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Speakout

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 24

Bad Precedent and Bad Faith

By Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analysis | News Analysis

Back in January of 2012 a lawsuit, organized by activist Tangerine Bolen (who also did the fundraising that made the legal effort possible) involving multiple plaintiffs including former war correspondent Christopher Hedges was filed in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Specifically, the suit called into question the Act's Section 1021(b)(2), which allows for indefinite detention by the U.S. military of people "who are part of or substantially support Al Qaeda, the Taliban or associated forces engaged in hostilities against the United States." This detention denies those held of the ability to "contest the allegations against them because they have no right to be notified of the specific charges against them." In this suit filed by Hedges et al., the issue in question was the vagueness of the terms "substantially support" and "associated forces." For instance, could this vagueness lead to apprehension and detention of journalists who publish interviews with members of Al Qaeda or the Taliban? Could it lead to the same treatment against political activists protesting U.S. policies against these or "associated" groups?

Over the past months, I have been shocked and dismayed to hear the revelations by the courageous women who continue to tell their stories of sexual harassment and abuse at the hands of San Diego's Mayor Bob Filner. When I saw the four brave women speak out in a joint interview, I made a decision that I could no longer remain silent.. It is high time for men to step up and join the courageous woman on the front lines, who have been victims and survivors of Bob Filner's utter personal disregard, disrespect and degradation of women, as expressed through his unwanted sexual advances, which are at the lower end of a continuum of sexual abuse and assault.

Aug 22

Obama Vs. Snowden: Parsing the Presser

By Rob Hager, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Obama's recent media counteroffensive against Edward Snowden is unquestionably a tribute to Edward Snowden's ability to poke the empire's all-seeing eye while managing to secure an offshore sanctuary where he might continue his premeditated acts of citizenship. Snowden's success and worldwide popularity for his David and Goliath struggle on behalf of his, and apparently the ACLU's, version of the Constitution has required the propagandist-in-chief to publicly enter the fray. Obama knows if Snowden ever does face a criminal jury, the trial will be very much a popularity contest between Obama and Snowden, with high-stakes for both.

Despite Mayor Emanuel's rhetoric about a "21st century education" for every student, his school budget cuts have resulted in the layoff of librarians at 50 elementary schools; at nearly all of them, that means they won't have functioning library.
Now CPS has gone a step further, demolishing the library built by parents at Whittier Elementary.

Despite the rhetoric about parent empowerment and community involvement — despite Barbara Byrd Bennett's high-sounding promises about "restoring trust" — the demolition was ordered and carried out with no communication with the parents who had created and fought for the library and community center they called La Casita.

A group of warehouse workers is about to receive a raise of about 60 percent.

"I haven't received my first paycheck just yet, but it will be about double," said Reynaldo Ríos Ibañez, who has worked at the warehouse since October 2011. "It means it will be easier to take care of my family. Before I could not buy one single extra thing."

Reynaldo and his sister, also a warehouse worker in the Inland Empire, support their parents and two other sisters.

Aug 21

Where is Freedom of the Press?

By Maria Armoudian, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Earlier this week, British officials used their terrorism laws to detain for nine hours the Brazilian citizen, David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist, Glenn Greenwald, in London's Heathrow Airport.

The act has rightfully angered the journalism community and government watchdogs. But while the act smacks of harassment, some comments, such as that of Nick Cohen, columnist for the conservative weekly, The Spectator, came as a surprise. Cohen called the detention "a clarifying moment that reveals how far Britain has changed for the worse." That's a stretch. After all, for four years, 1988 to 1994, Britain passed, upheld and enforced a broadcasting ban during the Northern Ireland conflict, prohibiting the airing the voices of people the state deemed persona non grata, persons who are now high ranking public officials in Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland was not much better. They, too, banned the voices of the same people. While some journalists made a mockery of the British Broadcasting Ban by airing the faces and allowing actors to lip sync their words, others were powerless in the face of obey-or-lose-your job.

Aug 21

For First Time, ALEC Is Formally Requesting Open Records Immunity

By Staff, The Center for Media and Democracy | Report

The Center for Media and Democracy filed a letter with the Texas Attorney General on Thursday refuting efforts by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to declare itself immune from the state's open records law. Texas is the first known state where ALEC has formally asked an Attorney General for an exemption from sunshine-in-government laws, and it marks a new low in the organization's attempts to advance its legislative agenda in secret and avoid public accountability for facilitating special interest influence.

“You cannot just create a special private club between lobbyists and lawmakers and then claim your communications with legislators cannot be disclosed to the public under state sunshine laws,” said Lisa Graves, the Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy/ ALECexposed.org, “Allowing this would only increase the power of special interests to secretly influence officials elected to represent real people.”

Many years ago, before the age of cyperspace, I found a Japanese manga series at a specialty bookstore in San Francisco. Created by Yukito Kishiro, Battle Angel Alita is the story of a post apocalyptic world where humans scavenge to survive, many using robotic technology to replace lost limbs. These semi-automated humans live in a ruinous metropolis called Scrapyard, which smolders beneath the fabled floating city of Tiphares. Fast-forward two decades and Tiphares is renamed Elysium, one of this summer's box office hits. The film stars Matt Damon as Max, a reluctant hero trying to knock down the doors of Elysium to gain access to life-saving technology. In the process, Max becomes the key to bringing Elysium and its privileged elite down to earth. Elysium is the latest in a series of American productions that show how theInformation Age has become the Age of Appropriation, one in which ideas and stories exist side by side for the borrowing, the taking, and ultimately,the mixing. What it also shows is that after almost a century of imitating theWest, the tables are indeed turning and Hollywood is increasingly looking east.
Aug 21

Has Our Species Become Insane?

By Jim McCluskey, SpeakOut | Op-Ed
Helen Caldecott is the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and a world renowned campaigner against nuclear weapons. She says that our species is ‘mentally sick... The whole society is sick’1. We are in the grip of a death wish. She points out that 1 in 25 people are sociopaths with ‘no moral conscience’ and these are the people who rise to the top; who are in charge. Is she right? Have we really become insane? There is good reason to believe so. Byinsane behaviour I am referring to avoidable behaviour which will result in our own destruction and would be seen as such if we were ‘in our right minds’. There are many reasons for the belief that much of our behaviourhas become insane. Here are some of them.
Aug 20

Deadly Theater-of-the-Absurd

By William Manson, Dissident Voice | Op-Ed

Absurd -“wildly illogical; nonsensical, preposterous”

 — Oxford Desk Dictionary

The individual human mind, with its inherent capacity for critical analysis of received “truths,” remains the final, not yet entirely colonized, frontier.  I remain convinced that this capacity, if resistant to the flood of unremitting propaganda, can still find its way to real understanding of perplexing, camouflaged governmental policies and crimes.  It is not that the average U.S. citizen is incapable of critical thinking, but that there is little incentive to exercise it.  Everywhere she turns, she feels boxed-in, blocked from the free exercise of her principles and values.  From the perspective of the authoritarian “managers” of mass society, it is “most efficient” for 300 million people to exhibit merely “one” mind—credulous, tranquilized, acquiescent—shaped by mass media and government “mis-information.”  (And it is “most efficient” to monitor the communications, not just of “suspected terrorists,” but of the entire citizenry.)  Students suppress their awareness of their teachers’ intermittent ignorance, and learn the “lesson” of accommodation and conformity (test-taking, GPA, degree, “job search,” etc.).  Employeeslearn to suppress their justifiable grievances and perform in the required manner—in order to keep the jobs necessary for their survival.