Thursday, April 19, 2012

SYSTEM SUCKS: Pictures That Are Worth 1,000 Words

Occupy Oakland silkscreen image, not sure which artist(s) to credit

An Iraqi boy in an orphanage drew his mother and slept in her arms.
Image credit: imgur, via James Hobbs' facebook page.
Source: Occupy Maine facebook event for May 1, 2012 General Strike

Jeju Island, South Korea, where the Samsung Corporation is being paid to pour concrete over the UN Heritage Site coral reefs in order to make a port to dock Aegis nuclear weapons equipped destroyers built in Bath, Maine, USA. (In case you were wondering what the sign in the first image -- SYSTEM SUCKS -- was talking about.)

Birth defects in Fallujah after use of depleted uranium weapons by US military in 2004. Source:
From Michael Kelly today in Business Insider The US Poured So Many Toxic Weapons On Fallujah In 2004 That Residents Still Pay The Price:
The studyreleased by the Switzerland-based International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, shows that in the years following Operation Phantom Fury there has been a 4-fold increase in all cancer, including a 12-fold increases in childhood cancer in those aged 0-14.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Reprehensible U.S. Policies and Practices in Afghanistan

One of eighteen photos of U.S. soldiers posing with corpses alleged to be insurgents. The Los Angeles Times warned the Pentagon before today publishing two of them.
The POTUS got right up on his bully pulpit to denounce the most recent combat porn photos to emerge from Afghanistan as artifacts of "reprehensible" conduct. Rather, he had his p.r. guy do it for him. Here's how the Guardian reported it:
President Barack Obama on Wednesday demanded an investigation and for those responsible to be held accountable, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. "The conduct depicted in those photos is reprehensible."
Although many readers vilified the newspaper for endangering active duty troops (seeming to forget that is who took the photos and shared them in the first place) I was proud of the Los Angeles Times, which does occasionally do some fine investigative reporting.  Because of their decision I saw the incident reported on morning television news in the San Francisco Bay area, amid the sensationalism and fluff that customarily passes for journalism in our day.

(One of the results of the erosion of free and truthful reporting is that citizens no longer even recognize it as a bulwark of democracy; they think it exists only to make the government look good, and to shore up support for current programs.)

Here are your very own government officials at the helms of the State Department and the Pentagon, respectively, reacting to the same news.

Photograph: John Thys/AFP/Getty Images
So what's more reprehensible?

From Michael Hasting's article "The Rise of Killer Drones: How America Goes to War in Secret" this week in Rolling Stone:
In his first three years, Obama has unleashed 268 covert drone strikes, five times the total George W. Bush ordered during his eight years in office. All told, drones have been used to kill more than 3,000 people designated as terrorists, including at least four U.S. citizens. In the process, according to human rights groups, they have also claimed the lives of more than 800 civilians. Obama's drone program, in fact, amounts to the largest unmanned aerial offensive ever conducted in military history; never have so few killed so many by remote control.
From veteran and whistleblower Ethan McCord's facebook posting of the LA Times article:
I've been saying this was what happens. I kept being told you're lying its just a few bad apples. NO!!! This is how we are trained!! Wake the fuck up America!!
McCord, as you may recall, heroically came forward to corroborate the incidents depicted in Collateral Murder, the gleeful shooting of civilians, journalists and even children by U.S. soldiers in a helicopter over Bagdhad. It is the video alleged to have been sent to Wikileaks by Bradley Manning, and currently it has 12,563,351 views on the YouTube version.

The local t.v. station included some facts that appear to back up McCord's claim, reminding viewers that the photos were published at a particularly "sensitive" time for public perception of the war in Afghanistan. Three bullet points provided context: 1) recent photos of troops pissing on corpses alleged to be Taleban; 2) burning of Qurans at a U.S. dump near Bagram; and 3) a lone soldier alleged to have killed 17 civilians in a night time rampage near Kandahar. The t.v. reporter didn't bother to say that alleged could just as well be applied to lone as to killer in that sentence, as eyewitnesses have provided ample testimony that Robert Bales was not acting alone.

Here's what I find the most reprehensible: that the U.S. takes our money and spends it on training drone operators who refer to kills they cause and witness on their video monitors as "bug splats" while sanctimonious hypocrites like Obama, Clinton and Panetta get upset when a little bit of truth about how soldiers act in war leaks out to the public.

I am ashamed of my country. I sympathize with Afghans, whose reactions were reported as "Afghans revolted by U.S. troops posing with dead suicide bombers" in a blog of the LA Times:
The fact that the photos in question were taken two years ago did little to blunt the disdain. “Nothing has changed since then, and nothing will,” said Farhad Mohammad, a merchant in the southern city of Kandahar. “Always it is a matter of disrespect.”

Suicide bombers, who cause hundreds of Afghan civilian deaths every year, are widely despised. Even so, the taboo against desecration of the dead is strong in this religiously conservative country.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Conservative 99% dupes support 1% candidate for U.S. Senate

Maine State Treasurer Poliquin worked for the 1% in CT and NY managing pension funds (check his resume) and now he wants to represent them in the U.S. Senate.

Naive state legislators -- like mine, Phil Curtis, and perhaps yours -- think this will be good for their constituents in Maine. Nothing could be further from the truth -- but maybe it's their own campaign coffers they are thinking of?

Scroll all the way down to see Poliquin's bogus claims. Then join me in writing a truth-filled letter to the editor today.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Bruce Poliquin <>
Date: Thu, Apr 5, 2012 at 6:15 PM
Subject: Our campaign is moving fast!
To: Patriot <>

Dear Patriot,
Our campaign for U.S. Senate is moving faster and faster every day!

Last week, Utah Senator Mike Lee endorsed me with an announcement to his national network of conservative supporters.

Earlier today, eight fiscally conservative state legislators from across Maine also endorsed my campaign:

Representative David C. Burns (R-Whiting)
Representative Phillip A. Curtis (R-Madison)
Representative Larry C. Dunphy (R-Embden)
Representative Jeffery A. Gifford (R-Lincoln)
Representative Peter B. Johnson (R-Greenville)
Representative Mel Newendyke (R-Litchfield)
Representative Beth A. O'Connor (R-Berwick)
Representative Deborah J. Sanderson (R-Chelsea)
Rep. David Burns from Washington County said "I am pleased to support Bruce Poliquin in his candidacy for the U.S. Senate.  Since coming to know Bruce in 2010, I have been impressed with his strong conservative values and the tenaciousness with which he works for this State and our citizens.  I believe that Treasurer Poliquin would be a very dynamic member of the U.S. Senate from the very beginning and would truly represent well the interest of all Mainers."

Rep. Peter Johnson from Piscataquis County stated "I am excited to endorse Bruce Poliquin’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate.  He has been a great Treasurer for the State of Maine.  His aggressive leadership on the boards of many quasi-government organizations, like the Maine State Housing Authority, has uncovering wasteful spending and potentially illegal practices.  Bruce has proven that he has the ability, initiative, and toughness to uncover waste in complex government programs while withstanding criticism for doing what is right.  He will do the same as our next United States Senator from Maine.”
Rep. Beth O'Connor from York County commented "It is a pleasure and an honor to support Bruce Poliquin for U.S. Senate.  He has been strong on all fiscal issues regarding the State of Maine, and has put us on a much more secure financial footing.  Bruce is the most fiscally conservative candidate in the race for this open U.S. Senate seat.  With his tenacity and excellent grasp of the financial difficulties we face as a nation, I believe Treasurer Poliquin is the only candidate that can help restore fiscal sanity in Washington and safeguard the purse strings of the American people."

Every day, more state and national leaders believe that I am the Republican who can beat former governor Angus King in the general election.  I am honored to have their support, but am really depending on people like you to give our campaign the momentum necessary to win!

With three other U.S. Senate seats poised to shift Republican, the balance of power in Washington could very well hinge upon Maine's open seat. 
The financial crisis in Washington worsens.  This open U.S. Senate seat in Maine is a rare opportunity for you to help send to Washington a fiscal conservative with 35 years of private sector experience who is not a career politician.

Please help me join a growing group of fiscal reformers in Washington to address our nation's out-of-control spending, rising debt, and unaffordable entitlements  --  just like we've done in Maine.

Best regards,

 Occupy Mainers in Portland say: TAX THE RICH!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Morally Bankrupt: Collective Punishment of Children in Afghanistan

Remember Bradley Manning? He's the Army intelligence analyst who's been in detention since July, 2010, just now reaching the stage of his pre-trial hearing, for allegedly leaking military secrets. The most sensational of these secrets was the helicopter video known as "Collateral Murder" which recorded U.S. troops gleefully shooting down on unarmed civilians including journalists in Baghdad. At one point a van with children in it comes to the rescue of the wounded, so they shoot them, too. Ethan McCord was a soldier on the ground that day, and he radios in the information that there are children injured whom he is trying to rescue. "Well it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle," we hear one of the morally bankrupt soldiers in the helicopter reply.

Fast forward to March 11, 2012 and the massacre of 17 civilians, including 9 children. Most accounts of the night raid in Panjwae district of southern Kandahar province identify the killer -- Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, supposedly acting alone -- but fail to identify the victims. Here, thanks to CNN reporter Sara Snider, are their names:
Mohammad Dawood Abdullah
Khudaidad Mohmmad Jama
Nazar Mohammad Taj Mohammad
Sahtarina Sultan Mohammad
Zuhra Abdul Hameed
Nazia Doost Mohammad
Mosooma Mohammad Wazir
Farida Mohammad Wazir
Palwasha Mohammad Wazir
Nabia Mohammad Wazir
Asmatullah Mohammad Wazir
Faizullah Mohammad Wazir
Esa Mohammad Mohammad Husain
Akhtar Mohammad Murad Ali
Some of those slain, loaded into the back of a truck following their collective punishment.
Many outlets of corporate-owned media in the U.S. continue to churn out a false tale of one man run amok, but independent investigation by Afghan officials and some brave journalists have uncovered troubling reports from residents. From Mirwais Khan and Deb Riechmann of The Associated Press:
Several Afghans near the villages where an American soldier is alleged to have killed 16 civilians say U.S. troops lined them up against a wall after a roadside bombing and told them that they, and even their children, would pay a price for the attack. 
Residents have given similar accounts to both The Associated Press and to Afghan government officials about an alleged bombing in the vicinity, which they said occurred March 7 or 8, and left U.S. troops injured. The residents also said they are convinced that the slayings of the 16 villagers just days later was in retaliation for that bomb.
From Bill Rigby of Reuters:
The lawyer defending the U.S. soldier accused of murdering 17 Afghan civilians claims U.S. authorities are blocking his ability to investigate the incident.

John Henry Browne, the lawyer for Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, said U.S. forces in Afghanistan have prevented his team from interviewing injured civilians at a hospital in Kandahar, and are allowing other potential witnesses to scatter, making it difficult to track them down.
Yalda Hakim of Australia’s SBS network spoke to survivors in the villages a few days after the attacks. Her video report may be seen here on CNN's website. An eight year old survivor told how her father was shot after trying to defend her mother, who was being dragged by the hair.

Others? From the AP report:
Naek Mohammad, who lives in Mokhoyan, told the AP that a U.S. soldier, through a translator, said: "I know you are all involved and you support the insurgents. So now, you will pay for it -- and your children will pay for this."
Here's another child who was injured but survived:

Hakim's interview of the Afghan Army general investigating the incident turned up reports that villagers heard a helicopter overhead during the shootings, and saw Americans with headlamps standing outside the houses during the shootings.

Will the truth come to light? Not if the moral bankruptcy of male bonding does its job, says blogger Kathleen Barry, author of Unmaking War, Remaking Men. She reports:
President Obama claimed "it appeared you had a lone gunman who acted on his own," not wanting it compared to the My Lai massacre in the Vietnam war.
Barry says guys stick together after a violent spree. Here's more from Obama, as reported by Reuters:
"In no way is this representative of the enormous sacrifices that our men and women have made in Afghanistan," Obama said. But he added, "It does signal the importance of us transitioning in accordance with my plans that Afghans are taking more of the initiative in security."
A widowed survivor speaking from behind her burka told Hakim she would like to take more initiative. She feels only that she wants to use her bare hands to kill those responsible  after watching her husband's murder:
And that is why the U.S. morally bankrupt in Afghanistan. We haven't protected women, children, or even U.S. interests. And that is also why collective punishment is not only wrong, it is stupid.

The U.S. war in Afghanistan is the longest in our history, with no end in sight.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Will your mayor join the call to fund human needs instead of wars?

Did you see this recent news from Augusta?

Maine mayors team up   March 23 by Keith Edwards

Coalition includes Waterville's Karen Heck, who takes issue with 'this war 

on poor people'

AUGUSTA -- The mayors of 10 major Maine cities, including Augusta and Waterville, have formed a coalition to push back against what they see as a continuing shift of the costs to municipalities and taxpayers.
Staff photo by Joe Phelan -- Augusta Mayor William Stokes, left, and Westbrook Mayor Colleen Hilton listen as Waterville Mayor Karen Heck, right, answers a question during a news conference at the State House on Thursday in Augusta. A group of mayors from the state's largest cities announced the formation of a Mayors Coalition on Jobs and Economic Development, they said their top priority is fighting the general assistance cuts...
Mayor Karen Heck of Waterville had already spoken that week  at the State House in favor of redirecting military spending to human needs at home. And she has invited me to send her the resolution passed at the US Conference of Mayors last June in Baltimore so that she can sign it (it's the res that became part of the mayors' advocacy platform to the federal government for the needs of urban citizens (more info here).

Wouldn't it be super if more mayors joined Karen in endorsing the resolution as a solution to budget cuts? Consider asking your mayor, or otherwise getting the word out!

Wording of the resolution can always be modified by signers. This what big city mayors passed:


WHEREAS, every member of the US Conference of Mayors and the Americans they represent, support our brave men and women in uniform and their families;

WHEREAS, the drawdown of troops should be done in a measured way that does not destabilize the region and that can accelerate the transfer of responsibility to regional authorities; 

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 United States Conference of Mayors supports efforts to speed up the ending of these wars; and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the United States Conference of Mayors calls on the President and U.S. Congress to end the wars as soon as strategically possible and 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 and reduce the federal debt.

Adopted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors in June, 2011.

CODEPINK's suggested Next Steps:
  1. Email a copy of the resolution to your congressional delegation and the president.
  2. Share the online campaign with your Facebook community.
  3. Tweet about the campaign: @whitehouse: Mayors endorse @CODEPINKalert resolution to end #wars & bring $$ home to needs of our #cities #p2
  4. Schedule a meeting with your mayor to discuss the resolution passed and ask your mayor to personally use the resolution to advance the needs of your community in Washington.
  5. Take a copy of the Mayors' War Dollars Home Resolution (pdf) to your members of Congress. The pdf includes the full text of the resolution, talking points, and a copy of the press release from the mayors' conference.
  6. Write letters to the editor congratulating the mayors for following the advice of their constituents and passing the resolution. Consider mentioning your personal involvement in the campaign and/or CODEPINK's leadership.

Inline image 1

Mayor Kitty Piercy of Eugene, OR was the lead sponsor for the war dollars home resolution, Ironically, she felt unable to travel to Baltimore for the conference where it was voted on due to budget shortfalls in Eugene.

Published on Monday, June 20, 2011 by

US Mayors Tell Congress: Bring War Dollars Home

by Lisa Savage
BALTIMORE, June 20 – Mayors from around the US met in Baltimore this week to set public policy for the millions of people living in big cities, depending on municipal services to stay safe. While Congress considered allocating another $118 billion to conduct wars next year – and President Obama absurdly maintained that the costly bombing of Libya is not an act of war, and thus not subject to Congressional oversight – mayors listened to the people.
Anti-war activists rallied in Austin, Texas earlier this year carrying the 'Bring Our War Dollars Home' message. Today, the US Conference of Mayors passed a resolution calling for the same. Following a lively debate about adding stronger language supporting troops and their families, and adding President Obama as a recipient, mayors voted in their June 20 plenary session to call on the federal government to stop funding wars, and bring the money home.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors' Resolution Number 59 was only a twinkle in the eye two years ago when a coalition of citizens alarmed at endless wars and catastrophic budget shortfalls coined the slogan “Bring Our War Dollars Home” at activist Sally Breen's kitchen table in Windham, Maine.
 That state's campaign took off on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2010, and soon spread nationally with adoption by the women-led peace group CODEPINK. Locations across Maine soon adopted war dollars home resolutions, including Deer Isle, Portland, and School Administrative District #74, followed by Northampton and Amherst, Massachusetts and, most recently, by Hartford, Connecticut.

Meanwhile, Congress continued to pass war funding supplemental bills, but without the support of Maine's two representatives in the House. Rep. Mike Michaud (D-2nd) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-1st) defied Democrat party leadership to repeatedly vote no on the measures. Pingree began speaking out in Congress and in the press about the need to listen to her constituents' demands to end the wars as Maine's economy unraveled, and local budgets for education, health care, housing and job training were slashed.

In March CODEPINK brought on board national campaign manager C.J. Minster, who wrote the text of the mayors' resolution at another kitchen table, that of co-founder Medea Benjamin. The idea to bring a resolution to the annual conference of mayors had been proposed to co-founder Jodie Evans by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the incoming president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The conference first convened in 1932, as big city mayors came together in Detroit to consider what could be done to pull their troubled cities out of the depths of the Great Depression. The New Deal incorporated many of their ideas, and mayors have met annually ever since.

"The United States 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," the resolution reads, citing the $126 billion a year cost of U.S. wars and the deaths of more than 6,000 troops.

Mayor Joanne Twomey of Biddeford, Maine spoke out about the current recession last April when her city council was forced to drastically reduce spending on K-12 education. At a rally at the State House in Augusta, Maine Public Radio reported: "As mayor of the city of Biddeford – we are cutting $1.6 million in our education budget, and last week I had had it – I'm starting to say it from the podium," said Twomey. "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."

Kitty Piercy, Mayor of Eugene, Oregon, took the lead by introducing Resolution 59 stating: “Mayors call on our country to begin the journey of turning war dollars back into peace dollars, of bringing our loved ones home and of focusing our national resources on building security and prosperity here at home. Our children and families long for and call for a real investment in the future of America. It is past due.”

Piercy was joined in supporting the measure by mayors from Worcester, Hartford, Baltimore, and a score of other cities. States represented on the endorsement list included Virginia, Florida, Ohio, New York, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Wisconsin. The resolution flew through the Metro Economies Committee on the opening day of the mayors' conference, and the news was picked up by media outlets all over the world. On Sunday, June 19, Mayor Villaraigosa spoke in favor of the resolution on television current affairs program Meet The Press – and the rest is history.

As for who will enforce the non-binding resolution, that is up to the people. Grassroots pressure to end funding for wars eventually produced an end to U.S. military presence in Vietnam, presaged by the last time the mayors considered a war dollars home resolution in 1971. Mayors may very well be closer to the will of the people than are senators or presidents. The framers of our Constitution seemed to recognize this when they put the power of the purse in the hands of the branch of government supposed to be closest to the people, the House of Representatives.

Immense profits by weapons manufacturers – and the jobs that depend upon war funding – are compelling reasons for wars with vague goals and shifting targets to continue indefinitely. Corporations spend millions lobbying Congress while contriving to pay no income taxes. Many citizens are questioning who the federal government really represents.

President Obama said while campaigning that he was not against all wars, just stupid wars. Bankrupting the country to maintain 800+ military bases abroad, and drop bombs costing $1 million apiece – the equivalent of 25 teachers' annual salaries – could be the definition of stupid in the 21st Century. Fellow Democrat Rep. John Garamedi of California warned this week, “If the president doesn’t move…he will face a revolution in Congress…It’s coming to that.”

If the President has forgotten that Afghanistan is called “the graveyard of empires,” the people have not. Their mayors now join the chorus calling on the federal government to end endless wars, and bring the war dollars home.