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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.

This is a defense of public education. Much like Socrates, public education is on trial. And despite the defendant making an excellent defense, the judges may still convict as they convicted Socrates. Public education in America and the world over is under a relentless attack by neo-liberals, social conservatives and virtually all policymakers at the federal and state level. Educators at all levels perform their work in a hostile climate. They are under constant scrutiny and attack. Thus, educators and anyone concerned with public education should begin to understand the roots of this attack, how it came to be and what its central tenets are. Perhaps the most logical place to start is Milton and Rose Friedman's work Free to Choose published in 1978. While Freidman was by no means the only critic who attacked education, nor was he the first, his influence cannot be overstated. Free to Choose is perhaps Freidman's most succinct and direct work. Subsequently, in 1980, the book was turned into a 10 part mini-series which aired on PBS.

Fourteen economists and other academics have written an open letter to the media calling for the reporting of "overwhelming statistical evidence" that shows that Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro won the April 14 elections as verified by Venezuela's electoral authorities. The economists, who include James K. Galbraith of the University of Texas and Robert Pollin of the University of Massachusetts, point to a statistical analysis of the initial audit of 53 percent of votes as irrefutable proof that Maduro won the election, but the media's failure to report this fact could mean that "many if not most Americans believe that the election was stolen or that the result is somehow in question."

The letter cites three "uncontested facts" about Venezuela's electoral process and the audit: the existence of both electronic records and paper receipts of voters' choices; the completion of the initial audit of 53 percent of votes on election night in the presence of [tens of thousands] of witnesses; and the fact that this audit found no discrepancies between the electronic vote tally and paper receipts.

Jun 12

A Day in the Life of a Congressman

By Alan Grayson, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

One of the interesting things about this Congress job is that at any given moment, there are three or four different things to do. What one has to show for one's time in Congress is, more than anything else, a question of time management.

Last Wednesday posed an interesting choice for me. I was invited, like all members of Congress, to the Radio/TV Correspondents Association annual dinner. This is a spectacular opportunity to "network with" (i.e., suck up to) major figures in the national news media, like network news anchors, national radio show hosts and White House correspondents.

As the trial of Bradley Manning continues, Edward Snowden comes out as the NSA whistleblower who revealed the secret massive surveillance state.

Abahlali baseMjondolo is a democratic, membership based movement of shack dwellers and other poor people in South Africa. In 2005 our experience of suffering and injustice led us to decided to organize ourselves and to represent ourselves. We are struggling for land and housing as a vital step towards the restoration of our dignity and the recognition of our equality. We have been severely punished by those who want to keep us in our place and we have faced serious repression.

When we have come under attack we have received solidarity from across the world – from Auckland to Istanbul, Nairobi, London and New York. We have stood with comrades facing repression in places like Haiti and Palestine. Today we stand with our comrades in Turkey and with all Turkish democrats.

Many loyal Republicans opposed impeaching George W. Bush. So did most liberal and progressive activist groups, labor unions, peace organizations, churches, media outlets, journalists, pundits, organizers, and bloggers, not to mention most Democratic members of Congress, most Democrats dreaming of someday being in Congress, and -- toward the end of the Bush presidency -- most supporters of candidate Barack Obama or candidate Hillary Clinton.

Remarkably in the face of this opposition, a large percentage and often a majority of Americans told pollsters that Bush should be impeached. It's not clear, however, that everyone understood why impeachment was needed. Some might have supported a successful impeachment of Bush and then turned around and tolerated identical crimes and abuses by a Democrat, assuming a Democrat managed to engage in them. But this is the point: whoever followed Bush's impeachment would have been far less likely to repeat and expand on his tyrannical policies.

If you are interested in finding solutions to the War on Drugs, you will want to take a look at the Organization of American States document titled Scenarios for the Drug Problem in the Americas [pdf]. It is the result of the 6th Summit of the Americas in Cartagena de Indias of 2012, where, although Obama steadfastly refused to consider any changes in US drug policy, alternatives to the Drug War were brought to the table in a historic discussion between leaders of Western Hemisphere nations.

The participants mandated the production of two documents, the first being an analysis of the current drug problem [pdf]. The other is more intriguing, envisioning different scenarios that could unfold. This creative approach brought together a diverse team of individuals in fields ranging from security and justice to health, education, business, politics, and indigenous cultures. Their purpose: To generate relevant and credible fictions "intended to support an open and constructive search for answers to core questions of drug policy and strategy." The idea is to initiate informed debate without the political hazard of tying anyone to any particular policy position.

Acronym TV host Dennis Trainor, Jr interview journalist Kevin Gosztola to discuss the first week of the Bradley Manning trial.

"We have to be clear that the cables we not top secret documents," Chris Hedges points out in a promotional video published by the Bradley Manning support network (shown in part here) and Matt Taibbi reminds us that "the whole concept of whistleblower law is that you can't get in trouble for reporting about illegal or improper activity."

Jun 10

CitiBank and Space Discrimination

By Duncan Meisel, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

As CitiBike has launched in parts of New York City, public attention has focused on certain manifestations of public backlash, usually in the form of NIMBY distaste for the bike stations on particular blocks, and general grumpiness about the role of cycling in the future of New York City transportation.

Alongside this public-facing displeasure has emerged a more profound series of critiques that have gone largely unmentioned by the press, or the city's established transportation advocacy organizations and their allies in government.

The first issue cuts to the heart of the promise of a bike-friendly green economy, and should (nominally) speak to the organizations at the center of New York's progressive coalition -- wage theft. Alta, the company hired to install and run CitiBike has engaged in deceptive and manipulative labor practices in the operation of its bike share program in Washington DC.

Dear Senator Feinstein:

On Thursday, when you responded to news about massive ongoing surveillance of phone records of people in the United States, you slipped past the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. As the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, you seem to be in the habit of treating the Bill of Rights as merely advisory.

The Constitution doesn’t get any better than this: 

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”