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 05

Transformation of US Semiconductor Industry

By Apek Mulay, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Globalization led to the transformation of the entire US Semiconductor Industry from a few Independent Device Manufacturers (IDMs) to several fabless small businesses leading to new innovations in the Microelectronics business.

Deceptive "Free Trade" agreements have resulted in not just a transfer of manufacturing technology to China, but also in increased threats of counterfeit electronics entering into the US supply chain. This article explains how US National security may be impacted by the transfer of semiconductor manufacturing technology.

On March 3, 2014, the House Budget Committee, chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan, released a report on what it considered the results of the "War on Poverty," a set of policies begun by President Lyndon B. Johnson after massive social pressure. The problem with this report, "The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later," at least from my perspective, is not its apparent misuse of statistics or its sensationalizing of trivial matters. After all, statistics are misused regularly, as numbers are ripe for manipulation when removed from their specific context. And, sensationalizing everything, from who stole a child's candy to which politician banged what lover in the bathroom, is par for the course in a country where the mass of the population is marginalized from participation in the decision-making process. This all seemed to me to be the norm for partisan reports of this kind, attacking programs that are quite popular according to polling data.

Rather, what I found grotesquely appalling was the a-historical presentation of the report. It was as if decades of policy and decisions had never been made, except when considered useful to their talking points by those preparing the report. Labor, as well, was absent from the report, except in the most superficial way. Taken together, it was as if political economy had been reduced to zero. All of these absences make the report a mockery of much of the hard academic labor put into the studies brutalized to make the report's ridiculous claims. In this, a qualitative corrective is needed with history as my weapon. Foolishly I enter this endeavor, understanding well what Hegel wrote, "that peoples and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it." Alas, I hope they learn now - the people that is.

Apr 04

The Time of Our Lies - Howard Zinn

By Bianca Bagatourian, YouTube | Play Preview

The Time of Our Lives is a play written by Bianca Bagatourian that unravels through Howard Zinn's personal story as a young bombardier and how his life was shaped from there as well as examining the stories of other soldiers and the horrors of war. It speaks to Howard's message about how more peaceful solutions can be possible in these turbulent times. Above is a six-minute reading at La Mama Theater in NYC.

Watch a video preview of the play.

Apr 04

Victims of the Occupation

By Budour Hassan, SpeakOut | News Analysis

Since the resumption of the US-brokered direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on 29 July 2013, according to B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories Israeli occupation forces have killed forty-seven Palestinians. Israel's latest killings took place in Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank when the Israeli army raided the camp on Saturday morning and assassinated three Palestinian resistance fighters. Not only has Israel used the futile peace talks to continue killing Palestinians with impunity, it has also announced plans to construct 6,200 new settlement units since July 2013. According to a joint statement submitted by Palestinian human rights organisations to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the first four months of the resumed negotiations witnessed a 43% increase in house demolitions and a 74% increase in people displaced as compared to the same period in 2012.

What lies behind those numbers are the untold stories of the Palestinians murdered, displaced and regularly terrorized by the Israeli occupation with the complicity of the PA. Among Israel most recent victims are Moutaz Washaha from BirZeit and Saji Darwish from Beitin. What follows are interviews with the families of the two martyrs and accounts on their killings.

On March 25, William Bugatti, a 43 year old human rights worker for Karapatan, one of the Philippines' main human rights organizations, was shot to death. He was the 12th activist killed so far this year. On March 15, Romeo Capalla, 65, chairperson of the Panay Fair Trade Center, was shot to death. On March 2 Freddie Ligiwi, his father and his brother Edie disappeared; they were found March 8 in a shallow grave. Freddie had been a member of Anakbayan, a left wing organization. Women have also been targeted in the killings. Elisa Lascona Tulid, 37, a land rights activist was killed October 19, 2013 in front of her husband and 4 year old daughter.

Extra-judicial killings in the Philippines have been going on since the beginning of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroya presidency which ran from 2001 to 2010. During her presidency, there were 1,206 extra-judicial killings. So far in the Aquino presidency, there have been 188 extra-judicial killings and dozens of forced disappearances.

Since there seems to be no end in sight to the distracted driving epidemic, those trying to curb this dangerous practice have to continue to come up with new ways to get drivers to put their phones down and focus on the road. There are all types of public service announcements that are supposed to change drivers' attitude toward texting and driving, in addition to the measures that authorities take to prevent it, such as distracted driving laws, that carry some pretty tough penalties, including heavy fines and a certain number of demerit points against a person's driver's license.

However, while these measures do help raise people's awareness about this issue, they don't seem to manage to eradicate this risky behavior completely. Distracted driving is still the leading cause of car crashes in the United States, with 28% of all car accidents attributed to it. This makes talking on a cell phone and texting a riskier behavior than speeding and drunk driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 1.6 million crashes a year involve a distracted driver.

Errol Morris' documentary on former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, based on 33 hours of interviews with Donald Rumsfeld, is set to open in theaters on April 2. Morris has been on the interview circuit talking up the new flick, writing op-eds in the New York Times, and perpetuating the invisible wall of immunity around Rumsfeld and the others who violated human rights as part of the "war on terror" started by the Bush Administration.

On the Colbert Report Colbert claims that Morris was "gunning" for Rumsfeld. Morris does not deny being a "liberal", or that he was "probably biased." Morris, the concerned liberal, regrets that after 33 hours of interviewing Rumsfeld, he now knows less about why we went to war in Iraq than when Morris started the interview process.

Beginning in primary school, American students learn about the inclusive nature of democracy, which promises that regardless of sex, creed, or religion, any United States citizen can become President. But how true is this teaching? Let us concede for the moment that an individual meets all the legal requirements to seek the nation's top office. What are the other factors that allow citizens to attain the presidency?

Utilizing the 18 presidents elected during the 20th and 21st centuries as guidelines, each one shared common characteristics in the areas of gender, education, college affiliation, political party, and government service. So, could the average American realistically become President of the United States? Here are five reasons that you will never sit in the Oval Office's big chair:

According to several US prosecutors, evidence reveals that the four Blackwater guards, who are facing charges of manslaughter and gun violations in the horrific Sept. 16, 2007, shootings in Baghdad, Iraq, were motivated by deep hostility and hatred towards the Iraqi civilian population in general. If this is the case, then in America not only has killing been made technologically easy and socially entertaining, but it has also become ever-so internalized and essential.(1)

After World I and II, US military and political officials became increasingly alarmed when it was discovered that very few infantry personnel had actually fired their weapons. In order to combat these low firing rates, new techniques were designed to instill higher firing rates. By replacing small, circular paper targets with human-like, silhouette figures on the firing range, firing rates rose. Advanced weaponry that killed from a distance, and a barrage of propaganda aimed at dehumanizing the opponent, increased kill rates too.

I was saddened to learn of the recent death of Jonathan Schell, a distinguished writer and journalist and a long-time member of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's Advisory Council. Jonathan was one of the most talented, thoughtful and moral writers of our time. His first book, The Village of Ben Suc, published in 1967, reported on U.S. atrocities in Vietnam. He went on to write many more important books, including The Fate of the Earth, in which he described in elegant prose the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons. This 1982 book became a classic and in 1999 was selected by a panel of experts convened by New York University as one of the 20th century's 100 best works of journalism.

Schell was also a ferocious critic of those who would threaten the planet with nuclear weapons. In 2003, he received the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's Distinguished Peace Leadership Award. His acceptance speech was entitled, "There Is Something in this World that Does Not Love an Empire." He concluded his speech by stating, "The point I want to leave you with is not only that violence is futile, but that the antidote and cure – nonviolent political action, direct or indirect, revolutionary or reformist, American or other – has been announced. May we apply it soon to our troubled country and world." He elaborated on this theme in his 2003 book, The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence and the Will of the People.