Saturday, September 30, 2017

Only Warships Can Find Their Way Across #BigWater #OceanWater

Photo: PPH
The U.S. Navy Secretary was palling it up at General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works shipyard yesterday, accompanied by Maine's neoliberal Representative Chellie Pingree, Maine's "Independent" Senator Angus King, and our two Republican Congress critters Senator Susan Collins and Rep. Bruce "Where's Bruce?" Poliquin.

Protesters outside the gates offered their solution to the problems caused by endless preparations for endless wars: conversion to building things that people actually need.

General Dynamics builds weapons of mass destruction that sail across the big water ocean to menace the shores of China, Iran, Russia and other far away lands.

It also makes big campaign contributions to elected officials. Navy Secretary Spencer was reassuring about future warship buildig contracts flowing to General Dynamics dba BIW.

There is always money for war and weapons but not, apparently, to save U.S. territory Puerto Rico from slow death following two massive hurricanes in a row. 

The demagogue with bad hair offered a feeble excuse for not delivering aid to the nearby U.S.-controlled territory where he once made millions on a golf course deal that went bad:  "This is an island surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water."

Here's a list of only U.S. aircraft carrier (i.e., not other warships) deployments in the big ocean water around the planet:

The U.S. Navy has in fact had a hard time steering its many warships lately, with four major collisions since the demagogue took the helm of the ship of state. Senior commanders have been relieved of duty following negligence that resulted in the death of several sailors in the big water near Singapore. And, over 1,000 gallons of oil were spilled into Tokyo Bay in one of the crashes.

To recap Puerto Rico's geographical location and likelihood of being reached quickly by U.S. ships with competent commanders, it's right here:

Native son Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz writing in Counterpunch about the demagogue's inaction said his
message to Puerto Rico was clear: pay up and drop dead. The island is expected to pay its imaginary debt for the dubious “privilege” of being an imperial colony in the way it’s always done so: in blood. Wall Street’s interests have priority over securing the very survival of nearly four million people. God forbid that millionaire Wall Street bondholders suffer the horror of payment forfeiture over a minor inconvenience like Hurricane María, only the worst storm in eighty years!
Cruz-Díaz predicted that the disgust of diaspora Puerto Ricans like himself may lead to something positive: a rejection of the U.S. empire, which feeds only those who are already fat.

BIW shipyard workers told interviewers that they voted for the demagogue with bad hair because he was pro-military and would keep the contracts flowing. Next year's proposed Pentagon budget has reached a whopping $700 billion, so their short term thinking appears to be correct.

Long term thinking is not a strong suit of those raised on infotainment, video shooting games and celebrity gossip.

Empires have always depended on the passivity and compliance of their masses of well-fed citizens. Imperial hubris leads those at the top of the heap to believe their precarious ascendance is ordained and eternal. 

Specifically, hubris leads today's imperial masters to believe they can go on belching carbon and fueling climate catastrophes that mostly poor people of color will suffer from. The wealthy believe the most likely outcome for them will be additional opportunities to profit from the suffering.

History tends to suggest that pride goeth before a fall.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Symbolic Acts Defy Racist Police, POTUS #TakeAKnee #TaketheKnee

As a small child I sat on my dad's knee and watched pro football. We were in Bangor, Maine so my dad, a former college football star, was rooting for the N.Y. Giants as the nearest pro team.

Football players and other professional athletes have since become major celebrities with powerful voices. Black Lives Matter has particular relevance because, for many black men and women, professional sports have been a pathway out of poverty when other paths were denied to keep white privilege intact.

This week a judge acquitted (white) former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley of murder; he charged out of his vehicle illegally armed with an AK-47 assualt rifle, shouting "I'll kill this motherfucker" following a high speed chase. Anthony Smith was shot to death while seated in his car like many other victims of police violence. Black Lives Matter protesters are in the streets and being faced with the usual militarized police response.

Confronting police in St. Louis following Stockley verdict. Photo:
A video making the rounds shows St. Louis police in riot gear trampling and then arresting an older (white) woman who is part of the protests, simply for standing in their way as they advance on the crowd.

Colin Kaepernick is the S.F. 49ers quarterback who caused a sensation last year by taking a knee during the national anthem before a game against San Diego.

He was using his choice not to stand for an anthem to the racist police state that kills black and brown people with impunity. His action has since been inspiring to other athletes in other sports, and to entertainers like music legend Stevie Wonder who took to his knee at the Global Citizen Festival in NYC last night.

Image: Newsday  "Global festival rocks Central Park to end poverty"

Enter the demagogue with bad hair.

In a speech to Republicans in Alabama this week, he veered off script to say: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

One can't help but suspect that the temptation to use the catchphrase from his popular reality show overcame whatever weak filters exist between his brain and his mouth (or tweeting thumbs).

Referring to protesting players as "that son of a bitch" has had the effect of throwing several gallons of gasoline on the blaze. Hashtags relating to Kaepernick et al.'s symbolic gesture have been trending on Twitter ever since. (I have not been able to discover the difference between the original #TakeAKnee and the more recent #TaketheKnee, with many on twitter using both.)

Today's NFL games will be boycotted by many, according to self-reports on social media. Others will flock to their televisions to see just how many players take a knee.

Fans of baseball and basketball will be watching for players to take a knee as well. An Oakland A's catcher took the lead:

Meanwhile, a related controversy is brewing over the demagogue's disinvitation of the championship basketball team Golden State Warriors (also based in the San Francisco Bay area) to visit the White House. From Bryan Armen Graham reporting in The Guardian:

On Friday, point guard Steph Curry, the NBA champions’ star player, told reporters he planned to vote no when the players came together to decide whether to visit Trump. The Warriors could “inspire some change” and “send a statement” by snubbing the president, Curry said. 
On Saturday morning, Trump tweeted: “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team, Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”

It was a long distance from conservative and very white Maine where my dad first explained white privilege to me ("Being white doesn't make you better than anyone else. But, because of racism, it does make you luckier.") to the diverse and relatively progressive SF Bay area where we moved when I was in middle school.

If my dad were alive today, he might be rooting for the New England Patriots. Then again, maybe not. The Pats are a notoriously racist team and one of many whose wealthy owners contributed to the demagogue with bad hair's campaign. (Big surprise: that group also includes the team with the racist name and mascot, the Washington "Redskins.") Dad moved back to Maine in retirement but he might have stayed a fan of his adopted SF 49ers, and taken a knee with Kaepernick.

Did I mention that Kaepernick is unemployed at the moment despite being one of the highest performing quarterbacks in NFL history? He's a free agent that no team, even ones that deperately need a strong quarterback, will pick up. I guess that's what my dad meant about white people being, not better, just more "lucky."

Friday, September 22, 2017

Everybody Is Equal And Whites Are Supreme Philosophy May Have Originated In #Nambia

Extreme weather, extreme suffering and extreme ignorance are the order of the day. Two deadly hurricanes in a row have Puerto Rico waist deep in water and without power (electrical or economic). Two big earthquakes in a row have Mexicans digging schoolkids out of rubble with bucket brigades. 

But, hey, the mythical country of Zambia is doing great according to the demagogue with bad hair.

It can be hard to write satire when the Commander in Chief of the world's imperial armies makes up country names. Not in drunken tweets. At the United fucking Nations.

It was with these thoughts on my brain that I encountered debate over an upcoming alleged "Rally to Denounce Political Violence" being organized by white supremacist types in Maine's capitol city on September 30. The facebook event page speaker list includes John Rasmussen - Selectman, Organizer of The 1st Boston Free Speech Rally.

One of the comments on the event page (possibly since removed):  "I don't agree with white supremacy but everybody is equal and hopefully they can show that not all white supremacist groups are violent."

A creepy "manarchist" type I know from the Occupy Augusta days created the event -- which will likely draw a large counterprotest. Anti-racist organizers had already been calling on people to go door to door on October 9 to discuss KKK recruitment flyers distributed to homes in Augusta earlier this year.
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Meanwhile, militarized police are beating the protesters in St. Louis in the streets over yet another acquittal of a white police officer paid by the public to serve and protect while killing black men, women and children with impunity. Oh yeah, while chanting "Whose streets? Our streets!" That is the police chanting, not the protesters.

According to Jamiles Larty's report in The Guardian: "Mike Faulk, a reporter for the St Louis Post-Dispatch, told colleagues he was 'pepper-sprayed in the face while an officer’s foot held my head to ground.'"

The false narrative of "two sides to everything" is playing out in the corporate press coverage of white supremacist rallies all over the nation. The false narrative of the (white supremacist) Vietnam War is playing out on corporate PBS and being discussed all over the nation. It drew this response from Veterans for Peace co-founder and poet Doug Rawlings:

So what did I expect anyways from an exercise in documentation that calls itself “a story”? A series of stories, actually, that loop back on to themselves, making the viewer question which one is true and which one isn’t. Or are they both true at the same time? This kind of a narrative is a slippery slope that is greased by moral ambiguity, leaving the audience crumpled down at the bottom of the hill in a bit of a daze. Maybe that’s it. Maybe we should just give up and accept the filmmakers’ imagistic metaphor of a red plague creeping down Indochina that we brave band of lads were sent to dam up. But I can’t. And I won’t.

The false narrative of  "hey, it's just a job" on building weapons of mass destruction at General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works shipyard has been playing out in my inbox as I exchange views with a documentary photographer in the area. During our debate the Senate passed the largest Pentagon budget ever, a whopping $700 billion. And upheld the now 16 year old blank check for war, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. Because both of the corporate parties love to see their "defense" contractor campaign contributors raking in the cash.

Weep for us; we will all be under water soon at the rate we are going.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Palestinian Children Will Share Their Visions Of Peace With Congress On Sep. 19

To save homes, Palestinian children share visions of peace with Congress 
September 19th International Peace Day Senate Briefing
10:30am in the Capitol Bld. SVC 212-10, and House Reception

Sept. 15, 2017,  Washington, DC — Palestinian children from West Bank villages and from Gaza will share their vision of peace with Congress, to commemorate International Peace Day. Joining the children will be human rights defenders including Rabbi Arik Ascherman from the Israeli human rights group, Torat Tzedek. On behalf of their villages of Susiya, Al Aqaba, and Gaza City, the children are asking Americans to urge their Senators and Representatives, as friends of Israel, to press the Government of Israel to stop the demolitions of Palestinian communities, recognize Palestinian planning rights, assure due process, and turn on the lights in Gaza.
  •       Please join them on Tuesday, September 19th at 10:30-11:30am for a pubic briefing in the Capitol Building SVC 212-10 (Senate side).
  •       Following the briefing, all are invited to the Rayburn House Office Building, Rayburn Foyer from 1:00-5:00pm for the U.S. premiere of the art exhibition, We All Live in Gaza: Art Under Siege. The reception will begin at 1:30pm with a presentation by curator Maurice Jacobsen and a few words from the children. Light refreshments will be served.
June 2, 2004, Palestinians look on as Israeli authorities demolish a house in the West Bank village of Anata near Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently stated that he intends to 'wipe Susya and Khan Al Akhmar off the map.’ So I come to Washington to plead for the lives of these Palestinian villages," said Rabbi Arik Ascherman, founder of Torat Tzedek, an Israeli human rights organization. “This year, International Peace Day coincides with Rosh HaShana. Jewish tradition teaches that God decides the fate of every human soul for the coming year on this day and ‘Who shall live and who shall die’ also applies to villages. I urge the U.S. administration to safeguard the furture of Palestinian communities such as Susiya.”
These Palestinian children are among thousands of children in the U.S. and around the world who are making Pinwheels for Peace, writing what peace means to them and drawing what peace looks like, then forming a pinwheel that turns in the wind.  This is the third year Rebuilding Alliance, an American non-profit dedicated to rebuilding war-torn communities and bringing the world together to keep them safe, is holding the #ICareAboutPeace Congressional Briefing.
I want Congress to keep my village safe and standing,” said Aysar, age 15, from Susiya, “Because a brave Senator took action, Susiya’s demolition orders were put on hold.”
As soon as October 1st,  Israel’s Minister of Defense, Avigdor Lieberman, will state the Government of Israel’s position to Israel’s High Court as the justices consider the Palestinian Village of Susiya’s petition to overturn the denial of their master plan. Despite the villagers’ undisputed title to their land, the Israeli High Court will then decide Susiya’s fate, either recognizing their right to plan and build on the land they own or ordering demolition of their homes.  Senator Feinstein’s letters to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have been instrumental in keeping Susiya standing so far.
About the Delegation:
Aysar (15) has lived his whole life in Susiya. Since he was little, he always accompanied his uncle Nasser Nawaja, who works with the Israeli Human Rights group, B’Tselem, to help film the incidents with the Israeli army and the settlers in the South Hebron Hills. Despite Aysar's young age, he has a deep insight into the local situation, and he is also a huge help for both his parents. He gets up at five o'clock in the morning to feed all the animals, herd the sheep, and help his father with his daily chores, since he is undergoing cancer treatment. Due to Susiya being surrounded by both settlements and a military camp, when the children walk to school they are under constant risk of harassment by the Israeli army and settlers. Aysar always stands up for the other children and does his best to protect and comfort them on the daily 1.5 mile walk to school.
Palestinian school children at a checkpoint with Israeli soldiers
Tia (12) is a 12-year-old student from Gaza City. She is currently in the seventh grade at the American International School in Gaza, where she is getting straight A’s. Tia likes horseback riding, basketball, and swimming. All families in Gaza are experiencing massive rolling blackouts for up to 22 hours per day in an extreme energy crisis that has grown progressively worse over the past 10 years.
Shadi (10) is in the fourth grade and plays violin as part of the Collective Song Music Program in Al Aqaba under the direction of teachers from the Edward Said National Music Conservatory. Shadi and his family live in one of the first “Rebuilding to Remain” homes, designed with the returning villagers and crowd-funded by Rebuilding Alliance under building permits issued by the Al Aqaba Village Council.  Al Aqaba is the first Palestinian village in Area C to issue its own building permits. Though the Israeli Army issued demolition orders in 2004 against Al Aqaba’s kindergarten, the medical clinic, and most homes in Al Aqaba and a stop-work order on their water system, the Israeli High Court ruled that ‘for the time being, the center of the village will remain standing’ and because of that the new homes are standing, free of demolition orders.
August 11, 2017 post on Arik Ascherman's Facebook page: "The Yoav Unit informed the Abu Sneineh family in Tel Sheva that on Sunday or Monday they are going to demolish their tent housing 13 souls for the 9th time since 2014. If you can stand with them, call me after Shabbat..."
Rabbi Arik Ascherman is the founder of Torat Tzedek, a new Isaraeli human rights organization founded to (1) strive for a society that honors God's Image in every human being, and for the human rights that this necessitates; and (2) educate our society that honoring God's image in every human being, protecting human rights and taking concrete action to further these goals is a human and religious obligation in general, and in particular a Jewish religious obligation. Rabbi Ascherman is internationally recognized as leading advocate for human rights and social justice. He served as co-director of Rabbis For Human Rights, executive director from 1998-2010, and co-founder of Haqel and has received numerous awards and recognition for his human rights work.
Donna Baranski-Walker is Founder & Executive Director of Rebuilding Alliance , and an MIT engineer with an M.S. from the U. of Hawaii. Rebuilding Alliance and Donna have been awarded Special Congressional Recognition by Rep. Barbara Lee and Rep. Anna Eshoo. In April 2016, Donna was awarded Rotary District 5150’s Service Award, and will soon be receiving the Rachel Corrie Conscience And Courage Award, from American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of Orange County. In 2010, on the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Polish Solidarity movement, Donna was awarded the Medal of Gratitude. She began her work in the Middle East in 1990 with a New York Times oped, “Small Lights in the Darkness ,” which was translated into Arabic and presented to the Iraqi Women’s Federation just before the First Gulf War began.
For more information:
Contact: Tamsin Avra
Phone: (650) 651-7165

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Natural Guard Pledge: Speak Up To Call Out The Pentagon For Its Major Role In Causing Climate Chaos

The Eagle Creek wildfire burns in the background as golfers play at the Beacon Rock Golf Course in North Bonneville, Washington, on September 4, 2017.  Kate Beckwith, Facebook
My friend Janet Weil has been updating me about forest fires raging in the Columbia River basin. As the daughter of a forester, she is heartbroken at news that these forests may never be restored. Global warming means the conditions for such living organisms may no longer be present in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

Meanwhile, another friend who relocated to the Florida Keys this year to teach school has finally updated her blog so I know that she and her family are alive. They evacuated to northern Florida and then, ultimately, to Alabama to get out of harms way from Hurricane Irene. They expect to find nothing left worth saving when they return home to see the effects of the 10 foot storm surge.

A new acquaintance who grew up in Texas told me last weekend that where he's from is either on fire or under water right now. Hurricane Harvey's toxic flood waters, full of fecal bacteria and chemicals from oil refineries, are a menace to life in Houston and an enormous surrounding area.

But hey, it's beautiful in Maine this time of year and a young moose was sighted at the end of our driveway a couple of days ago. 

The photo of golfers ignoring the raging fire in the distance kind of says it all.

This coming weekend I'll be at the Sierra Club of Maine's annual climate conference tabling for the Maine Natural Guard.

I'm going to be there because environmental organizations continue to ignore the carbon belching elephant in the room: the military. Liberals or progressives or whatever you want to call them willfully ignore the role of the Pentagon as the largest consumer of fossil fuels on the planet. It consumes more than many countries, and more than any other organization.

Should the Sierra Club really need to be reminded of this fact?

Actually, it's not a reminder because many people never knew this central truth about climate change to begin with.

The corporate media have done such a thorough job of directing our gaze away from the truth about the environmental, social and moral costs of the "war on terror" that the public remains profoundly ignorant.

Even socialist publications like Jacobin can publish an entire summer issue devoted to climate change and not mention the Pentagon or its wars once. WTF? (Janet sent them a corrective message. You can, too.)

Image: Anthony Freda
I'm looking forward to spending this Saturday with my husband and our friends Mary Beth Sullivan and Bruce Gagnon sharing some useful information. I'll also be offering people a chance to buy a good looking Maine Natural Guard t-shirt printed on 100% organic cotton.

People can join the Natural Guard from wherever they find themselves in climate chaos. 

Taking the pledge is easy. Just read it:

I pledge to speak out about the effects of militarism on our environment, because the commons we all share that sustain life are valuable to me. 

IN DISCUSSIONS ABOUT SECURITY and safety, we 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, we remind others of the need to examine the role of the Pentagon and its many contractors in contributing to planetary warming.

and click here to add your name.

Then, get busy sharing some truth.

P.S. If you can make it to Washington, DC this month you can attend the first ever (?!) conference to connect the dots between the Pentagon===>climate change. Details on No War 2017: War and the Environment here.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Getting It Wrong In Afghanistan: Bagram Air Base And Prison Complex

After 16 years of bloody occupation, the kleptocracy is poised to make even more money in Afghanistan. The demagogue with bad hair is listening to an inner circle that includes Erik Prince of the notorious Blackwater mercenary firm that helped occupy Iraq. Privatize even more of the war, they whisper. Endless war means endless profits!

The fact that Afghanistan's sovereignty is vigorously defended by freedom fighters posing as religious fanatics is super convenient.

During the Soviet occupation a fierce young man in Kabul told me, "As long as there is one Afghan left alive, the Soviets will never rule our country!" 

Fast forward to 2017.

Bagram Air Base and Prison Complex, constructed on the ruins of a Soviet base, is the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan. A suicide bomber inside the gates killed numerous troops gathered to observe Veterans Day there (formerly Armistice Day) last November. It was again targeted this month by a motorcyle-riding suicide bomber who detonated at a security gate. In June, eight Afghan guards headed for the night shift at Bagram were killed when their car was attacked in a driveby shooting.

Back in 2002, prisoners were tortured and beaten to death in the "detention" facility there; a few soldiers were court martialed for their role in the abuse. In 2010 the Pentagon released the names of 645 souls being held prisoner at Bagram. For seven years the detainees included Pakistani neuroscientist Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and her three children.

Building big, expensive compounds where military personnel can enjoy air conditioning, fast food burgers and wifi is what the U.S. is good at. Winning hearts and minds, not so much.

The latest suicide bombing was said to be connected with a public relations faux pas on the part of the occupation. As reported by the Associated Press:
Earlier Wednesday, a U.S. commander had apologized for dropping leaflets in Afghanistan that were deemed offensive to Islam. 
The leaflets dropped Monday night, which encouraged Afghans to cooperate with security forces, included an image of a dog carrying the Taliban flag, said Shah Wali Shahid, the deputy governor of Parwan province, north of Kabul. The flag has Islamic verses inscribed on it, and dogs are seen as unclean in much of the Muslim world.
There have even been allegations that dogs were used to rape prisoners held at Bagram.

An Afghan interpreter interviewed by Emran Feroz for Alternet stated: "Guantanamo is a paradise if you compare it with Bagram."

How much has it cost U.S. taxpayers to create and maintain the cruelest military installation on Earth?

By Staff Sgt. Craig Seals -
Due to the lack of accountability in Pentagon budgets and contracting practices, the price tag is impossible to determine with any certainty. Chronicles of waste and corruption abound, but accurately quantifying this mammoth corporate welfare scheme will probably not be possible.

Of the 800+ military bases that U.S. taxpayers support abroad, Bagram is at the top of my list to just close already. The U.S. and or NATO will never "win" the war in Afghanistan. Bagram has been called a "factory for terrorism" and even without the torture its mere presence is enough to help Taleban recruiters find the next generation of suicide bombers. 

Just bring the homesick troops back already, and close the base. Erik Prince is already rich enough.