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 10

Learn From the Teachers: Chicago Strike Showed What a Union Is For

By Mark Brenner and Jane Slaughter, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The sight of tens of thousands of striking teachers marching through the streets of Chicago in September 2012 was a much-needed shot in the arm for a sagging labor movement.

For more than a week, the Chicago Teachers Union went toe to toe with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city's political and financial elites - fighting them to a draw at the bargaining table and besting them handily in the battle for the city's hearts and minds.

In perhaps the most impressive strike since the UPS walkout in 1997, Chicago's educators demonstrated that the strike is still labor's most powerful weapon.

While great strides have been taken in ridding the world of polio there are four countries where the disease continuesto endanger the lives of children. The countries where the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF have confirmed the existence of and are now immunizing children from polio are 

Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Syria. Pakistan has had the most reported cases. In 2013, there were 93 reported cases of polio; so far in 2014, there have been 24 new cases. Health workers who have been vaccinating Pakistani children have been targeted by the Taliban and other Islamic fundamentalists. Over 40 health workers and police monitoring their safety have been killed since December of 2012. In spite of the risks, health workers from UNICEF and the WHO and other aid organizations continue to work under potentially dangerous conditions. Last month, Islamic scholars from the Islamic Advisory Group gave an official declaration that "Shariah allows polio vaccinations". Despite this proclamation, polio workers continue to be attacked.

Mar 10

Idea or Opinion? Should New Media Make a New Distinction?

By Ahmed R Teleb, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Old media separated non-entertainment journalism into a simple dichotomy: news and opinion. Today we - academics, journalists, and laypersons - include internet searches at some point in the research process. Should new media now distinguish idea from opinion work?

The first two senses of "idea" according to are:

  1. any conception existing in the mind as a result of mental understanding, awareness, or activity;
  2. a thought, conception, or notion.

An opinion, on the other hand, is a belief, judgment, or point of view. According to traditional media, anything not a reporting of events was labeled "opinion" to emphasize that "news" journalism was objective, based on hard facts that all would agree comprise "the truth of the matter."

Nannies and housekeepers are some of the lowest paid workers in the U.S., facing high rates of exploitation, poor working conditions, and harassment from employers. This is because domestic workers perform "feminine" work, which has historically been done for free in the private household, and is still undervalued, if accounted for at all, in the market. Yet they are the backbone of our economy, tending to our elderly and our children, performing the necessary care work that sometimes gets neglected in busy two-earner homes.

In the United States, immigrant women make up for a majority of domestic workers, accounting for the "feminization of migration" in the last few decades, as they leave their own families behind to earn an income in wealthier countries. Their movement out of their own homes enables women in receiving countries to do the same and to participate in greater numbers in the work force.

"President Obama's foreign policy is based on fantasy," an indignant Washington Post editorial headline exclaims -- as if there were any other possibility. Of course Obama's foreign policy is based on fantasy. So is every president's, just as every criticism of a president's foreign policy is based on fantasy.

When we're talking about foreign affairs no one escapes the grip of fantasy, though I prefer to call it myth, since our fantasies always turn out to be based (consciously or unconsciously) on some story we embrace about how the world works. We all interpret the facts through our own mythic lens.

Mar 08

Disturbing Democracy

By Lawrence Davidson, CounterPunch | News Analysis

In the past couple of years a disturbing political phenomenon has arisen. To put it simply, groups espousing democracy have caused their countries to politically self-destruct by violently turning against the results of free and fair elections. Apparently, they act this way because the elections did not go their way and/or the elected officials adopted policies they oppose. They do so even when there is a possibility that changes in policy, and even changes in constitutions, can be had peacefully through legal means.

Admittedly this is happening in states both new to democratic politics and deeply divided along ideological lines. A tradition of compromise and sensitivity to minority rights are not yet manifest.

Mar 08

Healing Emotions with Chinese Medicine

By Will Fudeman, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Psychotherapy is an art. The best psychotherapists are energy healers, skilled in transforming the energy of hopelessness, anxiety and despair to the energy of possibility, creativity, and growth. And the best psychotherapists teach their clients practices that allow them to keep doing the transforming work on their own.

Psychiatry pretends to be a science. Psychiatrists prescribe combinations of powerful drugs that affect the brain chemistry of people in pain. Too often, it appears that these psychiatrists are rolling the dice, hoping for a lucky result. Some people do experience relief of their symptoms, and are able to resume productive, normal lives. Unfortunately, many people experience symptoms becoming worse, leading to years of suffering. Family members of young adults who commit suicide sometimes blame the tragedies on what one survivor calls "pharmaceutical poison" for the loss of their loved ones.

Mar 08

Viva la #SharingSpring!

By Adam W. Parsons, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

As spring begins to bloom, the sharing economy movement is ramping up its activities with a series of events being planned in different cities and world regions. Pioneered by Shareable along with several partners – including OuiShare, the New Economy Coalition, the New American Dream, Peers, The People Who Share and others – many big sharing events will be hosted throughout the spring months from San Francisco to Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Bristol in the UK. And come June 1st, these collaborative events will culminate in Global Sharing Day 2014 which will bring communities together to demonstrate the power of neighbourhood sharing, in everything from local skills swaps and street sharing jamborees to time banking, carpooling, community gardening and the collective purchasing of food or energy.

I recently received a spoken word piece called "The New Jim Crows" from an unlikely source – a public defender in North Carolina named Danny Spiegel. The title pays tribute to Michelle Alexander's groundbreaking book: "The New Jim Crow Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness."

Spiegel's poem is an outpouring of the heartache and frustrations of his occupation – how he is forced to bear witness to, and at times feel complicit in, the damage of mass incarceration. Through rhyme, Spiegel passionately tells the story of his clients – the young teen Melissa, who is tracked from foster care into jail, the schizophrenic who ends up locked in a cell rather than in treatment, the broken families of the failed war on drugs.

Mar 07

Dear Marissa

By Jasiri X, Youtube | Op-Ed

"Dear Marissa" is my apology to Marissa Alexander, a black woman who was sentenced in Florida to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot at her abusive husband. Her retrial starts in July, and incredibly, she is now facing 60 years in prison.

Prosecutor AngelaCorey announced she is seeking the maximum sentence of 20 years for 3 counts of assault with a deadly weapon. Please contribute to Marissa Alexander's legal defense fund by going to Marissa Alexander Freedom Fundraiser. The lyrics to "Dear Marissa" are below.