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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.

Nov 14

A Culture of Walls

By Lawrence Davidson, Intifada Palestine | News Analysis

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced his government’s intention to construct another “separation barrier” - a large fortified wall or fence referred to by Palestinians as an apartheid wall – “between the West Bank and Jordan after completing walls on the Egyptian and Syrian borders.” Netanyahu is doing this for a variety of reasons, such as to keep Arab and other non-Jewish refugees from coming into Israel and, in the case of the West bank – Jordan wall, to symbolize Israel’s ongoing control of the area.

The original Zionist rationale for the state of Israel was that it would serve as a place of safety for the world’s Jews as anti-Semitism played out its allegedly inevitable horrid destiny. Well, the problem today is that the policies of Israel are the major motivators of worldwide anti-Semitism, and because of these same policies, there is no place in the world more potentially dangerous for Jews than Israel. Thus the Israeli fondness for walls. It may very well be that when all of this wall construction is finished, Israel will look like the world’s largest ghetto.

For political animals like us in Detroit, it is important to reflect before heading back into battle, or worse, retreating. I read with interest the analysis of Chokwe Lumumba's victory in Jackson, Mississippi. A son of Detroit, he was at the pulpit at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church for a rally for Benny Napoleon on the Fridayevening before the Detroit mayoral elections. I attended, at the last possible minute, the "Thousand Women for Benny" event at the urging of Helen Moore. The music was inspiring and a lot of Detroit's who's who who had not taken the money were there. Some who had taken the Duggan money were there. But there was a clear understanding of what was at stake. Having been part of the recount of the primary election out of sheer curiosity, I was certain that the election was a done deal, even the Friday before. But I could not help but admire the faith of the crowd. They were hopeful, but I did have the sense that we all knew the fix was in.

Polling shows Bachelet with a significant lead over her closest competitor, Evelyn Matthei. The two women share a history in Chile's tragic past when the democratically elected Salvador Allende was overthrown in a bloody coup that the U.S. supported and helped to plan. Michelle Bachelet's father, Gen. Alberto Bachelet, who was loyal to President Allende and the Chilean constitution and rule of law, was arrested by Augusto Pinochet on September 11 1973, the first 9/11. He was tortured while in prison by the junta and died in prison in 1974. Michelle Bachelet and her mother Angela Jeria were also arrested and imprisoned for two weeks before going into exile. Both had been tortured while in custody.

Even before the Budget Control Act of 2011, thousands of programs that rely on non-defense discretionary (NDD) federal funding, including those that serve victims of domestic violence, had their budgets sharply cut. A new report released today by NDD United shows how millions of Americans are being hurt in the process.

"These continued cuts mean that thousands of victims fleeing violence are not able to find emergency shelter, crisis intervention, and other critical services they need to escape and heal," said Kim Gandy, President and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic violence (NNEDV). "These are lifesaving services for crime victims who are already in a terrible situation-and there aren't alternatives."

Nov 13

Stifling Activism, the Bureaucratic Way

By Laura Finley, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

I am writing and raging. Raging because I am tired, oh so tired, of my activism being repressed or limited by bureaucratic minutia and ridiculous protocol. I am even more upset at the ways bureaucracy stifles my students who, because they are informed and outraged, want to act and are told they can't, or can only under certain conditions...blah, blah, blah.

I am coming to realize that this squelching of real activism happens on so many fronts, even those we typically associate with freedom to assembly and expression. As a college professor, I have witnessed the difficulty of enacting a true mission for social justice because, any time we get "too controversial," we might alienate a donor, future donor, or other bureaucratic big-wig. Thus final approval for activism, it seems, must come from, of all places, a division devoted to making money for the institution, not one devoted to its mission or to the empowerment of students as leaders.

In his book, The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson writes: "I was told by some New Zealand sheep farmers that sometimes a particularly smart lamb will learn to undo the latch of a gate, evidently not an uncommon skill, and the sheep farmer then worries that the lamb might teach his less clever companions to do the same."

Masson asked a group of farmers, "What do you with sheep who can undo the latch?"

"We shoot them," came the reply, "so they can't pass on their knowledge."

I wrote this song, "Privatize Everything," back in 2000. The song was meant as political satire, but unfortunately, many of these lyrics have already become reality in recent years, as evidenced by the federal "catch shares" program, the state's fake "marine protected areas," the Obama administration's tentative approval of Frankenfish and the state-federal Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the twin tunnels.

Catch Shares - The oceans are being privatized under the Obama administration's "catch shares" program that concentrates ocean fisheries in fewer, increasingly corporate hands.

On November 19, people in the city of Albuquerque will vote on whether to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The very fact that a fundamental right of women – the right to abortion at whatever point in her pregnancy and for whatever reason she decides – can be put up for a vote is entirely illegitimate and reveals something profoundly wrong with the system that rules over us. It is yet another indication as to why the courts and the official political process in this country cannot be relied upon to protect the rights of women, or of any other oppressed group.

Family farm and consumer advocates have been working for weeks to ensure meaningful public comment on the FDA's proposed food safety rules. Now the government website that serves as a portal for the public's comments on food safety is offline, out-of-service, or even refusing to accept comments.

"This is potentially disenfranchising thousands of farmers and consumers, and is flat-out unacceptable," says Will Fantle, Codirector of the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute. "We have been working for months, as have many other organizations across the country, to raise public awareness of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the proposed rules developed to implement it. With the public comment period set to close on November 15, we have received numerous reports from our members that they cannot send in timely comments because the portal for doing so, regulations.gov, is not working."

The Saint Paul Federation of Teachers is in one of the most important struggles to defend public education and have taken one of the boldest stances against standardized testing in the country. While the state mandates that students take the MCA standardized test, the SPFT—with the support of their many parent and community allies—know that it is a waste of time and resources and are attempting to bargain it out of their contract.