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.

In an open letter published today and addressed to USDA National Organic Program chief Miles McEvoy, The Cornucopia Institute accused the regulatory agency of abdicating its enforcement responsibilities.   Cornucopia, an organic industry watchdog, charged that the USDA had allowed Dean Foods and its WhiteWave subsidiary to, allegedly, operate a giant factory farm dairy that has been illegally disadvantaging the nation’s family-scale dairy producers.

The Cornucopia Institute also filed, on February 11, its third formal legal complaint alleging Dean/WhiteWave’s giant industrial dairy, located in Paul, Idaho has continued to operate illegally.

Feb 17

Denying Racism Has an Evidence Problem

By Paul Thomas, The Becoming Radical | News Analysis

LaBrant, Jeanne and I agreed, was so determined and assertive as a person that this claim was both a perfect example of who LaBrant was and completely unbelievable.

So when I read Charles Blow’s Op-Ed on Clarence Thomas denying racism—in the 1960s and today—I thought of LaBrant.

Thomas’s assertion about racism reminds me of LaBrant’s about sexism, but it also strikes a cord about the pervasive responses I receive to much of my public writing about race, class, and poverty.

Feb 15

Unequal Justice

By James Kwak, The Baseline Scenario | Op-Ed

If I write about a legal matter on this blog, it usually involves battalions of attorneys on each side, months of motions, briefs, and hearings, and legal fees easily mounting into the millions of dollars. That’s how our legal system works if, say, you lie to your investors about a synthetic CDO and the SEC decides to go after you—even if it’s a civil, not a criminal matter.

But most legal matters in this country don’t operate that way, even if you face the threat of prison time (or juvenile detention), and all the collateral consequences that entails (ineligibility for public housing, student loans, and many public sector jobs, to name a few). Theoretically, the Constitution guarantees you the services of an attorney if you are accused of a felony (Gideon v. Wainwright), misdemeanor that creates the risk of jail time (Argersinger v. Hamlin), or a juvenile offense that could result in confinement (In re Gault). The problem is that this requires state and counties to pay for attorneys for poor defendants, which is just about the lowest priority for many state legislatures, especially those controlled by conservatives.

In the year 1922 the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives held hearings on a joint resolution in support of the Balfour Declaration. The committee chairman, the pro-Zionist representative from New York, Hamilton Fish, called an array of witnesses, including a few who did not favor a “Jewish home” in Palestine. This did not mean that the committee’s support for the Balfour Declaration was ever really in doubt, but rather their apparent openness resulted from the political influence of certain academics, as well as American Christian missionary societies, who were sympathetic to Arab nationalist aspirations.

WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) has introduced The Unmuzzle the Drug Czar Act of 2014 (H.R. 4046). The bill would repeal a little know provision of federal law that requires the director of the Office of NationalDrug Control Policy (ONDCP), informally known as the U.S. Drug Czar, to “take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use” of marijuana or any Schedule I drug for medical or non-medical use. The provision even prohibits ONDCP from studying legalization.

Floyd Norris says some sensible things in his column from last week on the retirement savings problem: Defined benefit pensions are dying out, killed by tighter accounting rules and the stock market crashes of the 2000s. Many Americans have no retirement savings plan (other than Social Security). And the plans that they do have tend to be 401(k) plans that impose fees, market risk, and usually a whole host of other risks on participants.

Feb 15

We Want to Set Our House in Order: Our Own Way (Part III)

By Kasit Piromya, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

To the consternation and bewilderment of the international community, during the past decade, Thailand has experienced increasingly divisive politics, a military coup d'état and continuous street protests in one form or another, including violent protests and uproars and walk-outs in the parliament. One could say that Thailand seems to be unable to find its way to stabilize its political life. But let us pause for a while and try to be a bit considerate and more understanding that, in reality, Thailand has been struggling in its democratization process to become a full fledged democratic polity, a process which began with the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.

Feb 14

Bring Back Democracy to One Person, One Vote

By Edward Erikson, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

In 1902, at the height of the women's suffrage movement in England, advocates began carving messages into the English penny that read "Votes for Women." The suffrage movement tapped into the viral movement of money in order to spread their message and help create visual demand for the change that soon followed. While the emergence of the internet has profoundly altered the way we communicate, connect and organize, the tactic of using money to spread a message can create an unparalleled symbolic demand for action. That's what Ben Cohen is doing with the and, along with tens of thousands of patriots, he is stamping all of his dollars with messages like 'not to be used for buying elections' in support of a 28th amendment that states: 1) Corporations are not people; and 2) Money is not free speech.

Feb 14

CCR, NLG and CAIR-USA Ask House Education Committee to Oppose Anti-Boycott Bill

By The Center for Constitutional Rights, SpeakOut | Press Release

New York - The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations-USA (CAIR-USA) sent members of the House of Representatives Education and the Workforce Committee a letter urging them to oppose legislation that would deny federal funding to colleges and universities that participate in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars. According to the legislation’s sponsors, H.R. 4009 was drafted in response to the American Studies Association’s recent resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions.  

Feb 14

12 States Now Moving to Curb Reckless Outsourcing of Public Services

By In The Public Interest Team, SpeakOut | Press Release

Washington, DC – Six more states have joined what appears to be a national movement to reign in reckless outsourcing of public services to for-profit corporations.  Lawmakers in Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Tennessee and Washington introduced proposals that would, in various ways, promote responsible contracting by improving transparency and accountability standards. In all, a dozen states have now introduced legislation to curb recklessoutsourcing so far this year.