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.

Aug 08

What National Interest? An Analysis

By Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analysis | News Analysis

President Obama and his congressional colleagues are carrying on an established, yet clearly dangerous, tradition of U.S. foreign policy — the mixing up of national interest and the parochial interests of powerful lobby groups. Indeed, given the way U.S. federal politics has long operated, national interest is, except in rare cases, an impossible notion. This is because almost all politicians and both political parties are so tied to, and financially dependent upon, powerful lobby groups that they cannot formulate independent positions on issues important to these lobbies. Thus, what is put forth as national interest is most often the interest of a particular interest group with too much money buying too much influence. 

New Zealand’s Parliament enacted a landmark law two weeks ago that will regulate and control – rather than criminalize – so-called “bath salts” and other new synthetic drugs.

The first-of-its-kind law, the Psychoactive Substance Act of 2013, came into effect on July 18, after being approved in Parliament by a 119-1 margin, with the support of seven different political parties from across New Zealand’s political spectrum.

The legislation creates a new government agency, the Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority, within the Ministry of Health that will be charged with ensuring that synthetic psychoactive products meet adequate safety standards before going to market. The new regulatory body will also implement and administer a licensing system for potential importers, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and researchers.

Revolutions that are not fully successful in overthrowing "the system" tend to be followed by a reactionary period of increased, often violent repression by Old Power desperate to maintain its hold on control and privilege (e.g., the French Counter-Revolution; post-1848 Europe; post-1905 Russia; the Condor era in Latin America). The ever more authoritarian era we are in today can be seen as a counter-revolution brought about by the "Peace-Love" Revolution of the 1960s. Contrast the Soaring Sixties with the previous decade. In the Fabulous Fifties, American prestige was high after Uncle Sam's important role in winning the war. The American Dream was alive and well, mostly for good white folks but with a rising tide floating all (?) boats, even blacks and other minorities shared, minimally, in the bounty. Wages were rising, corporate profits booming. Politically, blacks were largely kept in their place and Mexican workers exploited without repercussion. The status quo was holding strong.

Aug 07

The Snowden-Atomic Bomb-NFSS Connection

By Dallas Darling, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Before elaborating on the connection between Edward Snowden and the two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which destroyed well over 100,000 buildings and eventually killed almost 500,000(1), by themselves the extremely lethal bombs were pillars of the United States' modern National/Foreign Security State. In truth, the two atomic bombs (code named Manhattan Project), which at its height employed 150,000 people and cost $24 billion in today's currency, was the major foundation of America's monolithic national security system that would stretch around the globe.

World War Two had revolutionized the U.S.'s static fortress mentality. A new theory regarding national security quickly evolved into strategizing and preparing for wars and global military interventions. The idea of "national security," a phrase James Madison used in "The Federalist," was revived with an added punch. Securing the nation against foreign danger meant a veritable transformation in international relationships. A highly centralized command with a much-expanded intelligence service, and a national realism to speedily mobilize for war and intervene in any nation, became the norm.

People are showing their depth of support for Bradley Manning by signing up to serve part of his prison time. Comments from people signing indicate great appreciation for Manning exposing the truth about U.S. foreign policy, especially the conduct of the wars, the drone program, Guantanmo and the operation of the State Department.

There's a new trend in surveillance and that trend involves drones in our skies. Many have seen them, but most don't report them. Why not? It's because until recently, there has been nowhere to report these sightings. The FBI recently admitted to using drones to spy on US citizens. Are you one of them?

The Sleuth Journal, in association with Staticwave Studio has just launched a new site called Drone Patrol where you can report drone sightings and read others' encounters of their sightings. Like the MUFON for drones, it allows you to add images, video and location, as well as details of your sighting. You can also access the site by clicking on "drone patrol" at the top of our main site.

Aug 07

Bringing Gitmo to the Senate

By Tarak Kauff, War Is a Crime | Report

On July 30 we had a combined action both inside and outside the Hart Senate Bldg. A gaunt looking Elliott Adams, on day 73 of his hunger strike, managed to get there from his home in upstate NY and spoke outside the Hart. Perhaps not quite as gaunt, I also spoke to those assembled. Cynthia Papermaster also spoke. Diane Wilson was there and spoke passionately. Tighe and Gail from CODEPINK with Dr. Margaret Flowers commenting staged a simulated forced feeding which was so well done and powerful that for me at least, it was hard to watch.

Seven of us, six VFP members and one from CODEPINK, Cynthia Papermaster, Mike Tork, Margaret Flowers, Will Thomas, Crystal Zevon, Jay Wenk and myself went inside to read compiled accurate information put in first person mode statements from prisoners at Guantanamo and from prisoners in long-term solitary confinement here in the U.S.

After a month of being held hostage in the Moscow airport, U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has finally been granted a one-year temporary asylum in Russia. Still, the future is always uncertain for high-profile asylum seekers like Snowden. Whether he ends up staying in Russia for the full year, if it turns out that Snowden can't stick to Putin's terms, or if the cold Russian winters simply just aren't his thing, you might be wondering: what are his options? If you were an American on the run, where would you go? Despite the fact that you'd have just been charged with a criminal offense, it may not be the end of the world. In fact, certain parts of the world may still be open to you—though some maybe more than others.

Edward Snowden is not a constitutional lawyer. But his public statements explaining his decision to blow the whistle on what he and Congress both know to be only the "tip of the iceberg" of state snooping secrets express a belief in the meaning of the Constitution: in a democracy, the people – not his defense contractor employers or the government that hires them - should ultimately determine whether mass surveillance interfering with everyone's privacy is reasonable. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.'s July 23, 2013 letter to Russia's Minister of Justice Konovalov has opened negotiations that suggest a means by which the public might be able make that determination.

Aug 06

An Easy Toll Tax

By William John Cox, SpeakOut | News Analysis

While the weight of taxation continues to shift to the backs of the working and middle classes and onto the books of small businesses, Congress dithers about reforming the "broken" income tax code and President Obama proposes a "grand bargain" to reduce the corporate tax rate even more. Instead of further gaming the system, they should get rid of our unfair, outdated and complex system of income taxation altogether. Taxes on income should be entirely replaced with an easy toll tax on the financial highway which would balance the burden of taxation with the benefits of government.

Wouldn't it be more sensible and much fairer to simply tax the movement of all money in our economy? Not a sales tax, not a value-added tax, not a flat income tax, not a speculation tax, but rather an easy toll tax on every single financial transaction within our economic system. Not just every time you fill up your gas tank, but every time stocks and bonds are bought and sold, every time currencies, derivatives, futures and options are traded, every time banks borrow and loan money, and every time Exxon-Mobil buys a new oil rig.