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.

Jun 18

Off With Their Heads

By Luke Hiken, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The French were right: the best way to deal with the rich is to behead them - at least figuratively, if not physically. Opposing capital punishment does not mean that the ruling class, i.e. the rich, should be exempt from punishment or consequences for their crimes against the poor – it only means that unnecessary killing is unwarranted. By disenfranchising the rich, distributing their money to the people they have stolen it from, and ensuring that they will be powerless to commit similar crimes in the future, the guillotine can remain a bloody remnant of history, instead of a portent for the future.

Jun 18

Obama Moves to 'Unblock' Medicine to Iran

By Rebecca Gould and Kate Gould, SpeakOut | News Analysis

The Obama administration announced on Wednesday, May 22nd that it will be dispatching a team of State Department and Treasury officials to ensure that Iranians are not blocked from food and medicine as a result of the sanctions regime which intensified under President Obama's first term.

The administration's new commitment to protecting humanitarian trade to Iran has been met with high praise from the business and foreign policy groups that have long criticized President Obama's sanctions policies. Over the past month, Wendy Sherman and David Cohen, two of the highest-level officials on Iran policy in the Obama administration, have publicly responded to these critiques.

Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) released summary findings about the United States' use of the death penalty, based on missions to California and Louisiana. CCR's Executive Director, Vincent Warren, presented the findings today at the fifth World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Madrid. The organizations conclude that use of the death penalty in both states violates human rights, from the fundamental human rights violation represented by the death penalty itself to the way it is implemented, which constitutes torture and discrimination.

"California and Louisiana have intensified the human rights problems inherent in the U.S.'s continued use of the death penalty by holding prisoners in conditions and for durations that constitute torture and by imposing the death penalty in racially discriminatory ways," said CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren. "The treatment of prisoners on death row violates both U.S. and international law."

The Farmers Market is a great place to bring your kids for so many reasons! The Farmers Market allows you to provide your family with wholesome, healthy food while supporting your local community at the same time.

Here's the reality- Family farmers need your support! Now that large agribusiness dominates food production in the U.S. Small family farms have a hard time competing in the food marketplace. Buying directly from farmers gives them a better return for their produce and gives them a fighting chance in today's globalized economy.

And health-wise, your doing your family a great favor! Much of the food found in grocery stores is highly processed and grown using pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and genetic modification (GMOs). Some of it has been irradiated, waxed, or gassed in transit. These practices may have negative effects on human health.

The commercial mass media are in their element now with the Edward Snowden revelations.A highly controversial issue framed as national security vs. individual liberty, a dramatic figure to focus personal scrutiny on (Snowden), the public as stakeholder, and government officials falling in line to reassure the public –trust us, they declare.

What is, and will be, missing from the mass media debate, however, is the connection between government surveillance and the larger imperative of maintaining a system both at home and abroad designed to maximize corporate profits.Those who argue for a vastly more democratic system –notably the left— continue to be excluded from the mass media's "legitimate" debate.

Jun 17

Edward Snowden as Litmus Test

By Jeremy Mohler, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Just before the immediately iconic video of Edward Snowden in discussion with Glen Greenwald exploded all over the Internet, I took my standard poodle to an obedience training class across town. When we got back home, my poodle slept on the couch with his favorite blue monkey toy in the afternoon light while I watched history unfold into the present. As I watched filmmaker Laura Poitras's (clever) close-up framing of Snowden's fac,e I felt a sudden release of a long-term, crushing pressure, like when you're a small kid and a friend is holding you down and laughing, and finally lets go.

I didn't feel it because I learned that the American government has Orwellian programs - it's not mind shattering that the NSA, an agency launched in 1952 as an early chess move in the Cold War, is gathering immense amounts of data about people, American citizens or not, more or less copying communication and the Internet as it slips by us into the past.


In Malaysia, street protests are rare. Indigenous-led street protests are even more rare. That's why the sight last week of more than 300 Indigenous people wearing matching blue shirts reading "No More Dams" and holding signs demanding "Respect Free Prior and Informed Consent" and "Stop Baram Dam" outside of a major conference was so historic.

On May 22, people from nine different tribes from across the island of Borneo came to Kuching, the capital city of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, to demand that the Sarawak government abandon plans to build 12 dams in some of the most remote regions of Borneo's rainforest. The protesters were also demanding that dam-building proponents listen to the voice of affected communities. Their target was the biennial meeting of the International Hydropower Association, the group that represents the most biggest dam builders in the world.

In this season of college graduations, let us pause to remember the stirring words of America's beloved scholar, George W. Bush, speaking in Florida in 2007 at the commencement exercises of Miami Dade College: "In Havana and other Cuban cities, there are people just like you who are attending school, and dreaming of a better life. Unfortunately those dreams are stifled by a cruel dictatorship that denies all freedom in the name of a dark and discredited ideology." 1

How I wish I had been in the audience. I would have stood up and shouted: "In Cuba all education is completely free. But most of the young people sitting here today will be chained to a large, crippling debt for much of the rest of their life!"

As the security guards came for me I'd yell: "And no one in Cuba is forced to join the military to qualify for college financial aid, like Bradley Manning was forced!"

Benton County is in the heart of the Willamette Valley – a lush, fertile valley in western Oregon. Here in the Willamette Valley we are blessed with a climate that allows us to grow over 270 varieties of edible plants. Wheat, hazelnuts, wine grapes, cherries, apples, peppermint, hops, beans, corn, peas, oats, flax, potatoes, and many other crops are found here. The consumer base that supports this abundance is one of the most educated and involved in the whole country. CSA (community supported agriculture) programs, farmer's markets, and food co-ops all thrive here. Our robust and growing organic industry makes up a vibrant local food system that many farmers and citizens have spent their lives building.

This system is now under attack from corporate agricultural interests who seek to turn our valley into a breeding ground for their patented seeds and the chemicals that go with them. A conflict is growing between the farmers, both organic AND conventional, who seek to grow crops uncontaminated by genetically modified seeds, and the massive and well-funded biotech industry and their associated organizations and growers, of which Monsanto is the best known.

President Obama started his first term with enormous expectations from the electorate. After eight years of President Bush, America was ready to exit the neo-conservative policy and worldview. Reality has been much different, partly because President Obama has proven to be a far better status quo politician than a real "change agent." One reason that he has struggled from the beginning: the failure to close Guantánamo.

Just recently, at the George W. Bush Presidential Library opening, President Obama stated, "And that's why every President gains a greater appreciation for all those who served before him; for the leaders from both parties who have taken on the momentous challenges and felt the enormous weight of a nation on their shoulders. And for me, that appreciation very much extends to President Bush."

I.e.: Extreme policies at home and abroad come first, the American people and the world, second.