Tuesday, May 28, 2019

U.S. Army Tweet Backfires On Memorial Day

For Memorial Day I visited the family cemetery and removed the flags placed on my father's and brother's graves at the behest of the VFA (Veterans of Foreign Wars) in Skowhegan. I've asked them to stop doing this, but the cemetery manager says he has to do what the VFA says.

My brother never enlisted, but he bears a similar name to a Civil War vet ancestor of ours who died by his own hand. My father, who was in the Army in Korea post-combat, passed on what his WWI vet father taught him: "Don't believe them when they say the next war is a good one. There is no such thing." (My father enlisted after his father died of his war injuries, before I was born.) My little granddaughter wanted the flag because she loves the stars and stripes design.

It is marketing like this that keeps the Pentagon death cult churning out wars and victims.

But marketing can only take you so far into denying reality. Two of my favorite thinkers blogged about a now infamously ill-advised tweet by the U.S. Army last week, "How has serving impacted you?" The number of responses was only at 5,300+ when Bruce Gagnon, himself an Air Force veteran, weighed in with "Army: It's not a job, it's an adventure..."

  • “My daughter was raped while in the army,” said one responder. “They took her to the hospital where an all male staff tried to convince her to give the guy a break because it would ruin his life. She persisted. Wouldn’t back down. Did a tour in Iraq. Now suffers from PTSD.”
  • “I’ve had the same nightmare almost every night for the past 15 years,” said another.
  • “Someone I loved joined right out of high school even though I begged him not to. Few months after his deployment ended, we reconnected. One night, he told me he loved me and then shot himself in the head. If you’re gonna prey on kids for imperialism, at least treat their PTSD.”

By now various authors have compiled some of the 10,ooo responses. Caitlin Johnstone all the way down in Australia posted "The US Army Asked Twitter How Service Has Impacted People. The Answers Were Gut Wrenching."

“My dad was drafted into war and was exposed to agent orange. I was born w multiple physical/neurological disabilities that are linked back to that chemical. And my dad became an alcoholic with ptsd and a side of bipolar disorder.” 
“i met this guy named christian who served in iraq. he was cool, had his own place with a pole in the living room. always had lit parties. my best friend at the time started dating him so we spent a weekend at his crib. after a party, 6am, he took out his laptop. he started showing us some pics of his time in the army. pics with a bunch of dudes. smiling, laughing. it was cool. i was drunk and didn’t care. he started showing us pics of some little kids. after a while, his eyes went completely fucking dark. i was like man, dude’s high af. he very calmly explained to us that all of those kids were dead ‘but that’s what war was. dead kids and nothing to show for it but a military discount’. christian killed himself 2 months later.”

George Marlowe writing for World Socialist Web Site, "Memorial Day 2019: US Army tweet prompts outpouring of antiwar sentiment," pointed out what I've been thinking since I saw the original thread on Twitter: "This outpouring of rage on Twitter highlights the latent but deep going antiwar sentiment in the American population[emphasis mine] that finds no expression in the current political system or the corporate media. "  

How can we antiwar activists do a better job of leveraging this?

I would love to hear your thoughts in comments.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Conversion Campaign Aims To Turn BIW Toward Halting Climate Change

Statewide groups will gather to call on Bath Iron Works to shift its industrial power to addressing climate change at a news conference for the Conversion Campaign on June 21. The conference will take place at 11:00 am in the Portland Public Library, Room 3.

Environmental, faith, labor and social justice leaders will be on hand to share their views on conversion, including Nickie Sekera of Community Water Justice and Barry Dana, past Chief of the Penobscot Nation.

Dana commented, “War will soon be seen by all as a waste of time. We will soon be too consumed with basic survival due to our climate no longer providing life.”

He went on to say, “Our actions of CO2 emissions, of which the military is the largest emitter, along with the millions of people flying, buying goods transported thousands of miles all in the interest of profit margins, comfortable life styles and feeding the rich, will no longer be possible.”

“Survival will consume our every thought and action. Is this the world we want to leave to our grandchildren?"

A 2017 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report has projected at least a six inch sea level rise by 2050.

Bruce Gagnon of Brunswick, a member of Veterans for Peace (VFP) said, “Our real security needs as a nation are to urgently address climate change and plan for sea level rise that is already underway. How will this affect BIW’s shipyard in Bath?"

"Continuing to build expensive, provocative and polluting weapon systems like Aegis destroyers ignores climate change as the biggest threat to our collective safety.”

Gagnon has helped organize protests at BIW for the past several years. In 2018 he fasted for 37 days to oppose a tax giveaway by the state of Maine to BIW owner General Dynamics.

“Endorsing the Conversion Campaign addresses these truths and provides a rational lens through which to see an apocalyptic reality,” says Dud Hendrick of VFP, one of a dozen organizations sponsoring the BIW Conversion Campaign.

“The absolute imperative of conversion is all the more undeniable to us in Maine, having the longest coastline in the nation. And, a widely predicted collapse of the lobster fishery in Maine waters due to the associated rising water temperatures would be cataclysmic in every conceivable respect for my home town of Deer Isle.”

“Conversion” should influence every decision our Congressional delegates make in the conduct of their work as our representatives,” concluded Hendrick.

See Brown University's definitive 2017 study, "Job Opportunity Cost of War" by Heidi Peletier

Sunday, May 19, 2019

My Sister's Series: The Ignorant & Dangerous People Now Forcing Women Into Childbirth Against Their Will

My sister Hope is the all time top guest poster to this blog, and it's not hard to see why.

Here for your perusal is her rogues gallery of enemies of women's rights to control their own bodies in 2019.

This one won't embed, so I'll share Hope's repost of an item she titles Twisted Sisters it as a screenshot.

Ok, now that you know who to look out for, here's how to look out for #1 if you find yourself in a predicament:

"Abortions by mail are available now in the U.S. Here's what you need to know." 
The provider of this service told Julia Veluz reporting for VoxMedia:

I got an email from a woman who was living in a car with two kids...Something had to be done.

REVISED May 26, 2019 to include more of the ignorant and dangerous.

So-Called Defense Spending Is All About The Benjamins

As the Pentagon continues driving climate catastrophe by belching out carbon, some in the U.S. pause to question why we fund the destruction of our own life support system.

Follow the money.

An article that caught my eye this morning was about one of the Pentagon's many contractors, mercenaries for hire that operate in a murky zone between accountability for federal agencies and lack of accountability for the corporations they hire.
Bagram military base in Afghanistan, where the U.S. has been waging an enormously expensive operation for 18 years.

From Patricia Kime reporting in Military.com, "Families of Killed, Injured Troops Sue Contractor Over Bagram 'Fun Run' Bombing": the Fluor Corporation is being held accountable for permitting a suicide bomber to work unsupervised for months building a weaponized vest that killed three soldiers and injured eight. 
The company just concluded a $12 billion security contract for the Defense Department.

Not much security for our $12 billion, eh?

I had already been cogitating on the news that Zumwalt war ships built in my home state are not only dysfunctional as weapons (that's the good news) but represent a colossal waste of tax dollars. Three of them were built by General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works shipyard; most recently, the USS Lyndon B. Johnson was christened[sic] while 25 of us were arrested in the street protesting the environmental crime that military contracting represents. 

The theme of the LBJ protest was a call for conversion of Bath Iron Works to building sustainable energy solutions rather than carbon belching weapons systems. Such a change would generate far more jobs than does building for the U.S. Navy.
Photo credit: Peter Robbins

Now comes word from Beth Brogan reporting in the Bangor Daily News that the LBJ, which reportedly cost $7 billion to build, will never function as a war ship anyway. 

A new report by the Government Accountability Office criticizes the U.S. Navy and Bath Iron Works for more than 320 "serious deficiencies" found upon inspection when the shipyard delivered the first-in class USS Zumwalt's hull, mechanical and electrical systems in May 2016. 
Another 246 "serious deficiencies" were found after acceptance trials in January and February 2018 for the USS Michael Monsoor, the second of three "stealth" destroyers built in Maine 
Also a concern is the lack of a suitable projectile for the destroyers. The Navy initially planned to use the Long-Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP), but determined that the high cost -- $800,000 to $1 million per round [emphasis mine] -- was prohibitive. 
After evaluating five other munition options, the Navy found no viable replacement, according to the report. "As a result, the guns will remain inoperable on the ships for the forseeable future," the report states

Remember that junker your uncle kept out back as a parts car? The LBJ will be like that, used primarily to supply parts for the first two Zumwalt lemons.

Did General Dynamics get super rich building them anyway? Yup.

Source: Providence Journal "Defense firms spend big on lucrative stock buybacks" by Alex Nunes

Did they give a lot of campaign contributions and other, stealth goodies to Maine politicians like Senator Susan Collins? Yes again.

No more Zumwalt class destroyers will be built, nor does it appear they will destroy anything more than Earth's climate. And as thinking people are aware, the unfolding climate catastrophe is our true security issue in the 21st century.

Time to switch over to building for life, not death.

design by Russell Wray

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Moms In Prison, Kids In Concentration Camps For Profit #HappyMothersDay

I started out Mothers Day donating to National Bailout to help free black women from jail so the can spend the day with their kids. I know, it seems late, but they assured me that they will be working all day to free moms incarcerated for the color of their skin rather than the severity of their crimes. Black woman are disproportionately jailed for minor offenses that someone who looks like me would probably not even be prosecuted for, or charged with in the first place. Because I have donated to their project in the past, they sent a nice ecard that I could print out for my own mom.

My mom with her mom, her dad and her brother.

But my mom isn't on the planet anymore. She was surely with me yesterday though, because my youngest child graduated from college and my mom was big on education. My mom raised her kids not to kill another mother's kids, and I've tried to do the same. Her parents traveled from Oklahoma to California to escape dire poverty by picking cotton and grapes in the San Joaquin Valley. 

I'm out of town to celebrate my son earning his degree, so I won't be able to attend the rally my retired colleague in a nearby town has organized for Mothers Day. I'm there in spirit as the rally she organized calls attention to the cruel U.S. policy of separating asylum seeking children from their parents. Migration due to poverty is nothing new, but infants and toddlers are now routinely terrorized to discourage their parents from trying.

From Meg Robbins reporting in the Morning Sentinel:

Central Mainers for Change will hold a “Mother’s Day Rally to End Family Separation and Child Detention” from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday at Head of Falls in Waterville. 
The rally is part of a national movement that 20 other communities across the country will participate in this weekend with the goal of bringing attention to aspects of the United States’ immigration policy.

My friend Mary Dunn's focus has been on a particular shelter i.e. concentration camp for children in Florida, Homestead, which is expanding. It is highly profitable for its owners who are awarded no bid contracts to run the facility.

Remember when we were horrified to learn how the Nazi government of Germany had separated families and herded children into detention centers? Yeah, me too.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

District Attorney Will Not Prosecute 25 Protesters -- Even More Next Time?

Rob Shetterly under arrest at General Dynamics/Bath Iron Works on April 27. Photo credit: Peter Robbins
The LBJ 25 will not be prosecuted for obstructing a public way during the celebration of a war ship at General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works on April 27. Citing the desire to avoid wasting her staff's energy on nonviolent protesters, District Attorney Natasha Irving told Maine Public reporter Susan Sharon"That's going to take time away from their week when they need to prepare cases of child sexual abuse.”

One of the LBJ 25, Jason Rawn, commented in an email: 
By talking about not wanting to waste scarce resources on this trial, she really opens up the whole question of war dollars and the "legitimacy" of investing in well-organized destruction instead of conversion and regeneration. Great parallel to our basic message!
Another member of the group, artist/activist Rob Shetterly of Americans Who Tell The Truth, told Sharon:
"You know, the U.S. military has the biggest carbon footprint of any entity in the world and it's at this moment in our history, to keep doing this is not giving us more security, it's making us more insecure." 
Protests at the shipyard, Shetterly says, are not to shut down Bath Iron Works but to change its mission to support green energy.

General Dynamics/BIW management show a pattern of ridiculing conscientious objections to their building weapons of mass destruction. During the campaign last year to block a state tax giveaway in Maine, BIW Vice President John Fitzgerald told a sponsor of the bill, Rep. Jennifer DeChant of Bath, that protester Bruce Gagnon was "a one-man band." Subsequently, scores of Mainers signed up to put their names on this ad supporting Gagnon.

In the wake of arrests at the April 27 christening[sic] of the USS Lyndon B. Johnson, the local newspaper serving Bath Iron Works ran a snarky editorial mocking the 25 who were arrested, largely on the basis of age.

The op-ed drew swift rebuttals pointing out that climate catastrophe was anything but trivial, and that the protests had done a good job of making the connection between Pentagon contracting and carbon pollution of Earth's atmosphere.

Steve Clark of Freeport commented, "Whether you agree or disagree with their intent, the protesters were serious in their actions and deserve a more serious response than this facetious piece."

Photo credit: Peter Robbins

As a member of the LBJ 25 myself I can tell you that at least as many more folks had signed up to participate in civil resistance that day, but were unable to attend due to various conflicts with the date. 

Another war ship will roll out of GD/BIW in late June, and planning for civil resistance on behalf of conversion to address climate change are already in the works.

Will there be even more arrests next time? Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Conversion Toward Peace, Right Here In Maine

The Rev. Mair Honan in blue raincoat being arrested by Bath police for blocking Washington Street during a war ship "christening" at General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works shipyard.

Below are the wise words of The Reverend Mair Honan of the United Church of Christ. Mair had the microphone and was just beginning to speak in Bath on April 27 when she decided to join the civil resistance action, so I invited her to share her thoughts via a guest post to this blog.

Conversion Toward Peace

Martin Luther King wrote “when we are met by physical force we must respond with soul force.” The US is the largest arms dealer in the world. We have the biggest navy in the world, we have more nuclear weapons in our arsenal that any other nation. We are not interested in soul force.

April 27th Bath Iron Works  “christens” the $7 billion Zumwalt stealth destroyer.

One of the myths General Dynamics, owner of BIW, believes is that this production makes America safer. We already have the weaponry to blow up the world - has it made us safer, healthier, happier? Many question whether this “security through destructive strength” can bring us any closer to world peace. Our understanding needs to change. The current global issues of climate change, population growth, water shortages, poverty, failing states, reveal more clearly that security must be global if it is to exist at all.

One step, toward real security, would be the conversion of BIW from a company that builds destroyers to a company that takes its ingenuity and dedicated work force and leads us into the concrete reality of supporting this country by building wind /solar projects, hospital ships, and modern rail systems. This would be a move, right here in Maine, toward real security, toward world peace.

Rev. Mair Honan

Most of the LBJ 25, so named because the war ship was named after the Vietnam War criminal, after our release by the Bath PD. We were charged with obstructing a public way. Photo credit: Jim Anderberg

Another of the LBJ 25 arrested on April 27, Judy Robbins, shared a useful news service with me, Pressenza IPA (in English). In my daily news email from them, I noticed an article from March 5: "These 28 companies are building nuclear weapons" based on a report from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. 

Guess which company doing business in Maine is on the nuclear weapons list?

General Dynamics (United States)General Dynamics has a number of contracts related key components for the UK & US Trident II (D5) systems. An initial US$ 30.6 million (€ 28.2 million) contract awarded in 2015 has been modified repeatedly (including five times between November 2017 and December 2018) bringing the total contract value to over US$ 174.4 million (€ 155.6 million). Another General Dynamics subsidiary, General Dynamics Electric Boat received a maximum dollar value of US$ 46.5 (€ 43.4 million) contract in September 2017 for integration work for United Kingdom Strategic Weapon Support System kit manufacturing for the Columbia class ballistic missile submarines. In 2018 this contract was modified significantly, first in April for US$ 126.2 million (€ 102.4 million), and again for US$ 480.6 million (€ 414 million) in September 2018.

Here's a political cartoon I created during our campaign last year to stop General Dynamics from getting a big tax giveaway from our low income state (we succeeded in getting the amount reduced, but the tax bonanza from feds, state and local continues as the climate catastrophe rolls on).

I guess I could have put a mushroom shaped cloud in the background instead of a yacht.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

We Have Got To Build A Future That Is Healthy...We Have Got To Start Today

Judy Robbins being arrested April 27, 2019 in Bath, Maine. Photo credit: Jim Anderberg
These are the words that peace and justice heroine Judy Robbins planned to share at Bath Iron Works last weekend. She decided to risk arrest by moving into Washington Street with two dozen others instead, so I am sharing them here. 

We are here
because we have something to say
and it’s important 

Senator Collins and Senator King
we want you to listen
Congressman Golden and Congresswoman Pingree
we want you to listen

we have been to your offices
we have written you letters
we have called you
we have sent emails and tweets

we need you to hear us
instead of listening to General Dynamics,
we want you to hear this message: 

the forests are on fire
the prairies are flooded
the oceans are dying
the air is toxic

this is a climate emergency
this is a climate crisis
it’s no longer global warming
it’s no longer climate change

Banner by Artists' Rapid Response Team (AART!) of the Union of Maine Visual Artists

it’s a climate crisis, a world emergency
and the earth needs your attention


we have got to stop launching warships to kill people
we have got to build a future that is healthy
we can change this trajectory
and we have got to start today

love as if everyone is your sister or brother
take care of this world as if it is your beloved home

Judy Robbins April 27, 2019

Image: Anthony Freda

Now, compare Judy's wise words with this snarky unsigned op-ed in the Times Record ridiculing her conscientious action. It's pretty clear that the local newspaper in Bath is carrying water for General Dynamics, owner of BIW.

Consider contacting the editor of the TR here (he's already heard from me with a link to collected resources on Pentagon-fueled climate change):

John Swinconeck, Executive Editor

jswinconeck@timesrecord.com 207-504-8209
Local, State, Opinion

Thursday, May 2, 2019

It Isn't Nice To Block The Doorway, It Isn't Nice To Speak The Truth

Corrrection: The photo on the left is not a picture of me, nor was I charged with disorderly conduct on April 27.
Pop music probably influenced me a lot more than I'd like to admit. All those songs about romance appealed to a girl growing up in an alcoholic household, wondering if there was something better beyond the horizon I could see at the time. I still vividly remember hearing Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness" when I was 11 or 12 riding in the family car,  glimpsing a whole world out there waiting for me.

As a teenager, I was exposed to protest songs that lodged in my psyche. "Universal Soldier" by Buffy Sainte-Marie was a favorite that still gets stuck in my head from time to time.

"It Isn't Nice" by Malvina Reynolds is another seminal text in my life. Whenever I hear white people tone policing Natives or people of color, I think of this song.

I think that the edict to be "nice" has upheld white supremacy in our society by making criticism of that unfair system unwelcome. Not rocking the boat only favors those already in the boat, not those struggling in turbulent waters outside the boat. 

Artist Natasha Mayers' Love Boat (her photo). From an excellent article in The Lincoln County News reporting on the BIW civil resistance April 27.

I'm thinking about all this today as I contemplate someone publicly sharing some really nasty commentary aimed at myself and my sister that I shared privately. It was a comment to this blog that I did not publish because it contained threats toward me, ugly misogynistic language aimed at someone I love, and contributed no ideas to the ongoing discussion about Native mascots for school sports. 

The nasty comment came on the heels of someone named Ken Shurak sharing a doctored photograph of me. Here's the original photo, taken on Congress Street in Portland two years ago:

Sorry, I can no longer remember who took this photo of me in April, 2017. Feel free to leave this info in a comment if you do know.

The photo was clumsily altered so that instead of holding a sign that said "Defund the Penatagon! Biggest polluter on the planet!" it said "Honk for the Indians." The altered picture is less than convincing because the hands holding the S_P sign are still visible. My legal advisers have told me this is a form of defamation, which is against the law.  For some reason, my civil resistance at General Dynamics last weekend seemed to inflame the emotions of S_P members who already resented my role in helping to get the Skowhegan Area High School mascot retired.

Most of the LBJ 25, arrested and charged with obstructing a public way at the launch of a carbon belching war ship named after Vietnam-era war criminal President Lyndon B. Johnson. Photo credit: Peter Robbins

This is a long-winded way of saying that I'm not particularly concerned about being perceived as nice. I would rather be compassionate, just, open-minded, and a lot of other things that are more powerful than nice.

Maybe it is just semantics, but the line I hold myself to is no name calling ever, because it dehumanizes -- and that is always the first step in bias-motivated violence.

I do use unflattering adjectives at times to describe people's actions, and sometimes people, if I think it is warranted i.e. can be supported with evidence. I have noticed that many mascot keepers in Skowhegan __ Pride could not make this distinction.

For instance, they would complain that I was calling them a racist if I described the mascot as racist. Part of the slide into fascism presently in the U.S. involves the willful misuse of language, including grammar, and pretending that it does not matter.

But it does! Because if language is used to obscure ideas rather than clarify them, that will render substantive discussions impossible. Do we want to live in a society like that? I know I don't. It is why I happily pay taxes to support education available to all.
As far as it not being nice to block the doorway or to go to jail (thanks, Malvina) the most compassionate people I've met in this life are willing to do just that.

Lots of people find meaningful ways to resist without risking arrest. At left is Rosie Paul, our wonderful song leader for the day. I don't know the young woman on the right, but I love her thinking! Photo credit: Regis Tremblay

Calling attention to the fact that the building and using of weapons is hastening climate change is difficult. The corporate media usually won't allow any such messages to leak through (the Portland Press Herald actually censored itself in its coverage of the Bath Iron Works protests of a war ship "christening" last weekend).

Proud to engage in civil resistance with my lovely husband Mark Roman and our wonderful hostess, retired educator Mary Donnelly. photo credit: Regis Tremblay

Acts of civil resistance that risk arrest is a way to call attention to the catastrophe we're barreling toward with over half of discretionary funding going to the Pentagon, year after year after year.

So, when a man online tells me not to be so angry, I recognize the tone police and also the wisdom of therapists advising that feelings are not to be denied. The expression of how I feel is a choice, but how to feel? That's in the capable hands of the goddess.

I'll end with this compassionate text I saw and shared on social media this morning. People are people and I don't hate any of them. Ideas? That's another story.

Source: @HigherPerspective