Sunday, October 30, 2016

When They Go Low, You Could Do The Limbo

We went to the bridge as usual on Sunday except that we were late. We were coming back from Portland a bit behind schedule and our granddaughter's mom wanted to drop the baby off with her other grandma before the bridge. Thank the goddess that we did. 

Here is what we looked like, just as if it were an ordinary Sunday. We had a new sign, one of support for the Standing Rock water protectors being viciously attacked by the National Guard and militarized police in North Dakota. But other than that, everything was as usual.

Except that when we got there we found this message:

And this one:

The man in the fringed jacket had been across the street with three youth when we got there, hollering at the guy with the sign supporting the demagogue with bad hair. And our usual bridge standing friends were nowhere in sight. I called some of them and they came to join us. 

The couple holding the signs for the demagogue kept jeering at us for being supporters of the other corporate party candidate. I tried to tell them they were jumping to conclusions (I'm voting for Dr. Jill Stein, personally) but that didn't seem to matter. They were chanting their candidate's name and loudly confrontational but they didn't seem mean or dangerous. They appeared to be delighted with themselves and excited about making a political statement in public. 

Then my sister arrived with a new sign she had just made to comment on theirs:

At this point we had so many messages going that anyone passing by mostly looked a little confused. A trio of youth who passed me included a black man who raised his fist and said "Yeah, black lives matter" to which his white female companion said irritably "All lives matter." They kept on walking so it is unknown how this difference of opinion was resolved.

The call and response theme continued:
video

A local doctor/college professor stopped by to complain that the Democratic Party offices next to the bridge were closed. I recalled that the demagogue's supporters had said that at first they thought we were from there, and that a few people had driven away from the office flipping them the bird before we arrived. 

The doctor did not stay to support us; maybe he did not agree with any of our many messages? Or maybe he was just scared.
A 4th of July play with great art by Wally Warren
The core group of us who stand on the bridge Sunday after Sunday used to do political theater together at the infamous West Athens 4th of July parade. "In Spite of Life" productions were characterized by a lot of chaotic milling around and a multitude of somewhat muddled messages that could, at times, be quite entertaining.

For the first time, the bridge felt like that today.

We've had counter protesters of our anti-war messages from time to time over the years, and they tend to be kind of zany. For example, "Honk if you think protesting is a waste of time" and a shouted "Jesus bombed Sodom and Gomorrah" in response to my now-retired "Who would Jesus bomb?"

One thing they have in common is that when the weekly bridge denizens depart around 1pm, counter protesters react with glee expressing that they think they've driven us off the bridge with their presence. Someone usually tells them we always leave at 1pm, but it doesn't seem to influence their belief that we have been vanquished.

As I drove away today, the demagogue's supporters were still hollering. But when I passed by about five minutes later on my way home, they were gone.

Will they be there next Sunday? Unknown, but I know I will be.


Much Of What Happens Next Hinges On Access To Real Information


Remarks on accepting the Peacemaker Award from Peace Action Maine
at the University of Southern Maine, Portland, October 29, 2016
by Lisa Savage

Thank you, Michael Cutting, for that warm introduction. It’s been a pleasure to collaborate with you over the years on communicating about the pressing issues of our day.

I’m honored to receive this Peacemaker award from Peace Action Maine. When I make the effort to stand for peace and justice it's not usually as pleasant as a pot luck dinner among friends. There can even be a bit of physical suffering. How many times have I clutched a sign with icy fingers as the buffeting winds of Portland tried to snatch it away?

Probably fewer times than you think, actually. Something I’ve discovered about being present for peace is that people sometimes give me credit for being there even when I wasn’t! Witness the power of suggestion!

My husband and I have kept a weekly vigil for peace and justice in Skowhegan, the biggest town near where we live in Solon. It’s every Sunday from noon to one and a group of us began standing there every week when the Abu Graib torture scandal broke. I was in despair about the photo evidence of what my government was doing to people in Iraq, and communicating about the wrongness of that war to the thousand people who pass by our bridge in an hour was the only thing I could think of to do.

As a result my students often mention that they saw me on the bridge as they drove through town. My hope is that they see the ghostly images of our presence even on the other six days of the week.

The audience that gets me out to the bridge even when it’s uncomfortably hot or freezing cold is the child in the back seat of a passing car who is just opening her mouth to say, “Mom, what are those people doing there?” No matter what answer she receives I am content to know that we have sparked a necessary conversation.

My baby granddaughter joins us from time to time, too, as her mom also loves to stand for peace and justice. I think my granddaughter is convinced that we are there to celebrate the ABC’s -- since we all have signs with great big alphabet letters on them. She’s a fan, too. Sometimes she’ll grab one of our signs and toddle with it for a while.

Communication comes in many forms. I started my blog Went 2 the Bridge basically in order to keep my head from exploding. The news of the day was so grim and distressing. Even more distressing -- the silence of my peers.

The people I went to Bowdoin with became the banksters who crashed the economy in ‘08, or they became artists or entrepreneurs or psychiatrists. Most did not follow through on the idealism of our youth.

They have enjoyed affluence built on the backs of the invisible slaves of late stage capitalism, the children in sweatshops who make our clothes. They have ignored the mothers who are killed by Obama’s drones, the grieving elders who are bombed while attending yet another funeral.

They have not been willing to give up the “get out of racism free” card they believe they earned by supporting the first African American president.

Elevating a charismatic, eloquent person of color to the job of celebrity spokesman was a brilliant move on the part of our corporate overlords. It silenced dissent and let mass incarceration of black people, and mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, and the militarization of police, and extrajudicial execution of people of color roll on. It created space for fracking and pipelines enabled by the executive branch of government, a government that has never respected the territorial rights or the wise environmental leadership of the native peoples of this continent. It has allowed the Pentagon to become the enforcement arm of corporate control of the planet, establishing 1,000 military outposts outside the U.S.
Image: Anthony Freda
It has allowed the Pentagon to continue burning the most fossil fuel of any organization on the planet in the quest for control of ever more fossil fuel. If we are talking about climate chaos and the threat of the collapse of life on Earth without talking about the Pentagon, there is an enormous elephant in the room.

Controlling the narrative is the thing that the violent patriarchy we live under has been most brilliant at. As another example, pretending that Israel is a democracy and not a violent apartheid state has dominated corporate media messaging for my entire life. Equating disapproval of the crimes of Zionism with anti-Semitism has been one of the most successful big lies of my lifetime. U.S. taxpayers fund the vicious occupation of Palestine and most people don’t dare to speak up about it. Indeed, most people don’t even know about it. The chair of the history department of one of Maine’s city high schools once told me he had never heard of the term al-Nakba. I was once lucky enough to hear Dr. Alice Rothchild speak right here at USM about her important work to bring forward these truths.

Corporate media continues pretending that our government represents we, the people, has become increasingly absurd in the 21st century, but it’s built on the foundation of teaching schoolchildren a lie about how a bill becomes a law. Corporate lobbyists write the law, then wine and dine and otherwise bribe lawmakers until it becomes one. But what textbook says that?

That’s why I think the work of citizen journalists like the stellar crew at Democracy Now! Is vitally important. Bringing the truth into the light is an uphill battle when corporations control the flow of information to the masses. General Electric built the reactor at Fukushima that is still spewing nuclear pollution into the Pacific Ocean for years and who is reporting on that? Certainly not the many corporate media channels owned by General Electric.

I think of the martyrs of information sharing in our day, and how they’ve suffered: Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, Julian Assange just to begin that list. I think of how journalists everywhere are under threat of violence or detention just for doing their jobs: Amy Goodman threatened with arrest for covering the water protectors in North Dakota opposing pipeline construction. Laura Poitras detained and searched at airports in the U.S. and the U.K. over and over again as she travels to do her valuable work as a non-corporate journalist.

I’m honored to be able to do my small part as an information worker in the 21st century. If my unpaid work as a blogger attracts nearly 8,000 views a month across the planet, I’m thrilled to be able to participate as a citizen journalist. There are days when I appear to have more readers in Russia and Europe than I do in the U.S. Of course in my fevered imagination, Edward Snowden is not only reading my posts but sharing them. Every once in awhile Brazil lights up in the map in my blog stats and I think, maybe Glenn Greenwald will tweet about me!

Then the sun comes up and I get ready for school.

Maybe it’s just because I’m getting old and was a history major, but I believe we are standing at a great turning point in history. When I was young the essential question for historians was, How could the German people let the Nazis seize control of their country? Now that I’ve lived for 60 years in the U.S. I’m sorry to say I know exactly how such a thing can happen.

I’ve watched corporate media elevate the demagogue with the bad hair to candidate status, and the outpouring of racism and hate that has resulted. 

I’ve watched my peers defend their support for the warmonger from the other corporate party with the explanation that they are scared of the demagogue. They say they don’t dare to vote their conscience with Jill Stein of the Green Party -- even in a state like Maine with its whopping four electoral votes awarded by congressional district.

Much of what happens next hinges on access to real information.
Nermeen Shaikh of Democracy Now! was the keynote speaker on October 29 on "What is the measure of progress?"
I'm looking forward to hearing what the admirable media workers Meaghan La Salle and Nermeen Shaikh have to say tonight. Their work is so important, and I’m thrilled to be here with them.

Thank you.



Friday, October 28, 2016

Ann Wright: The Warmth Of Solidarity #NODAPL #FreeGaza

Ann Wright (center) at JFK Airport with supporters after being deported from Israel
this month for attempting a humanitarian mission to Gaza.
Just back from detention in Israel, arrested in international waters on the "Women's Boat to Gaza" (read her report here), activist Ann Wright went directly to North Dakota to join those facing militarized police attacks that have included dogs and pepper spray. 

It can sometimes seem like Ann Wright is everywhere in the struggle for justice. Since retiring from the State Department in protest of the Iraq war in 2003, this Veteran for Peace has devoted her life to what she describes as "the warmth of solidarity."
In North Dakota Ann joined in the resistance to corporate takeover of the water supply under tribal lands of the Standing Rock Sioux. She went to stand shoulder to shoulder with water protectors like Dr. Sara Jumping Eagle who has been arrested, strip searched and slapped with a restraining order for engaging in peaceful resistance to running an oil pipeline through the watershed that supplies millions in the U.S.



From Camp Casey in Texas to Hawaii (where she hails from) to Jeju Island, South Korea, Ann can be found in the struggle for justice in the face of corporate government.
Ann Wright with Father Mun Jeong Hyeon of the
Catholic Church Solidarity to Make Peace on Jeju Island
This month we are lucky enough to have her in Maine for a speaking tour that begins tomorrow, October 28, in Brunswick. Her full schedule:

Saturday, October 29 Curtis Public Library, Brunswick, noon
Saturday, October 29 Belfast Free Public Library, Belfast, 4pm
Sunday, October 30 Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine, Bangor, 3pm
Sunday, October 30 Blue Hill Library Blue Hill, 6:30pm
Tuesday, November 1 State Street Church, Portland, 7pm

The title of her talk, "Never Silent Until Our Sisters Are Free," comes from a song that the international band of women on the boat to Gaza sang about the suffering of Palestinian women and their families under Israeli occupation.


You won't want to miss hearing from Ann. 

We can't rely on the corporate media to tell us what is happening in the world, but we can rely on Ann Wright and activists like her to bring us real news.


 Ann Wright at the University of Hawaii to greet President Obama as he arrived
to promote militarization to Pacific Island leaders in September.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

#Wikileaks Allies "Lighting The Millions Of LED Flashlights..Of Citizen Media"

Re-posting this fine article from my inbox today, which is also available online (though unattributed) here. Image and paragraph formatting are my additions.
Odds Are Remarkably High That You Don’t Fully Understand what Wikileaks Is Doing
By Dragon (via Lisa Sarinelli)
Assange, with higher aspirations than most realized, is in grave danger. Julian Assange is the founder of Wikileaks, an online collector and publisher of encrypted documents submitted by whistleblowers. 
Like Jeffery Wigand, former vice president at Brown & Williamson in Louisville, Kentucky, who in 1996 got death threats when he pulled the plug on Big Tobacco, whistleblowers are people inside a government or a major corporation who know that the leaders of it are deliberately doing great harm, and bring evidence to the public at sometimes significant risk. Dealing with this flammable material, Assange’s team has not printed a fake, incomplete or altered document in ten years of work. In several countries, there are statues to Assange. 
Wikileaks has after all taught us that our deeply divided U.S. Right and Left, indeed all nations, can work together if they’re dealing from hard fact rather than from spin. For example, the Trans Pacific Partnership [TPP], like the North American Free Trade Association [NAFTA] and the World Trade Association [WTO] before it, forms a transnational governing body, subordinating the laws and people of the nations involved to corporate controls. People would never knowingly allow it it. 
Consequently, the Obama administration and Republicans in the U.S. Congress, while working directly with billionaires and global corporations, planned to tell the U.S. people what was in the TPP treaty only after it was ratified. Wikileaks however snagged the secret text of the treaty and published it in time for people to fight. The Democratic Administration and Republicans in Congress responded with new secret treaties, to the same end. Wikileaks nailed the texts of those treaties and published them too. “Exasperated,” Vice President Joe Biden says he plans to sneak the TPP through in the lame duck session because “now that’s the only way to get it passed.” However, forwarned by the Wikileaks publication of the treaty, two smaller nations have refused to sign, so even a U.S. ratification would not make it law this year. 
Accurately informed, the world stands up for itself, Right to Left.
The U.S., the world’s only remaining superpower, is meanwhile on an imperialist tear, having attacked eight Middle Eastern countries, to say nothing of sub-Saharan Africa, during both the Bush and Obama Administrations. Nations are in ruins, thus becoming the perfect nests for terrorists. Millions are dead or fleeing the war zones, creating huge refugee problems, basically to feed a global-corporate war industry using the U.S. government to sell weapons to both sides in almost every conflict. 
One of Assange’s main targets is therefore America’s permanent political parties, which our first U.S. President George Washington warned against our forming and are nowhere to be found in the U.S. Constitution. Corrupt, boss-ridden and war-hungry, they block our democracy at every turn, playing havoc with the world. 
Assange reasons that the more corrupt a party or politician is, the more full disclosure will gum up their works, either by forcing them to go straight or by forcing them to tear up every scrap of evidence, a disabling process. Vetted and indexed by Assange’s meticulous team, the whistleblower primary evidence -- the videos, texts, accounts, speeches and letters -- document how U.S. and other world leaders work and think when they are out of the public eye, who pays them, and what they are willing do to their party, nation, other countries, indeed to the human race, in order to gain and hold personal riches and power. 
Seeing that Donald Trump is already splintering the corrupt Republican Party and in many senses exposing himself, Assange concentrates on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Clinton -- showing Hillary cheating a new U.S. generation which is knowledgeable, hardworking, on its feet, computer savvy and furious at the destruction of its birthright, from taking over the reins of U.S. government this year. 
For example, Wikileaks demonstrates that working with collusive corporate media, Clinton and the DNC helped jigger Trump into the Republican nomination, and that while gathering millions of dollars from Sanders voters on the promise of a fair primary, the DNC was elaborately rigging the Democratic primaries against them. 
Wiikleaks also showed Facebook Chief Operating Officer [COO] Sheryl Sandberg, a “Hillblazer” level of financial contributor, providing data-mining research on women to the Clinton campaign. Since Facebook is what Facebook data-mines, some women on Facebook have taken exception to that use. Publishing such documents, Wikileaks enrages dangerous people. 
There is no evidence that Hillary Clinton asked if the U.S. government could “drone Assange." For four years, Secretary of State John Kerry, taking a different tack, has however kept Assange pinned down in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, a caging which most nations of the world deplore. Swedish citizen Assange, accused of date rape in Sweden, which he denies, is certain that if he went home to straighten that out, he’d be whisked to the U.S. and a secret trial. 
Assange’s lawyer and close friend John Jones was killed two months ago by somehow ending up under a moving British commuter train. Pronounced dead at the scene, he never had a chance to explain how he got there. Seventy-two hours ago, shortly after Wikileaks published Hillary’s Goldman Sachs speeches, under enormous Obama administration pressure, the Ecuadorean embassy in London terminated Assange's access to the Internet. Receiving constant death threats, Assange however has Insurance Keys, or “dead man’s codes” that must be suppressed by him or a trusted surrogate every few hours to prevent worldwide distribution and unlocking of a flood of whistleblower documents. Stalemate? 
The U.S. “Powers That Be” seethe, and a war-weary world applauds Assange and holds its breath, outspokenly hoping that given sufficient evidence, the mighty American people will wake up and take their government back. This matters to you. The U.S. is, at some levels, unrecognizable. Global corporations, like BP, WalMart and Bank of America which are incorporated in numerous countries at once, evade U.S. taxes while continuing to destroy our air, land, water and infrastructure, destabilize our economy, and yet receive huge tax-funded subsidies from the federal, state and local politicians whom they have bought off. The leading source of job loss and not job gain, they crush U.S. business, the real job creator, gutting the U.S. Main Street economy. 
That paucity of jobs drives some people into drugs or crime, conveniently sluicing them into the maw of the private prison industry. Private prison corporations convert these Americans to slave labor by paying them pennies and renting them out to other global-corporations, further undercutting the U.S. job market. The poor job market shoves other people into the “volunteer” military. U.S. soldiers and sailors who sign up for love of country or family survival are however paid so little by our corporately-controlled government that they are often have to rely on food stamps to feed their families. 
Corporations of mercenary soldiers like Blackwater, which might switch sides if the enemy offered more money, do the same work that our US soldiers do, but are paid vastly more in U.S. dollars by the corporately-controlled government. Mercenary soldier corporations like Blackwater also serve as the military branches of the larger global corporations. Having freed itself from the control of all nations, EXXON in other words is now armed.
The First Amendment freedoms of speech, assembly and press do not apply in this new set-up. 
One of the major issues of our day, for example, is safe water. Canada is boycotting Nestle, whose CEO says flatly that humans have no right to water but corporations do. As filthy tar-sands-oil pipelines snake into the United States -- to reach coastal areas for export, not for internal use -- they endanger clean rivers. Sympathetic water activists in Canada are risking themselves to repeatedly turn off the oil lines as they cross our border. Others have gathered from all over the world to protect the Missouri River at Standing Rock, ND, and thus the priceless Mississippi watershed, half of the United States, which feeds int the Gulf. 
Mainsteam media do not cover this huge, vital story, because globals like Comcast have purchased the world news media, in the case of the U.S. everything from CNN, ABC, NBC and CBS down to the local radio stations, and then started outfits like FOX, all spinning or hiding rather than reporting news. 
Independent reporters at Standing Rick have meanwhile been socked with felony charges for videotaping global-corporate “security guards” who for instance, without identity badges and trespassing on private land, sicced attack dogs on American men, women and children, as U.S. police stood down, permitting it. 
In a similar news blackout over the last two decades, our huge national security apparatus, the NSA, CIA etc. has shifted from public control to global-corporate control -- 
70% of our tax-funded spooks are “private contractors,” employees of global corporations which have loyalty only to their bottom lines and no real restraints. That’s what Edward Snowden, a corporate employee more loyal to the people of his nation than to the global-corporate spook apparatus, was trying to tell the world. 
A former CIA agent working for Booz Allen, Snowden saw that the corporate contractors were tapping ALL phones, reading ALL email, looking into any bedroom they chose -- he had written major parts of the code which made that unimaginable data flow indexed and intelligible -- and that the Obama Administration and a Republican-controlled Congress were encouraging it, as again the US Bill of Rights effectively disappeared. Initially, Snowden got proof out to the public through the corporate media, primarily the Guardian in Britain. Corporate governments soon clamped down, pretending that Snowden had harmed the country or the troops when the only thing harmed was the mass corporate-government surveillance of innocent Americans, without a warrant. Obediently, as Snowden fled the country and received political asylum, the corporate media ceased accurate coverage.
Unlike Snowden, Wikileaks publishes directly onto the web. So it’s troubling but not surprising that Assange was just cut off from the Internet. His highly mobile team is not. 
Not alone Wikileaks remains the motherlode, giving hungry analysts a detailed whistleblower recording of a reality which is both raw and well documented. Wikileaks is moreover not alone. American Glenn Greenwald, the lead Guardian reporter on the Snowden story, for example formed an online media outlet, The Intercept, with videographer Laura Poitras, who is the producer of Citizen Four, and Jeremy Scahill, the reporter who broke the Blackwater story back at a time when mercenary soldiers were another dirty government secret. Premier online news teams like The Intercept do an amazingly thorough job of investigative reporting daily. 
Arrested for reporting at Standing Rock, the highly respected heart and mind of Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman is giving herself up in order to fight for the First Amendment. 
As a world aching for sunlight waits to see if another trustworthy news source, Wikileaks, will be snuffed out, we do it moreover by lighting the millions of LED flashlights -- forget candles -- of citizen media. If Julian Assange is in any sense taken from us, we will not forgive. We will not forget. Yet “do not expect us. We are already here...” and you’re part of it.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Ann Wright Speaking Tour In Maine Begins Oct. 29 "Never Silent Until Our Sisters Are Free"

Palestinian boys prepare to welcome Women’s Boat to Gaza
which was intercepted by the Israeli naval blockade on Oct. 5, 2016.
International human rights activist Ann Wright begins a speaking tour of Maine next week to share news from her recent travels supporting struggles for justice around the globe. She was aboard the Women's Boat to Gaza which was boarded by Israel's military in international waters earlier this month.

Ann was illegally detained along with numerous women from parliaments and human rights organizations around the globe, including Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Maguire. On October 6 Ann was released from an Israeli jail.

It was her fourth attempt to challenge the blockade of Gaza. She has been to Gaza six times participating in the 2009 Gaza Freedom March and the 2010, 2011 and 2015 Gaza Freedom Flotillas. She was aboard the Mavi Marmara in international waters when Israel’s military boarded it and killed ten passengers in 2010.


After being deported from Israel on October 6, she joined water protectors at Standing Rock to oppose the North Dakota Access Pipeline.
Photo by Ann Wright of Groovy Yurts at Standing Rock yesterday
Because she cares about life on this planet, including access to potable water and respect for indigenous land rights.

Ann is an articulate and passionate spokesperson and an ally to people struggling for peace and justice around the planet. She is doing the kind of diplomatic work that the U.S. State Department often neglects as it promotes corporate interests like fracking around the world.

Ann will share her perspectives on women in international struggles for peace and justice Saturday, October 29 at the Curtis Public Library in Brunswick at noon and at the Belfast Free Public Library at 4pm, and Sunday, October 30 at the Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine in Bangor at 3pm and the Blue Hill Library at 6:30pm. She also plans to meet with the staff of Sen. Angus King while she is in Maine.


Ann, a member of Veterans for Peace, reports regularly in Common Dreams, Consortium News and Op-ed News on her participation in local struggles against militarism and for the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

In “A firsthand account of Women’s Boat to Gaza” published October 10 she wrote,
“The internationally isolated enclave called Gaza has almost one quarter of the population of Israel yet is kept in virtually perpetual darkness by the policies of the State of Israel, which also limits the amount of water, food, construction and medical supplies...”


A retired US Army Reserve Colonel and a former US diplomat, Ann resigned from the State Department in 2003 in opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Last year she was on Jeju Island, South Korea with a delegation from Veterans for Peace supporting villagers protecting their soft coral reef from military base construction.
As a professional with extensive experience in Afghanistan, Mongolia, Nicaragua and Uzbekistan and a dedicated peacemaker, Ann has a unique perspective on resolving conflicts before they become wars. You won't want to miss her talks.
For more information on Ann's speaking tour contact Ridgely Fuller (508) 333-6230  ridgelyfuller@gmail.com.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Vigil At Poland Springs Today With Stop The War$ On Mother Earth Peace Walkers


The 5th Maine Peace Walk arrived in my area in the late afternoon yesterday. It was great for members of my old peace and justice community around Waterville to come together and enjoy the privilege of feeding the walkers and hearing their stories. 

We are older, tireder and grayer these days but our group was enlivened by the presence of 10 year old boy who is on his 5th walk (!), my 20 month-old granddaughter, and a 22 year old musician walking for the first time. Given that the oldest walker is nearly 80, it was a lovely range of humanity that sat down together to be nourished.

Chanting and drumming led by monks of the Nipponzan Myohoji order signaled the walkers' arrival in a quiet residential neighborhood amid the blaze of color that is October in Maine.

The stops planned to connect with the theme "Stop the war$ on Mother Earth" have been rich with connections between corporate profiteering and disrespect for life.



The walk began on Indian Island in the Penobscot Nation in solidarity with the Justice for the River campaign, recognizing the wisdom of Maine's original people advocating for the Penobscot River which has been severely polluted by industrial use. 

Walkers then stood in solidarity outside the Cianbro Corporation in a vigil organized by grandmothers opposed to the East-West Corridor. Cianbro stands to make a lot of money if this private highway and fossil fuel pipeline project ever succeed in slashing through some of Maine's most pristine forests and waterways. 

Just prior to Waterville the walk reached Unity where Maine's environmental school Unity College is found, spending the night on the grounds of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA). Maine has a long tradition of growing local food communities who recognize that life depends on defending the soil, water and seeds from corporate control.

Today the walkers make their way to vigil outside Poland Spring, the site of international water thief Nestle's faux-Maine brand bottled water plant. 


Nestle pumps out aquifers around the planet and sells the water back to people in little plastic bottles. Even though Maine has been in an historic drought all summer, the pumping goes on. An executive of the company has commented on record that he does not consider access to water a human right. Penobscots and peace walkers disagree with the absurd notion that profits have a higher value than human life.

U.S. militarization has enshrined the notion that profits trump human life, and the walk will end at the southern border of Maine outside the Kittery naval shipyard. Here obscene profits are made building weapons of mass destruction. Walkers will call on the Maine community to recognize that basing our livelihood on "defense" contracts is a dead end street. Advocating for the conversion of our industrial capacity to build for sustainable energy solutions, walkers will uphold a vision of Mother Earth as sacred, her health fundamental to the survival of human life.
video

If you want to join the walk, details may be found here on the website of Maine Veterans for Peace.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Review: Do Not Resist Militarization Of Police Because You're Way Too Late

Scene from the documentary Do Not Resist: a protester in Concord, New Hampshire
objecting to the town council's decision to acquire a "free" military vehicle for use by local law enforcement.

How to explain the epidemic of fatal shootings of unarmed black men, boys and women in the U.S.? Some say racist violence by police has been happening all along and the rise of cell phone cameras plus the ability to share images immediately has made an old problem seem new. Others blame bad police training that focuses on discharging firearms and gives short shrift to defusing ones own fear in potentially dangerous situations. Some note how many veterans of the empire's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq  joined law enforcement with a penchant for applying deadly force to situations that don't warrant it. 

Others fear that our corporate overlords want a race war at home to distract the populace from their rapid takeover of resources and are using police to incite civil unrest along racially polarized lines.

Whatever the explanation, it's a fact that since September 11, 2001 the militarization of the U.S. has galloped along with few objections from a blithely ignorant populace coached to believe that "terror" from outside is the thing to fear. People of color have stood up and the Black Lives Matter movement has gained prominence objecting to racial bias in overly aggressive policing, it's true, but organized efforts to resist arming and training police and sheriffs to resemble G.I. Joe dolls have been sadly few and far between. The City of Oakland is a notable exception, turning out regularly to object to becoming a "Domain Awareness Center" for militarized policing in the volatile and geographically key San Francisco Bay Area.  Meanwhile, policing all over the nation has gone to a place from which there may be no possibility of return.
A "free" MRAP armored vehicle patrols a neighborhood in Wisconsin.
Do Not Resist won best documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival -- from a panel of jurors that included Citizenfour documentarian Laura Poitras -- and is now in general release. It details the spread of "free" military equipment to local law enforcement agencies, how the hardware is used and on whom, while it also delves into some of the "training" police and FBI agents receive from a comically creepy motivational speaker. It also offers a focused look at the police response to protests after the death by shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Police trainer Dave Grossman put me in mind of Tom Cruise's manic character from the film Magnolia, and he may very well be on some of the same drugs. Delivering a messianic vision of testosterone run amok as the character Tom T.J. Mackey, Cruise may have been channeling the demagogue with the bad hair currently running for president when he preached to a fictional audience in the 1999 film:
Respect the cock! And tame the cunt! Tame it! Take it on headfirst with the skills that I will teach you at work and say no! You will not control me! No! You will not take my soul!
Grossman, supposedly our country's leading trainer of law enforcement personnel (if this is so we are in deep trouble) tells a real audience of law enforcers:
You fight violence with superior violence, righteous violence. Violence is your tool; violence is your enemy; violence is a realm we operate in. You are men and women of violence. You must master it or it will destroy you.
Grossman goes on to urge cops to enjoy the perq of "the best sex in months" when they get home after mastering violence. (Exceptionally high rates of domestic violence among this group don't seem that surprising after this peek inside their culture.) 

A flirtatious encounter between Ferguson cops who bump riot shields as they head home from a night of showing force after the grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown underscores the point: swaggering around heavily armored and armed is a turn on for many in the law enforcement field.
South Carolina drug bust in progress.
The film stays true to its documentary roots by choosing to show rather than tell of the racism inherent in using SWAT teams to target suspected drug dealers around the nation. 
We watch as cops dressed like soldiers break windows and kick down doors of black families who have this experience repeatedly. The 1.5 grams of marijuana dug out of the bottom of a book bag belonging to the young father who's a college student clearly disappoints the South Carolina cop who leads that particular attack -- but not so much that he apologizes to the woman holding a little baby on her lap. 

In a different scene, a SWAT team sends filmmakers away once the heavily armed squad has subdued a few black people outside the house who appear to offer no resistance; after the film van drives a few blocks we see two ambulances with sirens blaring who appear to be moving in the direction of the bust. What, if anything, was found at that house? We never learn.
Ferguson cops forcibly enter a store where they have detected movement.
Another subtle reveal is the excitement in the voices of Ferguson police when they discover that someone may be inside (wait for it)...a store! There is very little in the narrative about protecting and upholding life but there are a plethora of bland bureaucratic excuses offered by police confronted by angry community members questioning their conduct. Not surprisingly, police feel they are never wrong. Perhaps it's because, like FBI director James Comey assures a group of police chiefs in the film:
Monsters are real...because monsters are real, and too often equipped with firepower to outgun those of us in law enforcement -- we need a range of weapons and equipment to respond and protect our fellow citizen and protect ourselves.
Goddess help us all.

Oddly, the U.S. Senate comes off looking heroic for a change as the film shows a committee questioning heads of the Pentagon and Homeland Security programs responsible for funneling so much military hardware to civilian law enforcement. Claire McCaskill of Missouri holds their feet to the flame over claiming the equipment is surplus when, in fact, much of it has never been used. 

The spookiest part of this October release is the depiction of total surveillance using drones and airplanes equipped with high resolution cameras and where that practice is headed. An aspiring monster named Richard Berk, a UPenn criminology professor, claims to use data like this to predict who has "a 50-50 change of committing homicide by the age of 18" -- before that person is even born! Berk pretends concern about what he might tell the expectant mother of such a victim of algorithms run amok.
Political art by Anthony Freda
His confident assertion that soon robots will decide whom to kill -- even more accurately than cops do! -- based on predictive models he helped develop appears highly gratifying. 

Let's hope his own mother has passed on by now because, if I were Berk, I'd be more worried about what to tell her about his life work than what to tell a black mother about his privileged white "predictions" about her child's future path.

A great film that packs a lot to think about into 72 minutes, Do Not Resist is in theaters near you. It is also being made available to educational institutions via distributor Ro*Co films. Do not miss it.