Sunday, November 29, 2015

UN Climate Change Conference's Paris Venue Puts Brakes On Activists #COP21

Bruce Gagnon outside General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works shipyard where warships are built. Smilin' Trees Disarmament Farms organizes a series of vigils each Saturday during Lent, 11:30am - 12:30pm in Bath, Maine.
Photo credit: Roger Leisner, Maine Paparazzi
Would it surprise you to know that there had been plans for a large militarization and climate change bloc at the demonstrations around the upcoming UN conference COP21? Plans that are now uncertain following terrorist attacks in the long-announced venue of Paris. Because, in response to the attacks, the French government canceled all permits for marches and rallies around the climate conference.

Because gunning down concertgoers and sports fans is associated with environmental advocacy, right?

That climate change is driven by militarization and, increasingly, is on the radar of the Pentagon and other "defense" organizations of the West is part of the story. 

A book that will be released during the conference, The Secure & the Dispossessed: How the Military and Corporations are Shaping a Climate-Changed World, will include a chapter on "Greenwashing death: climate change and the arms trade" addressing the Pentagon's world leadership role in burning through fossil fuels. 

A blurb for the book by Canadian environmentalist and author Naomi Klein (This Changes Everything) noted:
With our politicians refusing to confront the climate crisis, some are looking with hope to the increasingly influential role being played by military planners and corporate titans. If you want to understand why we can't leave it to the Pentagon to shape our response to climate change, then you need to read this book.
Image credit: Anthony Freda
Would it surprise you to know that most in the U.S. are ignorant of the Pentagon's carbon bootprint? Their ignorance is a direct result of another historic climate conference in 1997 which produced the international agreement to reduce carbon emissions known as the Kyoto Protocol. Which the U.S. refused to sign unless the Pentagon was exempted from calculating our national carbon spew. And which the U.S. to this day has failed to sign even though they received the concession they demanded.

Perhaps U.S. corporate government thinks that climate chaos is a good thing for those with the most weapons and the most money to insulate themselves from the effects on the rest of us.

Here's what I think: Ignoring the Pentagon and the endless wars of the U.S. as major contributors to climate chaos is not going to make them go away. Climate change activists must find the courage to include this in their analysis and messaging. This may mean they will have to break from cozy relationships with the Democratic Party. 

More than half of U.S. discretionary tax dollars each year go to the Pentagon, the biggest polluter on the planet. For example, General Dynamics doing business as Bath Iron Works is Maine's biggest employer, dependent on federal contracts. Environmental activists will have to start addressing these budget priorities to truly move the needle on climate change.
Syrian farm workers in 2010. Photo credit: Louai Beshara/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Gar Smith of Environmentalists Against War noted in his recent article "Global Warming's Unacknowledged Threat -- The Pentagon":
 a National Geographic study linked climate change to the conflict in Syria: "A severe drought, worsened by a warming climate, drove Syrian farmers to abandon their crops and flock to cities, helping trigger a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people."
And, as we already knew, Syria was on the list of regimes to be changed in the petroleum rich lands that include neighboring Iraq. Has climate chaos helped or hindered the agenda of those seeking to control the flow of oil from that region?

Environmental activists have closed their eyes to these realities at their peril. It is encouraging to see more of them speaking up about the problem as COP21 approaches.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Hate Media Have Blood On Their Hands As Police Officer Dies Defending Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood Clinic

Gunman led away in cuffs after killing at least 3 people at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic yesterday.
Hate media have blood on their hands every day as incidents of misogyny, racism and xenophobia move beyond ugly words to fists, bombs and guns. A policeman who was helping defend a women's health clinic from a white, heavily armed male terrorist yesterday died of gunshot wounds. Others died in the attack in Colorado Springs, too.

When a society tolerates violent vigilantes who attack people as they go about their business, the concept of "security" has gone down the drain.
Mercutio Southall Jr. being removed by "security" who failed to protect him
from being punched and kicked for chanting "Black Lives Matter"
at a Trump rally in Birmingham, Alabama last week.
When a society condones, even applauds, violent attacks on citizens exercising their first amendment right of free expression, civil liberties are going down the drain.

Alice Ollstein reporting in ThinkProgress quoted Southall as saying about the incident:
 “A lady kicked me in the stomach. A man kicked me in the chest. They called me n*****, monkey, and they shouted ‘all lives matter’ while they were kicking and punching me. So for all the people who are still confused at this point, they proved what ‘all lives matter’ meant. It means, ‘Shut up, n*****.'”
Southall had gone to the aid of another Black Lives Matter activist who had his phone knocked out of his hand as he began livestreaming the racism fest. Birmingham was the site of an act of racist terrorism during the civil rights movement when a black church was firebombed there in 1963, killing four girls in Sunday school.

The Colorado Springs gunman was aiming for girls, too.

One of my family members has been gathering petition signatures for Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense this fall. The petition would create a referendum next November to close some loopholes in the background check requirements for gun purchases in Maine. She reports that the anger and argumentativeness of men she approaches with her petition is tiring. Sometimes their level of hostility is frightening. Moms Demand Action has trained signature gatherers not to argue if someone declines the offer to sign and wants to engage in debate; just say "thanks" and move on.

There's no sense in exchanging views with someone whose mind has been poisoned with hate language every day for years. If armed, they may very well be dangerous.

Armed men outside a mosque in Irving, Texas this month went on to publish
names and addresses of Muslim families in the area.
Reporting by Avi Selk in The Dallas Morning News.

What do terrorists actually look like in the U.S.? White men with guns. I refuse to fear them all.

The culture of racism, misogyny and xenophobic hate that U.S. corporate media have cultivated is making too many people crazy. And they are suffering, too.

As the winter solstice approaches, I will cultivate compassion and understanding. I will not give in to fear. And I will be prepared to protect myself or others if necessary. Dear Santa, about those tranquilizer darts I keep asking for...

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

White Privilege Amid Health Decline, Mortality Uptick Is Still A Thing This #Thanksgiving

Image credit: Distractify
White people with think racism is a problem in the U.S. -- racism against white people. Kali Holloway on Alternet via Raw Storynotes that education is a factor:
On “reverse racism,” half of white Americans overall agree “discrimination against whites is as big a problem today as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.” But the socioeconomic divide on this opinion is fairly vast. Among working-class whites, a solid majority, 60 percent, believe the tables have turned and anti-white discrimination equals that faced by other historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups. But just 36 percent of college-educated white Americans cosigned this idea. Blacks and Hispanics overwhelmingly reject the notion, by 75 and 71 percent, respectively.

Delusional thinking by low income people who have enjoyed white privilege all their lives is understandable. Their position on the receiving end of class discrimination has profound economic effects over generations, obscuring the advantages their skin color has conferred.

Also profound health effects, as the group of whites in the U.S. with a high school education or less now has a high death rate  before age 55, mostly from addiction or suicide. But, they lack the information to tell the difference between the effects of class vs. race. Being a passive consumer of corporate "news" is a recipe for ignorance, and that goes for watching MSNBC and NPR as well as Fox. For accurate information, they'd be better off reading the satirical website The Onion.

What they do have is plenty of misinformation blaming their plight, not on other whites who run wealthy corporations, but on immigrants, Muslims, people of color, and people with political leanings indicating they do understand the situation.

An analogous situation is the fact that in the U.S. obesity correlates with education level attained. 

While the cause and effect of studies that showed this remain unexplored, I'm willing to be that it comes down to decision making about what to eat. If corporate advertising is the determinant, then obesity will be the result. 

Also if  you are low income (which also correlates closely to education level) your low cost food options will be factory-processed carbohydrates sold by corporations, rather than fresh fruits, vegetables and protein from your local farmers.

Exploiting the suffering and confusion of low income people is nothing new. Getting them to identify an "other" as a scapegoat is nothing new, either. And the terrifying results are all too familiar.

Native people whose land was stolen and who have survived attempted genocide in North America do not consider themselves people of color. They are indigenous inhabitants of what was once a bountiful life support system -- if you knew how to respect the ecological balance of life forms coexisting in it. 

As a group native people have been economically marginalized by whites for hundreds of years, and they have the low incomes and poor health outcomes to show for it.

Image credit: via Indian Country Today Media Network
Native people are offended by Thanksgiving myths that gloss over the theft and the genocide. They ask us not to teach our children these myths, but to have the courage as white, privileged folks to acknowledge that we were born on third base -- we didn't hit a triple.

This is hard for the white people that were born on first base to swallow. It doesn't seem fair to them that they can't afford decent health care, home ownership, or a college degree without crushing levels of debt. It doesn't seem fair that enlisting in the military is one of the only viable jobs remaining for someone with only a high school diploma. (When I say viable I mean producing a living wage, but many lower level military families actually are poor enough to qualify for food stamps.)

And they're right. It isn't fair. Corporations pay little or no taxes in these days of corporate government -- so a self-employed cabinet maker is taxed at a 30% rate to make up the difference.

So angry white people cling to their traditions and insist that Thanksgiving is a jolly family holiday with no dark side. They cling to believing that if they're struggling economically, it must be because Obama went to Harvard on scholarship. Increasingly, the more deranged among them commit hate crimes. The corporate media chalks these crimes up to mental illness. If the murderers were Black or Muslim the corporate media would call them terrorists.

I enjoy a family dinner as much as the next person. But let's not pretend everyone has equal access to the harvest feast table.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Muslims Kicked Off @SouthwestAir For Being Muslim As France Cancels Climate March Amid Police State Moves

As we descend further into the darkness of state-sanctioned discrimination and xenophobia, reports came that Southwest Airlines had allowed non-Muslim passengers to kick six Muslims off a flight because they refused to fly with them.

Identifying Muslims seems easy to the professional fools who throng our corporate media to audition for the role of celebrity spokesperson for the military-industrial complex. You just look for... a turban?
"Sikh regiment indian army" by Harmanjaspreet singh - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
Oops, no, these are Sikhs in the Indian Army. Definitely not Muslims.

Oops, no, those are regular angry white men on what passes for entertainment on U.S. television these days.

People speaking Arabic? 
Nope. Besides, what language do you think that Coptic Christians in Egypt speak -- Christian? (I know, I know, Christian is not a language. But you'd be surprised how many people think American is.)
Shout out to this great young actress!

Oh, I got it: the wrong name!

Because a person named Mohammed who commits an act of public violence must be a terrorist, while a person named John must be a mentally ill loner, right? Oops, except Jihadi John. And some others.

But don't worry, French police are on it. Under their new post-Paris massacre powers, they can detain anyone they want without judicial oversight, block any website they want, and cancel the upcoming international marches for climate justice that have been months in the planning. Because...terror.

Climate chaos threatens our security far more than the elite death squads funded by the Saudis and promoted by U.S. and Israeli complicity. But...look! Another terror attack on a hotel favored by Westerners in Mali! And so it goes.

Let me just finish with this. Laughing through my tears...

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Islamophobia Is The Predictable Response To More Terror, And Who Benefits From That?

All the predictable things happened after Friday the 13th's acts of terror and violence. France declared a state of emergency, closed its borders, and imposed a curfew. A refugee camp called the Jungle in Calais was set ablaze. 

Vast numbers in the U.S. and Europe "stood with Paris" by changing the color scheme of their avatar or profile picture. Small numbers in the U.S. and Europe wondered why those same folks didn't stand with Beirut, Baghdad or Garissa University in Kenya.
Source: Shafiur Rahman, YouTube video of the Calais "Jungle" refugee camp burning
Politicians in the U.S. jumped on the occasion to denounce Islam -- some demanded apologies from Muslims -- and vilify immigrants, notably refugees who are fleeing from the very violence being denounced. Maine's infamously thuggish governor joined other governors from a Republican Party increasingly defined by overt racism to announce that his state would not accept refugees from Syria

No one in my state was surprised that the governor would not know the difference between Algeria and Syria (or be able to find either on an unlabeled map, I suspect). That governors do not have this power wouldn't trouble him in the least. His compatriots in the U.S. Congress were already busy drafting legislation to say the same. 

That would be legal. Immoral and wrong, but legal. So was everything the Nazis did in Germany once they had gained control of the executive and legislative branches of government in that republic.

Besides, the U.S. has a long history of denying entry to persecuted people who aren't the right color or religion.
Jewish refugees on the infamous S.S.St. Louis were denied entry to the U.S. and turned back to Europe in 1939.
Many died in Nazi concentration camps as a result.

Media pundits and others on the right called for more violence to quell the violence. Because the "war on terror" has been such a success in reducing terror. Not. Nor was it because most were aware that Syria was on the list of regimes to topple even before the staged events of 9/11 in the U.S.

Hate crimes against Muslims broke out all over the U.S. Mosques were vandalized. Muslims in France became even more afraid than they have been since the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
Source:  [Santi Palacios/AP]
Over 4 million refugees from the war in Syria continued searching for a safe place to bring their children.

And, as reported by Glenn Greenwald in The Intercept, "Stock Prices Of Weapons Manufacturers Soaring Since Paris Attack." 

Who profits from violence that feeds violence? I think we know.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mandatory Patriotism Is Always A Bad Idea

Mandatory patriotism is never a good idea. This sign I passed today announces that school children in the district where I pay property taxes to support education were not in classes learning to read, write or think mathematically on Tuesday at 1:30pm. Instead, they were being told to thank veterans while listening to feeble-minded platitudes such as “they gave us our freedom.”

A poor substitute for actually studying our Constitution, the Bill of Rights or the Magna Carta.

This year November 10 was the day prior to what used to be Armistice Day, marking the ceasefire negotiated on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, ending European combat and, ultimately, World War I. My father’s father was wounded on that day and it was a long time before he made it home again, his health permanently broken. He told his only son, “Don’t believe them when they tell you the next war is a good one. There is no such thing.”

When I reflect on what I studied as a history major and continue to study as a teacher of history, enforced patriotism at the taxpayers’ expense targeting children who have not yet attained the age of reason makes me feel like weeping. It’s nearly always practiced by aggressive, warrior nation-states and it nearly always ends badly.

Shutting down critical thinking by silencing questioners and dissenters by mandatory displays of chauvinism is a recipe for a dumb populace easily enlisted as cannon fodder.

I stayed at a friend’s house last night and she told me of her friend whose son had refused, in around 2006, to stand for the pledge of allegiance in homeroom. He was threatened with suspension eventually and when his mother protested she was told that the mandatory pledge of allegiance was “school policy.” She didn’t think that school policy trumped the 1st amendment, and she took the case all the way to the superintendent and the school board. They agreed with her, but meanwhile the football coach had told the boy that if he didn’t stand for the pledge he was off the team. The boy knuckled under.

My friend said she was most appalled by the fact that no teachers in this public high school in a university town in the western mountains of Maine stood up for the boy’s rights. Only one teacher told the mother that he agreed the boy had the right not to stand, but said he didn’t dare speak openly about it for fear of losing his job. Everyone else was either mute or vocally agreed with the mandatory pledge of allegiance. By teenagers who had not even reached adulthood. In what sense is such a pledge even valid?

One of the arguments the boy had heard was that he was a hypocrite because he would sing the national anthem before football games. The student tried to argue that pledging allegiance to a nation was quite a different matter from singing a patriot song. I give him an A+ for critical thinking on that one.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

#TPP Smokescreen Game On: Segment Of #KeystoneXL Pipeline Is Vetoed

The Pentagon always gets a pass from the corporate press when it comes to reporting on  what's causing climate chaos.
Not from Veterans for Peace, though -- they know a #PentagonClimateCrime when they see one.
The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty that Congress may vote up or vote down but in no way amend will be game over for the planet if passed. Much of what it would render de jure already exists de facto, but if implemented TPP would trump the sovereignty of nations and lay bare the fangs of corporate government. 

TPP would render the powers of Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court to regulate environmental protection null and void. TPP would criminalize dissent that can be demonstrated to interfere with a corporation's profits. 

Think fossil fuel divestment campaigns like the one being waged by students at my alma mater.

Chris Hedges reports that Ralph Nader is calling TPP "the most brazen corporate power grab in American history" -- and if you think about some of the brazen corporate power grabs in our short, brutal history that is saying something.

In case you do not have time to read and decipher the 5,000+ page document, here is Hedge's executive summary:
If there is no sustained popular uprising to prevent the passage of the TPP in Congress this spring we will be shackled by corporate power. 
Wages will decline. Working conditions will deteriorate. Unemployment will rise. Our few remaining rights will be revoked. The assault on the ecosystem will be accelerated. Banks and global speculation will be beyond oversight or control. Food safety standards and regulations will be jettisoned. Public services ranging from Medicare and Medicaid to the post office and public education will be abolished or dramatically slashed and taken over by for-profit corporations. Prices for basic commodities, including pharmaceuticals, will skyrocket. Social assistance programs will be drastically scaled back or terminated. And countries that have public health care systems, such as Canada and Australia, that are in the agreement will probably see their public health systems collapse under corporate assault. Corporations will be empowered to hold a wide variety of patents, including over plants and animals, turning basic necessities and the natural world into marketable products. And, just to make sure corporations extract every pound of flesh, any public law interpreted by corporations as impeding projected profit, even a law designed to protect the environment or consumers, will be subject to challenge in an entity called the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) section. The ISDS, bolstered and expanded under the TPP, will see corporations paid massive sums in compensation from offending governments for impeding their “right” to further swell their bank accounts. 
Corporate profit effectively will replace the common good.

Activists are converging on Washington DC this week to mount the popular uprising againt the TPP right in corporate lobbyists' faces. You can read details for DC or find actions near you here. Organizers are just as concerned about the two follow on treaties being negotiated in secret. 

From the Flush the TPP website:
The United States is negotiating three massive international treaties–the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade-in-Services Agreement (TiSA)... 
The TPP, TTIP, & TiSA are much more than trade deals–only 5 of the 29 TPP chapters even deal with trade. They are corporate power grabs that impacts every aspect of our lives. 
If passed, the TPP, TTIP, & TiSA would take away environmental protections, offshore American jobs & decrease wages, remove food safety laws, curtail internet freedom, inhibit access to lifesaving medicine, spur further financial deregulation and more. Under Obama’s recent Fast Track bill these treaties  would even ban climate action and immigration reform.
But wait, what was the big news story about environmental protection in the corporate press this week? Right. President Obama vetoed building part of the Keystone XL pipeline. 

Ironically, the President's lame duck veto was likely in response to pressure mounted by the very activism that would become illegal under the TPP. Which he is a big cheerleader for.

I think my sister in PINK, long time environmental activist Janet Weil, framed it best:
What about all the OTHER pipelines?! What about shutting down the Canadian tar sands, PERIOD?! What about all the indigenous people who have died from cancer? What about all the hundreds of thousands, or maybe millions by now, of birds killed by tar sands extractions? The boreal forest? The many, many pipeline leaks? Will the Southern Leg of the #KXL be shut down now? How about some grief and humility along with the "celebration" and the calls for thanking Obama for doing something he should have done long, long ago?

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Center for American Progress Will Host Bibi Despite 26,000 People Saying You Can't Be #ProgressiveExceptPalestine

This parody of Bibi's infamous bomb visual at the United Nations in 2012
refers to Israel's war crimes in using white phosphorus to bomb civilians in Gaza.
Over 26,000 signatures were delivered to the Center for American Progress yesterday asking CAP to cancel their invitation to Israeli PM Netanyahu who is slated speak there November 10 Six organizations teamed up to gather signatures from their members and supporters: CODEPINK, US Campaign to end the Israeli Occupation, Jewish Voice for Peace, American‑Arab Anti‑Discrimination Committee, and American Muslims for Palestine.

According to CODEPINK's Ann Wright, who helped deliver the petition, "Vice President Winnie Stachelberg said CAP is feeling the heat on the invitation, but it will stand." Allegedly it will be okay because CAP President Neera Tanden plans to ask Bibi hard questions.  

Wright reports, "We told Winnie to expect lots of hard questions to be tweeted to CAP." You can tweet your questions to @amprog and @neeratanden using hashtags ‪#‎NotProgressive and #‎ProgressiveExceptPalestine‬.

Being progressive except on Palestine is an oxymoron of our times that is coming unraveled as Israel's occupation terrorizes children, frequently shoots and kills unarmed civilians, and viciously attacks Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) organizers on U.S. college campuses.

Former Knesset member Uri Avnery wrote on Gush Shalom's blog about the latest twists and turns that Israel must execute in order to sidestep its own rule of law:
This week, the Knesset enacted a law compelling judges to condemn
stone-throwers – including 13 year old children – to a minimum prison
term of two or four years, depending on the circumstances. In Israel,
children under 14 bear no criminal responsibility, but a remedy has been
found for that: government attorneys just drag out their court cases
until the accused reach their 14th birthday.
The parents of children so condemned will forfeit any social security payments for the same time, and are also liable to a fine of 10,000 Shekels, more than $2,500.  

Israel is already an apartheid state, building roads that only Jewish people may drive on and a huge separation wall that stretches 400 miles. How progressive is that?

Bibi is a strange choice for a featured speaker. For example, just last month he made a complete fool of himself when he claimed -- and then quickly retracted amid universal hoots of derision -- that the former Mufti of Jerusalem gave Adolf Hitler the idea for the Holocaust. 

It's hard to see why CAP would even consider him as a speaker unless one follows the scent of cash and lots of it; Bibi and his violent foolishness are well-funded by right wingers like U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. You would think that a"liberal" think tank like CAP has no business getting in bed with world leaders in the field of human rights violations.

If you're in the DC area and want to help provide facts about the impossibility of being progressive except on Palestine, you can help with leafleting before Bibi's talk at 3pm on November 10.

You can also call CAP at 202-682-1611.

Friday, November 6, 2015

More Children Slip Into Poverty While Taxpayers Support Paid Patriotism By U.S. Sports Teams

I seldom find myself on the same side of an issue as the hawkish former POW John McCain. This week, however, he and another member of the U.S. Senate with the delightful name Flake teamed up to deliver a report about the Pentagon paying sports teams and other entertainment entities to put on patriotic shows (Alamo Comic Con? Really?).

The senators themselves might be faulted for spending tax dollars on advertising as the poster about their heroic tackling of paid patriotism looks like the cover of a pulp novel from McCain's youth. Their study of staged spectacles informed their choice to go with good creative, I'm guessing. And it probably cost considerably less than the $6.8 million paid to sports franchises.

Now that two senators have taken up the problem, which some of us already knew about but which the corporate media had been ignoring, this story is everywhere. That's another thing I could thank McCain for: I like to read widely, and this coverage led me into all sorts of interesting publications I would normally never see. 

Following the sidebar links in, which my son described as "a cynical sports blog owned by Gawker media," led me to writer Tom Ley's fascinating deconstruction of some particularly smarmy staged patriotism:

Surprise Military Reunions At NFL Games Reach Peak Bullshit...As a series of visuals... it was a sterling example of the genre. The All-American cheerleader literally drops her pom-poms to run toward her husband, relief written across her face as she does; the happy young couple embraces; and Rampage, an anthropomorphic ram, looks on approvingly at their release from anxiety and fear.
But guess what Ley uncovered in his investigation of this patriotic visual? 

It was day #1 on the job for the cheerleader, who also works for the Marine Corps and was once a White House intern for Laura Bush. And her husband was returning from his post in South Korea, not combat. Plus they are both from super wealthy families (every heard of Anhueuser-Busch?) and this was probably one of the lesser extravaganzas of their life together. Ley included a tweet from the cheerleader thanking mom and a host of other people for her "surprise" which left me wondering if her mom had also engineered the couple's wedding  -- at the Vatican.

You cannot make shit like this up.

With 45% of U.S. children now in families in or perilously close to poverty, and while the mortality rate of even non-elderly white people in the U.S. soared compared to other developed nations, this is what their government spent their tax dollars on. Hey, they have to tax you and me -- like Exxon, the NFL pays no taxes.

Other empires have gone down this road before us. They had good creative, too.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Open Carry Gun Nuts Intimidate Voters Exiting Maine Polls To Sign #GunControl Petition

Mourners after mass shooting at a movie in Aurora, Colorado in 2012. Photo: Ed Andrieski, AP

Voters in Maine on Tuesday passed campaign funding reform by referendum as well as a milestone in intimidation at the polls. As the Portland Press Herald reported of efforts to chill the gathering of signatures to get a background check gun control measure on next November's ballot:
A group that was videotaping voters at polling places Tuesday morning is being criticized for intimidating people who were considering whether to sign petitions. Some of the videotapers from Project Dirigo engaged voters and signature-gatherers about whether universal background checks for gun purchases are right for Maine. Other Project Dirigo members didn’t interact while they used a small video camera to record the signature-gathering.
Laws pertaining to freedom of expression at polls do not address what happens after voters emerge, and the legal experts conceded there was no law against the videotaping or asking petition signers for their names and home addresses. My guess is someone is drafting that law right now.

Gun violence is a problem that has grown to almost unbelievable proportions in the U.S. Here's the BBC's reckoning of the toll just for the first 3/4 of this year:

US gun crime in 2015

Figures up to 1 October

Mass shootings
  • 45 shootings at schools
  • 9,956 people killed in gun incidents
  • 20,000 people injured in gun incidents
Maine's branch of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America needs to gather 61,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot. It would ask voters whether or not they want to require a background check for all gun purchases in the state. This would close loopholes that currently allow gun purchases without background checks in certain venues such as gun shows. 

Seems sensible in light of the cold facts about death by guns in the U.S. as compared with other nations. Armed madhouse, indeed.
Source: Global Burden of Disease Study. Access a data visualization here:
REVISED: Just found this news that the petition drive on election day was quite successful, with 100 volunteers gathering 10,000 signatures. Go Maine moms!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Building Weapons of Mass Destruction Bad For Security, Bad At Creating Jobs -- But Congress Still Loves Them

Banner drop from the Sagadahoc Bridge over the Kennebec River next to the Bath Iron Works shipyards. The river is regularly dredged to permit warships built there to be put out to sea, disrupting species that live in the waters.
On October 31 in Bath, Maine 70 activists gathered outside -- and some inside -- the gates of General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works shipyard. Something scary, indeed.
Activist Suzanne Hedrick addressed the Navy brass, sailors and working class families
leaving the shipyard saying: "This is a death factory."
Maine's elected officials were inside helping to launch and "christen" yet another warship, a nuclear capable Aegis destroyer. The Pentagon public relations boys decided to name this one after a dead Marine who was the first person born in Mexico to be so remembered, Rafael Peralta.
Recruiting among Latinos willing to enlist for a green card thus got a big boost via publicity that corporate media will help spread far and wide. Corporate news puffed Peralta's "ultimate sacrifice" relentlessly in their coverage of the warship's launch.

I was asked to speak on the spur of the moment and decided to focus on the claim that building weapons of mass destruction with our tax dollars is a must because: Jobs. Here's my response explaining why that claim cannot be supported by the facts.

Click here see videos of everyone's remarks. And, here are some of the other messages from the action, including text of a letter delivered inside the ceremony to Maine's congressional delegation.

The October 31 action was organized by Smilin' Trees Disarmament Farm and Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. Bruce can be heard speaking in the video below to the large audience of people leaving the shipyard following the ceremonies. He's talking about the successful efforts of former BIW worker Peter Woodruff to organize workers calling for conversion from building weapons of mass destruction:

In other messaging, activist Michael Gibson had this great letter about the "christening" published in the Lewiston Sun Journal one day prior to the launch.

Mark Roman, an activist who has been at BIW launches several times in the past, observed that there were many Navy officers in attendance with especially numerous medals and other decorations on display. He said they reminded him of cartoons lampooning Soviet era generals with layer upon layer of decorations on their uniforms. "There's not enough room on their chests for all their bravery," commented Roman.

Highly paid Pentagon brass with extensive and expensive staffs have multiplied in all branches of the military since the staged terror events of 9/11. Some have termed the problem "star creep." 'Nuff said.