Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful For Truth

Source:, "Cooking the History Books: The Thanksgiving Massacre"
Noam Chomsky calls the U.S. a "heavily indoctrinated" society. So little truth leaks through the corporate infotainment stream that a person could go an entire lifetime without hearing more than a squeak of it. The freedom to just walk away from MSNBC and Hollywood blockbusters and MTV, from Time and "News"week, the New Yorker and the Washington Post, is seldom exercised. 

The internet has brought me so many possible truths that I was not a bit surprised to find out that it was being used to build massive dossiers on each and every one of us using it. As a truth stream, it was far too good to be true. I expect it to end any day now.

But for today, the national holiday built on genocide against the Pequot people, I am thankful for the connection that brings me in contact with others around the planet who seek true information.

Just a smattering from my morning reading:

From the Mainichi Shimbun, "Former PM's envoy was determined to disclose secret Japan-U.S. pacts
A former editor who was involved in publishing a book revealing Japan-U.S. diplomatic secrets over the reversion of Okinawa has criticized the government-sponsored state secrets protection bill (emphasis mine), which cleared the House of Representatives on Nov. 26 and is now under debate in the House of Councillors 
...[Mafumi] Azuma spent the whole night reading the manuscripts, which were compelling and accompanied by letters and memorandums detailing exchanges with then National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger and other negotiating partners. Azuma told Wakaizumi the next day that he was going to publish the book.
What a perfect piece of legislation to accompany rescinding Article 9, which constitutionally forbids Japan to have a military force capable of aggression.

From Vice media, "A Generation of US and UK War Veterans Are Being Silenced"
I was gagged by a military court in 2009. I had spilled no secrets. Rather I’d claimed Afghanistan occupation was an illegitimate, shambolic disaster. The keenest soldiers I know say the same, but I said it on television rather than in the regimental bar. I spent five months in a military jail over a banality. Others have faced similar or worse treatment.
The writer is veteran Joe Glenton.

From the same source, a shout out to Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, one of the biggest truth tellers of our time

Heather Linebaugh...served in the US Air Force in drone intelligence between 2009 and 2012 and was "honourably" discharged....she fled to Canada, a place she felt safe to speak out from. She was good at her job, earning the nickname “Harbinger of Death” from her comrades. Not every assignment went smoothly, though: “One mission in particular, I remember that we were told to keep quiet about, and to this day, I can still not discuss it.” 
Heather says she challenged an officer of more senior rank on the issue. She asked what would happen if people spoke out about “sloppy strikes”. She was taken to her commander and warned about “talking recklessly” and asking “stupid questions”. 
In her unit there was a watchword used to keep people quite: Manning. “If we spoke out about certain missions to the general public, and definitely media, we would 'end up like Bradley Manning'." The effort to instil fear was being ramped up around the time she was leaving the military. "I saw quite a few posters going up with an image of the typical soldier sitting in a jail cell in handcuffs."
Then there's the recent blockbuster report on corporations (our real government, which does not in any way resemble democracy) infiltrating organizations that work for positive social change in order to spy on the participants. 

From Common Dreams, "Corporate Espionage and the Secret War Against Citizen Activism"

According to the study by the Center for Corporate Policy—a project of the Ralph Nader-affiliated Essential Action, today's 'Pinkerton Thugs' are staffed by former law enforcement, CIA, NSA, FBI and military employees, funded by some of the biggest-name corporations in the world, and backed by highly-secretive investigative firms that operate as spy agencies for the private sector. 
Titled Spooky Business, the 53-page study pieces together nearly 20 years of information exposing this hidden wing of the private sector, which its author Gary Ruskin says "is just the tip of the iceberg." While targets run the gamut, from anti-war to workers' rights groups to environmental organizations, they appear to have one thing in common: they are perceived as a threat to the corporate bottom-line.
One last item, this one in the category of super secret treaties your government is negotiating to crash life on this planet via giving corporations control over food and information, among other things. Never heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership? That's no accident. 

From Common Dreams "Monsanto, the TPP, and Global Food Dominance":
Control oil and you control nations,” said US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the 1970s. "Control food and you control the people.”
I could go on like this all day, but I have some potatoes to mash.

So that's why I am thankful today for the internet and Wikileaks, for Edward Snowden, for my fellow citizen journalists, and for Chelsea Manning -- celebrating yet another birthday in jail for telling us the truth about U.S. war crimes.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Homeless Kids, Working Poor Soar As Military Spending Rolls On

Photo source: United Way of Eastern Maine
A few weeks ago I spoke to the Maine Department of Education about new rules going into effect on teacher evaluation. Part of what I said was this:
Measuring learning is a tricky proposition. Most learning occurs over years, is largely invisible, and can at best be partially measured by means of a standardized test. What tests like the SAT best measure is how affluent and educated ones parents are. 
Addressing the growth of poverty, especially children growing up in poverty, would have far more impact on student learning outcomes in Maine than basing teacher evaluations on a test score will ever do.
Since I gave that testimony, new and even more disturbing statistics have emerged on the extreme poverty of homelessness among children. This week the U.S. Department of Education reported that for school year '11‐12 public schools enrolled 1,168,354 homeless students, a 10% increase from the previous school year, and a 24% increase from '09-10. 

Of the homeless children, roughly half failed to meet proficiency standards in reading and math as measured by an annual standardized test.

In my state, where freezing rain is falling on the day before Thanksgiving, we saw 58% growth in student homelessness for  '11-12 as compared with '10-11. Food pantries are tapped out, SNAP benefits have been cut, and the governor vetoed accepting federal funds to expand Medicare for the working poor.

Iraq Veterans Against the War offered this perspective in an email blast about poverty in our day: 
Multi-billion dollar corporations are continually increasing the gap between rich and poor. Their CEOs salaries continue to grow while worker's wages remain stagnant. Poverty is one of the biggest contributors to military recruitment - nearly half of all military recruits come from lower-middle-class to poor households. The conditions created by corporations like Walmart make it nearly impossible for people to find employment options that are more appealing than the military.
So what will the U.S. Congress do when they return from their Thanksgiving holidays? Vote billions more for the corporations who profit from military contracts. The Fiscal Year 2014 National "Defense"Authorization Act (NDAA) has yet to pass as FY14 bears down on the Lockheeds and Booz Allen Hamiltons sucking up around 57% of federal tax revenues.

Defense News reported:
The legislation, when Energy Department funding is factored in, would authorize about $522 billion in base 2014 defense funding. That’s about the same level authorized by a House-passed version of the bill. 
The Senate’s bill calls for $80 billion for overseas contingencies operations; the House-passed level is $85 billion. A conference committee would have to find a compromise war-funding amount.
Meanwhile Pentagon watchdog Bruce Gagnon has been sharing news of the U.S. "pivot" to the Pacific ramping up. Yesterday USA Today reported on buildups of U.S. military bases in Australia, Okinawa, and Guam. The Air Force flew B-52 bombers over air space China claims it needs to control for self-defense. Japanese citizens report their government is under increasing pressure to abandon Article 9 of their constitution, which prohibits anything more than a self-defense force for the former imperial aggressor nation. South Korean citizens report their government has stepped up repression of dissent and jailed many resisting the construction of a deep water port for warships that is destroying fisheries on Jeju Island.

Negotiations have stalled over the right to keep thousands of troops and hundreds of bases in Afghanistan through 2024. Can you name the nations that share a border with Afghanistan?
The people are hurting, but the CEOs and stockholders who profit from war and exploitation of natural resources have never been richer. Poster child Bath Iron Works, subsidiary of General Dynamics -- a defense contractor that has had several highly profitable years in a row -- received a $6.5 million tax rebate from the town of Bath, Maine. There they will continue to cut jobs while building war ships to menace China. 

Secretary of "Defense" Hagel even made a personal visit to BIW this month, giving elected officials like senators Susan Collins and Angus King a chance to grovel for future Navy contracts. The couldn't do it in person, though, "due to Senate consideration of the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization bill" according to Collins' website. It is clear Maine's senators know which side of their bread is buttered.

It is long past time for people to rise up and demand to bring war dollars home to house, feed and educate our children. Before it's too late.

Source: Ha! Tea 'n' Danger blog

Saturday, November 16, 2013

#Drones2013 Conference In DC Will Hear Yemeni Survivors Testify

CODEPINK protest outside the home of Jeh Johnson this week. Johnson is a lawyer who made his reputation as a drone apologist and is now the Obama administration nominee to head the Dept. of Homeland Security.
Can't make it to the drones conference in Washington DC this weekend?

The women-led peace group CODEPINK, the progressive think-tank Institute for Policy Studies, The Nation Magazine, and the National Lawyers Guild's Georgetown Chapter are hosting “Drones Around the Globe: Proliferation and Resistance” at Georgetown Law Center's Hart Auditorium. The conference brings together drone survivors and families of victims from Pakistan and Yemen, human rights advocates, lawyers, authors, social media experts, technology experts, artists and musicians, and grassroots activists for an International Drone Summit.

Saturday, Nov. 17
9am-6:30pm Hart Auditorium, Georgetown University Law Center, 600 New Jersey Ave NW

9 am-10am : CODEPINK welcome (Medea Benjamin and Noor Mir) and address by Dr. Cornel West

10-11am: Legal Challenges to Drone Strikes (law professor Mary Ellen O’Connell, legal expert Marjorie Cohn (moderator), Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Pardiss Kebriaei)

11:05-12:45 pm: Drone Proliferation Across the Globe (German filmmaker Elsa Rassbach, Israeli researcher Dalit Baum, scientist Noel Sharkey, Wade McMullen from R.F. Kennedy Center, UK-NATO expert Chris Cole (also moderator)

12:45 - 1:45: Lunch, concurrent film screening of Wounds of Waziristan, by Pakistani filmmaker Madiha Tahir (starting at 1:10 pm)
1:45 pm-3:30pm View from Yemen (Baraa Shaiban of REPRIEVE, attorney Mohamed Ahmady of Al Karama, Ahmed Arman from Yemeni NGO HOOD, Faisal bin Ali Jaber a relative of drone victims in Yemen, Entesar al Qadhi a prominent female Yemeni politician, moderated by CODEPINK cofounder Medea Benjamin)

3:45 pm - 4:45 pm : The Domestic State of Drones (Amie Stepanovich of Electronic Privacy Information Center, professor Joe Nevins, author David Swanson, artist Essam, moderated by RT anchor Abby Martin)

5:00 - 6:00 pm: Two views of the Drone War: (former military intel analyst Daniel Hale, Afghan educator Fahima Vorgetts, Colonel Mo Davis, Samira Sayed-Rahman of Afghans for Peace, moderated by Colonel Ann Wright)

6:00-6:30 pm: Closing remarks

Sunday, November 17th  
9am-4pm, Georgetown Law Center
Strategy session to look at how to better coordinate the work and to lay the foundation for a Global Drones Network. For representatives of organizations and individuals who want to be actively involved in the work of a Global Drones Network. If you are interested in attending Sunday’s session, please email Noor Mir at We welcome all individuals and organizations to join us in this new initiative.
CODEPINK protesting at confirmation hearings this week, objecting to drone supporter Jeh Johnson who was nominated by Pres. Obama to head the Dept. of Homeland Security.

Monday, November 11, 2013

On Armistice Day I Do Not Thank Veterans For Their "Service"

It is Armistice Day again, 11/11, the ceasefire that ended the imperial war that ushered in the death and destruction of the 20th century. The seeds of violence, industrialized killing, and wars for peace (or to end all wars, or to save the innocents of Belgium, or of your country here____) were sown.
Wikipedia: The Mosul–Haifa oil pipeline was a crude oil pipeline from the oil fields in Kirkuk, located in north Iraq, throughJordan to Haifa (now on the territory of Israel).
The activist Bernarda Shahn once told me that her mother returned home from a war resistance meeting in New York City prior to the outbreak of what would come to be known as World War I. As she hung up her coat her daughter heard her say, with furious tears springing from her eyes, "This whole thing is about nothing more than Mosul Oil."

The more things change, the more they stay the same.
My own grandfather went to the war fresh out of high school. He was a popular, good-looking boy who looked forward to getting right back to Maine to help his family run their ice business. He was injured on the last day before the Armistice, catching shrapnel in his leg and then being gassed as he lay wounded on the field.

It took his family over a year to locate him in a hospital in New York; eventually he returned home, went to college, and married a registered nurse. His leg was saved by fusing the knee so that all his life he was unable to bend it. His lungs and heart were permanently affected too, and he died of heart failure when his only child, my father, was 19.

"Don't believe them when they say the next war is a good war," my father reported his father told him. "There is no such thing."
Source: "The Korean Atrocity: Forgotten US War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity"
Global Research May 18, 2013 by Yves Engler
My own father believed the gung-ho propaganda hyping the "Good War" of his youth -- World War II, which grew directly from the bloody roots of WWI. He believed the recruiters, who told him Korea was a good war, too -- the front line in stopping the march of China and Communism. Because his father begged him to go to college and not enlist, he didn't make it to Seoul until after his father had died and combat had been ended by a ceasefire that perpetuates the war to this day.

My father went to Korea as an occupier and was profoundly affected by the poverty and suffering observable in the wake of a war that had killed more than 4.5 million people.

My dad taught me that wars are a way for the rich to get richer, and the poor to get poorer.

Every year I take the flag off his grave, and that of his father, and that of my brother -- a man who never went to war at all. The cemetery workers who take orders from the VFW don't know who was actually a veteran. I guess they figure that any man between the ages of 18 and death was some kind of a soldier.

Kind of like how the Obama administration considers any adult male living in certain regions of the planet to be a militant whom it is ok to kill with the weaponized drones that will render many veterans obsolete in the 21st century.

Now I teach about how the Holocaust sprang from the evil sown during WWI, and how the Nakba and ongoing brutal occupation of Palestine sprang from the Holocaust, and how rich corporations rake in the profits all along, extracting oil from Mosul or minerals from the Dead Sea. Feasting on the stolen resources of the dead children.

Israeli corporation SodaStream will tout its products in Superbowl commercials aimed at the somnolent conscience of the U.S. consumer. IBM and Ford have never been called to account for how they profited from business dealings with the Nazi regime, and what of it?

Let's just re-name Armistice Day, give everyone a bunch of flags to wave, and sweep all that nasty mess under the carpet. Who's in the playoffs? Boston Strong!
Source: Comic book on the struggle to save Jeju Island from naval base construction. Translation: The shark's teeth spell out "imperialism" while the land mass is labeled "Jeju Island."
Let's look away as the Samsung Corporation and the U.S. Navy entomb a soft coral reef in concrete to make a deep water port for warships on the coast of South Korea to threaten China.
On another border of China, let's lie about how much better life has gotten for women and girls in Afghanistan as NATO troops keep corrupt warlords in power who keep the country safe for contractors.

Natural resources exist to be bought and sold in our capitalist system. And the military exists to keep the boot on the neck of the indigenous resistance.

In the words of a veteran who woke up to reality, Major General Smedley Butler, speaking in 1933:
The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag. 
I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.
Source: Wikipedia "Personifying the United States, Uncle Sam chases a bee. Two years after this cartoon's publication, at the end of the Philippine-American War, Aguinaldo would surrender to the United States."

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Airport "Security" In Our Brave New World

As I was preparing to write this post about creeping "security" measures at an airport near me came news that a suicidal gunman had killed one person and wounded several at the Los Angeles airport (LAX). Reports are the killer specifically asked people if they "were TSA" referring to the unarmed personnel who herd people through the checkpoints at airports since the Transportation Security Administration was created following the events of 9/11.
Passengers wait at Terminal 1. At least 118 flights en route to LAX were canceled or rerouted; 135 departing flights were canceled. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / November 1, 2013)
Do you feel safe yet?

A friend wrote to me yesterday:
I was creeped out by the new security sequence you have to go through when you return to the Portland Airport.  The EXIT sign pointed me to some doors that slid open suddenly and then closed behind me .  I was in a small empty chamber like a prison cell.  
A sign said "Keep moving", so I advanced toward the next closed doors.  An electronic eye again opened the doors and closed them behind me, and I was in a second prison chamber, this one with a suspicious inspector sitting there.  
I  lumbered along, a 69 year old lady with a yellow backpack stuffed with clothes, and passed through, scot free, to the Portland Airport I was used to.  Reagan National Airport had nothing like that for people who'd flown in.  Why Maine? 
Any more thoughts on this?
Yes, Lynne, I have a few thoughts on this. My thoughts are about cameras and iris scans and other biometric pillaging of your former right to privacy. And dignity, really. 

My husband thinks most in the U.S. have given up any notion of a right to privacy rather easily, with not much more than a shrug. But I'm not so sure.

As for why Maine -- Because we're a border state? A coastal state? With a toothless media? Because the small scale of arrivals to Portland's airport is ideal for a trial run of more invasive technology before it rolls out at airports in large urban areas? Because control of our abundant natural resources is in the sights of 1%?
The scene Lynne described reminded me of unmanned checkpoints used in Palestine to impede travel. A friend who traveled in the West Bank told me that if metal hidden beneath layers of clothes set the alarm off, the whole line would be held up while people helped a bewildered elderly person find a hidden coin. No human in charge of the machine, who can decide to let people through. The cameras need no human operator on this end.

So control robots are what your taxes buy now, for use at home and abroad. You're taxed to pay for your own "security." And that of Israel. And Egypt. Et cetera. Technology for machines even more effective at controlling humans is "developing" rapidly. 

Yet a lonely man who was bullied through school and feels bullied by the TSA can arm himself with an assault rifle and bulletproof vest without any oversight at all. How convenient for the burgeoning security state when he snaps and goes on a violent rampage. 

Surveillance is everywhere, yet we who reside in the USA seem to be a little less safe from violence with each passing day.