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 29

In Defense of Losers

By Barbara G Ellis PhD, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

For years now, I have chafed under pronouncements about people regarded and relegated as "losers." Only the other day in a conversation about Leif Ericsson and his crew's reason to leave Norway for America, they were called a bunch of "desperate losers."

Losers? As a Norwegian descendant, my gorge rose at this affront to the highest order of global explorers. In the early tenth century, their seamanship, constant dangers, and teamwork (72 oars on a 120-foot open longboat) overcame fears of the unknown in the frigid and perilous pounding of the North Atlantic's winter seas. It took Columbus, 400 years later, to make his crossing in calmer, warmer waters via a covered, full-masted, three-ship convoy - and with a compass no less.

People across the globe protested May 25 during the global day of action against Monsanto. More than 500 came to "the belly of the best" in Creve Coeur, Mo., just outside of St. Louis, to raise public awareness and chant, "What do we want? Labeling! When do we want it? Now," "Monsanto, disease, lies and greed!" among other apt rallying cries.

The 500-strong marched from Stacy Park, signs in hand, as rain started coming down. Indignant over "Monsanto's monopolistic greed," and undeterred by the rain, they held signs and aimed to raise awareness about Monsanto's control over the food supply. Protestors passed out fliers reading, "SHOW ME THE LABEL," encouraging citizens to visit a website to learn more about a Missouri initiative, Senate Bill No. 155, to get the state to label Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Vermont and just recently Connecticut passed legislation requiring genetically engineered (GE) foods to be labeled.

The Crisis of Civilization is a documentary feature film investigating how global crises like ecological disaster, financial meltdown, dwindling oil reserves, terrorism and food shortages are converging symptoms of a single, failed global system. Weaving together archival film footage and animations, award-winning film-maker Dean Puckett, animator Lucca Benney and Guardian environment writer Dr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed – author of A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It – offer a stunning wake-up call proving that 'another world' is not merely possible, but on its way.

Like the book on which it is based, the film consists of seven parts which explore the interconnected dynamic of global crises of Climate Catastrophe; Peak Energy; Peak Food; Economic Instability; International Terrorism; and the Militarization Tendency – with a final section on The Post-Peak World.

May 28

Securing Press Freedom for All

By Josh Stearns, FreePress | Op-Ed

Just days after news broke that the Justice Department had secretly obtained AP journalists' phone records as part of its ongoing crackdown on leaks, the New Yorker released a new tool — Strongbox— to enable people to safely and securely leak electronic files. The late Aaron Swartz largely built the system (for a good discussion of its strengths and weaknesses, see here, here and here).

Meanwhile, Wired has "Hear Ye, Future Deep Throats: This Is How to Leak to the Press" — a post offering a terrific set of recommendations for leaking via email, phone or postal mail.

May 28

OBAMAHEAD, a rose by any other name...

By James and Jean Anton, PenPoints | Op-Ed

Would you have a problem if Obama changed political parties?
Judging from his actions, it seems he would be much happier as a Republican, which is reason enough for you to encourage him to switch parties. Best of all, he'd still be Obama – your darling Obama – and doesn't a rose by any other name smell just as sweet?

Understandably you detest and despise Republicans.
But you should accept the fact that your man, your hero, does not feel the same way you do about it. He has made no secret of this from his frequent praise of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher to the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum where he described the man most Democrats despise as: "to know him is to like him." Most Americans feel the complete opposite way about George W. Bush; that is to say, the more we find out about him the less we like him.

Yesterday, the citizens of Los Angeles voted to regulate medical marijuana by voting to pass Proposition D, one of three medical marijuana regulation measures on the ballot. The Proposition received 62.57% of the vote. Proposition D caps the number of collectives at those who opened prior to 2007, about 130, raises the gross receipts tax from $50 to $60 per $1000 of gross receipts, and establishes the distances they must keep from schools, parks, one another and residential neighborhoods. It also requires that collectives be closed between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m., prohibits the consumption of marijuana on the premises and requires background checks on managers. The Proposition also does not allow for a new collective to receive a permit if one of the pre-2007 collectives closes.

Proposition D was also supported by several members of the City Council, the Greater Los Angeles Collective Association (GLACA), the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), both Los Angeles mayoral candidates and the current city attorney and his challenger. Under the Proposition, organizations consisting of four or more people who cultivate, process, distribute or give away medical marijuana must obtain a license from the city.

This morning, Kerry Kennedy, human rights leaders, and an interfaith group of a dozen clergy, joined the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in front of Wendy's corporate shareholders meeting in Manhattan, demanding the fast food chain join the White House-recognized Fair Food Program – an effort to ensure humane working conditions and fair pay for farmworkers in the company's supply chain.

Inside the meeting, the CIW had three proxies, Gerardo Reyes, Rev. Noelle Damico, and Citlalic Jeffers Peña who asked questions directly of CEO Emil Brolick.

During the annual shareholder meeting Brolick stated that Wendy's was already participating in the Fair Food Program because the company purchases its tomatoes from growers in the Fair Food Program. He also said that they were paying a premium for their tomatoes. Mr. Brolick's misleading statements were categorically refuted by Gerardo Reyes and Rev. Damico.

Mariame's post (linked here) on anti-blackness prompted some further reflection on militarization and also on merit-based immigration, extending the question of who and what is rendered invisible. One of the key questions mentioned in her post had to do how anti-blackness operates to frame the relationship between race and migration. Mariame received many comments on the facebook note, including suggestions for a number of texts that provide further analysis into how the figure of the "hard working immigrant" and the tropes of the "nation of immigrants" reinforce long-standing racist stereotypes. In a short text for AREA, I tried to deal with the ways that immigrant rights activism often reproduces this rhetoric, not only rendering invisible the colonial project as an ongoing process but also by working to produce the myth of undifferentiated arrivals that erases racial subordination. In other words, we do not all arrive under the same conditions. And we are not all "white on arrival".

It seems an odd time for environment policy wonks to throw a party. The level of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere is higher than it has been in three million years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US.

That sobering news hasn't stopped the organisers of Carbon Expo in Barcelona from promising a celebration when the annual event is held for the tenth time at the end of this month. Ardent defenders of the polar ice caps like Shell and Statoil will spend the day gazing at mathematical models about the ideal price of pollution. After all those cerebral chinwags, they will surely have worked up an appetite for tapas and sangria.

On second thoughts, maybe it is apt for the oil industry and its chums in the world of finance to kick up the high life as the climate breaks down. For they have been dexterous enough both to cause that breakdown and to present themselves as the cure to it.