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.
Three years ago this week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case about the influence of wealthy donors in our elections. It wasn't the well-known (and much-criticized) Citizens United case, but the arguments in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission ultimately explain what's wrong with how we treat the influence of money in politics. Prior to McCutcheon v. FEC, no one contributor could give more than $125,000 in total campaign contributions to federal candidates. Very few Americans can even consider contributing more than $125,000 to politicians. Yet in 2013, Shaun McCutcheon, a coal industry CEO, challenged the law as violating his "freedom of speech."
People living near a contaminated government nuclear reactor complex in California were outraged to learn that the US Department of Energy (DOE) has secretly been funding a front group that is lobbying to see the agency abandon its cleanup agreement -- and that the DOE's request for secrecy may have been made to avoid attention from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California), who supports full cleanup.
As United States Energy Transfers Partners began building the Dakota Access Pipeline through territory sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, the tribe began an escalating campaign against the pipeline. By this summer nearly 200 tribes around the country had passed resolutions opposing the pipeline and many hundreds of their members joined nonviolent direct action to halt it. Amidst wide public sympathy for the Native American cause, environmental, climate protection, human rights, and many other groups joined the campaign. On September 9, the Obama administration intervened to temporarily halt the pipeline and open government-to-government consultations with the tribes.
Riohacha, La Guajira -- On October 2, 2016, the people of Colombia voted in a referendum to approve the peace accords brokered over four years by the government of President Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP). In the regions most affected by the conflict in Colombia, the victims forgave and voted "yes," hoping to open the doors for the much-sought-after peace. Some understood that to forgive does not mean to forget; rather, it is a step forward towards the construction of a different reality. In the Caribbean coast of Colombia, there was a resounding "yes" to peace. Nevertheless, the campaign managed by the so-called Democracy Center, spearheaded by ex-President Alvaro Uribe Velez took hold.
As the cost of health insurance and care continues to go up with little restraint by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the insurance industry is getting ever more creative in finding new revenue streams to cover gaps in coverage. The latest new market is to offer insurance to cover the cost of insurance. High deductibles have become a growing burden of out-of-pocket expenses for individuals, families, and employers. As one marker, deductibles for employer-sponsored health insurance have gone up by 255 percent over the last ten years.
A group of servers who serenade patrons at Time Square's Ellen's Stardust Diner have now formed a union with -- wait for it -- the Wobblies (a nickname for the Industrial Workers of the World). After they unionized earlier this year as Stardust Family United, owner Ken Strum essentially said, "Dream on," and wrecked the lives of more than 30 staffers by firing them. Now they are picketing outside the venue weekly while singing old union and railroad songs.
Children's physical safety is a concern for those who design, build and evaluate playgrounds, schools, child care facilities and a whole host of products intended for children of all ages. There are laws, regulations and design standards at all levels of government, which must be adhered to by those who design, build and produce these facilities and products in order to protect the health and safety of children. We have standards about the water that they drink or the paint that we use or the gasoline that we put in our vehicles to protect everyone's health, but most importantly our children's health.
I have been observing how farmers raise food for several decades because I am convinced agriculture is civilization. I inherited this virtue from the ancient Greeks. They had several gods protecting nature and agriculture (Zeus, Poseidon, Artemis, Demeter, Athena, Dionysos, and Pan). I love Athena for gifting the olive tree to Athens. I grew up among olive trees. Olive oil is so important I cannot imagine life without it. Demeter gave the Greeks wheat and taught them how to cultivate the land. Wheat, like olive oil, is the stuff of life. Zeus was a weather god, blessing humans and the Earth with rain.
On September 26, 2016, activists and allies gathered in front of the United Nations in New York City to commemorate two years since the disappearance of 43 college students from Ayotzinapa, Mexico. The group marched from One UN Plaza to the Consulate General of Mexico in New York and then on to Times Square, led by New York residents Antonio Tizapa, father of the disappeared student Jorge Antonio Tizapa Legideño, and Amado Tlatempa, the cousin of another missing student, Jesús Jovany Rodríguez Tlatempa.
Sometimes when I get really down, I just write. Not for anyone but me. Not to share (but my wife encouraged me to share this), but to get out my feelings and emotions. I write because as a woman of color, we aren't allowed to lose it. We have to keep it together. I'm successful and doing well professionally. I'm not naïve. I know that my ability to make a joke, flash a dimple, and be laid back and chill helps. What if I wasn't into jokes, didn't smile as much, and was angry all the time?