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 15

When I Sued the FBI – and Won

By The Shalom Report, SpeakOut | News Analysis

During the last three months, we have been learning a great deal about massive and continuing wiretapping of the phone calls and emails of hundreds of millions of Americans by "our" Government.

For me, this has had a strong personal kick to it. To explain why, I have to share with you a story that began 45 years ago.

Beginning in 1968, the FBI undertook an effort called "COINTELPRO" – short for "counter-intelligence program" –- that used such illegal means as warrantless wiretapping, theft, forgery, agents provocateurs, and worse –- to disrupt the lawful civil rights, Black-liberation, and antiwar movements.

The recent article "Rancor in Washington Fans Public Disapproval" (Wall Street Journal, p. A1, July 24) notes that public disapproval of Congress has reached an all-time high of 83%. More telling still, the same article indicates people are finally making the shift from a general disapproval of Congress to a specific disapproval of the members of Congress who represent them—only 32% indicated their congressional representatives deserved re-election. These statistics should bother members of Congress. Sixteen months from now, Americans will have the chance to replace 87% of Congress if enough Americans choose to replace the Senators and Representatives who will stand for re-election next year. There are two easy steps our Senators and Representatives can take now that will dramatically improve the public approval rating of the United States Congress.

August 12, 2013, New York – In a landmark decision today, a federal court found the New York City Police Department’s highly controversial stop-and-frisk practices unconstitutional.  In her thorough, 198-page ruling, Judge Shira Sheindlin found the NYPD’s practices to violate New Yorkers’ Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and also found that the practices were racially discriminatory in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  To remedy the widespread constitutional violations, the judge ordered a court-appointed monitor to oversee a series of reforms to NYPD policing practices and also ordered a Joint Remedial Process which will solicit input from a variety of stakeholders, including New York communities most directly affected by policing.  The court’s ruling follows a 10-week trial that concluded on May 20. The class action lawsuit, Floyd v. City of New York, was brought by the Center of Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the law firms of Beldock, Levine, and Hoffman and Covington & Burling, LLP.

Aug 14

With Iran US Is Stuck in False Dilemma

By Dallas Darling, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Like Longine Symphonettes that once played over and over again, the U.S. is again playing a "false dilemma" record with Iran. When President Hassan Rouhan offered an olive branch by proposing "direct" and "protracted" talks on Iran's disputed civilian-nuclear program, one would think the Obama Administration would have accepted. But not only did they denigrate President Rouhan's statement, Congress reacted by wanting more severe and austere economic sanctions. They also claimed President Rouhani' s (who is considered a moderate by the West) statement was not "substantive."

But the U.S. is accustomed to playing false dilemmas. In a diverse world, it is difficult to try and maintain preeminence through a prism of only two possibilities. In Iran's case, U.S. leaders claim it is pursuing nuclear enrichment for the purpose of developing atomic weapons. According to Iran, though, its nuclear enrichment is only for peaceful and civilian purposes, which is very common among many non-nuclear nations. In the past, direct talks, even public debates, have also been ridiculed and derided and often met with severe sanctions, ones that have hurt some of Iran's civilian populations.

Aug 14

In America

By Rachael Kilgour, SpeakOut | Video

"In America"

One by one we fall in line
To reach for the precious prize
To the promised land
Singing "Yes we can!"
Stomachs bigger than our eyes
And it's yelled out loud
It's murmured low
There's a chance for you and me
To have all we dreamed
And even more it seems
That's the curse of liberty

There are few people in the sports world I respect more than Cyd Zeigler the founder of the website Outsports, which deals with the sporting lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender athletes. I tweeted Mr. Zeigler's excellent article titled "Don't Boycott Olympics Ban Russia From Competing Instead" precisely because it was incisive and made me think. I do however feel that on principle I need to state that I strongly disagree with his central premise.

Zeigler's argument is that Russia should be treated as a pariah state not unlike South Africa during the time of apartheid, excluded from most major international sporting events.

Half a century ago, on the spurious grounds that extreme sacrifices were required in the battle to prevent a communist takeover of the world, the US government decided to use the citizens of Nevada as nuclear guinea pigs. Although atomic testing was pursued there for several years in the 1950s, notification would have alarmed area residents. As a result, they weren't even advised to go indoors. Yet, according to declassified documents, some scientists studying the genetic effects of radiation at the time were already concerned about the health risks of fallout.

For most of those committed to the US nuclear program, the need to keep this type of research secret was a no-brainer. After all, if the public realized that the technology used to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki had led to experiments at home, early nuclear research – not to mention weapons deployment – might have met stronger opposition. The government badly wanted its nukes, and the scientists yearned to unlock the secrets of human mutation. Thus, an unholy alliance was struck.

Aug 14

Terror Alert Now!; Tar Sands Blocked; ALEC Turns 40

By Dennis Trainor Jr, AcronymTV | Video Report

Even a former CIA analyst who was part of the team that hunted Osama bin Laden for years, Nada Bakos said- "We just showed our hand, so now they're obviously going to change their position on when and where". And Will McCants, a former State Department adviser on counterterrorism said -"It's crazy pants -- you can quote me."

So what's happening in Detroit? It seems like every time we hear about the motor city we hear about its economic struggles and everything in between, from the blighted neighborhoods, thousands of boarded up homes, abandoned local businesses, rampant crime, and a more than 50% decline in the cities population since 2008. What we don't hear about is the new game that our friends in the banking department of the bourgeoisie are playing with the livelihoods of Detroit's residents. As we know, Wall Street has a tendency to bundle, repackage and gamble on the market anything from Margaretville Mixers to Credit Default Swaps, and it just so happens that they've added Interest Rate Swaps to the same category. Joel Northam reports.

The Freedom Rides of 1961 saw some of the most iconic moments of the United States' Civil Rights movement. Courageous, idealistic young people boarded busses to the segregated South to stand up for their ideals of freedom, equality and justice. Like our most fearless armed servicemen/women, they knew that they were risking their lives for their beliefs. What made them different, however, was that they were unarmed and trained in nonviolence. Referring to his participation in the rides, Georgia Congressperson John Lewis said, "I was like a soldier in a nonviolent army." Myriad images, questions and ideas capture our imagination: what would a nonviolent army do? How would it be organized? Would it ever be practical? What would it take to build one?

Aug 13

Past Wars on Indians Aren't Even Past

By David Swanson, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Hammer in hand, one sees nails everywhere. Successful unpunished genocide at home in hand, the Pentagon sees Indian Country on six continents. But don't imagine the U.S. military is finished with the original Indian Country yet, including Native American reservations and territories, and including the places where the rest of us now live.