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.
Memorial Day is a day for remembrance and commemoration of those who have died in military service – not least in America’s perpetual wars. Even more, though, should it be a time for reflection and reevaluation of the warring impulse and the human price it exacts. I speak as one whose life journey has progressed from small-town boy possessed of patriotic impulses and martial dreams, to eager and ambitious military officer, to dutiful practitioner of failed war, to disillusioned military officer, to unregenerate opponent of all war, whatever its form or purpose.
My journey began when I left home for West Point. I was then captive of an unquestioningly patriotic mentality bestowed on me, unknowingly, by my high school principal. Picture this woman – in her Nurse Ratched shoes; her hair in a severe perm that prefigured Ruth Buzzi’s Gladys Ormphby and Dana Carvey’s Church Lady; her physique the envy of offensive linemen everywhere; her demeanor akin to Knute Rockne and Vince Lombardi. Addressing us, her charges, in our cramped high school auditorium, she sought to fan the flames of fiery football fanaticism (thank you, gods of alliteration) by relating her experience at that year’s Sugar Bowl. Some around her had failed to stand for the playing of the National Anthem. At which point, she barked – she didn’t just speak, she barked (doggedly) – “If there are any red-blooded Americans among you, STAND UP!”
Today's low-wage workers are both older and much better-educated than the average low-wage worker in the past. In theory, this should mean that these workers also earn much more the in the past. A high school degree, an associate's degree from a two year college, a bachelor's degree from a four year college or an advanced degree adds to a worker's skills. Likewise, each year of work experience also adds to a worker's skills. Strikingly, though, a new issue brief from the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows that low-wage workers have not seen a commensurate increase in pay.
"These workers have done all the things you would expect to make more money," said Cherrie Bucknor of CEPR and the author of the brief. "They have finished high school or gotten a degree and have work experience. Nevertheless, they still find themselves underpaid."
The Cornucopia Institute harshly criticized the USDA for its failure to conduct an investigation of 14 legal complaints filed by the Wisconsin-based organic industry watchdog group last December. The complaints allege a systemic pattern of livestock management violations occurring on some of the nation's biggest certified organic "factory farm" poultry and dairy operations.
In their brief letter to Cornucopia, the National Organic Program's (NOP) director of Compliance and Enforcement stated that the agency "has determined that an investigation is unwarranted." Last December, after an investment of seven months and tens of thousands of dollars, Cornucopia filed 14 complaints with the NOP utilizing evidence primarily gathered through high resolution aerial photographic examinations of industrial-scale certified organic dairies and poultry operations. The hundreds of images taken documented an overwhelming absence of dairy cows on pasture, and the exclusive confinement of hundreds of thousands of egg laying hens and meat birds inside buildings.
Tyler Cowen warns readers in his Upshot piece that we may be entering a new era in which growth is weak and the bulk of the workforce, including those with college degrees, see stagnant or declining wages. The warning is well taken, but what's missing is a serious discussion of the policies that are driving this outcome.
Cowen begins his story by pointing out that universities are replacing tenured faculty with low-paid adjuncts. He points out that major manufacturers are doing something similar by paying new hires much less than their incumbent workforce. He could also point to the large number of people who end up working in low paying sectors like retail and restaurants, including many with college degrees.
Today was an incredible step forward in the struggle to fully fund education in Washington state: our union, the Seattle Education Association (SEA), went on a one day strike, joining over 50 local educators' unions in a rolling strike wave to demand that the State Legislature spend billions of more dollars on the schools.
I have been part of a rank-and-file organization in Seattle called the Social Equality Educators (SEE) who have argued for years that if we want to achieve the schools our students deserve, we will have to take collective action to force those in power to back down. We have helped organize collective action in the victorious MAP test boycott, the successful Garfield High School walkout against the proposed displacement of one of our teachers, and to support the mass boycotts of the SBAC testing this year. However, we have said that if the union as a whole were to take up these struggles, the power of our thousands of educators across the city would be strong enough to reverse the attack by the corporate education reformers.
Apple Blossom School has a nice ring to it, as does the Orchard View School at its side. The nearby Tree House Hollow pre-school, with children as young as two and three years old, continues this agrarian theme. These names evoke a pleasant scene of trees with students, teachers, and staff relaxing outside during recesses, as in old-fashioned one-room schools.
The winding rural Watertrough Road in the countryside around small town Sebastopol in Sonoma County, Northern California, leads to these rural schools, which have over 500 students. Sebastopol was known for decades as the home of the tasty Gravenstein apple. YUM! YUM!
On June 12, 1985 seventeen year old EdmundPerry was shot to death in Harlem by a white police officer. Eddie's death made headline news and sparked protest, not because he was a young black male shot by a white police officer, but because Eddie didn't fit the bill of what could have otherwise been portrayed as the death of a thug whose life doesn't matter. Eddie's story was an anomaly. He was an honor student who had recently graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy, one of the top prep schools in the country. He had just gotten his acceptance letter to Stanford University. Eddie and I knew each other at Exeter. In fact, the week of the shooting, I had invited him to meet me at my step father's theater on Lenox Avenue right off of 125th Street. They were performing Jonin, a play about a group of black students attending a university and I thought he'd be inspired by a black owned theater production company. I wanted to introduce him to my step-father, Voza, a man revered in the Harlem arts community. Voza Rivers was (and still is) the Executive Director of the New Heritage Theater, the oldest Black nonprofit theater company in New York City originated in 1964 by the late Roger Furman. Unfortunately, Eddie never showed up to the theater that week and it wasn't until later that I learned why. I saw a picture of his face on the nightly news. There were protests.
Duke University Professor Jerry Hough use of Asian Americans to denigrate the African American community uses Asians as a scapegoat for his plainly racist views. In response to a New York Times article detailing the racist policies impacting Baltimore, Hough commented that African-Americans were themselves to blame and that Asian-Americans had suffered racism but found a way to succeed because, "[T]hey didn't feel sorry for themselves, but worked doubly hard." Hough then went on to remark that Asians are successful because we have simple, old American first names and date/marry a lot of white people. If this is what passes as being accepted into white America, I think I'll pass.
The stereotype of the hardworking, successful Asian is a convenient way to gloss over increasing inequality within the Asian American/ Pacific Islander community. Poverty is growing rapidly within the AAPI community, especially among the native-born AAPI, but it is masked by the increase in high-earning AAPI. Though the number of AAPIs living in poverty increased more than 50 percent between 2000 and 2011, the overall poverty rate remained relatively unchanged due to the increase in the overall AAPI population, including large numbers of highly skilled, highly educated immigrants. The highly skilled Asians are Hough's chosen minority and the ones that are struggling are "feeling sorry for themselves."
Carl Hart, PhD, a neuroscientist and associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University, whose work has redefined how people are discussingaddiction, is today releasing two more groundbreaking and deeply compelling talks, one before a TEDMED audience in Northern California; and another a special Telephone Town Hall attended by hundreds of advocates, policymakers, faith leaders and medical professionals, and covered by Ebony.com, the leading AfricanAmerican news and lifestyle site.
Dr. Hart's TEDMED Talk brilliantly dispels the myths about drugs, and drug use and drug misuse—and how Black and poor communities in particular have been harmed as a result of our misinformation. It serves as a perfect companion to Hart's unflinching, eye-opening and best-selling memoir, High Price: A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society (HarperCollins, 2013), which won the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. In High Price, Hart argues forcefully that what plagued poor Black communities during the 1980s was less crack-cocaine, than it was unemployment, racism and hopelessness.
On 24 May, thirty women peacebuilders will walk across the De-Militarized Zone that separates Korean families. Ann Wright describes her journey from serving in the US Army to citizen diplomat walking for peace.
Following my conscience to challenge US policies began with my resignation as a US diplomat in 2003 in opposition to the Bush war on Iraq. Before working as a diplomat I was a US Army Reserve Colonel. Over the past twelve years, myconscience has taken me on life's journey to see the effect of US policies on Gaza, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, Cuba, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Iran.