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.

Last year September 2013 San Francisco implemented a new cleaning policy in which the sidewalks on Market Street are sprayed with drinking water five times per week, four hours per day. Operations start at 4:30 am each morning, and require that the homeless people who sleep on Market Street’s sidewalks to wake up and move their belongings so that water trucks may begin spraying down their areas.

The homeless on Market say that this new sidewalk cleaning policy has resulted in sleep deprivation which has led to associated health complications. Many homeless don’t have another place to go: all of San Francisco’s shelter beds are full, and the reservation waitlist for a bed was 619 people long as of yesterday, August 13th.

Aug 19


By Kathy Kelly, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Here in Kabul, Sherri Maurin and I are guests of the Afghan Peace Volunteers’ recently formed live-in community for young women. Hollyhocks in the garden reach as high as the second floor of our living space.  Rose bushes, morning glories and four-o-clocks have bloomed, and each day we eat tomatoes, mint and green onions plucked from the well-cared for garden. The water source is a hose and tank outside, (there’s no indoor plumbing) so that’s where dishes and clothes are cleaned. The latrine is also outside, --and unfortunately we’re sharing it with playful neighborhood cats, but otherwise  Zarghuna, Zahidi and Zahro complete almost every detail of housekeeping, each day, by 7:00 a.m.

Two additional rooms are filled with sewing machines and tables used by a group of local seamstresses.

While the corporate media and the law enforcement in Ferguson, Missouri tell one story about the killing of Michael Brown, many independent journalists and African-Americans alike see a too familiar pattern of quasi-legal extrajudicial murders of unarmed black men. 

A recent review of just two letters sent by members of the House of Representatives to President Obama about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) found an overwhelming number oppose giving away Congress’ role in debating the still-unresolved massive 12 country trade deal that would encompass 40 percent of global GDP. A clear majority, 266 members, signed letters stating their concerns over the status of the agriculture market access or their opposition of outdated “fast track” procedures that usurp Congress’s authority over trade matters.  

Now a review of two similar letters on proposed ‘national treatment’ requirements in the TPP, which would gut the Buy American Act of 1933 and other similar legislation, finds that the number of Representatives opposing finalizing the TPP without Congressional input now stands at 283.

I'll never forget the national outpouring of grief that erupted out of America after the Sandy Hook shooting. There was something so unsettling about it to me. Something so profoundly disturbing that it actually frightened me more than the actual shooting itself.

The thought has haunted me up till now. Why couldn't I just chorus my shock with the collective agony over the sadistic slaughter of such fragile innocence? Why couldn't I just join the searing contempt for the maniacal murderer who showed such callous disregard for the loved ones of those he killed? I was alarmed, sure. I mean Jesus, what kind of sick country supplies weapons used in the wanton bloodshed of children? Adam Lanza obtained his weapons that easily?

Sam Cooke, the famous American soul singer, sang a rendition of A Change Gunna Come that reflected much of the uncertainty and optimism of the US Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

It's been too hard living / but I'm afraid to die

Cause I don't know what's up there beyond the sky

It's been a long, a long time coming

But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

Why is it that the same conservatives who so desperately want “big government” out of our lives are at the same time so darn eager to have officials involved in our urination? Despite major studies showing that suspicion-less drug testing is not an effective means of identifying or deterring drug use, state and federal officials continue to promote it.  That is true of both school-based drug testing and random workplace testing.

In 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott (a Republican) attempted to require anyone seeking benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to submit a urine sample. No suspicion was required, nor was any previous arrest or conviction for a drug-related offense required. Being poor was the only suspicion needed.  Federal courts declared the program unconstitutional, although Scott spent nearly $400,000 fighting the court’s decision. And Florida spent $118,140 reimbursing the 3,938 TANF applicants who tested negative for drugs. Only 2.6 percent of people who were tested during the four months that the Florida program was in operation had results positive for drugs—a rate far lower than drug use among the general public. In fact, more than three times lower than the 8.13 percent of Floridians over the age of 12 who are estimated by the federal government to use illegal drugs. Tennessee’s program saw only one person out of the 800 who applied for assistance test positive.

In 1968, the Mannington Mine in Farmington WV owned by Consol Coal, caught fire, blew up, and 78 miners were buried, many likely alive.

In 1972, a Consol mine in Blacksville, WV, caught fire and 9 miners were buried (again, likely alive) when Consol sealed the mine off to stop the fire and save the coal.

I remember those well, having been involved in labor struggles as a working Teamster truck-driver back then with friends in the coal fields.

Aug 18

Ukraine: The Collapse of the Liberal "Left"

By Svetlana Tsiberganova and Translated By Peter Mikhailenko, Liva | Op-Ed

Many are surprised at how quickly Ukrainian society has fallen under the rule of aggressive chauvinistic propaganda and begun to live according to the principles of Orwellian dystopia: "War – is peace! Freedom – is slavery! Democracy – is the limitation of all rights! Freedom of speech – is silence! The victims burned and killed themselves![1]"

But I've realized that that, for some time now, there is nothing surprising about this. If we analyze the recent history of the "left-wing movement" of Ukraine, it is clear that these cynical principles are the very essence of Ukrainian nationalism. They are shared even among those who would not be expected to succumb to the chauvinist hysteria. Why did the "left" liberals go to Maidan? Why did Ukrainian nationalists under the flags of the EU screaming "Pro-Russians to the knives! Death to the enemies!" become, for them, "the people", while the population of the South-East, singing "Arise, great country!"[2] became sovky[3], "cattle" and "Colorado beetles" [4]?

Aug 16

Parents Mourn a Soldier

By Emanuel E. Garcia, SpeakOut | Poem

April in Paris
Or autumn in Schenectady,
For falling stars and moonlight
It's the same old smooth routine

No matter how we kneel
Or even if we topple in,
No matter how we rue
Our squandering