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.

Look around you. Are there zombies? Are there vampires? If you answered yes, then maybe you don't need to watch this video. If you answered no, then I'm about to change your mind. ...or eat it.

Sep 11

Democracy Takes a Hit: An Analysis

By Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analysis | News Analysis

On Wednesday the 5th of September, 2012, in the middle of the Democratic Party convention, U.S. democracy took a big hit. Essentially the convention managers rigged a vote in the manner of those dictatorships that stuff ballot boxes and then announce that 99% of the voters support the dictator in question.

Worse yet, the Democrats did this on national TV so millions of other Americans could watch them do it.

The bafflement about Iran so widespread on the Left has a long history. It's a problem that has vexed several progressives – Bitta Mostofi, Hamid Dabashi, Muhammad Sahimi, Reese Erlich, Saeed Rahnema, and myself among them.

The recent summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Tehran at the end of August only compounded the problem, providing an occasion for yet more left-wing confusion. A touch of clarification is in order.

Though largely forgotten of late, the Non-Aligned Movement has played a major role in the political history of the Third World and the global Left. Formed in the early 1960s as an alternative to both Cold War power blocs, it became a vehicle for the newly decolonized states in the Global South to chart an independent path on the world stage.

Sep 07

In the Blame Game, the Right Cites God

By Shannyn Moore, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Before science, we humans came up with all sorts of ways to explain our surroundings. To the Greeks, an invisible god in the sky produced thunder and lightning. Virgins tossed into volcanoes could help prevent eruptions. Crazy people were possessed by literal demons and fossils were a trick by the devil.

But now that we've developed science, we can cheer for an Olympic runner with no legs, have our minds blown by landing Curiosity on Mars and mourn Neil Armstrong, the first man to set a foot on the moon.

When Hurricane Isaac was barreling down on the Republican convention in Tampa earlier this week, I waited for an explanation -- was it in fact a great reckoning with the Almighty? Would the GOP repent? Yes, I'm joking but I did wonder if the same sort of blame game would play out again.

The teacher had come to the city from some distance away, after a period of wondering and wandering. She slowly came to feel at home in the city, in the same way she felt at home while wandering. She settled in and found work in the city's school. People trusted her, even though they could not always understand her motivations and could not always predict her opinions. She was not without enemies, but she also counted many of her enemies as friends.

When she arrived, people were already beginning to talk of a Great Divide, a disagreement that would eventually split the city. There were people on both sides who had strong convictions, and some who were uncertain, and as time went on the Great Divide widened. Those who were uncertain felt pressured to choose, and the two sides grew, in number and in unanimity on the surface, though not in depth and commitment. As each side grew larger in number, their ideas became hollower, and as the strength of people's belief grew it became less clear what they believed in.

A year ago Occupy Wall Street burst onto the scene, changing the conversations going on around this country and perhaps the world. Has it had some defeats, some hurdles, some difficulties? Sure. But who honestly thought it wouldn't? This war isn't over.

Natalia Estemirova was the sole motivation for the Roots To Resistance Project, an Art and Activism project celebrating the work of 12 Global Women Activists doing profoundly important work on this Planet. Natalia Estemirova's 8' Portrait was the first of 12. Natalia was a Grass Roots Activist, a Journalist and she was so profoundly OF the people. She was there for her Community during two brutal wars in Chechnya and during the acts of violence and repression of the current Chechen government led by Ramzan Kadyrov. Natalia stayed, reported, supported, spoke up loudly and even in the face of threats and grave dangers she refused to leave her country and those that depended on her. Natalia was only too aware that she truly was one of the only voices left reporting from within the borders of Chechnya during these dark days.

Natalia Estemirova was abducted and murdered in July of 2009.

It was most certainly the Activism, dedication, fierceness and love of her people that made me feel so heartbroken for the loss of Natalia but it was also something else which is harder to describe. As I began to investigate the life of Natalia Estemirova I was so very struck by the ways she wore all of these experiences on her face and body, the way she wore and exposed her joys and also the heartache of a life lived so close to these wars, violence and suffering. She wore it all with immense sincerity, integrity and grace and so although I never knew Natalia Estemirova, I was profoundly moved by her humanness and beauty and I did my best to paint all of that, and her, back to life.

Democracy At Work has commissioned a participatory art piece by a New York arts collective, Animus. The piece is called "500 pieces" which will be created by the guests at Economist Richard Wolff's speaking engagements on Sept 7th in Palo Alto and on Sept 13th in Berekely.

Each guest will receive a piece of wood with a notch in each side which they can place where ever they would like to create the artwork.

As someone who deals extensively with questions of subornment in fiction (and who once had some training on the subject, courtesy of Uncle Sam), I found the question itself extremely interesting. I was also interested -- and, as admirer of Hayes and his work, concerned -- that Hayes really had no answer. He said he would try to protect himself by continuing to practice what he recognized as good journalism, which he said consists at least in part of ensuring that a wide variety of voices are heard on his show. But countless people have gone astray before Hayes, and surely all of them -- at least the ones who weren't corrupt to begin with -- promised themselves at least this much, that they would continue to practice good journalism. And alas, the promise wasn't enough.

So I got to thinking. What are the warning signs, the real metrics a well-intentioned and clear-eyed journalist should consider before her subornment begins, and by which she can judge whether her integrity is slowly being compromised, corroded, and lost? It's important to think about these issues in advance. Cops and soldiers, after all, use when/then thinking to prepare for physical danger. The principles apply to the danger of subornment, too.

Sep 05

Israel Says: Rachel Made Me Do It

By Lawrence Davidson, SpeakOut | News Analysis

On 16 March 2003, the last day of her life, 23 year old Rachel Corrie was in the Gaza town of Rafah standing in front of the Palestinian family home (not just a house) of Dr. Samir Nasrallah. Dr. Nasrallah was a local pharmacist and Ms Corrie had been staying with his family while serving as part of an International Solidarity Movement (ISM) cadre seeking to disrupt the Israeli army’s (IDF) on-going demolition of Palestinian homes. Between 2000 and 2004, the Israelis had destroyed enough homes in the Rafah area to leave some 1700 people homeless.

The Israeli army claimed they did this because these homes were used as “terrorist hiding places.” The result, they claimed, was frequent gunfire at Israeli settlements and soldiers. Yet for the time that Ms Corrie stayed with the Nasrallahs, everyone in the home had slept on the floor and away from the windows to avoid a constant barrage of gunfire from Israeli snipers.