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 03

Remember This Day: Uno De Mayo

By Richard A Stitt, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Some of the media scribes who attended the dedication ceremony on April 26 for the George W. Bush $250 million Library and Museum on the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas, TX commented that there was not one word mentioned about Iraq.

Most of us know why, including the 2008 and 2012 Republican conventions in which there was no mention by the party's leadership of George W. Bush's Iraq legacy. Or much, if anything, of number 43.

There are, of course, exceptions. Most notably Karl Rove whose George W. Bush adulation included his recent proposal to chisel his former boss's image on Mount Rushmore. Rove no doubt was yearning for those halcyon days when photo ops maintained the facade of a commander-in-chief in thoughtful poses such as the one that lined up the profile of George W. Bush with the four presidents' likenesses that are etched into South Dakota's Mount Rushmore.

he Shareholder Protection Act, reintroduced today by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), is critical legislation because it would bring responsible corporate governance to corporate political spending by involving shareholders in those spending decisions and keeping the public informed of them, a coalition of 39 groups said today.

"The U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision reversed decades of political tradition prohibiting direct corporate financing of elections and overnight made CEOs of wealthy businesses principal players in American elections," said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen's Congress Watch division. "Unless there are internal policies to the contrary, CEOs now can literally dip into the corporate till and spend that money without limit promoting or attacking candidates."

As the story of the Tsarnaev brothers unfolds -- from asylum, to attempts at assimilation and finally to terrorism -- I hear echoes of another set of brothers from my own country, Vietnam.

On April 4, 1991 three Vietnamese brothers and a friend -- all teenagers -- took over an electronics store in Sacramento, California. The group held 41 people hostage, garnering national attention as journalists flocked outside the store. Inside, the boys prowled about with their guns, the hostages tied up.

What did the Nguyen brothers want?

They wanted $4 million dollars, 1000-year-old ginseng roots (thought to make one invincible in battle), helicopters and bulletproof jackets. Their plan: To fly back to Vietnam and take on the Vietcong.

As President Obama departs for a three-day trip to Mexico and Central America to meet with several regional counterparts, advocates are urging him to put drug policy reform at the top of the agenda.

The failed drug war has wreaked havoc throughout Latin America. In Mexico, the war on drugs has caused an estimated 70,000 deaths, 25,000 disappearances and over 250,000 internally displaced people since 2006. Meanwhile, drug trafficking organizations have increasingly moved or expanded their operations to Central America, which has become one of the most dangerous regions in the world, according to the United Nations. And rather than reducing the supply of or demand for drugs, prohibitionist drug policies have only enriched criminal organizations while increasing rates of incarceration and drug-related harms.

With mass species die-offs, threats to human food supplies, toxicity of air and water, along with deforestation and ocean destruction and the justifiably dominant concern of climate change causing long-term droughts, floods, and extreme storms, the rule of law needs to be applied to the environment. The Green Shadow Cabinet will make putting in place the rule of law a top priority.

In 1970 the National Environmental Policy Act, signed by President Nixon, took effect. The law seeks: ""To declare national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man; to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation..."

Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights appealed the decision of a federal court judge to dismiss a lawsuit against high-level Bush administration officials for their role in the post-9/11 immigration sweeps, detention and racial and religious profiling of Muslim, Arab and South Asian men. The judge allowed the claims against the wardens and prison officials at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York, to go forward but dismissed the claims against the high-level officials alleged to have ordered the abuse at issue in the case, Turkmen v. Ashcroft.

Said CCR Senior Attorney Rachel Meeropol, "Time and again the victims of post 9/11 government abuse have found the courtroom doors shut to them. It is critical that prison officials be held accountable for their egregious behavior, but we must also ensure that high-level officials do not get a free pass to discriminate and order abuse."

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (more commonly known as the Drug Czar's office; ONDCP) released its 2013 National Drug Control Strategy today. The strategy has shifted a little from previous national drug strategies, and is being called a "21st Century Approach." The Drug Czar's rhetoric has evolved over the last couple of years – reflecting the fact that three-quarters of Americans consider the drug war a failure – emphasizing the need to treat drug misuse as a health issue and stop relying on the criminal justice system to deal with the problem.

The strategy, however, calls for the expansion of drug courts, which continue to treat drug users in the criminal justice system, where punishment is often the response to addiction-related behaviors such as positive urine screens or missed appointments.

Occasionally the tip of the iceberg pokes through, and the reported facts corroborate the experience of most of the people. The recent Pew Center report that has now reached broad circulation shows that a full 93% of US households "lost" ground in the much vaunted recovery of 2009-2011. This just validates what we are all living through, glossed over by averages, smoke and mirrors. There is no "recovery." Sectors *within* the top quintile are holding on, barely.

This is the starkest portrayal I've seen in black and white; I had previously been telling anyone who would listen that, while there seems to be a pickup for those in the $250,000 and up range, it is clearly not the case for the bottom 4 quintiles [i.e. $100,000 combined household income 2010]. It should be shocking enough to most middle class types that the real picture is so different from what they believe to be living--that is, that they are actually in the top 8-10%... BUT the data shows even worse. Even families up to $500,000 (!) are losing ground.

Today, President Obama spoke about Guantanamo at a press conference and said, among other things, "Now Congress determined that they would not let us close it and despite the fact that there are a number of the folks who are currently in Guantanamo who the courts have said could be returned to their country of origin or potentially a third country. . . . And so I'm going to -- as I've said before, we're -- examine every option that we have administratively to try to deal with this issue. But ultimately, we're also going to need some help from Congress."

May 02

Can a Drone Murder?

By David Swanson, War Is a Crime | Op-Ed

Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee hearing on drones was not your usual droning and yammering. Well, mostly it was, but not entirely. Of course, the White House refused to send any witnesses. Of course, most of the witnesses were your usual professorial fare.

But there was also a witness with something to say. Farea Al-Muslimi came from Yemen. His village had just been hit by a drone strike last week. He described the effects -- all bad for the people of the village, for the people of Yemen, and for the United States and its mission to eliminate all the bad people in the world without turning any of the good people against it.