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.

The commercial mass media are in their element now with the Edward Snowden revelations.A highly controversial issue framed as national security vs. individual liberty, a dramatic figure to focus personal scrutiny on (Snowden), the public as stakeholder, and government officials falling in line to reassure the public –trust us, they declare.

What is, and will be, missing from the mass media debate, however, is the connection between government surveillance and the larger imperative of maintaining a system both at home and abroad designed to maximize corporate profits.Those who argue for a vastly more democratic system –notably the left— continue to be excluded from the mass media's "legitimate" debate.

Jun 17

Edward Snowden as Litmus Test

By Jeremy Mohler, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Just before the immediately iconic video of Edward Snowden in discussion with Glen Greenwald exploded all over the Internet, I took my standard poodle to an obedience training class across town. When we got back home, my poodle slept on the couch with his favorite blue monkey toy in the afternoon light while I watched history unfold into the present. As I watched filmmaker Laura Poitras's (clever) close-up framing of Snowden's fac,e I felt a sudden release of a long-term, crushing pressure, like when you're a small kid and a friend is holding you down and laughing, and finally lets go.

I didn't feel it because I learned that the American government has Orwellian programs - it's not mind shattering that the NSA, an agency launched in 1952 as an early chess move in the Cold War, is gathering immense amounts of data about people, American citizens or not, more or less copying communication and the Internet as it slips by us into the past.


In Malaysia, street protests are rare. Indigenous-led street protests are even more rare. That's why the sight last week of more than 300 Indigenous people wearing matching blue shirts reading "No More Dams" and holding signs demanding "Respect Free Prior and Informed Consent" and "Stop Baram Dam" outside of a major conference was so historic.

On May 22, people from nine different tribes from across the island of Borneo came to Kuching, the capital city of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, to demand that the Sarawak government abandon plans to build 12 dams in some of the most remote regions of Borneo's rainforest. The protesters were also demanding that dam-building proponents listen to the voice of affected communities. Their target was the biennial meeting of the International Hydropower Association, the group that represents the most biggest dam builders in the world.

In this season of college graduations, let us pause to remember the stirring words of America's beloved scholar, George W. Bush, speaking in Florida in 2007 at the commencement exercises of Miami Dade College: "In Havana and other Cuban cities, there are people just like you who are attending school, and dreaming of a better life. Unfortunately those dreams are stifled by a cruel dictatorship that denies all freedom in the name of a dark and discredited ideology." 1

How I wish I had been in the audience. I would have stood up and shouted: "In Cuba all education is completely free. But most of the young people sitting here today will be chained to a large, crippling debt for much of the rest of their life!"

As the security guards came for me I'd yell: "And no one in Cuba is forced to join the military to qualify for college financial aid, like Bradley Manning was forced!"

Benton County is in the heart of the Willamette Valley – a lush, fertile valley in western Oregon. Here in the Willamette Valley we are blessed with a climate that allows us to grow over 270 varieties of edible plants. Wheat, hazelnuts, wine grapes, cherries, apples, peppermint, hops, beans, corn, peas, oats, flax, potatoes, and many other crops are found here. The consumer base that supports this abundance is one of the most educated and involved in the whole country. CSA (community supported agriculture) programs, farmer's markets, and food co-ops all thrive here. Our robust and growing organic industry makes up a vibrant local food system that many farmers and citizens have spent their lives building.

This system is now under attack from corporate agricultural interests who seek to turn our valley into a breeding ground for their patented seeds and the chemicals that go with them. A conflict is growing between the farmers, both organic AND conventional, who seek to grow crops uncontaminated by genetically modified seeds, and the massive and well-funded biotech industry and their associated organizations and growers, of which Monsanto is the best known.

President Obama started his first term with enormous expectations from the electorate. After eight years of President Bush, America was ready to exit the neo-conservative policy and worldview. Reality has been much different, partly because President Obama has proven to be a far better status quo politician than a real "change agent." One reason that he has struggled from the beginning: the failure to close Guantánamo.

Just recently, at the George W. Bush Presidential Library opening, President Obama stated, "And that's why every President gains a greater appreciation for all those who served before him; for the leaders from both parties who have taken on the momentous challenges and felt the enormous weight of a nation on their shoulders. And for me, that appreciation very much extends to President Bush."

I.e.: Extreme policies at home and abroad come first, the American people and the world, second.

Jun 14

How Not to Wage War

By David Swanson and Erin Niemela, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The recent NSA revelations of widespread surveillance on American citizens should be cause for intense protest. Surely it will be, as a day of nationwide mass action to restore the Fourth Amendment has been planned for the fourth of July. But any awake American can see that PRISM is only one sock on a long line of dirty laundry. The list of U.S. government abuses and failures to protect stretches far and wide, an alphabet soup of depravity: PRISM, NDAA, CISPA, SOPA, Patriot Act, the Monsanto Protection Act, drones, secret kill lists, Guantanamo Bay, DNA tests, Abu Ghraib, Afghan Massacre, Keystone, Tar Sands, Hanford. I'm certain you'll think of more.

While Prism and the rest of the gang are individually sordid, when combined they are the track marks of a far more pervasive, widespread, life-wasting problem. One that has systematically attacked not just the Fourth Amendment, but also the First, Second, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and 10th. No matter how hard we advocate for the Fourth Amendment now, others will fall so long as this substance burns through the veins of the Republic.

This is your government on war.

Jun 14

Turkish Protests Are Part of a Global Revolution

By Dennis Trainor Jr, AcronymTV | Video Report

In this Acronym TV report, host Dennis Trainor, Jr speaks with Selin, a 19 year-old female resident of Isthanbul, who recounts the physical and physiological abuse she endured after she was arrested during the Occupy Gezi protest last week. Occupy Wall street organizer, Justin Wedes, at her side in Isthanbul sums up the five immediate demands that have emerged from the Gezi occupation while Jenna Pope, photojournalist and OWS activist also reports from Gezi park that the protesters are well aware that the whole world is watching and drawing strength from their efforts.

As comedian Doug Stanhope watched CNN's Wolf Blitzer insinuate that Rebecca Vitsmun must thank the Lord for saving her life, he jumped off the couch, high-fiving himself when she outed herself as an atheist. "For her to say she's an atheist in that type of a crisis in front of her neighbors takes balls. So I thought we should start a fund as a reward to show there's a spine of atheism that will support people who stand up. This is especially true in a state like Oklahoma where you're dealing with snake-talking kind of Christians."

On May 22, he set up Atheists Unite, an Indigogo fundraiser to help rebuild her home in Moore, Oklahoma which was devastated by the deadly tornadoes that killed 24 people. "I felt this was a way of giving where people could give the finger to Christian America. This was something people could do quickly to change a person's life under the flag of atheism."

When referring to Honduras you must make the reader understand that Honduras is the original Banana Republic, no exceptions. The country is now more so known for its crime, so the title must accordingly make a reference in some way to cocaine, gangs, violence or bananas. An ideal title would be: « Cocaine Gang Violence in the Banana Republic. »

In order to attract ax-grinders and readers alike, you must mention the United States in your opening sentence, reference Venezuela without any context at least three times and devote one paragraph to the Cold War and the Central American civil wars of the 1980s. It would be wise to remind the audience that Central America is located South of the Border and forms part of what is collectively known as America's Backyard; a region which is a member of the Third World, a subsidiary of the First World.