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.

May 07

How Little Has Changed

By Dan Riker, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

How little has changed: Some excerpts of writings on the capitalism of the 19th and early 20th Centuries – excerpted from my book, a work still in progress, Let's Do What Works and Call it Capitalism:

Capitalism in some form has existed since mankind first began to sell goods and engage in trade thousands of years ago. Until the 19th Century it did not become known as a distinct economic system. The word, "capitalism" did not appear in English until William Makepeace Thackeray used it in his 1854 novel, The Newcomes. Karl Marx, inDas Kapital, and other writings, gave the term greater definition.

Hubert H. Harrison (1883-1927) is one of the truly important figures of early twentieth-century America. A brilliant writer, orator, educator, critic, and political activist, he was described by the historian Joel A. Rogers, in "World's Great Men of Color" as "the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time." Rogers adds that "No one worked more seriously and indefatigably to enlighten" others and "none of the Afro-American leaders of his time had a saner and more effective program." Labor and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph described Harrison as "the father of Harlem Radicalism." Harrison's friend and pallbearer, Arthur Schomburg, fully aware of his popularity, eulogized to the thousands attending Harrison's Harlem funeral that he was also "ahead of his time."

Momentum to free elections from corporate influence is growing. This afternoon, Maine became the 13th state to call for a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The resolution passed overwhelmingly with a 25-9 vote in the Senate and a 111-33 vote in the House, which included five Republican supporters in the Senate and 25 in the House.

The State Legislature's resolution reads in part, "United States Supreme Court rulings, beginning with Buckley v. Valeoand continuing through Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and others, disproportionately elevate the role of wealthy special interests in elections and diminish the voices and influence of ordinary Americans."

After six weeks of testimony — sometimes dramatic, sometimes data-driven, but consistently disturbing in its findings — the plaintiffs in the historic Floyd v. City of New York trial finished presenting the liability portion of their case. CCR and its co-counsel (from Covington & Burling LLP and Beldock, Levine & Hoffman LLP) will present additional witnesses during the remedies phase, but for now, it is the city's turn to try and counter the massive evidence presented of the NYPD's unconstitutional stop-and-frisk policy.

Testimony last week was mostly from NYPD officials in positions responsible for oversight of officer conduct. The theme that emerged over and over was one of a department apparently unwilling or uninterested in ascertaining whether stops are lawfully conducted. On Wednesday, Lou Reiter, our police practices expert, commented on the lack of supervision of stops throughout the NYPD, saying "it's like everybody sticks their head in the sand."

May 07

USA is #1 Jailing Its Population

By Dennis Trainor Jr, AcronymTV | Video

This video is an excerpt from the documentary, American Autumn: an Occudoc -- rent it or own it today. Go here.

The question of whether persons convicted of a crime should be imprisoned or not is now increasingly influenced by economic interests. While prisons have long tended to be located in rural communities because of the availability of cheap land, this trend has accelerated in recent decades as a result of lobbying by rural officials. With declining economic prospects in many of these communities, many local leaders have come to view prisons as their best hope of economic opportunity through the jobs that are generated. In practice, this has not proven to be beneficial to these areas, but nonetheless rural legislators continue to seek such opportunities. Perhaps not coincidentally, many of these officials are also strong supporters of harsh sentencing policies. -- Marc Mauer

Most weeks there's more Internet-related news than people can handle.

Given the constant flux, we at Free Press are taking a stab at listing, every week, the top five things you need to know about developments impacting Internet freedom.

Here's our first shot. Be nice....

Life, as lived, moment to moment, in the corporate/consumer state, involves moving between states of tedium, stress, and swoons of mass media and consumer distraction. Therein, one spends a large portion of one's economically beleaguered life attempting to make ends meet and not go mad from the pressure and the boredom. Where does a nebulous concept such as freedom even enter the picture, except to be a harbinger of an unfocused sense of unease...that all too many look to authority to banish?

Finding a balance between anxiety and freedom is not something that comes easy to us.

Ordinary taxpayers are subsidizing exorbitant executive pay at the corporations leading the push for austerity in the budget debate, according to a new report by the Institute for Policy Studies and Campaign for America's Future.

The report is the first to put a price tag on the tax breaks specific corporations have enjoyed from a loophole that allows unlimited deductions for executive stock options and other "performance-based" pay. It focuses on corporate members of Fix the Debt, a lobby group that is calling for "shared sacrifice" while quietly advocating for cuts to Social Security and more corporate tax breaks.

May 06

A Letter to Attorney General Holder

By Whistleblower Defense League, The Brooklyn Rail | Statement

The Whistleblower Defense League is a nationwide group of experienced trial attorneys who have assembled to defend the principles of our democracy. The American people have an absolute right to know the truth about their government and the damaging influence of corporate wealth. Our forefathers did not fight for us to live in the fearful shadows of a darkened constitution, but in the brave light of freedom.

Criticism without action is the country of the weak. If the issue is not one of vision, but of limited resources, then the WBDL is available...

In the aftermath of the Boston marathon bombings, we have a lot of questions that need answering. But are we asking the right ones?