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.

I met Mohammed Hassan Aazab earlier this year over tea at a table of young anarchists in downtown Cairo. The anniversary of the revolution had just passed with massive protests and the emergence of a Western-style black bloc that appeared to have little to do with anarchists in the city. At the time, much of the ongoing grassroots organizing was against sexual violence — in particular, the mob sexual assaults that have become synonymous with any large gathering in Tahrir. The trauma of such violence carried out against protesters was apparent in our conversation. In fact, Aazab told me that he was done with protests and politics, and had resigned himself to the dysfunction of day-to-day life in Egypt.

Then came June 30. Crowds reportedly as large as 33 million took to the streets to call for the Muslim Brotherhood to step down from power, just a year after Mohammed Morsi took office. In the pre-dawn moments of June 1, as Aazab's phone battery dwindled steadily, I reconnected with him to chat a bit about his return to resistance.

No one has ever accused Justice Antonin Scalia of timidity. So it's not surprising that his opinion in United States v. Windsor, the case that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), fairly screams: I'm not a bigot. I'm not. I'm not.

"The majority says that the supporters of this Act acted with malice," he claims in his dissent. And of course by dissenting he became a supporter of the act. So he must defend himself against the charge that he harbors malice toward gays and lesbians. "I am sure these accusations are quite untrue," he retorts flatly. "To defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements... To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution." In other words, "It demeansme!"

There are three ways to deal with your enemies: ignore them, kill them or engage them in dialogue to seek a mutually beneficial arrangement for living together.
We all know that ignoring them doesn't work. So, most countries these days – including the post-9/11 United States — has chosen to try to kill them. There are a couple of problems with that strategy, however. It violates the principle of due process so dear to Western democracies. It leaves collateral damage in its wake, injuring and killing innocents no matter how "clean" drones and other technologies are billed. The Stanford University report, Living Under Drones, found that the number of "high-level" militants killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low – estimated at just 2% of deaths.And, in the long term, the strategy simply doesn't work. Kill one militant and another will take his place, as the root causes of rebellion continue to simmer. In fact, although it is an issue of some dispute, many observers believe that drone strikes actually serve as a recruitment tool for non-state armed groups, motivating further violent attacks.

Jul 02

Binding Students

By Hollis Phelps, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The Senate's failure to reach a deal to avoid a doubling of interest rates on federally subsidized student loans has once again thrust the magnitude of student debt into the spotlight. Most agree that an increase in the interest rate for subsidized Stafford loans from 3.4% to 6.8% is a bad idea for students, but Democrats and Republicans unsurprisingly disagree on how to stave it off. Republicans and, we should add, President Obama, want to provide a long-term fix to the recurring problem by tying interest rates to market rates. Democrats want to temporarily extend the current rate, and take up the issue again at a later date. Unable at this point to reach a passable compromise, it looks like the rate increase will go into effect July 1, as discussions have, at least for now, run aground on the July 4th recess. is excited to announce it's first action campaign. In collaboration with groups that have been working to expose and oppose the secretive trade agreement that the Obama administration has been negotiating for the past three years, developed an action website:

Everyone can get involved to stop the TPP!

1. Take the pledge (and you will receive a weekly action newsletter).

2. Use the Tool page to find ideas and resources for an action – it can be as simple as passing out the new TPP OccuCard or holding a sign in a public place on #TPPTuesday, or a more complicated and creative action such as light projection or highway bannering.

3. Post your action on the Action page for everyone to see!

It's tough being a progressive these days—in an era of what could be called "The New American Confederacy," which actively cultivates fertile ground for the black face of white supremacy to thrive.

In the Obama presidency, the world view of Dick Cheney—as formerly channeled through the Bush administration—is alive and well; albeit with a more alluring voice and face, and in spite of the fact Cheney defends Obama's policies, while simultaneously saying Obama has "no credibility."

Go figure.

Jul 01

The Grass Roots Battle to End the Drone War

By Dennis Bernstein, SpeakOut | Interview

Long time peace activist Kathy Kelly is co-coordinator of the Chicago-based Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Kelly just returned from her twelfth trip to Afghanistan, and is now trekking 195 miles across Iowa, with other members of her group and other peace groups, to call attention to the extreme violence and suffering she says is, in large part, a direct result of US military occupation there. And a real killer at the core of the policy, asserts Kelly, is the expanding and "deadly" US drone program there.

I caught up with Kelly, via telephone, last Thursday, as she continued to walk the 18 miles she was planning to cover by that day's end. The peace activist described in detail some of the things she saw and heard on her most recent trip to poverty-stricken and war-torn Afghanistan.

Ido Aharoni, Israel's Consul General for New York, and also "the founding head of Israel's brand-management team and the originator of the Brand Israel movement" recently wrote an op-ed in the New York Post (19 June 2013). In it he took to task the famous American novelist Alice Walker for her promotion of a cultural boycott of Israel.

Aharoni explains that, just like most countries in the world, Israel tries to promote "an attractive image"of itself – a sort of Israeli version of "I love New York." Since, "no other country has ever been criticized for engaging in this common practice of courting tourists and businesses" why does Walker try to interfere with Israel's branding campaign?

Jul 01

Eavesdropping On the Planet

By William Blum, Anti-Empire Report | News Analysis

The above is the title of an essay that I wrote in 2000 that appeared as a chapter in my book Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower. Here are some excerpts that may help to put the current revelations surrounding Edward Snowden into perspective ...

Can people in the 21st century imagine a greater invasion of privacy on all of earth, in all of history? If so, they merely have to wait for technology to catch up with their imagination.

Like a mammoth vacuum cleaner in the sky, the National Security Agency (NSA) sucks it all up: home phone, office phone, cellular phone, email, fax, telex ... satellite transmissions, fiber-optic communications traffic, microwave links ... voice, text, images ... captured by satellites continuously orbiting the earth, then processed by high-powered computers ... if it runs on electromagnetic energy, NSA is there, with high high tech. Twenty-four hours a day. Perhaps billions of messages sucked up each day. No one escapes.

The costs of education and student loan debt are used as weapons to enforce a neo-feudal caste system that sentences us to a lifetime of wage slavery. With the already excessive interest rate on this debt set to double on July 1st, one wonders if this will become a tipping point and rallying call for another wave of protest from the all too dormant US wing of the decentralized global Occupy movement. To throw a little fuel on the fire, as we prepare to get back on the frontlines ourselves, here is a stream of consciousness riff inspired by Allen Ginsberg's epic Howl poem...
The Beaten Masses & Mass Disaster

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by debt
Struggling to get by, dying to make ends meet
Shopping for an angry fix
Wage slaves burnin' for the illusion,
a fleeting connection to the celebrity driven machinery of slow death