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.

Aug 30

Making a Living on a Living Planet

By Joe Uehlein, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

On Labor Day 1940, American workers faced the aftermath of the Great Depression, with mass unemployment persisting and a divided labor movement facing a renewed counterattack from corporate America. They were barely becoming aware of an even greater threat, one that would determine the future of their country and their labor movement: the threat of Nazi armies mobilizing for war.

On Labor Day 2014, American workers face the lingering results of the Great Recession, with unemployment still at historic highs, burgeoning inequality, and attacks on the very right to have a union. But, like workers in 1940, we are being pressed by another threat, one that will far overshadow our current problems if we do not take it on.

The following is an edited version of a talk by Roger Annis on August 22 that was delivered to a session of the Peoples Social Forum that took place in Ottawa from August 21 to 25. Approximately 75 people attended the session. The co-presenter to Roger Annis was David Mandel, a professor of political science in Montreal and expert in the history of the working class movements in Russia and Ukraine. You can read his talk published here in The Bullet. It is titled "Understanding the civil war in Ukraine."

Today, The Nation and The Huffington Post published speeches from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and three other GOP Senate candidates, Rep. Tom Cotton (AR), state Sen. Joni Ernst (IA), and Rep. Cory Gardner (CO), at a secretive donor summit hosted in June by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.

The candidates make the case for overturning Citizens United and getting big money out of politics better than we ever could.

Helen Collier, a prolific writer of many different genres, says writing has been in her spirit since her mother placed a pencil in her left hand and told her, “God made you a left-handed writer for a reason. It’s up to you to share with the world what that reason is.”

Ms. Anna and the Tears from the Healing Tree is Collier’s magical tale of a Black woman’s journey from adolescence to adulthood with the help of an Old Widow spider and a tree with the power to heal wounds, physical and emotional. Ms. Anna doesn’t fool around. Her story is filled with folk wisdom, female solidarity and blunt talk between Black and white women about race and what divides us.Collier has written a novel that is by turns sexy, fantastical and painfully real, with an unforgettable central character who stays true to herself to the last page.

Women have a vital role in the progress of human society. Yet, women’s contributions to progress aren’t always acknowledged by or even included in history books. In her 1998 book, You Can’t Kill the Spirit: Women and Nonviolent Action, writer Pam McAllister spotlights stories, struggles and contributions of women all over the world – stories that are often hidden in plain sight. The latest story comes from Pakistan, where local women are actively working toward social and political change at this very moment.

Pakistan has been in political turmoil for the past three weeks due to ongoing anti-government direct actions by two opposition parties. Supporters of Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) initiated their separate marches on August 14, 2014, the day Pakistan’s independence is celebrated.

British resident Shaker Aamer has reportedly been beaten at Guantánamo Bay, in evidence of a new crackdown on prisoners protesting their detention without charge.

In new letters received by legal charity Reprieve, detainees reveal what one calls a new “standard procedure” of abuses at the prison. Emad Hassan, a Yemeni detained without charge since 2002, wrote that “an FCE [Forcible Cell Extraction] team has been brought in to beat the detainees […] On Sunday, Shaker ISN 239 was beaten when the medical people wanted to draw blood.” Mr Hassan adds that guards had beaten another detainee for nearly 2 hours.

Tomas Moniz is Editor-in-Chief of Rad Dad Magazine and, more importantly, a father to three children ages 16, 19 and 23. His vision of creating a space for discussing radical politics and parenting first began as an award-winning zine. This year, Moniz decided to keep the Rad Dad dispatches going in the form of a magazine. The premiere Spring issue sold out. Contributions dealt with slut-shaming on the playground and being a woman who is a daddy to her kids—not as a single mother, but as the father figure of an adopted child in a same-sex relationship. 

Another poignant essay took Father’s Day to task for being a commercialized bonanza reinforcing rigid boundaries. “I want new archetypes for fathers, ones that are imperfect and yet competent,” wrote Craig Elliot, “and ones that place a greater emphasis on love, compassion and community.” Rad Dad Magazine followed up with a summer Father’s Day special advancing the cause. But for as great of a discussion Rad Dad fosters, its second issue came with a sense of urgency. Moniz sounded a call for many more subscribers to continue his mission into 2015 or the Fall October edition may be the last. 

Humanists typically project extreme pessimism toward the future, under conditions of technological oppressiveness. Surveillance is rampant; the human being has been shorn of dignity; the state is overpowering and individuality is a lost cause before the powerful onslaught of the collectivity. Zamyatin and Orwell are prime examples of this kind of extrapolation. There are also instances of humanist utopias (beginning with Thomas Moore and continuing with the socialist utopias of William Morris and Edward Bellamy), but they tend to be curiously bloodless, lacking the conviction and richness of the dystopias.

Scientists, on the other hand, tend to feel very optimistic that technology will be liberating rather than confining: it will be the final realization of the humanist project that began with the Greeks, was revived in the Renaissance, and received its current formulation in the Enlightenment. Ray Kurzweil, with his belief in the coming singularity (which he thinks is likely to occur around 2030), where machines smarter than humans take over and allow the human race a form of immortality, is a recent example.

Colman McCarthy has a piece discussing the low pay received by many adjunct professors across the country. He argues that they should make a living wage and then suggests that a way to pay for this would be to cut the high salaries for university presidents and other top administrators, which can cross $1 million a year.

It is worth noting that universities, both public and private, operate with large taxpayer subsidies. In the case of private universities, most enjoy tax-exempt status. As a result, they are exempt from many state and local taxes, but most importantly, individuals can deduct their contributions from their income tax. For wealthy contributors, this means that the taxpayers are effectively picking up 40 percent of the cost of their contributions.

Aug 28

The Fails of Eyewitness Testimony

By Lee R. Haven, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

“So eyewitness testimony is not so important anymore?”


“At least three folks have come forth to say they saw Big Mike with his hands up, surrendering, before the officer resumed shooting--multiple times.”

“There have been studies to show eyewitness testimonies are often unreliable. Dr. Drew was harping on that on CNN the other night.”

“Hey, I believe it can be. I was a victim once of false identification.”

“Damn. You never told me-"