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 24

Obama's "Humane Deportation" Policy Review Lacks Humanity

By Maunica Sthanki, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

When people find out I work in the area of immigrants rights, I am often asked to provide my opinion or "sound bite" on US immigration policy. Usually the question is "Why should I care about US immigration policy?" or "Tell me what I need to know." Depending on my mood, my response is either, "It's complicated," or I launch into a 30 minute tirade about the injustices of the US detention and deportation system. I have never actually been able to fulfill a request for a sound bite, but I think I may have an abbreviated answer.

The US immigration system, in particular the detention and deportation system, does not treat immigrants with humanity, dignity and respect. From the moment an individual encounters the US detention and deportation system, they are stripped of their identity. Their belongings, clothes, documents, money - literally everything they have - is taken from them. They often are transferred to prisons and prison-like facilities in remote and rural locations without being able to notify their families or loved ones. They are strip searched and given an "alien number" which will identify them until their removal from the United States. This 9 digit number replaces their name, their face, their nationality, their gender. Immigrant detainees are referred to by their "number" by prison guards, by government attorneys and by Immigration Judges.

As an outside observer, one is easily frustrated by the way American mainstream media depicts European politics, or more specifically; how it deals with the concept of the Welfare state. This apparatus of misinformation would be awe-inspiring were it not such a threat to the dynamics of democracy. Even some otherwise well-informed people still grapple with myths and half-truths about the European welfare state, and what is sometimes labeled European socialism.

For many Europeans, it is mindboggling to hear American media refer to Greece as a failed welfare state. The tragic fate of this country has become a mantra-like warning among the neoconservatives. The truth is almost the opposite. Greece has been plagued by an epidemic of tax evasion, cronyism and corruption for so many years that many Greeks themselves refer to corruption as their national sport. Non-governmental organizations like Transparency International have pointed to these problems for years and their reports are widely available on the web.

Mar 24

GOP Presents: The Right to a Right Life

By Rod Blackhurst, SpeakOut | Video

Directed by Rod Blackhurst, this parody commercial pokes fun at the GOP health care plan. Together, we can stand for the right to a Right life.

WASHINGTON, DC – The Federal Election Commission (FEC) was wrong to use the legal distinction between Chevron USA Inc. and Chevron Corporation to dismiss a complaint that Chevron violated the federal pay-to-play law when it made a $2.5 million super PAC contribution, Public Citizen said today. The organization called on the FEC to revisit its policy of drawing artificial distinctions between affiliates within the same wholly owned corporate family.

The complaint – filed March 5, 2013, by Public Citizen, Friends of the Earth U.S., Greenpeace and Oil Change International – charged that Chevron's $2.5 million contribution during the 2012 election to the Congressional Leadership Fund, a registered super PAC reportedly tied to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the National Republican Congressional Committee, may have violated a federal law prohibiting government contractors from making "any ... contribution to any political party, committee or candidate for public office or to any person for any political purpose or use."

Michelle Bachelet's first term as president of Chile ran from 2006 to 2010. After her term as president ended, she was chosen to head "UN Women," a newly created UN entity that promotes gender equality. Bachelet accepted the presidential sash from Senate President Isabel Allende, the daughter of Chile's late Socialist President Salvador Allende. Both women have had remarkable lives, given the hardships they have had to endure. Michelle Bachelet's father, Air Force General Alberto Bachelet, was loyal to the idea of democracy and to the Allende presidency and because of this, on September 11, 1973, the day of the Pinochet/US coup, he was jailed.

General Bachelet died March 12, 1974 of a heart attack after being tortured in one of Pinochet's prisons. Michelle Bachelet and her mother were also imprisoned for a short time, but fortunately, they were able to flee the country, spending about a year in Cuba and 15 years in Mexico. Another interesting milestone for Bachelet was that prior to her winning the presidency she had spent time as head of the Chilean Military. An action taken to ensure that the abuses of the past would never happen again.

Mike Konczal wrote an excellent article for Democracy about the problems with a voluntary safety net and the superiority of government social insurance. The article draws on serious historical research (by other people) to prove two main points: first, there never was a Golden Age of purely voluntary charity; second, and more important, what charitable support mechanisms existed were not up to the challenges of the Second Industrial Revolution of the late nineteenth century and completely collapsed with the onset of the Great Depression.

This shouldn't come as a surprise. There are basic economic reasons why public social insurance is superior to voluntary charity. The goal here is to protect people against risk: of unemployment, of health emergency, of outliving one's savings, and so on. For a risk-mitigation scheme to work, there are a few things that are necessary. One is that people actually be covered. This is something you can never have with a private system (unless it's regulated to the point of being essentially public), since charities get to pick and choose whom they want to help.

It would seem impossible that the lives of the people of Gaza could get worse, but indeed they have-- from an improbable source-an Arab neighbor, formerly sympathetic with the plight of the people of Gaza under the brutal Israeli land and sea blockade of Gaza, but now with a decidedly hostile attitude toward the government of Gaza, and a seeming indifference to the effect of their policies on the struggling civilians in Gaza. 

I have just returned from Egypt as a member of the recent International Women’s Delegation to Gaza, one of only 16 of 82 delegates from seven countries that ended up being allowed entry into Egypt by Egyptian national security officials.  The remainder of our delegation, including Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, were denied entry into Egypt and given no reason for the denial.  CODEPINK: Women for Peace co-founder Medea Benjamin was brutally assaulted by security officials at the Cairo airport as they forced her onto a departing flight.
Mar 21

Running With Our Hummingbird Named Consuelo

By Roberto Cintli Rodriguez, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

There’s nobody that I know that doesn’t like a hummingbird. That is especially true in Tucson. For many of us, the hummingbird signifies Consuelo Aguilar. For some, she is but a memory. For others, not even that. And yet, in Tucson, we run for her. We run with her. And on April 5th, we will run and walk for and with her again.

She represents all of what was right with Tucson several years ago. All that was good. And yet, something went wrong…  She was our soaring eagle… who prematurely transformed into our hummingbird… at least she remains with us… always, especially when we run.

Mar 21

Crimea and Punishment

By Randall Amster, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Russia's brazen annexation of Crimea presents a vexing foreign policy crisis for the Western powers. How can these actions be denounced without pointing a finger back upon their own forays and interventions? Indeed, President Putin said as much in his recent address in the Kremlin, chiding the West for its condemnations of Russia's actions and stating that "it's a good thing that they at least remember that there exists such a thing as international law -- better late than never." Putin reinforced this view by citing the "Kosovo precedent" -- which he takes as "a precedent our western colleagues created with their own hands in a very similar situation, when they agreed that the unilateral separation of Kosovo from Serbia, exactly what Crimea is doing now, was legitimate and did not require any permission from the country's central authorities."

Mar 21

Army Makes Case Against Enlisting

By David Swanson, War Is a Crime | News Analysis

Remarkably, the U.S. Army War College has published a report (PDF) that makes an overwhelming case against enlisting in the U.S. Army.  The report, called "Civilian Organizational Inhibitors to U.S. Army Recruiting and the Road Ahead," identifies counter-recruitment organizations that effectively discourage young people from joining the military. 

This is the highest honor the Army could give these groups, including Quaker House, the Mennonite Central Committee, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans For Peace, and Courage to Resist.  Activists often disbelieve in the effectiveness of their own work until the government admits it explicitly.  Well, here is that admission.  And counter-recruitment activists really do seem to appreciate it.