatedly failed strategy featuring extremely high costs and poor outcomes.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas allegedly confessed to the Emir of Qatar that he would change his approach to the negotiations. Abbas claimed that he would transfer control of the West Bank to Israel if the peace talks failed to bring about the creation of a Palestinian state according to the 1967 borders.
Abbas' parameters are not out of step with international opinion. The United Nations (UN) has on numerous occasions observed that the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza are not the sovereign territory of Israel. They are envisaged as the lands of a future Palestinian state.