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.

Video compilation on Paul Ryan by Blunt's newest contributor, the always astute Sally Kohn, TV commentator extraordinaire!

With special thanks to Rocky Mountain Mike, who provides the Stephanie Miller Show with exceptionally clever musical snarkitude, for providing the underscore!

Forty years ago, David Bowie asked the musical question, "Is there life on Mars?" Bowie's song embodied an escapist sensibility, a longing for life elsewhere to break the doldrums and despair of living on Earth. Filled with vivid imagery, the song reflects humankind's eternal longing to be part of something larger than our mundane lives. In essence, it taps into an acute desire to discover that there's more than meets the eye to this existence.

As such, the search for extraterrestrial life is equal parts theological, philosophical, and practical. With the Curiosity rover now cutting swaths through the stark Martian landscape, we may soon have an answer to this perpetual question, at least partially. More to the point, it's entirely plausible that (at the least) vestiges of life will be found to exist wherever there is (or was) water, and Mars almost certainly fits that bill. The impending confirmation will do more than alter our creation mythology — it will force us to rethink whether the heavens are merely there for our taking as the sole cosmic occupants.

The song to which the punk band "Pussy Riot" danced on Feb. 21 in Russia's iconic Christ the Savior Cathedral ends with a prayer asking Jesus's mother Mary to "become a feminist," but Mary always was a feminist through and through, with a voice speaking strongly for justice.

Centuries of saccharine portraits and iconography have obscured a more reality-based appreciation of this gutsy young woman. But recent scripture study throws light on how Mary implanted a vision of inclusive justice into the heart of Jesus.

Though Mary is not given a lot of airtime by the men who wrote the scriptures, it is not hard to figure out where she was coming from. Just give her a brief sound bite and those within earshot would have found her profoundly subversive of a corrupt system not unlike that existing today in the punk band's Russia.

This is an urgent appeal from Veterans For Peace. We are an organization of U.S. veterans formed in 1985 to try to bring an end to war. VFP is a non-profit organization recognized by the UN as an NGO.

We are appealing to the leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement to do everything in your power to head off a military attack on Iran in the coming weeks. Israel's leaders regard the period between now and the U.S. election on November 6 as the most opportune time to virtually guarantee U.S. support for such an attack. And the continuing build-up of U.S. forces in the area of the Persian Gulf strengthens the impression of U.S. readiness to provide it.

As you non-aligned leaders meet later this week in Tehran, it seems time for plain speaking — and warning. Official statements by Israel and the U.S. assert, with cavalier nonchalance, that the "military option" against Iran is "on the table."

Aug 20

The Atomized America of Late Capitalism

By Phil Rockstroh, Consortium News | News Analysis

A couple of decades ago, upon returning to Atlanta, Georgia, after spending a year abroad, I would frequent an independent bookshop that contained a small coffee shop/cafe, where I would sip tea, read books and periodicals, and engage in the nearly extinct art of long form face-to-face verbal discourse with other habituates of the cafe. To this day, I have long standing friendships with a number of people I came to know during those years.

Yet even then, I noticed how the atomization inherent to the internalization of the corporate state (the manner that the domination of commercial and work space had all but eliminated the public commons) had diminished so many people's ability to converse on all but the most superficial level.

Any invocation to deepen conversation or an assertion that arrived outside of the realm of status quo consensus caused all too many to simply go haywire. People checked out, went blank, testiness ensued. ... Comfort zones were mobilized for a siege. The space between people became a no man's land, stippled with a minefield of sensitivities.

I’ve created a webseries called “Moment of Clarity.” You’re going to like it. It’s a 3 to 5-minute video rant that comes out 3 times per week. They’re written, presented, filmed, directed, and edited by me on a shitty laptop. They cover everything from my hatred of happy people to my hatred of apathy. But mainly MOC serves as a documentation of the corporate takeover of America – with jokes. It’s a comedic confrontation that thrusts my illosophy at you in manageable bursts. It’s a breath of fresh aware. …Get it? Aware? …I’m still not sure you got it.

Aug 20

Corporations Try to Kill Community Colleges

By Lisa Gray-Garcia , Poor News Network | News Analysis

My 15 month old son and I were down to our last piece of WIC cheese. I was tired and depressed from multiple poverty struggles and impending houselessness as the sole caregiver of my mama who was very sick, no job and no child care for my son. With very little hope left I pushed my son's stroller on to the campus of my local community college. Within a month I had free child care from the revolutionary Family Resource Center at City College of San Francisco, a small federal grant which covered my books and tuition and was enrolled in two General Education classes. This poor people college access is exactly why i believe that corporate interests are trying to squash the last hope for educational access across the country.

The community college system educates thousands of working-class and poor people across the state of California without saddling us with massive debt. And City College of San Francisco alone educates over 90,000 students.

San Francisco (Aug. 13, 2012) – A group of social scientists today filed a legal brief with the U.S. Supreme Court with research offering a deeper understanding of how a diverse educational environment benefits White students as well as students of color, and why diversity benefits society as a whole, even more than previously understood. 

The brief cites studies, provided to the Supreme Court for the first time, showing that race-conscious admissions policies like that used by the University of Texas at Austin result in a more diverse student body, which is essential to produce leaders able to compete in the 21st century global marketplace. The brief also explains how structural barriers inhibit educational opportunity.

The Equal Justice Society, the law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, and the Haas Diversity Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote the amicus ("friend of the court") brief on behalf of 13 of the nation's leading social scientists in the case of Abigail Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.

The media has successfully turned the critical gaze on Jones just as it has with U.S. public education. And what do Jones and public schools have in common? Jones and public schools are powerful and distinct reflections of who America is, and despite what fame Jones has received for her looks, that reflection isn't very pretty. Just as Jones has not created the dynamic that now both celebrates and demonizes her, U.S. public education has not created the enormous inequity that characterizes us (as in the U.S.).

The crisis in Greece began with the discovery that the Greek government had been concealing the size of its debt in order to stay within the monetary union guidelines: it was revealed to be 120 percent of GDP, one of the highest percentages in the world. This massive debt was the result of several factors: reckless borrowing, for example to finance the Olympics and to buy weaponry from Germany and the U.S. and flagrant tax evasion by the rich - but also the structure of the Eurozone itself, which was designed to create a market for German exports in Greece and the other weaker European economies by replacing weak local currencies with the Euro.