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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.

Feb 22

American Social Classes Defined

By Adam Buchanan, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

In what American social class do you or your family reside: the wealthy, middle class, working class, or poor? I posed this question to a classroom of San Diego State University students taking an introductory course on American history from the Civil War to the present. This was my third semester working as a teaching assistant, and experience taught me that students understood history concepts best when explained by connecting them to real life experience. At this point in the course, we were discussing the social upheavals that buffeted American society from 1900-1930, particularly in the labor movement, and paved the way for President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal policies.

Feb 21

Auditing Our Public Agencies is Hard in Spite of Sunshine Laws

By Libi Uremovic, SpeakOut | Report

The California Public Records Act made national headlines in 1968 because it clearly established the people's right to access to all government information and documentation. In 2004, voters approved Proposition 59 adding an Amendment to the California State Constitution. Article I Section 3(b)(1) states:

"The People have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business, and, therefore, the meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials andagencies shall be open to public scrutiny."

Feb 21

A Stamp of Disapproval

By Michael Nigro, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

January 12. Dead of winter. It’s the "No Pants Subway Ride" in New York City. This newly-minted annual event, which takes place in a growing number of cities across the US, emboldens people to traipse around in public in their underwear. The reasons for doing this are varied and, it seems, open for interpretation. But so it goes...

I'm a foot away from a massive marble wall affixed with big silver letters that spell JP Morgan Chase & Co.  This is their International headquarters. For the record, I am wearing pants, and, to spare you the suspense, I keep them on.

Feb 21

Assassinations and Constitutions

By James and Jean Anton, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

On one side of the aisle, there are Republicans, Conservatives, neoConservatives, and Libertarians who vocally support only two amendments to the constitution. The first is the Imaginary Amendment that says that corporations are people. The second is the Sacred Amendment (the Second), which to them means that corporations (which are virtual people) as well as actual flesh-and-blood people have the right to bear arms.

Neoliberals, who disagree violently with their neoconservative friends about the Sacred (Second) Amendment (and who are neither here nor there on the Imaginary Amendment), respect most of the other amendments except for the Sixth and the Fourth Amendments. The Sixth amendment is the one that says that Americans have the right to a speedy and public trial, must be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, must be confronted by witnesses against them and must have the assistance of counsel for their defense. The fourth is the one about needing a warrant … to surveil.

Argentina will file its final US Supreme Court appeal in the NML Capital hedgefund debt case before this Tuesday, February 18th. Legal observers, economists, investors, the United Nations, the Obama Administration, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the religious community have closely monitored the proceedings.

"The final outcome affects poverty around the globe, over a decade of US bipartisan debt policy and the profits of legitimate investors," stated Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious debt campaign, Jubilee USA Network. "The religious community applauds the globalconsensus to deter and not reward this exploitative, predatory behavior."

Feb 21

Dancing with Death at Death Cafes

By Shepherd Bliss, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

"I have an appointment with death this evening," I explained, smiling to friends upon leaving them. Their startled faces revealed feelings such as fear and a lack of understanding.

While living in Mexico, their Day of the Dead became my favorite holiday. I especially liked celebrating it in traditional villages, like Tepotzlan. The whole town seemed to go to the cemetery that night. Morbid? Not really, more like fun - feeding and dancing with one’s ancestors, remembering them in gratitude, teaching children to accept death and not be so afraid of it. But I was not on my way to a Day of the Dead celebration this time; I was going to a Death Cafe.

Feb 21

Oakland Privacy Group Oakland Protesters Fight Spy Center Vote by City Council

By Staff, Oakland Privacy Working Group | Press Release

A disparate coalition of Bay Area activists will converge at Oscar Grant Plaza this Tuesday, Feb. 18, from roughly 6pm onward, to speak out against Oakland City Council's plan to vote to approve Schneider Electric as the contractor for Phase II of construction of the proposed Oakland Police Department surveillance hub, the Domain Awareness Center (DAC). If Schnedier 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 Fourth Amendment violations and the expenditure of City funds to SAIC while it had the contract, in violation of Oakland's Nuclear-Free Zone Ordinance. The DAC vote is item number 13 on City Council's agenda and activists will stay until they stay as long as it takes to make their voices heard.

Officials tapped by the Obama administration to lead the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations have received multimillion dollar bonuses from CitiGroup and Bank of America, financial disclosures obtained by Republic Report show.
 
Stefan Selig, a Bank of America investment banker nominated to become the Under Secretary for International Trade at the Department of Commerce, received more than $9 million in bonus pay as he was nominated to join the administration in November. The bonus pay came in addition to the $5.1 million in incentive pay awarded to Selig last year.

The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are acknowledging that merchants who use images and names of the government agencies on parody merchandise are not in violation of any federal laws.

The admission settles a lawsuit Public Citizen filed against the agencies on behalf of Minnesota activist Dan McCall. Public Citizen argued that McCall has a First Amendment right to sell parody merchandise using the NSA and DHS seals.

... among people who are not the president.

On Presidents Day, RootsAction.org set up a petition in response to this news:

"An American citizen who is a member of al-Qaida is actively planning attacks against Americans overseas, U.S. officials say," the Associated Press reports -- "and the Obama administration is wrestling with whether to kill him with a drone strike and how to do so legally under its new stricter targeting policy issued last year."