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.

Germany's two biggest cities are on course to re-nationalize their electricity grids. In both Berlin and Hamburg, citizen coalitions have successfully forced referenda to re-organize their cities' distribution of electricity in municipal companies. Backed by widespread opposition to the ongoing privatization of public goods, the coalitions "Unser Hamburg, Unser Netz" and the "Berliner Energietisch" now pose a serious threat to multinationals E.On and Vattenfall. The referendum campaigns have started to play a significant role at the start of the campaign for the federal parliamentary elections, to be held on September 22.

On Wednesday, June 11, the "Berliner Energietisch" officially surpassed the required signature threshold. 265,000 eligible voters supported their referendum, obligating the Berlin state government to put the proposal up to a vote. The opposition in parliament, made up of the green, left and pirate parties, propose that the Berlin referendum take place alongside the general election.

On May 16th, during a Senate hearing revisiting the Authorization for Use of Military Force, Michael Sheehan, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, predicted that the war against Al-Qaeda and its affiliates could last up to 20 more years.

In April, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the current US commander in occupied Afghanistan, had already told the Senate Armed Services Committee that US troops should remain in Afghanistan after 2014. Dunford said he had not made any assessments on the US troop level beyond 2014. In January, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Pentagon plans to leave roughly 3,000, 6,000, or 9,000 US troops in after the 2014 deadline for NATO operations in the country.It's been over 11 years since 9/11 and the unilateral and criminal declaration of "War on Terror" by President George Bush three days later, but the "War on Terror" was planned even before 9/11 – and planned to be an endless occupation in the Middle East.

Jun 13

Jail Bankers Not Grandmas

By James Anderson, SpeakOut | Report

Protest against the plight of the elderly, poor, disenfranchised and dispossessed as opposed to the fate enjoyed by wealthy plutocrats took the form of multi-pronged actions on June 11 in St. Louis, Mo., as activists showed solidarity with seven grandmothers who went to jail for justice.
During a week of demonstrations with the Home Defenders League, Occupy Our Homes and Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE), seven women were arrested during an act of civil disobedience as they blocked the revolving doors at the Covington and Burling law firm in Washington, DC, on May 23. The women engaged in symbolic protest against the proverbial revolving doors between financial institutions and the Department of Justice.

Since that time, Midwest activists decided MORE needed to happen. So they took (direct) action.

This is a defense of public education. Much like Socrates, public education is on trial. And despite the defendant making an excellent defense, the judges may still convict as they convicted Socrates. Public education in America and the world over is under a relentless attack by neo-liberals, social conservatives and virtually all policymakers at the federal and state level. Educators at all levels perform their work in a hostile climate. They are under constant scrutiny and attack. Thus, educators and anyone concerned with public education should begin to understand the roots of this attack, how it came to be and what its central tenets are. Perhaps the most logical place to start is Milton and Rose Friedman's work Free to Choose published in 1978. While Freidman was by no means the only critic who attacked education, nor was he the first, his influence cannot be overstated. Free to Choose is perhaps Freidman's most succinct and direct work. Subsequently, in 1980, the book was turned into a 10 part mini-series which aired on PBS.

Fourteen economists and other academics have written an open letter to the media calling for the reporting of "overwhelming statistical evidence" that shows that Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro won the April 14 elections as verified by Venezuela's electoral authorities. The economists, who include James K. Galbraith of the University of Texas and Robert Pollin of the University of Massachusetts, point to a statistical analysis of the initial audit of 53 percent of votes as irrefutable proof that Maduro won the election, but the media's failure to report this fact could mean that "many if not most Americans believe that the election was stolen or that the result is somehow in question."

The letter cites three "uncontested facts" about Venezuela's electoral process and the audit: the existence of both electronic records and paper receipts of voters' choices; the completion of the initial audit of 53 percent of votes on election night in the presence of [tens of thousands] of witnesses; and the fact that this audit found no discrepancies between the electronic vote tally and paper receipts.

Jun 12

A Day in the Life of a Congressman

By Alan Grayson, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

One of the interesting things about this Congress job is that at any given moment, there are three or four different things to do. What one has to show for one's time in Congress is, more than anything else, a question of time management.

Last Wednesday posed an interesting choice for me. I was invited, like all members of Congress, to the Radio/TV Correspondents Association annual dinner. This is a spectacular opportunity to "network with" (i.e., suck up to) major figures in the national news media, like network news anchors, national radio show hosts and White House correspondents.

As the trial of Bradley Manning continues, Edward Snowden comes out as the NSA whistleblower who revealed the secret massive surveillance state.

Abahlali baseMjondolo is a democratic, membership based movement of shack dwellers and other poor people in South Africa. In 2005 our experience of suffering and injustice led us to decided to organize ourselves and to represent ourselves. We are struggling for land and housing as a vital step towards the restoration of our dignity and the recognition of our equality. We have been severely punished by those who want to keep us in our place and we have faced serious repression.

When we have come under attack we have received solidarity from across the world – from Auckland to Istanbul, Nairobi, London and New York. We have stood with comrades facing repression in places like Haiti and Palestine. Today we stand with our comrades in Turkey and with all Turkish democrats.

Many loyal Republicans opposed impeaching George W. Bush. So did most liberal and progressive activist groups, labor unions, peace organizations, churches, media outlets, journalists, pundits, organizers, and bloggers, not to mention most Democratic members of Congress, most Democrats dreaming of someday being in Congress, and -- toward the end of the Bush presidency -- most supporters of candidate Barack Obama or candidate Hillary Clinton.

Remarkably in the face of this opposition, a large percentage and often a majority of Americans told pollsters that Bush should be impeached. It's not clear, however, that everyone understood why impeachment was needed. Some might have supported a successful impeachment of Bush and then turned around and tolerated identical crimes and abuses by a Democrat, assuming a Democrat managed to engage in them. But this is the point: whoever followed Bush's impeachment would have been far less likely to repeat and expand on his tyrannical policies.

If you are interested in finding solutions to the War on Drugs, you will want to take a look at the Organization of American States document titled Scenarios for the Drug Problem in the Americas [pdf]. It is the result of the 6th Summit of the Americas in Cartagena de Indias of 2012, where, although Obama steadfastly refused to consider any changes in US drug policy, alternatives to the Drug War were brought to the table in a historic discussion between leaders of Western Hemisphere nations.

The participants mandated the production of two documents, the first being an analysis of the current drug problem [pdf]. The other is more intriguing, envisioning different scenarios that could unfold. This creative approach brought together a diverse team of individuals in fields ranging from security and justice to health, education, business, politics, and indigenous cultures. Their purpose: To generate relevant and credible fictions "intended to support an open and constructive search for answers to core questions of drug policy and strategy." The idea is to initiate informed debate without the political hazard of tying anyone to any particular policy position.