JFK Gave Baby Boomers Responsibility to Protect Our Freedom. They Failed.

Eternal_Flame_Next_generation

The Eternal Flame has burned continuously since Jackie Kennedy lit it in Arlington Cemetery on November 25, 1963 during her husband’s state funeral. Today, fifty years to the day after it was lit, hundreds have come to take photos of the flame flickering in a cold breeze, while others stand silently watching flowers laid at its granite base.

At his inauguration, President Kennedy spoke of a “torch” passed to a “new generation”:

Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

Fifty years after his assassination, this torch has been neglected, and the flame has nearly gone out.

Since JFK was killed, the Civil Rights movement has achieved important successes. But the present state of freedom and human rights in the U.S. is like a wound left unattended, and every day the hemorrhaging grows worse. Our government is systematically eviscerating our freedoms and those of people around the world. There are several signs of this: the police state, the huge numbers of citizens incarcerated, illegal NSA surveillance, and drone warfare. Continue reading

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Tibetan Uprising Day

Tibetan_Uprising

Sign a petition to help Tibet

March 10 is Tibetan Uprising Day, marking the day in 1959 when thousands of Tibetans surrounded the Potala Palace in Lhasa to protect the life of the Dalai Lama and oppose the Chinese occupation.

In the 54 years that have followed, China has inflicted a vicious and brutal repression on Tibetans. They have colonized the country with ethnic Chinese, attempting to eradicate the Tibetan culture as well as any form of dissent. The crackdown is intensifying, and in the last couple of years many Tibetans have resorted to setting themselves on fire.

The Tibetan self-immolations, which are occurring mostly inside Tibet, are our people’s desperate call for justice and support from the international community. This began as a contemporary phenomenon in Tibet starting around 2009. In early 2013, the number of Tibetans who have burned themselves alive surpassed 100. In a brutally occupied land where there is no freedom of speech, immolation has emerged as a most desperate form of expression.

Today, three Tibetan monks and two lay Tibetans were arrested in the Kardze region in eastern Tibet. The monks carried a white banner with the portrait of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

The International Campaign for Tibet has compiled an excellent history of the events leading up to March 10, 1959.

Without reducing the issue to imperialistic aggression, Peter Hessler of the Atlantic tries to understand what drives China to assert sovereignty of Tibet and exercise such extreme brutality.

From the Chinese perspective, Tibet has always been a part of China. This is, of course, a simplistic and inaccurate view, but Tibetan history is so muddled that one can see in it what one wishes…

Tibet thus changed from buffer state to a central piece in Communist China’s vision of itself as independent and free from imperialist influence. Orville Schell, a longtime observer of China, says that even today this perception is held by most Chinese. “I don’t think there’s any more sensitive issue,” he says, “with the possible exception of Taiwan, because it grows out of the dream of a unified motherland—a dream that historically speaking has been the goal of almost every Chinese leader. This issue touches on sovereignty, it touches on the unity of Chinese territory, and especially it touches on the issue of the West as predator, the violator of Chinese sovereignty.”

Tibetan Uprising Day in Washington, DC

Tibetans and their supporters protested at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC, then marched to the White House.

View photos of Tibetans Uprising Day in Washington, DC here.

John Zangas interviews Kunga Norbu, nephew of the Dalai Lama, at the White House rally before he sets off on a Freedom Walk to New York City.

 

 

Protestors critical of Obama policies, say he continues legacy of predecessor


While thousands filled the National Mall around the Capitol building where President Obama is sworn in for his second term, a smaller crowd gathering at Meridian Hill Park is largely critical of the president and his policies.

Dissent against the status quo and entrenched power emerged as the theme of the rally organized by the Arc of Justice Coalition (@arcofjustice13). Overall, there was a consensus that Martin Luther King’s birthday was more important than the Inauguration, and rally speakers often referred to him rather than the President as an example to follow.

Speaker Jean Athey of Peace Action advised listeners to ignore the “sanitized” version of King, and instead remember that King was a revolutionary and radical who made people angry. “He knew what he was doing was dangerous,” she said.

He took on the three major issues of the day: racism, capitalism, and militarism, she said. These goals closely resembled the issues raised by the protestors at the rally, which included drone warfare, military spending, loss of civil liberties, and the corrupt influence of corporation on the political system.

Protestors carried four full-size model drones down 14th Street as they made their way toward the White House.

Ladd Everitt, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

Update: Not everyone had negative things to say about President Obama. Ladd Everitt of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence pleaded with ralliers to support the President’s new gun control legislation, proposed in the wake of the Newtown shooting.

“Whatever grievances you have, lay them down for a few months. Obama’s gun package is the most important initiative put forward in American history. Finally we are going to reduce gun violence in this country.”

He explained that the gun industry is combating declining sales by persuading people that they must arm themselves 24/7 and accumulate more and more weapons, including assault weapons.

“This is comprehensive reform to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” he said. “We have to seize this opportunity [while] the President is putting the full weight of the White House behind it.”

The Modern Corporation: “Pirates Incorporated”

The Supreme Court heard important arguments today regarding what crimes corporations can and can’t be held liable for. In Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, Shell Oil is being sued for teaming up with the Nigerian military in perpetrating terrible human rights abuses against the Ogoni people–rape, torture and murder–all in the pursuit of massive resource extraction. And all at great cost to the environment.

The lawsuit will test a legal strategy which has been used by human rights advocates for the past several years, the Alien Tort Statute (ATS):

In Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum (Shell), the court will consider whether any lawsuits under the ATS can be brought against corporations, or for any abuses that happen in other countries.

Where do pirates come into the picture? The Alien Tort Statute is international law established centuries ago to govern the high seas. It’s been used to sue companies incorporated in the United States which commit or are complicit in egregious human rights abuses abroad.

Some lawsuits, such as the landmark Doe v. Unocal, have been successful in forcing corporations to settle, even after years of litigation. Now an ATS case has finally made its way to the Supreme Court, and it’s one of the biggest human rights cases in years.

We’ll see if one of the few legal tools to hold corporations accountable stands up when the court makes it ruling.