Tuesday, 30 September 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.

Women have a vital role in the progress of human society. Yet, women’s contributions to progress aren’t always acknowledged by or even included in history books. In her 1998 book, You Can’t Kill the Spirit: Women and Nonviolent Action, writer Pam McAllister spotlights stories, struggles and contributions of women all over the world – stories that are often hidden in plain sight. The latest story comes from Pakistan, where local women are actively working toward social and political change at this very moment.

Pakistan has been in political turmoil for the past three weeks due to ongoing anti-government direct actions by two opposition parties. Supporters of Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) initiated their separate marches on August 14, 2014, the day Pakistan’s independence is celebrated.

British resident Shaker Aamer has reportedly been beaten at Guantánamo Bay, in evidence of a new crackdown on prisoners protesting their detention without charge.

In new letters received by legal charity Reprieve, detainees reveal what one calls a new “standard procedure” of abuses at the prison. Emad Hassan, a Yemeni detained without charge since 2002, wrote that “an FCE [Forcible Cell Extraction] team has been brought in to beat the detainees […] On Sunday, Shaker ISN 239 was beaten when the medical people wanted to draw blood.” Mr Hassan adds that guards had beaten another detainee for nearly 2 hours.

Tomas Moniz is Editor-in-Chief of Rad Dad Magazine and, more importantly, a father to three children ages 16, 19 and 23. His vision of creating a space for discussing radical politics and parenting first began as an award-winning zine. This year, Moniz decided to keep the Rad Dad dispatches going in the form of a magazine. The premiere Spring issue sold out. Contributions dealt with slut-shaming on the playground and being a woman who is a daddy to her kids—not as a single mother, but as the father figure of an adopted child in a same-sex relationship. 

Another poignant essay took Father’s Day to task for being a commercialized bonanza reinforcing rigid boundaries. “I want new archetypes for fathers, ones that are imperfect and yet competent,” wrote Craig Elliot, “and ones that place a greater emphasis on love, compassion and community.” Rad Dad Magazine followed up with a summer Father’s Day special advancing the cause. But for as great of a discussion Rad Dad fosters, its second issue came with a sense of urgency. Moniz sounded a call for many more subscribers to continue his mission into 2015 or the Fall October edition may be the last. 

Humanists typically project extreme pessimism toward the future, under conditions of technological oppressiveness. Surveillance is rampant; the human being has been shorn of dignity; the state is overpowering and individuality is a lost cause before the powerful onslaught of the collectivity. Zamyatin and Orwell are prime examples of this kind of extrapolation. There are also instances of humanist utopias (beginning with Thomas Moore and continuing with the socialist utopias of William Morris and Edward Bellamy), but they tend to be curiously bloodless, lacking the conviction and richness of the dystopias.

Scientists, on the other hand, tend to feel very optimistic that technology will be liberating rather than confining: it will be the final realization of the humanist project that began with the Greeks, was revived in the Renaissance, and received its current formulation in the Enlightenment. Ray Kurzweil, with his belief in the coming singularity (which he thinks is likely to occur around 2030), where machines smarter than humans take over and allow the human race a form of immortality, is a recent example.

Colman McCarthy has a piece discussing the low pay received by many adjunct professors across the country. He argues that they should make a living wage and then suggests that a way to pay for this would be to cut the high salaries for university presidents and other top administrators, which can cross $1 million a year.

It is worth noting that universities, both public and private, operate with large taxpayer subsidies. In the case of private universities, most enjoy tax-exempt status. As a result, they are exempt from many state and local taxes, but most importantly, individuals can deduct their contributions from their income tax. For wealthy contributors, this means that the taxpayers are effectively picking up 40 percent of the cost of their contributions.

Aug 28

The Fails of Eyewitness Testimony

By Lee R. Haven, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

“So eyewitness testimony is not so important anymore?”

“Ferguson?”

“At least three folks have come forth to say they saw Big Mike with his hands up, surrendering, before the officer resumed shooting--multiple times.”

“There have been studies to show eyewitness testimonies are often unreliable. Dr. Drew was harping on that on CNN the other night.”

“Hey, I believe it can be. I was a victim once of false identification.”

“Damn. You never told me-"

The infamous fascist paramilitary organization in Ukraine known as Right Sector has established a branch in Canada and was present and fundraising for military equipment at the annual Ukraine Independence Day celebration in Toronto on August 23. The group's efforts that day were featured in CBC and Radio Canada (French language CBC) national television news broadcasts. The two broadcasts are here: CBC and Radio Canada .

Present at the day's event were federal Minister of Immigration and Citizenship Chris Alexander, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Mayor Rob Ford, his city councilor brother Doug Ford and Toronto mayoral candidates John Tory and Olivia Chow.

Fortunately for anyone who has ever been accused of committing a crime, accusations and hearsay are simply not enough: evidence must establish guilt "beyond reasonable doubt." This system is intended to give victims an opportunity to seek justice and tell their stories, while simultaneously protecting innocent defendants from being punished for crimes they never committed.

But the system also has a critical weakness: it can only function as intended when objectivity prevails. When corruption, carelessness, or racial prejudice interferes, the consequences can be devastating to the defendants and their families.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who oversees Guantanamo Bay prison, has ignored a letter from a group of NGOs including Human Rights Watch, the ACLU, Physicians for Human Rights and Reprieve, in which they ask him to release the videotapes of detainees being force-fed.

The signatories write in the letter (the full text of which is below): “This administration has promised the American people transparency in the conduct of government affairs.  If, as the government repeatedly claims, the force-feeding of hunger striking detainees at Guantanamo Bay is being done in a lawful and humane manner then subjecting these videotapes to public scrutiny would seem to be the best way to demonstrate this fact.”

Aug 27

A Teacher in Kabul


By Kathy Kelly, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Here in Kabul, one of my finest friends is Zekerullah, who has gone back to school in the 8th grade although he is an18-year old young man who has already had to learn far too many of life’s harsh lessons.

Years ago and miles from here, when he was a child in the province of Bamiyan, and before he ran away from school, Zekerullah led a double life, earning income for his family each night as a construction crew laborer, and then attempting to attend school in the daytime.  In between these tasks the need to provide his family with fuel would sometimes drive him on six-hour treks up the mountainside, leading a donkey on which to load bags of scrub brush and twigs for the trip back down. His greatest childhood fear was of that donkey taking one disastrous wrong step with its load on the difficult mountainside.  

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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.

Women have a vital role in the progress of human society. Yet, women’s contributions to progress aren’t always acknowledged by or even included in history books. In her 1998 book, You Can’t Kill the Spirit: Women and Nonviolent Action, writer Pam McAllister spotlights stories, struggles and contributions of women all over the world – stories that are often hidden in plain sight. The latest story comes from Pakistan, where local women are actively working toward social and political change at this very moment.

Pakistan has been in political turmoil for the past three weeks due to ongoing anti-government direct actions by two opposition parties. Supporters of Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) initiated their separate marches on August 14, 2014, the day Pakistan’s independence is celebrated.

British resident Shaker Aamer has reportedly been beaten at Guantánamo Bay, in evidence of a new crackdown on prisoners protesting their detention without charge.

In new letters received by legal charity Reprieve, detainees reveal what one calls a new “standard procedure” of abuses at the prison. Emad Hassan, a Yemeni detained without charge since 2002, wrote that “an FCE [Forcible Cell Extraction] team has been brought in to beat the detainees […] On Sunday, Shaker ISN 239 was beaten when the medical people wanted to draw blood.” Mr Hassan adds that guards had beaten another detainee for nearly 2 hours.

Tomas Moniz is Editor-in-Chief of Rad Dad Magazine and, more importantly, a father to three children ages 16, 19 and 23. His vision of creating a space for discussing radical politics and parenting first began as an award-winning zine. This year, Moniz decided to keep the Rad Dad dispatches going in the form of a magazine. The premiere Spring issue sold out. Contributions dealt with slut-shaming on the playground and being a woman who is a daddy to her kids—not as a single mother, but as the father figure of an adopted child in a same-sex relationship. 

Another poignant essay took Father’s Day to task for being a commercialized bonanza reinforcing rigid boundaries. “I want new archetypes for fathers, ones that are imperfect and yet competent,” wrote Craig Elliot, “and ones that place a greater emphasis on love, compassion and community.” Rad Dad Magazine followed up with a summer Father’s Day special advancing the cause. But for as great of a discussion Rad Dad fosters, its second issue came with a sense of urgency. Moniz sounded a call for many more subscribers to continue his mission into 2015 or the Fall October edition may be the last. 

Humanists typically project extreme pessimism toward the future, under conditions of technological oppressiveness. Surveillance is rampant; the human being has been shorn of dignity; the state is overpowering and individuality is a lost cause before the powerful onslaught of the collectivity. Zamyatin and Orwell are prime examples of this kind of extrapolation. There are also instances of humanist utopias (beginning with Thomas Moore and continuing with the socialist utopias of William Morris and Edward Bellamy), but they tend to be curiously bloodless, lacking the conviction and richness of the dystopias.

Scientists, on the other hand, tend to feel very optimistic that technology will be liberating rather than confining: it will be the final realization of the humanist project that began with the Greeks, was revived in the Renaissance, and received its current formulation in the Enlightenment. Ray Kurzweil, with his belief in the coming singularity (which he thinks is likely to occur around 2030), where machines smarter than humans take over and allow the human race a form of immortality, is a recent example.

Colman McCarthy has a piece discussing the low pay received by many adjunct professors across the country. He argues that they should make a living wage and then suggests that a way to pay for this would be to cut the high salaries for university presidents and other top administrators, which can cross $1 million a year.

It is worth noting that universities, both public and private, operate with large taxpayer subsidies. In the case of private universities, most enjoy tax-exempt status. As a result, they are exempt from many state and local taxes, but most importantly, individuals can deduct their contributions from their income tax. For wealthy contributors, this means that the taxpayers are effectively picking up 40 percent of the cost of their contributions.

Aug 28

The Fails of Eyewitness Testimony

By Lee R. Haven, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

“So eyewitness testimony is not so important anymore?”

“Ferguson?”

“At least three folks have come forth to say they saw Big Mike with his hands up, surrendering, before the officer resumed shooting--multiple times.”

“There have been studies to show eyewitness testimonies are often unreliable. Dr. Drew was harping on that on CNN the other night.”

“Hey, I believe it can be. I was a victim once of false identification.”

“Damn. You never told me-"

The infamous fascist paramilitary organization in Ukraine known as Right Sector has established a branch in Canada and was present and fundraising for military equipment at the annual Ukraine Independence Day celebration in Toronto on August 23. The group's efforts that day were featured in CBC and Radio Canada (French language CBC) national television news broadcasts. The two broadcasts are here: CBC and Radio Canada .

Present at the day's event were federal Minister of Immigration and Citizenship Chris Alexander, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Mayor Rob Ford, his city councilor brother Doug Ford and Toronto mayoral candidates John Tory and Olivia Chow.

Fortunately for anyone who has ever been accused of committing a crime, accusations and hearsay are simply not enough: evidence must establish guilt "beyond reasonable doubt." This system is intended to give victims an opportunity to seek justice and tell their stories, while simultaneously protecting innocent defendants from being punished for crimes they never committed.

But the system also has a critical weakness: it can only function as intended when objectivity prevails. When corruption, carelessness, or racial prejudice interferes, the consequences can be devastating to the defendants and their families.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who oversees Guantanamo Bay prison, has ignored a letter from a group of NGOs including Human Rights Watch, the ACLU, Physicians for Human Rights and Reprieve, in which they ask him to release the videotapes of detainees being force-fed.

The signatories write in the letter (the full text of which is below): “This administration has promised the American people transparency in the conduct of government affairs.  If, as the government repeatedly claims, the force-feeding of hunger striking detainees at Guantanamo Bay is being done in a lawful and humane manner then subjecting these videotapes to public scrutiny would seem to be the best way to demonstrate this fact.”

Aug 27

A Teacher in Kabul


By Kathy Kelly, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Here in Kabul, one of my finest friends is Zekerullah, who has gone back to school in the 8th grade although he is an18-year old young man who has already had to learn far too many of life’s harsh lessons.

Years ago and miles from here, when he was a child in the province of Bamiyan, and before he ran away from school, Zekerullah led a double life, earning income for his family each night as a construction crew laborer, and then attempting to attend school in the daytime.  In between these tasks the need to provide his family with fuel would sometimes drive him on six-hour treks up the mountainside, leading a donkey on which to load bags of scrub brush and twigs for the trip back down. His greatest childhood fear was of that donkey taking one disastrous wrong step with its load on the difficult mountainside.