Sunday, December 16, 2012

Fiscally Responsible Idea: Stop Killing Children

Source: Washington’s Blog: U.S. Army Starts Targeting Children at
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:
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.