Sunday, December 16, 2012

Fiscally Responsible Idea: Stop Killing Children

Source: Washington’s Blog: U.S. Army Starts Targeting Children at NakedCapitalism.com
How much of a coincidence is this? The same week the U.S. Army admits it is deliberately bombing children in Afghanistan a deranged gunman opens fire on kindergarten children in Connecticut.

To put it another way, does a culture of violence breed violence?
Drone strikes kill mostly civilians, many of them young children, and are paid for by me and thee. Unless you've figured out how to withhold the 50%+ of tax revenue that Obama administration budgets allocate to military spending, that is.

Can we afford to go on like this, increasing spending for state-sponsored violence while cutting budgets for mental health care?

Here's a modest proposal: take all the $$ allocated to aerial bombing, including paying those who make it possible, and redirect it to mental health services.

Split the services up between people in the U.S. -- who clearly need it badly -- and people in any country the U.S. has bombed since WWII. (Israel can re-direct its own military spending to mental health services for its people and those of Gaza and the West Bank. Oh, wait, a lot of that $ is U.S. tax revenue, too.)

Source: Jordan Times "The mother of 10-month-old Palestinian girl, Hanen Tafesh, killed the day before in an Israeli air strike, is comforted by her husband and relatives as she mourns before her funeral in Gaza City, on Friday (AFP photo)"
From the Jordan Times:
Child psychologists say the trauma of war stays with Gaza’s children for a long time. 
Hussam Nunu, the head of Gaza’s Community Mental Health Programme, said close to a third of the about 1,500 patients treated every year are children affected by stress and violence. After Israel’s last offensive four years ago, the number of children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders was “overwhelming”, he said. 
“Since then we have done a lot of outreach, but when another escalation like this happens, our work can be undone,” he said.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Victory! Amnesty-USA Head Suzanne Nossel Resigns

You may remember the storm of controversy over bus shelter ads posted by Amnesty International-USA during the NATO summit in Chicago last summer: Amnesty's Shilling for US Wars by Coleen Rowley and Ann Wright presented the problem with the claim that Afghan women and girls have seen "progress" under a decade of NATO occupation, and more generally that war for humanitarian reasons is not an oxymoron.
Ads run by AI-USA under Suzanne Nossel's leadership, June 2012, Chicago.
Many of us active in opposing the war in Afghanistan were appalled that a formerly reputable human rights organization appeared to be the doing the dirty propaganda work of the U.S. government, echoing falsehoods concocted at the State Dept. Then we found out who Suzanne Nossel used to work for -- the U.S. State Dept. In fact she had built her career publishing justifications for so-called "Smart Power" i.e. using human rights goals as a vehicle for promoting U.S. interests abroad. Also, insiders at AI-USA reported she had been firing key staff and replacing them with State Dept. alumni.

AI-USA received a demand in July signed by many of its own members and by concerned activists that they ask Nossel to step down.

CODEPINK co-director Rae Abileah and NYC local coordinator Cristina Castro protested outside AI-USA's board meeting in Manhattan, helping to educate directors who were arriving for the meeting.

Nossel resigned recently, effective Jan. 11, 2013
Which revolving door back into government will Nossel emerge from? Will she be on hand to help with "humanitarian(sic) intervention" in Syria perhaps? Some think her ambition is to replace Susan Rice as heiress apparent to Hillary Clinton's job. No matter where Nossel lands, AI-USA is better off without her. Here's their board chair's letter announcing her resignation:
Message from Shahram Hashemi, AIUSA Board Chair 
Dear Colleagues, 
AIUSA today announced that Executive Director Suzanne Nossel has tendered her resignation effective January 11, 2013.  We are grateful to Suzanne for her dedication and efforts to strengthen AIUSA's wide ranging efforts and initiatives.  We know her long-term focus on achieving human rights will continue and we wish her well in her future endeavors.  AIUSA's strong senior leadership team ensures that the organization continues to move ahead to implement the new Strategy and Business Plan and is ready at all times to initiate critical human rights activities.  Our staff, volunteer leaders, members and our global movement are our core assets in the continual effort to protect individuals at risk and keep human rights at the forefront of national and international issues.  
Transitions in leadership can be difficult, but we’re committed to moving forward quickly.  First, we will immediately begin an executive search process.  Second, we have a plan in place: AIUSA is fortunate that the Chief Financial and Administrative Officer, Stacey Bain and the Chief Advocacy Officer, Frank Jannuzi have agreed to act as interim directors as we work through this process.   
The strength of AIUSA and the AI movement comes from a potent mix of our tireless members, expert volunteers, generous supporters and professional staff.  Thank you all for your hard work over this past year and in the challenging months ahead. Together we will move Amnesty another step closer to securing human rights for all people. 
Thank you very much, 
Shahram Hashemi Chair, Board of Directors at Amnesty International USA
Meanwhile, look for more justifications for war on the grounds of human rights from the hypocritical and rapacious U.S. empire. And find your own facts about how women and girls are faring in Afghanistan with NATO there to "protect" them.
Source: the excellent Afghan Women's Writing Project: Telling One's Story Is A Human Right

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fiscally Responsible Idea: Cut Pentagon, Corporate Welfare

This is an excellent 60 second spot on how Pentagon spending benefits weapons industry CEOs who are even richer than Wall St. CEOs and are thus sometimes called "the 0.01%."

I've been reading up in preparation for a statewide meeting on Saturday about how to resist more austerity for Maine. There's no need to cut any social programs at all. But corporate welfare and massive "defense" spending must end if we are to preserve our safety nets and ward off European-style austerity.

I just love it when people do their homework and share it with the rest of us. Here are two useful articles on thus subject. An ambitious summing up of the real total cost of the U.S. military abroad is worth a read: How U.S. Taxpayers Are Paying the Pentagon to Occupy the Planet: Picking Up a $170 Billion Tab by David Vine in Tomdispatch and Common Dreams.
Then check this from the ever-edifying National Priorities Project on why the fiscal cliff is more of an obstacle course, with a clear brief discussion of each of the major obstacles: What Will Happen With The Fiscal Cliff? by Mattea Kramer.

Encouraging news from Minneapolis this week, which passed a unanimous city council resolution directing Congress to cut military spending right away to avoid cuts to Medicare and Social Security. As reported by the MinnPost:

“The United States will spend more in Afghanistan next year than the entire food stamp budget for the country — and way more than the federal government will contribute toward education,” said Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer of the Minnesota Arms Spending Alternative Project, which joined the City Council in support of the resolution.

Finally, to further lift my spirits, I enjoyed photos of CODEPINK leading 100 people in a protest in the Cayman Islands, a notorious sinkhole of taxes that corporations owe the U.S. for operating here, but avoid paying. Love how Medea and Jodie modified their Bring Our War $$ Home tunics to read Bring Our Tax $$ Home. Amen, sisters.
Rae Abileah, Medea Benjmain and Jodie Evans demonstrate for an end to corporate welfare.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fiscally Responsible Idea Of The Day: Stop Funding #Apartheid

Yet another thing the U.S. taxpayer supports, which is just plain wrong as well as being an inappropriate use of our hard-earned money: Israeli military "justice" for Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank.

Then there's the $100 million "911 Center" underground bunker outside Tel Aviv that the U.S. Army is apparently planning to build. It can only be built by workers from certain countries. Doesn't this violate some U.S. laws? 

Also, Israel is the fifth wealthiest country in the world. If it weren't for the influence peddling of groups like AIPAC, and the profits for greedy defense contractors who profit from the "aid" the U.S. taxpayer sends, we might be spending that money on something positive. Like building infrastructure for renewable energy instead of endless fortresses across the globe, fortresses which are about to push us all off the "fiscal cliff."

Bring our war $$ home from Israel, too.
Logo by Dan Ellis, VFP & Maine BOW$H coalition

Monday, December 10, 2012

Fiscally Responsible Idea Of The Week: #FreeBrad

My CODEPINK sister Janet Weil Sunday, December 9, 2012, San Francisco. I carried a Free Bradley Manning sign at my bridge vigil yesterday, too, in Skowhegan, Maine.
Imagine if you added up the cost of all the un-Constitutional activities Bradley Manning leaked word of via Wikileaks. If you had the time and the smarts to quantify every helicopter sortie that shot up kids in a van -- the cost of the soldiers' pay, the fuel for the helicopter, the bullets -- and every creepy diplomatic encounter where the U.S. urged a client government to crack down on dissent -- the airfare, the State Dept. salary, the baksheesh, the tear gas pledged -- what would it add up to? In dollars and cents, I mean. Then, ok, go ahead and quantify the cost of all the pollution for the plane trips, bombings, depleted uranium dustings, trucking supplies through the Khyber Pass to conduct war to protect supply lines for fossil fuels. Roll all of it into one great big price tag. What would the price be? Would it equal the federal budget deficit, or exceed it?

Now take that number and add to it the cost of keeping Bradley Manning incarcerated for more than 900 days, first in a tiger cage in Kuwait where he passed out from heat exposure and was completely convinced he would die right there; next at the Marine base at Quantico, Virginia where he was kept in solitary confinement for nine months and woken up constantly by guards drawing a paycheck from the U.S. taxpayer, and where the biggest phalanx of every kind of cop imaginable shut down the public highway and arrested a bunch of peacenik grandparents for holding a vigil outside the gates for him; and now at the maximum security prison at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Factor in the cost of flying Manning and his guards back and forth to Ft. Meade in Maryland for his pre-trial hearings. Factor in the whole cost of court martialing Manning for sharing information that was, in some cases, not even classified (his most famous leak, video of Apache helicopter soldiers shooting civilians in Baghdad, was not classified at all). Add it all up.

What would be the point?

My point is that the bottom line of all the economic-speak and legislative-speak around fiscal cliffs and sequestration and discretionary v. mandatory expenditures and entitlements is what they are meant to obfuscate: a budget is a moral document.

We all spend our money on what we value.

An addict spends his money on the drugs to stay high and/or ward off withdrawal symptoms.

The U.S. government spends our money on bombs and drones and stealing other people's land (and airspace) and advertising itself to youth as a job opportunity. On the designed-to-be-endless war on terror.
Obama's next budget, if Congress enacts it. Source: NationalPriorities.org
Your personal budget or that of your family is probably spent primarily on housing, food, heat and electricity, potable water and disposal of sewage and garbage. If you spent as much of your income on weapons as your government does, you'd probably end up eating Ramen noodles several nights a week for supper.

Austerity, here we come.

What to do? Call Congress, Occupy, communicate with your neighbors about the problem, and the need to bring our war dollars home. Write letters to the editor and reach lots of them at the same time. And, if you're anywhere near Maine next weekend, come join a diverse group of concerned citizens to brainstorm more ideas for action December 15, 2012 in Augusta. I'll see you there.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

#Austerity is a sham. Tell Congress Dec 5: Jobs Not War!

Reposting below from the Jobs Not War campaign just as news came that the U.S. Senate authorized over $600 billion in military spending for fiscal year 2013.

Austerity is a sham. Let's make a big noise about it.

Call Congress December 5th to say NO to cuts for Medicare, Medicaid and vital services

Call your Members of Congress on Dec. 5th and tell them…We voted for JOBS, not CUTS – WORK not WAR

1-866-426-2631 or 1-800-998-0180

On December 5th, thousands of Americans will pick up the phone to call their Members of Congress and tell them not to sell out working class families by cutting Medicare, Medicaid, and vital services, destroying millions of jobs and hurting children, seniors and people with disabilities.

Tell them that the best way to reduce the deficit is to create jobs, end tax breaks for the rich, demand that they publicly agree to protect Medicaid, Medicare and vital services, and move funds from the runaway Pentagon budget to meet peoples’ needs.

Call 866-426-2631 to get more background information on the threat to Medicare and Medicaid and 800-998-0180 about Social Security, and either to be connected to the offices of your Members of Congress.

Call 1-866-426-2631 or 1-800-998-0180 on Dec. 5th to say NO to cuts for Medicare, Medicaid and vital services. 

Then sign the JOBS-NOT-WARS PETITION at www.jobs-not-wars.org

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nine Months In Solitary. You Try It. #FreeBrad

 T-shirts benefit Firedoglake, not the Manning defense fund. But how cool is this graphic?
Soon, Bradley Manning will testify at his court martial pre-trial hearing for giving Wikileaks info about how our government and its military operate. I can't wait!

It will be the first time he has spoken in public about his situation, unless you count his recent admission that he was the source of the information provided to Wikileaks. Info published by mainstream news outlets like the Guardian and the New York Times though you don't see any of them in 900+ days of detention without a trial and no editors got put in nine months of solitary confinement at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia.

Quantico is the place I witnessed what seems now to be foreshadowing of the large scale military style response to fairly small crowds of non-violent protestors. It mirrored the out of proportion violence being done to a young intelligence officer who followed his conscience and dared to defy authority.

The government is hard pressed to prove that what Manning did harmed anyone, but he has been brutally treated just the same. A portent of what the response would be in cities across the continent when Occupy broke out. OWS sign: "If banking regulations were enforced like camping laws in this country, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in."

In March 2011 when we stood outside Quantico when Bradley was being detained in the worst conditions -- sleep deprivation, forced nudity, and other humiliation tactics. This was before they moved him to Leavenworth. While he faced the demons inside the facility, his supporters outside faced scores of the following: military police, state police, town police, county sheriffs, mounted police, K-9 police, riot squad police, and commandos in cammo with automatic weapons. We were outside the gates of the base and at one point officers shut down the major road that we were standing along side in an open field, a couple hundred of us, with our signs. Then they kettled us into the now closed street using metal barricades. In an act of civil disobedience retired Col. Ann Wright sat down in the road and, according to his own account, Dan Ellsberg was then inspired to sit down with her. Then others joined in. Last I saw of her that day, riot police with shields were wrenching her arm as she did not get up quickly enough when they told her to get up.

Now the action has moved to Ft. Meade where the pre-trial hearings have been going on. Today's update for Nov. 27, 2012 from the website BradleyManning.org:
At this extremely important hearing, Bradley’s lawyer David Coombs will focus on the abuse Bradley endured in Quantico, VA. It is now well-known that Bradley was held for nine months in solitary confinement, in conditions that were declared by UN Chief Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez to be “cruel, inhuman and degrading.” David Coombs will present evidence that brig psychiatrists opposed the decision to hold Bradley in solitary, and that brig commanders misled the public when they said that Bradley’s treatment was for “Prevention of Injury”. 
I am looking forward to hearing what Brad has to say in court. He is the most significant political prisoner in the U.S. of our time. He has been in jail for years for sharing mildly classified information, even though war criminals who have waged genocide walk free.

A cool holiday gift that communicates. Note: T-shirts benefit Firedoglake, not the Manning defense fund.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful for Bradley Manning, Wikileaks & Courage To Tell The Truth


This nation celebrating its pseudo-historical day of thanksgiving was built on genocide. The treatment of the tribes encountered by English settlers in what is now the New England region of the U.S.A. was deplorable. Besides accepting hospitality while plotting to steal the hosts land, settlers put large numbers of people including elders and little children on an island off the coast to freeze and die. I could go on and on with details about outrageous treatment of the Native Americans for hours, right up to the present day, without running out of material. In the 21st century, tribal lands are mined for uranium, polluted, and despoiled. What else is new. Time for patriarchy to step down.

Part of the cultural cognitive dissonance between Europeans and the people they found living in the Americas was the concept of land ownership. Territory one could expect to harvest food from is not land with a deed that can be bought and sold. The commons were still a living concept in the New World, but a rapacious and greedy bunch of adventurers along with a few religious fanatics who were just positive God was on their side imposed the ugliness of borders, lines drawn in the sand and watered with blood. Oh, and don't forget the water under the land, also very important to sieze, own, and control for profit.

Today when I thought about what I'm thankful for, most of my material prosperity seems like it has come at the expense of either theft or enslavement. I'm wearing clothes I bought second-hand, but somebody somewhere slaved in a factory to produce it. I'm enjoying the Kennebec River and the Maine woods but some white folks a few generations back had to kill to secure access to them. Or maybe they just did it the sneaky way, with biological weapons like smallpox infested blankets.

The whole concept of land ownership has been a colossal failure and has led to the near-fatal poisoning of our planet. Whether we'll be able to pull ourselves back from the brink once capitalism and patriarchy fall remains to be seen.

In the meantime I'm thinking about information, and how the governments who work for the super wealthy think they ought to be able to own that, too. Bradley Manning has been in detention for hundreds of days for daring to think that he and the people he was supposedly protecting owned some of the information that their taxes paid to collect. Having sworn an oath to uphold the constitution when he joined the army, Bradley is alleged to have made statements indicating that he thought that included making information available to people who could think about it and talk about it, exercising their rights in a republic.

The government is out to prove that Bradley was wrong, but there are thousands -- perhaps millions -- of his supporters worldwide who know that he was right. Information does belong to the people. It doesn't only belong to those with the wealth to smother it into submission. Information wants to be free. Like land, air and water want to be free.

I'll bet Bradley Manning wants to be free, too. Happy Thanksgiving in Leavenworth, Brad. And thanks for striking a blow for freedom when you had the chance.
...Manning’s motives, as summed up in this online chat, prior to his arrest: “I want people to see the truth… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public… I was actively involved in something that I was completely against.” According to the prosecution, Manning also provided the following note, to WikiLeaks, when he, anonymously, uploaded a cache of battlefield reports of the Iraq War: “This is perhaps one of the most significant documents of our time… removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st century asymmetric warfare.”   
Source:  Analysis: Bradley Manning accepts responsibility for act of conscience by Jeff Paterson posted at BradleyManning.org

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Defend Social Progress Meet Up In Maine Dec. 15



Dear friends in Maine,
We invite you to an important meeting to discuss the "sequestration" and "fiscal cliff" issues coming up in January.  This is another chapter is the ongoing deterioration of the federal government's commitment to using federal tax dollars to support the basic human needs of our people. It is time to "take back our government" by insuring the safety and security of all who live here, rather than emphasizing the needs of corporations and an overreaching military.

We will meet on Saturday, December 15 from noon until 3:30 pm at the Mediation and Facilitation Resources building, 11 King St., Augusta (off State St. at corner with Pat's Pizza, a few blocks south of the State Capitol).  Snow date will be same time on December 16. 

Please bring food to share (or for yourself) while we have lunch and get to know each other between noon-1 PM. The planning meeting will follow. If you are unsure of the location or directions, contact Larry Dansinger at (207) 525-7776.

Reports are already surfacing that President Obama will move quickly to sign a deal with the Republicans in Congress to cut Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid in return for some tax increases on the rich.

On Election Day the Budget for All question won overwhelmingly in all 91 cities and towns across Massachusetts in which it was on the ballot, averaging a 75% yes vote, 25% no -- even passing in towns carried by Scott Brown.  This ballot question called for an end to social program cuts, an end to costly wars ($8 billion a month in Afghanistan), and for increased taxes on the rich.  Clearly the public is seeing these important connections.

We are not proposing to start a new group.  We do think though that by bringing together people who have not worked together in the past we can all be stronger than we are now.  Our new senator Angus King will play a key role in these budget negotiations and we should be developing a coordinated campaign to mobilize the public so that Congress and President Obama hear from the people in Maine soon.

The goal of the meeting will be to listen to one another and discuss strategy options to protect social progress from becoming the victim of the debt crisis in Washington.  By building and expanding our networks we can resist budget cuts to social programs and transfer any cuts to the bloated military.

We hope that your organization will be able to send one or more representatives to this strategy and action meeting.  We will be sharing this invitation with labor, religious, peace, social justice, women’s, environmental groups, and more.  Please feel free to pass this letter on to others who you think might be interested.

The time has come for us to connect the dots to survive and bring greater harmony and equality to our country. The only way we will be able to effectively deal with the massive corporate money now being poured into Washington is to get beyond our traditional single issue organizing and move toward a more cooperative and collaborative model.

We look forward to seeing you on December 15. 

For peace and environmental and social justice,

- Professor Doug Allen, University of Maine (Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine and Maine Peace Action Committee)
- Rev. Bill Bliss (Neighborhood Faith Community, United Church of Christ, Bath)
- Read Brugger (Team 350 Maine)
- Chris Buchanan (Environmental activist)
- Richard Clement (Maine Veterans for Peace)
- Kenny Cole (Maine visual artist)
- Larry Dansinger (ROSC)
- Jacqui Deveneau (Maine Greens)
- Denise Dreher (Pax Christi Maine)
- Bruce Gagnon (Global Network & Bring Our War $$ Home Campaign)
- Betsy Garrold/Bob St. Peter (Food for Maine's Future)
- Judy Garvey/Jim Bergin (Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition)
- The Rev. Carol L. Huntington (Deacon, Episcopal Diocese of Maine & Social Worker)
- Jennifer Lunden (Social worker)
- Jessica Moore (Peace Action Maine)
- Rosalie Tyler Paul (American Friends Service Committee, Maine)
- Ilze Petersons (Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine)
- Mike Reynolds (AbilityMaine)
- Richard Rhames (Biddeford City Councilor)
- Judy Robbins (Peninsula Peace and Justice)
- Lisa Savage (CODEPINK & Bring Our War $$ Home Campaign)
- Robert Shetterly (Americans Who Tell the Truth)
- Mary Beth Sullivan (Social worker)
- Rev. Mark D. Wilson (Bath, Maine)
- Donna Yellen (Social worker)

* Groups are listed for identification purposes only

Monday, November 12, 2012

Propping Up A Rotten System Is The Liberal Curse

Image: Occupy NH Primary
One of the the greatest dangers of the thinking error I call "false dichotomy" is the misperception that a loss for one "side" is a win for the other. The multi-billion dollar professional sports industry exists partly to distract us from the killing and enslavement necessary to support our lavish, unsustainable lifestyle, but mostly as a strategy to enforce the notion that dichotomy is fundamental to understanding the modern world.

Potential thinkers fall prey to the error early in life, and are then severely handicapped when it comes to thinking about nuances, or analyzing situations where black vs. white thinking does not apply.

Public education in this country -- at most locations anyway -- reinforces the notion, teaching over and over again how the colonies rebelled and threw off the chains of tyranny imposed by monarchy and colonialism. Our side won!!!

Never mind that the U.S. is essentially the heir of what was at the time the most rapacious of global imperial powers. We're a white supremacist, genocidal, upstart colony riding on the (now subsiding) wave of immense material wealth got by stealing the continent from indigenous tribes. Treaties and other forms of law were used to trick and dispossess our land's former inhabitants, epidemic disease was willfully induced, and brute force relocation was used against the survivors. You can see it as the final act in the old play of Rule Britannia, or the first act in the new play of U.S. global hegemony.

These thoughts are in my mind as Thanksgiving approaches and I am digesting the news about CIA director and ex-general Petraeus resigning over the sort of martial infidelity that shocks no one in this day and age. Compared with acting like a teenager in the oval office with an intern, Petraeus' dalliance seems positively dignified; at least his paramour was an adult with a real job.

It just seems amazingly coincidental that a CIA outpost in Benghazi, Libya was recently overrun and several of its staff killed -- including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, who was there for reasons we have not and likely will not hear honestly explained. If you've studied history much you know that competition is fierce at the highest levels of rich, predatory empires of any sort. And right now who's in control of military aid flowing from Libya to militants in Syria, which lies along the path to defeating Iran for control of the Persian Gulf?

The dichotomy I'm interested in is the one between spending tax revenues for corporate welfare (buying expensive weapons systems that are the biggest polluters on earth, for instance, or letting hugely profitable entities like oil companies operate virtually tax free at our expense) or spending tax revenues actually taking care of people. As we've seen from the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, which has been like Katrina but with cold weather, government no longer even makes a pretense of responding to people's basic needs. Ditto wealthy organizations like the Red Cross with their own powerful elites.
As the so-called "fiscal cliff" approaches and progressives make ready to cave on reducing the entitlements that are the last safety net for so many in the U.S., I want to go down fighting for economic justice. I respect the Occupy Sandy folks who are exhausting themselves delivering the disaster relief not forthcoming from government by billionaires, but I also know that getting drawn into propping up a rotten system can be a sinkhole for energy and morale.

It's like I heard an activist say in a video organizing students to promote Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions on Israel: Palestinians are not a downtrodden people in need of charity. They are a dispossessed people, in need of justice.

Charity is so much more polite and less challenging, generally. Timid types can participate without fear of being disruptive to the genteel veneer hiding violent repression. Fundraisers where everyone has a nice meal are so much more enjoyable than getting arrested and brutalized by police for exercising the right to speech and assembly, for example.

Coming together for mutual aid can be a powerful movement builder.

But a movement is only worth building if its ultimate aim is to remove the underpinnings of a venal and corrupt system.

Here are anti-austerity protesters in Spain early this autumn. Let's make our own government fear this kind of public rejection of government by and for the wealthy, and austerity for the rest of us.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Principled Resistance To Holding Your Nose While Voting


Guest post today from Pat Taub, my friend and sister blogger and now a CODEPINK Local Coordinator in her own right. 

Here she answers a family member who chastised her for stating that she intended to vote for the Green Independent Party candidate for president.
My own political outlook has changed rather dramatically over the last ten years.  It has a lot to do with my engagement with progressive groups like the ACLU and Amnesty International, Codepink, Veterans for Peace, conversations with peace workers and friends who have lived and/or spent time in Afghanistan, Palestine and other hot spots and the internet.  Some ten years ago I would read the NYT regularly and listen to NPR regularly.  Most of my political views were informed from their reporting and editorials.  But as I spoke with civili liberties lawyers, international peace workers and read reports online that don't make it into the mainstream publications, my former views were contradicted. I was getting information about Palestine and Afghanistan and other international places along with stories of congressional corruption that were being ignored at home. Today I rely on Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, Al Jazeera (who had an excellent report today on volunteers coming to Palestine to help with their olive harvest--a report that would never make into the pro-Israeli US press), Chris Hedges of Truthdig, the Black Agenda, Glen Greenwald of the Guardian, Robert Fisk of the Independent. among others.  

I don't regard a vote for Jill Stein as a protest vote but as a clear difference.  While there are, to my way of thinking, minor differences between Obama and Romney, neither man represents the interests of the average American. They are both beholden to corporate America.  I don't think I will ever again vote for a major party candidate. Real change in America has always come from outside movements, like the Suffragettes, the Socialists, labor organizers, etc. It has not come from within either party.  For example, the Socialists pressured FDR to implement New Deal legislation. I want to be part of such a movement and will resist and work for change until I die.  Occupy held some of this promise.  It's not dead but reforming.  I take heart from the young occupiers I know and do all I can as an elder to support them.

I voted for Obama and even worked for him, but, for me, he has proven to be a tool of Wall Street and the Pentagon.  Not one Wall St. executive has been arrested while Bradley Manning has been in detention, including months of solitary confinement (tantamount to torture), for almost two years without due process.  All he did was exercise freedom of speech.  Obama's foreign policy is much more aggressive in many ways than Bush's.  Obama only left Iraq because the Iraqi govt. insisted on prosecuting soldiers and contractors if they continued to break the law--no immunity.  Obama has many Bush cronies working for him in the CIA and the State Dept.  John Brennan, the architect of the new "permanent war" (a playbook for targeted assignations and increased surveillance without habeus corpus) was one of Bush's right hand men and is reported to be Obama's main confidante.  The NDAA is both highly illegal and immoral.  I don't think any legislation Bush passed even compares on unconstitutional grounds to the NDAA.

The report issued two weeks ago and compiled by a joint research team from NYU and Stanford law schools found that the drone attacks in Pakistan (which have increased ten fold under Obama compared to Bush) leave the residents in a permanent state of terror.  Drones hover in the background 24 hours a day.  Residents never know when they will strike. Out of fear they keep children home from school and have stopped holding weddings and funerals.  What's worse, the Obama team practices "double tap," which means when villagers try to go to help injured drone victims they are targets.  Civilian casualties were found by this report to be in the 1000's while Obama claims under 15.  I can't support a man who kills women and children so casually.  I don't see how our foreign policy could be any more horrific under Romney. Additionally the consensus from the Stanford/NYU report was that the drone killings of innocents are fueling anti-America hatred world wide.  (Drones are being used extensively in Yemen and Somalia as well.)

Your concern about Social Security benefits is legitimate.  I still don't think Obama will offer you the protection you need.  Again, as I said before, I hope I'm wrong.

I could go on and on.  Quickly: I am troubled by the fact that Obama has deported more undocumented workers in his 4 years than Bush did in 8 years.  The argument that a Romney Supreme Court appointee would be devastating doesn't hold much ground with me.  I ask myself,  "How will a Supreme Court appointment make a difference with the financial implosion and climate change and economic inequality?"

So, there you are.  I will vote for Jill Stein because I see her as morally and ethically reflecting views I can support.

I didn't write any of the above to change your mind but rather to give you a fuller sense about what's behind my thinking.

I hope I can do my small part to make the world a better place for my two grandchildren.  They drive my activism.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Draw-A-Thon Unites Public + Artists To Bring War $ Home

Draw-A-Thon posters created in 2010 at the Portland Public Library.
Art is in the air! The coming Armistice / Veterans Day holiday, Mon. Nov. 12, will see the full energy of a Draw-A-Thon unleashed as ideas to Bring Our War $$ Home are realized. Envisioning will begin promptly at 10am at the lovely Waterfall Arts in Belfast, Maine, a converted old schoolhouse that is exhibiting "The War On Peace" with works by Rob Shetterly and Alan Magee, now until Nov. 21.

CODEPINK State of Maine is sponsoring along with the Union of Maine Visual Artists, Veterans for Peace Maine chapters, and the Global Network Against Nuclear Power and Weapons in Space. All are members of the coalition waging the campaign to connect the dots between out of control military spending and unmet needs at home. Together we say stop funding the military and instead build schools, housing, jobs, and provide clean water, wholesome food, and medical care.

Bring Our War $$ Home!

Artists team up with the public to generate ideas and a lot of art is made on the spot. Here's some from past years:

Brian Reeves creating his now classic "Cash Bazooka"

As at a previous Draw-A-Thon held on Armistice / Veterans Day in 2010, veterans may sit for their portrait if they wish.

Also, people wandering by can pick up their own crayon, or tell someone else what they'd like to see.

Photos by Draw-A-Thon artist William Hessian from his Bearded Bunny Blog
Sometimes it leads to t-shirts. You never know what might happen. Join us! Mon. Nov. 12 from 10am to 6pm. Here are more details from organizer Kenny Cole:
The art activist organizers are concerned about the cost of war to Maine taxpayers, which they estimate at $3.5 billion and propose that these war dollars be brought back to the US and repurposed. 
The free event is open to the public with a special offer to veterans to come have their portraits drawn by the participating artists. All are invited to bring creative energy and ideas to help envision how to better spend war dollars. Some artists will draw their own ideas, some will translate requests and ideas into images and others will draw portraits of veterans. Participating artists include Natasha Mayers, Rob Shetterly, Kenny Cole, Nora Tryon, Brian Reeves and others...
For more information on the draw-A-Thon, visit mainedrawathon.blogspot.com.
Waterfall Arts
256 High St.
Belfast, ME 04915
(207) 338-2222
www.waterfallarts.org
Creating community in harmony with nature through the transformative power of the arts - Feel the Power of Art
Finally, here's a video I made of a Draw-A-Thon that turned into a Print-A-Thon at the Portland Public Library in January, 2011. Some of Rob Shetterly's many portraits from the series "Americans Who Tell The Truth" were on exhibit then, too. Good times.

Why Most People Won't Know About Drones Until One Is Right Over Their Head

From Portland, Oregon anti-austerity protest Nov. 3 where about 25 people were pepper sprayed by police.
I'm in an interesting discussion with sister activists about our ongoing campaign to raise awareness among the general public about drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles. These flying killer robots cost a bundle, and are used both to kill people and to spy on them. They are already flying over the borders of many countries, including our own.

Here we are performing a die-in during the First Friday Art Walk on Nov. 2 in Portland, Maine.

You can see a daylight performance of the die-in in this video made the last time we staged the event (with a lot more people) at various locations in Portland, Maine on Oct. 8:

The discussion we're having is about whether we're reaching anybody to accomplish our goal of raising awareness about drones. Most in the U.S. go "huh?" if you ask them if they know about drones. If you follow by saying that drones have killed people this year not only in Pakistan and Yemen but also Somalia, Indonesia and the Philippines, they are incredulous.

The Washington Post did a three piece series plus an op-ed on drones recently, which was seen by many as evidence that awareness is growing. They didn't echo CODEPINK's call to ground the drones, but they did at least question the wisdom of the extreme secrecy that surrounds the Obama administration's drone assassination program.

Activists are debating (yes, actually debating -- you know, where each person offers the best arguments they can muster for their position, and the tone is civil with no interrupting) how best to bring the message about drones. Our theatrical director wants to keep it non-didactic, so that spectators are not told what to think but are offered a provocative spectacle to stimulate their own thinking and analysis. Signs and flyers offer additional factual information about drone casualties.

Another organizer wants us to be more explicit, to make sure that passersby really understand why people are dropping to the ground and being covered by bloody sheets and prayed over while people clad all in black labeled with names like Reaper and Predator hover menacingly to the steady beat of a drum. Part of the discussion is about whether to stage these performances in daylight, after dark, on holidays, on public streets, in front of grocery stores, or during well-attended cultural events like the art walk.

This month we did it in the semi-dark because a group of Occupy activists invited the die-in to be part of their Halloween-to-Friday-art-walk series of events "99 Horrors of Capital." They took time out from their sweet occupation of a different corner of Congress and State streets to help leaflet and hold signs. Afterwards everyone enjoyed free local food and entertainment including a fire eater, a pumpkin headed guitarist, a rapper, and much more.

There was also a ton of political art on display in other places that night, including a group show at the Meg Perry Center, and Kenny Cole's solo show at Aucocisco Galleries.

"The Luckiest Generation" by Kenny Cole who wrote in his artist's statement: "I’ve begun to grow alarmed at the storm of misinformation levied by a retrograde army of spin brokers working today."
What to do about the perfect storm of misinformation that characterizes the 21st century? That is the question.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Truth About Killing Children Is The First Casualty Of 21st Century Wars

Photo credit: Omar Sobhani/Reuters, published by Al Jazeera next to Oct. 28 article "Afghans fear being left out in the cold"
Whether killing children by cold and starvation, as "collateral damage" in drone strikes, by targeted assassination via drone, or for generations to come by poisoning the land, the U.S corporate war machine profits. The moral imbeciles who run the companies draining the Treasury at the expense of young humans everywhere will not stop until one of two things happens: the people rise up and quit cooperating with the system (women's strike anyone?) or Mother Nature swamps the machinery of evil with floodwaters so they grind mercifully to a halt.

I woke up this morning thinking about the epic flooding of Wall St. yesterday by the biggest storm in recorded history. I wondered who would clean up the mess, and I realized that Halliburton or some other war profiteers were probably already wining and dining the people who can award those contracts. Perhaps 2012 will be the turning point where this sort of thing begins to end.

Meanwhile, people with their humanity still intact were busy organizing relief for residents of afflicted boroughs in NYC. Here's a tweet from Occupy Wall St. with directions on how you can help if you're so inclined:
If you're on the Lower E. Side & in need, text us at (646) 580-7473 or visit if you have internet.
Why not warmth? is being organized by the Afghan Peace Volunteers and Voices for Creative Nonviolence as winter approaches. According to Kathy Kelly, who lives in Kabul for a month at a time several times a year, women there can be paid to create comforters, or duvets, that will be distributed to families in need:
 A harsh winter is on its way following last year's January that killed over 100 small Afghan children, 26 of them in Kabul's overflowing refugee camps...If you’d like to help with outreach and fundraising, welcome aboard! Checks can be made payable to Voices for Creative Nonviolence, with “duvet project” written in the Memo section and sent to Voices at VCNV, 1249 West Argyle, Chicago, IL 60640.
One of the many news items that galled me before Hurricane Sandy hit was this report on an Obama administration spin doctor explaining why killing a 16 year old U.S. citizen by drone strike in Yemen was okay.
Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen, was 16 when assassinated by a drone.
From Ryan Grim blogging in Huffpo:
A 16-year-old American boy killed in an Obama administration drone strike "should have [had] a far more responsible father," Obama campaign senior adviser Robert Gibbs says in a new video released by the group We Are Change.

Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was the son of Anwar al-Awlaki, an al Qaeda propagandist killed by a U.S. drone a year ago. But the child was killed in a separate strike some two weeks after his father was killed..."I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children. I don't think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business," Gibbs, the former White House press secretary, told the interviewer from We Are Change, when asked to justify "an American citizen that is being targeted without due process, without trial -- and, he's underage, he's a minor."
 Esquire ran an in-depth piece on the incident if you want to know more: "The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama."

The assertion that it is okay to kill kids if you disagree with their parents' political views has been made before. You may remember Bradley Manning, still in jail for allegedly having leaked via Wikileaks this video of U.S. soldiers shooting down on civilians COMING TO THE RESCUE of other civilians they have just shot. One of the men in the helicopter is heard observing that there are kids in the van they have just shot up. "Well, it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle," says his buddy. Those kids survived the attack, but their father did not. I guess it was his fault for trying to help Reuters journalists who were injured in a battle.

The moral rot at the heart of the U.S. empire continues to eat away at what's left of our soul.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Moms Offer Hope, Call To Action: Lullaby For The Earth

Today I am sharing an inspirational message from my friend Janet Weil's friend, activist Betsy Rose:
 
Hello Friends!

Green is the perfect color for announcing this beautiful new song/video on parenting and climate change,  "Lullaby For The Earth"-a haunting rewrite of the classic "Hush little baby don't say a word".




Frances Aubrey and I created this video with the intention of convincing people to vote for earth-friendly candidates. The lullaby and accompanying website are nonpartisan, and focus on the moral dimension of our response to climate disruption.

We want 100,000 people to watch this video before the election. Please send it to everyone you know, especially friends and relatives in swing states! Also any environmental lists or websites that would post it.

http://youtu.be/MlmQMWUftbU

We hope that the song and images touch your heart, and  activate fresh ideas of ways you can join the powerful grassroots responses to industries and corporations that are threatening the health of our planet, our children, and their children.

The earth we leave our children will be a measure of our love for them. It is time to act, out of love for children and for the earth they’ll inherit.

Yours for a bright future for generations to come!

Betsy Rose
earthforourchildren.org

Our world is too dangerous for anything but truth
 And too small for anything but love.

-- Betsy Rose
Paper Crane Music
Berkeley, CA 94709
510-525-7082
betsy@betsyrosemusic.org
www.betsyrosemusic.org

Saturday, October 20, 2012

9/11/12 Ushers In Phase II Of Endless War On Terror

Children harmed by drone strikes, from "'Lesser-evil' politics demoralize and demobilize progressives: reviewing the failed strategy of the pragmatics" in Liberation News
So the CIA wants more drones, because terror is breaking out all over the place. But maybe the Pentagon will get them instead. So reports the servile Washington Post, with bland reference to death wishes:
"...bolster the agency’s ability to sustain its campaigns of lethal strikes in Pakistan and Yemen and enable it, if directed, to shift aircraft to emerging al-Qaeda threats in North Africa or other trouble spots, officials said."
When the names associated as "deciders" with these agencies change in merry-go-round fashion, with Panetta leaving the CIA to head up "defense" while Petraeus switches over from directing the Afghan war to heading up the CIA drone program, does it matter to the average struggling taxpayer which of these powerful, bloated weapon aggregators gets the next shipment of flying killer robots?

The justification for ramping up U.S. bombing of people all over this Earth is, conveniently, the so-called "war on terror." Anyone older than a high school kid remembers how it was launched post 9/11/01, and how not only a whole lot of military hardware got deployed, and people got killed and their lives ruined, but a whole lot of civil liberties supposedly sacrosanct to our form of government got erased, too. Habeus corpus and  the right to not have your phone conversations monitored without a warrant are two that spring to mind.

Democracy Now! coverage of the arrest of Green party candidates trying to enter the debates.
Now, 11 years down that road, how to characterize the binding with plastic of third party candidates for president and vice president Stein and Honkala when they tried to enter a debate held  at a university? FOR 8 HOURS!!!! I guess indefinite detention about covers it.

How is it that self-proclaimed liberals can still support a regime that does shit like that?

Because they are drinking the pap of manufactured news, on a daily basis. The outbreak of violent demonstrations at U.S. embassies thousands of miles apart (London to Indonesia, and a whole lot of places in between) which included the slaying of an actual ambassador and his staff who had mysteriously traveled to an unsecured "consulate" compound in Benghazi, away from the more secure embassy compound in the Libyan capital, is the new 9/11.

Call it 9/11/12. It's a violent and dangerous world. The president has no choice but to bomb people all over the place. It's to keep you safe.

So is giving drones to law enforcement agencies. Because they are so very good at keeping people safe!

How will the government pay for all of it? I did hear that the president announced that Social Security will get an overhaul if he gets re-elected. Maybe some of the money will come from there. Also from Medicare. And cuts to education, social services, and infrastructure repair.
The president and his Democratic allies say that Republicans have put at risk the nation’s defenses. | AP Photo
Just don't cut the weapons manufacturing industry! On that, the false dichotomy of Republicrats and Dempublicans agree.

Austerity, here we come.Infographic: Household Incomes Decline, Poverty Rates Flat - Share This!