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.

Dec 17

A Rapper's Last Words Before Going to Jail

By Bruno Giuliani, YouTube | Video

Three years ago Tunisians ousted long-time dictator Ben Ali. They fought for liberty and dignity, inspiring a global wave of resistance. Today, the structures of the regime remain largely intact. A new constitution has yet to be finalized and police violence continues with impunity. There's no transitional justice, and many who speak out are judged by the laws of the old system. Among them, there are artists who are defying the state and re-imagining society by freely expressing themselves.

President Obama's 2013 Drug Control Strategy, which supports "a public health approach to drug control," is a positive step toward dealing with the complex web of issues surrounding drug use in a more sophisticated way. However, in framing its approach as a rejection of the "false choice between an enforcement-centric 'war on drugs' and drug legalization," the Office of National Drug Control Policy is clinging to a law enforcement paradigm that is in disarray. State after state is voting to defy federal marijuana laws, resulting in a chaotic patchwork of legalization schemes that has put the Justice Department in the awkward position of setting a policy to selectively enforce the law. In the unique case of marijuana, a substance that has been in common use by constructive contributors to society of every stripe for several generations, now, the institutionalized drug enforcement system is blind to the false choice between prohibition and chaos that, under prohibition, ranges from this kind of legal disorder to the social disharmony caused by inherent racism and unequal justice to corruption, violence, and war.

There exists a puzzling yet repeating trend among commentators, politicians, and now federal judges. It is to distinguish Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower of the Pentagon Papers (and often-hailed hero), from actors like army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and recently sentenced hacktivist Jeremy Hammond. This is notwithstanding the fact that Ellsberg vocally supports and identifies with all three. The differential treatment was first acknowledged two years ago by journalist Glenn Greenwald, responding to reports on how Manning was contrasted to Ellsberg. He called it “intellectual cowardice.” Today, the persistence of this argument highlights a continuing strategic challenge for opponents of whistleblowers of government misconduct. How can these opponents distinguish Ellsberg, a hero, from those they seek to vilify for engaging in the same character of activity?

Dec 17

A Modest Proposal, 2014

By Joseph Natoli, Truthout | Op-Ed

It is a melancholy object to those who travel through these American towns, or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads and public places crowded with beggars, welfare recipients, the perennially unemployed, the wastrel gadabouts, the gangbangers, malcontents and whiners, the Losers of scant ambition but to feed on the Winners, importuning at every turn the Federal Government for all manner of "freebies."

This lot, instead of being willing to work for their honest livelihood, spend all their energies scheming for food stamps, unemployment compensation, rent control, legal aid, earned income tax credit, welfare without work, Medicaid benefits and all that can be gotten when a politics of endless aid to the parasites of our society is at the wheel of government. I propose a zero-tolerance for such devilment and the Federal Government from which it originates.

I’ve been reading a lot about education recently, for reasons that are not worth going into here. I don’t know that much about the area, so I’ve been reading some background stuff and review articles, including a Hamilton Project white paper by Michael Greenstone, Adam Looney, and Paige Shevlin.

It’s pretty mainstream, self-professed “third way” stuff, with a heavy dose of measurement and performance evaluation. Basically they repeat over and over again that educational policies should be based on evidence and new programs should go through rigorous assessments. There are a fairly strong tilt toward market mechanisms and some idealistic naivete about practical problems (e.g., “One way to [improve accountability systems] is to develop tests that measure the skills children should learn”), but nothing too outrageous in substance.

The white paper, however, betrays a certain conceptual bias that I find disturbing, even in topical areas where it seems otherwise reasonable.

WASHINGTON - A statement from Edward Snowden was read by Government Accountability Project (GAP) National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack at a reception last night at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, DC.

The reception was held in honor of the 100 individuals named Leading Global Thinkers in 2013, an annual list now in its fifth year of the most significant visionaries and leaders in politics, business, technology, and the arts according to the editors of Foreign Policy Magazine.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) faces a difficult road ahead.
The New York Times notes that while “officials involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks have maintained optimism that a deal might come to fruition, and emphasized their intention to see it through … a document published this week by WikiLeaks indicates that there might be more rifts behind the scenes than they have let on, showing many areas of disagreement as of November.”

Thirteen-year-old Andy Lopez was killed by sheriff’s deputy Erick Gelhaus on October 22, as the boy walked home in his Latino neighborhood in Santa Rosa, California. The Iraq War veteran claims he mistook the eighth-grader’s toy rifle for a real one.

A month later, another Army vet, Paul Duffy, took his own life nearby. Duffy, as some friends called him, was found by his wife hanging from a rope in the writer’s cabin he had built outside his Tomales home by the Pacific Ocean. Far more veterans of the American wars on Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan committed suicide than were killed in combat. The number of suicides by vets increases.

How might these two deaths be related?

The film was produced and written by Dr. Robert Zarr, a pediatrician in Washington, D.C., and directed by Kaylen Larson, an undergraduate student from Sioux Falls, S.D., who interned with Dr. Zarr in the fall. (More detailed biographies and contact information appear below.)

The video comes at a time when a growing number of prominent voices have expressed support for single payer, sometimes called “an improved Medicare for all,” including Colin Powell, former secretary of state; Dr. Steven Nissen, chief of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic; John Podesta, the former chief of staff under President Clinton who is now joining the Obama administration; and Dr. Donald Berwick, former head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Dec 16

Masculinity Question Still Missing Post Newtown

By Rob Okun, Truthout | Op-Ed

There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down 

— Stephen Stills

As we prepare for the gut-wrenching first anniversary of Newtown on Saturday, I teeter back and forth between sadness and anger. Sadness that 20 six and seven year-olds were murdered—along with a half-dozen Sandy Hook Elementary School educators—and anger that public officials and most of the media still largely ignore the missing component in the Connecticut tragedy—the gender of the shooter.