Sunday, August 26, 2012

Stop Recruiting Our Children For War Protest At Air Show

Whether the result of love for the late counter-recruiting champion Tom Sturtevant,

or a desire to stand next to the awesome new banner created by Natasha Mayers and Nora Tryon, or just plain good organizing by Vets for Peace's Nicole Moreau, a protest of the Air Force Thunderbirds air show drew a good-sized crowd of protesters yesterday.

Or maybe it was the chance to wear one of the great drone hats created by Bowdoin College activist Phui Yi Kong that brought so many of us together yesterday, about 75 in all.

Ironically, the air show itself was way down in attendance. Local police estimated the crowd at about 25% of past years. There were no cars lined up to get through the gate at all, whereas usually they stretch for a half mile or so along the road we walked from the Bowdoin campus toward Cook's Corner and the airfield main gate.

T.V. news gave some good coverage to the protests, especially Channel 13 WGME out of Portland
which gave me a chance to say on camera what I object to about military air shows.

Of course local news also gushed about the effect displays of military might have on 11 year-old boys, the empire's future soldiers.
Tarak Kauf and Ellen Davidson of VFP's Veterans Peace Team speaking as Bowdoin's past president Joshua Chamberlain looks on in uniform. More photos here.
Will our sons ever learn to care that the U.S. military is the biggest polluter on Earth? Will they ever even know the facts as the planet's temperature spikes and human beings scramble to survive?

Will our sons and daughters ever see the faces of the children who are victims of U.S. military airplanes and the bombs they carry? Will they ever see the children's mothers cry?

CODEPINK members carried messages including Bring Our War $ Home, Ground the Drones, and the classic Julia Ward Howe inspired message from the origins of Mother's Day as a time to come together and oppose militarism:
Inside action is planned at the air show today. News at 11...

More drone resistance is planned for noon on Monday, October 8 when CODEPINK will sponsor a Die-in at Obama campaign HQ, 533 Forest Ave., Portland, Maine.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Real News From Afghanistan, For Those With Ears To Hear It

Girls salvage spilled aid flour in Kabul last winter. Source: Andrea Bruce, NYT
Kathy Kelly came to Portland Maine and gave a talk August 20. She conveyed real news, anecdotal reporting from recent visits to Kabul where she and other members of Voices for Creative Nonviolence work with the Afghan Peace Volunteers.
Source: Andrea Bruce, NYT
Since we heard Kathy speak, my husband and I agree; we can't stop picturing a refugee camp in a cold climate, one with 10,000 people freezing in winter, and starving the year round, many of them ill. 
Source: Andrea Bruce, NYT
Most of these internally displaced people used to be agriculturalists but were driven off their land by by war or, in some cases, by drought because former irrigation systems were ruined by war. So, war. Many are dependent on international aid for their calories.

Fun times in the mess hall at Bagram Air Base. Source:
Across the street we picture the gigantic military base/embassy under construction; when completed, it will be even bigger than the behemoth base we indebted taxpayers built in Baghdad. It is a fortress with gates controlled by heavily armed men who allow only designated people and vehicles to enter. A steady stream of trucks passes through the gates carrying fuel, water, food, and just about everything else people would need to do the work of invading another country. Kathy says when she flies into Kabul her plane is full of private contractors, beefy ex-military men going to work for $120k a year, $80k of it tax exempt.
Source: "US contractors face murder charges" Al-Jazeera
All of this adds up to $2 billion per week. Kathy pays no taxes to the I.R.S. and hasn't for years.

In the camp across from Bagram, children starve to death. Their mothers tell Kathy they feel like they are going insane because of the constant worry that they can't feed their families. Female life expectancy has declined to 42 years since NATO came to town and stayed on.
Source: "Children killed by drone strikes"
A family invited Kathy to witness the injuries of their young daughter, lifting off the covers to show her damaged body, explained with one sinister word: "Drone." Kathy asked people, where do the drones comes from? "Nevada."

Now Kathy tells Afghan women that she knows, seamstresses in Kabul, that people in the U.S. think that NATO presence has improved women's rights. At this they have a hearty laugh. Their view is that Karzai's regime, backed by the military might of the U.S., has been able to get restrictive laws passed that even the Taleban was not able to push through. Laws making a woman subject to her husband pander to conservative elements whose support is needed to keep Karzai and cronies propped up.
Kathy told us there is only one road in and out of the country at the eastern end of Afghanistan when Pakistan shuts down border crossings over incursions by Afghan troops hunting militants in Pakistan's territory. Or drone strikes, of which there are about two a week these days under Obomber. This one road's decrepit tunnel through the mountain allows 12 hours of traffic eastbound, followed by 12 hours westbound. It can take up to 17 days for an farmer to get a truckload of produce from field to market. Sometimes the cargo molds or rots before the truck gets through.

Kathy theorizes that if people in the U.S. can believe that U.S. wars are humanitarian wars, then they will go along without resisting.

Under the influence of Fox News, her own mother insisted that people in Iraq ought to be grateful to Americans for liberating them from Saddam Hussein, whom they could have gotten rid of on their own, but didn't. Kathy had been many times to Baghdad, bringing back the truth of life choked by sanctions, bombarded by Shock and Awe. But her mother insisted, "They should thank us."

I suppose Kathy's explanation is as good as any for why 2/3 of us are against the war in Afghanistan, but very few of us raise our voices to protest -- I was going to say the U.S.'s longest war but Kathy says it's wrong to call it that. The first Gulf War + 13 years of sanctions + a "withdrawal" that left tens of thousands of troops and contractors behind in Iraq is really the longest.

War is not even an issue this election season. It's the economy, stupid. And by the way,

Kathy is a faith-based activist who cries out against the war on the poor everywhere, from the prison-industrial system of this country, to the oppression of Palestinians, to the starving, freezing and mangling of children in the way of our access to the oil and gas reserves of the Caspian Sea.
Source: "Who runs the Madhouse?" by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts
Her theory about our citizens' confusion and indifference reminds me of the phrase attributed to Jesus of Nazareth before giving instruction to groups: "For those who have ears to hear..."
Source: "Pump down the volume? Re people who watch movies in restaurants, cafes"

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Military Suicide Epidemic: 16 Veterans, Every Day

This morning I am looking at a disturbing effort by military wives to write words on their bare skin and then share photographs of themselves in order to remove the stigma of seeking help for PTSD. I saw it on a creepy website called iVillage that has a lot of Michelle Obama in your face -- as in, you cannot get her pop-up ad to stop obscuring the bottom of the page you are trying to view.

Another example of the creepiness: if you click on the photo of the bare backed woman hoping to see more ("Related Photos") it insists on taking you to a photo essay called "Hottest Military Dads." :-p

But Battling Bare is attempting to address a real problem that affects us all, not just veterans, and not just veterans' loved ones. Their facebook page led me to this poster, which I shared:

Also to Rachel Maddow's story on a Veterans Administration building in danger of collapsing from the weight of a backlog of 37,000 file folders pertaining to unprocessed claims by about a million veterans. Claims that have been waiting for months or even years to be addressed.

I very seldom share, or even view, programs that contain ads for corporate sponsors (and these on MSNBC are truly odious -- Bank of America's credit card, BP on how great the Gulf is now) but I will make an exception in this case because the story is so important:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
Remember, a soldier who dies by suicide is a soldier whose family will no longer be receiving payments from the Pentagon. Unless the family sues alleging that the government failed to respond to legitimate claims for care that was never received. Good luck with that.

A woman stopped Sunday at our ongoing vigil on the bridge in Skowhegan, Maine. Her partner had hollered out the window as he drove by, wanting to know who were we: independent? I nodded yes and his face brightened. Not for Obama? Nope. Romney either? No again.

The woman told us she was newly a grandmother. Her two week-old grandson's daddy had been deployed four times to Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Army had plans to send him back for the 5th deployment. "He doesn't want to go," she told me. "He used to be enthusiastic and he loved his country. But he doesn't believe in these wars anymore."

I'll end with an excellent Democracy Now! segment on the epidemic of soldier suicides -- more die by their own hand than are killed in combat, and that is the way of death for 16 veterans PER DAY. From suicide prevention educator Kevin Hines: "...sometimes you go to a base that has one psychiatrist per 5,000 to 10,000 servicemen and women."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Galloping Militarism, And What To Do About It: Kathy Kelly in #Maine

Anyone paying attention is likely to feel discouraged by evidence of galloping militarism. Whether it's prime time t.v. shows glorifying war, or the media circus whipping up sentiment against the next designated enemy, it comes at a time when social programs are being cut left and right as if this were an economic necessity. It is not, nor is hatred between humans of different cultures. What to do?

One thing you could do is hear international peace worker Kathy Kelly, in Maine for a series this week that starts in Portland on Monday, August 20 at the First Parish UU Church on Congress St., 6:30pm, and then travels to Bangor (Aug 21), Brunswick (Aug 22), Rockland (Aug 23), and Belfast (Aug 24).
Kelly is fresh from a visit to the Afghan Peace Volunteers, a groups she lives and works with in Kabul at regular intervals along with other members of the group she co-coordinates, Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She responds to U.S. militarism not only by writing, publishing, and meeting with other activists, but by traveling to be in solidarity with people threatened by the rampaging beast that is our foreign policy in the 21st century.

I became aware of this group originally not through Kelly's work but from an activist here in Maine who shared the blog Our Journey to Smile. A group of students from the Bamiyan area were living in Kabul mentored by a Malaysian medical doctor known as Hakim, and he was helping them find ways to get their stories out to an international audience. Their heartfelt desire to live in peace has now been expressed in videos, blog posts, and a series of 24+ hour conference calls with supporters around the globe. From the blog:
Their hope for ‘2 Million Friends’ is simple, that in place of the 2 million Afghan victims of war over the past 4 decades, they wish to find 2 million friends, as expressed in the video clip ‘Be One of 2 Million Friends’.  And so as not to lose any more human lives, they will be wishing for a multilateral ceasefire to end the war in Afghanistan.
"The Sky As It Falls," Kelly's article about their struggles and the community they have built, offers a peek into their world. Fear, laughter, poverty, volleyball, and the will to survive are all represented. It's uplifting to find that people bearing much heavier burdens than my own keep on keeping on, and I'm energized by their example.
Tom Sturtevant (center) at a Bring Our War $$ Home event in 2011.
Another thing sure to lift my spirits in the coming week: a protest at the Air Force Thunderbirds air show in Brunswick, where I once lived as student myself. Our state's Veterans For Peace chapters have organized a protest for Saturday morning, August 25 in memory of the late Tom Sturtevant, a veteran of Korea who worked tirelessly for decades in Maine to protect young people from the predations of military recruitment. CODEPINK Maine is proud to co-sponsor this event.

Two dedicated activists from the Union of Maine Visual Artists, Natasha Mayers and Nora Tryon, have produced this banner in which innocent children at play are transformed by drones and other high tech military aircraft into dead bodies. I'll be proud to stand with them to show children passing through the gate in the back seat of mom and dad's car that there are alternatives to militarism. Despite what your television and waves of proto-fascist advertising insist on telling you from the moment you are born into this troubled nation, war is not a family value.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bring Our War $$ Home Message To Break Through Apathy Over U.S. Wars

I spent a pleasant afternoon yesterday in an old barn helping to make t-shirts for the Bring Our War $$ Home campaign. Steve Burke swiftly screen printed about 135 organic cotton shirts in all sizes which will be shared with the public at Maine's big annual Common Ground Fair in late September. We'll ask for a donation of $5 for the shirts, which would just about pay for our material costs. All the labor has been freely donated -- including artist Nora Tryon's design -- submitted as part of the campaign's ongoing collaboration with the Union of Maine Visual Artists via Draw-A-Thons and Print-A-Thons.
Steve and Bruce Gagnon helping to make BOW$H t-shirts.
We've produced several t-shirt designs in the past, but "Babe in Arms" has been super popular as a poster, and as a t-shirt image seems to be the one that pops best in photos.

I'm shipping off a few at the request of women and men who'll be at the Republican National Convention in Tampa next week, and hope to see them on tv news coverage if there is any of the "free speech zone" located far away from the convention venue. (Such is what passes for rights guaranteed to citizens under the 1st amendment to our Constitution.)

It's a good image to pair with CODEPINK's campaign to "Bring our vaginas to the RNC" which responds to GOP fear mongering about abridging women's reproductive rights. Young women will never stand for this, and a new generation embodied by the Russian punk band Pussy Riot will be formidable opponents for the likes of men who want to control vaginas, but try to silence female lawmakers who speak the word.
Sign reads: VAGINA Can't say it? Don't legislate it!!
Bring Our War $$ Home is a campaign based on the notion that one can hardly get fellow citizens to pay attention to the fact that the U.S. is still embroiled in its longest war ever, that soldier deaths in Afghanistan were higher in July, with about one per day, that recruiting aimed at children roars on, and that many fear war on Iran is next. Since all those things are far less interesting than, say, the Olympics (viewers who watched daily reported gaining an average of 4.2 pounds while doing so), our campaign uses a pocketbook-aligned message to point out that cuts to any social programs could be avoided by re-directing even a fraction of the Pentagon's budget.

As hard working people continue to falter economically -- losing their homes to foreclosure, their jobs to outsourcing, and their prospects for solvency to a lifetime of crippling student debt -- will they look up from the television and notice where all the money is flowing?
The President asked for a budget next year with a whopping 57% for the military. How is it that anti-war Democrats can continue to support his losing policies? Why do voters continue to send people to Congress who enable the destruction of our health and prosperity as a nation? (Interview here with Bruce Gagnon with his views on the Pentagon's death grip on our government and the globe.)

Seven out of 10 people in the U.S. surveyed said they no longer support the war in Afghanistan. But who cares what they think?

And yes, in case you were wondering, CODEPINK women and allies will also be in Charlotte to protest at the Democratic National Convention over Labor Day week. So Wall Street South will see our t-shirts, too.
Source: Occupy the NH Primary

Friday, August 17, 2012

"Big Money Talks, So Shut Up And Go Watch TV"

by Elizabeth Barger, CODEPINK Local Coordinator in Tennessee & editor of The Farm Free Press

Banner created by CODEPINK interns Sam, Tamara and Katie for the Republican and Democratic conventions.

Protest at NBC against Stars Earn Stripes
Protest outside NBC headquarters in New York of the new "reality" show Stars Earn Stripes which glorifies militarism and is no doubt intended as a recruiting tool aimed at young people trying to enter a dismal job market.

Bus advertisements that appeared in San Francisco this week, drawing a huge public outcry against hate speech. (Personal note: Seldom have I been so proud to identify as a savage. Sauvage from the French, means uncivilized. As Dr. Seuss so eloquently put it, "I stand with the wild.")
See if you can identify the civilized men in this photo.
Want to communicate with NBC? Click here to sign a letter of protest, and here to comment on their facebook page.

Want to communicate with San Francisco about their horrific bus ads? Click here to sign a petition which reads, in part:
The MUNI ads use language that is hate speech. By framing it as civilized man vs savage man, the ads draw upon racism and fear. This hate speech will incite hatred and violence, and it should not be on our buses.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Crosby, Stills and Nash support Brad Manning w Codepink KC

Guest post by my sister in pink Priti, a CODEPINK coordinator in Kansas City. Thank you!

We worked the Bradley Manning table at the Wichita, Kansas, Crosby, Stills and Nash concert tour, and were half-expecting a lame geezer-fest, but these guys have not lost any of their energy or edge (or even voice, which really surprised us). It was one of the best shows we've seen or heard in quite a while.

This was before the doors opened. The staff there were great -- they gave us everything we needed. But toward the end of the concert, a security person told me (and she actually apologized for it!) that cameras weren't allowed -- so these photos are contraband! (They'd searched all attendees, but we had entered
an hour before the main doors were opened, through a backstage door, and just looked around for someone to show us where to go.) As we anticipated, this was a crowd very receptive to our message, although there were a few calls to "Fry his ass!"

Once the lights went down, we had great seats.

Just after they played Graham's song "Almost Gone", a tribute to Manning, they turned the lights on the audience, and I responded (those are the VIP boxes just in front of us -- and they clapped!):  

After that, at the break, there was a RUSH (as you see) to sign the petition:

The lads.
I think this was "Find the Cost of Freedom."
They started out with "Carry On" and "Long Time Gone" and finished -- pre-encore -- with "Almost Cut My Hair" and "Wooden Ships", and those were the twin peaks of the night. Mid-concert, I predicted that there would be two songs in the encore, and for the first time in my life I got them right, in order. Any guesses?* 

We collected 71 signatures by the end of the night.


* Hint: the initials are SJBE and TYC. - Lisa

Monday, August 13, 2012

Students Get It. #HereUsNow Statement @Ohio Obama HQ

In Ohio students are on the march (livestream link) chanting “When education is under attack, what do we do? Stand UP fight BACK!” at the president's campaign headquarters in big swing state Ohio. Right cozy up next to Illinois, as in Chicago, as in big buck$ available to help with staffing the white house.

#HereUsNow's statement is a comprehensive embrace of problems related to the rapidly retreating dream of higher education accessible to everyone. Not just rich people's kids.

Environmental risks + economic exploitation + militarization on behalf of the 1% + equality for ALL = Included. Nice.
“You can preach economic growth all day but there are no jobs on a dying planet." Tabitha Skervin, Michigan State University
Bill McKibben could take a leaf from their journal. His "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math" in Rolling Stone earlier this hot, hot summer was a great focus on global warming/carbon's defining numbers, and on identifying an enemy for the purposes of movement building. It's the petroleum companies (not the banks who bankroll them, bet on them, and manipulate their share value, or the government officials that allow it.)

McKibben's reductionist approach makes for clear communication, but it seems to ignore a couple of elephants in the room: how petroleum companies use military spending to keep demand for their product high while scrambling after more of it, and of how much that adds to CO2, as well as how that affects our governance abilities here in the self-styled experiment in democracy.

When I'm working against war and militarization, I feel like I'm resisting the bulldozing of olive trees in occupied Palestine, and D.U. contamination all over Eurasia, and the gutting of education and other social programs to pay for continuing to degrade our natural environment, planet Earth. (And don't even get me started on the takeover of what paltry school funding there is by more and more corporate recipients under the No Child Left Behind Act, which Obama has continued to renew. And whether that generation will receive its notions from the market of free thought, or the market of selling to children.)

It's all connected. Thank the goddess for bright students interested in connecting the dots, and standing up and fighting back on behalf of humanity.
Source: Pictures of Afghanistan, photo by Teddy Wade

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Blair Witch Trial: Occupy Bangor Protester In Court Aug 21

A hearing on some internationally infamous disorderly conduct takes place Tuesday, August 21 at 1 p.m. in Maine District Court, 18 Colby Street, Waterville. 
Happiest mug shot: Lawrence Reichard after his arrest (Source: Bangor Daily News)
Lawrence Reichard was charged following his act of civil disobedience disrupting a speech by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair at a Colby College graduation ceremony on May 20.

Reichard was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for yelling “liar” and “warmonger” at Blair. A common occurrence in the UK, it was the first such protest in the U.S. to receive widespread coverage internationally.

It was a bad week for Tony Blair -- just a few days later he was shouted at by a protester who entered from behind the judge's seat at a court hearing in London.
Blair was reportedly invited to be the keynote speaker by Colby College board of trustees chair Robert Diamond Jr., formerly CEO of Barclays Bank. Diamond has now stepped down from both posts under investigation for banking fraud. Barclays was ordered by regulators to pay fines in both the U.S. and UK for rigging LIBOR, the world's benchmark interest rate.
Source: photo by David Leaming "Choose A Cause" Waterville Morning Sentinel 5/21/12
Reichard was with a group of protesters who greeted Blair at Colby College with signs. During Blair's introduction some of us shouted that Blair is a war criminal and should be arrested for lying us into war on Iraq, and were asked to leave. 
Source: "Tony Blair At Colby College: 'Are We An Empire That's Fading?'" by Hunter Stuart, Huffington Post
Reichard and another silent protester, Jody Spear (Colby '63), whose sign criticized globalization, remained.

When Blair began speaking, Reichard continued to shout until he was led away by police.

At his hearing for disorderly conduct in Maine District Court, Reichard will read a statement, copies of which will be made available. Reichard, a Bangor resident, is active with the Occupy Wall St. movement.

For further information contact Lawrence Reichard, (207) 907-2086, (home) (415) 794-2955 (cell) or by email:

Friday, August 10, 2012

Read My Lips: No New Roads in #Maine

Source: Bangor Daily News "Renewed interest in east-west highway reaches State House"
I live in the hollow middle of Maine, according to the Cianbro Construction CEO who wants to construct a private 2000 foot wide “corridor” road through it. My family has lived in the hollow middle for generations, clinging to the shores of either the Kennebec or Carrabassett rivers, but I traveled all the way down to southern Maine to attend a discussion with transportation experts in Biddeford this week including consultants, engineers, plus my hollow middle former state senator Peter Mills, now head of the Maine Turnpike Authority.

I arrived late for what was billed as a centrist discussion of all matters pertaining to transportation in our state, but no one had yet talked about “the elephant in the room” as investigative journalism Lance Tapley of the Portland Phoenix termed it when he was finally able to raise the issue about an hour into a two hour meeting.

OneTable, free and open to the public, is put on by OneMaine, a group affiliated with Elliot Cutler, the man who brought us Governor LePage. Cutler swooped in out of nowhere with a resume full of Chinese venture capital and flooded the market, especially the internet, with advertising, claiming he was a centrist, and independent like Maine. As a result of splitting the liberal vote, our now infamous buffoon governor claimed victory with 39% of the votes. I did not spot Elliot Cutler in the crowd, along with not spotting David Bernhardt, Commissioner of Maine Department of Transportation, who was supposed to be on the panel but canceled.

Once the topic that most interested the audience was raised, precious little was said about it. Panelists feigned ignorance of the shocking fact that the plan for the E/W Corridor specified a 2000 foot right of way. (The current Maine Turnpike has 300 ft at its widest.) They expressed finding this “confusing.” Panelists also said it was too soon to talk about the project, even though $300,000 of taxpayer money was allocated to a feasibility study for what is intended as a private, limited access road connecting Canada to Canada across the – yup, hollow middle.
Source: Kenny Cole, Maine Draw-A-Thon blog
Dennis Damon, a retired legislator, said disingenuously that “the state” shouldn't build any new roads until it has a plan for maintaining what's already in place but crumbling. I think Damon was playing word games because the E/W, of course, would be a private road, not built by the state. He did give me the idea for a good resistance slogan though: NO NEW ROADS. So simple, even a first grader in the hollow middle wouldn't feel confused.

One panelist who wasn't afraid to support the E/W Corridor, Maria Fuentes, said the spinoff (whatever that is) of the highway would “connect Washington County to the rest of the world.” I guess the county hasn't even made it to hollow middle status; like so much of rural Maine, it is still nowhereville.

Ms. Fuentes seemed to be on a first name basis with Cianbro's CEO, and assured us that she has heard him say he doesn't want to build the road unless he can do it right. Also that the $300k seed money made all the sense in the world, because as long as the road gets approved, the investors will pay the state back.
Extracting resources is the most likely raison d'etre for the corridor, which also contains provisions for mining rights. Tar sands from Canada, water from the Appalachian aquifer, lumber from the great north woods – okay, and maybe some potatoes from the county.

Luckily there were some knowledgeable folks in the audience, in particular Chris Buchanan of Defending Water For Life, who helps ask the right questions of elected and un-elected officials involved in the “private-public partnership” pushing for the Corridor to be built. Video below of what she had to say about that prospect, plus plans to supposedly avoid conservation land (“just not possible”), and the feasibility of protecting wildlife by building bridges for them across the 2000 feet of hollowness.

Panelists (l to r): Moderator Sarah Skillin Woodard, One Maine; Peter Mills, Director of Maine State Turnpike Authority; Maria Fuentes, Maine Better Transportation Association; Dennis Damon, former Senate Chair of the Maine Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Transportation; Matt Jacobson, Oxford Networks; Steve Workman,Workman Consulting; and Kristina Egan, Transportation for Massachusetts.

For more information about Cianbro's East/West Corridor you can visit