Wednesday, June 26, 2013

US Mayors Call For Nukes Disarmed, War Dollars Home

The US Conference of Mayors holds an annual meeting to guide federal policy decisions that affect people living in the nation's cities. Mayors know firsthand the effects of sequestration and other budget cuts to essential services and programs that result from obscenely high levels of military spending. If you count all the nuclear programs funded under the Dept. of Energy rather than through the Pentagon, the share of federal discretionary spending on military is even higher than 57%.
If only Congress and the Obama administration listened to constituents instead of campaign contributors. 
Proud to see Michael Brennan, mayor of Maine's largest city, among the co-sponsors! Here is the text of the great Mayors for Peace resolution that was unanimously adopted at the conference (PDF). 
WHEREAS, in April 2009, President Barack Obama declared in Prague, “as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it. So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” and

WHEREAS, in November 2012, the United Nations General Assembly established a working group open to all member states “to develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons,” and scheduled for September 26, 2013, the first ever summit-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly devoted to nuclear disarmament; and
WHEREAS, adherence to the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons commits each State Party “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament”; and the U.S. Conference of Mayors has regularly adopted resolutions since 2004 calling for the commencement of comprehensive nuclear disarmament negotiations, as put forth by the UN Secretary General in his “Five Point Proposal,” to be concluded and implemented by 2020, as proposed by Mayors for Peace; and
WHEREAS, an historic conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, hosted in Oslo in March 2013 by the government of Norway and attended by representatives of 127 states, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and civil society, including Mayors for Peace, highlighted three key points relevant to mayors as first responders:
“It is unlikely that any state or international body could address the immediate humanitarian emergency caused by a nuclear weapon detonation in an adequate manner and provide sufficient assistance to those affected.

The historical experience from the use and testing of nuclear weapons has demonstrated their devastating immediate and long-term effects. While political circumstances have changed, the destructive potential of nuclear weapons remains.

The effects of a nuclear weapon detonation, irrespective of cause, will not be constrained by national borders, and will affect states and people in significant ways, regionally as well as globally”; and
WHEREAS, the U.S. Conference of Mayors expresses its deep concern that both the May session of the new UN disarmament working group and the Oslo Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons took place without the participation of the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, including the United States; and WHEREAS, nearly a quarter of a century has passed since the end of the Cold War, yet an estimated 17,300 nuclear weapons, 94% of them in the possession of the United States and Russia, continue to pose an intolerable threat to humanity; and
WHEREAS, the threatened first use of nuclear weapons remains at the heart of U.S. and Russian national security policies, and nuclear tensions in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and on the Korean peninsula remind us that the potential for nuclear war is ever present; and
WHEREAS, the Administration’s FY 2014 budget request of $7.87 billion for Department of Energy Nuclear Weapons Activities represents an increase of nine percent above the 2012 enacted level – in inflation-adjusted dollars, the highest amount ever, and funds increases for nuclear weapon life extension programs that will result in upgrades to missile and bomber-based warheads, construction of a new uranium processing facility, tritium production and plutonium manufacturing and experimentation, and other programs to sustain the existing stockpile; and
WHEREAS, the Department of Defense has requested an additional $12 billion in FY 2014 to maintain and modernize nuclear weapons delivery systems including a new nuclear–capable heavy bomber, development of a replacement Ohio class submarine by 2031, and extension of the service life of the nation’s 450 Minuteman 3 ICBMs or their replacement in coming decades with new nuclear-armed ballistic missiles; and
WHEREAS, the Air Force plans to spend more than $1 billion over the next six years to develop a guided tail kit to increase the accuracy of the B61 nuclear bomb, and the Pentagon plans to spend a total estimated at more than $336 billion on the new F-35 joint strike fighter, a variant of which will be mated with the more accurate guided B61 bomb based at NATO bases in Europe,
significantly increasing the capability of the non-strategic U.S. nuclear force, and making it more difficult for the Russian military to accept reductions of its own inventory of non-strategic nuclear weapons; and
WHEREAS, the Administration’s budget request calls for a 23 percent increase for nuclear weapons research, manufacturing and maintenance over the next five years; and
WHEREAS, nuclear weapons spending is emblematic of Pentagon spending, which has grown by 50% in real dollars in the last 12 years, not including war spending, and nearly all of the “cuts” up for debate are only reductions in the growth rate; and
WHEREAS, in 2012, during a time of continuing domestic financial hardship, the U.S. spent $682 billion on its military, as much as the next 11 top spenders combined, accounting for nearly two-fifths of the world total; and

WHEREAS, our nation’s deep economic crisis can only be addressed by adopting new priorities to create a sustainable economy for the 21st century; and

WHEREAS, as the country was coming out of a long recession, the budget sequester enacted in March is imperiling the economic recovery in cities, with cuts to federal programs such as Community Block Development Grants, Section 8 Housing Vouchers, and Head Start forcing cities, local agencies and non-profits to lay off staff, reduce or eliminate services, delay infrastructure projects and reduce program benefits to low and moderate income families; and

WHEREAS, Mayors for Peace membership has surpassed 5,600 member cities in 156 countries, speaking on behalf of more than one billion citizens, and is approaching 200 U.S. members; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. Conference of Mayors adopted resolutions in 2010, 2011 and 2012 calling for deep cuts in nuclear weapons spending and redirection of those funds to meet the needs of cities, and adopted an additional resolution in 2011, “Calling on Congress to Redirect Military Spending to Domestic Needs”;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on President Obama to reaffirm his determination, expressed in Prague, to achieve the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons by speaking at the High-Level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on Nuclear Disarmament on September 26, 2013 and endorsing the UN Secretary-General’s Five Point Proposal on Nuclear Disarmament; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on the U.S. government to demonstrate good faith by participating in the August session of the UN disarmament working group by helping “to develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons,” and by supporting extension of the working group’s mandate beyond 2013; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on the U.S. government to demonstrate good faith by participating in the follow-on conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons to be hosted by Mexico in early 2014; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on the President and Congress to reduce funding for modernization of nuclear weapons systems, to reduce nuclear weapons spending to the minimum necessary to assure the safety and security of the existing weapons as they await disablement and dismantlement, and redirect those funds to meet the urgent needs of cities; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on the President and Congress to reduce military spending and to reinvest those funds in programs to address the dramatic increase in poverty and inequality in our country; take emergency measures to repair the social safety net and protect Social Security and Medicare; create jobs, retrain displaced workers, including military contractors, rebuild deteriorating physical infrastructure, invest in new technologies for a sustainable energy future, and aid local government to restore and maintain vital public services, reemploying teachers, police, firefighters and other workers; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors expresses its continuing support for and cooperation with Mayors for Peace

Resolution No. 56, Submitted by: The Honorable Donald L. Plusquellic, Mayor of Akron (OH); The Honorable Ed Pawlowski, Mayor of Allentown (PA); The Honorable John Hieftje, Mayor of Ann Arbor (MI); The Honorable Tom Bates, Mayor of Berkeley (CA); The Honorable Matthew T. Ryan, Mayor of Binghamton (NY); The Honorable Henrietta Davis, Mayor of Cambridge (MA); The Honorable Mark Kleinschmidt, Mayor of Chapel Hill (NC); The Honorable Satyendra Singh Huja, Mayor of Charlottesville (VA); The Honorable Franklin T. Cownie, Mayor of Des Moines (IA); The Honorable Michael A. Tautznik, Mayor of Easthampton (MA); The Honorable Kitty Piercy, Mayor of Eugene (OR); The Honorable Ed Malloy, Mayor of Fairfield (IA); The Honorable Joy Cooper, Mayor of Hallandale Beach (FL); The Honorable Alex Morse, Mayor of Holyoke (MA); The Honorable Mark Stodola, Mayor of Little Rock, (AR); The Honorable Paul Soglin, Mayor of Madison (WI); The Honorable John Stefano, Mayor of New Haven (CT); The Honorable David J. Narkewicz, Mayor of Northampton, MA; The Honorable Chris Koos, Mayor of Normal (IL); The Honorable Frank Ortis, Mayor of Pembroke Pines (FL); The Honorable Michael Brennan, Mayor of Portland (ME); The Honorable Gayle McLaughlin, Mayor of Richmond (CA); The Honorable Ardell Brede, Mayor of Rochester (MN); The Honorable Stephen Cassidy, Mayor of San Leandro (CA); The Honorable Helene Schneider, Mayor of Santa Barbara (CA); The Honorable Bruce R Williams, Mayor, Takoma Park (MD); The Honorable Neal King, Mayor of Taos Ski Valley (NM); The Honorable Richard D. Schneider, Mayor of South Pasadena (CA); The Honorable Laurel Lunt Prussing, Mayor of Urbana (IL); The Honorable Geraldine Muoio, Mayor of West Palm Beach (FL).

Source: Homeless Voices for Justice, Preble Street Center, Portland, Maine

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Syria's Suffering Calls For Days Of Action

source: Oxfam blog: From Poverty to Power / Syria
The corporate press is enabling the U.S. Congress and Obama administration in clamoring for airstrikes on Syria to "help" the people there suffering badly under a protracted civil war. The UN estimate of deaths from this war to date: 94,000.
source: The Dish "A Syrian man reacts while standing on the ribble of his house while others look for survivors and bodies in the Tariq al-Bab district of Aleppo February 23, 2013." Pablo Tosco/AFP/Getty Images 

The United National Antiwar Committee, of which I am a member, is calling for national days of action in support of the people of Syria starting June 24 through July 15, 2013. UNAC has just issued this statement:
The White House’s June 13th announcement that it would begin directly supplying arms to the opposition in Syria is a dramatic escalation of the U.S./NATO war against that country.  Thousands of U.S. troops and intelligence personnel are training opposition forces and coordinating operations in Turkey and Jordan.  Israel, the recipient of more than $3 billion annually in U.S. military aid, has carried out heavy bombing raids against Syria. The Pentagon has developed plans for a “no-fly” zone over Syria, threatening a new U.S. air war.
Codepink co-founder Medea Benjamin, just back from a mission of citizen diplomacy to Yemen, reported meeting refugees from Syria during her travels who complained about the lack of condemnation of Syrian government violence from anti-war groups in the U.S. She believes a call for an immediate ceasefire is in order.
The fact that most in the U.S. would not be able to find Syria (or Yemen) on a map is no excuse. I, for one, confess my ongoing confusion about exactly what's happening in Syria, and the difficulty of following the crisis with so many bad sources of "information"  -- as well as reports from credible sources currently vying for my attention about mass uprisings (Turkey! Brazil!) and so many dispiriting ones (NSA surveillance and beyond, and investigative journalist Michael Hastings burned to a crisp).

The U.S. government tells us that Bashar Assad is the bad guy for using chemical weapons on his own people. No proof of who actually used the weapons, though -- and really none needed for the gullible public, routinely accepting of guilt by accusation. But a Syrian acquaintance tweets that, until the U.S. finds a suitable replacement for Assad, he is more useful in power than out.

Further complicating matters: The Golan heights are a key Syrian territory, one that Israel has occupied since 1967, and an important source of water supply to the region. Hezbollah operating from southern Lebanon is a key player -- receiving support from, among others, Iran.

I remembered reading somewhere that when soldiers entered Baghdad after shock and awe, they had maps and plans for Syria among their kit. I searched for that, but what I found was Gen. Wesley Clark claiming:
As I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then SyriaLebanonLibyaIranSomalia, and Sudan.
Source: NPR "Syrian Rebel Leader: We Won't Share U.S. Arms With Extremists" May 4, 2013
What has been clear for a while now is that the U.S. has armed and funded rebels against the Assad regime even though the rebels contain among them Islamic fundamentalists and extremists we are supposedly fighting in the ever-expanding global war on "terror." Although this appears to contradict stated war on "terror" goals, it is consistent with ongoing practices like paying Taleban leaders protection money in Afghanistan to keep supply lines open so U.S./NATO forces can fight...the Taleban. And with funding mujahadeen fighters back in the days of the Soviet war on Afghanistan.

All in all, a perfect strategy for maintaining endless war for profit. If a soldier here and there commits suicide after participating, it's just one more death to add to the millions who already gave their lives so drone manufacturers and the like can live in luxury.

Yemeni writer Ibrahim Mothana in testimony to the U.S. Senate described how well the blunt instrument of air strikes is working to recruit terrorists in his country:
During my visits to Abyan, Shabwa and Radaa, three areas of central and southern Yemen where the US has carried out targeted killings, I was overwhelmed with sadness meeting families of drone victims suffering a miserable combination of personal loss and devastating economic burden. Many of the children of strike victims that I saw were severely malnourished and families who lost their main financial provider had little hope for the future. For many of the youngsters, death seemed an easier burden than life so, with this bleak outlook, they joined the fight against the government. 
Demonstrations outside the U.S. Embassy in London, reported by
I invite you to join me in finding your activist voice (great piece here on shy activism by Frida Berrigan). Get out on the streets and into the airwaves to support the people of Syria, whose right to self-determination will always trump U.S./NATO ambitions in their region.

Source: UN News Centre "A line of Syrian refugee women, some carrying children, cross into Jordan from southern Syria. Photo: UNHCR/N. Daoud"

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Prepping Our Young For Militarization By Using Sports

Source: An example of the camo uniforms turning up on major league baseball teams.
My good friend and Veterans for Peace member Bruce Gagnon wrote a thoughtful blog post recently about the increasing militarization of baseball. As I've watched school and professional sports balloon and consume budgets, air time, and the minds of even girls and women over the course of my lifetime, I've thought about this quite a bit. I was inspired to post this comment:
With all due respect to you, Bruce, and others who have constantly re-examined their beliefs as we made our way through the 20th and now 21st century versions of culture in the US of level and professional sports have always been in the service of nationalism and militaristic chauvinism. 
They teach very young citizens to believe in false dichotomy. They teach them to pick a side, a side to cheer and a side to revile. They teach them to wear uniforms and wave flags. 
In the 20th century, professional sporting events began to be used as a primary platform to deliver the hyper masculine view of the world that says: it's a jungle out there, eat or be eaten, only the strong survive. This messaging came not so much through the athletic contest as through the advertising.
I've been a sports fan myself in younger years, and I still know intelligent, thoughtful peace activists who are rabid fans, and also a lot of not so bright regular USAians who seem to think their fan-ness defines them. You did a good job of explaining what the Orioles mean to you emotionally. I suspect for a lot of people it's not the roots they are yearning for but the adrenaline rush -- even ecstasy -- that accompany passionate involvement with watching their team. Rooting for their team makes them feel good.
This feeling is also what the Hitlers of history have used to gain adherents. 
So far we in the peace movement have failed to use this, at least in the 21st century. Occupy Wall St. and allies did and are using the bliss that comes with coming together -- and that is why tear gas and water cannons are used to destroy their peaceful encampments. 
We are the 99%. Play ball!
Source: NBC news coverage of demonstrations at Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey this week.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

How Broke Do We Have To Be To Cut Military Budget?

by Lisa Savage and Janet Weil

The omnibus military spending bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)  rolled out of the House Armed Services Committee pulling a trailer load of amendments and barreling down an increasingly potholed road. In the same week as news broke of massive school closings in Chicago and Philadelphia for lack of funding, only two members of the committee, California representatives Jackie Speier and John Garamendi, had the presence of mind to vote “no” on $637.5 billion more for drones, nukes, and missile “defense” in FY2014. 

The NDAA will now make its way through a House of Representatives packed with liberals and conservatives who take massive campaign contributions from military contracting firms. Democrats will take their lead from President Obama, who proposed the $1.15 trillion annual budget that includes a whopping 56.5% military share of the discretionary spending pie.
Despite the crisis of sequestration and claims that the U.S. is too broke to adequately fund food stamps, Head Start, or "Meals-on-wheels" for the elderly, the NDAA contains $85.8 billion for the war in Afghanistan plus another $7.7 billion for the Afghan Security Forces. These funding levels are $52.2 billion over what sequestration would supposedly require -- an additional $1 billion a week.

The House Armed Services Committee also passed a "Sense of Congress" endorsement of a continued U.S. military presence in Afghanistan after 2014 as well as ongoing funding for the Afghan Security forces. Thus the U.S. “withdraws” from Afghanistan.

Why does Congress keep voting for military spending when the U.S. is supposedly so broke?

Here’s how it works in one state: Maine. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle applauded the Navy's contract to General Dynamics / Bath Iron Works to build four of nine new destroyer ships that will cost taxpayers $6 billion. Jobs are scarce, and military contracting is ever presented as a viable jobs program. Republican Senator Susan Collins celebrated the destroyer ship contract, too, and also says she wants Maine to host a missile "defense" base because of the jobs it would generate. Meanwhile Maine's Attorney General, Democrat Janet Mills, supports building a drone testing site because drones are “an economic driver.” Military spending is a bi-partisan affair.

It is almost as if they have never seen the landmark study by economists at the University of Massachusetts, “The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending,” demonstrating that investing in any other sector produces more jobs than investing in building weapon systems. Funding education, manufacturing energy efficient home components  or light rail systems – even just giving taxpayers a rebate in cash to spend – generates up to twice as many full-time, full-benefit jobs as building weapons does. It is almost as if members of Congress have stopped listening to the people, who consistently prioritize spending on education and health care, and fixing roads and bridges, over spending on weapons and wars.

In every state in the union the people suffer from high unemployment, budget cuts to essential services, and representatives who keep the pork barrels rolling by voting yes on NDAA each year. As military spending has continued to gobble up more than half the federal spending pie every year of the Obama administration, economic conditions have continued to deteriorate for the majority of people in the U.S.
source: CNN "Report: 1 in 50 children face homelessness"
According to the U.S Census, 13 percent of people in the U.S. now live in poverty. Children fare even worse: 1 in 6 live below the federal poverty line. Not just inner cities but also suburbs now sow extreme income inequality. People of color are suffering disproportionately from food insecurity and foreclosures. Job growth following the financial crisis of 2008 occurred almost entirely in sectors where workers do not make a living wage, and economic migration to the U.S. has slowed. Entire generations are struggling with historically high levels of debt for education. 

How broke do we have to be before Congress really reduces military spending? It's past time to bring our war dollars home and put them to work meeting people's needs. 

Austerity is no basis for true security.

Co-author Janet Weil is a CODEPINKer and retired adult education teacher who lives in California and tweets from @wardollarshome.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

CORRECTION @ChelliePingree hasn't voted on war $ yet

Source: "Jeju Island And A Naval Arms Race In Asia" Kyoungeun Cha, Foreign Policy in Focus

My mistake -- Chellie Pingree is no longer on the House Armed Services Committee which passed NDAA. I apologize for the error in reporting her vote. 

She is now on Appropriations, and her boosterism for military spending remains an issue. From her own website:
Bath Iron Works wins contracts for four destroyers, worth $2.8 billion, with option for fifth ship
Monday, June 03, 2013
Navy Secretary tells Pingree sequestration has resulted in shortfall for tenth ship
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree says the Navy has awarded Bath Iron Works contracts to build four Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers. Altogether, the contracts are worth over $2.8 billion. The contract also includes an option for a fifth ship, which, if exercised, would bring the total value of the contract to over $3.5 billion.
Pingree, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, talked to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus about the contracts this afternoon.
"Although four ships represent a lot of work for BIW, we need to keep fighting to get the remaining funding necessary for one more," Pingree said. "Secretary Mabus was clear to me that these ships are a backbone of the fleet and absolutely what we need to be secure in future conflict."
Pingree also said Mabus blamed sequestration for any uncertainty around the construction of a fifth ship.
"The Secretary was very clear that the money to build a total of ten DDG 51s, including five in Bath, was there. But because of sequestration Congress has left the Navy with a $304 million shortfall for that last ship," Pingree said. "Now it's up to us to find that money and so that fifth ship can be built at BIW."
Pingree voted against the legislation that created the sequestration cuts last year.
"BIW's reputation for quality and efficiency is unmatched and the Navy knows that," Pingree said. "I'm hopeful we can secure the funding for an additional ship to help maintain employment levels at the yard."
BIW is also currently under contract to build three Zumwalt-class destroyers, the first of which is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy late next year or early in 2015.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Truth Leaking Through All Over The Place

source: The Young Turks
Bombshell news of the week that the National "Security"Admistration (NSA) had successfully accessed all the calling and browsing records of all the customers of Verizon, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft, Skype,YouTube, PalTalk and Apple for years -- under a top secret program called PRISM the corporations deny any knowledge of -- surprised some citizens less than others.

If you woke up to realize that you lived under government of, by and for corporations would you really still think that civil liberties for mere people were intact?
I still use all of those corporate services to connect with others concerned about the state of our world, and to share information. It occurred to me years ago that the powers that be allowed me access to these nifty tools for networking and research because those same tools made it so convenient for their surveillance of me.

Since I have nothing to hide and I'm proud of being willing to dissent and to organize resistance, I go along with the plan -- until the day my corporate government shuts down the Internet, and disaffected citizens go to the streets and stay there. (Maybe I should start right now raising carrier pigeons?)

Some of the other truths worthy of notice that leaked into my view this week:

Anonymous responded by leaking a bunch of NSA documents "including seriously important stuff like the US Department of Defense's 'Strategic Vision' for controlling the internet" according to Chris Mills on Gizmodo.

The New York Times published a side by side comparison of the food warning labels and ingredient disclosures of staple comfort food Kraft mac & cheese. According to food watchdog website Food Babe, buyers in the UK see these warnings that buyers in the USA do not:

Warning #1: This Product May Cause Adverse Effects On Activity And Attention In Children (This warning label is required because The US version of Kraft Mac & Cheese has artificial food dyes yellow #5 and yellow #6 which are proven to be linked to hyperactivity in children.) 
Warning #2: GMO Declaration: Made from genetically modified wheat. (May contain GMO) (This warning label is required because the US version of Kraft Mac & Cheese contains GMOs.)

The Environmental "Protection" Agency (EPA) drastically reduced protections to be offered in case of radioactive release events. According to a Reader Supported News article on the EPA's Protective Action Guides (PAG):
The new PAGs eliminate requirements to evacuate people in the face of high projected thyroid, skin, or lifetime whole body doses; recommend dumping radioactive waste in municipal garbage dumps not designed for such waste; propose five options for drinking water, which would dramatically increase the permitted concentrations of radioactivity in drinking water, by as much as 27,000 times, compared to EPA's current Safe Drinking Water Act limits; and suggest markedly relaxing long-term cleanup standards. 

"In essence the government is now saying nuclear power accidents could produce such widespread contamination and produce such high radiation levels that the government should abandon efforts to clean it up and instead force people to live with radiation-induced cancer risks orders of magnitude higher than ever considered acceptable," said Daniel Hirsch, president of Committee to Bridge the Gap.
This news saddened but also failed to surprise me because of 1) the tepid response of the corporate controlled Japanese government in response to the continuously unfolding nuclear pollution disaster at Fukushima (of an earthquake damaged reactor built by mega corporation General Electric) and 2) the non-existent response of the corporate controlled U.S. government to the continuously unfolding nuclear pollution disaster in New Mexico on tribal territory of the Navajo nation. The uncontained effect of years of radioactive groundwater on the nation's -- and the planet's -- wheat supply was ably chronicled this week by Dr. Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese in "America's Secret Fukushima Poisoning the Breadbasket of the World."

Kevin and Margaret are two of the folks I will be training my carrier pigeons to stay in contact with when the Dept. of "Defense" or some other entity shuts down my online access. For now, their news website is on my often-read list:

Friday, June 7, 2013

Budgets Balanced On Backs Of Poor While 1% Profit Some More

Hall of Flags, Maine State House June 5, 2013 Photo Source: Channel 8 WMTW news
When Mainers gathered at their state house to vigil during 11th hour budget meetings, the wonderful banners created by the Maine Union of Visual Artists Art Rapid Response Team (ARRT) were a big hit with press photographers.

My husband and I were on hand to further remind folks that if the federal government wasn't draining off so much income from working people in Maine, the budget crisis could be solved. Since 2001, Mainers have paid more than $3.5 billion in federal taxes for wars. Imagine how $3.5 billion of our income tax dollars could have been better spent!

Bring our war $$ home has not always been a welcome message at actions organized by groups like the Maine People's Alliance who carry water for the Democratic Party. But we are finding more tolerance -- perhaps even a little acceptance -- these days.

Lobbyists swarming around the hall outside the Appropriations Commitee last night included one for my union, the Maine Education Association, which wrote the book on carrying water for the Democrats. Fiesty activist JA KE had her union pride on display

Source: Channel 8 WMTW news
and she confronted the MEA lobbyist demanding to know why there were no educators mobilized for the vigil (well, besides me). Her mom was a teacher and she thought they ought to be there because a) there are a lot of them and b) they are articulate and passionate about meeting people's needs.

John Kosinki's reply, "I'm here, aren't I?" Later she noticed he had removed his name tag. When she confronted him about it, he claimed that the strap from his bag kept catching on it. Uh huh.

As long as groups that purport to represent the people keep defending the false dichotomy of bad Republicans and good Democrats, war spending will roll on while schools are closed and programs that serve clients like elderly people with disabilities are cut.

This photo essay we created three years ago about school closings in Maine is just as relevant today. And military spending has increased every year since we made it.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Might Makes Right vs. Democracy

Source: Tweet June 4, 2013 by  MARJİNAL ÇAPULCU  TURKISH police are erasing their id numbers on their helmets before torture citizens
In a democracy, the police and military are public servants. Their actions are accountable -- to be monitored and reviewed by those who pay their wages. To further this accountability system, they are required to wear identification on their uniforms as they perform public duties.

When state violence is turned against the people, what happens to those systems of accountability?

First, identifying marks are erased so that citizens have no way to identify the individual police or soldiers harming them.

Second, watchdogs, whistleblowers and journalists are especially targeted for repression and brutality.

Third, official lies are broadcast 24/7. One of my favorite tweets from June 2 as Taksim Square was being raided violently by Turkish police:

If millions are uprising but TV channels are broadcasting only Erdoğan, something's are wrong. Seriously wrong.
Fourth, communication channels used by the people are shut down: cell phones, Twitter, Facebook, even the entire Internet. It's a bit of a last resort, because it often backfires as those angered by feeling the heavy hand of repression on their own information feed spill into the streets, swelling the numbers of those protesting.
Source: Tweet on June 4, 2013 by  Melikeall Arınç says that the government can shut the Internet down in a second!
And if, like the Erdogan government, you've already got this kind of mass mobilization rising

Source: Spanish Revolution blog "June 1. The people crossing the Bosphorus at dawn. Photos via"
you're in deep doo-doo. Even before the Confederation of Public Workers' Unions (KESK) calls a two-day solidarity strike citing "state terror implemented against entirely peaceful protests...continuing in a way that threatens civilians' life safety." The translation of today's trending hashtag #EylemVakti is "time for action."

It must be hard for ruling systems posing as democracies to know when to keep holding on to the illusion, maybe by having violent militias that appear to be acting independently do some of the regulating and terrorizing for you, at the risk of not being able to rein them in later. How do they decide when the time has come to stop pretending to be a democracy that fewer people each day can bring themselves to believe in?

From Agence France-Presse:

Erdogan has dismissed the protestors as “vandals” stressing that he had been democratically elected..."for me, democracy comes from the ballot box,” he said.
What's not difficult for repressive governments posing as democracies is knowing that truth must be suppressed as effectively -- and quietly -- as possible.
source: article about the infamous Collateral Murder video which Bradley Manning admits he leaked.
Shout out today to epic leaker Bradley Manning, whose court martial trial enters its second day following 1,100 days of pre-trial detention with barely a whisper of corporate press attention. Press Freedom Foundation has published the first rush transcript made by a crowd-funded court stenographer denied access to the courtroom, and housed in a location with an audio feed that cuts in and out.

Watchdogs like the Center for Constitutional Rights keep pressing for more transparency in Manning's historic trial.

And the lies just keep rolling on...

Monday, June 3, 2013

Bradley Manning, Global Citizen, And The Thirst For Truth

Portland, Maine Jnne 1, 2013
This weekend rallies across the planet marked the beginning of the court martial trial of global citizen-soldier Bradley Manning, who leaked the truth via Wikileaks about a multitude of war crimes and dirty dealings by the U.S. government.

In Maryland outside Ft. Meade where Manning's trial will take place, around two thousand people gathered to hear speakers like retired Army officer Ann Wright who resigned from the State Dept. when the U.S. invaded Iraq. A global citizen, she has just returned from peacefully meeting with women in China and Ireland among other places. Ann said that in every country she found Bradley Manning support groups. Rather than seeing Americans only as warmongers, they also want to see Americans as like Bradley Manning:
whistleblowers, the people that tell the truth...the people that hold the government accountable... (he) has stood for more honesty and justice in our country than the senior leadership of this whole country.
Source: Bradley Manning Support Network -- March in Ft Meade, Maryland June 1, 2013
In Portland, CODEPINK Maine chapters staged political theater in Congress Square Park. An Obama  character jailed multiple Bradley Mannings, and silenced them by taping their mouths shut. Later, the president was placed under citizen's arrest and put in jail for war crimes at Guantanamo, with drones, and against whistleblowers like Manning.

Jon Gaither of the ACLU of Maine provided an overview of the legal implications of Bradley Manning's arrest and treatment to date in violation of the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Kara Oster of Occupy Portland Maine spoke about the value of truth and free speech in a democracy, and how hard it is for us to speak truly in today's society. I read the anti-war statement I had seen Iraq Veterans Against War (IVAW) spokesperson Stephen Funk give in response to the San Francisco Pride Parade director removing Bradley Manning as a Grand Marshall of the SF Pride Parade. Later, my Codepink associate Janet Weil told me that IVAW member Funk was the first Marine to publicly refuse deployment to Iraq.
Activists in Portland, Maine prepare signs for a rally on June 1, 2013 while a livestream broadcast from Istanbul's protests plays in the background.
Street theater in Portland, Maine June 1, 2013
The Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers thanked Bradley Manning and Wikileaks earlier this week for having the courage to tell the truth about U.S. actions in Afghanistan. As reported by Kathy Kelly:
I often hear Afghan individuals and groups express longing for a far more democratic process than is allowed them in a country dominated by warlords, the U.S./NATO militaries, and their commanders.  In the U.S., a lack of crucial information increasingly threatens democratic processes. How can people make informed choices if their leaders deliberately withhold crucial information from them?  Manning’s disclosures have brought desperately needed light to the U.S. and to countries around the world, including struggling countries like Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the Press Freedom Foundation raised funds to pay for a court stenographer "for the people" as the U.S. government declines to release a transcript, and the military judge speaks so rapidly as to defy accurate reporting. (A clandestine audio recording of Manning's only public statement in three years may be found here.) The judge has ruled that twenty-three of the government's witnesses may testify in secret.

The majority of applications for press credentials to attend Bradley Manning's trial have been denied. As reported by Scott Galindez and Mark Ash of Reader Supported News, one of the press organizations being denied access:
According to the Army, 350 reporters applied for credentials to the trial of Bradley Manning. Fewer than 100 received credentials, meaning over 250 were denied. Reader Supported News was one of the publications denied. The Army in its notification of denial said, "The U.S. Army Military District of Washington made every effort to ensure a variety of media were credentialed to provide the public (local, national, international) a continuous news feed of the legal proceedings." However the criteria for approval remains vague at best.