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.

I arrived in Athens on Christmas Day in the afternoon. As we strolled through the muted streets of Exarcheia, the Athenian neighborhood considered by residents and authorities alike to be the heart of Greek resistance, my friend and guide, Mo, lamented the unusual calm blanketing the city.

He said he was worried I would not experience the "real" Athens. Then he quickly amended himself: his principal concern was to bring across that there is no "real" Athens; events of the last four years have caused both onlookers and participants to fetishize the Greek experience in distinctly unhelpful ways. "It's complicated" was an oft-heard refrain throughout my visit.

Jan 22

Exterminating Shia Bedbugs

By Shahid Mahmood, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Years ago, in an airport in the Middle East I struck-up a conversation with an Arab while we waited for our connecting flights. In our ensuing conversation he made many references to a minority group in his country called "rafidah.". I had never heard of the term and asked him about it. He told me, that in Arabic, "rafidah" refers to someone who has defected – someone who rejects rightful leadership. It was apparent this was a depreciatory term for Shias living and working in the region.

Jan 22

Confessions of a Juiced Journalist

By Walter Brasch, Wanderings | Op-Ed

Before Congress creates yet another useless special investigation committee and subpoenas me, I wish to come clean and confess.

I took steroids. Strong steroids. The kind that bulk you up and make you look like Stone Mountain. In my case, they just fattened me up, gave me rosy-red cheeks, and destroyed about half of my systems.

The first time I took steroids was for a year when I was a high school freshman. My physician prescribed it. Its side effects were that I didn't have to worry about acne or my voice changing. The last time I took steroids was about a decade ago. For the first four or five months of what would be almost two years, it was a heavy dose. My hematologist said the drugs helped save my life. They also saved my writing career.

Dominion Virginia Power has informed environmental groups that the company has reached a tentative agreement with Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to support legislation that would effectively repeal the state's signature clean energy law. The move, environmentalists said, would not only harm the environment but also represents a de facto admission of guilt by Dominion. The company has already accepted $77 million from ratepayers without making the clean energy investments that the General Assembly first intended with its original 2007 law.

Jan 17

Why Unions Are Different

By Alan Grayson, SpeakOut | Op-Ed
When I was elected to Congress in 2008, I asked to join the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). Why? Because I was a government employee. The AFGE negotiates benefits for government employees, including me. If I were going to benefit from that, I felt that I should pay my dues. I'm not the "free rider" type.
I was told that this was an unusual request. In fact, no one could remember any Member of Congress making that request before. That didn't bother me in the least. I joined the AFGE, and paid my dues.
There is another, deeper reason why I wanted to join the union: I don't see a lot of other organizations fighting for the common good.

On December 8, 2012, Joseph Loughrey accidentally shot and killed his 7-year-old son, Craig, in the parking lot of a Pennsylvania gun store. On December 11, bullets fired by Jacob Roberts took the lives of Cindy Yuille and Steven Forsyth in an Oregon mall. Many were likely spared when his weapon jammed. Three days later, at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, CT, it was Adam Lanza's turn. His gun worked perfectly.

Three moments in time during one, agonizing week in America. Thirty-two people dead. Twenty-one of them children. And one, inescapable conclusion.

None of us should own a gun.


Jan 17

Let's Nationalize the Federal Reserve

By Andre Lopes Massa, The Nolan Chart | News Analysis

Have you ever wondered where the money in your wallet really comes from? Have you ever wondered what really gives money its value? Since 1913, the Federal Reserve System has been in charge of managing the money supply. Despite the intense criticism it has come under in recent years, our friends at the Fed have actually done well recently. Racking in profits of up to $77.4 billion in profit in 2011, our neighborhood friendly central bank has done what it's supposed to do; maintain price stability and set us on the path to achieving maximum employment. Recent statistics shows that core prices have only risen by 1.4 percent this past year, below the Fed's target of 2 percent, while Mr. Ben Bernanke, despite former House Speaker Newt Gingrich calling him the "most inflationary chairman ever", has actually kept inflation at a mere 2.3 percent per year, the second lowest out of the last six chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

"White America's still playing cowboys and Indians with the indigenous people," Canupa Gluha Mani says.

It's a hauntingly accurate way of putting the situation, and just one of the striking lines from the official trailer of Red Cry, a documentary movie about the genocide of indigenous people in America.

The film was created by the Strong Heart Lakota Solidarity Project of which Canupa Gluha Mani is the headman.

First a glance at long-past history – at the American hero Friedrich Wilhelm Augustin von Steuben, known as Baron Steuben. In many ways he was really a phony. His noble title and rank as "Prussian Lieutenant General" were inventions; he had really been dropped from Friedrich the Great's army as a lowly captain. That he was probably gay may have made things tougher. But with the help and advice of Benjamin Franklin in Paris and a stunning general's uniform from Franklin's tailor he was able to impress George Washington and other top officers - and when he got to America, Steuben proved his mettle; amidst the freezing huts and tents at Valley Forge he played a major part in forging a disciplined, fighting and victorious revolutionary army. You can see a statue of him in Magdeburg, where he was born.

John Brennan has been tapped the head the CIA. "Tapped" is an appropriate word because he LOVES tapping your phone. He also loves some other things. Let's go through the list.