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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 01

Is the US #1, or #What?

By Eric Zuesse, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The latest annual ranking of 144 countries, on a wide range of factors related to global economic competitiveness, is "The Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013," by the World Economic Forum. Their research includes some stunning findings.

On each of their many rankings, #1 represents the best nation, and #144 represents the worst nation.

The U.S. ranks as #1 on only 4 out of the 117 different factors that are rated, and each of these 4 factors concern merely the sheer size, the hugeness, of the U.S. economy. These four factors might thus collectively be identified as Hugeness: "GDP," "GDP as a Share of World GDP," "Available Airline Seat Kilometers," and "Domestic Market Size Index." Other than Hugeness, the results for the U.S. are not at all outstanding.

The PBS Nova broadcast "Rise of the Drones" was sponsored by drone manufacturer Lockheed Martin--a clear violation of PBS's underwriting guidelines.

As Kevin Gosztola reported (FireDogLake, 1/24/13), the January 23 broadcast was a mostly upbeat look at surveillance and weaponized drones. "Discover the cutting edge technologies that are propelling us toward a new chapter in aviation history," PBS urged, promising to reveal "the amazing technologies that make drones so powerful."

The defenders of the status quo say that we can't end marijuana prohibition because it "sends the wrong message to the kids" and will increase teen drug use "Legalizing Pot Won't Make it Any Safer" by Mitchell S. Rosenthal, op-ed, Jan. 17).

Ironically, prohibition is a complete failure when it comes to keeping young people from using drugs. Despite decades of DARE programs with the simplistic "Just Say No" message, 50% of teenagers will try marijuana before they graduate. Young people also feel the brunt of marijuana enforcement and make up the majority of arrests. Arresting young people will often cause more damage than drug use itself. Teenagers need honest drug education to help them make responsible decisions. We have cut down on teen smoking without tobacco prohibition and without one arrest.

When will enough be enough, huh?

When will taking every. possible. harmful. action to attack workers, wages and the welfare of the average American no longer be en vogue?

When will being so certain of the benefits of lower standards, less oversight, and a next-to-nothing future start getting lawmakers in trouble?

When Bubbles Burst

Those seeking deeper understanding of the planet's shaky economic and financial condition should watch Hans Petter Moland'sWhen Bubbles Burst. The main subject of this Norwegian documentary is the relationship between finance and what economists call the real economy, and how unleashing finance to grow at the expense of the real economy—to allow a parasite, essentially, to overtake its host—leads inexorably to greater economic suffering and environmental degradation. The film revolves around the tragic story of a small town in Norway whose elected officials were persuaded by financial consultants, at the height of the stock boom, to invest in Citibank's mortgage-backed securities, products that became worthless with the crash of the global casino in 2008.

Education is a billion dollar industry and if corporations are to make the money off these cash cows they must create an economic pipeline to redirect public funding to private enterprises via destructive public education policy. Diane Ravitch, noted scholar, policy analyst and former Secretary of Education for the Bush Administration highlights frequently via her Blog that this is the agenda of corporate enterprise and special interest groups across the country. However, we're seeing it played out in Michigan with Detroit as the laboratory for how far the 1% can go before education professionals, advocates, and labor will unite. This is not a separate fight; their agenda is calculated and designed to simultaneously dismantle public education and weaken unions.

Jan 31

Community Takes Over Chicago School Closing Hearing

By Adeshina Emmanuel and Benjamin Woodard, DNA Info | Video

Chanting "Save our schools" and "No school closings," several hundred parents, teachers and community members refused to let Chicago Public Schools officials speak during a public hearing on school closings Monday night in Uptown.

Attendees filled the bleachers and stood against the wall at Truman College for the opening meeting in the second phase of community hearings being held around the city on the district's plan to close underutilized schools.

Jan 31

Ethelbert Miller's Fifth Inning

By Paul Buhle, Swans Commentary | Book Review

A distinguished African American poet and for decades a prime cultural organizer on the campus of Howard University in the glory era of Black Studies and in the largely black community of D.C., Ethelbert Miller has always been a surprisingly youthful Wise Old Man in the African sense, a senior figure, soothsayer, and a poet. Now he is not so young any more.

He is still, however, an undiminished baseball fan of note, and there is no doubt that his appreciation of the National Pastime blossomed under the warm sun of his favorite philosopher and mine, C.L.R. James. Around 1970, the aged James -- who many across the world took to be that ancient Wise Man -- took a job teaching at what was then Federal City College.

The state of California has ordered a Southern California warehouse that processes merchandise for Walmart and other retailers to pay 865 workers more than $1 million in stolen wages.

The California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement issued the citations Monday, Jan. 28 against Quetico, LLC, a large warehouse complex in Chino, California. Back wages and unpaid overtime total more than $1.1million and in addition the state issued about $200,000 in penalties.

Jan 30

Welcome Home: The New Old Evangelicals

By Charles Redfern, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

As I read Marcia Pally's Evangelicals who have left the right, I've realized that I'm like the old man guarding the family's abandoned homestead. The lights were off; the heat was low; the couches and chairs were draped in sheets. I haven't left the right because I was never there. I remained in a home once alive with compassion for the poor and love for the environment. The kids are finally coming back and, like every old man, I'm rasping advice as we throw logs on the fire and unveil the furniture.

I became an evangelical Christian in a "born again" experience on July 6, 1973, when I was almost 17, before civil religion's invasion. Like many, I was dubious of Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, and Pat Robertson. But, like many, I said nothing.