Saturday, January 28, 2017

War As A Main Driver To Climate Chaos

Pentagon Planet image by Anthony Freda

This week scientists and environmentalists who work for the U.S. government were muzzled by the gang of thieves who have seized power in Washington DC. As one such step, the official twitter accounts of the National Park Service were brought to heel so that they would stop tweeting about realities like climate change.

National Park Service employees responded by setting up many alternative twitter feeds that cannot be so easily commandeered to suppress the truth. A favorite post from one of these newest accounts:

I am with Her, and in that spirit I offer this installment in a series of posts inspired by this podcast interview with Professor Tom Hastings of Portland State University. (My previous post focused on the Pentagon's carbon footprint.)

Hastings was interviewed by environmental activists Sherri Mitchell and Rivera Sun. Sun pointed out that "the U.S. has chosen to use extreme forms of violence to...dominate its territorial and economic interests around the world. This choice comes hand in hand with environmental devastation."

If you add the refugees from war to the refugees from climate chaos and then you look to the roots of both then you see this is really stemming from our methods of managing conflict. Our methods of managing conflict are the root of most of our environmental problems as well.

Mitchell observed that "worldwide... there's an incredible amount of land that's under the control of the military. How do we address those issues and try to clean up some of the lands?"

Hastings: "For many years the Center for Defense Information -- which was an organization composed of nothing but high level military officials, retired -- they presented their budget every year as an alternative to the budget presented by either the president or the Pentagon. And, on average, they came in at about 1/3 of the military budget.

The reason for that was that they proposed that we only defend the United States. They believed in military means, they just did not believe in imperialism. They didn't believe in global power projection. They didn't believe in having 800 military bases on the sovereign soil of other people's countries."

Hastings is engaged in studies of the theories of civilian based defense. He mentioned a recently published book, Security without weapons: Rethinking violence, nonviolent action, and civilian protection by M.S. Wallace saying, "She did a lot of field work with the very forward organizations that are providing nonviolent security such as nonviolent peace force but also folding in the theories of civilian-based defense."

We can begin to work our way out of looking at defending everything by the threat or the actual commission of violence. To look at those possibilities and then to run a cost benefit analysis.

Aleppo, 2014  Getty Images
Hastings described how he and graduate assistant Dana Ghazi presented U.S. senators with a cost-benefit analysis around bombing Syria.  Their report, from 2011, is rather prescient:

Key talking points:
  • The resultant costs of bombing and arming any faction in Syria are too high and will not lead to the expected outcome
  • There are many constructive nonviolent alternatives which should not be mistaken for inaction
  • Immediate strong steps are: arms embargo, support of Syrian civil society, pursue meaningful diplomacy, economic sanctions on ISIS and supporters and humanitarian intervention
  • Long-term strong steps are: withdrawal of US troops, end oil imports from the region, dissolve terrorism at its roots

Hastings added in the interview, "When you look at the thousands of analysts that the Pentagon employs it just really seems like they would throw in a few people from the field of conflict resolution...the costs of violent conflict are so high." He noted that when the government of Norway has a conflict, they call in a conflict resolution specialist. But "when the govt of the U.S. has a conflict, they call the generals.".

Hastings also noted his view that "granting to other people the same amount of sovereignty that we would expect for ourselves, the reasons to go to war...go away."

Mitchell responded: "I think that one of the things that that assumes is that the reasons that we're often given for going to war are accurate when we know that they're not. 

That the majority of the reasons behind our warring around the world are really about conquest. It's really about securing resources that belong to others. 

And so you know we have to do more than just address our sticking our nose into everybody else's business. We also have to really educate people about the fact that many of the dog and pony shows that we see in the media regarding war are really manufactured out of whole cloth. That there's very little reality to them."

Versions of this meme are being shared widely on the interwebs.

The conflicts of interest created when investors influence government policies that will benefit them financially are not a new problem, but they do appear to be ramping up under the new regime. Members of Congress work overtime to bring pork barrel "defense" contracts to their constituents always looking away from the environmental impact and hiding behind the claim that they produce needed jobs

Then, "national security" is invoked as the alleged reason why weapons must be deployed. Who speaks for Mother Earth?

Hastings believes that its is "100% up to civil society to address" this problem. He described an effort he was part of in Wisconsin to close a Navy base which "had a very faulty environmental impact statement." A coalition of Native and non-native environmental advocates won an injunction to close the base but "it took the Navy about ten minutes to go down to the circuit court in lift the injunction." The Navy's statement was without details; it simply cited the need for "national security."

Those who profit from rampant militarism are not likely to recognize that real national security is significantly at risk from climate chaos and environmental pollution that threatens life itself.

Still, Hastings is optimistic. He believes that "whichever administration is in power we're still able to do things at the civil society long as we  continue to build bigger coalitions on the ground, we can win."

Next up in my series of posts about the War On Mother Earth: superfund sites. Who created the mess, and why cleaning them up might be a path forward out of the militarized march to destruction that we're on.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

If You Care About Mother Earth, Don't Look Away From What War And Militarism Are Doing To Her

Podcasts are hard for me. I'm not strong in the auditory receptors, and the time involved in getting information through my ears feels as slow as molasses compared with reading the same information. With a day job in public education, my time is always in short supply.

Recently I took the time to listen an episode of Love (and Revolution) Radio with Sherri Mitchell, a Penobscot woman I find myself in action alongside fairly often. Sherri is an attorney who defends indigenous land and water rights, in Maine or at Standing Rock and elsewhere. She partners with Rivera Sun, "novelist and nonviolent mischief maker," to produce the show. 

This topic is of keen interest to me and so I listened to their podcast of "War On Earth: Militarism and the Environment with Tom Hastings."

Both women brought wisdom and a wealth of background knowledge to their interview with Hastings, a professor at Portland (OR) State University who teaches peace studies and nonviolent conflict resolution. Environmental studies is not his academic area, but he owns no car and that is a good credential for speaking up on behalf of Mother Earth.

The most interesting point he made was this: 

U.S. taxpayers fund climate chaos because the Pentagon and its contractors consume more fossil fuel and produce more carbon pollution than any other organization on Earth. 

And I would add that the Pentagon has consumed more than half of every federal budget for the last decade.

Why is the taxpayer generally so unaware of this problem? Because the Pentagon always manages to be exempted from calculations of carbon pollution. 

Hastings points out that, historically, each time measures are taken to remedy this glaring problem, a new administration sweeps into office and exempts the Pentagon all over again. (For more on this see my 2015 Counterpunch article "Elephant In The Room: The Pentagon's Massive Carbon Footprint.")

This blind spot is a big problem for and other carbon-focused environmental organizations. Possibly because they accept big contributions from Democratic Party PACs and donors, these organizations have willfully looked away from the biggest carbon polluter on the planet. Some of them even glorify militarism on the one hand while bemoaning climate chaos on the other.

Aside from carbon in the atmosphere, the scope of environmental degradation caused by war and militarism purveyed by the U.S. taxpayer is astounding. According to Hastings, 900 of the 1,300+ superfund sites contaminated with hazardous waste are military sites. Radioactive waste, biological weapons byproducts and chemical warfare agents linger in our soil, water and air for generations. Known carcinogens abound among these pollutants. Birth defects soar in the countries your government is (still) bombing with depleted uranium.

Image by Anthony Freda

Who holds the Pentagon accountable for polluting Mother Earth?

"Security" is always cited as the reason for the Pentagon's free pass to pollute. Because air shows like the Blue Angels, which burns napalm for entertainment in Brunswick, Maine every couple of years, are so important to national security. Not.

But climate chaos is in 2017 generally recognized as the biggest security threat facing humankind. So U.S. taxpayers are shelling out big bucks to increase the biggest security threat their grandchildren will face, all in the name of "national security." 

Sounds like a scam promoted by weapons manufacturers growing fat on Pentagon contracts to me. Don't expect it to get better with mercenary-in-chief Erik Prince advising Donald Trump from the shadows.

What little coverage in the corporate press of the military pollution problem regurgitates Pentagon press releases. Search online for military + climate and you'll find lots of articles about what branches of the military are doing to plan ahead for their coastal bases to be inundated by the rising sea.
"Woman and child at the front lines at Standing Rock" by John Heminger 

I have a radical proposal: indigenous wisdom holders about how to live on Earth should be put in charge of national security.

In my next post I'll examine what Hastings had to share about what the generals and admirals tell Congress they actually need to ensure national security. You may be surprised.

Monday, January 23, 2017

War Profiteering Demands Protest Says Jason Rawn, #Zumwalt12

Jason Rawn leading the Maine Walk for Peace & a Sustainable Future in 2014. Photo by Peter Woodruff.
Here I share another statement from the Zumwalt 12. This one is from its youngest member, international peace and permaculture activist Jason Rawn. It was published as a letter to the editor in the Portland Press Herald on January 22, 2017:

War profiteering demands protest

Thank you for printing David Sharp’s Jan. 9 Associated Press article, “Under Trump, Navy plans biggest expansion since Cold War.”

I now realize that 7,000-plus U.S. nuclear weapons and 800-plus U.S. war bases, on foreign soil, aren’t enough to keep the Homeland safe against “resurgent Russia and saber-rattling China” – even though those 800-plus bases aggressively surround Russia and China. What a relief that $5.5 billion in new warships might keep us safe! And what a perfect opportunity to discuss war profiteers General Dynamics Corp., owners of world-class metal fabrication facility Bath Iron Works.

In 2013, General Dynamics boasted revenue of $31.2 billion and gave their CEO, former CIA operative Phebe Novakovic, a $12 million raise. They also attempted to nickel and dime the city of Bath for $6.3 million in tax breaks in the form of a tax increment financing agreement. (Hats off to Bath for nearly halving that amount and for standing up to corporate welfare!)

A lucrative form of organized crime, war profiteering benefits the financial and political elite at the expense of the majority of us. This past year, U.S. elites mis-invested well over $600 billion of our common wealth – by some calculations, over $1 trillion – in war.

I’m one of the “Zumwalt 12,” who were successfully arrested last June 18 during a nonviolent civil resistance action in which we briefly “obstructed the public way” (a Class E misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $2,000 fine) at the “christening” of the USS Michael Monsoor, the second $4 billion Zumwalt stealth destroyer built by BIW.

Our trial will be at Sagadahoc County Superior Court in Bath from Feb. 1 to 3. We are veterans, artists, architects, teachers. Regular people who understand and behave as if the way things are is not the way things have to be. The way things are is not the way things have to be.
Jason Rawn
Jason Rawn in an alternate persona at the Womens March in Augusta last weekend.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why Was Opposition To War And Militarism So Conspicuously Missing From The #WomensMarch ?

photo of her amplifier from the women's march in Los Angeles by artist Emily Lacy
Let's start with the good news. There were 10,000 women, girls and men at the state capitol in Augusta, Maine yesterday for the women's march there. It is the largest crowd ever assembled there, for any reason. It began with a drum circle and singing by Native women that could be heard all over the capitol grounds. I teared up thinking that if we have left these wise ones in charge of decisions about how to live upon this earth, next to this water, breathing this air we wouldn't be in the mess we're in today.

Other locations also reported record crowds, including Portland, Maine where most of the people in my sparsely settled state live.

As Fatuma Hussein took the podium to tell us she had come to Maine as an immigrant,
a woman near me shouted "You are welcome here!" and the crowd erupted in cheers.

One of the best speakers yesterday was Somali-American Fatuma Hussein, founder of the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine. Standing with your young daughter she talked of how much Maine needs young immigrant families like hers, and said that her two older daughters are in college outside Maine. The IRC website offers this perspective:
Maine’s refugee and immigrant population hails from all parts of the world, including Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, and Tanzania, with the large majority of individuals arriving in the United States during the last 15 years.
And I would add, from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. She reminded us of how many more women and children are less lucky than she and her family have been, so many families living as refugees with nothing to sustain them.

That leads directly to the bad news: Fatuma Hussein failed to connect the dots between the international refugee crisis and the U.S. and NATO's endless "war on terror" in the Asia and Africa. All the approved speakers avoided this topic, too.

Those who spoke for the environment and on behalf of the Standing Rock water protectors also failed to call out the Pentagon on its enormous contribution to global warming and other environmental crimes. 

I'm sure if questioned the speakers would have said, this is not the place or time. But look at the list of issues the organizers of the march are urging us to join to together to work on in the future. What do you notice is conspicuously missing?

Maine: Stand up! Be Heard! is for the passionate persons living in Maine willing to coordinate as one group to educate and stand up for the rights of our people.The goal here is share events happening across the State of Maine. 
Events that involve (peaceful) protesting subjects such as: 
-Women's Rights 
- LGBTQ Rights 
- Religious Freedom 
- Government Reform 
- Environmental Issues 
- Against Racism/Sexism 
- Celebrating Love

This is not a hate group, so if you want violence seek it somewhere else. This group's sole purpose is to share information regarding peaceful protests, rallies and groups in the State of Maine. To provide a place for like-minded people to gather.

If you doubted that this event -- like all the women's marches on January 21, 2017 -- was orchestrated by the Democratic Party, this list is prima facie evidence.

What kind of women's movement "celebrates love" but doesn't challenge warmongering? The Democratic Party kind. You know, the ones who still can't figure out why their first female nominee for president was so distasteful to so many voters. You can close your eyes to the blood on her hands, Democrats, but you're still gonna smell it.

My usual focus for activism is opposing war and militarism, but I had agreed to do political theater protesting a major aspect of the war at home: Trump's promised wall. Our sets included statistics on the numerous deaths and detentions that Obama's immigration policies have already caused.

I saw Doug Rawlings and Ginny Schneider of the War Tax Resistance group in Maine handing out flyers of resistance. Since 57% of the taxes spent by Congress last year went to the Pentagon and its contractors, you would think that the crowd would be more concerned about it. Plus, don't women and girls suffer the brunt of violence when war moves into their neighborhood?

The women marching in August were a very middle class crowd. They have fallen hook, line and sinker for the propaganda churned out since 9/11 by corporate media and even their beloved president Obama that "terror" is something all patriotic Americans must be prepared to fight. 

This morning they are upset that the new regime is threatening to defund PBS and NPR. Personally, I am glad and I hope they do. Neither media outlet works in the public interest despite the P in their name; they run ads for corporate agribusiness and Wall St., and they consistently purvey fake news.

One of the creepiest aspects of yesterday's rally was the surveillance drone flying down close to spy on us as we prepared our theater piece. 

We assumed it was law enforcement since we were within five miles of the Augusta airport but the m.c. assured us from the podium not to worry because "it's one of ours." Great, because Democratic Party surveillance is far superior to Republican surveillance, right? 

The organizers of the rally denied our theatrical piece the podium and the microphone, so no one except a few standing close by heard it or saw it. Fortunately we were working with sets and costumes created by the incomparable Artists Rapid Response Team (ARRT!) of the Maine Union of Visual Artists, experts in visual communication. 

After our presentation scores of people came over to take pictures and selfies with us. And those messages will continue to be shared for days and weeks to come.

After the event my husband and I helped ARRT! leader Natasha Mayers to transport the sets to the University of Maine at Augusta's Klahr center, where a show of her work will open this week. 

Here's the script we worked from yesterday, and some of Natasha's photos.

"Trumpty Dumpty's Falling Wall" January 21, 2017

Trumpty Dumpty runs through the crowd.. Trumpty attempts to erect a wall. It's wobbly and he barely gets it to stand up.


Trumpty gets one wall to stand up and the other one falls, then he gets that one to stand up while the first one falls. Then both walls are left standing -- for the time being.

Vagina with a sign reading "NOT UP FOR GRABS" begins reciting:


A Maine lighthouse enters.


Vagina leads crowd in chanting:

Lighthouse twirls, prances, waves its lobster claws and is both stately and inviting -- like an orchestra conductor.


Vagina leads crowd in chanting:


Crowd stomps and chants:



During the chanting houses come on and line up to spell out "IMMIGRANTS AND REFUGEES ARE WELCOME HERE"


Crowd chants:

Vagina leads the crowd in chanting these words once they are spelled out.

Trump Tower continues trying to break into the lineup but is repeatedly blocked.


During the chanting Trumpty and the walls begin to wobble. Both walls fall down. One of the walls falls on top of Trumpty. The crowd cheers wildly.

Vagina leads the crowd in chanting:

Other players walk or, in the case of the walls and Trumpty, are dragged away.


For those wondering what to do in the coming years, I suggest this bracing and brief analysis from Bruce Gagnon, "America: It's Going To Be A Wild Ride."

Personally, I will be following his advice and will continue focusing on militarism's impact on the environment. An informative podcast by Native leader Sherri Mitchell of the Penobscot along with activist Rivera Sun is "War On Earth: Militarism And Environment."

If you aren't afraid to connect the dots between environmental harm and militarism, perhaps you will join me in taking the pledge of the Maine Natural Guard:

πŸ’¦πŸŒ²Natural Guard PLEDGE πŸ’¦ πŸŒ³

    I pledge to speak out about the effects of militarism on our environment. In discussions about security and safety, I will remind others of the need to count in the cost in pollution and fuel consumption of waging wars all around the planet. In discussions about acting soon to protect our loved ones from the effects of climate chaos, I will remind others of the need to examine the role of the Pentagon and its many contractors in contributing to planetary warming.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Best, Most Hopeful Signs Of The Times #antiInauguration #J20

A selection of the best, most hopeful signs of the times from yesterday's protests.

Not Working for Trump

Why feminists are calling for a national women’s strike during Donald Trump’s inauguration.

You can order this shirt here:

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Troll Bait Hashtag #HereToStay Builds Solidarity On Twitter

I'm a sporadic twitter user mostly because lack of time doing my day job, plus not being glued to my phone which barely works at home in the woods. But I love twitter and it's my best news feed for sure; I joined it after experiencing the floodgates of facebook friending. 

Why did people who hated what I stood for in high school suddenly want to see my facebook posts? We're old enough now that apoplexy increases the risk of stroke, doesn't it?

So with more careful following I built a more international and, yes, intellectual list of twitter users who bring me news I would never get from corporate sources (which I mostly ignore anyway).

But if I'm at a live event that seems to have broad significance, and I wasn't an organizer of the event so I can mingle and flirt with babies and take things in, I often tweet about it. Yesterday's attendance in Lewiston, Maine at one of the many January 14 immigration support rallies was such an opportunity for me.

The event poster and a twitter user I sat next to advised me that #heretostay was the hashtag du jour. Boy, did that turn out to be troll bait!

Many fine young poets from Maine's extensive Somali immigrant population took to the stage and I tweeted a few clips from their heartfelt words about growing up black and Muslim and, in the case of the women, covered in the whitest state in the U.S. 
One of many fine banners on display in Lewiston courtesy of ARRT!

Rakiya Mohamed, a student at nearby Bates College, read a message from her 21 year old self to her "fresh off the boat" childhood self. She also gave an interview to a WCSH reporter on the scene where she described a 10 year old girl being harassed and spit on at a 4th of July fireworks display.

It was often tough to catch the speakers' names or spell them correctly as there was no printed program. This poem entitled "Lazy Boy" spoke poignantly about the struggle to be a high school student and eldest brother of a family of first generation immigrants.
One poet I could identify correctly was Tufts student Muna Mohamed whom I remembered from her days at Lewiston High School. She made the news there as part of a group that put up a Black Lives Matter educational poster only to have the principal take it down. And then, bowing to public pressure, put it back up again. Her poem about being mis-identified by others was one of the best.

Portland's first African-born Muslim city councilor, the recently elected Pious Ali, who hails originally from Ghana, spoke well. He asked for a show of hands about who among us were immigrants, the children of immigrants, or the grand and great grandchildren of immigrants. And who had a neighbor or friend or co-worker from a family of immigrants. Everybody, right?

About 500 people were in attendance at the (mercifully) indoor venue. We finished off by singing Neil Young's updated version of the classic Woodie Guthrie tune "This Land Is Your Land" together which was a beautiful experience.

This is the tweet that most seemed to anger those who dwell under the social media bridge. An avalanche of nasty replies -- the likes of which my twitter feed seldom sees -- awaited me this morning. I guess I struck a nerve, or maybe it's just that someone paid folks to troll for the #heretostay hashtag and churn out some vitriol in response.

Are they angry because their beautiful daughters can't afford to go to Tufts? Or because they imagine that refugees who work in nursing homes in Maine are taking jobs away from white people -- who don't want to work in nursing homes?

Not sure, but I do appreciate the traffic on my twitter feed.

I got many new followers, retweets and likes from being a citizen journalist at yesterday's rally. πŸ‘πŸ» πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’ž

I'll end with my sign of the times, the one I carry in my vehicle and use to show that, as an ACLU lawyer observed, "Before the government can come after any individual in this room they'll have to come through all of us." Amen to that, sister.

Friday, January 13, 2017

I found it impossible to remain silent as another weapon of mass destruction was blessed. #Zumwalt12

The Zumwalt 12 in action at Bath Iron Works on June 18, 2016 -- Connie Jenkins is seated, wearing a red shirt and floppy hat.
Connie Jenkins is a peace walker and former public health nurse from Orono, Maine. Here is the wisdom she will offer at the trial of the Zumwalt 12 on February 1 for obstructing a public way:

Statement for Zumwalt trial

Good morning, 

Let me say first that I’m grateful for the chance to briefly explain to you why I decided to risk arrest on June 18th of last year. 

On the face of it, the case against me is very simple.  As the officer testified, I stood and then sat down in the street until I was arrested, I would imagine a time of about 10 minutes.  I did what I’m charged with.   

At the same time, I believe the charge against me is irrelevant because I acted for the greater good according to moral necessity, according to my conscience.  I understand that moral necessity may not be a legal defense.  However, I have sworn to tell “nothing but the truth”; and in truth it is moral necessity that has brought me here. 

I am a Christian peacemaker, a parishioner at St. Paul the Apostle parish in Bangor, and a member of Pax Christi Maine, a Catholic peace and social justice movement guided by the spirituality of nonviolence.  As such, I am called to live my life according to the precepts given by Jesus in the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount.   

I have taken a solemn vow of nonviolence through Pace e Bene, an international peace organization, and as part of that vow, I am committed to helping the struggle to abolish War. 

Jesus declared, Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.   And what that means to me is that if I consider myself to be a Christian, I have to do my part to make a more peaceful world.  I must speak out against War, and take public action for peace.  As a follower of the nonviolent Jesus, I found it impossible to remain silent as another weapon of mass destruction was blessed and prepared for delivery to the Navy.  
And so, I joined eleven other men and women who also chose to risk arrest for the cause of Peace.  Through the simple act of sitting down and refusing to move, we embodied a resounding “No” to the immeasurable suffering caused by national policies that have made weapons of mass destruction and unrestrained, endless war our country’s major exports. 

On January 1st, Pope Francis celebrated the 50th World Day of Peace.  In his address, titled “Nonviolence:  A Style of Politics for Peace”, he urged all of us to “make active nonviolence our way of life” and to reject what he calls the “horrifying world war fought piecemeal” in which we find ourselves engaged.   

I’d like to share with you the following remarks from his statement: 

“Violence is not the cure for our broken world.  Countering violence with violence leads at best to . . . enormous suffering because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world.  At worst, it can lead to the death, physical and spiritual, of many people, if not of all.”

I think about the young men and women in their crisp white uniforms who walked past us that June day on their way to boarding the Destroyer.   And I hope that in seeing us sitting on the ground, waiting to be arrested, a seed was planted which may cause them to deeply reflect on what they have been trained to do and to turn away from the deception and evil and horror of War. 

Thank you.

"The Zumwalt destroyer crew members had to pass by our protest.  We are trying to prepare them for what they will see when they port in Korea, Guam, Philippines, Okinawa, Australia, Japan, Ukraine......the world is fed up with U.S. militarism and 'exceptionalism'." From the blog of Zumwalt 12 member Bruce Gagnon.