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.

Jan 17

Why Unions Are Different

By Alan Grayson, SpeakOut | Op-Ed
When I was elected to Congress in 2008, I asked to join the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). Why? Because I was a government employee. The AFGE negotiates benefits for government employees, including me. If I were going to benefit from that, I felt that I should pay my dues. I'm not the "free rider" type.
I was told that this was an unusual request. In fact, no one could remember any Member of Congress making that request before. That didn't bother me in the least. I joined the AFGE, and paid my dues.
There is another, deeper reason why I wanted to join the union: I don't see a lot of other organizations fighting for the common good.

On December 8, 2012, Joseph Loughrey accidentally shot and killed his 7-year-old son, Craig, in the parking lot of a Pennsylvania gun store. On December 11, bullets fired by Jacob Roberts took the lives of Cindy Yuille and Steven Forsyth in an Oregon mall. Many were likely spared when his weapon jammed. Three days later, at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, CT, it was Adam Lanza's turn. His gun worked perfectly.

Three moments in time during one, agonizing week in America. Thirty-two people dead. Twenty-one of them children. And one, inescapable conclusion.

None of us should own a gun.


Jan 17

Let's Nationalize the Federal Reserve

By Andre Lopes Massa, The Nolan Chart | News Analysis

Have you ever wondered where the money in your wallet really comes from? Have you ever wondered what really gives money its value? Since 1913, the Federal Reserve System has been in charge of managing the money supply. Despite the intense criticism it has come under in recent years, our friends at the Fed have actually done well recently. Racking in profits of up to $77.4 billion in profit in 2011, our neighborhood friendly central bank has done what it's supposed to do; maintain price stability and set us on the path to achieving maximum employment. Recent statistics shows that core prices have only risen by 1.4 percent this past year, below the Fed's target of 2 percent, while Mr. Ben Bernanke, despite former House Speaker Newt Gingrich calling him the "most inflationary chairman ever", has actually kept inflation at a mere 2.3 percent per year, the second lowest out of the last six chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

"White America's still playing cowboys and Indians with the indigenous people," Canupa Gluha Mani says.

It's a hauntingly accurate way of putting the situation, and just one of the striking lines from the official trailer of Red Cry, a documentary movie about the genocide of indigenous people in America.

The film was created by the Strong Heart Lakota Solidarity Project of which Canupa Gluha Mani is the headman.

First a glance at long-past history – at the American hero Friedrich Wilhelm Augustin von Steuben, known as Baron Steuben. In many ways he was really a phony. His noble title and rank as "Prussian Lieutenant General" were inventions; he had really been dropped from Friedrich the Great's army as a lowly captain. That he was probably gay may have made things tougher. But with the help and advice of Benjamin Franklin in Paris and a stunning general's uniform from Franklin's tailor he was able to impress George Washington and other top officers - and when he got to America, Steuben proved his mettle; amidst the freezing huts and tents at Valley Forge he played a major part in forging a disciplined, fighting and victorious revolutionary army. You can see a statue of him in Magdeburg, where he was born.

John Brennan has been tapped the head the CIA. "Tapped" is an appropriate word because he LOVES tapping your phone. He also loves some other things. Let's go through the list.

Consider the prism of Tucson's battle to defend Raza or Mexican-American Studies (MAS).

It has recently been suggested by some MAS supporters that MAS is now dead.

MAS is a discipline. For some, it's a movement and still yet for others, it is a spirit. For me, it is a sub-discipline, part of the larger Indigenous story of this continent.

What perhaps is meant is that the former TUSD-program - as it formerly operated - is now dead.

I have been challenged by schizophrenia, in remission, and I don't want a gun. To hear all the blame of violence on "deranged lunatics," it seems most people carry untrue stereotypes about schizophrenia. For example, despite the common mislabel, the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual excludes split personality as a schizophrenic symptom.

Despite all the hype in the news, we are not necessarily violent. Walsh, Buchanan, and Fahy (2002) reviewed the relevant literature and concluded that although the rate of violence among people with mental disorders can be four times higher than the general population, "only a small proportion of societal violence can be attributed to persons with schizophrenia."

Hyatt Fisherman's Wharf Hotel withdrew its appeal to the California Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board of citations related to housekeeper injuries and agreed to a settlement that is unprecedented in the hotel industry. The settlement commits Hyatt to take specific steps, including the establishment of a Housekeeping Committee, to prevent exposure to unsafe conditions that cause housekeeper injuries.

"This settlement is a big victory for Hyatt housekeepers," said Nenita Ibe, who has worked at Hyatt Regency Santa Clara for 10 years. "Hyatt is being forced to pay attention to the injuries housekeepers get at work. I've seen so many of my co-workers in pain....

On December 12 the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on thenConstitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights held an official hearing on ending the so-called School-to-Prison Pipeline. The witness list for this hearing included the National Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, the National Administrator for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Ohio Attorney General, Edward Ward, a former Chicago City Schools student and youth leader of Blocks Together and the Chief Judge Juvenile Court of Clayton County, Georgia, Steven Teske. Despite the good intentions of some of these witnesses, and the senate hearing in general, all persons involved concentrated on the worst abuses, the most heinous instances of injustice, and none addressed the larger, systemic issue which plagues public education in this country.