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.

Feb 05

Drones Are a Local Issue

By David Swanson, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

No city is an island, Entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.

I write from Charlottesville, Va., but am hopeful that this message applies to your city, town, or county as well.

In the absence of state or federal laws, localities around the United States are proceeding to put unmanned aerial vehicles in our skies as they see fit.  The federal government has authorized the flight of 30,000 drones, and the use of drones up to 400 feet by police departments, at least 300 of which already have surveillance drones in operation.

Feb 05

Humpty Dumpty Constitutionalism

By Alan Grayson, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

A few days ago, I pointed out that the House Republicans' five-page bill to raise the debt ceiling offends two different provisions in the Constitution. I wish this were an isolated instance. It's not.

Most House Republicans are Tea Partiers, and Tea Partiers are in love with three things:

(1) those three-sided felt hats,

(2) those overly snug vests with lots and lots of brass buttons, and

(3) calling themselves "constitutional conservatives."

It is with the utmost sadness that I comment on the passing of Ed Koch, and I wish only "All the best"—Ed's noted phrase—to his family, devoted staff, and friends. The only answer now to his legendary "How'm I doing?" question he asked almost everyone on the street he met him is, "Ed, you did great."

Ed was candid, funny, studious, and mission driven. His conversations with Bella Abzug were legendary. You could hear Bella's screech over the phone in the next room, where we the staff were, while Ed would calmly ask her, before Ed himself ran for Mayor, "Bella, how is it sexist for me to support another woman, Bess Myerson, for Mayor?" (Bella was also running). It was a case of two liberals locking horns. Ed considered himself a practical liberal; Bella would take positions regardless of the likelihood of success.

Farmers in India are killing themselves every time they take a sip of water. Learn more with Lee Camp in this week's Moment of Clarity.

In light of confirmation hearings beginning today for Senator Chuck Hagel to be President Obama’s next Secretary of Defense, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued the following statement:

In 2005, Senator Hagel publicly opposed the prison at Guantánamo, stating that it was one reason why the United States was “losing the image war around the world.” As the next Defense Secretary, he will be directly responsible for overseeing Guantanamo’s closure and will have the opportunity to fulfill the promise President Obama made to citizens here and abroad, to end this shameful chapter in our history. The Senate Armed Services Committee should seize this occasion to press Senator Hagel to reaffirm his commitment to shutter the prison once and for all. 

Once again the corporate mass media got the story wrong. The headlines across the country were that occupiers in New York came from households with incomes of over $100,000. The movement writer for The Nation, Allison Kilkenny, interviewed one of the researchers who points out that a lot of these were young people earning under $15,000 per year who were still in school and living with their parents.

The most important takeaway from the researcher's point of view:

"The takeaway for me is that this is part of an arch of social movement activity that built on previous work, and is building into continuing work."

That struck us because we are working with political activists and occupiers across the country to develop a strategy to reach a more effective level of advocacy for transformation to a peaceful, just and sustainable society.

"There are a lot of crazy bastards out there with Ar-15s. I'll be ready if they come after me."……..My Neighbor, Your Neighbor, and Your Neighbor's Neighbor

 The ongoing explosion in assault weapon purchases is fueled by a nation-wide "positive feedback" reaction. We are in a Republican engineered surreptitious Second Civil War. Three related factors are demonstrably responsible for the explosion in purchases of assault rifles, 1) hatred of the first black president, 2) fear that the Connecticut massacre of small children will allow Obama to ban future sales of assault weapons and ammunition, and 3) the fear of many law abiding citizens that assault weapons are the only thing that will be effective in protecting them against similar weapons held by their lunatic neighbors.

Feb 01

Perfunctory and Fading Black History Month

By Gwen Y Fortune, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

February is the official American celebration of the story of the lives and stories of millions of people captured and held in bondage during the invasions of the American hemisphere by Europeans until today. Sleep is not the most dependable ally of the aging, unlike the infant, who awakens wet and hungry. US octogenarians are leaving, "dropping like flies." Daily, more octogenarian do not awaken and those who do wonder, was it in vain?

New generations have come and continue: Gen X, Y, and Z. Will a new alphabet appear when we run out of the Phoenician twenty-six? The world has become one of equivalents to "Cliff's Notes," a shorthand of two digits-x/o or 1/2. What will be the next to mark the momentum of progress?

Feb 01

Is the US #1, or #What?

By Eric Zuesse, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The latest annual ranking of 144 countries, on a wide range of factors related to global economic competitiveness, is "The Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013," by the World Economic Forum. Their research includes some stunning findings.

On each of their many rankings, #1 represents the best nation, and #144 represents the worst nation.

The U.S. ranks as #1 on only 4 out of the 117 different factors that are rated, and each of these 4 factors concern merely the sheer size, the hugeness, of the U.S. economy. These four factors might thus collectively be identified as Hugeness: "GDP," "GDP as a Share of World GDP," "Available Airline Seat Kilometers," and "Domestic Market Size Index." Other than Hugeness, the results for the U.S. are not at all outstanding.

The PBS Nova broadcast "Rise of the Drones" was sponsored by drone manufacturer Lockheed Martin--a clear violation of PBS's underwriting guidelines.

As Kevin Gosztola reported (FireDogLake, 1/24/13), the January 23 broadcast was a mostly upbeat look at surveillance and weaponized drones. "Discover the cutting edge technologies that are propelling us toward a new chapter in aviation history," PBS urged, promising to reveal "the amazing technologies that make drones so powerful."