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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.

Apr 01

Democratic Despair

By Pierre Guerlain, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The latest municipal elections in France have been analyzed and interpreted as a rebuff for the so-called "socialist" President, Hollande, and a major success of the far right party known as the National Front (FN in its French acronym). This assessment is quite accurate, as far as it goes - but one could use these election results to make a larger point about how democracy in the oligarchic West functions or dysfunctions.

Whenever the party or coalition of parties in power are rejected by the people in an election, another party or coalition is voted in before it too disappoints citizens who then vote once again for the original party or coalition they had booted out. The US is, of course, familiar with this electoral dance between Democrats and Republicans who vary somewhat but are mostly, to use Gore Vidal's phrase, the two wings of the business party. Britain swings between Labor and the Tories, but Blair became the best heir of the Iron Lady. Hollande is a neoliberal and spineless as Sarkozy was neoliberal and brash, but their economic policies are like two peas in a pod.

Despite the much-publicized black eye to Citigroup's management, the bottom line of the Federal Reserve's stress tests is that every other large U.S. bank will be allowed to pay out more cash to its shareholders, either as increased dividends or stock buybacks. And pay out more cash they will: at least $22 billion in increased dividends (that includes all the banks subject to stress tests), plus increased buyback plans.

Those cash payouts come straight out of the banks' capital, since they reduce assets without reducing liabilities. Alternatively, the banks could have chosen to keep the cash and increase their balance sheets—that is, by lending more to companies and households. The fact that they choose to distribute the cash to shareholders indicates that they cannot find additional, profitable lending opportunities.

Albany – On Saturday, Governor Cuomo, Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate Co-Presidents Dean Skelos and Jeffrey Klein announced that they had reach a budget agreement, but the deal excluded the Compassionate Care Act, a bill that would allow seriously ill New Yorkers access to medical marijuana under the supervision of their healthcare provider. The Assembly had included the proposal as part of their one-house budget bill, but the Senate and Governor refused to include the bill in the final budget. The Compassionate Care Act has passed the Assembly four times, has bi-partisan support in the Senate, and is supported by a super-majority of New York voters. But senate leaders have refused to let the bill come up for a vote.

Patients, providers and caregivers were frustrated to learn that once again the legislature refused to show the sick suffering some compassion and mercy. They urged immediate action by the Senate to pass the Compassionate Care Act as a stand-alone bill.

It's been three years since the occupation of Zuccotti park and various other parks, city halls, and commons that were physically occupied by activists across the nation and around the globe. The central theme that has now become a part of national dialogue is the chant frequently repeated in street demonstrations, "We are the 99%" that brought to light the idea that a small wealthy elite, an immensely small fraction of the population, holds a share of wealth and power far out of proportion to their numbers. Occupy was seen as a reawaking of a largely immobile and apathetic public that was becoming more aware of the disconnect between public need and corporate political influence. As the camps began to grow and hold their ground for the initial few months, discussions about political endorsement were taking place. At around the same time as the Republican Party began their endorsement of the Tea Party, the idea was largely supported that Occupy should stay away from the "left" wing faction of the Business Party, otherwise known as corporate Democrats and be aware of its attempts to co-opt the movement.

It's now 2014, the encampments are gone, but the activists' message still remains, and issues of corruption and inequality are still being discussed. While there was no formal endorsement of the Obama Administration or the Democratic Party a new endorsement seems to have emerged from a small group of so called Occupy "founders." 

FINLAND, Minn. – The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) today called on the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to drop its plan to finalize guidance on the voluntary labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and instead respond to consumer demand for mandatory labeling of foods containing GMOs or genetically engineered ingredients.

The OCA also called on FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to acknowledge the growing body of scientific evidence that GMOs, and the chemicals required to grow GMO crops, are potentially damaging to human health.

Margaret Atwood's narrator, June/Offred, characterizes her situation in the dystopian speculative world of The Handmaid's Tale:

Apart from the details, this could be a college guest room, for the less distinguished visitors; or a room in a rooming house, of former times, for ladies in reduced circumstances. This is what we are now. The circumstances have been reduced; for those of us who still have circumstances....

In reduced circumstances you have to believe all kinds of things. I believe in thought transference now, vibrations in the ether, that sort of junk. I never used to....

In reduced circumstances the desire to live attaches itself to strange objects. I would like a pet: a bird, say, or a cat. A familiar. Anything at all familiar. A rat would do, in a pinch, but there's no chance of that. (pp. 8, 105, 111)

In her reduced circumstances as a handmaid—her entire existence focusing on becoming pregnant by a Commander to whom she is assigned, potentially a series of three before she is cast aside as infertile, thus useless—June/Offred's fantasies about her Commander turn murderous:

Apr 01

Austerity Is Crap

By Asher Platts, Acronym TV | Video Report

Since the peak of the Great Society, on the first official Earth Day, captains of industry have engaged in a conspiracy to destroy the gains made for working people over the last century. These plans were laid out in the Powell Memo, which in addition to naming Ralph Nader as the most dangerous man in America, declared that a 30 year plan should be set in motion that seeks to place corporations and the wealthy elite that head them, firmly into positions of power within government, to remove the ability of the people to use government as an independent arbiter of law that would protect them against the abuses of the wealthy elite, and to stem the tide of citizen power that had grown throughout the 50s and 60s.

The strategy laid out in this memo is coming to its final fruition now. In feudal times, the nobility were educated in music, science, arts, and affairs of the state, and the peasants were simply there to toil in the fields and provide bounty for the nobility through their labor, and education of the working class outside of what their particular field of labor was, was not valued by the nobility.

Mar 31

Who Gets on the FBI's Most Wanted List?

By Frank DeGiacomo, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

In 2009, Daniel Andreas San Diego was added to the FBI's "MostWanted Terrorists" watch list. He is only the second US citizen to make this particular FBI list. He is now thought to be on the Big Island of Hawai'i, and the FBI issued a press release alerting the state to be on the lookout for him.

What is he alleged to have done? What is the sum damage of this feared and infamous terrorist? Well, there were these two companies that paid to have extremely horrible things done to animals. If you are under 18 skip over the next sentence. Google: Chiron, Shaklee, and Huntingdon Life Sciences and add the phrase "animal testing" then hit "images" or click here. Specifically and allegedly, he trashed an empty office in the middle of the night with a primitive explosive, and he caused a little stucco to come off the front of another empty office. So calling him the 3rd most wanted terrorist and putting a $250,000 reward on his head seems a bit melodramatic at best, and an insult to the victims of real "terrorism" at worst. This is clearly no Bin Laden or Timothy McVeigh, and the bombing is no exploding Pan Am jet over Lockerbee Scotland - to put it mildly.

Militarization of our Police Forces – An infographic by the team at ArrestRecords.com

People in the Punjab province celebrated Republic Day in Pakistan on March 23, with an entirely opposite event 'Sindh Freedom March' held in Karachi. CNN claimed there were at least "5 million Sindhis" in attendance while some Sindh-based media quoted a figure of 8 million. The Freedom March celebrated under the banner of a Jeay Sindh Qomi Mahaz (JSQM), a Sindh freedom secessionist party, and demanded a separate, independent status for Sindh province.

The people from across the province, particularly from the Karachi city, were wearing Sindhi caps and special printed shawls called Ajrak. The large group rallied at Tibet Centre with the protesters holding party flags and chanting slogans for freedom of the Sindh from the Pakistan, like "Sindh Ghuray thee Azadi" (Sindh wants freedom). The 'Freedom March' (a National Anthem of Sindh) was also sung in chorus by the millions of the people.