Sunday, June 29, 2014

People Waking Up, Rising Up, All Over This Planet!

June 28, 2014 Boat Rally at Henoko. Via Masami Mel Kawamura/Okinawa Outreach. Photo: Toyozato Tomoyuki
Okinawa residents and supporters gathered 300 strong to oppose the expansion of yet another U.S. military base entombing paradise in concrete. Why would they oppose expanding a U.S. military base on their shores? People in Okinawa have suffered from the violent occupation of their territory since WWII, with rapes and murders occurring throughout that time. And, the people love their native environs. Here's a link to the full article in the Okinawa Times. 

While some people are born into resistance, others wake up later in life. Check out this amazing testimony from an Israeli American woman on how and why she finally stopped letting Zionist wool be pulled over her eyes:

Thanks to Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss for this interview. Some of its salient points, as quoted in the article that accompanies the video
"[Palestinians] are oppressed terrible. They are tortured. They are imprisoned for no reason. Their land is stolen. What is going on there is a pogrom."
"[American Jews] do such a harm… They don’t understand that they are fooled by the Zionists. There is no connection between Judaism and Zionism. The Zionists just use Jews. Jews are so naive… They don’t know what Israel is. Israel is a monster.” 

Maine activist Regis Tremblay -- whose great film on Jeju Island resistance has met with international acclaim -- posted this news of South Korean resistance to corporate takeover of their ancestral lands.
This has to be one of the most amazing non-violent protests ever. Elderly Korean grandmothers, naked and bare-breasted down to their panties, chained together in a trench covered by a makeshift tarp, along with nuns, are hauled away by hundreds of police. This happened today [June 11] in the town of Miryang, South Korea. The people have been protesting the construction of massive electrical transmission lines and towers through their town. These people, mostly women and nuns give hope to the rest of the world, and silent Americans, that non-violent direct action works and scares the crap out of the corporate state.
I could go on all day with news of brave resistance, but I'll conclude with this one very, very close to home. 

Detroit as a city was gutted when its industries were killed by Clinton's NAFTA giveaway to the wealthy, then declared bankruptcy and had an "emergency manager" appointed by Michigan's governor during the second Obama administration. What could go wrong?

Thousands of families unable to make their payment to the water district are having their water cut off. WTF?? Here's a quote from a resident:
"Our water bill is $250 /month & we owe about $3K this yr. The only thing we using is water for cooking/washing up" -Highland Park resident
Here's what people are organizing to do about it: 

How you can support while the struggle is still a few steps away from your tap or backyard paradise? Help get the word out.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

"The Only Industrial Policy We Have Is A Pentagon Industrial Policy"

Democrats who represent Maine in the House, Chellie Pingree and gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud, were on hand to celebrate the launch of a $4 billion weapon of mass destruction, the first Zumwalt-class destroyer, at Bath Iron Works earlier this year. The hypocrisy of supporting military contracts that drain away funds for food, housing, health care and education for Maine's low income families is never addressed by the Democratic Party, which claims to advocate for social programs and human needs.
A standing room only crowd gathered at the Winter Street Church in the shadow of General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works (BIW) shipyard for a public forum on the problem of military contracting impoverishing the many to enrich the few.

Each time an opportunity arises to cut the budget for building weapons systems, elected officials claim that the looming prospect of jobs lost when contracts dry up ties their hands. Or, as panelist Margaret Craven, state senator representing District 16, put it last night: "The only industrial policy this nation has is the Pentagon's industrial policy." 

Organizers for the public forum see the current era of mandatory cuts to all federal program under sequestration as a time ripe for recapturing the billions wasted on building weapons. The last opportunity, the end of the Cold War era, was heralded at the time as the turning point in industry's reliance on Pentagon spending. 

Check out Democratic Senator George Mitchell and President Bill Clinton at a BIW labor Day Rally back on Sep. 5, 1994

Clinton is thanked for a federal grant predicted to have BIW producing commercial ships again, and Mitchell touted diversification/conversion (using those very terms) applauding the prediction that BIW would soon turn from only “building warships to commercial production.” 

What happened? As Rep. Chellie Pingree explained to me when I challenged her about conversion of BIW some years back, "You get to Congress and they say 'Do you want to put three thousand people out of work your first term in office?'" 

Why am I picking on Democrats? Because they talk the conversion talk, but do not walk the walk. I think their duplicity is more dangerous than the blatant war mongering of Republicans, because of all the liberals who sit home on their hands when a Democrat is in office.

State Sen. Craven made an excellent point last night when she observed "people seem to pick and choose what jobs they act to protect. We in Maine just turned down 3500 jobs in healthcare. If we as a state turned down 3500 jobs at BIW there would be sparks flying and we would never have heard the end of it. If we had turned down even 100 jobs at BIW we would never have heard the end of it.”

(This is a reference to the Republican governor of Maine turning down federal Medicaid funding for several years running.)

She went on to say, "Cuts to military spending have already drawn screeching from members of Congress...That's what we're told to do if we get to Washington – bring home the dollars. Unless there are people working on peace initiatives there are always going to be members of Congress bringing home the military pork barrel dollars instead."

Much was said on the subject of tax incentive programs that benefit BIW and other corporate entities doing business in the state of Maine -- and every other state in the nation. 

Professor Emeritus Orlando Delogu from USM School of Law, spoke up to say that BIW may be the largest beneficiary of Maine's corporate welfare system 
but it is by no means the only beneficiary of this largesse....Fortune 500 to mid- size corporations have learned that they can whipsaw states against each other where they can get the best deal, the largest bite of a state or local tax rebate that they can negotiate...Wal-mart no more needs the dollars they squeezed out of Lewiston than BIW and General Dynamics need the dollars they squeezed out of  the city of Bath. 
The defense industry plays this game very, very well. Here we are continually regaled that if Maine doesn't pony up the latest tax subsidy to BIW the work will go to another state. What is publicized as a free market economy is really a corporate subsidy economy. We (Maine) give $240 million a year in subsidies to entities that don't need the money.

Panelist Mariam Pemberton of the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) a progressive think tank in Washington DC,  observed that "coming up with a plan to diversify Maine's economy could become a key issue" in upcoming gubernatorial election. 

She presented IPS's three point program of action for conversion.

1. Make the arguments for a shift in budget priorities from the Pentagon into the domestic side of the budget. Pemberton identified problems with the current “defense” drawdown:
It's the shallowest drawdown in history (as a comparison, post Cold War cuts reduced the Pentagon's budget by about 1/3) and also it involves no investment in the civilian side of the budget. This is needed so defense contractors and their workers have somewhere to go and something to do...BIW is going to keep making warships as long as the only industrial policy we have is a Pentagon industrial policy.

2) Work with state legislators to create a commission to come up with plan to diversify Maine's economy. Here she observed  "the unions are absolutely key to getting this done." 

3) Educate legislators on availability of federal money for planning on how to diversify economies.

Pemberton noted efforts in Connecticut and Maryland to plan for conversion, and expressed her view that "this is our best shot since the end of the Cold War for coming up with a peace economy." Her article "Demilitarizing the Economy: A Movement Is Underway" provides details of how the IPS three point plan is being implemented in other locations.

Forum organizer Bruce Gagnon of Midcoast Citizens for Sustainable Economies pointed out that the City of Bath -- where he resides -- made an economic study in 2009 that identified that the city's tax base is overly dependent on BIW and failure to diversify the local economy “could place the City's future prosperity at risk."

Pemberton cited the UMass economics study on the number of jobs generated by a $1 billion investment in various forms of economic activity showing that building weapons is the worst choice among many. (Just giving a tax rebate actually generates more jobs.) She went on to explain why military contracting is a bad job generator -- because relative to other sectors of the economy, even other manufacturing sectors, it is capital intensive and most of the jobs generated are relatively high salary jobs.

Panelist Leslie Manning of Bath, a former union rep and organizer, noted that there is a lot of waste in Pentagon contracting. Her observation that there is a national movement to call for a Pentagon audit drew hearty applause from the audience. 

While listening to the panel I did a bit of research on whether or not Maine's two reps have put their money where their mouth is recently to cut defense spending. Here are the results. 

HR 4870 20-Jun-2014 12:31 PM
Making appropriations for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015, and for other purposes. 
Michaud voted yes, Pingree voted no

Both Maine's reps did vote well on some of HR4870's amendments:
Rejected 165-250 Lee (D-CA) amendment to prohibit the use of funds to be used for the purposes of conducting combat operations in Iraq.
Both Michaud & Pingree voted yes

Rejected 182-231 Lee (D-CA) amendment to prohibit use of funds to be obligated or expended pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.
Both Michaud & Pingree voted yes

Rejected 157-260 Lee (D-CA) amendment to prohibit use of funds to be obligated or expended pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military of Force after December 31, 2014.
Both Michaud & Pingree voted yes

Rejected 153-260 Lee (D-CA), to prohibit use of funds for the purpose of conducting combat operations in Afghanistan after December 31, 2014.
Both Michaud & Pingree voted yes

Wonder why Mike Michaud voted "yes" after years of "no" votes and telling activists that U.S. military spending is out of control -- did I mention that he got the Democratic Party nomination to run for governor?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Violent Force Solves Few Problems, Allegedly Creates Need For More Violent Force

This is 19 month old Bounekahm Phonesavahn -- known to his family as "Bou Bou" -- in a medically induced coma. Bou Bou was badly burned when his family was attacked in the night by sheriffs who kicked down the front door looking for drugs. He's recovering from the burns and a hole in his chest, has had surgery, and is still hospitalized but out of intensive care for now. (You can donate to support him here.)

No, the Habersham County, Georgia sheriffs never found any drugs in the raid.

The baby's mother, Alecia Phonesavahn, published her account of events in "A SWAT team blew a hole in my 2 year old son" in Slate:
After the SWAT team broke down the door, they threw a flashbang grenade inside. It landed in my son’s crib. 
Flashbang grenades were created for soldiers to use during battle. When they explode, the noise is so loud and the flash is so bright that anyone close by is temporarily blinded and deafened. It’s been three weeks since the flashbang exploded next to my sleeping baby, and he’s still covered in burns.
She had this to say about the effects on Bou Bou's sibling:
A few nights ago, my 8-year-old woke up in the middle of the night screaming, “No, don’t kill him! You’re hurting my brother! Don’t kill him.” How can I ever make that go away? I used to tell my kids that if they were ever in trouble, they should go to the police for help. Now my kids don’t want to go to sleep at night because they’re afraid the cops will kill them or their family. It’s time to remind the cops that they should be serving and protecting our neighborhoods, not waging war on the people in them.
This observation by Bou Bou's grieving mom reminded me of several news stories I've seen in the past year about the transfer of military weapons to local law enforcement. For example, reporter Paulina Firozi wrote in USA Today "Police forces pick up surplus military supplies":
A growing number of law enforcement agencies are taking advantage of a program that gives them free surplus military equipment left over from U.S. military campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
It also reminded me of the show of violent force used against the various Occupy encampments around the country, and how those were shown to have been coordinated by federal authorities
Ali Kinani died in Blackwater's Nisoor Square massacre. Source: Common Dreams
It also reminded me of the as-yet unpunished killing of children by tax-supported mercenaries in Iraq operating as the corporation Blackwater (since re-named Xi and then further re-named Academi) during the U.S. occupation of that country. Ali Kinani, a 9 year old who was fatally shot in the head in Baghdad in 2007, was the subject of "Blackwater's Youngest Victim" by investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill writing in The Nation.

It is in this context that I receive news that my tax dollars will again be deployed to supply weapons to some of the most violent men around the planet. From USA Today:

President Obama asked Congress Thursday for $500 million to train and arm members of opposition forces in Syria, part of an effort to stem insurgent violence that has spilled over into neighboring Iraq...
"This funding request would build on the administration's longstanding efforts to empower the moderate Syrian opposition, both civilian and armed, and will enable the Department of Defense to increase our support to vetted elements of the armed opposition," said Caitlin Hayden, a spokesperson for the National Security Council.
The administration's budget request includes $1.5 billion for a "Regional Stabilization Initiative" that involves the Syrian opposition as well as neighboring countries Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.
The official pronouncements are an effort to obscure the fact that just a few weeks ago Obama was urging aid to ISIS in Syria against Assad, but ISIS has since crossed the border and used military force to take control of large parts of an Iraq. They are one of the more violent and probably the most weaponized of the many groups currently in revolt against Al-Maliki's brutal (U.S. sponsored) regime. 

Democrats will continue to support their warmongering president and point fingers at Republicans. Both corporate parties are responsible for this sorry mess of wasted resources  and violence that begets more violence in a cycle that seems to grow more vicious with each passing day.

Bou Bou and Ali are small victims of our worship of violent force as the solution for every problem. Civil society is the larger victim of this dead end mindset. Where will the madness end?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Al-Maliki Regime "Out Of Hellfires" So Uncle Sam To The Rescue?

Nancy Lopez Mancias of CODEPINK San Francisco speaking at a march on Saturday, June 21, 2014
Sometimes the rhetoric of my government parroted by the corporate press is both terrifying and idiotic in the same breath.

Here's the ABC "News" headline running at the top of Google's "news" feed on Saturday:
iraq runs out of hellfires.png
Most of my fellow citizens in the heart of the empire read such nonsense without much analysis. They have been told enough times that ISIS = bad terrorists and they are largely unaware that elements in the U.S. government were eager to support ISIS in Syria where they were trying to topple Assad's regime.

Now that ISIS is trying to topple the U.S. backed Al-Maliki regime in Iraq, they are not our guys. The fact that they are only one small -- albeit well-funded and heavily armed -- faction of the popular resistance in Iraq is ignored. So is the fact that by backing Al-Maliki the U.S. is essentially siding with Iran. 'Cause they're supposed to be super bad guys too, remember? Luckily for the warmongers almost no one in the U.S. does remember or ever knew in the first place that by invading Iraq in 2003 we set the stage for Iran to achieve major influence in the Iraqi government that replaced Saddam Hussein.

Widespread ignorance and confusion result when people look for analysis to t.v. shows full of the same talking heads who lied the U.S. into attacking Iraq in 2003. 
2003, Washington DC: Desiree Fairooz confronting Condoleeza Rice, then Secretary of State who was urgin the U.S. to invade Iraq in order to topple Saddam Hussein's regime.

Some of them made a fortune on the Hellfire missile and other munitions used to destroy Iraq's infrastructure, people and towns. Others make a ton of money for pontificating on foreign policy. They appear quite eager to tell the tales that will sell more weapons to either the U.S. or Iraq or both.

As a counterpoint to what war criminals like Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice have to say to the citizenry, I recommend this article by Iraqi American Dr. Dahlia Wafsi offering a concise overview dating back to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. According to Codepink intern Ben who sent around the link:
[Dr. Wafsi] explains how it is the US responsible for sectarianism in Iraq and discusses the evidence that the US funded sectarian death squads in the country, likening Iraq in the 21st century to the '80s Salvador Option (Wikileaks document show this to be the case).  
Most important, she discusses how ISIS is only one small actor in the country; the Islamophobic, orientalist U.S. media has ignored that there is a much larger revolutionary presence, one that opposes ISIS (and calls them "barbarians"): the General Military Council of Iraqi Revolutionaries.
This interview of journalist Dahr Jamail who recently traveled in Iraq and spoke to people there is also worth a read or a listen (it's available as a podcast). Jamail reports:
since late 2012, Sunnis in Anbar province and other parts of Iraq had been protesting every Friday right after Friday prayers because of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki—who the US has backed since his installation many years ago and has sold him now over $25 billion of arms and training and counting—But Sunnis were protesting against him because he was sending the military into Sunni towns, Sunni enclaves and killing people, detaining people and then, once they were detained, torturing them. There was all kinds of rampant reports of detaining women, them being raped while they were in prison. 
And definitely don't miss this bracing interview with scholar and veteran Andrew Bacevich.

Bill Moyers often doesn't ask the right questions, but Bacevich supplies the right answers with all the passion of a voice crying in the wilderness of a nation waging war as if it were a "frivolous" pursuit. (Or just a friendly neighbor helping out a brother who has run out of Hellfires.)

I participated in a couple of informational conference calls last week including a Codepink-organized call with three speakers who offered informed insight. 

Farah Al Mousawi, an Iraqi American, said that it’s a revolution, that Iraqis have been protesting around the country. An opposition movement with clear demands has been building for over a year,  and the Al-Maliki government has been unsuccessful in repressing protests in Anbar protests, including in Fallujah. Al-Maliki accuses revolutionaries of being “extremists" and has marginalized several minorities, arbitrarily imprisoning many. (Note that an Egyptian blogger with contacts in Iraq cited the targeting of women by the Al-Maliki regime, imprisoning and raping them while in prison, as the catalyst for Iraqi non-violent mass resistance starting in February 2012.)

Matt Howard of Iraq Veterans against the war reported that recently 30,000 Iraqi troops put down their weapons in Mosul and observed of U.S. threats,  “You can’t bomb a military into picking weapons back up.” Al-Maliki tactics to put down the Fallujah resistance six months ago included bombing the hospital among other humanitarian targets. His view is that the most appropriate role for the U.S. at this point would be the clean up of toxins such as depleted uranium still festering following the U.S. attacks on Iraq and subsequent occupation.

Inder Comar, the attorney for Iraqi mother Sundus Shaker Saleh who is suing officials of the Bush administration for war crimes, offered his perspective that the unstable situation in Iraq is the result of when a country ignores the rule of law. He noted that we are witnessing a further breakdown of a country after the U.S. used premeditated force with no plan for what to do after invasion. After 11 years of war, what’s left is chaos because this is what war does to society: destroys institutions and culture. He went on to say, "The way to stop this is to have accountability and some kind of justice for what happened in Iraq. The 800-lb gorilla in the room is the initial, illegal invasion by the U.S."

On a call earlier in the week I heard Phyllis Bennis of IPS observe that ISIS was strengthened by fighting in Syria and is terrifically well-funded, mostly by Saudi backers, but constitutes only a tiny percentage of people in Iraq actively working to accomplish the fall of Al-Maliki's regime.

Then, on Sunday, out into the street with Mainers against bombing or otherwise intervening militarily in Iraq. Our action was part of a nationwide outcry -- yet again -- against the U.S. attacking Iraq. If you agree with us, you can sign a petition to Obama here.

REVISED June 25: Apparently 50,000 is the correct number of Iraq army troops who laid down their weapons in Mosul, according to "The New Oil Wars In Iraq," an excellent overview of the central role of oil production in the uprisings against the Al-Maliki regime.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Support The Troops -- Unless They Try To Think For Themselves

I woke to the news that Bowe Bergdahl's parents are receiving death threats, presumably for questioning the imperial expansion project in Afghanistan. Or maybe it's for growing a beard? Anyway, it's not for enduring five years of living hell knowing that the child they lovingly raised was being held and tortured by his Taliban captors.

Here's Bowe's release video as published (untranslated) by The Guardian. I have to say that my own death seems preferable to ever seeing a child of mine in this situation.

I think the real reason Bowe's parents are so threatening to warmongers is that his experience and their analysis of it fly in the face of so much carefully crafted, expensively financed propaganda about how nifty it is to serve in the U.S. military. Yes, bad things can happen to you, but if they do you will (allegedly) BE A HERO to your hometown.

That is, unless they cancel your homecoming celebration because you or your family dared to question your mission.

Which was upholding the Constitution, as seasoned veteran Stan Goff eloquently reminds us:

Here are the stats on YouTube yesterday for this video claiming that not a single person in any of the countries where he was deployed was a threat to the U.S. Constitution.

By my calculations, of the hundreds of thousands of viewers to date, 94% gave this message a thumbs up.

And what could be more threatening to the future of U.S. empire building than that?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

"Muslim" Beards Found All Over The Planet!!

Source: "Bill O'Reilly, Muslim Hunter" by Rafik Tschannen in The Muslim Times
From reporting by Ben Armbruster on ThinkProgress.
O’Reilly stood by his comments on his Fox News program on Wednesday. “I said that Robert Bergdahl looked like a Muslim when he appeared at the White House with President Obama,” he noted. “A, he absolutely looked like a Muslim..."
Maybe it's just because I grew up in the 60's and majored in history, but a procession of beards has paraded through my mind ever since I heard this ludicrous claim about what kind of a beard the dad of POW Bowe Bergdahl sported in the White House Rose Garden. 

Here are just a few of those beards. First came the Eastern Orthodox patriarchs.

Which led to Rasputin.

Thence to the Amish, who are on occasion found guilty
in the forcible cutting of the victims’ hair and beards with 8-inch horse mane-cutting shears, some of the victims...wounded and bloodied...In Amish culture, men’s beard hair and women’s head hair have religious significance.
and Mennonite men I see around in airports sometimes or in Philadelphia.

Their farming ways led me to thinking about The Farm in Tennessee and some of its founders. Here we see Stephen and his much more famous wife Ina May Gaskin, midwife educator par excellence.

Coming out of Northern California like they did, they brought some hippie beard culture.

Thinking about the old Haight Ashbury made me think of musicians, and that naturally led to ZZ Top.

Back to the landers, doomsday preppers and the type of farmers who homeschool their kids often have beards.

And, the Duck Dynasty guys can't be skipped in any comprehensive gallery of beards.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Ok, one last (literary) beard:

Ships, Shoes & Submarines: #Maine Jobs and Our Dependence on Military Production

Midcoast Citizens for Sustainable Economies
Announces a VITAL CONNECTIONS Public Forum
“Ships, Shoes, and Submarines: Maine Jobs
and Our Dependence on Military Production”
Friday June 27th, Winter Street Church in Bath – Free and Open to the Public

BATH – A newly formed citizens’ coalition based in Bath, Midcoast Citizens for Sustainable Economies (MCSE), presents a Vital Connections forum on June 27 for the exchange of information and ideas about the diversification of Maine’s military manufacturing sector.

Experts will review what other states are currently doing to move beyond their dependence on military spending and seed a discussion about the possibilities for Maine. In 2013, the state of Connecticut passed a law creating a statewide planning commission to help the state prepare for conversion from their heavy reliance on military contracts. Additional states are following suit, with Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio and Michigan, among others, working on similar legislation.

As we prepare to have statewide discussions about Maine’s future – and prepare for an important election in November – we invite our fellow Midcoast citizens to enter into a conversation about our spending, our economy and our communities. The expert panel on June 27 includes, so far:

·        Miriam Pemberton, a Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., who writes and speaks on demilitarization issues for the Institute’s Foreign Policy In Focus project.

·       Leslie Manning of Bath, an advocate for economic and social justice and the Quaker representative to the Maine Council of Churches.  A former union representative and organizer, Leslie served as deputy director of the Bureau of Labor Standards at Maine Department of Labor in a previous administration.

·       Sen. Margaret Craven of Androscoggin County and co-chair of the joint legislative committee on Health and Human Services.  Sen. Craven represents an area where there are many BIW employees and, as a former member of the Appropriations committee, understands the state budget process and our reliance on federal dollars for a variety of programs and services.

·       Moderator Rev. Bill Barter is the Executive Director of the Maine Council of Churches and Senior Pastor at St. Ansgar's Lutheran Church in Portland.  Rev. Barter was born in Bath, lives in Brunswick and has friends and relatives employed in defense industries.

Good paying jobs with decent benefits are essential to Maine's economy and communities, and many of our state’s current jobs are with defense contractors here in Maine.  Almost 10% of our state's GDP is dependent on military contracting, producing everything from destroyers to footwear and apparel, and providing services such as submarine repair and health care contracting. That reliance on continued spending ($3,303.53 per capita, the fourth highest in the country) makes Maine especially vulnerable to expected reductions in Pentagon spending.

Data shows that defense spending is not a reliable jobs creator. In a recent study compiled by the University of Massachusetts, $1 billion in Pentagon spending results in 11,200 jobs, while comparable investment in education results in 26,700 jobs being created.  Other sectors fared better, as well: clean energy results in 16,800 jobs, health care creates 17,200 jobs, and even returning that money to taxpayers could result in 15,100 new jobs. 


We invite the public to take part in the potluck from 5:30 to 6:30 just before the event. The Winter Street Church is located at 880 Washington in Bath, across from the Patten Free Library. Admission is free, though donations will be gladly accepted to cover costs.

The new citizens’ group MCSE is pleased to produce their first official event under the auspices of Vital Connections, a public forum that meets quarterly in the Midcoast area. Vital Connections’ participants involved in local self-reliance projects around the Bath/Brunswick/Freeport region of Maine present their work and vision to the public and to one another.

Vital Connections forums foster knowledge and awareness of what it takes for our community, and the region as a whole, to reach relative self-sufficiency in basic areas. The forums urge action to follow from the sharing of knowledge and awareness. The basic areas include food, energy, health, education, the arts, local investment and funding, social justice, criminal justice, local government democracy, security and peace.

For more information on MCSE and the June 27th forum, contact Carol Huntington at 443-5777, or find “Ships, Shoes and Submarines” on Facebook:                 

For info on Vital Connections, contact Rosalie Paul at, or 207-406-2273; or John Rensenbrink at john@rensenbrink.com207-725-6955.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

#BoweBergdahl, Michael Hastings, And The Unburied

There has been a lot of news this week about the working class men and women struggling through our long imperial wars.

Saddest news: this about troops (I hate calling human beings by that name) that the U.S. public apparently forgot to support.

Bodies of 52 vets accumulate at L.A. County morgue

Source: Washington Times
Los Angeles officials cannot explain why the unclaimed bodies of 52 U.S. military veterans had accumulated over the last 15 months at a county morgue because no one arranged for their burial.
“All the people who touched this process are working together to figure out how this occurred,” said county spokesman David Sommers, The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday...
The problem began last year when Rose Hills Mortuaries, which transported the bodies of homeless veterans to Riverside National Cemetery under a charity program, started cutting back services...
Most moving news: Video testimony by the father of POW Bowe Bergdahl reflecting on his son's five years of captivity in Afghanistan, and the significance of the imperial expansion project that Bowe lost faith in.

The elder Bergdahl reportedly told The Guardian reporter Sean Smith: 
"I don’t think anybody can relate to the prisoners in Guantánamo more than our family, because it’s the same thing. How could we have such a high standard of judicial process for horrible war criminals [during World War II] ... and yet now we can go for 10-11 years without even having judicial process? It’s just wrong."
Most mysterious and disturbing news: the reminder that when reporter Michael Hastings went up in a ball of flames while driving his car in Los Angeles last year, he was investigating the Bowe Bergdahl story.

Vice News' Alice Speri (whose courage I admire) noted that the FBI was investigating Hastings at the time when his car mysteriously blew up:
Three years into the disappearance of Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan, Michael Hastings — the journalist whose reporting cost General Stanley McChrystal his job — wrote a Rolling Stone story on the missing soldier, a piece which the magazine called “the definitive first account of Bowe Bergdahl.” 
Hastings, who died in a car accident in Los Angeles in June 2013, had unparalleled access for that story. 
He spoke to Bergdahl’s parents, who had by that time stopped talking to the press, following “subtle pressure” from the army, and he quoted from emails the young soldier had sent to them, documenting his growing disillusion with the war and the US military.
Most hopeful news: The release of five prisoners from Guantánamo prison, that most notorious island in the U.S. gulag archipelago.

The Obama administration brokered the deal to swap the five for Bergdahl without consulting Congress and thus established that the POTUS does have the power to close Guantánamo -- as he has repeatedly promised.

From Medea Benjamin and Alli McCracken of  CODEPINK on the blog
Called "the hardest of the hardcore" by hawkish Republican Senator John McCain, the Guantánamo prisoners released in the swap have been identified as high-level Taliban operatives. According to Human Rights Watch, one of those released, Mullah Norullah Nori, could be prosecuted for possible war crimes, including mass killings. All of the men were recommended for continued detention because of their "high-risk" status. Qatar has assured the US that the released men will be held and monitored in Qatar for at least a year, but some US officials are highly critical of the move, saying that the men are likely to return to their former positions within the Taliban. 
If Obama is willing to take the risk with these "high-risk" prisoners, and if he really wants to close Guantanamo as he has claimed many times, why hasn’t he been using his authority all along to release the 77 prisoners already cleared for release? Of the remaining 149 Gitmo prisoners, 77 were cleared by the President’s Guantánamo Review Task Force – meaning the US government has deemed them innocent or not a threat to Americans. But since President Obama’s speech at the National Defense University in May of 2013, in which he reiterated his promise to close the detention facility, only 12 of these men have been transferred.
Why were those five dangerous men released while scores of detainees who have been cleared for release for years remain? Refer back to most mysterious news of the week. And stay tuned.