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.

Jul 17

Abortions, Guns and Your Safety

By Hollis Phelps, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The North Carolina House has approved a proposal to regulate the operations of abortion clinics in the state. The bill, which the Republican-controlled House tacked onto a motorcycle safety bill, would severely hamper abortion rights in NC. After a veto threat from the governor, the proposal is less restrictive than its previous incarnation, which was without notice tacked onto a so-called anti-Shariah law bill right before the July 4th holiday weekend. The whole process would be comical if so much weren't at stake. The bill would, among other things, force clinics that provide abortions to adopt some standards that apply to surgical clinics; require that a physician be present during the first administration of any abortion-inducing drug; allow any healthcare provider to opt out of providing abortion procedures; prohibit health plans offered in compliance with the Affordable Care Act from covering abortion procedures; and prohibit cities and counties from offering abortion coverage in their health plans.

Houston, The Economist "Secret government: America against democracy," is a compelling and scary analysis of secret government in America - a nation that has become a caricature of ithe open government President Obama promised when he came to office.

There is nothing new about broken campaign promises. Obama, however, has taken that many steps farther. He offered us a vision in 2008 of a nation of open government, democracy operating as it was designed to operate. Reality is now so stunningly different that his maintenance of the same vision has become virtually psychotic. When President Obama was running for office, he promised that his first acts in office would be to issue executive orders adopting a policy of transparency for his presidency, and ease of access to presidential documents. . He clearly identified the documents by which his intent on the subject was to be assessed.

No matter how many times I live through moments like these, it never gets any easier. Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, John T. Williams, Henry Glover, Juan Herera, Amadou Diallo, Iman Morales, Eleanor Bumpers, Vincent Chin, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, Denise McNair, Emmett Till... There are so many more names to recall. There are so many names I don't know. And they number into the millions, over centuries as we are reminded over and over again that for people of color in this country, our lives are cheap.

I think my friend Dennis said it best when he observed that Trayvon was convicted of his own murder.

My heart goes out to Trayvon's family and all of us who are feeling the trauma and pain in this moment. It is wrong. It is an atrocity. There's no way this verdict would have gone down if Trayvon was white. The legal argument that led to this verdict, which is centuries old, could not exist without de facto acceptance of racism as legitimate motive and Blackness itself as life threatening.

Jul 16

A Memorial for a Failed Border Policy

By Tom Barry, The MIT Press | News Analysis

You can easily miss it. The steel fence towers over the small memorial for Chris Lamadrid, who the Border Patrol shot in the back as he climbed over the 18-foot steel-pillared fence. Under the Border Patrol's system of "threat assessment," the 19-year old resident of the Sonora border town of Agua Prieta was considered a member of a "Transnational Criminal Organization" since he was trafficking drugs across the border.

Standing at the memorial constructed by family and friends, looking over at the U.S. homeland through the massive fence that marks the line between Agua Prieta and the small Arizona town of Douglas, is as good a place as any to reflect on the $45-billion "border surge" that is the sine que non of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, which recently passed the Senate with the support of 13 Republican senators.

Several months ago, there was a huge outcry that the Swedish furniture store IKEA was found using horsemeat in their meatballs and sausages. [1] Apparently they had been doing this for years, but only now did they get found out and shamed for it. Critics called this revelation, "disgusting", "an outrage", and even "immoral."[2] Apparently people don't like horses mixed in with their cows.

The last thirty years has shown a huge increase in the amount of children being used as soldiers in many conflicts around the world, but most notably in the Sudanese, Burmese, and Somalian conflicts. This unfortunate aspect of wartime culture has been brought to the forefront by many human rights groups and concerned individuals in the West, largely due to such movies as "Blood Diamond," "Invisible Children," and more recently "War Witch." It is estimated that over 300,000 children between the ages of seven and fifteen are currently engaged in military conflicts around the world, with more being "recruited" every day.[3]

Oh, the sweet irony.
Pete Peterson is the conservative billionaire who is a major financier in the effort to dismantle, cut and privatize Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Recently he and his foundation held a contest asking folks to submit videos on why it is important to "fix" the national debt of which, he and his foundation falsely claim, Social Security is a major contributor.

Sometimes the best-laid plans for a propaganda campaign can go awry. The winner of the $500 grand prize determined by popular vote on the website came from the completely opposite side of Peterson's cut Social Security argument.

The US Occupy movement is still alive and well in many cities and small communities across the nation. Despite the lack of mainstream corporate news coverage of their activities, Occupy Wall Street affiliated groups have been marching and protesting against a wide range of issues effecting the nation. Two prime examples of their active participation in the cultural dialogue are recent nationally organized demonstrations against Monsanto, and also major protests in opposition to the US government's PRISM surveillance program.

As further proof that they did not completely disappear, Occupy activists have scheduled their second national conference for August 21 - 25 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The organizers of "Occupy National Gathering 2013" say they chose Michigan as the location for their conference because the state is a perfect place to discuss economic injustice. Some of the major metropolitan areas in the state (including Detroit) are currently being governed by financial managers as a result of bankruptcy. The Midwestern United States has been suffering for many decades from high unemployment and economic austerity.

Across the country, people are waking up to the state of emergency facing the right to abortion. As legislators in Texas pass legislation that will close down 37 of 42 abortion clinics statewide, new laws in North Carolina would close four of their five remaining clinics. Meanwhile, Ohio's recently passed budget could close as many as three abortion clinics. North Dakota, on August 1st, may become the first state to effectively ban abortion. Already Mississippi's last abortion clinic is merely an appellate ruling away from closure. We could go on.

If we do not reverse this trajectory now, we will condemn future generations of women and girls to forced motherhood, to lives of open enslavement, terror, and life-crushing shame. Women will be forced to have children they do not want, trapping them in abusive relationships, driving them into poverty, forcing them out of school, and extinguishing their dreams. Women will go to desperate and dangerous measures to terminate unwanted pregnancies, once again flooding emergency rooms and turning up dead in cheap motels with blood caked between their legs.

Since the acquittal of George Zimmerman Saturday for the death of Trayvon Martin, there have been thousands of tweets, dozens of blogs. Some are relieved by the verdict; others try to explain the legal basis. But most are part of a collective scream of outrage and grief. Of these latter, the predominant feeling is one of disbelief - how can the facts of the matter not bring some sort of punishment for Zimmerman? Any at all? How is he not guilty of taking the life of another human being who had done nothing to him of his own accord? As much as I get the legal reasoning - often delivered to us sanctimoniously and condescendingly by both legal scholars and those simply wanting to say the system works - we just don't understand how fair it is - my reaction to the verdict is very much that of Lawrence Bobo: "The most elemental facts of this case will never change.