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.

Community organizing works.  Anyone who questions that statement needn’t look further than our current US president. By leveraging the grassroots, democratic “bottom-up” approach, President Barack Obama quite literally organized his way into office. He spent a great deal of time as an organizer prior to arriving in Washington, which is still apparent in the way he conducts himself during public appearances. He has a way of speaking to “the people” as if he is actually one of the people.  Charging ordinary citizens to organize and act together on his behalf during the race played a key role in him securing a place in office. 

I feel cheated by him though.  He led me to believe that things would be different, that he would fight for me and you and every other American who was desperate for the change he boldly touted.  But much like reaching the bottom of a Crackerjack box in anticipation of the golden horse promised, Obama has become my empty Crackerjack box of disappointment.  The popcorn in those things tastes like cardboard, but we keep eating because we have blind faith that we are going to reach the bottom of the box where our prize awaits. 

For the past twelve years, Guantanamo Bay Prison has received little media attention until President Obama's second term in office. First, in March 2013 after a prison-wide hunger strike occurred - which is still on-going at nearly 500 days, up to 40 prisoners on hunger strike, and 19 being force-fed. Now, the swap of 5 of the "worst of the worst" for Sgt Bowe Bergdahl is receiving criticism from Republicans for being an illegal deal with terrorists. Daily Beast reporters Eli Lake and Josh Rogin calls them "bad guys." However, politicians from both parties have been negotiating with the Taliban and other so-called bad guys for a long time. Obama armed and funded the Syrian rebels against President Bashar Al-Assad. The group of Syrian rebels include al-Qaeda. Reagan gave Iran 500 anti-tank missiles, "over 1,500 American missiles," and "approximately thirty million dollars" without the knowledge of Congress.


Jun 11

There Can be No Winners in a Nuclear War

By Steven Starr, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Nuclear war has no winner. Beginning in 2006, several of the world's leading climatologists (at Rutgers, UCLA, John Hopkins University, and the University of Colorado-Boulder) published a series of studies that evaluated the long-term environmental consequences of a nuclear war, including baseline scenarios fought with merely 1% of the explosive power in the US and/or Russian launch-ready nuclear arsenals. They concluded that the consequences of even a "small" nuclear war would include catastrophic disruptions of global climate and massive destruction of Earth's protective ozone layer. These and more recent studies predict that global agriculture would be so negatively affected by such a war, a global famine would result, which would cause up to 2 billion people to starve to death.

These peer-reviewed studies – which were analyzed by the best scientists in the world and found to be without error – also predict that a war fought with less than half of US or Russian strategic nuclear weapons would destroy the human race. In other words, a US-Russian nuclear war would create such extreme long-term damage to the global environment that it would leave the Earth uninhabitable for humans and most animal forms of life.

 June 10, 2014, Washington, DC – A federal appeals court today dismissed a civil lawsuit brought by six men formerly held at Guantánamo who were wrongly detained and abused while at the prison. The suit, one of the last remaining Guantánamo damages suits, was brought against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other military officials for the torture, religious abuse and other mistreatment of plaintiffs.

In dismissing their claims, the D.C. Circuit stated that the torture and religious humiliation these men endured—even after being cleared for release by the military—were incidental to the “need to maintain an orderly detention environment,” “appear[ed] to be standard for all” U.S. military detainees in Guantanamo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and “was certainly foreseeable [by the government] because maintaining peace, security, and safety at a place like Guantanamo Bay is a stern and difficult business.”

The Daily Beast ran a profile of an accused rapist to demonstrate the "complexity" of rape charges, perpetuating the myth that these cases are more complicated than simple consent given/consent withdrawn. They are not.

Though George Will's June 9th column in the Washington Post took the prize for "Best Mainstream Contribution to Rape Culture-Media," it meant that another piece that demonstrated equal disregard for victims managed to fly under the radar. The day prior, The Daily Beast published a piece titled, "Exclusive: Brown University Student Speaks Out on What It's Like to Be Accused of Rape." It is approximately 3500 words on the never-before-heard story that when rape allegations are made, the alleged rapist and the alleged rape victims say that different things happened.

Larry Summers is well on his way to rehabilitating his public image as a brilliant intellectual, moving on from his checkered record as president of Harvard University and as President Obama’s chief economic adviser during the first years of the administration. Unfortunately, he can’t resist taking on his critics—and he can’t do it without letting his debating instincts take over.

I was reading his review of House of Debt by Mian and Sufi. Everything seemed reasonable until I got to this passage justifying the steps taken to bail out the financial system:

“The government got back substantially more money than it invested. All of the senior executives who created these big messes were out of their jobs within a year. And stockholders lost 90 per cent or more of their investments in all the institutions that required special treatment by the government.”

Washington, DC - A Minnesota activist is once again facing the heat for his parody merchandise. Today, in response to a demand from a representative at the "Ready for Hillary" PAC to take down a parody design, Public Citizen sent a letter (PDF) stating that activist Dan McCall's merchandise does not violate any intellectual property rights and is fully protected by the First Amendment.

The PAC sent notices to and – two online merchants – demanding they remove McCall's design that pokes fun at the PAC's slogan. McCall's design, which was being sold on T-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers and more, altered the slogan "I'm Ready for Hillary," to "I'm Ready for Oligarchy."

Jun 10

Who Can We Shoot?

By Dr. Gus Bagakis, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The above question came from Muley, a tenant farmer in "The Grapes of Wrath," who reacted to a caterpillar tractor operator who was under orders to evict him, and demolish the home where his family farmed for three generations. The driver said he was just following orders, if Muley shot him another man would replace him. Muley then said: "But where does it stop? Who can we shoot? I don't aim to starve to death before I kill the man that's starving me." The driver responds: "I don't know. Maybe there's nobody to shoot. Maybe the thing isn't men at all. Maybe like you said, the property's doing it."

I am sympathetic to Muley's frustration, because of the anger that comes up after my daily monitoring of progressive and left-leaning blogs, websites, and radio programs about political events and the negative influence of capitalism on working people. As a member of the working class who has been manipulated and exploited throughout my work life, I believe I have good reason to be pissed off at them (whoever they are and wherever they live). But I try get over that need for vengeance when I see how these thoughts and feelings are misplaced, while they also raise my blood pressure and are psychologically and socially damaging, making me angry and unapproachable some of the time. After some reflection, I've come to recognize that I needed to look into the reasons why I'm in this frustrating fix. One of my solutions was to try to understand the underlying structure that brought this on, which I've come to identify as the historically shifting system of capitalism, through its relentless squandering of the lives of workers and ruining the earth in its search for profits through growth. So it's not "who do we shoot?" but rather, what is responsible? It's not a person but a system.

Jun 10

Scapegoating Another American Veteran

By Camillo Mac Bica, Veterans Today | Op-Ed

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is home after five years of captivity. I know it's difficult for those who would like to scapegoat another veteran (just last week it was General Shinseki), this time as a political diversion for their culpability in initiating, supporting, and/or ignoring an illegal war in Iraq, and a futile, misguided 13 year travesty in Afghanistan that cost thousands of American and hundreds of thousands of Afghan and Iraqi lives, to appreciate or celebrate his liberation.

Though I pledged to friends and relatives who suffered through my many rants that I would no longer comment on this disgraceful train of events, I am compelled to offer one final tirade of scattered observations and thoughts.

Interview Excerpt:

On the list of donors for the "Peace Event" also USAID, a U.S. Agency for International Development, can be found besides ministries. Are these the right funders?

We receive funding from several governments, Finnish and French and through the German embassy also from the Federal government. For us, this is a good use of taxpayers' money. And we welcome it - in the sense of the Basic Law -, that the Federal government was willing to finance an event, on which's contents it didn't have any influence. The question remains: Is most of the money of the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation not also government money?