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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.

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.

Galloping crony capitalism that ensures a corporate stranglehold on Washington has increased exponentially since the Supreme Court essentially offered unfettered access to and influence over Capitol insiders by their 2010 decision Citizens United v. FEC. The decision is a gift to the same people who crashed our economy without accountability, and have purchased government outright. It is part of a 40-year wealth transfer upward engineered by corporate and wealthy elites who have also participated in union-busting, mortgage fraud and sought to depress workers' wages. The wealthy have profited from increased worker productivity over the past 30 years. Working people have not.

Every manufactured crisis, from the debt ceiling to the fiscal cliff, has become an excuse for the wealthy class to hold the 99% hostage, to extort more and more money in the form of tax subsidies and tax breaks that balloon corporate profits and bonuses, even as they have targeted the income, pensions, health care and homes of the low and middle income.

Journey for Justice 2: Our Children Are Not Collateral Damage

Department of Education

Washington, D.C.

1/29/2013

Yesterday, February 6, was a national day of action to support Seattle teachers' boycott of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test. The response was astounding. We received messages of solidarity from across the country and across the world. We heard from parents, teachers, students and community members in Victoria, BC; Austin, TX; Oxfordshire, UK; Rochester, NY. Our union brothers and sisters in the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates voted unanimously to support our struggle, and the More than a Score coalition in the same city gathered signatures at 36 schools against flawed standardized testing. Portland students inspired us today by initiating their own historic boycott of the standardized OAKS tests. In Seattle there were rallies at Orca, Chief Sealth High School, Roosevelt High School, Ballard High School, and many others. There were still many other solidarity actions from around the nation, and they are being posted at the Scrap the MAP website as they pour in.

"Once they were kings. A half million strong, they matched their faith with fervor and out-matched the Moslem and Christian tribesmen around them to rule the mountain highlands around Lake Tana. They called themselves Beta Israel - the house of Israel - and used the Torah to guide their prayers and memories of the heights of Jerusalem as they lived in their thatched huts in Ethiopia."

-Jewish Virtual Library-The History of Ethiopian Jews

Republicans' passion to support Israel stems from the desire to capture the vote in a country where the majority of people side strongly with Israel. The Republicans' most reliable primary voters, conservatives and evangelical Christians, are fanatically pro-Israel, pro Life and Anti-Contraception. They and their growing Israeli counterpart now face a nasty dilemma.