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.

Dr. Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, the 2012 Green Party presidential and vice-presidential nominees, marked the beginning of Earth Week by announcing a new Green Shadow Cabinet that will serve as an independent voice in U.S. politics, putting the needs of people and protection of the planet ahead of profits for big corporations. The Cabinet will operate in the tradition of shadow cabinets in other countries, such as the United Kingdom and France, responding to actions of the government in office, and demonstrating that another government is possible.

Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) appealed the dismissal by a federal judge of a lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) without addressing the central First Amendment question in the case. The Center for Constitutional Rights brought the case on behalf of five long-time animal rights activists who say the 2006 law violates their right to free speech.

Attorneys and activists expressed concern over the direction corporate lobbyists are taking the law, both at the federal level with the AETA and with proliferating state-level "Ag gag" laws.

Today, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) rejected claims in a lawsuit by the Center for Constitutional Rights challenging government secrecy around the court martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning. The suit, bought on behalf of a group of journalists, asked the court to ensure members of the press and public have access to court documents and transcripts in the case and challenged the fact that important legal matters in the pre-trial proceedings have been argued and decided in secret. The court rejected the claims on the grounds that military appellate courts lack jurisdiction to address the scope of public access until a trial is over and the sentence has been issued. The decision was 3-to-2, issued over two vigorous dissents.

Who're you rooting for – Tom or Jerry? For many people, picking Tom or Jerry is about the same as asking whether you are for or against privatization. It's a team sport. You just pick a side and support it.

But, dig into the facts, and the question becomes, Do you support accountability or not?

In the private sector, robust competition forces companies to constantly improve the services and goods they provide. Failure to improve means losing out to competitors. When there is a monopoly in the private sector, there is no competition, and accountability is lost.

Apr 23

The Prejudices We Permit

By Ian Reifowitz, In the Fray | Op-Ed

Prejudice can kill. George Zimmerman saw a young black male wearing a hoodie, and made a decision that reflected the dictionary definition of prejudice — a "preconceived judgment or opinion ... An adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge." Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch coordinator of a gated community in Sanford, Florida, didn't know Trayvon Martin, the teenager he followed. Martin didn't do anything specific that would have been suspicious to an unprejudiced observer. He was unarmed and gave no indication that he harbored criminal intent of any kind. Zimmerman simply prejudged him. And it cost Martin — a seventeen-year-old out to buy some Skittles — his life.

April 22nd we celebrate Earth Day, which began in 1970 as a way to raise our consciousness about environmental concerns.  It occurs to me that it is also is an opportunity to bring to the forefront two concepts directly applicable to peace: awareness and oneness.  I'm not sure why we don't celebrate Earth Day every day of the year, but at least we have set aside one day to honor and recognize our relationship with our mother earth.  Like so many other things in life, our relationship with the earth is a reflection of our inner feelings, thoughts, and relationship with ourselves. 

I was recently asked what peace activism has to do with Earth Day . . . or was it what Earth Day has to do with peace activism?  To me, the answer was obvious, as I see the people who are concerned with peace and nonviolence issues are generally also very concerned with environmental issues.  This goes far beyond war issues, where the obvious environmental effects of bombing and destruction are easily seen.  No, the connection is more rooted in the recognition that if our environment is toxic and does not sustain life, the people who live in that environment are not likely to be at peace, as they are in a constant state of fear, or depression, or hopelessness. 

While the nation watches NRA-indebted politicians beat down new gun legislation this week, many are unaware of shocking, pro-criminal legislation the NRA has already pushed through. Despite the NRA's rants about "bad guys" and how "criminals won't follow laws," legislation that actually protects illegal gun buyers and sellers is continually passed behind the public's back.

It is hard to believe lawmakers and the gun lobby actually pass laws to prevent government agencies from catching criminals–the stated goal of both groups. But since 1979, there have been laws passed that are to keep the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) from doing exactly that.

A number of commentators have tried to argue that the reductions in future Social Security payments resulting from replacing the current method of calculating cost of living increases with "chained CPI" are so insignificant that the proposal should not have provoked the harsh negative reaction from progressives. However, because those decreases in future Social Security payments compound over time they eventually will be significant and could exacerbate the increasingly tenuous financial condition of millions of the elderly.

Vân, Cúc, Trúc, and Trang; Dũng, Dai, Thanh and Phát. In my mother tongue these names carry music, cadence, poetry. They evoke for the listener images of clouds, peonies, bamboo, jade; acts of bravery or wishes for prosperity. In English, alas, they lose all meaning as the inflexible American tongue turns them into a grunt, a bark, a funny diphthong.

"I wonder what'll become of MY name when I go in? I shouldn't like to lose it at all..." declared Alice, in Louis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass," upon entering a strange woods, "because they would have to give me another, and it would almost certainly be an ugly one."

Three out of four Washington, D.C. voters would support changing District law to replace criminal penalties for possession of limited amounts of marijuana with a civil fine similar to a traffic ticket, according to a survey conducted last week by Public Policy Polling. Two-thirds (67%) said they believe law enforcement resources currently being used by District police to arrest individuals for marijuana possession should be directed toward other crimes.

The poll also found that nearly two-thirds (63%) of District voters would support a ballot measure similar to those approved by voters in Colorado and Washington in November, which made marijuana legal for adults and directed state officials to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol. A solid majority (54%) said drug use should be treated as a public health issue and people should no longer be arrested and locked up for possession of a small amount of any drug for personal use.