Thursday, 18 December 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.

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. 

Last night as I participated in social media and joined in the communal tense waiting for the verdict, the sense of collective trauma was palpable. When the verdict came through, the collective pain and rage was also palpable. It seems to me that every group that has ever faced systematic oppression has also faced a similar struggle that was of course material and political, but also personal and spiritual. This sense of collective trauma and my own struggle with this aching sense of rage illuminates the ongoing question of how to stay strong in the face of such moments of violence and traumatizing oppression. How does one survive the dehumanizing and psychically corrosive dimensions of violent repression?

For me this is not only a personal question, but also a political and pedagogical challenge. As I begin my morning to go to campus to teach courses centered on social justice, I am sitting with this question of rage in the aftermath of the legalized lynching of another young black man who might have been one of my students.

George Will apparently has a hard time understanding why private schools that receive public school vouchers should have to meet the same requirements as public schools, specifically the requirement that they serve children with disabilities. He calls the requirement "bullying," and its application to private schools "tortured logic."

The story is actually a very simple one. Public schools have an obligation to provide an education for our children. That means all of our children, including those with disabilities. The argument made by advocates of vouchers is that the private schools can accomplish this task better. This is of course an arguable point, but the mission at hand is not arguable.

Irish society has taken a real hammering. The media is filled with stories about the Irish economic situation and little is printed about what is happening in Irish homes. The family was once seen as the bedrock of society, yet in Ireland it now receives little attention. In a 2013 study the majority of Irish families - a staggering 67 percent - reported that they were experiencing difficulties making ends meet; this compares to 43 per cent of families five years earlier. In addition, by 2013, 43 per cent of all families with young children had cut back or could not afford the basics, 17 per cent were behind on utility bills and 14 per cent were behind on the rent/mortgage.

These are averages and the situation is worse in the poorer sections of Irish society. Less educated and lower income families have been hit hardest. Lone mothers for example, saw a sharp rise in their risk of poverty; by 2011, it was estimated that between 30-32 per cent of lone mothers were income poor and between 44-49 per cent were materially deprived, following a sharp rise in both indicators since 2009. This is no surprise given the substantial reductions in social welfare payments enacted by the Irish Government under austerity. In addition, the collapse of the construction industry hit cohabiting couples and separated/divorced men hardest as both groups experienced the steepest rise in unemployment.

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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.

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. 

Last night as I participated in social media and joined in the communal tense waiting for the verdict, the sense of collective trauma was palpable. When the verdict came through, the collective pain and rage was also palpable. It seems to me that every group that has ever faced systematic oppression has also faced a similar struggle that was of course material and political, but also personal and spiritual. This sense of collective trauma and my own struggle with this aching sense of rage illuminates the ongoing question of how to stay strong in the face of such moments of violence and traumatizing oppression. How does one survive the dehumanizing and psychically corrosive dimensions of violent repression?

For me this is not only a personal question, but also a political and pedagogical challenge. As I begin my morning to go to campus to teach courses centered on social justice, I am sitting with this question of rage in the aftermath of the legalized lynching of another young black man who might have been one of my students.

George Will apparently has a hard time understanding why private schools that receive public school vouchers should have to meet the same requirements as public schools, specifically the requirement that they serve children with disabilities. He calls the requirement "bullying," and its application to private schools "tortured logic."

The story is actually a very simple one. Public schools have an obligation to provide an education for our children. That means all of our children, including those with disabilities. The argument made by advocates of vouchers is that the private schools can accomplish this task better. This is of course an arguable point, but the mission at hand is not arguable.

Irish society has taken a real hammering. The media is filled with stories about the Irish economic situation and little is printed about what is happening in Irish homes. The family was once seen as the bedrock of society, yet in Ireland it now receives little attention. In a 2013 study the majority of Irish families - a staggering 67 percent - reported that they were experiencing difficulties making ends meet; this compares to 43 per cent of families five years earlier. In addition, by 2013, 43 per cent of all families with young children had cut back or could not afford the basics, 17 per cent were behind on utility bills and 14 per cent were behind on the rent/mortgage.

These are averages and the situation is worse in the poorer sections of Irish society. Less educated and lower income families have been hit hardest. Lone mothers for example, saw a sharp rise in their risk of poverty; by 2011, it was estimated that between 30-32 per cent of lone mothers were income poor and between 44-49 per cent were materially deprived, following a sharp rise in both indicators since 2009. This is no surprise given the substantial reductions in social welfare payments enacted by the Irish Government under austerity. In addition, the collapse of the construction industry hit cohabiting couples and separated/divorced men hardest as both groups experienced the steepest rise in unemployment.