Wednesday, 29 July 2015 / 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.

Jun 01

Does Egypt Have a Government?

By Lawrence Davidson, Truthout | News Analysis

Military officers often take over countries, but only a fool would call the result a government. Governments do not have to be democratic, but they do have to be rule-based. The rules can come in the form of generic laws or customs, but in all cases they have to be promulgated, that is, be publicly set forth. In addition, obedience to the rules has to rest on something more than fear. If whatever system is running the show is subject to the whim of an individual or group of individuals, or operates through rules known only to the police, or relies mostly on terror, it is not a government. It is a despotism of some sort. Most instances of military rule fit the description of despotism. Speaking of such regimes as governments is just so much nonsense.  

By the way, dictionary definitions of government are usually inadequate, restricting themselves to vague statements like "a particular system used to control a country." If the mafia took over Italy, would you understand their form of control as government?

In the same region where questionable "marine protected areas" were created under the helm of a Big Oil lobbyist, state and federal government crews are cleaning up a big oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara.

The spill from a ruptured pipeline owned by Plains All American Pipeline spans four miles wide and there is still some seepage, according to authorities.

Jun 01

"Mad Max": Beyond Furiosa

By Dawn Tefft, Truthout | Film Review

Make no mistake, Mad Max: Fury Road is resplendent with women kicking ass. Some of the most powerful images in the film are of Imperator Furiosa smearing engine oil on her head, making tough decisions about strategy in the middle of battle and shooting men dead. But the movie features even more feminist elements than assigning guns and strategic minds to women.

Mad Max: Fury Road, unlike most movies in any genre, but especially the action genre, shows that women can occupy a range of roles. Whereas Katie McDonough, writing in Salon, sees the feminist bent of the movie undermined to a certain degree by the personalities of the wives in the movie, their characters actually create a necessary space for the idea that women can be strong even without adopting speech and actions culturally associated with manhood.

I first met Ahmed in early 2012, in a small park in Gaza's Shuja'ya neighborhood - a place where my friends and I usually meet whenever there is a power cut in our neighborhood. The night air was dry and cool and I was waiting for my friends to arrive. On that particular day, however, they were late. Being the person I am, I patiently waited for them. I found a medium-sized rock with a flat surface at the corner of the park and decided to sit while I lost myself in a sea of thoughts. I was planning a prank to scare one of my best friends, Hamza.

In the still darkness, I was sure nobody would ever notice me. I saw someone approaching and immediately thought of Hamza. I could already feel the excitement deep in the pit of my stomach as I imagined his face when I pulled my prank on him. But much to my surprise, I saw Ahmed instead.

A new independent report on the state of human rights in Sri Lanka - the first since the end of the country's 26-year civil war in 2009 - finds that a silent war continues in which thousands of Tamils, mostly Hindus and Christians, are still internally displaced and subject to military occupation and fierce discrimination by the predominantly Buddhist Sinhalese majority.

The conflict ended violently after the government's bloody military offensive that led to the surrender of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) and left widespread destruction, the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians and the displacement of the entire population living in rebel-controlled territories.

Washington DC - The presidents of the AFL-CIO and North America's Building Trades Unions today sharply condemned Mayor Bill de Blasio's 421a proposal, which expands a lucrative tax giveaway for wealthy developers while failing to require a standard of middle-class wages for working families.

"Mayor de Blasio has been traveling the country talking about income inequality as the country's biggest problem," said Sean McGarvey, president of North America's Building Trades Unions.

Across the country, in the face of mounting budget deficits, states are more aggressively going after poor people who have already served their criminal sentences and jailing them for failing to pay their legal debts. These modern-day debtors' prisons impose devastating human costs, waste taxpayer money and resources, undermine our criminal justice system, are racially skewed, and create a two-tiered system of justice.

At Chevron's AGM in San Ramon, California today, 4 percent of shareholders supported the first-of-its-kind proposal to return capital to shareholders rather than pursue ever more risky carbon extraction investments.

Julian Poulter, CEO of the Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP), said: "Big pension funds voting against Resolution 7 will look back and realise they missed an opportunity to limit wasted capital, which is surely more important than having the evidence to sack senior management once the carbon crash begins."

Arriving in Sri Lanka's Bandaranaike International Airport on Indian turboprop titled "Spice Jet" was just the first taste of the irony that pervades this island nation. While waiting in the long line at immigration to enter the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, I was getting ready for a mental cavity search as veteran traveler to many socialist republics of the bygone era.

However, the country's check-in was smoother than expected, and besides being welcomed with obligatory smiles to the "Wonder of Asia," I was also presented with a "Welcome to Sri Lanka" tourist booklet.

The US empire fought numerous wars in the 20th century that ended in failure and humiliation, and the 21st century is off to a bad start. Wars in the Philippines, Korea and Vietnam War ended with stalemate and embarrassment, and our debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan have poorly-defined objectives and no foreseeable victory in sight. Ironically, the most powerful military in history has not won many wars.

But the definition of success can be blurred. Wars ending in military failure are still political and economic accomplishments for the architects who design them.

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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.

Jun 01

Does Egypt Have a Government?

By Lawrence Davidson, Truthout | News Analysis

Military officers often take over countries, but only a fool would call the result a government. Governments do not have to be democratic, but they do have to be rule-based. The rules can come in the form of generic laws or customs, but in all cases they have to be promulgated, that is, be publicly set forth. In addition, obedience to the rules has to rest on something more than fear. If whatever system is running the show is subject to the whim of an individual or group of individuals, or operates through rules known only to the police, or relies mostly on terror, it is not a government. It is a despotism of some sort. Most instances of military rule fit the description of despotism. Speaking of such regimes as governments is just so much nonsense.  

By the way, dictionary definitions of government are usually inadequate, restricting themselves to vague statements like "a particular system used to control a country." If the mafia took over Italy, would you understand their form of control as government?

In the same region where questionable "marine protected areas" were created under the helm of a Big Oil lobbyist, state and federal government crews are cleaning up a big oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara.

The spill from a ruptured pipeline owned by Plains All American Pipeline spans four miles wide and there is still some seepage, according to authorities.

Jun 01

"Mad Max": Beyond Furiosa

By Dawn Tefft, Truthout | Film Review

Make no mistake, Mad Max: Fury Road is resplendent with women kicking ass. Some of the most powerful images in the film are of Imperator Furiosa smearing engine oil on her head, making tough decisions about strategy in the middle of battle and shooting men dead. But the movie features even more feminist elements than assigning guns and strategic minds to women.

Mad Max: Fury Road, unlike most movies in any genre, but especially the action genre, shows that women can occupy a range of roles. Whereas Katie McDonough, writing in Salon, sees the feminist bent of the movie undermined to a certain degree by the personalities of the wives in the movie, their characters actually create a necessary space for the idea that women can be strong even without adopting speech and actions culturally associated with manhood.

I first met Ahmed in early 2012, in a small park in Gaza's Shuja'ya neighborhood - a place where my friends and I usually meet whenever there is a power cut in our neighborhood. The night air was dry and cool and I was waiting for my friends to arrive. On that particular day, however, they were late. Being the person I am, I patiently waited for them. I found a medium-sized rock with a flat surface at the corner of the park and decided to sit while I lost myself in a sea of thoughts. I was planning a prank to scare one of my best friends, Hamza.

In the still darkness, I was sure nobody would ever notice me. I saw someone approaching and immediately thought of Hamza. I could already feel the excitement deep in the pit of my stomach as I imagined his face when I pulled my prank on him. But much to my surprise, I saw Ahmed instead.

A new independent report on the state of human rights in Sri Lanka - the first since the end of the country's 26-year civil war in 2009 - finds that a silent war continues in which thousands of Tamils, mostly Hindus and Christians, are still internally displaced and subject to military occupation and fierce discrimination by the predominantly Buddhist Sinhalese majority.

The conflict ended violently after the government's bloody military offensive that led to the surrender of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) and left widespread destruction, the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians and the displacement of the entire population living in rebel-controlled territories.

Washington DC - The presidents of the AFL-CIO and North America's Building Trades Unions today sharply condemned Mayor Bill de Blasio's 421a proposal, which expands a lucrative tax giveaway for wealthy developers while failing to require a standard of middle-class wages for working families.

"Mayor de Blasio has been traveling the country talking about income inequality as the country's biggest problem," said Sean McGarvey, president of North America's Building Trades Unions.

Across the country, in the face of mounting budget deficits, states are more aggressively going after poor people who have already served their criminal sentences and jailing them for failing to pay their legal debts. These modern-day debtors' prisons impose devastating human costs, waste taxpayer money and resources, undermine our criminal justice system, are racially skewed, and create a two-tiered system of justice.

At Chevron's AGM in San Ramon, California today, 4 percent of shareholders supported the first-of-its-kind proposal to return capital to shareholders rather than pursue ever more risky carbon extraction investments.

Julian Poulter, CEO of the Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP), said: "Big pension funds voting against Resolution 7 will look back and realise they missed an opportunity to limit wasted capital, which is surely more important than having the evidence to sack senior management once the carbon crash begins."

Arriving in Sri Lanka's Bandaranaike International Airport on Indian turboprop titled "Spice Jet" was just the first taste of the irony that pervades this island nation. While waiting in the long line at immigration to enter the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, I was getting ready for a mental cavity search as veteran traveler to many socialist republics of the bygone era.

However, the country's check-in was smoother than expected, and besides being welcomed with obligatory smiles to the "Wonder of Asia," I was also presented with a "Welcome to Sri Lanka" tourist booklet.

The US empire fought numerous wars in the 20th century that ended in failure and humiliation, and the 21st century is off to a bad start. Wars in the Philippines, Korea and Vietnam War ended with stalemate and embarrassment, and our debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan have poorly-defined objectives and no foreseeable victory in sight. Ironically, the most powerful military in history has not won many wars.

But the definition of success can be blurred. Wars ending in military failure are still political and economic accomplishments for the architects who design them.