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.

Self-immolation isn't what it used to be.

This ultimate form of protest became global news in 1963 when the venerable monk Thich Quang Duc set himself ablaze in the middle of Saigon, Vietnam, protesting religious oppression. Doused in gasoline, the monk sat serenely in lotus position and lit a match. A bird of paradise thus blossomed and bloomed, and quickly charred his body.

The photographer Malcolm Browne captured Thich Quang Duc's fiery renouncement of the mortal coil, the image quickly becoming an icon of the Vietnam War era. The term "self-immolation," in fact, entered into common English usage after his death, which led to a coup d'etat that toppled the pro-Catholic Ngo Dinh Diem regime.

A Guatemalan court has ordered a criminal investigation of all others involved in the Rios Montt crimes.

It won't be easy. Prosecutors and judges will be risking their careers and lives. Witnesses will know that they might die if they come forward to give evidence.

But Guatemalans have already shown great courage in advancing the Rios Montt case. It's time for Americans to do the same and convene a US grand jury on Guatemala.

US prosecutors could aid law enforcement in two fundamental ways: first, with information and second, if warranted, with indictments.

The September 2012 strike of 26,000-plus Chicago teachers -- organized by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) -- was undeniably one of the most significant labor struggles in decades.

What was at stake was not only the working conditions of Chicago teachers but also their job security and preservation of their union. Moreover, the teachers were fighting for the survival of public education in the face of the campaign waged by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago School Board to charterize and privatize the nation's school system -- a plan laid out by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, formerly the head of the Chicago public school system.

Under this plan, "failing schools" would be closed and turned over to private interests or made charter schools employing non-union teachers and free from state supervision.

May 20

The Worst Crimes in UK history

By Jim McCluskey, SpeakOut | News Analysis

In a time of peace, the West is permanently at war. Massive standing armies are continuously fed their natural fare. And, incredibly, the myth of the UK being a peace-loving country is sustained by "liberal" media that endlessly regurgitate the spurious justifications of the political elite. There are currently only two states on the planet which routinely attack other sovereign states and yet the UK and the US persist in seeing themselves as on the side of righteousness and peace.

John McDonnell is an outstanding member of parliament who tells it as it is; together with Annie Machon (former MI5 officer) and Chris Coverdale (of "Make war history") they held a press conference on 23 April, 2013, under the heading "Accounting for War."

May 20

Sometimes They Should See You Perspire

By Lee R. Haven, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

"I say they should keep the Confederate soldiers there and I'm from the North."
I'd heard Susie (not her real name) say she was from Pennsylvania and she gave her age as late fifty-something. She was the lone white person in the work area that day--- among, including me, the some four or five blacks about---and she was responding to a story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the local daily, about how some people were upset about the laser-light patriotic shows at Stone MountainPark. The shows, you see, feature images of Rebel soldier-heroes carved on a side of the mountain to accompany the fireworks and twangy jingoistic numbers. The artwork is rather impressive, but it's still a commemoration of Robert E. Lee and the boys. I saw the show twice, both times with family that included my grandchildren. The first time, many moons ago, I thought I was at a Klan rally, or how I imaged one would be. It wasn't so bad the second time---someone must have convinced me things had improved---but it was still a celebration of a time and a people not kind to blacks.

"It's history," Susie continued, pressing her case, "and how are you gonna deny history? If it happened, it happened. Let them celebrate it."

Today, the Green Shadow Cabinet sent President Obama and others in the administration a report that recommends the federal government respect democracy and federalism by allowing implementation of laws that would regulate and tax marijuana in Washington and Colorado, as well as laws in 18 states and the District of Columbia that allow its medical use.

In a letter to President Obama, Jill Stein, MD the president of the Green Shadow Cabinet wrote: "More than 3 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges, approximately 90 people per hour, since you became president," and urged President Obama to follow the lead of voters writing "The people are providing you a path out of the marijuana war quagmire." She also highlighted the racial unfairness of the marijuana laws saying "unfair enforcement practices exacerbate racial divisions at a time when the United States should be taking steps to heal these wounds and end racism."

What's extraordinary about the brewing controversy over the Internal Revenue Service's review of Tea Party groups' application for tax-free status is that the Obama administration enjoys the flagellation, the groveling, the humiliation. What's striking about the scandal over the Justice Department's seizure of two months worth of Associated Press reporters' phone records is that the administration enjoys inflicting pain, tightening the screws on the press and paddling the Constitution. This is governance as sadomasochism.
Obama and team play both dominant and submissive. On most issues most days, the administration cowers before its masters in the Republican Party and the conservative media. Bold progressive policy? Exciting new initiative? Sharp break with the lawlessness of the past? Not a chance. The more important the matter, the more central to peace or social justice, the more certain it is that Obama trims sails, pulls punches, and retreats rather than advances. Should one detect, however, the slightest whiff of whistleblower-inspired transparency on defense or foreign policy, moments for example when the War on Terror is exposed as, or when an agency is caught doing its job, the dungeon door slams shut on the offender. Even the use of universally recognized safewords, old-fashioned phrases like freedom of the press, or the peoples' right to know, will not reopen it.

May 20

Hit and Stay

By David Swanson, War is a Crime | Op-Ed

The CIA has been so busy consulting on Zero Dark Thirty, not to mention funding Hamid Karzai, bribing Russians, lying about weapons, and conducting humanitarian drone murders, that it didn't have any time at all to help out withHit and Stay, and yet arguably the latter turned out to be the better film despite such a severe handicap. You can check it out at

This is a film about people taking risks to prevent killing rather than to engage in it. The focus is on the Catonsville Nine action on May 17, 1968, 45 years ago this Friday. That action, in which activists burned draft cards and apologized for burning papers rather than children, was preceded by the Baltimore Four action of October 27, 1967, in which four activists poured their blood on draft papers. It was followed by countless other actions, leading right up to the Transform Plowshares action in Tennessee for which three are currently awaiting sentencing.

Adobe Systems Incorporated recently announced that it will soon exit the software business—meaning all of Adobe's current software applications will be moved completely to the cloud—potentially holding hostage the artistic and intellectual property of an end user should one lapse in payment of monthly fees.

For more than a decade, it's been an open secret that Adobe has a monopoly on many, if not most, of the first-choice tools for digital creativity, and creatives everywhere have allowed the company that great privilege of power. Adobe now seems to interpret that power as divine right, but the earthquake of Adobe's heavy handedness has triggered a tsunami that now threatens to capsize its long-standing and cozy relationship with a worldwide legion of artists and photographers, graphic designers, filmmakers and illustrators, who are showing resentment and resistance, and a willingness to put up a global fight against this corporate friend.

As the hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay approach their 100th day of refusing to eat this Friday, May 17, we urge President Obama to take specific steps now to release or transfer prisoners and close the prison.

More than 100 of the 166 prisoners at Guantanamo are participating in a hunger strike. More than two-dozen are being brutally force fed. We join with those throughout the United States and world calling for their release or transfer and ending the injustice of indefinite detention without trial. We also call for the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison which has become a human rights embarrassment to the Obama administration and the United States.