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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.

Mar 05

Time For UN to Open Up Dialogue on Drug Policy Reform

By Staff, Transnational Institute and the Global Drug Policy Observatory | Press Release

As the UN International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) launches its annual report on Tuesday, 4 March, amidst an unprecedented crisis in the international drug control regime, leading drug policy reform experts have called on the INCB and related UN institutions to urgentlyopen up a constructive dialogue on international drug policy reform.

Approval of legally regulated cannabis markets in the states of Colorado and Washington and in Uruguay have caused breaches in the UN drug control regime and shakes the foundations of the prohibitionist“Vienna consensus” that has dominated international drug policy for several decades.

Mar 05

Netanyahu's Games

By Dr James J Zogby, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu never tires of inventing new hoops through which he insists Palestinians jump. As he acknowledged a few weeks back, it's all part of a cynicalgame that he plays in an effort to kill the chances for peace.

First, he insisted on the need to maintain Israeli control over the Jordan Valley. Next came his pledge that he would not "uproot a single Israeli" from West Bank settlements, so that in addition to forcing Palestinians to accept Israel's annexation of whatever West Bank settlements are deemed  "new realities", the Palestinians would also have to swallow the "right" of settlers to remain in their settlements after peace. Throw into this mix, Netanyahu's insistence that there be no Palestinian capitol in Jerusalem, and the object of his "game" becomes clear: set up demands and conditions so onerous and obnoxious that the Palestinians will have to say "no", thereby appearing to be the obstacle to peace.

I don’t often go to academic conferences. My general opinion is that at their best, sitting in a windowless room all day listening to people talk about their papers is mildly boring—even when the papers themselves are good. And it takes a lot to justify my spending a night away from my family.

Despite that, a little over a year ago I attended a conference at George Washington University on The Political Economy of Financial Regulation. I went partly because my school’s Insurance Law Center was one of the organizers, partly because there was a star-studded lineup (Staney Sporkin, Frank Partnoy, Michael Barr, Anat Admati, Robert Jenkins, Robert Frank, Joe Stiglitz (who ended up not showing), James Cox, and others, not to mention Simon), and partly because I have friends in family in DC whom I could see. It was one of the best conferences I’ve been to, both for the quality of the ideas and the relatively non-soporific nature of the proceedings.

A wide-ranging coalition of Bay Area activists will converge at Oscar Grant Plaza this Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 from roughly 6pm onward, to speak out against Oakland City Council's plan to approve Schneider Electric as the contractor for Phase II of construction of the proposed Oakland Police Department’s surveillance hub, the Domain Awareness Center (DAC). If Schneider Electric is approved, this would be the final vote before construction would continue on the DAC. Activists are braced for this possibility and are ready to launch a lawsuit against City Council to halt construction, based on civil liberties violations and noncompliance with the city’s own contracting policies, including its Nuclear Free Zone Ordinance.

Social geography is the study of how landscape, climate, and other features of a place shape the livelihoods, values, and cultural traditions of its inhabitants (and vice versa). Frenchman Elisée Reclus (1830 – 1905), a progenitor of the discipline, believed strongly in the rights and abilities of people to manage themselves in relation to their local bioregion, free from rule by a remote, centralized government. His approach to anarchy was unique in its emphasis on the environment – Reclus understood that a mindset that encourages one person or people’s domination over another must, in the race to profit from natural “resources”, also foster domination over nature. Like the social ecologists who have succeeded him, Reclus believed that solutions to ecological crises must involve restoring balance, equality, and a sense of interrelationship between humans and other humans, and between humans and the biosphere.

Mar 04

Quick Thoughts on the Oscars

By William J Astore, Contrary Perspective | Op-Ed

I love movies but I can’t say that I love Hollywood.  My wife and I sat through the interminable Academy Awards last night; we should have received an Oscar for patience.  What amazes me is the lack of thanks the winners express to movie-goers.  You know: the little people who shell out $12 or more a ticket to see roughly two hours of often mediocre entertainment.  Instead of thanking the fans, most Oscar winners celebrate themselves (with perhaps a nod toward their fellow nominees) while thanking their publicists, their agents, various power-brokers in the industry, and so on.

Mar 04

Military Veteran Professor Analyzes and Criticizes New DoD Budget

By Brian J. Trautman, SpeakOut | News Analysis

The Pentagon’s budget proposal for next year was announced last week by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. In an interview with The New York Times, Hagel argued that to meet today’s national security needs, the Department of Defense (DoD) must shift its focus and capabilities away from “fighting grinding ground conflicts” and towards “new arenas of combat.” To achieve these ends, the budget calls for a realignment of the military that would reduce the total number of ground troops to its lowest level since 1940 and discontinue some military equipment deemed obsolete or unnecessary. According to Hagel, current levels of both assets are “larger than we can afford to modernize and keep ready.” The proposed budget also includes reductions in personnel benefits and base services, as well as base closings. The targeted cuts, however, are only one aspect of the budget. The other involves the new sources of priority spending.

CreativeResistance.org, a project of PopularResistance.org, launched this week. If you love art, music and poetry and appreciate the work of activist artists; if you grapple with the challenges of societal injustice and environmental destruction and you respond with creativity and imagination, this site has been created for you. The images, music and poetry on CreativeResistance.org are art with a message and a point of view. The human bent toward storytelling, metaphor and illustration is given voice as paint and papier-mâché, guitar and song. Activist art answers back to the oppression and abuse we want to bring to an end.

This is our commons, this realm of creative thought and action, and CreativeResistance.org is a town square. It's a place where grassroots activists and established artists alike display their work. You'll see pictures of giant puppets, videos of music and theater, colorful protest signs and skillfully executed visual art, all with links to artists' websites and action campaigns. A map helps you find art groups near you, and a news page reports on activist artists and their projects.

Mar 04

The Test Boycott Is On!

By Jesse Hagopian, I Am An Educator | Opinion

The testing boycott is official! Today, teachers at Maria Saucedo Elementary Scholastic Academy and Thomas Drummond Elementary School are refusing to distribute the Illinois Standards Achievement Tests (ISAT), even though Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has said they could lose their state certification if they boycott the test.

Why would dedicated teachers--from Seattle to Chicago---add the stress of disciplinary action against them to an already stressful job and refuse to distribute bubble tests to kids? I asked that questions to one of the leaders of the Saucedo boycott, Sarah Chambers.

March 4, 2014, New York – The Supreme Court announced yesterday that it would not hear Center for Constitutional Rights v. Obama, a lawsuit challenging the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance of people within the United States. The suit sought an injunction ordering the government to destroy any records of surveillance that it still retains from the illegal NSA program. 

The Court's decision comes as increasing evidence suggests the government has been surveilling attorney-client communications for some time. The New York Times recently reported that in 2013 the NSA surveilled law firm Mayer Brown while it represented the government of Indonesia in trade talks with the United States. In 2008, The Times reported Justice Department officials had confirmed that attorney-client communications in terrorism cases were sometimes subject to surveillance. And a document accidentally released to an Islamic charity in 2004 indicated that the D.C.-based attorneys for the charity had been subject to surveillance while speaking to their clients.