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.

Sep 03

Obama Just Challenged Pathology of Power

By Dallas Darling, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Given the immensity and enormous power of the U.S. military with its advanced weaponry systems, the greatest threat to global security since the end of World War Two has not been nuclear weapons but the misuse and abuse of presidential military power. It was therefore a stunning surprise for civic constitutionalists when President Barack Obama announced he would seek Congress's approval before using military force against Syria. While opponents dismissed his reversal as indecisiveness, a lame duck presidency, even cowardice-"red lines" to a "yellow streak," did he just challenge a pathological disease in which presidents have unwisely and immorally used military power?

On Thursday, August 22nd, travelers to Iceland received an e-mail from the United States Embassy in Reykjavik, Iceland, that discouraged US citizens from participating in political protest against the actions of the US government. It also labeled a peaceful advocacy organization a potential security threat, representing the increased used of a tactic to describe protesters using the language of terrorism. These actions have deep implications for the right of US citizens to dissent.

Titled "United States Embassy Reykjavik, Iceland Security Message for US Citizens," the e-mail would first appear to warn of a terror threat or natural disaster. In context, the message arrives at the tail of the shutdown and evacuation of several embassies across the Middle East following an Al Qaeda terror threat.

So the State Department recently announced that Shaun Casey, professor of Christian theology and ethics, will head a new office of "Religious Engagement." This is a curious phrase in a country with constitutionally-mandated separation of church and state. Far more worrisome is the notice that this new office will "focus on engagement with faith-based organizations and religious institutions around the world to strengthen U.S. development and diplomacy and advance America's interests and values."

Sep 03

Welcome Chef Djamel

By Doug Minkler, Berkeley No More Guantanamos | Press Release

chefsmallIn October 2011 the Berkeley City Council passed a Resolution to close Guantanamo Prison and welcome cleared-for-release detainees to settle in Berkeley.

This makes Berkeley the first city in the U.S. to welcome detainees. Djamel Ameziane is a famous Algerian-born European-trained chef who the U.S. cleared for release in 2008, but he's still stuck in Guantanamo.

Cablevision workers from Brooklyn ask CEO James Dolan: Where the papers at? in this awesome new video. Performed live on stage at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.

Sep 03

How To Invent A Misleading Statistic

By Ari Rabin-Havt, Media Matters | Report

The Washington Post's David A. Fahrenthold hyped the size of the federal government out of context, presenting an excellent example of how to construct a misleading statistic.

Writing on the size of the federal workforce, Fahrenhold claims:

Measured another way -- not in dollars, but in people -- the government has about 4.1 million employees today, military and civilian. That's more than the populations of 24 states.

Sep 02

Taking Sides In Egypt

By Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analysis | News Analysis

There are a series of historical precedents that can give us insight into the problems now seen in Egypt. These precedents are from both the West and the Middle East. Both are relevant because the conflict in Egypt has modern structural qualities that are transcultural. Among others, these qualities are: a traditional military caste allied to a reactionary police force, to a reactionary judiciary and to "big business" elements; a middle class most of whose members have a stated aspiration for both stability and a democratic society; and a bete noire (dark beast) factor – a fear shared by the first two groups of a third group. In the European/U.S. context this bete noire group is usually identified as a politically organized left designated as Communist. In the context of the Middle East this role is usually played by politically active Islamist organizations. In both cases the bete noire element may represent a significant portion of the population.

Sep 02

Fear and Loathing II: Liberation Theology

By David Cupples, Truthout | Op-Ed

The "Peace-Love" counter-culture of the American Sixties can be considered a revolutionary period that was met by Old Power with a "Fear and Loathing" Counter-Revolution based upon instilling fear in the masses while implementing harsh policies of repression and exploitation (reflecting a systemic devaluing of human life). It was suggested that a corollary precipitating factor was the ending of colonialism, in the traditional sense, with the post-war wave of newly independent nations that henceforth constituted the "Third World." It was further argued that the Counter-Revolution is ongoing and in important ways increasingly authoritarian.

The Brennan Center for Justice, along with the ACLU of Michigan, and the Michigan State Planning Body filed an amicus brief late Friday appealing the prison sentence of Joseph Bailey, whose inability to pay his court-ordered restitution was not considered during sentencing. The amici are represented by the international law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP. The brief argues that jailing Bailey for being too poor to pay is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause and the Michigan constitution.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court has previously ruled that indigent individuals may not be incarcerated based on their inability to pay criminal-justice related debt, Michigan routinely jails poor defendants who cannot pay court-ordered fees and fines.

Sep 02

Detroit, Labor Day and a Hard Day’s Night

By Anna Lane Windham, The Hill | Op-Ed

The Beatles first visited Detroit just before Labor Day in 1964, and they gushed with admiration for the Motown sound. Detroit hummed with industry then, like the Beatle's own Liverpool, England with its bustling ports and pop music scene. Both industrial cities would soon flounder, losing 40 percent of their populations over the next 30 years.

As we approach Labor Day 2013, Detroit still endures its "Hard Day's Night," filing for bankruptcy last month. Yet Liverpool thrives once more, a showroom for urban renaissance. Why did Detroit and Liverpool follow such different paths? It turns out that workforces thrive best in a challenging world economy when they have a solid, government social safety net, not one woven from the vanishing threads of employer-provided job security and benefits.