Friday, 06 March 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.

Feb 24

Three Takeaways From Chapel Hill

By Huma Munir, Truthout | Op-Ed

Based on several conversations I have had with family and friends after the Chapel Hill shooting, many have expressed frustration about the way media handled the coverage. We are simply left wondering how news organizations would have reacted if the perpetrator had been a Muslim. Some in the Muslim community have concluded that there is a double standard in the news industry in how it portrays crimes committed by Muslims versus crimes committed by other groups.

Last week, I was invited by the BBC World to talk about the Chapel Hill shooting. Based on my conversation with the other guests, I have learned a few things.

In the wake of prominent media reports about supposed scientific agreement on the safety of genetically engineered food, including a cover story in National Geographic that equates concerns about GMOs with climate change denial, U.S. Right to Know is calling on media to accurately report that the science on GMOs is contradictory, unsettled, and has been largely controlled by corporations that profit from GMO seeds and the pesticides that go with them.

"Unfortunately, many members of the media, and even some scientists, have been snookered by PR firms about a supposed scientific consensus on GMOs that doesn't exist," said Stacy Malkan, media director of U.S. Right to Know.

I first met Veteran for Peace Bernie Friel on the corner of the Chester County Courthouse in West Chester, Pennsylvania seven years ago when we were both at a demonstration for peace and protesting American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. In this interview Friel not only discusses his experiences as a combat vet in World War II and the Korean War, but more particularly his experience in combat on the streets as a peace activist.

Dan Falcone for Truthout: Tell me about Veterans for Peace.

Bernard Friel: Veterans for Peace is an organization for combat veterans; it is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. There is a chapter I belong to - Chapter 31 in Philadelphia - and they are combat veterans. A lot of what they do is show up and protest. Now that is where you met me.

I begin this reflection with a personal note. When the Euromaidan protest movement erupted in central and western Ukraine in December of 2013, I had a discussion with a Canadian political scientist about the opposing, "Anti-Maidan" movement. He made condescending remarks about the people who came to Anti-Maidan in Kiev from the regions of eastern and southern Ukraine - Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizzhia, Kherson, Odessa. He followed a popular narrative of the pro-Western, "democratic" Ukrainian media - these people were brought to Kiev by the Party of Regions in an old Soviet style: "Get on the train to Kiev or you will lose your jobs."

Somehow, these people were a priori deprived of even a chance of having their own opinion, their own agency. What are you talking about? These people, according to many Ukrainian media, are Downbass (a play on words, referring to Down's syndrome), kolorady ("beetles" or "roaches," referring to the black-orange colors of the Georgian ribbon, symbol of Soviet victory in WW2, which are similar to the colors of the Colorado potato beetle, a widespread insect pest in Ukraine), slow-witted Sovky (from the word "Soviet" - a sarcastic, pejorative name people for those who are nostalgic for Soviet times), slaves who will obey whatever their Party bosses tell them to do.

As an American writer, I often examine the story of our nation for emergent archetypes of US identity. Several are terribly embarrassing for a citizen of conscience: the Couch Potatoes of Consumer-Capitalist Society, the American Gladiator of War-Rage and Bigotry, the Avaricious and Appalling Wall St. Tycoon.

Yet, one plucky character threads its way stolidly through the story of the US, challenging the apathy and atrocities of other archetypes, marginalized in the media, misrepresented in history, proposing itself as an audacious, eternal figure in the identity of this nation: the Activist, linking arms with fellow citizens and striving for change. Flawed and heroic, with blind spots the size of Texas, with imperfect vision yet awe-inspiring determination, this character has appeared in many millions of Americans of all races, genders, sexualities, classes, faiths, creeds, and ages.

On the evening of Saturday, February 21, a group of activists and allies took to the subway in Chicago to make some noise about this week’s election and the much discussed reparations ordinance. The ordinance, which would provide care and compensation to individuals tortured by Chicago police under Jon Burge, will not be on the ballot, but the man who has prevented it from getting a hearing before the City Council will be: Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The majority of the City Council supports the ordinance, but in Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago, such details aren’t really relevant. Emanuel has never seen police torture victims, or other victims of police violence, as a political priority. Given this mayor’s overall treatment of communities of color – shuttering dozens of schools and clinics in black communities – his failure to prioritize the safety and dignity of those most affected by police violence is unsurprising.

The Federal Aviation Administration, bowing to persistent corporate and congressional drone caucus pressure, has [ issued further regulations on February 15 facilitating the commercial and governmental flight of small (under 55 lbs.) domestic drones. The FAA, charged with keeping our airways safe, is opening wider the door to the multi-billion domestic drone industry...impairing both our safety and our civil liberties.

The drone industry is drooling. Like their military counterparts, commercial drones are being rushed off assembly lines with insufficient quality control. With drones crowding the air, crashes and collisions - accidental and otherwise - can and will happen. And not only on the White House lawn.

Feb 23

Waltzing at the End of the World

By John LaForge, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

It's hard to imagine celebrating nuclear war planning, but that's what was on the agenda at Hill Air Force Base, near Ogden, Utah last Thursday, Feb. 12.

At an official awards ceremony, there were prizes for "top performers" at the base including Team of the Year, Volunteer of the Year and Key Spouse of the Year. Base commander, Col. Ron Jolly, said, "The Airmen here see the big picture and know that it is ... about providing support to Team Hill."

Feb 23

Stop All the Horror!

By Jack A. Smith, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The religo-fascist Islamic State's penchant for beheading opponents and innocents, and its intentional burning to death of a Jordanian pilot captured after his jet was downed is, of course, horrific, as is its slaughter of prisoners, the torture and murder of fellow Muslims and others, and its abduction and violation of women. Most recently, IS released a video showing the beheadings by its militants of 21 Egyptian Christian immigrant workers in Libia.

"Over the past several months," according to Stratfor Feb. 12, "the Islamic State has released videos documenting the executions of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi prisoners of war. In one of the videos, the group forced prisoners to dig their own graves and to kneel on the edge before shooting them.

Like so many bloated Hollywood movies nowadays, America's wars may bomb, but they always produce their own sequels.

Look at the latest news from Iraq and Afghanistan.  These wars have persisted for more than a decade, with several re-releases to include "surges" and repeats.  The latest from Iraq is preparations to retake the city of Mosul from ISIS, which promises a repeat of the level of destruction visited upon Fallujah in 2004.  In this there are echoes of Vietnam: in Mosul, we may have to destroy the city to save it.

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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.

Feb 24

Three Takeaways From Chapel Hill

By Huma Munir, Truthout | Op-Ed

Based on several conversations I have had with family and friends after the Chapel Hill shooting, many have expressed frustration about the way media handled the coverage. We are simply left wondering how news organizations would have reacted if the perpetrator had been a Muslim. Some in the Muslim community have concluded that there is a double standard in the news industry in how it portrays crimes committed by Muslims versus crimes committed by other groups.

Last week, I was invited by the BBC World to talk about the Chapel Hill shooting. Based on my conversation with the other guests, I have learned a few things.

In the wake of prominent media reports about supposed scientific agreement on the safety of genetically engineered food, including a cover story in National Geographic that equates concerns about GMOs with climate change denial, U.S. Right to Know is calling on media to accurately report that the science on GMOs is contradictory, unsettled, and has been largely controlled by corporations that profit from GMO seeds and the pesticides that go with them.

"Unfortunately, many members of the media, and even some scientists, have been snookered by PR firms about a supposed scientific consensus on GMOs that doesn't exist," said Stacy Malkan, media director of U.S. Right to Know.

I first met Veteran for Peace Bernie Friel on the corner of the Chester County Courthouse in West Chester, Pennsylvania seven years ago when we were both at a demonstration for peace and protesting American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. In this interview Friel not only discusses his experiences as a combat vet in World War II and the Korean War, but more particularly his experience in combat on the streets as a peace activist.

Dan Falcone for Truthout: Tell me about Veterans for Peace.

Bernard Friel: Veterans for Peace is an organization for combat veterans; it is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. There is a chapter I belong to - Chapter 31 in Philadelphia - and they are combat veterans. A lot of what they do is show up and protest. Now that is where you met me.

I begin this reflection with a personal note. When the Euromaidan protest movement erupted in central and western Ukraine in December of 2013, I had a discussion with a Canadian political scientist about the opposing, "Anti-Maidan" movement. He made condescending remarks about the people who came to Anti-Maidan in Kiev from the regions of eastern and southern Ukraine - Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizzhia, Kherson, Odessa. He followed a popular narrative of the pro-Western, "democratic" Ukrainian media - these people were brought to Kiev by the Party of Regions in an old Soviet style: "Get on the train to Kiev or you will lose your jobs."

Somehow, these people were a priori deprived of even a chance of having their own opinion, their own agency. What are you talking about? These people, according to many Ukrainian media, are Downbass (a play on words, referring to Down's syndrome), kolorady ("beetles" or "roaches," referring to the black-orange colors of the Georgian ribbon, symbol of Soviet victory in WW2, which are similar to the colors of the Colorado potato beetle, a widespread insect pest in Ukraine), slow-witted Sovky (from the word "Soviet" - a sarcastic, pejorative name people for those who are nostalgic for Soviet times), slaves who will obey whatever their Party bosses tell them to do.

As an American writer, I often examine the story of our nation for emergent archetypes of US identity. Several are terribly embarrassing for a citizen of conscience: the Couch Potatoes of Consumer-Capitalist Society, the American Gladiator of War-Rage and Bigotry, the Avaricious and Appalling Wall St. Tycoon.

Yet, one plucky character threads its way stolidly through the story of the US, challenging the apathy and atrocities of other archetypes, marginalized in the media, misrepresented in history, proposing itself as an audacious, eternal figure in the identity of this nation: the Activist, linking arms with fellow citizens and striving for change. Flawed and heroic, with blind spots the size of Texas, with imperfect vision yet awe-inspiring determination, this character has appeared in many millions of Americans of all races, genders, sexualities, classes, faiths, creeds, and ages.

On the evening of Saturday, February 21, a group of activists and allies took to the subway in Chicago to make some noise about this week’s election and the much discussed reparations ordinance. The ordinance, which would provide care and compensation to individuals tortured by Chicago police under Jon Burge, will not be on the ballot, but the man who has prevented it from getting a hearing before the City Council will be: Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The majority of the City Council supports the ordinance, but in Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago, such details aren’t really relevant. Emanuel has never seen police torture victims, or other victims of police violence, as a political priority. Given this mayor’s overall treatment of communities of color – shuttering dozens of schools and clinics in black communities – his failure to prioritize the safety and dignity of those most affected by police violence is unsurprising.

The Federal Aviation Administration, bowing to persistent corporate and congressional drone caucus pressure, has [ issued further regulations on February 15 facilitating the commercial and governmental flight of small (under 55 lbs.) domestic drones. The FAA, charged with keeping our airways safe, is opening wider the door to the multi-billion domestic drone industry...impairing both our safety and our civil liberties.

The drone industry is drooling. Like their military counterparts, commercial drones are being rushed off assembly lines with insufficient quality control. With drones crowding the air, crashes and collisions - accidental and otherwise - can and will happen. And not only on the White House lawn.

Feb 23

Waltzing at the End of the World

By John LaForge, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

It's hard to imagine celebrating nuclear war planning, but that's what was on the agenda at Hill Air Force Base, near Ogden, Utah last Thursday, Feb. 12.

At an official awards ceremony, there were prizes for "top performers" at the base including Team of the Year, Volunteer of the Year and Key Spouse of the Year. Base commander, Col. Ron Jolly, said, "The Airmen here see the big picture and know that it is ... about providing support to Team Hill."

Feb 23

Stop All the Horror!

By Jack A. Smith, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The religo-fascist Islamic State's penchant for beheading opponents and innocents, and its intentional burning to death of a Jordanian pilot captured after his jet was downed is, of course, horrific, as is its slaughter of prisoners, the torture and murder of fellow Muslims and others, and its abduction and violation of women. Most recently, IS released a video showing the beheadings by its militants of 21 Egyptian Christian immigrant workers in Libia.

"Over the past several months," according to Stratfor Feb. 12, "the Islamic State has released videos documenting the executions of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi prisoners of war. In one of the videos, the group forced prisoners to dig their own graves and to kneel on the edge before shooting them.

Like so many bloated Hollywood movies nowadays, America's wars may bomb, but they always produce their own sequels.

Look at the latest news from Iraq and Afghanistan.  These wars have persisted for more than a decade, with several re-releases to include "surges" and repeats.  The latest from Iraq is preparations to retake the city of Mosul from ISIS, which promises a repeat of the level of destruction visited upon Fallujah in 2004.  In this there are echoes of Vietnam: in Mosul, we may have to destroy the city to save it.