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.

“[Tunisian dictator] Ben Ali's departure on January 14, 2011 released a host of formerly unaired and long-suppressed grievances. After decades of repression, many Tunisians are talking openly across the political table -- hearing one another's views in an atmosphere of free debate for the very first time. This process of self-reckoning has proven both exhilarating and immensely frightening for many Tunisians, some of whom are shocked to see their so-called Islamist party rejecting a fully sharia-based constitution, others of whom find it difficult to fathom that their seemingly secular state could be the site of anti-blasphemy protests and pro-niqab rallies.”

This observation from the Tunisia scholar Monica Marks remains as relevant today as when she made it six months ago, and very much resonates with my own experience over the last 10 days in the small but hugely pivotal North African country: it was here, after all, in December 2010, that the cascade of uprisings that would convulse the Arab world got going.

Angela Merkel's face usually displays a rather plain, friendly, almost benign expression, matching her simple, benign words. But in rare unguarded moments, some claim, they glimpse a very hard visage, which is matched, equally rarely, by hardly benign words, like her annoyed statement that Cyprus was "exhausting the patience of its euro partners". Yes, Angela can get annoyed and lose patience, above all with those irresponsible lands and leaders to the south so reluctant to manfully bear the required share of their burdens.

Such burdens include cutting wages and government salaries, amputating pension rights, letting prices on staples rise, watching joblessness soar while cutting the means of helping those afflicted, and privatizing key elements of the economy, selling them off to the best bidders – or the most favored ones. Must hospital and child care be reduced, schools starved out? Such prices must be paid if economies are to be rescued "within the framework of the euro". That is Austerity, Merkel's magic code-word for economic revival.

A large crowd of students, parents and education advocates gathered at Rocklin City Hall yesterday to demonstrate their opposition to Representative Tom McClintock's vote for the Ryan budget that makes major spending cuts while refusing to ask corporations to pay one more cent in taxes. Instead of balancing spending cuts with revenues, the Ryan budget gives corporations and the wealthiest Americans a $5.7 trillion tax cut. In response to the action organized by California Fair Share and Organizing for Action, Representative McClintock's staff announced that he will offer an amendment to close corporate tax loopholes.

Mar 29

No News Is Not Good News

By Josh Stearns, FreePress | Op-Ed

For too long, media companies have slashed newsroom jobs and replaced hard-hitting journalism with celebrity gossip, sensational crime stories and pay-for-play content. They defended these decisions by arguing that they were just giving the people what they want.

The latest "State of the News Media" report from the Pew Research Center suggests otherwise. One third of the people Pew surveyed say they have abandoned a news organization because of the declining quality of news.

Mar 28

The "Harlem Shake" and the Western Illusion of Freedom

By Jason Hickel and Arsalan Khan, Truthout | News Analysis

When five teenagers in Queensland, Australia uploaded a video of themselves dancing to a short excerpt of Baauer's song "Harlem Shake" it immediately went viral, garnering some 400 million views and spawning well over 100,000 copycat versions.

Critiques of the fad thus far have pointed out that it looks nothing at all like the realHarlem Shake, and that – as Harlem residents have been quick to assert – it appropriates black working-class style without due acknowledgment, leaving no room for the original. These are important points, but there's yet more to explore about the Harlem Shake craze. As by far the most popular meme of the year so far, it begs for analysis: Why is it so infectious? What does it tap into in our collective consciousness that makes it work so well?

Whistleblower Bradley Manning has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and he should receive it.

No individual has done more to push back against what Martin Luther King Jr. called "the madness of militarism" than Bradley Manning. The United States is the leading exporter of weapons and itself spends as much preparing for more wars as the rest of the world combined. Manning is the leading actor in opposition to U.S. warmaking, and therefore militarism around the world. What he has done has hurt the cause of violence in a number of other nations as well.

And right now, remaining in prison and facing relentless prosecution by the U.S. government, Manning is in need of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Today, New York State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and Senator Diane Savino introduced a bill that would create one of the nation's most tightly regulated medical marijuana programs.

If passed, New York would join eighteen other states – including New Jersey and Connecticut -- and the District of Columbia in allowing patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS and other serious illnesses to access to medical marijuana under the supervision of their healthcare provider. The entire program, including the registration of patients and the licensing of producers and dispensaries, would be subject to strict state regulation and oversight.

As a father and grandfather, I appreciate the feelings of those Newtown, Connecticut, parents who don't want the gruesome crime-scene photos of last December's massacre released. But it is now imperative that the people of the United States and especially the Congress face up to the horrible realities resulting from the nation's cavalier attitude toward assault weapons.

If we are to prevent future Newtown massacres, we need – as a country – to study what actually happens to human beings when they are subjected to the violence of these powerful weapons. Yet, viewing these awful photos is equally necessary if we – as a nation – decide to place some twisted notion of what the Framers intended in the Second Amendment over the bodies of these 20 first-graders and the many other victims from mass killings.

On April 25th the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum and General Rehabilitation Project will be dedicated in Dallas, Texas. It takes up 23 acres at Southern Methodist University, 23 acres that neither humanity nor any other species may ever reclaim for anything decent or good.

I'll be there, joining in the people's response with those who fear that this library will amount to a Lie Bury.

"The Bush Center's surrounding native Texas landscape," the center's PR office says, "including trees from the Bush family's Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas, continues President and Mrs. Bush's longstanding commitment to land and water conservation and energy efficiency."

Injustice often operates in secret ways. This has certainly been the case with predatory prison phone rates. But after nearly a decade of advocacy from public interest and civil rights groups, meaningful change is in sight.

In 2003, inmates and their families presented the Wright Petition, which asked the Federal Communications Commission to regulate prison phone rates. The FCC failed to act, so in 2007 the Wright Petitioners submitted an alternate proposal. Last December, the FCC finally invited the public to weigh in.