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.

A car company has announced that you can now drive an electric car across the continental US for FREE. And yet our corporate media does not seem to think it's a very big story. This is just one of the amazing technological advancements that do not seem to interest the mainstream media.

Mar 17

Who Set-Up Medea Benjamin? An Analysis

By Lawrence Davidson, SpeakOut | News Analysis

For several months prior to March 2014 the peace organization Code Pink was in communication with Egyptian diplomatic representatives in the United States. The two sides were arranging for the arrival of approximately 100 women from around the globe who would come to Egypt, travel up to the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, and (if prevented from actually crossing into the besieged territory) hold a demonstration on International Women’s Day (March 8) to show solidarity with the women of Gaza. 

One of the principal organizers of this event was the well-known peace activist Medea Benjamin, winner of such awards as the Martin Luther King Peace Prize (2010), the Marjorie Kellogg National Peacemaker Award (2012), the Thomas Merton Center Peace Award (2012) and the Peace Foundation Memorial Award (2012). Benjamin is, as the Los Angeles Times put it, “One of the high profile leaders” of the American peace movement.

Mar 17

Out of Occupy, a New Populist Political Party Forms

By Dennis Trainor Jr, Acronym TV | Video Report

Carl Gibson, co-founder of U.S. Uncut, is joining with other Occupy Wall Street organizers to launch a new populist political party. While more details (including the name of the party and the identities of other key organizers) will be available when the group launches on March 20, the party will be explicitly anti-capitalist.

Says Gibson: "A new party that actively opposes capitalism and unites people around the basic ideas of meeting human needs would be widely respected and immediately acknowledged. This new party could stand apart from the two corporate-owned parties by refusing to take campaign donations from corporations, banks and developers, standing up for the rights of immigrants and indigenous people, calling for sustainable energy and development, making education for all a top priority, and believing in universal access to healthcare as a human right. While it would take time, focusing on building power first at the local and county level is the surest way to make lasting change."

Arriving in the capital city of Ukraine, Kiev in the midst of the 10th week of protesters' revolt against Yanukovich government was a very surreal experience. While the center of the independence square (Maidan) has been renamed as EuroMaidan and completely built up with structures of all sorts, life outside of 1.5 square mile perimeter continued as usual. Supermarkets were full; the wealthy were shopping, sipping overpriced lattes in coffee shops and cruising up and down the city's premiere shopping district. Some common people were lining up at the side of the German Embassy on Chmelnitskogo street near a huge banner on the embassy building that proclaimed, "we are stronger together." Although it creates a very wry image of a country that looks like a person carrying another on the stretcher, having this degree of optimism on the wall while requiring a Euro 35 fee (a 10th of regular salary in Kiev) to enter its doorstep was, to say the least, strange. But it was a reality that had its own parameters of judgment and taste. Generally things were looking up in Kiev as the local and international elite was finally looking forward to the nearly finished Hilton opening its doors soon. At least the American universe is widening beyond McDonalds, the local language school with imported teachers, Mormon missionaries and the Hyatt where Sen. McCain allegedly stayed when he wanted to work his charm at the Maidan. To be fair to the senator with at least 8 houses, he would be considered poor by the standards of oligarchs bankrolling the revolution two blocks away.

Vienna, Austria – Today, a key working group of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) announced the release of groundbreaking recommendations discouraging criminal sanctions for drug use. The Scientific Consultation Working Group on Drug Policy, Health and Human Rights of the UNODC – which includes Nora Volkow, head of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – is releasing the recommendations at the High-Level Segment of the 57th UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs. The working group recommendations say “criminal sanctions are not beneficial” in addressing the spectrum of drug use and misuse.

I interviewed Walter Naegle. Naegle was Bayard Rustin's partner from 1977 until Rustin's death in 1987 and he is executor and archivist of the Bayard Rustin Estate. March 17, 2014 would mark the 102nd birthday of Bayard Rustin of West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Rustin organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. He was born Bayard Taylor Rustin to Florence Rustin and Archie Hopkins in West Chester, Pennsylvania on March 17, 1912. His grandparents Janifer, an Episcopalian minister, and Julia Rustin, a Baptist, named him after Bayard Taylor, a writer and friend of Mark Twain. Bayard never knew his day-laboring father and his mother was more like a sister to him. Rustin's grandmother Julia and grandfather, Janifer, who raised young Bayard, were active members of early Chester County political culture, and of the NAACP.

Militarized police, sophisticated surveillance, and normal citizens with little say in what goes on. The US has all the trappings of an all-powerful police state.

Police State:

1. A totalitarian state controlled by a political police force that secretly supervises the citizens' activities.

1.) So is the U.S. a totalitarian state?
No. It's an inverted totalitarian state.

Nazi Germany vs. U.S.
Nazi Germany: State dominated economic actors.
U.S.: Corporations control the government through political contributions and lobbying.

Mar 14

SIMILARITIES: 1914 and 2014

By David Krieger, SpeakOut | Poetry

The countries of Europe, it is said,
stumbled into World War I, a war
no one wanted and yet, and happened.
After Archduke Franz Ferdinand's assassination,
it became the Great War, taking the lives
of a generation of young men too eager to fight
in the battlefield trenches.

It is 2014, and publications such as Education Week are offering 50th-year anniversary looks at the War on Poverty. It is 2014, and race and racism remain words that shall not be spoken, lingering scars on the American character that are routinely concealed beneath a heavy foundation (something in a Caucasian, please) and a bold but not too flashy shade of red lipstick. It is 2014, and almost everyone will say poverty, but the great irony is that this American Hustle is achieved through constantly mentioning poverty in order to ignore it.

The trick is to keep the public gaze in the U.S. transfixed on people trapped in poverty, to reinforce the myth that poverty is the result of individual weaknesses (a lack of "grit," for example), and to perpetuate the idea that the wealthy and privileged have earned that wealth and privilege.

Did you know that in the state of California it costs roughly seven times more to house one prisoner for a year than it does to send just one child to a college or university? The annual combined budget for all Cal State and University of California campuses (thirty-two total) is less than half of what California spends on prisons. That's a truly astounding fact and it gets even more troubling when you move to the inner cities. In Los Angeles, more than two-thirds of low-performing schools are in neighborhoods with the highest incarceration rates, and that same percentage of the city's high-performing schools are in neighborhoods with the lowest incarceration rates.

For the past 25 years, Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), a nonprofit organization, has provided thousands of at-risk youth with free, exceptional after-school programs in academics, arts, and athletics, including a world-class youth orchestra program, a vibrant visual arts department, a full college-prep program and premier sports leagues and clinics. In neighborhoods often overrun by poverty, crime and a feeling of hopelessness, HOLA invests in youth to build stronger communities and gives some of the city's most vulnerable youth a chance to succeed in life.