Friday, 28 November 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.

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.

In just a few weeks, I will join a delegation of mothers who have lost children at the hands of the police. We will descend upon Washington DC demanding justice and accountability. We will meet with elected officials, participate in strategy meetings, and have public events to tell our stories. This is my story.

On March 10, 2013, my only son, Clinton Allen, was murdered while unarmed in Dallas, Texas. He was shot seven times, once in the back. Clinton was at a residence where he had previously lived and he went there to retrieve his television. The young lady at the apartment would not open the door because her boyfriend was irritated that Clinton was there knocking, so to appease her boyfriend, she called the police. Clinton's misfortune was that the policeman who answered the call was an eight-time excessive force abuser. Within six minutes of arriving on the scene, he had "hunted" Clinton down (Clinton had already left the home and was going to his car). Not only did he shoot Clinton seven times, he reloaded his service weapon and shot him again. This police officer is now on administrative leave, and thankfully has been kept off the streets with no badge and no gun since killing Clinton because our family demanded accountability.

President Obama has authorized 'a more expansive mission for the military in Afghanistan in 2015 than originally planned'.

Imagine that, like the late US war veteran Jacob George, you're sent on this 'more expansive mission'. Your military helicopter is landing on farmland amidst mud-house villages, like a futuristic war machine inserted into an agricultural community in the Middle Ages.

There are no women to be seen.

Nov 25

Ye Are Many; They Are Few!

By RA Monaco, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Provocateurs are steadily working to incite the measured dissent of would-be protesters who support the indictment of Officer Darren Wilson. Follow the #Ferguson feed on Twitter and you'll get a sense of the provocative venom flowing in anticipation of the pending grand jury verdict. "Have you looked at the comments of any of the newspapers," Stephen Houldsworth, a Boston native who has lived around St. Louis, asked a Huffington Post reporter?

Unfortunately, there is a determined effort to undermine the legitimate concern that police shootings and mistreatment of black citizens are a far too common experience in the United States. The shooting death of Kajieme Powell by St. Louis police caught on video only days after the shooting of Michael Brown showed the legitimacy of this concern justifying the community's collective mistrust of law enforcement.

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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.

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.

In just a few weeks, I will join a delegation of mothers who have lost children at the hands of the police. We will descend upon Washington DC demanding justice and accountability. We will meet with elected officials, participate in strategy meetings, and have public events to tell our stories. This is my story.

On March 10, 2013, my only son, Clinton Allen, was murdered while unarmed in Dallas, Texas. He was shot seven times, once in the back. Clinton was at a residence where he had previously lived and he went there to retrieve his television. The young lady at the apartment would not open the door because her boyfriend was irritated that Clinton was there knocking, so to appease her boyfriend, she called the police. Clinton's misfortune was that the policeman who answered the call was an eight-time excessive force abuser. Within six minutes of arriving on the scene, he had "hunted" Clinton down (Clinton had already left the home and was going to his car). Not only did he shoot Clinton seven times, he reloaded his service weapon and shot him again. This police officer is now on administrative leave, and thankfully has been kept off the streets with no badge and no gun since killing Clinton because our family demanded accountability.

President Obama has authorized 'a more expansive mission for the military in Afghanistan in 2015 than originally planned'.

Imagine that, like the late US war veteran Jacob George, you're sent on this 'more expansive mission'. Your military helicopter is landing on farmland amidst mud-house villages, like a futuristic war machine inserted into an agricultural community in the Middle Ages.

There are no women to be seen.

Nov 25

Ye Are Many; They Are Few!

By RA Monaco, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Provocateurs are steadily working to incite the measured dissent of would-be protesters who support the indictment of Officer Darren Wilson. Follow the #Ferguson feed on Twitter and you'll get a sense of the provocative venom flowing in anticipation of the pending grand jury verdict. "Have you looked at the comments of any of the newspapers," Stephen Houldsworth, a Boston native who has lived around St. Louis, asked a Huffington Post reporter?

Unfortunately, there is a determined effort to undermine the legitimate concern that police shootings and mistreatment of black citizens are a far too common experience in the United States. The shooting death of Kajieme Powell by St. Louis police caught on video only days after the shooting of Michael Brown showed the legitimacy of this concern justifying the community's collective mistrust of law enforcement.