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.

Two important bills are on the desk of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, waiting to be signed into law. One proposes to bring back the electric chair as the standard method of execution, should lethal injection drugs prove unavailable. The other would allow for criminal assault charges to be brought against women who use illegal narcotics while pregnant, should their drug use result in the death of their fetus or the birth of a child who is "addicted" or otherwise harmed by drugs.

It may seem like there's no relation between these two bills. Or if they are related, it's because they contradict one another: one is pro-death, while the other is pro-life. But since most pro-lifers also support capital punishment, there must be a way of reconciling this apparent contradiction. The narrative goes something like this: The fetus is an innocent life, infinitely valuable, and deserving of state protection at all costs. The prisoner on death row has taken an innocent life and so forfeited his or her own right to life; the state is therefore permitted, and perhaps even morally obligated, to destroy their life for the sake of protecting the innocent. Likewise, when a pregnant woman endangers, or seems to endanger, the life or well-being of her fetus, she joins the ranks of the guilty; the state is entitled, and perhaps even obligated, to punish such women for the sake of protecting innocent life.

Over the past several years Dr. Kaku has risen to fame, frequently appearing on the channel "Science" and related networking. He has penned several popular books, the most recent being "The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind," which spent a couple of weeks on the NYT's bestsellers list in March.

In interviews and presentations Dr. Kaku invariably tends to say something like "Imagine a world where..." and then follows with a banal yet attention-grabbing tidbit about the great strides scientists are making for the sake of our mutual futures. One wonders if the expected reaction is that of the stunned and near-lifeless viewer gazing limply yet fixedly upwards towards the ceiling, weak symbol of the heavens from whence we mere mortals shall receive so many future bounties, like an emoticon received directly into the neural circuitry, or "full immersion entertainment."

Apr 22

The Brief Life and Times a Nigger from Palestine

By Reverend Osagyefo Sekou, Rev. Sekou | Op-Ed

Jesus was a nigger. To be a nigger, now and then, is to contend with arbitrary violence, legislative repression, and ontological uncertainty. Every moment of one's life is policed and every action questioned. Where and how a nigger lives is subjugated to interrogation. Jesus, like all niggers, is empirically unjustifiable yet existentially irrefutable. His people came from an infamous little place that was known for nothing good. The nigger's story sounds like a blues man filled with too much Jack Daniels and too little hope; singing in a empty juke joint, early Sunday morning.

He was born into the world in the body of an unwed teenage mother among an unimportant people in an unimportant part of the world as a Palestinian under occupation. His birth carried the stench of illegitimacy. It was rumored that he was the son of a rapist Roman centurion. But his mother claimed that he was the son of God—her people's liberation.

Apr 22

Radical Philosophy and the Free Alabama Movement

By Lisa Guenther, New APPS | News Analysis

Last summer, thousands of prisoners in California launched a 60-day hunger strike to protest and transform oppressive policies in the California Department of Corrections. One member of the organizing team called their strike action a "multi-racial, multi–regional Human Rights Movement to challenge torture."

This weekend, another prisoner-led human rights movement is gaining momentum in Alabama. The Free Alabama Movement (FAM) seeks to analyze, resist, and transform prison slavery from within the Prison Industrial Complex.

A White House official told Yahoo that President Obama is prepared to use his pardon power to grant clemency to "hundreds, perhaps thousands" of people who have been jailed for nonviolent drug crimes. The report said that the administration is making moves that will help it handle the increase in petitions that Mr. Obama is planning to sign off on before he leaves office. Last Tuesday, White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said Obama has directed the Justice Department to improve its clemency recommendation process and recruit more applications from convicts.

The White House's new moves would follow in the footsteps of a January announcement that the Obama administration would taking the unprecedented step of encouraging defense lawyers to suggest inmates whom the president might let out of prison early, as part of its effort to curtail severe penalties in low-level drug cases.

Apr 21

Incarcerated Workers Launch Nonviolent Work Strike Against "New Jim Crow" Across Alabama Prisons

By Staff, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee | Press Release

BIRMINGHAM, AL – Hidden from public view by barbed-wire fences and windowless concrete walls, a movement is brewing in Alabama that could change America. This Monday, hundreds of men incarcerated in St. Clair and prisons across the state will stop work, adding economic muscle to their demands for wages for their labor, an end to overcrowding and inhumane conditions, an end to the “New Jim Crow” of mass incarceration of African-Americans, and the repurposing the prison system as a tool for genuine rehabilitation in a wounded world. The demands of the peaceful strike action are outlined in detail in the Education, Rehabilitation, and Re-Entry Preparedness Bill (FREEDOM Bill), which was presented to the state legislature by the Free Alabama Movement in January.

Apr 21

Open Letter to President Obama

By Staff, Waging Peace | Open Letter

Dear President Obama,

During the closing session of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on March 25, 2014, you cited a number of concrete measures to secure highly-enriched uranium and plutonium and strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime that have been implemented as a result of the three Nuclear Security Summits, concluding: “So what’s been valuable about this summit is that it has not just been talk, it’s been action.”

Would that you would apply the same standard to nuclear disarmament! On April 5, 2009 in Prague, you gave millions of people around the world new hope when you declared: “So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” Bolstered by that hope, over the past three years, there has been a new round of nuclear disarmament initiatives by governments not possessing nuclear weapons, both within and outside the United Nations. Yet the United States has been notably “missing in action” at best, and dismissive or obstructive at worst. This conflict may come to a head at the 2015 Review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Apr 21

Defending Kickbacks

By James Kwak, The Baseline Scenario | News Analysis

The Wall Street Journal  reports that the SEC will soon decide (well, sometime this year) whether brokers should be subject to a fiduciary standard in their dealings with clients, as registered financial advisers are today. At present, brokers only need to show that investments they recognize are “suitable” for their clients—roughly speaking, that they are in an appropriate asset class.

Not surprisingly, the brokerage industry is up in arms. They want to be able to push clients into the products for which they receive the highest commissions—a practice that (they say) could be more difficult under a fiduciary standard.

Apr 21

The 'Stable' West Bank Dilemma

By Ramzy Baroud, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Ze’ev Elkin, is a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and his predominantly rightwing cabinet. In a recent interview with The Economist, Elkin used the familiar tone of being conceited and oblivious to such notions as international or human rights, and reaffirmed his rejection of a Palestinian state.

Instead, Elkin wants Israel to annex a chunk of the West Bank. There is nothing new here, as such language is now official Israeli discourse. But one statement stood out, one that many Palestinians would find bewildering and exasperating. 

These days, said Elkin with a chuckle, the West Bank is “the most stable part of the Middle East.”

Apr 21

Obama Made Me Lose My Facebook Friends

By Sasha Brookner, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

I don’t remember exactly when it happened. It may have been vaguely somewhere circa Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 12:03pm that I noticed a paradigm shift of epic proportions in the previously held belief system of my Democrat compadres, and social media devotees. The change wasn’t subtle, it didn’t offer shades of gray or delicate nuance, instead it rattled the framework of civilization: imperialism became cool, previous critics of violating Article 2 of the Geneva Code now believed JSOC and our 101st Airborne were the only entities left protecting our nation from desert nomads riding air camels across the Atlantic to institute Sharia Law, and by posting photos of dismembered Afghani, Pakistani, Libyan, Palestinian and Yemeni children on Facebook I was engaging in bad-mannered “war porn.” Oh you didn’t know? Becoming the next David Morrell has always been a dream of mine deferred.  Perhaps nobody was paying attention to my lifelong Rambo vs. Taliban infants fantasy because they were too busy plugging Sasha and Malia’s birthdays into their “As-it-Happens” Google Alerts. What’s a 6-year continuation of war in the Graveyard of Empires sans Ahmad Shah Massoud, when Leave it to Beaver looking dresses are flying off the shelves and J. Crew is reaching milestone sales? Gag me with a Cluster Bomb, guys.