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.

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.

Acronym TV host Dennis Trainor, Jr interview journalist Kevin Gosztola to discuss the first week of the Bradley Manning trial.

"We have to be clear that the cables we not top secret documents," Chris Hedges points out in a promotional video published by the Bradley Manning support network (shown in part here) and Matt Taibbi reminds us that "the whole concept of whistleblower law is that you can't get in trouble for reporting about illegal or improper activity."

Jun 10

CitiBank and Space Discrimination

By Duncan Meisel, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

As CitiBike has launched in parts of New York City, public attention has focused on certain manifestations of public backlash, usually in the form of NIMBY distaste for the bike stations on particular blocks, and general grumpiness about the role of cycling in the future of New York City transportation.

Alongside this public-facing displeasure has emerged a more profound series of critiques that have gone largely unmentioned by the press, or the city's established transportation advocacy organizations and their allies in government.

The first issue cuts to the heart of the promise of a bike-friendly green economy, and should (nominally) speak to the organizations at the center of New York's progressive coalition -- wage theft. Alta, the company hired to install and run CitiBike has engaged in deceptive and manipulative labor practices in the operation of its bike share program in Washington DC.

Dear Senator Feinstein:

On Thursday, when you responded to news about massive ongoing surveillance of phone records of people in the United States, you slipped past the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. As the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, you seem to be in the habit of treating the Bill of Rights as merely advisory.

The Constitution doesn’t get any better than this: 

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Today's NYT editorial, "President Obama's Dragnet,' which condemns Obama's routine collection of data on all phone calls that Americans make, is followed on the NYT web site with an insightful comment, by a "Scott W" in Chapel Hill, NC:

"Scott W Chapel Hill, NC In the end, this has nothing to do with preventing terrorism, but is a paranoid government's attempt to control a society destined to revolt against increasing inequality. The "bad guys" are ALL of us and that is why we all are being spied on. Every last legislator, and executive branch member who supports this terrorism on our right to privacy should be thrown out of office, if not ultimately prosecuted. June 7, 2013 at 6:50 a.m"

Jun 07

Violence: Floods, Drones and Cops

By Victor Grossman, Berlin Bulletin | Op-Ed

There is almost too much to write about from Berlin! To start off, the uncanny disappearance of 1.5 million residents of Germany, missing since the last census over 20 years ago. Instead of 81.7 million people there are only 80.2 million (of whom 6.2 million, or 7.7 percent, were not German citizens). You may ask "Who cares?" One answer: hard-hit Berlin, where 400,000 are unaccounted for, and which will now lose millions of euros in subsidies from the European Union and richer German states.

Then there are those deadly killing machines, the drones, which Obama is trying so hard to justify. Germany's Thomas de Maiziere is in a worse bind: his Defense Department wasted $ 650,000,000 dollars on Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk drone, renaming it the Euro Hawk. It may soon be called the Euro Vulture, since his project is a cadaver: his drones, lacking an anti-collision system, are officially banned in Europe, and unless Herr Minister can do some skillful maneuvering, Merkel may have to drop him from her cabinet – just a few months before the big election. Of course, Northrup Grumman will hardly drop from its double digit billion domain, nor will Germany's arms ranking greatly suffer; it remains the world's third biggest weapons exporter.

David "Deacon" Jones died today. Unless you followed football in the 1970s, you probably never heard of him. I vaguely remember him and his Los Angeles Rams teammates Rosey Grier, Lamar Lundy and Merlin Olsen. As I listened to the news about his death today, the reporter highlighted a statement Jones made during his acceptance speech during his 1980 Hall of Fame induction. Now here was a man who devoted his career to an arguably violent sport, to inflicting pain and suffering on his opponents, in other words, his life was about violence. So when I heard what he said, it really caught me off guard, yet in an instant I knew what he spoke was truth, from his inner knowing. He said in that 1980 speech "Violence in its many forms is an involuntary quest for identity. When our identity is in danger, we feel certain that we have a mandate for war."

How profound is that? Violence is a quest for identity. And I will add for respect, meaning, and recognition. How many times has my own identity felt threatened to where I have lashed out, maybe not in physical violence but at least with violent words, spewing venom and anger?

Jun 06

Rabbits, Holes & Child Abduction

By Patrick Glynn, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Throughout US history, we have wronged people, identified the problem and in time corrected it. Slavery and prison camps are joined by a modern epidemic: Wrongfully stripping children from parents. I am not speaking of grey areas where someone with heavy criminal activity and drug use gets limited visitation. In many instances, the parent being stripped is very much the polar opposite – the parent better suited to love and nurture the children.

Parents who optimistically get dragged into the court system by ex-spouses find themselves squashed by aggressive counterparts who often win in the name of the kids.

In simplest terms, a divorcing parent who can find any means of stripping a child from the other parent through the legal system including bribing or intimidating the child, gets financially rewarded.