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.

Reporting today for the New York Times Charlie Savage describes how Chief Justice Roberts appointments to the FISA court have played a role in creating what critics call the secret “parallel Supreme Court“.

In making assignments to the court, Chief Justice Roberts, more than his predecessors, has chosen judges with conservative and executive branch backgrounds that critics say make the court more likely to defer to government arguments that domestic spying programs are necessary.

Ten of the court’s 11 judges — all assigned by Chief Justice Roberts — were appointed to the bench by Republican presidents; six once worked for the federal government. Since the chief justice began making assignments in 2005, 86 percent of his choices have been Republican appointees, and 50 percent have been former executive branch officials.

Aug 01

The Trouble with Suspicion and Racial Profiling

By Poorni Priya Jaganathan, SpeakOut | Opinion

‘These assholes. They always get away.’ These were some of George Zimmerman’s last words before he decided-against the advice of a police dispatcher- to follow Trayvon Martin because he looked like, ‘he was upto no good.’

Zimmerman met Martin with a loaded gun. Martin was confronted by Zimmerman, who failed to identify himself as a member of the neighbourhood watch, with nothing more than his mobile phone, a packet of Skittles and a can of iced tea. A confrontation between Zimmerman and Martin ensued culminating in Zimmerman firing two shots, one which ended up piercing Martin’s lung and ended up lodged in his heart. Another senseless death. Another mother and father left childless. Again, no one held accountable.

Jul 31

The Boycott of Israel Eight Years In

By Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analysis | News Analysis

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement directed toward Israel is eight years old. It was started back in 2005, when a coalition of Palestine-based social and economic organizations called for such a comprehensive effort.

At first the BDS movement appeared to be a long shot. Israel, with its worldwide coterie of Zionist supporters, both Jewish and Christian, seemed invincible. Particularly in the Western world, the belief in Israel's legitimacy had reached the status of sacred tradition. The Zionists worked very hard to achieve this status by controlling the historical interpretation of events that had led from World War I and the Balfour Declaration to the creation of Israel in 1948, and beyond. They might well have been able to maintain control of Israel's past, present and future if the Zionist leadership had not succumbed to the sin of hubris. They became so ideologically self-righteous and militarily muscle-bound that they believed their place in the world to be untouchable. Thus, as they built a country based on discrimination and colonial expansion in an age increasingly critical of such societies, they refused all compromise with the Palestinians and treated criticism of their behavior and policies as at once anti-Semitic and irrelevant. They therefore failed to notice that their stubbornness was allowing others to erode the Zionist version of the history of modern Palestine/Israel.

Jul 31

Police Violence Did Not Cause Turkeys Uprising

By Arkan Akin, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Contrary to what many might believe, the extreme use of force by police on the peaceful protestors was not what caused the massive uprising which started in Turkey in May 2013. The uprising was the result of a long accumulation of oppression, injustice, concentration of wealth and power as well as neoliberal (or simply capitalist) policies.

Why is the uprising the result of systemic oppression? What does all this have to do with capitalism and what can we learn from this uprising?

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Fridaylaunched Free & Equal, an unprecedented global public education campaign for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality.

At a press conference held in Cape Town, South Africa, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay was joined by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Justice Edwin Cameron of the South African Constitutional Court to announce the year-long project. A statement of support was read out on behalf of renowned South African singer and UNICEF and Roll Back Malaria Goodwill Ambassador Yvonne Chaka Chaka.

In McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether to strike down longstanding provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act that impose an "aggregate limit" of approximately $125,000 on the amounts individuals can contribute during an election cycle to federal candidates, political parties and other political committees. The elimination of that cap would allow candidates and party officials to solicit million-dollar-plus contributions to be shared among the major parties' various candidates and committees. Despite the Supreme Court's repeated holdings that limits on such huge contributions are constitutional because they are a bulwark against corruption—the exchange of political favors for money—the Republican National Committee (RNC) and one of its large donors argue in the case that the limits should be wiped away because the resulting contributions will not be "huge" enough to cause concern.

Jul 31

Women's Initiatives Begin at Home

By Laura Finley, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Early in his first term, President Obama appointed Melanne Verveer as the first Ambassador-At-Large for Global Women's Issues. Now, a new appointee will take the lead on the state department's global women's initiatives. It is my hope that Cathy Russell uses her new position to address the continuing problems faced by women seeking legal protection from abusive partners. To date, much of the focus on women's issues has been external to the U.S. While this is very important, we need to clean up our own backyard as well.

Jul 31

I'm Going to Chevron Saturday

By Rebecca Solnit, SpeakOut | Op-Ed
I’m going to Chevron Saturday. There’s only one of me, this is only one piece of the work of trying to limit carbon emissions and thereby climate change, but I’ll be joined by hundreds, maybe thousands of others, and this is the work we are here to do, all of us, you too, because it’s your cause and your job. If you care about anything at all—your own future past next week or next year, the price of food, the poor almost everywhere, peace on earth, the people who live in fragile places from Bolivia to Ethiopia to to Alaska to Louisiana, the kids who will be living on earth in fifty years, the fish in the sea and the complex web of living things on earth, the forests of the west, the democratic process—you care about climate change. It is the overarching issue that affects all others, from the food we eat and the financial systems of the world to the nonhuman life on earth on which our lives depend. It’s everything. It’s the size of everything else: it’s the entire living surface of our earth, from the depths of
the oceans to the birds in the sky; it’s the atmosphere that shapes our weather and our fate.

On July 13, 2013, jurors in the Zimmerman trial found him "not guilty."

Since then, CNN's interviews with Juror B37 and prosecution star witness Rachel Jeantel, plus ABC's interview with juror B29, have provided additional perspective, illuminating how race, credibility, communication and misperceived "evidence" perhaps influenced the verdict.

Juror B37 said in her Anderson Cooper interview that she and other jurors didn't believe race played a role in the trial.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos disagreed, insisting, "Race had EVERYTHING to do with the trial! When they picked the jury, the case was over! Race is still the biggest issue in the criminal justice system."

Jul 30

Monsanto Soybeans May Sprout From Human Ears

By Jennifer Hollie Bowles, SpeakOut | News Analysis

While there's no imminent or specific threat of soybeans sprouting from our ears due to Monsanto chemicals and its genetic modification of food, the real risks are far worse.
The disturbing misanthropic history of Monsanto includes polyurethanes, aspartame, herbicide glysophates, and Agent Orange production, which makes the thought of their involvement with food immediately questionable at best. Many scientists, politicians, citizens, and even most of Europe agree that Monsanto should be stopped.