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.

Domestic violence is one of the most common forms of violence endured by women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one-fourth of U.S women will endure an abusive relationship, while some 1,300 people are killed each year by intimate partners. Thankfully, we have come a long way since the 1970s, when laws did not directly prohibit domestic violence, police often failed to respond, and few resources were available to victims. Yet we stand at the brink of losing much of that progress if Congress does not act now to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Feb 11

The Imperial Poisoning of the Salton Sea

By Evaggelos Vallianatos, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

I visited Salton Sea on January 13, 2013. It was sunny and modestly cool day. The few birds wading in the lake added color and beauty to the naked nature surrounding the controversial and threatened Salton Sea.

I saw few tourists and no one in a boat or fishing. Hard times have become a permanent feature of the life and death of Salton Sea. Yet, the information pamphlets I received on entering the "Salton Sea State Recreation Area" painted a picture of a huge lake thriving on tourism, fishing and millions upon millions of birds. The Salton Sea had become "a birdwatcher's delight."

The Salton Sea is more than 100 years old, having been created by an accidental spill of the Colorado River in the middle of the Colorado Desert in southern California in 1905. It is, park cartographers say, "a landlocked extension of the Gulf of California."

“Dear Mr. Lam. I loved your essay, 'The Palmist,' but I can’t figure out what the main theme is. Is it dying and being all alone? My teacher suggests I read more of your writing… I’m glad I found you online…. Thank you very much for your help.”

The e-mail from, let’s call him, “Evan,” is not atypical. Students assigned my work sometimes reached out to me for help. “The Palmist,” however, is not an essay but a short story in my new collection, Birds of Paradise Lost. Its claim to fame is that it was read on PRI’s Selected Shorts a few years ago by not just one but two well-known actors: David Strathairn, who played journalist Edward R. Murrow in Good Night and Good Luck, and later by James Naughton of Gossip Girl. 

Under legislation proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), corporations would pay U.S. taxes on their offshore profits as they are earned. The legislation would take away the tax incentives for corporations to move jobs offshore or to shift profits offshore because the U.S. would tax their profits no matter where they are generated.
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday introduced a bill to stop profitable corporations from sheltering income in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens. The legislation also would end tax breaks for companies that ship jobs and factories overseas.  Sanders’ bill and a companion measure to be introduced in the House by Rep. Jan Schakowsky would yield more than $590 billion in revenue over the next decade, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. “At a time when we have a $16.5 trillion national debt and an unsustainable federal deficit; at a time when roughly one-quarter of the largest corporations in America are paying no federal income taxes; and at a time when corporate profits are at an all-time high, it is past time for corporate America to contribute significantly to deficit reduction,” said Sanders, a member of the Senate Budget Committee.
Feb 11

Drones and Our National Religion

By David Swanson, War is a Crime | Op-Ed

The national religion of the United States of America is nationalism.  Its god is the flag.  Its prayer is the pledge of allegiance. 

The flag's powers include those of life and death, powers formerly possessed by traditional religions.  Its myths are built around the sacrifice of lives to protect against the evils outside the nation.  Its heroes are soldiers who make such sacrifices based on unquestioning faith.  A "Dream Act" that would give citizenship to those immigrants who kill or die for the flag embodies the deepest dreams of flag worship.  Its high priest is the Commander in Chief.  Its slaughter of infidels is not protection of a nation otherwise engaged, but an act that in itself completely constitutes the nation as it is understood by its devotees.  If the nation stopped killing it would cease to be.

Feb 11

Tipping Point

By Lee R. Haven, Jack and Jill Politics | Op-Ed

Did y’all read the manifesto of the cop killer out there in LA? (http: The Killer Cop’s Insane Facebook Manifesto, Part 1: ‘I assure you that the casualty rate will be high.’ )

There’s a lot of bleed life in there.

I mention this because you would not know that from the reportage.

Well, the New York Times did mention that a black ex-cop by the name of Christopher J. Dorner “laid out grievances against a police department that he said remained riddled with racism and corruption (note the equal billing), then adds, “a reference to a chapter of the department’s history in the view of many people was swept aside long ago.” Yeah, the “many people” source. The august Gray Old Lady went Fox on us. (As in: “Many people believe President Obama is a socialist determined to overthrow America.” And on.)

Feb 11

US to Become a Second-Rate Rower

By Mike Ferner, War is a Crime | Op-Ed

Yes, believe it, friends. That is exactly what Outgoing Secretary of War Panetta said in a Feb. 1 exit interview with USA Today, when asked what effects looming cuts will have on the War Department if Congress fails to reach a budget deal by March 1.

Red-blooded Senate and House members eager to protect the military from even a rumor of a budget cut will certainly welcome Panetta's words. Whether it will result in the U.S. becoming a "second-rate power" is a little less certain, considering we now spend as much for war as the rest of the world put together, with perhaps the exception of Upper Volta and the Cayman Islands.

One of the first things you need to know about the U.S. is how difficult it is for us to tolerate ambiguity—especially when untangling our own motives. An example was our second invasion of Iraq. After 9/11 we felt an itch to retaliate against a clear enemy. Because we could not pinpoint one, we scratched the itch by inventing a false enemy— conveniently, one with lots of oil under its sand—and going to war against it, to no one's great benefit.

That endeavor revealed a lot about us at this moment in our history, though similar themes can be found in our past. We have been all too certain, like some of you, that we are exceptional, that wrongs done to us justify our flouting international law, and that violent military force is the only way to get our way. Though we are a young country, much of our story is steeped in hyper-violence: our treatment of native peoples, the horrors of the slave trade, the callous use of napalm on Asian civilians. Though we are not alone in our chauvinism, we Americans don't care to look at the dark side of our own intentions and deeds: our interference in the domestic affairs of Iran in the 1950s, our casual and pervasive brutality during a long and pointless war in Vietnam, the lies that led us into Iraq, the gradual drift into torture, and now extra-legal assassination by drone.

The Internet is no longer a child. It was conceived by the Defense Department in the '60s, nurtured by academics and engineers in the '70s and adopted by billions of people in the years since.

Susan Crawford's new book, Captive Audience, details a host of challenges for the Internet and its users as this network enters middle age.

Many of its recent growing pains come at the hands of network providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon that sell access to the global network.

These companies often act like they own the Internet, and are pursuing polices to wrest control of Internet content away from its many users.

Ten years ago, Colin Powell made the case for invading Iraq before the United Nations Security Council. Many aspects of his case were clearly dubious at the time, but one notorious aspect desperately needs to be truly understood: Some of Powell's argument for an Iraq link to al-Qaeda came from Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi who was tortured into giving such "evidence" -- that is, he told the torturers what they wanted to hear so that the torture would stop.

This is particularly noteworthy as the movie Zero Dark Thirty has many liberals screaming "torture doesn't work" -- which, in a sense is totally true and at the same time exactly misses the point. Torturedoes work. It just doesn't work in so far as its stated purpose(catching criminals, stopping evil plots) is concerned.