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.
When Jonathan Schell, the most cogent moral philosopher of the nuclear age, died of cancer last month, it left a rift in the moral fabric of our small planet, a hole similar in size to those left by the three Alberts—Camus, Einstein and Bigelow. Never heard of Bert Bigelow? He was the Harvard grad who in 1958 twice tried to sail his ketch, the Golden Rule, into the waters of the South Pacific where nuclear weapons were being tested—and found time as well to be beaten up by racist thugs alongside Congressman John Lewis while protesting for civil rights.
Compared to giants like Schell, Bert Bigelow, or General Lee Butler, a former head of the Strategic Air Command who now advocates for nuclear abolition, the people who presume to military, political and industrial leadership here and abroad sometimes seem, from top to bottom, like a bunch of corrupt, deluded, hypocritical flunkies.
Redwood Forest Defense, a grassroots non-violent direct action group committed to protecting the forest and best known for the tree-sits outside of Trinidad, came to today's Humboldt Board of Supervisors meeting in mass to demand, in song, that the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors increase the riparian zone protections under the general plan as well as urge the timber companies that are operating in Humboldt County to cease their clear-cutting, deforestation activities.
A member of RFD opened with a statement directed to the Board regarding their position of authority to make positive change.(see below) Following the statement multiple ukuleles, a flute, and a harmonica wailed as twelve community members sang to Humboldt County to bring an end to Green Diamond Resource Company's destructive and short sighted forestry practices. Even Supervisor Rex Bohn added to the atmosphere by beat-boxing with the music on his microphone.
April 22, 2014, Boston - Last night, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) urged the full First Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider a ruling by a three-judge appellate panel dismissing CCR's First Amendment challenge to the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). The AETA punishes anyone found to have caused the loss of property or profits to a business or other institution that uses or sells animals or animal products, or to "a person or entity having a connection to, relationship with, or transactions with an animal enterprise." The law makes no distinction between loss caused by criminal acts and loss caused by boycotts and other constitutionally-protected activity. In its ruling, the panel said that the plaintiffs could not challenge the AETA because the statute states that it does not punish "any expressive conduct."
"The plain language of the AETA punishes purposefully causing an animal enterprise to lose profit, regardless of whether the loss is due to a boycott, civil disobedience, property destruction, or freeing animals," said CCR Senior Staff Attorney Rachel Meeropol. "Congress can't cure such a fundamental encroachment on the First Amendment by adding a sentence to the statute saying that it doesn't violate the First Amendment."
Washington, DC - Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has issued a directive barring intelligence community (IC) employees from speaking to the media about intelligence-related matters, including unclassified matters, without authorization. The directive, issued in March, was first posted yesterday by the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy.
The directive threatens IC employees making unauthorized contacts with the media with security clearance revocation or termination. The overbroad and vague directive loosely defines the media to include those "engaged in the collection, production or dissemination to the public of information in any form related to topics of national security." That definition could not only include reporters for traditional outlets, but bloggers and activists who write about the intelligence community. The directive requires IC employees to report any inadvertent contact with the broadly defined "media" to superiors.
To understand how thoughtless the US latest 'peace process' drive has been, one only needs to consider some of the characters involved in this political theater. One particular character who stands out as a testament to the inherently futile exercise is Martin Indyk.
Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel, was selected by Secretary of State John Kerry for the role of Special Envoy for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Under normal circumstances, Kerry's selection may appear somewhat rational. Former ambassadors oftentimes possess the needed expertise to navigate challenging political landscapes in countries where they previously served. But these are not normal circumstances, and Indyk is hardly a diplomat in the strict use of the term.
As President Obama departs on his long-delayed trip to Asia, his job-killing trade agenda is being blocked by "fast track" bills that ironically were supposed to railroad trade agreements through Congress. The trip is widely seen as an effort to breathe new life into the four-year old negotiations on theTrans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Yet, the "fast track" bills are all but dead due to the broken promises of past trade deals and the upcoming mid-term elections. For example, new data shows that the two-year old U.S. Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has exacerbated our widening trade deficit – directly contradicting previous promises that it would improve our trade deficit and create more jobs.
The data on the US-Korea FTA adds more weight to the argument that Congress should not even bring TPP up for consideration unless every aspect of the agreement can be openly debated and, if needed, modified to serve the interests of all Americans. In fact, behind all the smoke and mirrors, the failure of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement is so extreme that the U.S. is holding up South Korea's joining TPP because of it.
Ten years ago, on April 21, 2004, several hundred of us from around the world waited with great anticipation outside the gates of Israel's Ashkelon Prison, holding up signs saying "Thank you, Mordechai Vanunu: Peace Hero, Nuclear Whistle-blower". After many years of campaigning for his freedom, the day had finally arrived: Mordechai Vanunu would walk out of the prison where he had spent each day of his 18 year sentence (12 of those years in solitary confinement) for blowing the whistle on Israel's then secret nuclear arsenal. We were there to welcome him to freedom.
Our excitement had been somewhat dimmed a couple of days earlier, when Israel announced a list of oppressive and unjust restrictions on the soon-to-be-released whistle-blower. These restrictions continue to this day, having been renewed each April: Mordechai Vanunu remains under restrictions which require him to report and gain approval for any change in residence, to avoid diplomatic missions, to not speak to foreign nationals and which prevent him from leaving Israel, a thing Mordechai has wished to do ever since his release from prison.
Washington DC - On Monday, the Supreme Court hears arguments between Argentina and holdouts who refused two debt restructuring deals after Argentina defaulted on its debts in 2001. The Supreme Court Justices will determine if predatory hedge fund, NML Capital can obtain information from US Banks that reveal Argentina's holdings in order to target those assets for debt payments. The Obama Administration is siding with Argentina in the case. In the summer, the Supreme Court will also decide if it will hear a much broader case between Argentina and the hedge funds that impacts extreme poverty, official US debt policy and country debt restructuring.
"The Supreme Court hearing this initial case offers some indication that they are interested in hearing the broader case," said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious antipoverty coalition, Jubilee USA Network. "The courts decision on the broader case will impact financial stability and people living in extreme poverty."
Two important bills are on the desk of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, waiting to be signed into law. One proposes to bring back the electric chair as the standard method of execution, should lethal injection drugs prove unavailable. The other would allow for criminal assault charges to be brought against women who use illegal narcotics while pregnant, should their drug use result in the death of their fetus or the birth of a child who is "addicted" or otherwise harmed by drugs.
It may seem like there's no relation between these two bills. Or if they are related, it's because they contradict one another: one is pro-death, while the other is pro-life. But since most pro-lifers also support capital punishment, there must be a way of reconciling this apparent contradiction. The narrative goes something like this: The fetus is an innocent life, infinitely valuable, and deserving of state protection at all costs. The prisoner on death row has taken an innocent life and so forfeited his or her own right to life; the state is therefore permitted, and perhaps even morally obligated, to destroy their life for the sake of protecting the innocent. Likewise, when a pregnant woman endangers, or seems to endanger, the life or well-being of her fetus, she joins the ranks of the guilty; the state is entitled, and perhaps even obligated, to punish such women for the sake of protecting innocent life.