Sunday, May 27, 2018

Investigative Journalist To Speak On The Defense Industry And Nuclear Weapons In New England At USM June 2

Hope you can join us for what is sure to be an informative lecture, with lively Q&A.
Link to facebook event to rsvp here.

Who: Alex Nunes, investigative journalist specializing in weapons corporations esp. General Dynamics. Read his excellent website here: Nunes Weekly

What: Lecture on "The Defense Industry and Nuclear Weapons in New England"

Where: USM in Portland, Wishcamper building, 2nd floor

When: Saturday, June 2 from 6:30pm-8:30pm

Why:  Alex Nunes is the investigative journalist in Providence who helped so much with the campaign against LD1781, the $45 million tax giveaway from Maine to Bath Iron Works/General Dynamics. He investigates corporate influence on government in New England with special attention to Rhode Island, Connecticut and Maine. We got to know him during the Aegis 9 trial which ended with our acquittal of charges of criminal trespass at BIW.

Nunes currently has a Freedom Of Access Act (FOAA) appeal before Justice Dan Billings contesting the denial by Bath Police Chief of records of BIW and Bath PD discussions about how to deal with protesters.

Hope to see you there!

Edited May 28 to include event co-sponsors:
Peaceworks of Greater Brunswick, Peace Action Maine, Global Network Against Nuclear Weapons & Power in Space, Pax Christi Maine, Maine Natural Guard

Created In 2003, ICE Is The New Gestapo -- How Will We Stop Their Crimes Against Humanity?

My sister posted this photo of the young woman murdered by border patrol with the comment, "Looks really threatening, huh?" Maybe it's because I've been reading I, Rigoberta Menchú recently, but I can totally understand why a traditionally dressed young woman from Guatemala with a sober expression on her face is perceived as a threat by the violent patriarchy that rules the U.S.

Image: GoodReads

Women in Central America, especially women from indigenous cultures, have mounted decades of serious resistance to right wing governments and the thieving corporations they enable.

So, the kleptocracy ascendant here in the USA rightly fears indigenous women.

Note that I am not in any way excusing the murder of Claudia Gómez by ICE. 

The death, which her boyfriend waiting for her in the U.S. called "an assassination," was reported by Molly Hennessy-Fiske in the Los Angeles Times. The story includes an interview with a witness on the scene, amateur videographer Marta Martinez, who sees people running and hiding from ICE in her Texas neighborhood all the time.

Something interesting I learned today from sister activist Jessica Stewart:

ICE was only created in 2003, as part of the US's post-9/11 hyper-militarized, xenophobic frenzy.

We didn't have this department 16 years ago, we do not need it, and we should abolish it immediately. 
I do not say this lightly: ICE is America's gestapo and we should treat them with that level of serious resistance.
Ms. Gómez’s family in Guatemala City

Her aunt had this to say about the death of her niece, as reported by Sofia Menchu for Reuters:

“To the government of the United States,
(I ask) that you do not treat us like this, like animals, just because you are a powerful and developed country,” 
Dominga Vicente, Gómez’s aunt, told reporters in Guatemala City. The young woman from the Guatemalan highlands had left her home in search of work and education opportunities, Vicente said.

From the YouTube post of Martinez's video:

Gómez Gonzáles was a Maya-Mam indigenous woman and had reportedly graduated from a program in forensic accounting in 2016. She had hoped to further her education, her father, Gilberto Gómez, told the Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre. 
Lidia Gonzáles, the woman’s mother, told a local news channel that the family didn’t have enough money for her daughter to continue her studies. “She told me she wanted to keep studying at university but we don’t have the money,” Gonzáles said, according to a translation by The Guardian. “We’re poor and there are no jobs here. That’s why she traveled to the U.S. But they killed her. Immigration killed her. 

Back to the Gestapo theme.

Did Nazi Germany as a "powerful and developed country" treat Jews, including young women and children, as animals? Unless you're a child yourself, you know full well that they did.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has achieved infamy by telling reporters for NPR that separating families is a effective deterrent to asylum seekers, and that it's not cruel because the minor children are “put into foster care or whatever.”

Did you think as you learned about the Holocaust: If I had been living in Europe at that time in history I would have resisted with all the resources I had available to me? Well, here we are now.

More from Jessica Stewart:

Who is following recent news about Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE)? For those of us who are citizens, what if it were your kids or my kids? What would you or I want people to do? 

1. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced that for families seized by ICE, children will be separated from their parents in detention with no word on when they will be reuinted (more here:…/jeff-sessions-illegal-border-separated/
2. Of the 7,000+ children that ICE has captured from their families, 1,475 are unaccounted for. Gone. And this is only the first report, numbers may be much higher. (More here: 
3. Documents obtained by the ACLU show massive horrific abuse of children in ICE custody, including kicking a child in the ribs, running over a 17 year old with a patrol car, sexually assaulting a 16 year old girl in a search, and detaining a 4 pound premature baby and her mother in an overcrowded and dirty cell full of sick people. (More here:
4. ICE plans to destroy records of immigrant abuse, including sexual assault and deaths in custody (From an August 2017 report, more here:…/ice-plans-start-destroying-records-i…) 

Here's reporting from Curt Prendergast and Perla Trevizo for the Arizona Daily Star:

Alma Jacinto covered her eyes with her hands as tears streamed down her cheeks.
The 36-year-old from Guatemala was led out of the federal courtroom without an answer to the question that brought her to tears: When would she see her boys again?
Jacinto wore a yellow bracelet on her left wrist, which defense lawyers said identifies parents who are arrested with their children and prosecuted in Operation Streamline, a fast-track program for illegal border crossers.
Image: Facebook post by Jeanne Morales, an immigration attorney in Texas

Anne Frank and her family were deemed illegal border crossers, forced to wear badges on their clothing identifying them as Jews and criminals.

One thing you can do: teach Holocaust history, which many young people in the U.S. are completely ignorant about. 

Photo by Henryk Ross "Children being transported to Chelmno nad Nerem (renamed Kulmhof) death camp." 

You can also join or donate to the ACLU to support the legal fight against ICE detention and separation of families. Or find other organizations to support that are battling ICE forces of evil.

You could write to the kleptocrats in Congress and the White House for all the good it will do (note that Obama's record on immigrant detentions and deportations was also abysmal). 

You can also write letters to the editor, which are free and reach thousands of people daily. 

Spread the news!!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wikipedia Text Will Be Used To 'Curb Fake News' On YouTube, But Who Will Curb Fake Entries On Wikipedia?

Screenshot from a video posted to YouTube by TruthMovementIsCool

Teachers have a love/hate relationship with the user-generated online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

Search engines privilege it to such an extent that lazy researchers find this source most easily. The layout and presentation suggest entries on Wikipedia are factual in nature, and entries usually have some nifty Creative Commons licensed visuals to accompany text.

Most teachers won't accept it as a source, claiming that no editors can attest to its veracity. Actually, a plethora of editors vie with each other to bring forward truth, but it has long been understood that they don't always play fair.

Enter Philip Cross.

Philip Cross is an alleged human Wikipedia editor who appears tireless, working 24/7 for years now without a single day off. Cross is kept so busy making changes to the biographical entries of people who effectively criticize corporate government policies, including war, in the U.S., U.K. and Israel.

Australian blogger Caitlin Johnstone wrote about him here in "Wikileaks Is An Establishment Psyop." In other words, propaganda.

Would it surprise you to know that George Galloway, MP most likely to speak up for Palestine, has been the subject of Philip Cross's most frequent edits? 

An excerpt from Johnstone's piece on Medium:

"the only real power in this world is the ability to control the dominant narrative about what’s going on. The only reason government works the way it works, money operates the way it operates, and authority rests where it rests is because everyone has agreed to pretend that that’s how things are. In actuality, government, money and authority are all man-made conceptual constructs and the collective can choose to change them whenever it wants. The only reason this hasn’t happened in our deeply dysfunctional society yet is because

the plutocrats who rule us have been successful in controlling the narrative."[emphasis mine]

Now comes YouTube, another madly popular crowdsourced repository of knowledge, truths, half truths and outright lies. Surgeons consult it to learn new procedures. Researchers use it to find interviews they can't conduct themselves. Conspiracy theorists use it to promote their versions of the reality they believe lurks beneath the surface of official pronouncements.

YouTube's CEO just announced at media conference SXSW that, in an effort to combat so-called "fake news," the platform will begin pairing text from Wikipedia with conspiracy theory videos.

YouTube was bought by Google in 2006. You know Google -- the search engine that was modified recently to downgrade alternative news sources in preference for corporate news sources. If you often use Google you will probably have noticed that now you get hits from the New York Times and Washington Post and CNN rather than a mix of hits including alternative news sites such as Consortium NewsPopular Resistance, or Democracy Now!

Back to the education problem: a study some years ago claimed to find that Wikipedia was actually more accurate than the Encyclopedia Britannica. Since victors write history, that's not very surprising. It was around the same time that someone did an analysis of headlines in the big corporate newspapers as compared with headlines in The Onion (which was subsequently captured by the Democratic Party in time for Hillary Clinton's campaign for the White House) and found The Onion was more accurate.

Source: The Onion

When I taught high school social studies I wouldn't accept Wikipedia as a source; however, I did recommend it as a source of sources i.e. look at the Citations and Bibliography sections at the end of many entries for links to other, more reliable -- or at least more vetted -- sources to explore.

Kids today would way rather use YouTube for research purposes. Natalie Jarvey writing in The Hollywood Reporter quoted a tweet from Wikimedia's CEO about one problem with the idea of contesting fake news using Wikipedia text paired with videos: "we require people to edit us to stay up-to-date. Scraping our content means people can't contribute." 

In other words, "people" like Philip Cross can't contribute.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

#ViolentAnimals At The Helm Of The Foundering Ship Of State

It is really beyond irony when the White House swears in a torture queen to head up the CIA and simultaneously publishes a press released entitled "What You Need To Know About The Violent Animals Of MS-13."

The dog whistle slur against Latin Americans is tied to the effort by thousands of families to flee U.S.-funded and supported violence in Central America. No doubt MS-13 -- like any profitable drug trafficking gang -- uses violence to control territory, intimidate its opponents, and silence potential critics.

Image: Anthony Freda

By these definitions, the U.S. government qualifies as a profitable drug trafficking gang.

Philosophers among us will argue that "violent animals" is an apt label for humans in general.

As aggressive primates who have allowed testosterone poisoning to infect our entire culture and way of life, humans continue to devise ever more shocking forms of violence against their siblings in the human race. Not to mention the violence routinely visited on other species, our neighbors on this planet.

The rise of hateful language emanating from the demagogue with bad hair and the rest of the kleptocracy is, in some ways, even more alarming than the actual violence. I say this as a history major and long time school civil rights team adviser.

Dehumanizing language always precedes pogroms. Always. It's a bad, bad sign of things to come.

We've heard an outpouring of hate language against a long list of targets during this administration, with many commentators noting that racism in particular has come crawling out of the woodwork where it had been (not very successfully) hiding into the light of day. Among those spattered with hateful epithets: teenagers pleading for gun control after surviving mass shootings at their school; black and brown people going about their business; immigrants who've worked and paid taxes for decades and now face deportation; trans women and men; Muslim-Americans; Palestinians asserting the refugees right of return; refugees in general.

U.S. airstrike on Mosul, Iraq in March, 2017. Photo by Aris Messinis, AFP/Getty. Source: The Intercept

This last group often raises the question: if NATO nations are concerned about the massive influx of refugees destabilizing their countries, how about they stop bombing the places the refugees flee?

Violent animals bomb civilians. Violent animals starve children, and drive the life expectancy of their parents down because they can't afford the oxymoronic for-profit health care. Violent animals exploit vulnerable populations who lack the resources to defend themselves.

In these degraded times, many political commentators indulge in name calling and personal insults on social media. One reason I won't share posts calling someone an idiot, or monster, piece of shit, etc. is that I'm loathe to support hate language. I can harshly criticize someone's actions without dehumanizing them.

Within every human, no matter how depraved in thought or deed, there is a spark of the divine.

Or, put another way, no one is excluded from being loved and valued by the goddess. Every sinner is capable of redemption.

Even those most violent of animals, the human beings.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Dark Times

Gaza medics in identifying clothing approach wounded with their hands raised, but get shot anyway. You can contribute to support unarmed civilians being attacked by Israel's military here at Medical Aid for Palestinians.

Besides being overwhelmed at work and at home, I'm struggling this week with the darkness that seems to be closing in worldwide. It's hard to say which I'm more troubled by: Israel's slaughter of unarmed civilians at the Gaza border while kleptocrats partied in Jerusalem; U.S. warmongering against Iran; or confirmation of a known pregnant woman torturer to head the CIA

Yesterday there was another mass shooting at a high school, this time in Texas. The NRA, the enforcement arm of kleptocracy that keeps us all fearful, took time out from harassing teens who've survived school shootings to put convicted felon Oliver North at its helm.

Families began being ripped apart at the border as migrants fleeing violence in Central America attempted to cross over to safety. And, needless to say, the ongoing bad news of weapons corporations using taxpayer funding to lobby elected officials for tax breaks on top of the already gargantuan military budget with its attendant austerities for the people -- rolled on.

Then there were the small discouragements: all my postcards to Kings Bay Plowshares anti-nuclear activists were sent back rather than delivered. This small cruelty to the activists was expected because other correspondents had posted photos of their undelivered regulation post office issue postcards earlier in the week. I know that my first batch of postcards a few weeks ago were received, because I got replies from several of the conscientious objectors to nuclear warmongering. They were all arraigned last week and if they care to can post a $5000 bond and submit to house arrest with ankle monitors pending their trial. You can contribute to their bond fund here.

I've said before that I write this blog to keep my head from exploding as I attempt to process the bad news of our times.

Clearly, I should spend more time reading my friend Cecile Pineda's newsletter which always ends with a Roses Among Thorns section sharing encouraging, uplifting, hopeful current events. Thanks, Cecile, for your pinpoint of light shining in these dark times.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

White Privilege In Death, And The Rise Of The Police State

All the flags on the main street of Somerset County seat Skowhegan (and there are many) were swapped for pro-police versions for the funeral procession of the first law enforcement officer killed in Maine in 30 years.

The recent killing of a sheriff's deputy here in Maine has resulted in a huge outpouring of sentiment that looks to be gaining momentum as the weeks pass. Corporal Eugene Cole was well-loved, and his compassion and skill at deescalating potentially violent situations are often cited by those remembering him. I experienced this firsthand myself, and I can only imagine how shocking his death has been to family and friends, who have my condolences.

But the uses of Corporal Cole's death are disturbing. The rise of the police state with its many forms of violence against people of color is receiving a haze of righteousness that none dare question in this whitest state of all.

This poster appears in every shop window in Skowhegan, a town a few miles from where Corporal Cole was killed by a drug addict who owned several guns. I wonder how black people see this?

Seeing the town swarming with dress uniformed police from other states makes me look through my white privileged eyes to wonder: how do people of color see the deification of all police as the result of one tragic white on white crime?

Where is the rational response to an opioid epidemic that is ravaging New England and produced the desperate junkie who shot Corporal Cole? My friend and sister peaceworker Mary Beth Sullivan was quoted in this hard-hitting look at the Portland, Maine neighborhood where she works. In the article, a 36 year old military veteran who was homeless for a while describes conditions far worse than any she witnessed in the many other countries she saw while in the Navy.

The focus of the article is the predators who abound among a population with no access to mental health services or drug rehab, but plenty of access to guns.

Instead of a logical response to the conditions that led to Corporal Cole's death, we're swept away in a flood of emotional and sentimental law enforcement worship.

A recent facebook post I saw and now can't find again denigrated Black Lives Matter activists in Portland who "abused" police. That is, they sat down in the street to protest the racist policing of people of color in Maine's largest city. Where is the outpouring of sorrow over the murder of mentally challenged black man Chance David Baker by police in Portland last year? The officer who shot him was cleared of any charges for his death despite the fact that a 911 caller said Baker had a bb gun (in an open carry state) and despite the fact that Baker was killed within minutes of police arriving on the scene. Baker had harmed no one.

Mainer Shay Stewart-Bouley calls out the corporate press for their role in promoting racist treatment of alleged criminals in a post to her blog BlackGirlinMaine: "Black suspects or Black victims? Will someone dig deeper?" Remember we are in a state where the governor infamously said drug traffickers are "these type of guys":

This all leads me to a question that must be asked: Do people of color think Corporal Cole was as good of a cop as the white people do?

Police are so routinely brutal to people of color who are found waiting while black, golfing while black, asking to see the manager while black, that a currently trending article in my social media world spells out what to do instead of calling the police on black people.

I've been arrested in Maine, for calling out the insanity of building nuclear weaponized warships. I was with eight other white people, and we peace protesters got the white treatment by police despite the fact that plans for handling us are deemed inaccessible because they involved planning for "terrorism." No police officers threatened us with bodily harm, or even disrespect. 

A well-known Native activist and ambassador for the Penobscot Nation recently encountered the highly militarized border police coming back home from Canada.

Would my grandmother and I have been treated like this?

Being treated like criminals at the Houlton border crossing coming back into Maine was a bummer. Having my car searched, him yelling at my 79 year old grandmother to keep her hands visible while she looked for her passport, and two tribal officials being spoken to like Colombian drugs lords after I’d been up since 430am really could have made me grouchy.
However my grandmother calling us “Thelma and Louise” made it all better.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

History Shows When Rich Get Richer, You Need A Reset Button

It's been interesting watching the decline of arguably the most racist, most violent society on the face of the planet. Interesting, and painful (cf "White on White Crime, And The Diseases Of Despair").

On the one hand you have elected officials falling all over themselves to give handouts to wealthy corporations, and on the other hand you have hard working young adults who fear they will never get out from under the burdens of their college debts. 

More than one thinker has posited that forgiving student loans would be not only humane but also an enormous boost to the economy.

Solvent 20 and 30-somethings could contemplate home ownership, or start a business.

Turns out this is not a particularly new idea.

New to me but probably not to many of my readers is the work of economic historian Michael Hudson. I read an interview with him on the subject of Bronze Age debt forgiveness that contained some of the most interesting Biblical exegesis I've yet encountered. Hudson sees this contested manuscript as being essentially a record of various debt forgiveness schemes in ancient times. And the struggle between the lords and the peons over the suspension of certain kinds of debts, especially unpaid taxes and agricultural liens.

Drawing of a farmer suicide in India published with the caption "Do you care for us?"

The demise of small farmers by way of excessive debt, and its common consequence suicide, is a global problem. I no longer have it in me to be out after dark on a school night, but if I did I'd love to protest the appearance by World Bank CEO Kristina Georgieva this Sunday night at Colby College. Maybe some of the young farmers who are revitalizing Maine's local economy will show up and picket. Naw, they're up at dawn too, and this is a very busy time of year for them. They really could not be working any harder than they already do.

But the corporate media, owned and operated by the very wealthy, will continue spreading the lie that poor people could become solvent by becoming more virtuous: diligent, thrifty, self-disciplined. It's their own fault they're sick but have no health insurance, broke but have no savings account, homeless and hungry. They should pull themselves up by their bootstraps, right?

Blaming poor people for being poor makes for effective propaganda but bad economic policy.

According to Hudson, ancient rulers would forgive the debts owed to the regime as each ascended to the throne. Business debts weren't cancelled, but unpaid bills and taxes were. The rulers did this, not out of compassion, but for a pragmatic reason: debt-burdened peasants weren't free to labor (for free) on royal fields or to go into the military. Hudson sees Jesus of Nazareth as a rabbi in the tradition of rebellion against the Roman empire's abandonment of debt Jubilees. Hudson describes how their predecessors the Spartans collapsed their economy with similarly wrong-headed policies on debt.

He may be wrong, and I don't know enough to dispute his claims. But it seems clear to me that the poor people around me keep getting poorer while the rich keep getting richer. And that this is has been a problem in many of the societies I've learned about being a student of history these many decades.

The U.S. empire has a hard time finding enough soldiers to carry out its wars for resources and colonies. The last draft was a disaster in terms of eroding public support for the military, and the all volunteer scheme struggles along. Some theorize that the reason post secondary education is kept out of reach except for the wealthy in the 21st century is that the number one motivator cited for enlistment in the military: pay for college.

Source: Occupy Wall Street

Ironically, student debt is now dragging the whole economy down. Hudson argues that we have never recovered from the crash of 2008, when banks got bailed out and the rest of us got sold out. Debt forgiveness could be a path forward.