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.

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.

Dear House Republicans:

In the heated debates over the federal deficit, you have said repeatedly that you want to cut it without raising taxes and, therefore, that you must reduce government spending.

If that is the case, I have a suggestion for you: Why not start by cutting the nuclear weapons budget?

According to the Ploughshares Fund, the current plans for nuclear weapons and related programs could cost approximately $640 billion over the next decade.

Living with radiation sickness is not on my bucket list and I would hazard that it isn't on yours either. Nor is it what I have in mind for my children's future. Yet our government continues to manufacture nuclear materials and unsafely store radioactive waste in clear violation of the public trust. Nowhere is this more visible than at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the most radioactively contaminated site in the western hemisphere, where we now know radioactive sludge is leaking badly from at least six underground tanks.While Hanford is technically in Washington State, the management of this catastrophe is vitally important to the rest of the nation—indeed, the biosphere. Unfortunately, environmental disasters do not stop at city, state, or national borders.

Violence against women (VAW) under the present system of militarized state security is not an aberration that can be stemmed by specific denunciations and prohibitions. VAW is and always has been integral to war and all armed conflict. It pervades all forms of militarism. It is likely to endure so long as the institution of war is a legally sanctioned instrument of state, so long as arms are the means to political, economic or ideological ends. To reduce VAW; to eliminate its acceptance as a "regrettable consequence" of armed conflict; to exorcize it as a constant of the "real world" requires the abolition of war, the renunciation of armed conflict and the full and equal political empowerment of women as called for by the UN Charter.

The most bizarre part of Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is that almost no one has heard about it.

And whoever has heard about it, doesn't want to talk about it.

It's almost as if someone took Dr. Goebbels' "The bigger the lie, the more it will be believed" – dictum and mutated it into a 21st century super weapon:

"Tell the truth, but make it so shocking that no one wants to hear about it."