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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.

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.

Mar 20

Thanking Me for My Service

By William J Astore, The Contrary Perspective | Op-Ed

A visitor to my home today saw my retirement plaque, which marks my twenty years of service in the US Air Force. He immediately thanked me for my service to my country.

I appreciated his thanks because I took (and take) some pride in having served honorably in the military. But people who thank me make me uncomfortable. Why, you ask?

Because I believe it was an honor to serve my country. It was an honor to be entrusted by the people of our great land with their trust.

Mar 20

Obama's Drones Made Simple

By Dennis Trainor Jr, Acronym TV | Video Report

Before the 2012 election, Obama told John Stewart of The Daily Show: "One of the things we've got to do is put a legal architecture in place, and we need Congressional help in order to do that, to make sure that not only am I reined in but any president is reined in terms of some of the decisions that we're making."

In a development that will shock nobody, no such legal architecture has been put in place to "reign in" Obama or any future POTUS.

Mar 20

Hundreds of Tribal Representatives Join Huge Rally to Oppose Fracking

By Dan Bacher, The San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center | Photo Essay
Hundreds of members of California Indian Nations and Tribes from throughout the country gathered with a crowd of over 4000 people at the State Capitol in Sacramento on March 15 to send a clear message to Governor Brown: ban fracking, an environmentally destructive oil extraction practice that pollutes groundwater, rivers and the oceans. 
 
The large Tribal contingent included members of the Miwok, Maidu, Winnemem Wintu, Yurok, Karuk, Hoopa Valley, Ohlone, Pit River, Cahto, Round Valley, Pomo, Tule River and Chumash Nations and other Tribes from throughout the state, as well as members of the Dakota, Lakota Sioux, indigenous communities, native organizations and activists in the Idle No More Movement and Klamath Justice Coalitions. Many Tribal representatives emphasized the direct connection between fracking and the Shasta Dam raise and the Governor’s peripheral tunnels plan, which will provide water for fracking.

March 18, 2014, Richmond, VA– A month before the 10-year anniversary of the Abu Ghraib torture photos, attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel urged a federal appeals court to re-open a case brought by four Iraqi Abu Ghraib torture victims against private military contractor CACI Premier Technology, Inc. The men were subjected to electric shocks, sexual violence, forced nudity, broken bones, and deprivation of oxygen, food, and water. U.S. military investigators concluded that several CACI interrogators directed U.S. soldiers (who were later court martialed) to commit "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" of Abu Ghraib detainees in order to "soften" them up for interrogations.

Said Center for Constitutional Rights Legal Director Baher Azmy, "U.S. courts must at last provide a remedy for the victims of torture at Abu Ghraib. CACI indisputably played a key role in those atrocities, and it is time for them to be held accountable. The lower court's ruling creates lawless spaces where corporations can commit torture and war crimes and then find safe haven in the United States. That's a ruling that should not stand."