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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.

A wide-ranging coalition of Bay Area activists will converge at Oscar Grant Plaza this Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 from roughly 6pm onward, to speak out against Oakland City Council's plan to approve Schneider Electric as the contractor for Phase II of construction of the proposed Oakland Police Department’s surveillance hub, the Domain Awareness Center (DAC). If Schneider Electric is approved, this would be the final vote before construction would continue on the DAC. Activists are braced for this possibility and are ready to launch a lawsuit against City Council to halt construction, based on civil liberties violations and noncompliance with the city’s own contracting policies, including its Nuclear Free Zone Ordinance.

Social geography is the study of how landscape, climate, and other features of a place shape the livelihoods, values, and cultural traditions of its inhabitants (and vice versa). Frenchman Elisée Reclus (1830 – 1905), a progenitor of the discipline, believed strongly in the rights and abilities of people to manage themselves in relation to their local bioregion, free from rule by a remote, centralized government. His approach to anarchy was unique in its emphasis on the environment – Reclus understood that a mindset that encourages one person or people’s domination over another must, in the race to profit from natural “resources”, also foster domination over nature. Like the social ecologists who have succeeded him, Reclus believed that solutions to ecological crises must involve restoring balance, equality, and a sense of interrelationship between humans and other humans, and between humans and the biosphere.

Mar 04

Quick Thoughts on the Oscars

By William J Astore, Contrary Perspective | Op-Ed

I love movies but I can’t say that I love Hollywood.  My wife and I sat through the interminable Academy Awards last night; we should have received an Oscar for patience.  What amazes me is the lack of thanks the winners express to movie-goers.  You know: the little people who shell out $12 or more a ticket to see roughly two hours of often mediocre entertainment.  Instead of thanking the fans, most Oscar winners celebrate themselves (with perhaps a nod toward their fellow nominees) while thanking their publicists, their agents, various power-brokers in the industry, and so on.

Mar 04

Military Veteran Professor Analyzes and Criticizes New DoD Budget

By Brian J. Trautman, SpeakOut | News Analysis

The Pentagon’s budget proposal for next year was announced last week by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. In an interview with The New York Times, Hagel argued that to meet today’s national security needs, the Department of Defense (DoD) must shift its focus and capabilities away from “fighting grinding ground conflicts” and towards “new arenas of combat.” To achieve these ends, the budget calls for a realignment of the military that would reduce the total number of ground troops to its lowest level since 1940 and discontinue some military equipment deemed obsolete or unnecessary. According to Hagel, current levels of both assets are “larger than we can afford to modernize and keep ready.” The proposed budget also includes reductions in personnel benefits and base services, as well as base closings. The targeted cuts, however, are only one aspect of the budget. The other involves the new sources of priority spending.

CreativeResistance.org, a project of PopularResistance.org, launched this week. If you love art, music and poetry and appreciate the work of activist artists; if you grapple with the challenges of societal injustice and environmental destruction and you respond with creativity and imagination, this site has been created for you. The images, music and poetry on CreativeResistance.org are art with a message and a point of view. The human bent toward storytelling, metaphor and illustration is given voice as paint and papier-mâché, guitar and song. Activist art answers back to the oppression and abuse we want to bring to an end.

This is our commons, this realm of creative thought and action, and CreativeResistance.org is a town square. It's a place where grassroots activists and established artists alike display their work. You'll see pictures of giant puppets, videos of music and theater, colorful protest signs and skillfully executed visual art, all with links to artists' websites and action campaigns. A map helps you find art groups near you, and a news page reports on activist artists and their projects.

Mar 04

The Test Boycott Is On!

By Jesse Hagopian, I Am An Educator | Opinion

The testing boycott is official! Today, teachers at Maria Saucedo Elementary Scholastic Academy and Thomas Drummond Elementary School are refusing to distribute the Illinois Standards Achievement Tests (ISAT), even though Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has said they could lose their state certification if they boycott the test.

Why would dedicated teachers--from Seattle to Chicago---add the stress of disciplinary action against them to an already stressful job and refuse to distribute bubble tests to kids? I asked that questions to one of the leaders of the Saucedo boycott, Sarah Chambers.

March 4, 2014, New York – The Supreme Court announced yesterday that it would not hear Center for Constitutional Rights v. Obama, a lawsuit challenging the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance of people within the United States. The suit sought an injunction ordering the government to destroy any records of surveillance that it still retains from the illegal NSA program. 

The Court's decision comes as increasing evidence suggests the government has been surveilling attorney-client communications for some time. The New York Times recently reported that in 2013 the NSA surveilled law firm Mayer Brown while it represented the government of Indonesia in trade talks with the United States. In 2008, The Times reported Justice Department officials had confirmed that attorney-client communications in terrorism cases were sometimes subject to surveillance. And a document accidentally released to an Islamic charity in 2004 indicated that the D.C.-based attorneys for the charity had been subject to surveillance while speaking to their clients.

Mar 03

Red Baiting Continues Long After End of the Cold War

By Rowan Wolf, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Despite the fact that we assume the Cold War is long over, both contemporary propaganda as well as US actions belie that "fact," as evidenced by current US anti-communist propaganda on two current  issues - the activities of the NSA, and the events in Ukraine. 

The power of propaganda has been on my mind a lot as of late, driven by the continuing revelations and discussion regarding the activities of the NSA and US coverage and "reporting" on the events in the Ukraine. Both share many commonalities.

Mar 03

Mark Shepard on Restoration Agriculture

By Karen Rybold Chin, SpeakOut | Video Report

One of the world’s foremost authorities on restoration agriculture, Mark Shepard is happy that its popularity is growing but worries that its systemic nature is being misunderstood or "much degraded." Restoration agriculture calls for the re-imagination of agriculture in which perennial systems replace annual plantings and harvests that expire in one season and leave nothing behind except scorched earth, toxic runoff and carbon emissions. What is necessary is a "systematic redesign of how we get our staple food crops," Shepard says. "Agriculture absolutely must be ecological agriculture or else it will not persist."

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen, Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center joined with U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) to submit joint comments (PDF) today in an IRS rulemaking advocating new regulations to stop section 501(c)(4) nonprofit groups from engaging in campaign spending in violation of statutory limits on the activities in which they can permissibly engage.