Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sacred Cows & Staying Human

From the Washington Post, an article on how the key to deadlocked budget talks may lie in cutting the military budget.
Defense spending is “a pillar of Republican strength. It’s a pillar of national strength. Look, I know there are sacred cows,” (Rep. Adam) Kinzinger said in an interview. “But we cannot afford them anymore.”
My nomination for the next sacred cow we can no longer afford: $3 billion a year in aid to Israel, used almost entirely to purchase weapons systems, and build infrastructure for the occupation of Palestinian lands.

The Israeli newspaper Ha-'aretz published a compelling blog June 27 where Bradley Burston argued that Israel cannot afford the bad p.r. and further shredding of its international reputation that resulted when they boarded the last flotilla in international waters, killing nine people.

The U.S. government may pretend to look the other way, but I'm sure they are aware that as goes Israel's reputation in the world, so goes the reputation of its chief enabler.

If you've ever been the target of violent attacks on your person or your reputation, you probably experienced a knee jerk reaction to defend yourself. If someone you love was the target, you may have experienced even more extreme anger and a wish to do something, anything, that might protect them.

That's how I'm feeling this week about my friends that are trying to sail from Athens on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla 2, an effort whose slogan is "Stay Human." Easier said than done.
"Our goal has always been to shine a light on Israel's inhumane siege of Gaza, and that, we have already accomplished. The Israeli government has felt so threatened by our little flotilla that it has unleashed its propaganda machine, spies, saboteurs,  diplomatic clout, and economic might. We are feeling, in small measure, what the people of Gaza deal with every day," says passenger and CODEPINK cofounder Medea Benjamin.
Follow the links to see that even docked in Piraeus the flotilla has succeeded in spades in arousing the wrath of the racist, faux democratic nation of Israel -- as Athens roils with the people's response to draconian austerity measures dictated by international financiers.

My buddy Ridgely Fuller is on the "Audacity of Hope" with about 40 other people; you can follow their progress -- or lack of it -- at the website US Boat to Gaza. She reported on a few days ago:
"...the Swedish boat had its propeller shaft security a whole new meaning! Two heavily padded men with holsters arrived on our dock at 2:30am. We had a major stare down. We will double our shifts on 'watch' and probably add daytime duty... I am turning into a guard dog!"
And I woke this morning to news that the Irish ship in the flotilla has been sabatoged to such an extent that it is no longer seaworthy. Ireland is the only EU country that has issued official warning to Israel not to attack the flotilla. It has members of Parliament on board, as do many other countries. The best support our government could muster for the outreach to besieged Gazans: six signatures on a letter to the Secretary of State. (Thank you Rep. Kucinich [OH-10], Barbara Lee [CA-9] Clay [MO-1], Farr [CA-17], Filner [CA-51], and Norton [DC].)

The U.S. State Department has issued warnings, too -- to the peaceful citizens of the flotilla, that if they get hurt (in international waters) it will be their own fault. Let Hillary hear from you. You also might contact Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, who called on U.S. special forces to join Israeli forces in attacking the flotilla (funded by your tax dollars again).

Possible message to Sen. Kirk: stay human.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Info Insurgency Now!

Maine BOW$H campaign next meeting: Sat July 16 following the Old Hallowell Days parade.

We had a rocking good meeting in Maine yesterday to plan the Bring Our War $$ Home Care-a-Van starting on 9/11. We hope to buy or borrow an actual van that will transport people from one event to another for thirty days, with two goals in mind.

First goal: support our representatives in Congress to continue voting no on war funding, and speaking out about the need to end the wars right now. The second: raise consciousness about the connection between war spending and budget cuts at home, and how individuals are being affected. “Most people don't know how much of the federal budget goes to the military,” someone said, waving around a visual that pegged it at 56%.

Both our reps in the House seem to know, and have been consistent no votes on the war supplemental bills, and even voting against the big Defense Authorization annual funding bill recently. Both of them expressed disappointment at President Obama's tepid speech promising to take a year and a half to withdraw most of the troops he surged into Afghanistan. Last year we heard Chellie Pingree tell her boyfriend at the Common Ground Fair about the Bring Our War $$ Home campaign, “These people are everywhere.”

We plan to keep it up, so the Care-a-Van will visit the Fair, which falls each year on the weekend nearest the autumnal equinox. It's a big destination for tourists, old hippies, granolas (their children), crunchy granolas (their grandchildren), and just generally lots of people who enjoy growing or eating organic local foods.

Some of you might think that bringing the BOW$H campaign presence to the Common Ground Fair is preaching to the choir. But some of you would be wrong.

After our three hour session generating ideas and kicking around dates, van ideas (“Could it run on vegetable oil?) and event ideas (free medical clinics, supporting indigenous people's land use initiatives, reaching out to returning vets who are coming home to no jobs and no, well, homes) some of us stayed for a wildly inspired movie about people using their creative abilities to fuel activism. Cultures of Resistance was so amazing that three people immediately asked to screen it in their local communities. About fifty of us also saw a short film on the Gaza Freedom March, and I gave a report from Ridgely Fuller, a passenger on the current flotilla that has been stuck in Greece waiting to sail. (Looks like it is about to come unstuck -- short interview with Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK and a glimpse of Ridgely in Athens' Syntagma Square on Democracy Now! coverage of the flotilla).

We left feeling energized and ready for the steps to take our campaign beyond last week's mayors' resolution win.

We had dinner with friends that evening, following a memorial service for a beloved neighbor who passed away during the winter. A small group of people who have known each other for decades, and watched each other's children grow up. Most work as educators in some kind of way, or in media. All are affluent white folks who have had the opportunity of a college education.

There was talk of technology, of travel past and future, and the fact that I was headed to California the next day prompted Mark to mention that hot particles are turning up in automotive air filters in Washington State. Our friends were alarmed at this news. What? Why? What's going on in Washington?

I assume it's from Fukushima, Mark said.

What's Fukishima? one of them said.

It's the nuclear power plant that melted down – is still melting down – in Japan, we said.

Oh. Ok, they had heard of that disaster. But isn't it over by now?

No, it's still burning through the floor of the container vessels, said Mark. And plutonium is never over, at least not in a human lifetime.

But how do you know about this? I haven't read anything about this – have you? Everybody shook their heads. No, nothing. Not on NPR. Not in the New York Times. Why not? they wondered.

Corporations control the media, I said. GE owns one of the big networks, said Mark. NBC, someone said. And someone else asked, Why does that matter?

GE built the reactors that are melting down, I said. They may have a lot of liability there. I also read that Australia stopped official monitoring of radiation in seafood this week, I added, like the U.S. stopped doing on the West coast months ago.

You two know too much, one of our friends said fondly, as if we were wayward children who would insist on opening Pandora's box.

Before I got on the plane this morning we had breakfast with a young member of the family who's been thinking a lot about peak oil and the future of energy for his generation. The bottom line: all the wars in the world won't avert the crash of our unsustainable lifestyle.

He shared a recent “aha” moment about propaganda and the so-called information age's dearth of, well, information.

Almost all music videos that get played are only about three things, according to his analysis: selling drugs to make a lot of money, spending money on “a bunch of crap that really has no value,” and commiting acts of senseless violence. “All things that will lead to getting locked up in prison,” he said. He was a bit amazed at this apparent master plan, as if the curtain had slipped for a moment, affording him a glimpse of The Man spinning out the illusion. Later our conversation veered into the national epidemic of obesity and diabetes, and the effects of advertising on eating habits. He had become aware of his own response to ads for products to consume, noting the craving that seemed to bubble up spontaneously after viewing.

Everyone thinks they're immune to propaganda, he said, but they're not.

Does an education offer any protection from propaganda? we wondered.

As for myself, I used to think so. But I really don't think so anymore.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Lies, Damned Lies, or Do U Prefer Statistics?

When the White House briefing officer tells the press that the souring of public opinion on ten years in Aghanistan doesn't matter, what does that really mean? Possible translations:

(Whistling in the dark.)  OR

As long as the public pretends to believe that the POTUS announced a rapid drawdown, we're good. OR

Obama, Petraeus, Panetta, Gates and Bush, all work for the same bosses. And it doesn't much matter  which celebrity spokesmen (or women, Madame Secretary Clinton) are at the podium, because it doesn't change our full spectrum dominance master plan a bit.  OR

The POTUS will not listen to public opinion, he will give a campaign speech (one wag titled it "War More Years") that enables manufactured consent, generating headlines like this from the McClatchy "news" service, used on most front page I've seen so far: Obama signals rapid drawdown from Afghanistan.

A friend from Pakistan had an interesting take on the connection of public opinion to what's really going on:
Souring of public opinion does not play a role? Which idiot is going to buy that? I would say we are just a short while away from invasion to Iran via Pakistan, and souring public opinion is key to this strategy. An unstable Pakistan is needed before they can take over the country, citing instability, to launch attacks on Iran. How do you get an unstable Pakistan? By droning the public into a perpetual state of sourdom!  Mission accomplished.
This reminded me of Mayor Kitty Piercy's interview on Democracy Now! this week about why it is the business of mayors to advise federal foreign policy.
In parsing Obama's claims of success in the decade-long war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, that has killed thousands of civilians, Piercy said, "if I were the President, I would be very careful about letting the words 'mission accomplished' come out of my mouth."

If I were the President, I'd be listening to the words coming out of mouths in every direction these days:
Congresswoman Donna Edwards & CODEPINK co-founder Jodie Evans on International Women's Day .

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Change He'd Better Believe In

++++ Ministry of Imperial Hubris ++++

(as reported by Janet Weil, CODEPINK's woman on the pre-speech briefing by the White House)

Political Affairs magazine reporter: To what extent does souring of public opinion play a role?
White House spokesman: It really doesn't play a role.
Yeah, that's what Mubarak thought, too.

See, even when you get a rare level of coverage from MSM outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post, for mayors voting overwhelmingly to tell Congress and the POTUS that they've had it with the war, and they're desperate for funding -- it doesn't matter.

Until it does.

A college student I know surveyed her peers for a research project a few months ago. They seemed kind of surprised we were still in a war in Afghanistan.  In polls where they remind you and then ask how you feel about it, negatives are edging up from 2/3 into the 3/4 range right about now in the USA.

Yesterday I happened to run into a reporter I know and tried to interest him in the local angle of the mayors' resolution story, since I had just come from Baltimore and contributed to the effort. But he was too excited about covering a story on the Army National Guard building a "free" recreational facility for the town.

As camouflage fuel tanker trucks and humvees roared past the little kid's playground, an unemployed Afghanistan vet who's living in a homeless shelter told my husband about trying to find work now that he has partially recovered from the worst of his anxiety attacks and PTSD. He said he was doing a lot better lately "with my anxiety" as he pushed his girlfriend's son on the swings.

So where's the real story?

President Obama will announce tonight that he's starting to pull out a similar number of troops as he surged in, around 33,000, over the course of the next twelve months. One of his many broken campaign promises: to be headed out of Afghanistan by July. Souring public opinion is unlikely to be fooled by this ruse, but refer to the belief that we, the people, play no role here. Other than paying for wars and the debts on wars with our taxes.

He likely won't say anything about contractors, who per capita cost the taxpayer more than government employees like troops; estimates are that there are as many of them, around 100,000, as there are troops at the moment. Where will it all end? Will public opinion ultimately be called to the stage to play a role after all?


The artist proposes, and the goddess disposes -- isn't that the way the saying goes? Here's one of many world visions about to be displayed in that hotbed of creative war resistance, downtown Skow-town, in my friend Abby Shahn's curated group show "Worlds Seen and Foreseen." Visions of the world, as sculptural globes, created by over 20 artists will be in shop windows on the rotary in Skowhegan, Maine starting this week. There will be an artists reception on Friday, August 5th from 2:00 to 6:00 pm. (

photo: Kenny Cole "Pythagoras Knew" 36" x 36" x 36" ink, gouache and paper-mache 2011

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Baltimore sez bring our war $$ home!

CODEPINK's national manager for the Bring Our War $$ Home campaign, C.J. Minster, speaking in Baltimore at teach-in organized by Fund Our Communities coalition. Busloads of big city mayors saw the event as they headed out to dinner.
The 79th annual meeting of the U.S. Council of Mayors convened in Baltimore this weekend. Under consideration: Resolution No. 59, calling on Congress to hurry up and end the wars in order to redirect funding to critical needs in the cities around the country. Initiated by CODEPINK, the war $$ home resolution received endorsements from more than twenty mayors before being approved by the Metro Economies Committee on June 18, sent on to the full plenary of mayors on Monday, June 20.

Among the resolution's sponsors was Joe O’Brien, the Mayor of Worcester, MA who said, “We are spending a billion a month after Osama bin Laden has been killed. And while I appreciate the effort to rebuild nations around the world, we have tremendous needs in communities like mine." Mayor O'Brien will speak on behalf of the resolution during the conference, while City Council member James Kraft spoke about war funding draining resources from Baltimore in McKeldin Square last night.

News coverage of the mayors conference yesterday focused on the war dollars home resolution among many others under consideration: the New York Times, the Baltimore Sun, WERU Community Radio in Maine, as well as blogs like People's World all featured it. As candidates and incumbents alike seem to realize, the public has grown weary of austerity measures at home while pouring billions every month into wars abroad. Interesting that this is the first time since Vietnam that the U.S. Council of Mayors has considered a specifically anti-war resolution. (Mayors for Peace sponsors a yearly resolution against funding nuclear weapons, and promoting international cooperation for nuclear disarmament.)
What the mayors saw

Citizens in Baltimore call for funding for jobs, housing, education and transportation.
Perhaps the history of the mayors' conference is a harbinger of things to come. The U.S. Council convened for the first time in 1932 in Detroit, with big city mayors coming together to craft policies that would lead their citizens out of dire economic straits of the Great Depression. FDR's New Deal legislation reportedly drew on many of their ideas.

Another resolution under consideration this year addresses cuts to funding for Community Development Block Grants, a huge source of federal funding to cities in the past.

A Congress that does what corporations want while ignoring its citizens' basic needs does so at its own peril. How can cities with legions of unemployed, under-educated, homeless people lacking health care be secure? Let's all hope the Beltway is close enough to hear the voices raised from Baltimore: fund human needs, not wars!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mayors want to bring war dollars home

March from State House MA by codepinkhq
Boston, April 2011
Congress was treated to some low-quality legal counsel this week over the costly and unauthorized bombing of Libya. According to President Obama's lawyers (highly paid by me and thee), the executive branch of the federal government does not need to consult the will of the people as represented by Congress before carrying out airstrikes on other countries – no matter what the Constitution says.

Elected officials under our form of government are supposed to listen to their constitutents, aren't they?

Mayors around the nation appear to be listening, as twenty have now endorsed a resolution calling on Congress to stop funding wars and redirect the money to domestic needs. They hail from cities in Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, Ohio, Michigan Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Mexico, California, Oregon – and the mayor of Hartford, Connecticut just jumped on the bandwagon.

The war dollars home resolution comes before the July 18-20 annual meeting of the U.S. Council of Mayors in Baltimore, and is the first to address military spending at the federal level since the Vietnam War. USCM resolutions guide advocacy in Washington, DC and, if the war dollars home resolution passes, it will be presented to Congress by some of its many sponsors. Perhaps Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore will do the honors since she's right next door and has homeless problems, low-income nutrition problems, jobs problems, and education problems.
These are problems in common: providing basic services during times of shrinking contributions by the federal government. Big city mayors know what it looks like to have to cut nutrition programs for pregnant women, or Head Start programs for low-income preschoolers. They understand that their city becomes less safe when firefighters have their hours cut, and that it becomes less economically viable when education suffers because teachers are laid off and class sizes balloon.

Why isn't the government in Washington DC clear on these concepts?

Presumably because their vision is clouded by the millions corporate lobbyists spend lavishly entertaining them, and contribute to their campaign coffers when it's time for re-election.

Ordinary folks, 30% of whom told CNN recently they fear becoming unemployed in the near future, are increasingly opposed to continuing these costly endless wars. As many as 2/3 respond to polls agreeing that the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting, and a Pew Research Center poll showed a majority identified the cost of wars as the leading cause of the federal budget deficit.

Washington DC ought to be listening. Perhaps if we raise our voices loud enough in Baltimore this weekend, they will hear us all the way to the Beltway.
Austin, Texas rally 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011

PINKs to Panetta: Bring our war $$ home!

War protesters demonstrate as CIA Director Leon Panetta arrives for testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. " LA Times (Win McNamee, Getty Images / June 9, 2011)
When the CEO of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan becomes the director of the CIA, and the CIA director is named Secretary of Defense, it's hard not to see these as signs of the end times. End times for anyone's naive faith that our government represents the people, that is.

We're bombing five countries that I know about, destroying a coral reef in South Korea to make more places to keep our nuclear destroyers, and my senator, Susan Collins, is sucking up to Panetta to get more, more and more war dollar contracts at Bath Iron Works in Maine.

“I strongly believe the Navy has to project our force throughout the world and that the Navy is obviously crucial to that mission,” Panetta replied to Collins, according to her statement to the Times Record in Bath.

Then I realize it's the end times all over the place, with youth rising up. The Arab spring ripens into summer, with death and torture unleashed -- whatever it takes to keep the power structure in place. In Spain, the UK, the U.S. and Canada they're rising up against no jobs, cuts to education, huge student loan burdens, no health insurance -- and no light at the end of the economic outlook tunnel.

That's why we need to bring our war dollars home, now more than ever.

Senators, are you listening? Are you reading those bright pink signs that Tighe, Allie and Medea are holding right in front of your faces? Almost half of your constituents think the country is headed even deeper into economic distress, maybe even depression. A whopping 30% told CNN they fear they will be unemployed soon. And building nuclear war ships is the only lousy jobs program my senator can come up with?

Senate Page Brigette DePape silently standing in the Canadian Senate chamber with a "Stop Harper" sign to protest budget cuts gutting higher education and other social services. Which she will now need more than ever,  because her courageous act of nonviolent resistance got her fired. Go Brigette, our shero!
POSTSCRIPT: For a good discussion of the policies of economic exploitation affecting us globally, see Mark Levine's op-ed on Al Jazeera, "Arab revolutions mask economic status quo."

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mayors to Congress: bring war $$ home!

Since its founding in '03, CODEPINK's mission has been working to end U.S. funded wars and redirect resources to what the people need -- not profits for the military industrial complex!

Budget cuts at the city and state level for education, firefighters, transportation, housing and infrastructure repairs are not necessary! A few minutes of the war budget would restore funding that has been withdrawn e.g. a $1 million bomb would pay 25 school teachers for a year.
CODEPINK has been in on the Bring Our War $$ Home campaign from the start in the state of Maine, and has helped it spread to the national level. Mayors endorsing a resolution this month at their annual meeting in Baltimore include sponsoring Mayor Kitty Piercy of Eugene, Oregon plus:
  • Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles, California
  • Carolyn Peterson, Ithaca, New York
  • Dave Norris, Charlottesville, Virginia 
  • David Coss, Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • John Duran, West Hollywood, California
  • Gayle McLaughlin, Richmond, California 
  • Bob Kiss, Burlington, Vermont
  • R.T. Rybak, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Frank Ortis, Pembroke Pines, Florida
  • Matthew Ryan, Binghamton, New York
  • Paul Wiehl, Athens, Ohio
  • Brenda Lawrence, Southfield, Michigan
  • Joy Cooper, Hallandale Beach, Florida
  • Joseph C. O'Brien, Worcester, Massachusetts
  • Paul Soglin, Madison, Wisconsin
  • Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore, Maryland
  • David L. Konick, Rock Mills, Virginia*
  • Joanne Twomey, Biddeford, Maine*
"As mayor of the city of Biddeford, we are cutting $1.6 million in our education budget, and last week I had had it and I'm starting to say it from the podium," Twomey said. "It's my responsibility as mayor of the city of Biddeford to start saying if our priorities were straight, if we could bring these war dollars home, I wouldn't have to be doing this, and neither would the Biddeford school board."

Join CODEPINK in action in Baltimore June 18-20 to let mayors from all over the US we want them to tell Congress: Bring our war dollars home!

A recent press release for the Maine campaign:

Maine leads the way in national campaign to bring war dollars home
Mayor Joanne Twomey of Biddeford, Maine has joined a group of mayors from all over the U.S. endorsing a resolution calling on Congress to redirect funds from war to domestic needs. The “bring war dollars home” resolution (see full text below) will be presented next month at the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors in Baltimore by sponsor Kitty Piercy of Eugene, Oregon.

The Bring Our War $$ Home campaign began in Maine last year and has swept the nation, gathering momentum that began when Stonington, Portland, and other Maine  locations passing resolutions that were sent to Congress. Rep. Chellie Pingree and Rep. Mike Michaud have been among those voting no on war funding supplemental bills in the past two years, and both voted yesterday against the FY12 Defense Authorization bill. Rep. Pingree had already indicated in an email that she intended to vote no on the bill, citing war costs.

Cities in all parts of the United States are feeling severe effects of funding cuts at the federal level. With another $118 billion on the verge of approval by the House of Representatives to fund wars in Fiscal Year 2012, mayors everywhere are asking why their cities are laying off police and firefighters, teachers and maintenance workers, while there seems to be money available for weapons.

Mayor Twomey has been a leader on this issue since speaking out at a council meeting in Biddeford and later at the state capitol Hall of Flags rally to Bring Our War $$ Home on April 9. Maine Public Radio broadcast her remarks: "As mayor of the city of Biddeford, we are cutting $1.6 million in our education budget, and last week I had had it and I'm starting to say it from the podium," Twomey said. "It's my responsibility as mayor of the city of Biddeford to start saying if our priorities were straight, if we could bring these war dollars home, I wouldn't have to be doing this, and neither would the Biddeford school board."  Link to the MPBN coverage of Mayor Twomey.

The war dollars home resolution will be taken up by the Metro Economies Policy Committee  Committee on June 18 and, if recommended by the committee, by the full plenary on June 20.

For more information on how to get your mayor involved, or to sign a petition to your rep in the House, visit

Text of the mayors' resolution :


WHEREAS, the severity of the ongoing economic crisis has created budget shortfalls at all levels of government and requires us to re-examine our national spending priorities; and

WHEREAS, the people of the United States are collectively paying approximately $126 billion dollars per year to wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan; and

WHEREAS, 6,024 members of the US armed forces have died in these wars; and at least 120,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since the coalition attacks began.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors supports efforts to speed up the ending of these wars; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on the U.S. Congress to bring these war dollars home to meet vital human needs, promote job creation, rebuild our infrastructure, aid municipal and state governments, and develop a new economy based upon renewable, sustainable energy.

Co-sponsors of the effort to seek mayoral endorsements: Maine Campaign to Bring Our War $$ Home, CODEPINK, U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW), Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, Women's Action for New Directions (WAND), Women's International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF) Ann Arbor & Sacramento, Peace Action,  Veterans For Peace, Chapter 61, St. Louis, New Priorities Network, and Community Alliance of Lane County, Oregon.
Thank you, Eugene Mayor Piercy,
for your fearless leadership!