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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.

Mar 21

David Brooks Jumps the Shark

By Dan Riker, SpeakOut | News Analysis

David Brooks jumped the shark in his March 18 New York Times column, when he attacked the only budget proposed in Congress this year that would rapidly improve the economy, restore full employment, but reduce the ratio of the national debt to the GDP, without cuts in Medicare or Social Security. Remarkably, the "Back to Work Budget" of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, also would restore sequester cuts in the defense budget and provide for a more rational reduction in military spending.

Brooks attacked the $2.1 trillion in stimulus spending in the budget as unnecessary because the economy is "finally beginning to take off," and argued that the raising of revenue from increasing the top marginal tax rates, closing loopholes, taxing capital gains like ordinary income, and imposing a tax on some of Wall Street's risky financial transactions will unfairly punish the wealthy and discourage the mythical "job creators."

Today, upon the news that Maryland’s House of Delegates joined the State Senate in passing SB276, the bill to end capital punishment in the state, leaders from Witness to Innocence issued the following statements.

Kirk Bloodsworth, Advocacy Director of Witness to Innocence, remarked: 

“I am profoundly grateful to the representatives of the Maryland House of Delegates for their historic action today. Support for the end of capital punishment by both houses of the Maryland General Assembly marks an emotional milestone in my personal journey toward healing from the trauma I suffered here.

Missed in the mainstream media coverage of the release of the revised Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) documents on March 14 was the alarming role the peripheral tunnels could play in increased fracking in California.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the controversial, environmentally destructive process of injecting millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals underground at high pressure in order to release and extract oil or gas, according to Food and Water Watch.

The oil industry, represented by Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association and the former chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called "marine protected areas" in Southern California, is now pushing for increasing fracking for oil and natural gas in shale deposits in Kern County and coastal areas.

Mar 20

The Wrath of the Bureaucracy

By Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analysis | News Analysis

The institutions of modern society, including governments, large economic structures, and military forces, are organized in bureaucratic fashion. A bureaucracy is a form of organization that operates by means of a wide range of closely supervised departments capable of performing specific tasks in efficient ways. This division of labor, or specialization, is carried on according to well-defined rules and regulations. Therefore, the workers in a bureaucracy (i.e., the bureaucrats) perform their tasks within a compartmentalized environment that narrows their focus to the task at hand. Potentially mitigating circumstances that might call into question the task set for the worker, or the rules governing its implementation, are almost always ignored.

The command structure of bureaucracies is hierarchical, or what is called a "vertical pyramid power structure."

I have never been big on chanting, which means I have spent lots of time at anti-war protests shuffling uncomfortably, mouthing words that others are shouting out.

"What do we want?" JUSTICE! (and a quick end to the chanting, please). "When do we want it?" NOW! (or as soon as possible, please).

Part of my discomfort no doubt comes from the fact that I'm tone-deaf with no sense of rhythm (have I mentioned that I'm a white guy from North Dakota?). But there's also my frustration with condensing a complex analysis into a chantable sentence (have I mentioned that I'm a nerdy professor?).

There is a chemical pumped into 70% of our drinking water that is scientifically proven to decrease IQ in children in certain doses. Watch the video.

A new Institute for Policy Studies report analyzes proposed Social Security cuts and their potential impact on individuals at the top and the bottom of the health industry.

On the top end, the report focuses on the CEOs of CVS Caremark, the nation's largest drug retailer, and UnitedHealth Group, the nation's largest health insurer. Both men are members of the Business Roundtable, which is pushing for an increase in the retirement age to 70 and a new method of calculating inflation known as "chained CPI."

or the first time in my life, like 84% of Los Angeles registered voters, I failed to cast a ballot in last week's election. It was a primary to select front-running mayoral candidates and city council members, a city attorney, controller, community college trustees and a tax proposition – stuff that should really matter. The four men and a woman – the "five little kings" of the county Board of Supervisors – who really run LA's nine-million-person megalopolis – were not on the ballot. Supervisors who used to rule in perpetuity now are term-limited to "only" three consecutive four year terms.

Although LA politics are notoriously distant, confusing, confused and impenetrable except to lobbyists, this recent election was stratospherically off the boredom chart with a record-setting 16% turnout.

Today, lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) urged a federal judge to reject California's attempt to dismiss a class action lawsuit challenging prolonged solitary confinement in California prisons. The case was filed on behalf of prisoners in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison who have spent between 10 and 28 years in solitary confinement and who staged two widely publicized hunger strikes in 2011. It alleges that prolonged solitary confinement violates Eighth Amendment prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment, and that the absence of meaningful review of SHU placement violates the prisoners' right to due process. CCR lawyers argued today that nominal, temporary reforms by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), which the defendants cited as grounds for dismissing the case, have had little to no effect on the conditions challenged in the lawsuit and, thus, the case must proceed.

Farmers and green groups are coming together to launch a new campaign – ahead of the Environmental Council meeting held on 21 March in Brussels – calling on EU politicians to halt the authorisation of 25 GM crops currently being considered for cultivation in Europe.

The 'Stop the Crop' campaign highlights the devastating impacts already experienced in other countries as a result of the increased pesticide use in large-scale GM crop production. Campaigners – including Friends of the Earth Europe and Corporate Europe Observatory – are warning EU Member States that the expansion of GM cultivation and increased use of toxic pesticide Roundup in Europe will endanger the environment and potentially human health – similar to those experienced in South America.