Sunday, October 14, 2018

If Protesting Doesn't Do Anything, Then Why Are The Powerful Determined To Eliminate It?

Indigenous people led a protest at the White House during the Obama years, holding a die-in to illustrate the effects of the proposed Keystone oil pipeline on multiple forms of life. Source:

I'm going to take a step back from considering the accelerating madness of current events to ponder a question that dogs me and other dissenters: what can we do about it? "It" being, for me, the wars on Afghan people, Palestinian people, Yemeni people, Syrian people, Iraqi people, indigenous people, black people, immigrant people, female people, etc. Also the destruction of Earth's life support system by unhinged capitalist exploitation, wars being a major factor.

Anti-Vietnam war protesters march down Fifth Avenue near to 81st Street in New York City on April 27, 1968, in protest of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnamese war. The demonstrators were en route to nearby Central Park for mass “Stop the war” rally. (AP Photo) Source:

It may be that what sparked this blog post was watching a bit of archival footage of thousands of young people -- my generation -- in the streets chanting "no more war." This was in the intro to a documentary about mythology and hero's journeys. I had switched it on expecting to see a lot of art from various cultures but instead found myself watching two old white men talk about people, using all male pronouns and 99% male examples. Ho hum, I turned it off.

Let me just say that I don't like to be one of those elders who dwell insistently on the past. It's a mistake because it closes off our minds to learning what perspectives younger humans are bringing to this long, strange trip we're on. Maybe it's just because I'm on the tail end of the baby boomers and thus not old enough yet to dwell primarily in the land of memory. In any case, perhaps ironically for a history buff, I find people insisting on living in the past to be extremely boring.

Bath, Maine resident Bruce Gagnon's hunger strike against a tax giveaway to a weapons manufacturer drew supporters who fasted with him, press coverage from a local newspaper, and probably influenced eventual reduction of the giveaway to $45 million. Source: Joe Phelan photo / Portland Press Herald

Another thing that jogged my thinking about what kind of resistance is actually effective was some negative feedback in response to a War Tax Resisters annual gathering that I was invited to speak at. The requested topic is something I know about intimately since, while I wrote about opposing LD1781 and then went to do my paid job, my husband went to his unpaid citizen lobbyist job at the Maine legislature earlier this year. The mega wealthy corporation General Dynamics was twisting arms and telling lies to get a big tax giveaway from our very poor state on top of the largesse from the Pentagon and the city of Bath where they operate a shipyard that builds weapons of mass destruction.

So the WTR folks asked if I would talk about that resistance. Another activist in Maine contacted me to say that he was dismayed that a particular advocate of war tax resistance had shilly shallied on the question of whether the IRS can or will go after a war tax resister's social security checks. I can attest that they can and will because they did so to my husband's check after we refused to pay the hefty balance owed to the war machine even in addition to the thousands they had already deducted from my paycheck. "Make them come after it," is a slogan of WTR and make them we did. However, when it was all paid back and the monthly SS deposit was restored, my husband said he didn't want to do that anymore. So, full disclosure, I am a bit of a fraud as a war tax resister at this point.

 A helicopter used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan Source:

The other thing that has been stuck in my craw lately is the request by a local mom that we have schoolchildren send messages to her son who is on a helicopter crew in Afghanistan. I remember this student as a sweet, bespectacled boy with acne, and gentle soul who was respectful to his teachers even in adolescence (fairly rare around here). His mom and he are not doing well emotionally. He enlisted because of his love of helicopters, but now he's battling the horror and depression of picking up dead and mangled humans and flying them elsewhere.

The possibility that little children be put on the road to thanking him for his service filled me with horror and dismay. In the political vacuum that a public school in a conservative rural area creates so that civil war doesn't break out in the lunchroom, it is considered fine to bring up supporting a local boy without any hint of concern for the thousands of mangled Afghan boys and girls that the 18 year long occupation of that country has produced.

So I just had to raise my hand.

I said, let's be careful when we're speaking to students about this request not to glamorize the prospect of enlisting in the military. We're speaking to an audience that has seen thousands of hours of sophisticated advertising designed to make them believe that enlistment is glorious and heroic, that hides the ugly reality from them. And recruiters lie, all the time.

It was quiet as everyone contemplated this turd in the punch bowl.

Then one brave soul spoke up and said, I have a son who did that, enlisted, and he is not the same as he was before.

I followed up with an email to the group providing a link to the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, in case they wanted to know more about what's going on in Afghanistan. One person responded and I'll bet she will follow up because she is a life long learner with a keen interest in other cultures, and in learning about what she does not know.

So here's what I'm thinking does and does not "work" in terms of resistance to the kleptocracy that seems intent on destroying the world in exchange for a bit of transitory "wealth."

Voting Are you kidding me? I could paste in 1,000 links here to show that free and fair elections and true representation for people like me and thee is a thing of the past in the USA. One will suffice: Maine's Senator Susan Collins received hundreds of thousands of dollars in "dark money" campaign contributions after her support for the loathsome Brett Kavanaugh to ascend to the Supreme Court.

Protesting/Demonstrating Remember that film clip of thousands of young people chanting "no more war" and ask yourself if that's what ended the war on the people of Vietnam. If your answer is No or Maybe not, there were a lot of factors, ask yourself this: did it end the draft?

Ending military conscription forced the Pentagon to rely on the economic draft which has always pushed young people who grew up in poverty to enlist. Relying on volunteers has led to paying the NFL and other sports franchises to stage patriotic pro-military shows at games, beefing up the recruiting budget, going after increasingly younger students during the school day, and stop-loss which forces traumatized veterans back into combat again and again and again. A sobering thought from this baby boomer: a tour of duty in Vietnam was a year, then you got to go home. The fact that the rest of your life might be ruined by what you saw and did there was of little interest to those who sent you, but it has led to one of the highest suicide rates for any group in our country.

Wendy Bergeron-Laurence staged a 13 hour lone demonstration in Waterville, Maine July 9, 2013 to show her support for theTexas legislator who had staged a 13 hour filibuster on behalf of women's reproductive freedom.

Protesting in person, sometimes all alone, goes on all the time -- though it is mostly ignored by corporate media. Just how much the ruling elite fears outpouring of political action from the people was illustrated this week when it unveiled extensive new restrictions and fees for protesting in the nation's capital. The National Park Service has jurisdiction over many of the spaces used for protests, and it is required to gather public input before imposing the new regulations. You can learn more about the details and weigh in here.

War Tax Resistance This has been going on for centuries, with the American Friends Service Committee (aka Quakers) leading and educating. There are a lot of forms of withholding the tax dollar that Congress spends about 65% of on military these days (more if you include the Veterans Administration budget). You can hide income so it isn't taxed, you can become too low income to owe taxes, or you can simply fail to pay up. Advice is to do it honestly and with full disclosure so that the IRS can't convict you of tax fraud. Not enough people have done this to be able to tell if it is effective. Certainly borrowing to fund wars that exceed the public purse is galloping, and servicing that debt may be a crucial factor when this empire falls.

Communication  I like this one the best. Lots of protesting/demonstrating operates in this arena. Because it really is about people's hearts and minds, because information is power, and because the dissemination of misinformation has become turbocharged in the age of mass media and the Internet. Just this past month all of us cell phone users got a mandatory text message from FEMA so that the executive branch of the feds can warn us about emergencies. The effects of 9/11 are wearing off; students in 9th grade today were not even born when it happened. Can't wait to see what kind of terror our rulers come up with next to justify even more surveillance, repression and wars for resources.

Women and supporters in Poland protesting abortion ban in 2016 Source: The Bubble

Civil Disobedience / Women's Strike  When this comes up somebody always has to reference Lysistrata. Did I mention that I'm old? So, I don't think a sex strike is going to be nearly as impactful as would the women of this country simply withdrawing their labor. (If sex seems like work, then by all means refrain from that, too.) I do think this has a better and better chance of occurring, but it won't be in response to wars, because the empire's wars are largely invisible except to working class and poor families with loved ones involved (see Communication above). It probably won't be in response to rape culture, either, although that's an issue more and more young women are refusing to remain silent about.

A women's general strike will probably come about in response to the loss of reproductive freedom. The women of Poland and Ireland have set an example for U.S. women to follow, and I hope I live long enough to see us do it. Is the future female? Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Any Kleptocracy Strives To Capture The Judiciary

In a system of government of, by and for thieves, capturing the judiciary is key. Doing so reduces the possibility that the thieves will be held accountable to the rule of law.

When a drunk man steals a young woman's sense of personal safety and scars her emotionally for life, an independent judiciary might hold the man accountable for his deed.

When a white police woman shoots and kills an unarmed black man (rest in power, Botham Shem Jean) in his own apartment, because she is "scared" by him not complying with her shouted demands, an independent judiciary might hold the woman accountable for her deed.

When a corporation poisons an area and causes the cancer rate among residents to soar,  an independent judiciary might hold the corporation accountable for their deed.

When a nation attacks another nation without provocation, claiming that their preemptive strike is because the other nation intended to attack with "weapons of mass destruction," an independent judiciary might hold that nation accountable for their deeds.

At least, this was the theory of checks and balances functioning in a democracy that I and others of my generation were taught in school.

It has been a colossal failure.

People in my home state are distraught that our female Senator Susan Collins gave a speech yesteday exonerating the Republican Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in advance of voting to confirm his appointment today. People are urging that we donate to a Democratic candidate who will unseat her from a long tenure in that office. This is such a weak response to the problems of our day that I would laugh if it were not so sad. Collins has shown moderation in the past when it was expedient for courting voters, and she is showing fascist loyalties now ever since the demagogue with bad hair moved into the White House without his wife. She sucked up to blatant racist Jeff Sessions for attorney general, and she supported the uneducated, anti-education billionaire Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education.

Now the battle cry is to punish Collins by voting her out as senator. Clearly, she has much higher offices in her sights -- like governor or vice president.

Cigar strike, Detroit, 1937

Only a women's general strike would bring this rotten system to its knees and pry loose the stranglehold of wealth on what was once described as a government by, of and for the (white, male, propertied) people.

Frederick Douglass famously observed, "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." A formerly enslaved man that bought back his own freedom, he saw literacy as the foundation of freedom. I once believed that, too. Now, I'm not so sure.

Maybe it's political literacy that is really that foundation. May we find our way there, somehow. Until then, it's onward, kleptocracy.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Entertainment Division

Image source: A Thousand Words Graphic Arts

When Frank Zappa commented that "politics is the entertainment division of the military-industrial complex" we laughed through our tears about the Vietnam War. Now that the horrors of our complicity in killing so many innocent Vietnamese people have been sanitized by a Ken Burns documentary that is being used in high school history classes as a sort of war porn that blames no one, we go on ignoring our complicity in killing so many innocent Yemeni, Afghan, Syrian, Somali, and Iraqi people. It's easier now that contemporary imperial wars are not shown on tv.

Source: The Atlantic "A man walks through the rubble of an air strike on a college in Saada, Yemen. NAIF RAHMA / REUTERS"

And where do we find ourselves today? On the one hand is the shit show that Supreme Court nominations have become, where one corporate party refuses to hold hearings for the other corporate party's nominee -- only to bring forward its own wretchedly unqualified candidate and try to ram him down the people's throats. But talk about great ratings for televised coverage of this show!

On the other hand is the vastly unequal dark, dark sources of campaign funding for elections where the people are presented with a choice of two corporate-controlled candidates or else. This is why I won't waste my time on elections anymore. Sure, I'll vote because I'd be ashamed not to. But the system of representation is broken beyond repair and pretending that "resistance" is meaningful when it consists only of electing the other warmongering corporate party's candidates is beyond my capacity for denial.

This entertaining show may come to an end even for the empire's citizens if massive Pentagon budgets and borrowing to fund them tank the economy sooner rather than later.

Image source: Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space 

Even more ominous is the specter of star wars for real, along with vast increases in spending for nuclear weapons. The Union of Concerned Scientists is worried about this, and we should be too. You can sign their petition here. Petitioning the government is probably about as effective as voting at this point but old habits die hard.

The best antidote to all this unwholesome entertainment is finding some real information while we still can. I recommend this recent essay by the insightful Caitlin Johnstone, an Australian who is particularly able to see the U.S. empire from afar, "Any effective antiwar movement must readjust its understanding of what war is."

Johnstone is routinely blocked by Google's search engine, has subscribers removed in the tens of thousands by YouTube, and her Twitter and Spybook accounts are often suspended for telling a little bit too much truth. The thing about Johnstone is: she's not only truthful, she's entertaining. Kind of like Frank Zappa.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Most Damning Indictment Of Kleptocracy And Capitalism: Infants Crying Because There Are No More Clean Diapers In Their Home

The most damning indictment of capitalism possible appeared on the refrigerator at my school this week. It announced a diaper drive in my area, an effort which I'm confident the staff at my school will participate in. 

The Kennebec Valley Community Action Program created a flyer which was posted with a handwritten note that a staff member will deliver the diapers we bring to school next week.

I will donate diapers and gladly, but it's a perfect example of why charity will not get us as a society out of the disgusting mess capitalism has created.

Despite what the flyer claims, charity is not a solution to this problem.

Here are some of the facts shared on the flyer that I as a middle class grandmother found traumatizing. I can only imagine how traumatized are the children, parents and grandparents experiencing diaper distress. (Increasingly, children in dire poverty around here are raised by their grandparents).

  • 36% of mothers living in poverty regularly run out of clean diapers.
  • You cannot buy diapers with food stamps.
  • Babies in soiled diapers cry more, and are abused more. Somerset County where I live has the highest rate of child abuse in Maine, and 1/3 of children live in poverty.
  • Parents who have run out of diapers feel guilty, anxious and stressed.

Some of the questions running through my brain:

What would a person in another country think of the U.S. if they knew these sordid facts about how we care for our most vulnerable community members?

Source: Maine Equal Justice Partners "It's time to end child poverty)

Is America great again in light of these realities?

Will elections that put in place candidates from either of the two corporate parties fix this shameful problem? 

For those who blame the victims, yes by all means let's criticize mothers in poverty for using expensive disposable diapers instead of virtuous cloth diapers washed by hand in the bathroom sink. Because a hallmark of poverty is lack of a washer and/or dryer in the house (often, lack of hot water in the house), and if you've ever used cloth diapers you would understand that a daily trip to the laundromat and a whole lot of quarters would be required if you can't wash them at home. A diaper service like I used when my children were babies -- if you could even find one in rural Maine -- costs just about the same as disposables i.e. approximately $100 a month. That is after you have purchased the pricey diaper covers that hold everything in place and make it waterproof. And a whole lot of washcloths or disposable wipes for those blowouts when the baby poop extends up their back and down their legs (my youngest grandchild's parents cut her onesie off her with scissors to extricate their daughter from a mega blowout when she was around 5 months old.)

Flooded hog farm, photographer unknown (Source:

When I told my husband about how horrified I was after reading the flyer, he was reminded that he had been horrified hearing radio reporting on the hog feces flowing into towns downstream from industrial scale farms in the path of Hurricane Florence. Rescue workers are warning that folks returning to clean their flooded homes will be exposed to E. coli, and that town water supplies are also at risk.

It appears to me that late stage capitalism will drown in its own shit before the people wise up, rise up, and shut the system down by withdrawing their cooperation.

Women could do this quickly if they just stopped showing up for work.

If the date rapist candidate for the Supreme Court is confirmed, women may very well get angry enough to do so feeling that their reproductive freedom is at stake.

Otherwise, the kleptocracy now in power will have successfully captured the judiciary of the federal government at its highest level. Moneyed interests will decide everything from how much health care your great grandmother receives, to whether climate change and catastrophic storms are addressed, to how many clean diapers your baby is entitled to. Don't bother suing because a) you can't afford it and b) if you make it to the Supreme Court, you'll lose.

So much for checks and balances.

Any system that treats children like ours does deserves to die.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Fascism Is No Longer Creeping, It's Galloping Now 17 Years After 9/11

I'm supposed to be blogging about 9/11 today, justifying the endlessly profitable "war on terror." But I think I'll blog about the uses that have been made of those events instead.

Fascism is no longer creeping, it's galloping now was my husband's response to news that my posts of the Peace Hub video from Saturday's climate march had been removed by Facebook. Allegedly it "looked like spam" or perhaps "violated community standards" so my account was locked temporarily also.

Here are their messages and then the actual video so you can judge for yourself why spybook didn't like my posts:

Here is the offending video:

Link in case the video does not play here on Blogger or in your email feed:

In possibly unrelated news, we found recently that the soup kitchen in the town where we hold our weekly peace vigil had closed. Word on the street is that the place where Skowhegan's large homeless population could count on getting a hot meal was closed down because suddenly the volunteers were required to prove they had background checks, and they didn't.

This was our response on the bridge. (If you're wondering, yes, I do have a background check because I was forced to get fingerprinted in order to keep my job as a public school teacher after 9/11.)

We'll be there again on Sundays, noon - 1pm. Spread the word.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Defeaning Silence On The Carbon Belching Elephant In The Climate Room

How lucky was I to be in action with family and friends at yesterday's Rise for Climate, Jobs and Justice march in Portland, Maine. These powerful banners created by Ellen Davidson of Veterans for Peace in New York were trundled up to Maine by Ellen and Tarak Kauff, a VFP member who spoke at our Peace Hub preceding the funeral march for the cod.

Gigi, seen here helping grandpa and me hold the "Stop the Wars, Stop the Warming --People, Peace and the Planet" banner, held several signs throughout the course of the day. Gigi is a tireless social justice warrior whose mom, Selene Spivak, spoke at the end of the Peace Hub reminding us that the next generation is counting on us to leave a habitable world.

Videos of all the Peace Hub speakers will be available soon thanks to dedicated Peace Action Maine videographer Martha Spiess, and I will share them when I see them. For now here's a short video I made of Bruce Gagnon speaking about the need for conversion of the military-industrial factories to building sustainables: a win for jobs, a win for unions, a win for peace, and a win for the environment.

Maine Public Radio managed to cover the march without a whiff of the fumes constantly belching from the Pentagon's war machine. A glimpse of one banner did sneak in behind the dead cod puppet, but six hundred words was not enough to get "public" radio to mention the elephant in the global warming room. Their coverage was focused on the covert Democratic Party agenda for the entire climate march: register and get out voters. As if voting for Democrats would reduce Pentagon budgets and their CO2 exhaust, a bi-partisan problem that continues under any administration. ("Progressive" rep for Portland Chellie Pingree just voted along with Tea Party rep for the poorer half of Maine, Bruce Poliquin, to authorize the biggest Pentagon budget in history. Nuff said.)

The Maine Natural Guard was out in force yesterday reminding folks to connect the dots between militarism and climate change. Pictured here in our team shirt is Jason Rawn. Mary Beth Sullivan is wearing hers behind the banner, too, and Cynthia Howard rocked her shirt while holding this excellent banner which mimics the popular book series _____ for Dummies.

My remarks at the Peace Hub were excerpted from this excellent article by Stacy Bannerman, "Is Climate The Worst Casualty of War?" We handed out nearly 100 copies of Bannerman's article along the way of the New Orleans funeral-style march through Portland's downtown. And I continued to share these with high school students assembled at City Hall to hear many of their own, including water warrior Luke Sekera, who called out the Nestle Corporation for its theft of Maine's groundwater. Luke mentioned that he has been at this for seven years now. Yup, since he was 9 years old.

Colorful banners created by the Union of Maine Visual Artists' Artists Rapid Response Team (ARRT!) were everywhere, including this beauty created for and carried by the Maine Poor People's Campaign.

This national campaign -- founded to combat Martin Luther King Jr.'s evil triplets of racism, militarism and extreme materialism -- sees how all the pieces of our corporate oppression are connected.

It's time to stop pretending that the Democratic Party will do anything to save us.

Image: Anthony Freda

Friday, August 31, 2018

Kleptocracy Loves Mercenaries, Who Love $$$$$

One of the billionaire families currently infesting what was once billed (but never fulfilled the promise of being) a government of, by and for the people has produced two dangerous individuals: Betsy DeVos, an uneducated education secretary, and her brother Erik Prince. He feeds at the public trough by supplying the Pentagon with an endless supply of mercenaries to kill people in other countries.

Both have been in the news this week.

Protesters at George Mason University in Virginia greeting U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos this week. Photo: Mike Theiler, Reuters

DeVos, a traitor to her gender, proposed new guidelines for handling rape on U.S. college and university campuses. Her new rules protect the accused and the college at the expense of young women who are sexually assaulted while trying to pursue the education that DeVos never got. The fact that she has not matriculated may explain why she is curiously devoid of empathy toward victims of this all too common trauma. (Actually, its probably her inherited billions that have rendered her devoid of empathy.)

Anyone who has been to college knows someone who was raped there. As a 30-something friend of mine observed, "I can't believe _____ has that job now! In college, I wouldn't have trusted that guy to hold my drink."

Even more menacing than the defender of rapists is the mercenary Prince.

Blackwater catapulted to fame following the Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad in 2007.

His firm changes its name regularly to evade responsibility for atrocities conducted amid the fog of debt-financed war. Blackwater created atrocities in Iraq, then morphed to Xe Services, now Academi. No matter what his corporation is named, taxpayers for generations to come will be helping to pay to satisfy Prince's greed.

In Afghanistan, the demagogue with bad hair is threatening to privatize the military forces the U.S. keeps there because what we're currently doing 17 years in "isn't working." Note: it's working fine for those who profit from war. But, no, the U.S. hasn't won the hearts and minds of many Afghan people, and the Taliban continues to expand its control of territory. Suicide bombings in Kabul recently killed scores of civilians -- including young people taking an exam.

Maybe Kabul will be Prince's Waterloo. No foreign invaders have ever succeeded in subduing the indigenous population of Afghanistan, earning that mountainous country a reputation as "the graveyard of empires."

But a for-profit corporation isn't an empire, is it? The longer the endless war on "terror" continues, the better for Prince and his cronies.

Zara Ibrahim, head of the Association of Women Against War, in her office, Agadez, Niger, January 2018. Photo: Joe Penney. Source: The Intercept

The U.S. empire though, that's another story. It's building a $100 million drone base in Niger as I write these words, and in fact drone attacks on civilians are at an unprecedented high. Also the other corporations that profit from war are doing a booming business selling, for instance, the bombs that Saudi Arabia rains down on starved and cholera infected children in Yemen.

Federal employees won't get a raise this fiscal year, but executives for war profiteers will get hefty bonuses and new yachts.

Maybe Prince will get the contract for the Space Force that the demagogue has promised. This has alarmed people not paying attention to the fact that the U.S. has been dominated outer space with military hardware for years now, trying to project "full spectrum dominance" of the sky.

Onward, kleptocracy.

Join concerned citizens of the world during Keep Space for Peace week sponsored by the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.

October 6-13, 2018

Keep Space for Peace Week
International Week of Protest to
Stop the Militarization of Space

No Space Force
No Missile Defense
Close U.S./NATO Bases Worldwide
Stop Drones Surveillance & Killing
End Privatization of Foreign/Military Policy
Convert the Military Industrial Complex
Deal with climate change and global poverty

Local Events List in formation

·       Asheville, North Carolina (Oct 6-13) Ken Jones (VFP) will make the poster image of Trump Vader with the No Space Force message into a sandwich board and walk through downtown Asheville for an hour each day during Keep Space for Peace Week. Will pass out informational flyers and talk with whomever is moved to engage.

·       Bath Iron Works, Maine (Oct 6) Vigil across from administration building on Washington Street (Navy Aegis destroyers outfitted with “missile defense” systems built at BIW) 11:30-12:30 am   Smilin’ Trees Disarmament Farm (207) 763-4062

·       USAF Croughton, England (Oct 6) No Space Force march & rally at main gate of U.S. satellite communication and joint intelligence base. Space communications, drones, bomber guidance, missile defence and command & control functions.  12-4 pm. Oxfordshire Peace Campaign,

Space Week Co-Sponsor: Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, U.S. Section

·       Find our full-size space week poster at 

Sample Letter to Editor:
Dear Editor,
We must stop Trump’s ‘Space Force’ proposal which is provocative and highly expensive.  How about instead we fund National Health Service for all, ensure Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are fully funded and begin to deal with our real problem – climate change?  We don’t need an arms race in space.

Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 443-9502  (blog)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Peace Hub Shaping Up For September 8 Climate March In Portland, Maine

I'll admit to having mixed feelings about helping to organize the Peace Hub for an upcoming climate event in Portland, Maine on September 8. The event will coincide with events across the U.S. being styled as RISE for Climate, Jobs and Justice. This will be essentially a Democratic Party get out the vote effort as all such "resistance" is these days. It is also unfortunately in direct conflict with the date for the annual Changing Maine conference put on by Resources for Organizing Social Change. The theme of the 24th annual conference this year is "Exploring diversity of tactics in Maine movements" and I'm sure it, like other Changing Maine's I've attended, will be highly educational and worthwhile.

So why am I going to the DNC's climate event instead?

The easy answer would be because I said I would help organize the Peace Hub before I knew the date of Changing Maine. Keeping my commitments has been a star I've navigated by as the always recovering adult child of an alcoholic.

But also, as a peace activist my special area is communications. And a huge audience for the Peace Hub's central message -- that the Pentagon's carbon boot print is the biggest one on the planet -- will be present in Portland on September 8.

Young people care about climate change. They don't usually think or care much about U.S. wars around the globe. After the crash of '08 there was a flurry of interest in bringing our war dollars home but now the Pentagon building a $100 million drone base in Niger is barely a blip on the screen. Much more important to pay attention to the twitter account of the demagogue with bad hair.

So I'm going where the crowds are, holding our pre-march Peace Hub with Maka the dolphin, and VFP members from New York like Tarak Kauff, who is bringing some of the great banners his group has made about militarism and climate. I'm proud to help carry one of those messages.

As a coordinator for the Maine Natural Guard I'll join others helping people connect the militarism and climate change dots. I'm bringing a handout that I hope will reach hundreds or even thousands of people, Is Climate The Worst Casualty of War? by Stacey Bannerman. Her opening paragraph says it all:

How do you clear a room of climate activists? Start talking about war. It’s not just environmentalists that leave; it’s pretty much everyone. Mission accomplished by the Bush Administration, which sent the military and their families to war and the rest of the country to an amusement park. The military-civilian divide has been called an “epidemic of disconnection.” But the biosphere doesn’t see uniforms, and the environmental devastation caused by bombs, burn pits, and depleted uranium cannot be contained to a combat zone. We haven’t counted the massive carbon footprint of America’s endless wars because military emissions abroad have a blanket exemption from both national reporting requirements and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. There will be no exemptions in the coming climate collapse. 
We’ve all got skin in the war game now.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Back To School: VFP's Doug Rawlings On Why And How He Teaches Peacemaking

The Vietnam War Memorial on the cover of Talking Walls: Discover Your World, by Margy Burns Knight and illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brien. From publisher Tilbury House's website: "...introduces young readers to different cultures by exploring the stories of walls around the world and how they can separate or hold communities together."

Doug Rawlings retired from teaching at the University of Maine, Farmington, a campus near me that prepares many of the educators working in public schools in the state. Doug is a founding member of the national group Veterans for Peace (VFP) and is a veteran of the war in Vietnam.

He has done much good work around the remembering of that war including projects like Letters to the Wall each Memorial Day, and his personal reflections on Ken Burns' documentary The Vietnam War (hint: he's not a fan). 

 VFP's Vietnam Full Disclosure mission statement:
The Full Disclosure campaign is a Veterans For Peace effort to speak truth to power and keep alive the antiwar perspective on the American war in Vietnam -- which is now approaching a series of 50th anniversary events. It represents a clear alternative to the Pentagon's current efforts to sanitize and mythologize the Vietnam war and to thereby legitimize further unnecessary and destructive wars.

Doug is back at UMF teaching first year seminars in peacemaking. As educators everywhere began preparing for the start of a new school year, he explained why and how he structures his course to meet the needs of first year college students. Not all are straight out of high school; many have loved ones in the military (Maine is a big poverty draft state), and some are veterans themselves. I consider Doug a true educator, one whose goal is to teach students how to think, not what to think.

His conversation here is well worth listening to. Heard but not seen are Martha Spiess, videographer, of Peace Action Maine, and Eric Herter of VFP.

Go here to Take the Pledge to join Doug and others in VFP working for a true history of the Vietnam War that students can learn from.

Please join us and TAKE THE PLEDGE: "I’m with Full Disclosure. I oppose the Pentagon campaign to re-write the history of the Vietnam War."

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Chicago Committee Against War And Racism: In Many Respects We Are Confronting Worse Evils Today Than We Were 50 Years Ago

Guest post today by Rich Whitney, reposted with permission.
Protest War and Racism, In Chicago, On August 25th!
Commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Democratic National Convention Protests
 The following is the prepared text of remarks I made on behalf of the Chicago Committee Against War and Racism at a press conference on July 24th, 2018 in Grant Park in Chicago, near the statue of John A. Logan, General John Logan Statue in Grant Park, scene of one of the most iconic protests against the Vietnam War during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The CCAWR has issued a Call for a demonstration against war and police violence on August 25th, marking the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, when the movement against the Vietnam War was suppressed inside the convention hall, and brutally attacked by Mayor Richard Daley’s police on the streets of Chicago. If you can, won’t you please come to Chicago, and help change the world, on August 25th!
In calling for this demonstration, the Chicago Committee Against War and Racism declares that in many respects we are confronting worse evils today than we were 50 years ago — but we are still confronting the same institutional barriers to peace and progress.
Just 11 days ago, U.S.-led coalition warplanes in Syria conducted intensive airstrikes near Abu Kamal in the Deir ez-Zor province, with estimates of civilian casualties ranging from 30 to 54, the higher estimate coming from The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. All too typically, this received little media attention. It was not part of the so-called “national conversation.” But acts like these, occurring on a regular basis, need to become part of the national conversation, and that is part of what motivates us to call for this protest. These acts of aggressive war are not somehow magically transformed into moral acts simply because relatively few U.S. personnel are at risk of harm.
In 1968, the U.S. government was engaged in one illegal war. Now the U.S. illegally bombs, drone-strikes and/or occupies territory in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen. It is responsible for millions of casualties, horrific devastation and suffering, and the displacement of millions of refugees. It has also been financing covert destabilization, “regime change” and support for repressive governments in much of Central and South America –and then it cruelly imprisons and punishes the hundreds of thousands of refugees who come to this country seeking safety and the opportunity to work. It spends $10.3 million a day of our tax dollars in military support for the repressive, now officially apartheid regime in Israel.
Every single one of these attacks on countries that never attacked the United States are illegal under established international law, including the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the Nuremberg Charter and the United Nations Charter. As in 1968, we have no right to attack other nations that never attacked us.
Let us be clear. These wars are not only thoroughly immoral and illegal in their direct impacts, they are also part of a war at home against the American working class, and especially its most oppressed members, people of color. We spend over $1.3 trillion a year on wars and maintaining a military machine, including about 1,000 military bases in about 135 different countries — while working people and students are being driven into poverty and debt, and while millions of people go without access to health care, decent schools, higher education, decent and affordable housing, safe drinking water, decent public transportation and other necessities. And our government spends these colossal sums on what amounts to corporate welfare, to help ensure the continued profits of giant energy corporations, weapons manufacturers and others, to maintain an empire and continue policies of global domination that actually make us all less safe.
Today’s peace movement is not as large and visible as it was in 1968 and the years that followed, but we are trying to change that. In some respects, though, today’s anti-war movement is a little bit ahead of where it was in 1968. We now have a clearer understanding that, as in 1968, these policies are the product of a bi-partisan consensus. The Democratic Party leadership is every bit as supportive of illegal wars and interventions as it was in 1968. Its members in Congress regularly vote with their Republican colleagues to fund wars and a foreign policy aimed squarely at global domination. Instead of a system of “checks and balances,” they just write the checks. As in 1968, its leaders stifle those who support more progressive candidates — witness the debacle of 2016. The Party and its Chicago machine remain entrenched supporters of an unjust system, protecting corporate profits and power no less than their Republican counterparts.
More than in 1968, we have a clear understanding that the issues of war abroad and the struggles against racism, police violence, privation and poverty at home are all related — they are one struggle. Today we understand that all of these evils are rooted in a class-ruled economic system, in which the dominant class uses its wealth and power to control the political process, buy political results, and advance its inhumane agenda — all to benefit itself, with reckless disregard for the consequences to the rest of us, and to all life on the planet. Today’s anti-war movement will assert its right to use peaceful, legal protest, but we understand that we must organize against the institutions that generate war and racism, and not juts protest their effects. Some of us may be from that generation, but this is not your grandparents’ peace movement.
Rich Whitney is an attorney, actor, disk jockey, environmental and peace activist, and former Green Party candidate for Illinois governor — among other things.