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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.

or the first time in my life, like 84% of Los Angeles registered voters, I failed to cast a ballot in last week's election. It was a primary to select front-running mayoral candidates and city council members, a city attorney, controller, community college trustees and a tax proposition – stuff that should really matter. The four men and a woman – the "five little kings" of the county Board of Supervisors – who really run LA's nine-million-person megalopolis – were not on the ballot. Supervisors who used to rule in perpetuity now are term-limited to "only" three consecutive four year terms.

Although LA politics are notoriously distant, confusing, confused and impenetrable except to lobbyists, this recent election was stratospherically off the boredom chart with a record-setting 16% turnout.

Today, lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) urged a federal judge to reject California's attempt to dismiss a class action lawsuit challenging prolonged solitary confinement in California prisons. The case was filed on behalf of prisoners in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison who have spent between 10 and 28 years in solitary confinement and who staged two widely publicized hunger strikes in 2011. It alleges that prolonged solitary confinement violates Eighth Amendment prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment, and that the absence of meaningful review of SHU placement violates the prisoners' right to due process. CCR lawyers argued today that nominal, temporary reforms by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), which the defendants cited as grounds for dismissing the case, have had little to no effect on the conditions challenged in the lawsuit and, thus, the case must proceed.

Farmers and green groups are coming together to launch a new campaign – ahead of the Environmental Council meeting held on 21 March in Brussels – calling on EU politicians to halt the authorisation of 25 GM crops currently being considered for cultivation in Europe.

The 'Stop the Crop' campaign highlights the devastating impacts already experienced in other countries as a result of the increased pesticide use in large-scale GM crop production. Campaigners – including Friends of the Earth Europe and Corporate Europe Observatory – are warning EU Member States that the expansion of GM cultivation and increased use of toxic pesticide Roundup in Europe will endanger the environment and potentially human health – similar to those experienced in South America.

It is rare that a nation on a headlong plunge to kleptocracy is given a second chance to change course. We allowed the ignominious suppression of Brookesly Born's prescient and amazingly accurate warnings of the financial disaster and its causes. The suppression was engineered by the three most ruthless "banksters" of the times, Greenspan,(1) Rubin and Summers, whose claims to infamy, history will show, is that they were wrong in almost every prediction, yet they manipulated their dark financial paths to obscene wealth. Elizabeth Warren has given us a second chance to set things straight by publicly demanding the single most important factor in saving America - remove the bought and paid for immunity of the 1% and "jail wealthy criminals."

Brookesly Born was the single person most capable of preventing the 2007-2008 financial disaster. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers, are the 3 individuals most responsible for causing it.

Mar 18

Just Enough

By Jan Hart, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

For as long as I can remember money has been one of the most important relationships in my life. I'm pretty sure I've paid as much attention to money as I have to any other relationship. I'm not proud of it. But maybe I'm getting better at putting relationships with people and my environment ahead of money.

I kind of had a fairy tale first bonding with money while I was young. I grew up in a middle class home and heard my parents talk openly about our finances and knew that we got along with money, and at times without it. At 10 I bought my first 4H goat, Valentina for $40. My father loaned me the money and I paid it off over the next year. He also taught me how to keep track of my income from chicken egg sales and allowance as well as my expenditures for chicken and goat food in a small brown spiral tablet. As long as I was a penny in the black it was good. I was hooked. Everything I wanted or needed had a price. It cost money for clothes and a '50 Chevy I bought when I was 17. I managed to get a job at Newberry's Department Store so I could buy them. Life in the US was a lot easier in the 50's and I, like so many others, thought it would always be so.

When President Obama campaigned in 2008 in Portland, Oregon over 70,000 people came to hear his speech. And although I missed the event, I was intrigued by the raw emotion that the candidate's words inspired in my community. Obama re-visited Oregon during his 2012 campaign, but the inspiration had faded from his voice, and the audience had drastically changed. The Oregonian explains:

"The Obama campaign said about 950 tickets, costing $500 to $1,000 were sold for the main fundraiser at the Oregon Convention Center. The president also spoke, out of view of the press, to about 25 donors who bought $30,000 tickets."

The late President Chavez, on the other hand, steadily increased the crowds of people who came to hear him speak, year after year, election after election, rally after rally. The secret? Whereas President Obama could only speak about "hope" and "change," President Chavez actually delivered.

For revolutionary rappers Rebel Diaz, the death of Hugo Chavez on March 5 came as a double blow.

The Venezuelan leader had helped the Chilean hip-hop duo set up their community arts and resistance centre in New York's South Bronx after he visited the area eight years ago.

But the rappers were evicted from that centre just days before Chavez's death, after the landlord had constantly clashed with them over unauthorized graffiti on the building and complaints from tenants.

Today members of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus, together with Senator Daniel Squadron, and Albany County District Attorney David Soares, gathered to end the biased and costly practices of falsely arresting tens of thousands of people in New York for low-level marijuana possession. Joined by dozens of advocates and impacted people from around the state, the Caucus urged members of the Senate and Assembly to support Governor Cuomo's marijuana decriminalization proposal. The proposal, outlined in his 2013 State of the State Address, would end the practice of arresting tens of thousands of young people for possessing marijuana in public view by fixing the law and standardizing the penalties for marijuana possession.

The arrest statistics say it all; Approximately 45,000 people were arrested in New York for marijuana possession in 2012 alone; nearly 40,000 of those arrests were in New York City, far exceeding the total marijuana arrests from 1981-1995.

"Yesterday, the devil came here,". "Right here. Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today..." Mr. Chavez said , in 2009 comments at the United Nations. Then Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez made the sign of the cross, brought his hands together as if in prayer and glanced toward the ceiling.

That is perhaps the most famous quote of a politician opposed to the US government, and one reason that Hugo Chavez was disliked by the US government. To Chavez , the Devil was George Bush. That's what you get to say, when you are a third world leader who supplies maybe a million gallons of crude oil to an oil addicted country every day. You get to say anything you want.

Mar 15

Ferlinghetti Triumphs Again!

By Paul Buhle, Swans Commentary | Op-Ed

Many poetry readers born around the time of the Second World War feel an abiding loyalty to the excitement of the rebellious 1950s-'60s poets (and of the associated magazines, like Evergreen Review) and of our own awakening that owed so much to their work. New Yorkers, San Franciscans, and maybe Chicagoans could actually see them live! The rest of us, scattered around the country, could only read the work and imagine the poets, larger than life. Ginsberg, Corso, Di Prima, Snyder, and others had well-deserved, intense followings. Lawrence Ferlinghetti was something special even among these special artists: he published most of them, and created a space in City Lights Books where global travelers could worship at the veritable shrine.