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.

Joshua Hagler is a self-taught artist, but one would not readily suspect that due to his academic prowess and brilliance. Hagler's work presents subject matter that is visually lush and lyrical. And from a safe distance, his color-filled paintings hang on the wall like innocuous eye candy. As the viewer comes closer, however, each piece explodes and morphs into a radical discourse on philosophy and religion, simultaneously challenging the fact and fiction of American history.

Hagler is based in Oakland, California, and in the following interview he talks about the roots of his work, and the mind space from which he creates.

Mar 07

Does mediation make you more liberal?

By Richard Schiffman, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

There have been some fascinating studies about the effects of meditation. Buddhist monks and Trappist friars have been hooked up to EEG machines to record subtle changes in their brainwaves during their spiritual practices. Scores of clinical trials have also been conducted to assess the impact of meditation and prayer on physiological processes ranging from blood pressure and immune system response to recovery rates from surgery. There have even been controversial studies which purport to show that the practice of Transcendental Meditation lowers crime rates when a critical mass of meditators become active in a community.

But scientists have not explored the impact of meditation on that most un-meditative of all disciplines - politics - until now.

Yesterday, two holdout vulture funds, including Paul Singer's NML Capital, were in a New York Federal court versus Argentina. The Financial Times has dubbed the proceeding the "'the trial of the century' in sovereign debt restructuring." After the hearing, judges at the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that will issue their ruling in the coming weeks.

Jubilee USA Network is bringing attention to the effect that this case could have on poor countries: "If these vulture hedge funds win, it will mean they will more aggressively target poor countries in fragile financial recovery. If we win, it will mean that it will be harder for vulture funds to target the monies that develop social infrastructure in many poor countries," said Eric LeCompte, Jubilee USA Network's Executive Director.

Mar 07

The Man in the Red Beret

By Peter McLaren, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The historical debates surrounding the legacy of Hugo Chavez have begun. Perhaps one day I will join these debates. But not now. Attacks on Chavez "the dictator" or Chavez the charismatic "opponent" of the United States will demand from the left a spirited defense. Perhaps I will join such an effort in the months and years ahead. But not now. In this brief space I want to speak about Hugo Chavez as a leader who inspired a generation to believe that an alternative to capitalism could be fashioned from a reinvention of the state by the popular majorities.

The popularity of Chavez had a world-historical reach and it would not be a mistake to analyze his charismatic leadership in the context of a personality cult like that of Fidel, Che, or Subcommandante Marcos, for instance. To do this is not to diminish the importance of his role as a figure that could galvanize millions on the left and animate their faith that a more humane alternative to capitalism was a possibility, once the battle against US imperialism was won.

Mar 06

Is The "War On Terror" Worth The Price?

By Dennis Trainor Jr, AcronymTV | Video

As the sequester kicks in, automatic cuts will kick in across the board- including cuts to the defense budget. However, when one considers how completely out of whack our defense budget is in the post 9/11 age of perpetual war, the cuts will still leave us with a military budget that dwarfs all other countries- combined.

The Washington Post's Ezra Klein breaks it down this way:

Over the past decade, we've been at war. And our spending went way up.

For the second time in six months, former DEA heads have collaborated to urge Attorney General Eric Holder to oppose state-level efforts to tax and regulate marijuana. Today, they sent a letter to Holder calling on him to block implementation of new laws in Colorado and Washington. Holder will appear tomorrow before a U.S. Senate judiciary committee hearing.

The ex-DEA directors sent a similar letter to Holder back in September, urging him to speak out against the marijuana legalization initiatives in Colorado and Washington, as he had done before the California legalization initiative in October 2010.  The White House and attorney general chose instead to remain silent, allowing citizens in those states to vote without the threat of federal obstruction.

Mar 06

Parties to Genocide

By DH Garrett, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

One would think that that a certain troubled country seeking absolute security from the possibility of a terrorist attack - by trashing its constitution and giving its president the power to execute at will, breaking its own laws with illegal wars and the use of torture, abandoning all but the pretense of protecting civil liberties and human rights - that such a country would at least have found a modicum of hard-security peace. In fact, of course, like anaphylactic shock, this country's overreaction to the tragic lashing out of a few individuals driven to desperation by yes, this same country's previous intrusive overreactions (in supporting dictators, despots, thugs, etc.) has simply ramped up the level of carnage and extremism: all in support of yet higher levels of feedback-howl paranoia.

The Department of Energy has said they may start allowing radioactive waste metals to be reenter the consumer market. But that's okay, what could possibly be near your belt buckle that you wouldn't want to be radioactive?? Source article here.

My primary identity is nerd, but my moon is in geek and I have a dork ascendant. These days, everyone wants to be a geek. They want the pseudo-geek chic lifestyle, complete with thick framed glasses, a passing familiarity with comic books and science fiction, and last but not least, more money in the tech industry. Or maybe they want to spice up their OKCupid profile with Neil Gaiman references in the hopes of snagging someone in the tech industry. But whatever way you look at it, geek is now mainstream.

The first-ever analysis of the taxpayer-subsidy to the Wall Street mega-banks finds that this subsidy accounts for virtually all their profits. Applying figures from a path-breaking study by two IMF economists, Bloomberg News has calculated that the annual subsidy received by America's mega-banks, from our Government's special treatment of them as "Systemically Important Financial Institutions" (i.e., fully guaranteed by U.S. taxpayers, irrespective of the normal $250,000-per-account limit in savings and checking accounts), is $83 billion, of which $64 billion goes to just the five largest banks.