You are hereBlogs / davidswanson's blog

davidswanson's blog


99 Years Ago: A Pause in the War on Christmas

Frank Richards recalled:

"On Christmas morning we stuck up a board with 'A Merry Christmas' on it. The enemy had stuck up a similar one. Platoons would sometimes go out for twenty-four hours' rest -- it was a day at least out of the trench and relieved the monotony a bit -- and my platoon had gone out in this way the night before, but a few of us stayed behind to see what would happen. Two of our men then threw their equipment off and jumped on the parapet with their hands above their heads. Two of the Germans done the same and commenced to walk up the river bank, our two men going to meet them. They met and shook hands and then we all got out of the trench.

"Buffalo Bill [the Company Commander] rushed into the trench and endeavoured to prevent it, but he was too late: the whole of the Company were now out, and so were the Germans. He had to accept the situation, so soon he and the other company officers climbed out too. We and the Germans met in the middle of no-man's-land. Their officers was also now out. Our officers exchanged greetings with them. One of the German officers said that he wished he had a camera to take a snapshot, but they were not allowed to carry cameras. Neither were our officers.

"We mucked in all day with one another. They were Saxons and some of them could speak English. By the look of them their trenches were in as bad a state as our own. One of their men, speaking in English, mentioned that he had worked in Brighton for some years and that he was fed up to the neck with this damned war and would be glad when it was all over. We told him that he wasn't the only one that was fed up with it. We did not allow them in our trench and they did not allow us in theirs.

"The German Company-Commander asked Buffalo Bill if he would accept a couple of barrels of beer and assured him that they would not make his men drunk. They had plenty of it in the brewery. He accepted the offer with thanks and a couple of their men rolled the barrels over and we took them into our trench. The German officer sent one of his men back to the trench, who appeared shortly after carrying a tray with bottles and glasses on it. Officers of both sides clinked glasses and drunk one another's health. Buffalo Bill had presented them with a plum pudding just before. The officers came to an understanding that the unofficial truce would end at midnight. At dusk we went back to our respective trenches."

 

Bruce Bairnsfather remembered:

"The dawn of the 24th brought a perfectly still, cold, frosty day. The spirit of Christmas began to permeate us all; we tried to plot ways and means of making the next day, Christmas, different in some way to others. Invitations from one dug-out to another for sundry meals were beginning to circulate. Christmas Eve was, in the way of weather, everything that Christmas Eve should be.

"I was billed to appear at a dug-out about a quarter of a mile to the left that evening to have rather a special thing in trench dinners—not quite so much bully and Maconochie about as usual. A bottle of red wine and a medley of tinned things from home deputized in their absence. The day had been entirely free from shelling, and somehow we all felt that the Boches, too, wanted to be quiet. There was a kind of an invisible, intangible feeling extending across the frozen swamp between the two lines, which said 'This is Christmas Eve for both of us—something in common.'

"About 10 p.m. I made my exit from the convivial dug-out on the left of our line and walked back to my own lair. On arriving at my own bit of trench I found several of the men standing about, and all very cheerful. There was a good bit of singing and talking going on, jokes and jibes on our curious Christmas Eve, as contrasted with any former one, were thick in the air. One of my men turned to me and said:

"'You can 'ear 'em quite plain, sir!'

"'Hear what?' I inquired.

"'The Germans over there, sir; 'ear 'em singin' and playin' on a band or somethin'.'

"I listened;—away out across the field, among the dark shadows beyond, I could hear the murmur of voices, and an occasional burst of some unintelligible song would come floating out on the frosty air. The singing seemed to be loudest and most distinct a bit to our right. I popped into my dug-out and found the platoon commander."

"'Do you hear the Boches kicking up that racket over there?' I said.

"'Yes,' he replied; 'they've been at it some time!'

"'Come on,' said I, 'let's go along the trench to the hedge there on the right—that's the nearest point to them, over there.'

"So we stumbled along our now hard, frosted ditch, and scrambling up on to the bank above, strode across the field to our next bit of trench on the right. Everyone was listening. An improvised Boche band was playing a precarious version of 'Deutschland, Deutschland, uber Alles,' at the conclusion of which, some of our mouth-organ experts retaliated with snatches of ragtime songs and imitations of the German tune. Suddenly we heard a confused shouting from the other side. We all stopped to listen. The shout came again. A voice in the darkness shouted in English, with a strong German accent, 'Come over here!' A ripple of mirth swept along our trench, followed by a rude outburst of mouth organs and laughter. Presently, in a lull, one of our sergeants repeated the request, 'Come over here!'

"'You come half-way—I come half-way,' floated out of the darkness.

"'Come on, then!' shouted the sergeant. 'I'm coming along the hedge!'

"'Ah! but there are two of you,' came back the voice from the other side.

"Well, anyway, after much suspicious shouting and jocular derision from both sides, our sergeant went along the hedge which ran at right-angles to the two lines of trenches. He was quickly out of sight; but, as we all listened in breathless silence, we soon heard a spasmodic conversation taking place out there in the darkness.

"Presently, the sergeant returned. He had with him a few German cigars and cigarettes which he had exchanged for a couple of Maconochie's and a tin of Capstan, which he had taken with him. The séance was over, but it had given just the requisite touch to our Christmas Eve—something a little human and out of the ordinary routine.

"After months of vindictive sniping and shelling, this little episode came as an invigorating tonic, and a welcome relief to the daily monotony of antagonism. It did not lessen our ardour or determination; but just put a little human punctuation mark in our lives of cold and humid hate. Just on the right day, too—Christmas Eve! But, as a curious episode, this was nothing in comparison to our experience on the following day.

"On Christmas morning I awoke very early, and emerged from my dug-out into the trench. It was a perfect day. A beautiful, cloudless blue sky. The ground hard and white, fading off towards the wood in a thin low-lying mist. It was such a day as is invariably depicted by artists on Christmas cards—the ideal Christmas Day of fiction.

"'Fancy all this hate, war, and discomfort on a day like this!' I thought to myself. The whole spirit of Christmas seemed to be there, so much so that I remember thinking, 'This indescribable something in the air, this Peace and Goodwill feeling, surely will have some effect on the situation here to-day!' And I wasn't far wrong; it did around us, anyway, and I have always been so glad to think of my luck in, firstly, being actually in the trenches on Christmas Day, and, secondly, being on the spot where quite a unique little episode took place.

"Everything looked merry and bright that morning—the discomforts seemed to be less, somehow; they seemed to have epitomized themselves in intense, frosty cold. It was just the sort of day for Peace to be declared. It would have made such a good finale. I should like to have suddenly heard an immense siren blowing. Everybody to stop and say, 'What was that?' Siren blowing again: appearance of a small figure running across the frozen mud waving something. He gets closer—a telegraph boy with a wire! He hands it to me. With trembling fingers I open it: 'War off, return home.—George, R.I.' Cheers! But no, it was a nice, fine day, that was all.

"Walking about the trench a little later, discussing the curious affair of the night before, we suddenly became aware of the fact that we were seeing a lot of evidences of Germans. Heads were bobbing about and showing over their parapet in a most reckless way, and, as we looked, this phenomenon became more and more pronounced.

"A complete Boche figure suddenly appeared on the parapet, and looked about itself. This complaint became infectious. It didn't take 'Our Bert' long to be up on the skyline (it is one long grind to ever keep him off it). This was the signal for more Boche anatomy to be disclosed, and this was replied to by all our Alf's and Bill's, until, in less time than it takes to tell, half a dozen or so of each of the belligerents were outside their trenches and were advancing towards each other in no-man's land.

"A strange sight, truly!

"I clambered up and over our parapet, and moved out across the field to look. Clad in a muddy suit of khaki and wearing a sheepskin coat and Balaclava helmet, I joined the throng about half-way across to the German trenches.

"It all felt most curious: here were these sausage-eating wretches, who had elected to start this infernal European fracas, and in so doing had brought us all into the same muddy pickle as themselves.

"This was my first real sight of them at close quarters. Here they were—the actual, practical soldiers of the German army. There was not an atom of hate on either side that day."

 

John McCutcheon reimagined:

 

Joe Henry and Garth Brooks rediscovered:

 

Even Snoopy was inspired:

 

And now, after 99 years, what will we do?

There Are No Bad Bears

When he was a tiny little bear cub, Nelson would scamper over to be close to his mother when he heard any loud noise.  When he got a little bigger, if something scared him he would growl.  Bigger still, and he would stand up on his hind legs, growl, and wave his paws about.  And when he got even bigger than that -- when he began to look like a full-grown bear -- if Nelson heard something that might be dangerous, he would stand calmly still and listen harder.

Nelson's cubhood was a happy one.  His mother and the other big bears taught him to run and climb, and how to find the berries that were good and wouldn't make you sick.  They taught him how to settle arguments with other bears.  Growling was only for show, Nelson's mother always told him.

A bear must never attack another bear
But only growl and attack the air. 

She told him that little poem many times.

At the end of each day, Nelson's mother would read him stories before he went to bed in the cave. He especially liked "Goldilocks and the Three Humans." When Nelson got a little bigger his mother sometimes let him listen to stories told to a big circle of bears by the best bear storytellers in those mountains.  All of Nelson's friends listened to the stories, so Nelson's mother let him do so too.  Nelson found the stories -- full of fights and adventures -- to be tremendously strange but tremendously exciting.

Nelson knew that the bears around him in his woods and mountains were not the only bears in the world.  He knew other bears lived far way, and others even farther away on the far side of the world.  And yet Nelson was never taught a name for his bears until he was nearly full-grown.  And when he was taught the name, it was a name he had heard before in movies and books.  The name was: the Good Bears.

Nelson was happy to be a Good Bear, but the Bad Bears worried him.  He was told where they lived, and he was horrified at the thought that Bad Bears might come into the Good Bears' area.  He imagined what the Bad Bears looked like.  They must have horns and scales.  Some said the Bad Bears breathed fire.  Nelson began to grow afraid again, just as he had been afraid of everything when he had been a tiny cub.  And at the same time, Nelson was excited by the idea of the Bad Bears.  At any noise, Nelson would jump, his hair would stand up, he would rise and growl and wave his claws through the air fast enough to have ripped through a brick wall had there been a brick wall in the middle of the woods. 

There was nothing human in the woods until the day the truck came.  Nelson knew nothing of trucks.  They hadn't been in any stories.  He also knew nothing of guns.  So, when the forestry department came to help the bears by drugging them to sleep, inspecting them all over, sticking tags on them, and letting them go again, Nelson only knew that a large and noisy thing was nearby and getting closer.  He sprang into action.

While Nelson stood his tallest and roared his loudest at the truck, the truck did not talk back to him or retreat. The truck stopped. A human got out with something in his hands. There was a noise.  And then Nelson felt a sharp pain in his left rear leg.  Nelson felt dizzy.  He was spinning.  Or the forest was spinning.  Or the clouds were spinning.  Nelson heard voices, human voices.  They were saying he might be sick.  He must be tested.  They must help him.

Nelson woke up in a place he'd never seen or imagined.  There were huge hard bars on all sides of him, and above him.  Nelson roared like mad.  Humans came near to his cage but were afraid to come all the way up to it.  Nelson's rage and fury were limitless. Nelson nearly went insane with fear and anger and hatred. He roared and roared and smashed himself against the bars.  Afterward, he had no idea how long this had lasted.  It ended when the cage was loaded onto a truck, taken into the woods, and opened.  Nelson was free!

But something was wrong.  The trees were not the same as before.  The mountains were not the same shape.  It was as if the world had been twisted sideways somehow.  And then Nelson figured out what had happened.  The humans had released him into the wrong woods.  They had put him in the land of the Bad Bears.  Nelson shook with fear.  It was one thing to imagine fighting the Bad Bears with all the Good Bears standing at your side, like in the stories told to bear cubs.  It was another thing to be alone, the only Good Bear in a world of vicious Bad Bears seeking to destroy you.

Nelson heard and smelled something.  He looked quickly around for a place to hide, but it was too late.  A bear was coming close, and the bear had seen him.  But Nelson was in luck: this didn't look like a Bad Bear at all.  This was another Good Bear just like him.  They would be together now, two Good Bears against all of the Bad.  "Greetings, fellow Good Bear," growled Nelson. "How did you come to be in these woods?"

"I was born in them," said the bear. "But I haven't met you before. Where do you come from?"

Nelson was confused but answered, "I come from over that ridge and across the next valley, of course.  Don't all Good Bears come from there?"

The other bear began to back away slowly and the hair to rise on his back.  "You come from the land of the Bad Bears?" he growled.  "Are you a Bad Bear then?"

"What are you talking about?" growled Nelson.  "Do I look like a Bad Bear? Do I breathe fire? Where are my scales? Where are my horns? I'm a Good Bear, just like you."

"That's true," said the other bear, whose name was Steven.  Nelson and Steven relaxed a little and began to trust each other, but both were puzzled and confused.  Each of them thought the other must be a Bad Bear, but both could see it wasn't true.

Nelson stayed with Steven's family that night, planning to begin traveling home the next day.  In the morning Steven, who did not want Nelson to leave, said he would travel with him, at least half way.  And so, the two friends moved quickly through the day and crossed the mountain ridge.  And not long after crossing the ridge and beginning down the other side, they heard the most frightening noise in the world.  They heard the noise of war coming.  They heard it coming from in front of them and behind.

Hundreds of bears were roaring and stomping and screaming and smashing against the trees.  They all seemed to have gone insane, a huge line of them moving up from Nelson's woods.  And another gigantic group of mad crazy bears ready to kill was coming up the mountains from Steven's home.  Nelson and Steven stood perfectly still, listened, smelled, and thought.  And they thought well, without even quite knowing they'd done so, and without having to tell each other what to do.

Together, Nelson and Steven raced back to the top of the ridge.  They could see the armies of bears advancing up both slopes toward them.  Nelson faced the bears from his home.  He saw bears he knew, friends and family.  "Stop!," he roared.  "Who do you think you are attacking?"

"Stop!" roared Steven at his own bear nation.  "Who are you coming to kill?"

"The Bad Bears!" said Nelson's countrybears.

"The Bad Bears!" said Steven's bear kin.

"They don't exist," roared Nelson and Steven. 

"Look," roared Nelson.  "Look at this bear next to me.  He is from the land of what you call Bad Bears, but he is just like you and me.  His bears have been told that YOU are the Bad Bears.  And you know that isn't true."

Steven told his bears the same thing.  But meanwhile the bears had been advancing quickly and were nearing the ridgetop.  "Look at them," pleaded Nelson and Steven.  "Look at them!  They're Good Bears the same as you.  Bad Bears are only in stories.  Things in stories aren't always real.  Bear cubs know that!  And bear cubs know that growling is only for show. You must never attack another bear, but only growl and attack the air." 

The two bear friends were telling whole armies of angry bears what every bear mother had told every one of those bears when they had been young cubs.  Some of the bears were roaring like mad at their enemies.  Some of the bears were beginning to listen.  Some of the bears were stopping and looking carefully at the bears in front of them.

Bears growled, but they didn't attack.  They stopped and looked.  They understood that Steven and Nelson were right.

Nelson and Steven had stopped a war. 

Later, at Nelson's cave, Steven said to his friend, "Do you know why I'm glad you're not really a Bad Bear?"

Nelson nodded.  "I do," he said. "Because then I wouldn't exist.  And you'd be a Bad Bear too and not exist either."

"Exactly," growled Steven. "There'd be no more bears if we weren't all Good Bears, as of course we are!"

"I'm glad," growled Nelson.

Who's Excited About Another Decade in Afghanistan?

With 196 nations in the world and U.S. troops already in at least 177 of them, there aren't all that many available to make war against. Yet it looks like both Syria and Iran will be spared any major Western assault for the moment.  Could this become a trend?  Is peace on the horizon?  Are celebrations of Nelson Mandela's nonviolence sincere? 

The glitch in this optimistic little photo-shopped storyline starts with an A and rhymes with Shmafghanistan.

The U.S. public has been telling pollsters we want all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan "as soon as possible" for years now. We're spending $10 million per hour, and $81 billion in the new annual budget, on an operation that many top officials and experts have said generates hostility toward our country.  The chief cause of death for U.S. troops in this operation is suicide. 

And now, at long last, we have an important (and usually quite corrupt) politician on our side, responding to public pressure and ready -- after 12 years -- to shut down Operation Enduring ... and Enduring and Enduring.

Oddly, this politician's name is not President Barack Obama.  When Obama became president, there were 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.  He escalated to over 100,000 troops, plus contractors. Now there are 47,000 troops these five years later.  Measured in financial cost, or death and destruction, Afghanistan is more President Obama's war than President Bush's.  Now the White House is trying to keep troops in Afghanistan until "2024 and beyond."

Sadly, the politician who has taken our side is not in Washington at all.  There are a few Congress Members asking for a vote, but most of their colleagues are silent.  When Congress faced the question of missiles into Syria, and the question was front-and-center on our televisions, the public spoke clearly.  Members of both parties, in both houses of Congress, said they heard from more people, more passionately, and more one-sidedly than ever before. 

But on the question of another decade "and beyond" in Afghanistan, the question has not been presented to Congress or the public, and we haven't yet found the strength to raise it ourselves.  Yet someone has managed to place himself on our side, namely Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Like the Iraqi government before him, Karzai is refusing to agree to an ongoing occupation with U.S. forces immune from prosecution under Afghan laws.  Before signing off on an ongoing military presence, Karzai says he would like the U.S. to stop killing civilians and stop kicking in people's doors at night.  He'd like the U.S. to engage in peace negotiations.  He'd like Afghan prisoners freed from Guantanamo.  (Of the 17 still there, 4 have long since been cleared for release but not released; none has been convicted of any crime.) And he'd like the U.S. not to sabotage the April 2014 Afghan elections. 

Whatever we think of Karzai's legacy -- my own appraisal is unprintable -- these are remarkably reasonable demands.  And at least as far as U.S. public opinion goes, here at long last is a post-invasion ruler actually engaged in spreading democracy. 

What about the Afghans? Should we "abandon" them? We told pollsters we wanted to send aid to Syria, not missiles.  Humanitarian aid to Afghanistan -- or to the entire world, for that matter, including our own country -- would cost a fraction of what we spend on wars and war preparations (51.4% of the new federal budget), and could quite easily make us the most beloved nation on earth.  I bet we'd favor that course of action if we were asked -- or if we manage to both raise the question and answer it.

MoveOn Says It Has Been Following Government for Years, Will Now Ask Government to Follow Us -- Too Funny

Dear David,

"The change we need doesn't come from Washington. Change comes to Washington." 

That's what Barack Obama said in his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention in 2008. Now, midway through the president's second term, we know just how true that was. Congress has an approval rating of 8.4%—and they've earned it.

Sitting around waiting for this Congress to lead isn't going to work. So we've come up with an alternate strategy—bringing change to them. 

[A remarkable breakthrough in 2013, wouldn't you say? Has anyone else thought of this?]

Our plan is to start campaigns targeted at every level of government—from local to state to national—kick-starting a wave of progressive action that Congress will eventually be forced to react to as well.

[Incredible. So, like, the government would represent us instead of the other way around? This changes everything!]

But with only 25 staff, we can't know what campaign to launch everywhere. That's why, as a local MoveOn member, you're so key to this effort.

[25 staff! 25 staff! WTF have they been doing? The email goes on to ask local activist groups and individuals to donate their email lists to MoveOn so that those people can be flooded with demands to drop everything and raise money for lousy candidates in the next election. I've deleted.]

Why Andy Shallal Should Be Mayor of D.C.

It would make a tremendous difference nationally and internationally to have a real activist, progressive, populist, and democrat as mayor of our nation's capital.  Imagine a leading opponent of war as mayor of the world center of war making.  Imagine major public initiatives to address the massive poverty and racial disparity in the headquarters of the greatest wealth machine on the planet.  Imagine the model set in Washington for school systems elsewhere based on public community schools rather than corporate commodification of mis-education. 

Imagine Congress forced to work in a place with living wage laws, wise environmental practices, free mass transit, perhaps a public bank -- a place where the quality of life rises for all and trickledown propaganda can't utter its first syllable without being mocked.  Imagine the home of the U.S. government as a living breathing counterexample to every acontextual ahistorical anti-intellectual claim for the benefits of violence over diplomacy, monopolistic capitalism over the social good, and brutal pigheadedness over civic engagement and innovation.

I hardly ever promote candidates.  We're not going to vote our way to peace and justice -- much less vote our way to clean, open, verifiable elections with public financing and free, fair media time.  But Washington, D.C., is actually a place where Andy Shallal has a chance to get himself elected.  He's in a 7-way race, and people want a newcomer. 

Andy Shallal! Most of you know who this is.  Andy has been a leading opponent of wars and militarism, of racism, and of extreme materialism.  Andy has testified before Congress, rallied crowds, and gone to jail for justice.  He's helped keep Northrop Grumman from living off DC taxpayers.  He's pushed for higher wages from Wal-Mart, and paid them at his own restaurants.  He's the owner of four -- soon to be six -- Busboys and Poets restaurants, the places where all the best organizations and campaigns find a free space to meet, strategize, communicate, and entertain -- spaces that always seem a bit more integrated by age, race, and background than anywhere else in DC.

Andy is not just a personality, not just a backstory, not just an aura or a brand name.  He has proposals ready to work on.  He wants a moratorium on school closings.  He wants money put back into the minimum wage (what's commonly and misleadingly called "raising" it).  He wants the voting age dropped to 17.  Andy is on the board of trustees of the Institute for Policy Studies.  That's like having your own cabinet already formed, but formed by geniuses and actual small-d democrats. 

I can think of another major city where a mayor was recently elected with great fanfare and great expectations, but the disappointments came quickly.  I don't know how that will work out, but I know that Andy won't disappoint. He also would not want public activist pressure to go away.  We'll need to pressure Andy and the D.C. City Council, we'll need to organize and educate and listen to and learn from our neighbors.  We'll need to keep doing what we do, but we'll do it with the mayor on our side, the mayor of an international city, a city with sister cities on every continent, a city with great influence on public discussion at home and abroad.

This is a campaign for us all, no matter where we live.

Andy is the guest this week on Talk Nation Radio.  Listen here.

His own website is at http://Andy4DC.org

I hate to say it, but we really need you to make a small or large contribution right here.

Murray-Ryan Budget Dumps 51.4% into Military -- Happy Human Rights Day!

Excerpted from the press release pasted below:

"In fiscal year 2014, defense discretionary spending would be set at $520.5 billion, and non-defense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion."

This is an unbelievable outrage for Congress to churn out on International Human Rights Day while numerous members of Congress were off in South Africa claiming to support the use of nonviolence to effect change in the world.

How will the U.S. public react once the media lays bare this incredible proposal? Here's enough money to work wonders in green energy, infrastructure, actual humanitarian aid, education, and many other areas all combined.  This is an amount of money very difficult to comprehend, and it's being dumped into such unpopular projects as the ongoing war on Afghanistan.

One has to wonder how our Nobel Peace Prize laureate, "ender" of the war, President Barack Obama might respond should Congress send him such a budget.  I'm sure he'll be hard-pressed not to assume he's dreaming when he reads these numbers.  I'm sure ...

Oh, wait.  What?

Obama wanted 57% to go to militarism?


 

 

I see. I get it. Don't you get it? This is 18-dimensional chess. By proposing an outrageous budget, Obama motivated Congress to scale back to something slightly less outrageous. He never could have talked them into that. This took strategic planning and plotting.  Probably some people actually fell for it, actually thought Obama wanted funding for the wars he continues and launches. Pretty funny.

CONTACT:
Murray Press Office:(202) 224-5398
Ryan Press Office: (202) 226-6100

Murray and Ryan Announce Bipartisan Budget-Conference Agreement

Two-year budget agreement would avoid government shutdown in January, provide certainty to businesses and families, and return budget process to regular order

Bipartisan agreement would provide sequester relief for defense and domestic priorities—fully offset by concrete savings and reforms—and further reduce the deficit

Short-term agreement breaks through partisan gridlock and can serve as foundation for continued bipartisan work

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, Senate Budget Committee chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced that they have reached a two-year budget agreement in advance of the budget conference’s December 13th deadline.

“I’m proud of this agreement,” said Chairman Ryan. “It reduces the deficit—without raising taxes. And it cuts spending in a smarter way. It’s a firm step in the right direction, and I ask all my colleagues in the House to support it.”

“This agreement breaks through the recent dysfunction to prevent another government shutdown and roll back sequestration’s cuts to defense and domestic investments in a balanced way,” said Chairman Murray. “It’s a good step in the right direction that can hopefully rebuild some trust and serve as a foundation for continued bipartisan work.”

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 would set overall discretionary spending for the current fiscal year at $1.012 trillion—about halfway between the Senate budget level of $1.058 trillion and the House budget level of $967 billion. The agreement would provide $63 billion in sequester relief over two years, split evenly between defense and non-defense programs. In fiscal year 2014, defense discretionary spending would be set at $520.5 billion, and non-defense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion.

The sequester relief is fully offset by savings elsewhere in the budget. The agreement includes dozens of specific deficit-reduction provisions, with mandatory savings and non-tax revenue totaling approximately $85 billion. The agreement would reduce the deficit by between $20 and $23 billion.

The House of Representatives is expected to take up the Bipartisan Budget Act first, followed by the Senate. If this bill is signed into law, the appropriations committees will then be able to work on spending bills at an agreed-upon level in advance of the January 15th deadline.


The People's Budget Goes to Washington

Tuesday, December 10, 2013, 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

NewLocation: Cannon House Office Building 402
Washington, DC 20002

Also, join a group photo op at 9:20-9:30 a.m., at Capitol's East Front, House Triangle, near Independence Ave. SE and New Jersey Ave.

Social and economic justice, peace, environmental and community groups are heading to Washington DC to tell Congress: We the People demand a budget that meets our critical needs - by cutting out-of-control, dangerous military spending.

Over one hundred organizationshave signed onto a letter outlining a plan to meet dire human and environmental needs by cutting the dangerous, runaway military budget by 25-50%.

Thousands of individuals have signed on to a petition calling for the same thing.

On December 10 we're delivering it to Congress! Join us and tell Congress this is the only way to end the ongoing financial and humanitarian crisis caused by this reckless and obsolete wartime budget.

Will they listen? We're not holding our breath. But we are going to tell them anyway! And we'll start building our power to compel a People's Budget in the future.

So if you can, come along to Congress on Tuesday. Bring a picture or drawing of something you personally are sacrificing in order to pay for the policy endless war.

Whether you can come or not, please ask your Congress members to attend!
202-225-3121
http://www.usa.gov/Contact/US-Congress.shtml

 

RSVP to info@greenshadowcabinet.us for updates.

See you there!

Jill Stein, Cheri Honkala, Mark Dunlea, David Swanson

Talk Nation Radio: Andy Shallal on Why He Should Be Mayor of Washington D.C.

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-andy-shallal

Andy Shallal is running for mayor of Washington, D.C. Learn more and support him at http://andy4dc.com

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

THREE ARRESTED DEC 9 TRYING TO DELIVER AN ORDER OF PROTECTION TO THE 174TH REAPER DRONE ATTACK WING AT HANCOCK AIR BASE

This afternoon, December 9, 2013, two Yale Divinity School students and a Catholic Worker were arrested as they attempted to deliver an Order of Protection on behalf of Afghan children and their families at the Hancock Air Base main entrance on East Molloy Rd. near Syracuse, NY.

Since October 25, 2012, over 50 citizens have been arrested – and issued Orders of Protection – for protesting the killing of children by Reaper drones piloted from Hancock Air Base.

The local DeWitt Town Court has issued these Orders at the request of the Hancock colonels. Such Orders suppress the First Amendment right of all those arrested to petition their government for redress of grievances at Hancock.                               

The grievance is that Hancock’s 174th Attack Wing technicians pilot weaponized Reaper drones over Afghanistan, engaged in the targeted killing of civilians.

The three declared, “This is the season for naming and wrestling with the reality of death in our life together. Advent’s austere themes of Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell challenge us to see, to mourn and to resist the forces of death that hold our age in their power, forces that murder children overseas (and on our own streets) for the sake of corporate profit and the military-industrial complex. We are engaged in this action because we believe we can only see Christian hope when we confront the reality of bombs being dropped on children by remote-controlled killing machines.”

The three are Mark Colville of the new Haven Catholic Worker, Greg Williams and Creighton Chandler both of Yale Divinity school. They were arrested and charged with obstruction of governmental administration, trespass, and disorderly conduct. Mark was given an additional charge of Criminal Contempt for violating his order of protection that was issued from a year ago for a Commander at the base.

They tried to deliver this:

THE PEOPLE’S ORDER OF PROTECTION FOR THE CHILDREN OF AFGHANISTAN AND THEIR FAMILIES:

TO: President Obama; The United States Military; Col. Greg Semmel; Col. Earl Evans; The 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard.

Whereas good cause has been shown for the issuance of this order of protection, the people of all nations committed to peace, having overwhelmingly made a determination in accordance with both the Spirit of and the Letter of the United Nations Charter do hereby order that the above named, and more specifically their Hell Fire missiles and 500 pound bombs fired from the MQ9 Reaper drones operated at Hancock Airfield, home of the 174th Attack wing of the New York State Air National Guard, are to stay away from the Children of Afghanistan and their families, and:

Their homes;
Their schools;
Their places of play; and
Their places of work (ie., the forests where they gather wood, the fields where they tend their vegetables and flocks)

And further the above named shall refrain from:

Assault, stalking, harassment, menacing, bombing, killing, maiming and terrorizing, criminal obstruction of breathing or circulation, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, forcible touching, intimidation, threats or any criminal offense or interference with the victims of the alleged offenses perpetrated by the offenders named in this order.

There shall be no more improper touching of the Children of Afghanistan or their families with your Hell Fire missiles and your 500 pound bombs.

There Shall be no more menacing and reckless endangerment of the children and their families.

It is further ordered that this order of protection shall remain in force forever. Failure to comply with this order will result in the people’s continued nonviolent resistance to this illegal and immoral behavior.

And further please see attached plea from the people of Afghanistan making this request.

ORDER personally served at the gates of Hancock Air Base, site of where war crimes are being committed.

Let's Begin Ending War Again

Recently I noticed a post on a social media site honoring Rosa Parks for her refusal to move out of her seat on a segregated bus.  Someone commented underneath, that in fact another individual deserved credit for having done the same thing first.  What happened next was entirely predictable. Post after post by various people brought out the names of all kinds of forerunners of Parks, pushing the date of the first brave resister to segregated buses back further and further -- many decades -- into the past.

What we understand as the civil rights movement was successfully started after a great many failed attempts -- by organizations as well as individuals.  The same goes for the suffragette movement or the labor movement or the abolition of slavery.  Even the Occupy movement was the umpteenth time a lot of activists had attempted such a thing, and chances are that eventually the Occupy movement will be seen as one in a long line of failed predecessors to something more successful.

I've been discussing with people whom I consider key organizers of such a project the possibility of a newly energized movement to abolish war.  One thing we're looking at, of course, is failed past attempts to do the same.  Some of those attempts have been quite recent.  Some are ongoing.  How, we must ask ourselves, can we strengthen what's already underway, learn from what's been tried before, and create the spark that this time, at long last, after over a century's preliminaries, catches fire? 

Momentum for the abolition of war began to grow in the late 19th century, and then again, much more strongly, after World War I, in a different manner after World War II, again after the Cold War, and -- just maybe -- again right now.  Arguably the 1920s and 1930s have seen the strongest popular sentiment for war abolition in the United States.  We're not at that level now.  But we do have the advantage of being able to study the past 80 years of struggle.  Of course, anti-war efforts have had great successes as well as failures, but war remains.  And it doesn't remain on the margins, like slavery.  It remains, front and center, as the United States' principal public program.  Standing armies are so well accepted that most people aren't sure what the phrase means.  Wars are so common that most Americans cannot name all the nations their own is at war with.

A proposal on "Abolishing the War System" that I've just been reading (from Marcus Raskin at the Institute for Policy Studies) takes us back to 1992 and provides much useful material to draw on.  Raskin's preface and Brian D'Agostino's introduction suggest that the moment in which they were writing was a particularly opportune moment for a campaign to abolish war.  I'm sure they honestly believed it was.  And I'm sure that it, in fact, was -- even if there's a tendency to find such a remark comical in retrospect.  Strategic-minded people want to know why 2013 is such a moment, and they can be pointed toward many indicators: opinion polls, the rejection of the proposed missile attack on Syria, increased awareness of war propaganda, the diminishment of drone attacks, the ever-so-slight reduction in military spending, the possibility of peace in Colombia, the growing success of nonviolent conflict resolution, the growing and improving use of nonviolent movements for change, the existentially urgent need for a shifting of resources from destroying the planet to protecting it, the economic need to stop wasting trillions of dollars, the arrival of technologies that allow for instant international collaboration among war resisters, etc. But just as many indicators were available in 1992, albeit different ones, and nobody has developed the means for quantifying such things.  However, here's the key question, I think: If all of those predecessors to Rosa Parks hadn't acted, would Rosa Parks have ever been Rosa Parks?  If not, then isn't the strategic time for a moral and necessary campaign always right now?

Raskin's "Abolishing the War System" is not an argument to persuade anyone against war, not a plan for organizing a mass movement, not a system for reaching out to new constituencies or creating economic or political pressure against war.  Raskin's book is primarily a draft treaty that should be, but never has been, enacted.  The treaty aims to take the United States and the world to an important part-way step, most of the way perhaps, toward war abolition.  In compliance with this treaty, nations would maintain only "nonoffensive defense," which is to say: air defense and border and coast guard forces, but not offensive weapons aimed at attacking other nations far from one's own.  Foreign bases would be gone.  Aircraft carriers would be gone.  Nuclear and chemical and biological weapons would be gone.  Drones over distant lands would have been gone before they appeared.  Cluster bombs would be done away with. 

The argument for nonoffensive defense is, I think, fairly straightforward.  Many wealthy nations spend under $100 billion each year on military defense -- some of which nations fit major offensive weapons systems into that budget.  The United States spends $1 trillion each year on military defense and (mostly) offense.  The result is a broken budget, missed opportunities, and lots of catastrophic foreign wars.  So, the case for cutting $900 billion from war spending each year in the U.S. is the case for fully funding schools, parks, green energy, and actual humanitarian aid. It is not the case for completely abolishing the military.  If the United States were to be attacked it could defend itself in any manner it chose, including militarily. 

But, someone might protest, why is it sufficient to shoot down planes when they reach our border? Isn't it better to blow them up in their own country just before they head our way?

The direct answer to that question is that we've been trying that approach for three-quarters of a century and it hasn't been working.  It's been generating enemies, not removing them.  It's been killing innocents, not imminent threats.  We've become so open about this that the White House has redefined "imminent" to mean eventual and theoretical.

The indirect answer is that, I believe, Raskin's treaty could benefit from a better vision of success, assuming such a vision can be added without losing the practical part-way step created by the treaty.  The treaty is excellent on the establishment of a structure for disarmament, inspections, verification.  It bans exports and imports of weapons.  The treaty and accompanying text are also excellent on the need to abolish the CIA, NSA, and all secret agencies of war.  "Intelligence" agencies should be internationalized and opened to the public, Raskin wrote, as if the internet already existed but with Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden hired by the government to do as ordinary labor what they in reality ended up doing as heroic acts of defiance.  The National Security Act of 1947 must go, Raskin writes.  The U.N. Charter must be upheld.

Here's where it starts to get dicey.  Raskin wants to reform the membership, structure, and veto powers of members in the U.N. Security Council.  But his treaty is written as if that reform has been accomplished.  Power all flows to the United Nations, reformed or otherwise.  A "nonlethal" (but not nonviolent) U.N. Peace Force is strengthened by the treaty.  Raskin also supports the creation of an international criminal court; of course it has since been created, but under the shadow of an unreformed United Nations.

Raskin explicitly traces the lineage of war abolition movements back to Salmon Oliver Levinson who led the organizing that created the Kellogg-Briand Pact.  Raskin faults the Pact for lacking a "collective security arrangement." Levinson, and his allies, in Congress and without, would have objected that this lack was an advantage, not a flaw.  A "collective security arrangement" along the lines of the United Nations is a sanction to use war-making as a tool with which to eliminate war-making.  This approach, as Raskin acknowledges, has been a failure.  But Raskin begins his draft treaty by recommitting nations to the U.N. Charter, not the Kellogg-Briand Pact, that is to say: to an agreement that sanctions certain wars, and not to an agreement that bans all war.

Now the Kellogg-Briand Pact is widely ignored and violated.  But then, as Raskin notes, so is the U.N. Charter.  Why ask nations to recommit to it, except because they are violating it?  Through the course of this book, Raskin happens to note various other laws that are routinely ignored: the Humphrey Hawkins Act, the Nuremberg Principles, the 1963 nuclear test ban treaty in which the U.S. committed to general and complete disarmament, etc.  Yet, Raskin wants to create a new law, hoping it will be complied with as well as being formally established. 

There's no reason the Kellogg-Briand Pact and/or the vision of its creators shouldn't be a part of our work, and there are many reasons why it should be.  When those dreaded mythical bombers approach our shores, defended purely by every possible defensive weapon known to humankind, what if bombing the land from which those planes departed was not what came to mind?  What if other actions were the focus of our thoughts in contemplating such scenarios?  The imaginary government that sent the planes (or drones or boats or whatever) could be prosecuted in a court.  Arbitration could be taken to a court.  Sanctions could be imposed on the government responsible.  International legal, trade, political, and moral pressure could be organized.  Nonviolent protesters could be sent to the nation responsible.  Nonviolent flotillas of boats and hot air balloons could interfere.  Video of any suffering created could be immediately made visible in public spaces in the nation responsible and around the world.  And, of course, if the attack planes came from no nation at all, then all the nations of the world could be pressured to cooperate in criminal apprehension and prosecution of those responsible -- an idea we might have done well to think of some 12 years ago, some 9 years after Raskin's drafting of his treaty.  But, but, but, what if all of that failed?  Well then, we could add to it in our handicapped imaginations the use of every defensive weapon available to any department of what we actually call, but don't think of as, Defense.

I find it hard to imagine that if the United States took a chunk of that $900 billion and gave the world schools and medicine there would be a lot of attacks planned against it.  Others find it hard to imagine anything could stop such attacks from inexplicably materializing.  How do we shift such a perspective?  I think it has to be by pointing to a first step in combination with outlining an image of the final goal.  That means thinking beyond the idea of using war to prevent war.  That idea leads straight to the question "Which nation(s) will dominate the United Nations?"  Waiting to transform the United Nations into a fair, democratic, and yet universally respected, institution before dramatically reducing the military and beginning a virtuous cycle of further disarmament, may be a roadblock.  The United Nations is in the process of legalizing drone wars.  The U.N. just might be a bigger hurdle than the U.S. Senate in the cause of peace -- although, admittedly, these are all chicken-and-egg dilemmas.

If we can get people understanding what a world without militaries will look like and show them a partial step in that direction -- one that makes sense to them because they see where we're headed -- it just might be that this time beginning the ending of war will have been an idea whose time had come.

What Didn't Kill Mandela Made Him Stronger

Nelson Mandela's story, if told as a novel, would not be deemed possible in real life.  Worse, we don't tell such stories in many of our novels.

A violent young rebel is imprisoned for decades but turns that imprisonment into the training he needs.  He turns to negotiation, diplomacy, reconciliation.  He negotiates free elections, and then wins them. He forestalls any counter-revolution by including former enemies in his victory.  He becomes a symbol of the possibility for the sort of radical, lasting change of which violence has proved incapable.  He credits the widespread movement in his country and around the world that changed cultures for the better while he was locked away.  But millions of people look to the example of his personal interactions and decisions as having prevented a blood bath.

Mandela was a rebel before he had a cause.  He was a fighter and a boxer.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu says that South Africa benefited greatly from the fact that Mandela did not emerge from prison earlier: "Had he come out earlier, we would have had the angry, aggressive Madiba. As a result of the experience that he had there, he mellowed. ... Suffering either embitters you or, mercifully, ennobles you.  And with Madiba, thankfully for us, the latter happened."

Mandela emerged able to propose reconciliation because he'd had the time to think it through, because he'd had the experience of overcoming the prisons' brutality, because he'd been safely locked up while others outside were killed or tortured, and also -- critically -- because he had the authority to be heard and respected by those distrustful of nonviolence. 

The CIA had Mandela prosecuted in 1963.  He might have been given the death penalty.  Alan Paton testified in court that if Mandela and other defendants were killed the government would have no one to negotiate with (this at a time when both sides would have rather died than negotiate anything). 

The U.S. government considered Mandela a terrorist until 2008, when he was a 90-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner (and most Nobel Peace Prize winners were not yet in the habit of engaging in terrorism). 

But many here in the United States and around the world brought pressure to bear on the Apartheid government of South Africa in a manner similar to what is now being developed to pressure Israel.  The times were changing.  A door was just cracking open.  And Mandela negotiated it right off its hinges, even as violence rolled on in Northern Ireland, Yugoslavia, and the Middle East.  Mandela showed another way -- or, rather, the first and only way that involved actually accomplishing positive change.

Mandela had flaws, and traits that many would consider flaws.  Either his sex life or his economic reform agenda (not that he stood by the latter) would have disqualified him from politics in the United States even had he not been on the list of terrorists.  His second wife suffered in the movement outside the prisons, turning toward anger and hatred even as her husband turned toward empathy and forgiveness. 

Mandela did not adopt an ideology or a religion that imposed nonviolence on him.  Rather, he found his way to tools that would work effectively, and to the state of mind that would give him the strength to implement them.  He found, not only empathy but great humility.  He sought fair elections but not a candidacy.  Urged to become a candidate he committed to serving only one term.  As the election results came in, reports are that he stopped the counting before his lead could grow so large as to exclude minority parties from the government. He credited the movement with the victory and invited his former jailer to his inauguration. 

Danny Schechter has produced a fantastic new book about Mandela, called Madiba A to Z: The Many Faces of Nelson Mandela.  It's based on the making of a documentary series that's based on the making of the new film, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, which is in turn based primarily on Mandela's autobiography.

In the book, Schechter speculates on how the corporate media will cover Mandela's death.  "Which Mandela will be memorialized? Will it be the leader who built a movement and a military organization to fight injustice? Or a man of inspiration with a great smile whom we admire because of the long years suffered behind bars?"  It's a rhetorical question now and always was, but I wish the answer could have been something other than those two choices.  I wish the answer were Mandela the man who negotiated a peaceful change, who forgave, who apologized, who sympathized, who showed a way for nations to live up to the standards of our children, whom we routinely urge to settle their problems with words rather than aggravating their problems with violence. 

The United States needs that example when speaking with Iran.  Colombia needs it as the possibility of peace glimmers in the distance there.  Syrian builders of movements and military organizations that fight injustice need that example desperately.

When will we ever learn?

I Googled "Evil" And It Took Me to Google

Google may have been, until now, the Obama of hip internet monopolies.  No matter how many nations the President bombs, people still put Obama peace-sign stickers on their cars.  No matter how many radical rightwing initiatives Google funds, people still think it's a "progressive corporation" -- How could it not be? It's making progress!

Google is funding Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, the Federalist Society, the American Conservative Union, and the political arm of the Heritage Foundation.

And there's more really bad news: Google is funding ALEC, the powerful, secretive, and destructive lobbying force from which many companies concerned with their public images are fleeing. ALEC is in the news this week, holding its 40th annual meeting. Together with allies, RootsAction.org is applying as much pressure as we can.  And it might just be that the tide is turning.  Google just might have to start worrying about whether its users favor plutocratic plundering or not.

ALEC targets state legislatures around the country to roll back labor rights, environmental protection, civil rights, public health measures and more. Using big money, corporate clout and smooth lobbyists, ALEC teams up with like-minded state lawmakers to draft and enact regressive legislation.

Tens of thousands of people have heeded our request to Tell Google and other huge firms to which we'll deliver this petition not to participate in ALEC's corruption of our government:
We urge you to stop funding ALEC. With ALEC's help ...
* Tobacco companies get tax cuts.
* For-profit education companies get school privatization.
* Management gets union busting.
* Oil companies get opposition to renewable energy.
* The rich and powerful get the repeal of estate taxes.
But, in the process, democracy gets hijacked -- one state at a time.

***

You should read the thousands and thousands of comments people have submitted when they have signed this petition.  And you can, they're all publicly posted at the link above.

Some people express their great affection for Google, along with disillusionment:

"I really thought that your business was a role model as  progressive, social conscious Corporation...  I was seriously mistaking... -  - It is outrageous that you are supporting these politicians that have injured out country and our people so deeply...  and ALEC???? -  - PLEASE STOP!!!" --J. Carlo Diaz, FL      

"Really, Google. Really!? I expect more sense from you!" --Marian Pickett, LA

"As much as I like Google, I'll be damned if I'll support in any way the increase in political clout of big and secret money funneled to "money is above all" unbridled capitalism Republican organizations!  There are other choices ... and I'll be switching!!" --William Whitlock, CA

"Any company that funds an organization like Alec does not have an interest in democracy. Alec is in the business of buying votes, and votes for the most un-American causes. My respect for Google has taken a huge hit because of its support of Alec." --Kathlyn McCaughna

"I used GOOGLE to research ALEC. I am surprised and greatly disappointed that your corporation would support this horror to our democracy. Greed. Cynicism. Arrogance. Downright stupidity. Or as stated in one of your listed sources--policy areas including legislation 'opposing U.S. consumers' rights to know the origin of our food,' 'undermining workers' rights,' 'stripping environmental protections,' and 'limiting patient rights and undermining safety net programs.' (MediaMatters 12/4/13) I said 'surprised.' Perhaps not, just thoroughly disgusted.  - I love GOOGLE; other venues' ads have not swayed me. However, your support of such a vicious, predatory, manipulative organization has changed the game. --JoAnn Durfee, OR

Some explain to Google what the problem is:

"Alec is for profits at any cost to society. Make your engine work for people, not for evil." --John Kozub, TN

"Google, Facebook and Yelp are people driven and should not support corporate takeover of the internet or other arenas." --Amy Whitworth, OR

"Does Google want to be seen to be supporting ALEC? If so they are also supporting this neanderthal approach to energy production: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/04/alec-freerider-homeowners-assault-clean-energy  -- An alliance of corporations and conservative activists is mobilising to penalise homeowners who install their own solar panels -- casting them as 'freeriders' -- in a sweeping new offensive against renewable energy, the Guardian has learned." --E Healy, CA

"Funding the most regressive organizations puts your company right there with them: destroyers of democracy, dirty political actors. Think carefully whether this is where you want to be, and where you are going to be seen to be." --John Prehn, UT

"ALEC has caused so much evil and trouble in Wisconsin that I am sure most people don't understand, at this point in time. Please do NOT support the agenda of ALEC as it is not for the people but for the FEW!" --Joan Schneider, WI

Some get a bit angry:

"Alec sucks. When I found out the State Farm backed them, we DUMPED State Farm. And we had been with them for 20 years. Don't miss them a BIT!" --Audrey Lima, FL

"ALEC's prime mission is to destroy everything decent in this country!  Fascism simply ISN'T the same thing as Democracy!  STOP supporting this evil group!!!!" --Linda Christy, OK

"Stop SCROOGLING the very hard-working Americans who pay taxes that made you a household name. We don't need ALEC trying to shove their power-hungry, money-centered, and sexist/racist/homophobic agendas onto hard-working taxpayers. And we won't need GOOGLE either if they get in bed with corrupt ALEC and its members." --Deirdre McCullough, NC

"Google is EVIL SCUM pretending to be a progressively-minded company while funding organizations that systematically destroy the rights and well-being of everyday citizens everywhere, all to increase their already bloated bottom line.  Screw you--I don't need your search, your email, your phones, or anything else you can offer.  I NEED DEMOCRACY AND A COMPASSIONATE SOCIETY." --Ellen Read, NH

Or angry and pithy:

"Dicks." --Brad Thompson, IA

Some plead with Google:

"Please, Google, do not be a part of this right wing attempt to hijack democracy in your country!" --Sharon Fummerton, BC

"With your power you could (and should) do good instead of furthering ALEC's poisonous agenda." --Barbara Coulson, NC     

Some propose a course of action:

"I will boycott any company affiliated with ALEC" --Jim Knipe, VA

"Don't make me start using Bing." --Liz Neff, CA

Some are taking action already:

"I am already using DuckDuckGo for web searches. I'm pretty sure I can find an email service other than Gmail." --Dan Starr, IL

"Just changed my search engine." --Michael Keenan, IL

"I already changed my home page to Yahoo." --Nadia Daley

"I have stopped using Google completely due to it's support of these ultra conservative and regressive groups." --Kelley Dempsey, MD

"Until Google makes it clear that it no longer supports Alec and other anti-democratic, anti labour, and environmentally destructive causes I will conduct my searches through other engines." --Glenn Ashton

Some have a more serious solution in mind:

"Google is Getting too big and powerful, break it up!" --Stephen Rawlings, FL 

"When corporations get a fairer deal than the tax paying population, something needs to CHANGE!" --Debbie Boozer, IN

Paging Santa's Puppet Repair, Pentagon on Line 1

Vice Deputy Under Elf for Hearts and Minds: Good Afternoon, this is the Vice Deputy Under Elf for Hearts and Minds, how may I bring you joy?

Anonymous Pentagon Official: Cut the crap, Nils, you know why I'm calling.

VDUEHM: You've got me confused with the big man, Chuck. I can't see you even when you're awake.

APO: We're providing your sled with fighter jet escort in a $3 billion promotional video, Nils, and this is the 218th -- count 'em, Nils -- the 218th defective puppet you've given us, under warranty, and your people -- if I may call the little goblins "people" -- are not helping.

VDUEHM: What is the name and serial number of the puppet?

APO: The hell you think his name is? Hamid Frickin Karzai, you third-rate bureaucratic ... you can't even see over a bureau, can you? You know what, Nils, if your big man had given us a reasonably small sack of coal instead of each and every puppet we've ever picked up on Christmas morning, we'd ... we'd ... well, we'd have had to think up an entirely different reason for our wars, that's what!

VDUEHM: Please state the difficulty you are experiencing with the puppet.

APO: I don't have all damn day here, Nils. You want the full list?  Let me put it to you this way. Remember that last puppet, Maliki, who you claimed was not under warranty ... 

VDUEHM: When you intentionally, maliciously, or negligently destroy the puppet's primary or temporary nation or society, the warranty is voided in its entirety, as found in rule number ...

APO: You can imagine where I might suggest you stick that rule book, Nils. Tell me this: who is your best customer in the entire world?

VDUEHM: The innocent child who wishes good only for others and experiences a depth of gratitude ...

APO: Who's your second best customer?

VDUEHM: We give presents, Chuck. Did you think you'd dialed Saudi Arabia? I can have someone connect you. Please hold ...

APO: Hold on! Hold on! My god! Whose chestnuts do you have to roast to get some service around here?

VDUEHM: Please state the difficulty you are experiencing with the puppet.

APO: He's refusing to sign on for 10 more years and beyond.

VDUEHM: Beyond what?

APO: Beyond the next 10 years.

VDUEHM: So, why don't you just call it "indefinitely"? Why mention 10 years if you're going to add "and beyond"?

APO: You wouldn't understand marketing, Nils. You give stuff away, remember?

VDUEHM: It is my understanding that he said he would sign on if you changed a few things. Is that true?

APO: Yeah, yeah. Just a few little bitty things like turning the sky upside down. We had Kerry try to get one of Karzai's underlings to sign on, but Karzai blocked that. Talk about an aggressively defective puppet. This is asymmetric warfare, Nils!

VDUEHM: Kerry?  John Kerry? The guy who is opposed to and in favor of every war?  The guy who tried to sell missiles-on-Syria as a radical overthrow by violent pacifist fanatic moderate secular extremists that would change everything and have no effect whatsoever? That guy?  That guy? Wait, and you're the expert on MARKETING? Oh my god, wait a minute, hang on, I gotta tell Rudolph this one ...

APO: Nils?

APO: NILS!

VDUEHM: Chuck, I've got an answer for you from Rudolph. He says you'll go down in history.

APO: Really?

VDUEHM: No, not really.  Listen, this is what your puppet Karzai said to you: stop killing civilians, stop kicking people's doors in at night, engage in peace talks, free prisoners from Guantanamo, refrain from sabotaging next April's elections, and he'll sign your paper.  Now, you had this conversation on the big man's knee.  He asked you if you were sure you wanted the democratic puppet and not the monster puppet.  No, no, you said, you wanted the democratic puppet. You were all about spreading democracy, Chuck.

APO: That wasn't ME!  That was the guy before the guy before the guy before the guy before me!

VDUEHM: It's the same warranty, and your puppet is performing as required. If you'd like to submit a complaint ...

APO: I'll tell you what I'll submit, Nils, I'll submit that melting ice isn't healthy for elves.  I'll submit that the guy after the guy after the guy after me is going to get a call from you begging for a bit of terra firma, and I'll submit that he's going to remember the exact number of defective damn puppets you will by that point have provided. Do you like freezing water, Nils?

VDUEHM: I'm transferring you to my boss.

APO: I thought so.

Talk Nation Radio: Adam Hochschild on Ending Slavery and Not Ending War

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-adam

Adam Hochschild discusses his books, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves, and To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

David Swanson in Portland, Oregon

David Swanson at Laughing Horse Books

7 to 9 p.m. Monday, December 16, 2013

12 NE 10th Ave, Portland, OR 503-236-2893

David Swanson will discuss and sign copies of his new book, War No More: The Case for Abolition.

Sign up on FaceBook.

Swanson's books include When the World Outlawed War, named by Ralph Nader as one of the six books everyone should read; the best-selling classic War Is A Lie, and Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union, of which Glenn Greenwald said, "There have now been many books written which chronicle the imperial, lawless presidency of the Bush era, but Swanson’s superb new book is one of the very few to examine how we can recover from it and reverse its pernicious trends."

Swanson is the host of  Talk Nation Radio. He helped plan the nonviolent occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington DC in 2011.  Swanson holds a master's degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including press secretary for Dennis Kucinich's 2004 presidential campaign. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org and works for RootsAction.org. Swanson is Secretary of Peace in the Green Shadow Cabinet.

Flyer to print, copy, distribute: PDF.

Sign up on FaceBook.

Please share and forward to friends!

What Does Latest Dead Afghan 2-Year-Old Have in Common with Paul Robeson, John Wayne, Ernest Hemingway, Bob Marley, the Kennedys

This is the season of death, when we celebrate the dying of the sun with an orgiastic burst of consumption and environmental destruction.  This is the season of rebirth when we spend time with loved ones and reach out to help others we don't know.

Now would be an appropriate time to come to grips with public murder and make a public investment in peace.  If I were summoning back ghosts of governments past for a press conference at the National Press Club, my first inclination -- lasting only a split second -- would be to bring the Filipinos, the Vietnamese, the Native Americans, the Laotians, the Mexicans, the Cambodians, the Iraqis, the Guatemalans, the Japanese, the Afghans, the Germans, the Yemenis, and all the peoples of the world dead by our indifference or malevolence and by our sacred tax dollars.  Pacific Islanders killed by weapons testing would join children killed by drug testing, and prisoners both innocent and guilty killed by electric chairs and injections, standing side-by-side with the resurrected bodies of men tortured to death by the CIA, kids melted with white phosphorous, and presidents -- both foreign and domestic -- cut down by assassins spreading freedom and joy.

My second inclination would be to line up a handful of press-worthy celebrities whose celebrity might motivate a bit of our national press corpse [sic] to hop an elevator for the long commute to the press club despite the fact that these particular celebrities were murdered by our government.  First might be Paul Robeson.  Here's a wikipedia summary for those unfamiliar with this great man.  Here's a taste of Robeson's voice.  And here's audio of a discussion with Robeson's son and others of how the CIA drugged him and then electroshocked him, effectively debilitating and silencing a voice that had never before faltered, a voice that had gone so far as to denounce the House Un-American Activities Committee as un-Americans to their faces.  This article sums up this crime.  This more recent article looks back.

Next to Robeson before the cameras might stand John Wayne. In 1955, movie star John Wayne, who avoided participating in World War II by opting instead to make movies glorifying war, decided that he had to play Genghis Khan. The Conqueror was filmed in Utah, and the conqueror was conquered. Of the 220 people who worked on the film, by the early 1980s 91 of them had contracted cancer and 46 had died of it, including John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead, and director Dick Powell. Statistics suggest that 30 of the 220 might ordinarily have gotten cancer, not 91. In 1953 the military had tested 11 atomic bombs nearby in Nevada, and by the 1980s half the residents of St. George, Utah, where the film was shot, had cancer. You can run from war, but you can't hide. Imagine that comment in John Wayne's voice as he stands, newly restored to life, speaking at a podium surrounded by handsome hacks who play journalists on TV.

Beside Robeson and Wayne at the best-attended-ever press conference we might line up Ernest Hemingway.  When I was first told that Hemingway had killed himself, it was explained to me that he didn't want to live as an old man incapable of hunting lions.  And yet this was the author of The Old Man and the Sea.  Make sense of that if you can.  Now we learn from Hemingway's friend and collaborator over the last 13 years of his life that the FBI's surveillance of Hemingway "substantially contributed to his anguish and his suicide."  Hemingway's close friend didn't take Hemingway's complaints about the FBI seriously until his FBI file was finally released, confirming the surveillance.  "It's the worst hell," Hemingway had said. "The goddamnedest hell. They've bugged everything. That's why we're using [a friend]'s car. Mine's bugged. Everything's bugged. Can't use the phone. Mail intercepted."  I wonder how many high school English classes will mention this.

Next to Hemingway, let's bring out Bob Marley.  The CIA's files on him are being kept secret for your protection, but the death and destruction the CIA was bringing to his country is undisputed, the CIA's responsibility for the failed assassination attempt against him is very likely, and it appears that in the end the CIA got him by a manner that sounds insanely bizarre if you haven't heard about giving an entire French town LSD or targeting a single intended victim (Fidel Castro) with a poisoned diving suit, an exploding cigar, a ballpoint-pen syringe, an exploding conch shell, and dozens of other crackpot schemes that sound less comical when they work.

Some surprise guests at the press club might include John and Robert Kennedy.  Others might include, after all, the millions of nameless forgotten dead, the victims of the industrial-scale "signature strikes" that have been our biggest public investment.  Not that the reporters would all see the point of cramming so many resurrected bodies into their club, but because some of the celebrity victims might more clearly grasp and articulate the purpose of the event.  Sooner or later we are going to have to stop killing people and start loving people, or the rebirth of life after winter won't keep repeating.

Talk Nation Radio: I'm Thankful We Can Abolish Debt

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-im-thankful

RollingJubilee.org has abolished over $14 million worth of people's debt to make the point that debt can be abolished.  Aaron Smith explains how.  Aaron Smith has been a participant in several initiatives of Occupy Wall Street, from park maintenance to research on the financial system. Currently, he is primarily involved in the Rolling Jubilee, a project to purchase defaulted debt on open markets and abolish it.  The Rolling Jubilee is meant to demonstrate the injustice of the debt system and make lives better in the process.  Aaron is a host of Occupy Wall Street Radio on WBAI.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

10 More Years in Afghanistan

When Barack Obama became president, there were 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.  He escalated to over 100,000 troops, plus contractors. Now there are 47,000 troops these five years later.  Measured in financial cost, or death and destruction, Afghanistan is more President Obama's war than President Bush's.  Now the White House is trying to keep troops in Afghanistan until "2024 and beyond." 

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is refusing to sign the deal. Here is his list of concerns. He'd like the U.S. to stop killing civilians and stop kicking in people's doors at night.  He'd like the U.S. to engage in peace negotiations.  He'd like innocent Afghan prisoners freed from Guantanamo.  And he'd like the U.S. not to sabotage the April 2014 Afghan elections.  Whatever we think of Karzai's legacy -- my own appraisal is unprintable -- these are perfectly reasonable demands.

Iran and Pakistan oppose keeping nine major U.S. military bases in Afghanistan, some of them on the borders of their nations, until the end of time.  U.S. officials threaten war on Iran with great regularity, the new agreement notwithstanding.  U.S. missiles already  hit Pakistan in a steady stream.  These two nations' concerns seem as reasonable as Karzai's.

The U.S. public has been telling pollsters we want all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan "as soon as possible" for years and years.  We're spending $10 million per hour making ourselves less safe and more hated.  The chief cause of death for U.S. troops in this mad operation is suicide. 

When the U.S. troops left Iraq, it remained a living hell, as Libya is now too.  But the disaster that Iraq is does not approach what it was during the occupation.  Much less has Iraq grown dramatically worse post-occupation, as we were warned for years by those advocating continued warfare.

Humanitarian aid to Afghanistan -- or to the entire world, for that matter, including our own country -- would cost a fraction of what we spend on wars and war preparations, and would make us the most beloved nation on earth.  I bet we'd favor that course if asked.  We were asked on Syria, and we told pollsters we favored aid, not missiles. 

We stopped the missiles.  Congress members in both houses and parties said they heard from more people, more passionately, and more one-sidedly than ever before.  But we didn't stop the guns that we opposed even more than the missiles in polls.  The CIA shipped the guns to the fighters without asking us or the Congress.  And Syrians didn't get the aid that we favored.

We aren't asked about the drone strikes.  We aren't asked about most military operations.  And we aren't being asked about Afghanistan.  Nor is Congress asserting its power to decide.  This state of affairs suggests that we haven't learned our lesson from the Syrian Missile Crisis.  Fewer than one percent of us flooded Congress and the media with our voices, and we had a tremendous impact.  The lesson we should learn is that we can do that again and again with each new war proposal.

What if two percent of us called, emailed, visited, protested, rallied, spoke-out, educated, and non-violently resisted 10 more years in Afghanistan?  We'd have invented a new disease.  They'd replace the Vietnam Syndrome with the Afghanistan Syndrome.  Politicians would conclude that the U.S. public was just not going to stand for any more wars.  Only reluctantly would they try to sneak the next one past us.

Or we could sit back and keep quiet while a Nobel Peace Prize winner drags a war he's "ending" out for another decade, establishing that there's very little in the way of warmaking outrages that we won't allow them to roll right over us.

Switzerland Shows U.S. How to Handle CEOs

In Switzerland a petition from 100,000 people, or about 1.25% of the population, creates a public referendum.  By this means, last March, Swiss voters created strict limits on executive pay.

On November 24, the Swiss will vote on whether to take a further step -- limiting executive pay to no more than 12 times the lowest salary in the company. Such a maximum wage policy allows the CEO pay increases, but only if workers get at least a twelfth as much.

A movement in the U.S. is asking: If Switzerland can do it, why can't we?

The Swiss are also set to vote, on a date yet to be set, to create a guaranteed basic income of $2,800 (2,500 Swiss francs) per month for every adult. That's about $16 per hour for a full-time worker, but it's guaranteed even for those who can't find work.

You know what country can afford such a measure even more easily, given its vast supplies of wealth? The United States of America.

Here in the United States, had the minimum wage kept pace with productivity since the 1960s it would now be $21.72 an hour, or $3,722 a month. The Congressional proposal of $10.10 an hour, which President Obama now says he supports, equals $1,751 a month for a fulltime job. The actual U.S. minimum wage of $7.25, which does not apply to all workers, makes $1,242 a month. But only if you can find work.

That's less than half what the Swiss are voting on, and Swiss workers also have their healthcare paid for, public transportation widely available, quality education and higher education free or affordable, 14 weeks paid parental leave, and a nearly endless list of other advantages provided by the government.

A basic income guarantee, currently practiced in Alaska and once supported by President Richard Nixon and the U.S. House of Representatives, would be far more efficient than targeted support programs, because every individual would receive the exact same check, with no stigma attached to it; and, yes -- believe it or not -- people who could find work would still work.

Switzerland has a greater percentage of its population made up by immigrants than the United States does. Switzerland has four national languages.  What allows Switzerland to practice democracy so much more effectively?

Two major parts of the answer are obvious. Switzerland doesn't fight wars, and it doesn't redistribute its wealth upward creating an overclass of multibillionaires.

Perhaps its time to begin moving our own country in a peaceful, prosperous direction. A growing number of people have decided to try.
 

Debating a Drone


Daddy Warbucks: May I have the first word?

Brother Pax: If I may have the last one.

DW: I'm sure you will, and you had the first one too. Before the drones came on the scene, you called them forth. You said "War costs too much money." You said "War kills too many soldiers." Well, here you go. War costs less money. And war kills nobody. And yet you aren't satisfied.

BP: Now, this will be a very short debate if my position is to protest the murdering of people with drones, and your position is that drones kill nobody.  There must be more overlap in our worldviews than that if we are even to talk.

DW: You know perfectly well what I meant.

BP: It might be clearer if you tell me.

DW: Drones don't kill pilots or soldiers. They only kill the people who need to be killed.

BP: Let me grant you part of that. We've had pilots and soldiers killed by suicide, by accident, by friendly fire, and by suicide bombings at drone bases. But let's suppose they've been fewer than they might have been in some other form of war.

DW: There's no question.

BP: There is always a question. Sometimes it's a different question than the one being so insistently answered.

DW: Meaning?

BP: If the question is whether to have this kind of war or that kind of war, then we must choose the better kind of war (if we can make out what it is). But if the question is whether to have peace or to have war, then a different answer is available.

DW: Well, of course. We all want peace. But that comes after.

BP: Does it? Let's go back to the "people who need to be killed."

DW: Exactly.

BP: Who are they?

DW: Criminals, terrorists, threats to -- in fact -- kill a lot more people. Stopping them is the whole point.

BP: May I ask you a few questions that might seem unrelated?

DW: Go ahead.

BP: If the government doubled your taxes, would you trust it to do the right things with that money?

DW: No.

BP: Do you trust government officials' campaign promises?

DW: No.

BP: Are you confident that the inspectors who allowed the flooding of the Gulf of Mexico with oil are doing a good job now?

DW: No.

BP: Do you believe politicians tell you a straight story about their new healthcare reforms?

DW: Not exactly.

BP: When people in various cultures established public procedures, such as courts of law, to try to arrive at the truth in criminal cases, rather than just allowing a king or a magician to declare guilt or innocence, why do you think they did that?

DW: To be sure of being right.

BP: Now, why is it that you trust the government to kill thousands of people with missiles from drones, even though the government won't tell you who they are or why they are killed, nobody is indicted, nobody is prosecuted, nobody's extradition is sought, many cases have been established in which the person could quite easily have been arrested, the government's memos redefine "imminent threat" to mean nothing of the sort, the government's memos redefine "combatant" to mean dead male human being between 16 and 65, people are targeted without knowing their name, many of the victims are known to have been innocent, many have been children, many women, many elderly, many those attempting to rescue survivors of a previous strike, and the people in the places where the missiles land say peace negotiations are ruined, criminals are turned into heroes, hatred is created for the United States, and terrorist organizations are strengthened dramatically, in fact the counterproductive nature of these operations on their own terms is so stark that many speculate that creating enemies is the secret purpose or at least that Washington doesn't mind if new enemies are created considering how profitable war is for certain people, and . . .

DW: Now just a minute . . .

BP: Why? Why do you trust that this secretive government is only killing "people who need to be killed"?

DW: Because there are evil people in the world.

BP: Of course there are, but how can you be sure the government has found them? Has it looked everywhere well and hard? Has it created public procedures of verification? Has it looked into any mirrors?

DW: You can't publicly announce who you're going to kill and still be able to kill him.

BP: Have you heard the name Osama Bin Laden?

DW: Yes.

BP: Didn't they publicly announce they were going to kill him?

DW: Yes, but you can't always.

BP: Can you publicly announce that you're going to try someone in a court of law?

DW: Sure, but not during a war.

BP: Can I ask you another odd question?

DW: Certainly.

BP: Thus far about 80 nations have weaponized drones. Which of those nations are justified in flying them over the United States and murdering people?

DW: No one's doing that.

BP: Let's just think this through, for the sake of argument.  Not so many years back, nobody was using these weapons at all.  If, next year, a nation flies a drone over the United States and murders someone, will that be justified?  And will people in that other country be right to trust that their government did the right thing?

DW: Of course not.

BP: Why not?

DW: It just isn't the same.

BP: I agree.

DW: You do?

BP: Nothing is ever the same. But what are the differences? It's not terribly hard to imagine someone attacking the United States, while an attack on Canada sounds rather comical. But, then, Canada doesn't have troops in 177 other countries and weapons in outerspace and every ocean, doesn't spend as much on its military as every other country combined, doesn't account for 80% of foreign weapons sales to dictatorships and democracies alike, doesn't prop up vicious monarchies to exploit their resources, doesn't view its manhood as entirely dependent on its readiness to bomb anybody who looks at it funny.

DW: And your point?

BP: What if peace doesn't come after war? Is Afghanistan more peaceful now, or before the current war, or before the drawing in of the Soviet Union and the initiation of all of these recent wars?  Is Iraq more peaceful now, or before the last war, or before the pair of wars and the sanctions?  Is Libya more peaceful now, or before the war?  Isn't peace a very hard thing to find during or after a war?

DW: Maybe, sometimes.

BP: But isn't peace right there, right within reach, before you start a war?

DW: We don't start wars.

BP: Is Yemen more peaceful? Is Pakistan more peaceful? Did we replace a ground war with a drone war? Or did we replace peace with a drone war?

DW: It's still a better option!

BP: Better than peace?

DW: No, not better than peace.

BP: Let me ask you one more odd-sounding question.  Would you rather have cancer or the flu?

DW: Is this a joke?

BP: Just pick, in all seriousness, and I'll explain.

DW: The flu.

BP: Now, if there were only a few cases of cancer, and doctors were getting close to curing it, but the flu was extremely contagious, it spread rapidly around the globe, it could spring up anywhere with no known cure, and -- strange to say -- sometimes the flu began turning into a new kind of cancer -- Now, in this situation, which is worse, the few cases of cancer or the epidemic of flu?

DW: The epidemic, of course.

BP: You can have the last word.

DW: Let me think about it.

Talk Nation Radio: Stephen Kinzer on The Dulles Brothers

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talknationradio-20131120

Stephen Kinzer's latest book, which he discusses, is called The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

DRONES: The movie that became reality is now a movie, and you should see it

Saw this movie last night and highly recommend it. You'll learn more about U.S. foreign policy than you could gather from a mile-high stack of the New York Times, and you'll imagine you're just being entertained.  Pick up some popcorn and pull up a chair:

WATCH PREVIEW.

It's Not a Family and Those Aren't Jewels

Fats: In the family jewels?
Gary: In the family jewels, man!
Wyatt: Worst pain there is.
Gary: Broke my heart in two!
Fats: She broke more than your heart.
--Weird Science

It turns out that procreation of secretive criminal government agencies doesn't require a male or a female, and family jewels have little to do with it. The CIA (short for Criminal Implementation of Arrogance) calls certain reports on its immoral and illegal activities its "family jewels." John Prados, author of The Family Jewels, the CIA, Secrecy, and Presidential Power, calls all of the CIA's outrageous secrets its family jewels.  But the CIA reproduces itself whether or not its secrets are exposed, and if it's a family we might just all end up dying from a bad case of family values.

Prados' book recounts various CIA abuses from the 1970s through today, with chapters on domestic surveillance, detention and interrogation, and assassination.  Of course, the abuses predate the period focused on in this book, go back to the origins, and could fill much thicker volumes.  If the CIA has a problem with bad apples, we're talking about orchards full of them.  The vicious power-mad bursts of criminality do seem to come in historical cycles, peaking every 60 seconds or so for the past 60 years. There's no record of the CIA functioning in "proper" manner without the atrocities that are its bread and butter.  A CIA history is a history of relentless destructiveness -- relentless but worsening.

"What are we talking about, here?" asked Senator Frank Church, back in the day. "Agencies of the government that are licensed to undertake murder. Is the president of the United States going to be a glorified godfather?"

Today that goes without saying, although I'm not sure opinion polls wouldn't find the mafioso godfather to be the more glorified of the two, presidential drones or no presidential drones.

One problem, Prados points out, is secrecy.  "Not only does secret knowledge have extremely seductive power, when spooks walk on the dark side they experience the greatest invitation to excess, believing that security classification shields their actions from scrutiny."

Prados quotes Harry Howe Ransom: "At the level of representatives of the people -- executive and legislative -- the problem is primarily how to control a dimly seen instrument so hot that if not handled with great skill it can burn its user instead of its adversary."

(You may take a moment here to remember President Kennedy if you are so inclined.)

Secrecy is a source of evil, but not of its procreation.  The way the CIA keeps going is through the granting of immunity for its crimes, the glorification of its culture, the Hollywood propagandizing of its purpose, the cowardice of Congress members, the complicity of media types, the indifference of millions, and the repetitive-to-the-point-of-insanity push to reform the unreformable.

It ought to be abolished.

As someone engaged in the very useful work of exposing secrets, Prados seems at least as outraged by the CIA's reluctance to reveal its secrets as by the murderous horrors from which those secrets are constituted.  But if the secrets are exposed, they'll still be horrors, and -- frankly -- they'll be nothing entirely new.  If the United Nations sees the details on every drone murder, the United Nations will become a more openly pro-war institution, but the dead will still rot, their loved ones will still wail, and the CIA will still be seen as some mixture of necessary strength, heroic cool, and occasional unavoidable excesses so common that we get tired of hearing about them. Unless we decide that enough is enough.

It ought to be abolished.

Germany Says No to Weaponized Drones

Germany had planned to buy a fleet of "Euro Hawk" killer drones -- perhaps in an effort to bring the European Union up to speed with certain other Nobel Peace laureates.

But something happened on the way to the celestial colosseum.

Of course, Captain Drone Man himself undoubtedly learned the news first, unless the NSA misplaced some of Frau Merkel's emails under a pile of exchanges among nonviolent activists planning the upcoming drone summit in DC.

What happened was public pressure within a nation dedicated to peace and -- at the moment -- more resistant than Japan to being turned back toward war.  Germany has now said nein, nein, and hell nein to killer flying robots.  And not just to the use of weaponized drones within what Americans might call Der Homeland, but to Germany's use of remote control murder planes against human beings anywhere on earth.

Earlier this month at the United Nations, several nations, including most prominently Brazil, denounced the criminality of murdering people around the globe with drones. Now Germany has taken a serious step in the direction of condemning armed drones to the status of land mines, poison gas, and nuclear weapons. If Germany can do it, we can all do it. And the scene in this video can go global:

http://youtu.be/kbJcQYVtZMo

All Drone Politics Is Local

What Localities and States Can Do About Drones

Use your own online petition to build your local campaign here.

Note: Actions taken by cities apart from resolutions, as in Lincoln, NE, and Seattle, WA, are not listed here. While Iowa City, Iowa, is listed in various places as having passed a resolution, we have not seen confirmation of final passage.

UPDATE: Burlington, Iowa, belatedly discovered as number 9.

UPDATE: Woodstock, NY, is number 8.

UPDATE: Amherst, MA, is number 7, and they passed two!

UPDATE: Leverett, MA, is number 6.

UPDATE: Syracuse, NY, is number 5.

Charlottesville, Va., passed a resolution that urged the state of Virginia to adopt a two-year moratorium on drones (which it did), urged both Virginia and the U.S. Congress to prohibit information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into court, and to preclude the domestic use of drones equipped with "anti-personnel devices, meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed-energy (visible or invisible), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being," and pledged that Charlottesville would "abstain from similar uses with city-owned, leased, or borrowed drones."

St. Bonifacius, Minn., passed a resolution with the same language as Charlottesville plus a ban on anyone operating a drone "within the airspace of the city," making a first offense a misdemeanor and a repeat offense a felony.

Evanston, Ill., passed a resolution establishing a two-year moratorium on the use of drones in the city with exceptions for hobby and model aircraft and for non-military research, and making the same recommendations to the state and Congress as Charlottesville and St. Bonifacius.

Northampton, Mass., passed a resolution urging the U.S. government to end its practice of extrajudicial killing with drones, affirming that within the city limits "the navigable airspace for drone aircraft shall not be expanded below the long-established airspace for manned aircraft" and that "landowners subject to state laws and local ordinances have exclusive control of the immediate reaches of the airspace and that no drone aircraft shall have the 'public right of transit' through this private  property," and urging the state and Congress and the FAA "to  respect legal precedent and constitutional guarantees of privacy, property rights, and local sovereignty in all matters pertaining to drone aircraft and navigable airspace."

See full text of all resolutions at warisacrime.org/resolutions

Other cities, towns, and counties should be able to pass similar resolutions. Of course, stronger and more comprehensive resolutions are best. But most people who learned about the four resolutions above just leaned that these four cities had "banned drones" or "passed an anti-drone resolution." The details are less important in terms of building national momentum against objectionable uses of drones.  By including both surveillance and weaponized drones, as all four cities have done, a resolution campaign can find broader support.  By including just one issue, a resolution might meet fewer objections.  Asking a city just to make recommendations to a state and the nation might also meet less resistance than asking the city to take actions itself.  Less can be more.

Localities have a role in national policy. City councilors and members of boards of supervisors take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States. Cities and towns routinely send petitions to Congress for all kinds of requests. This is allowed under Clause 3, Rule XII, Section 819, of the Rules of the House of Representatives. This clause is routinely used to accept petitions from cities, and memorials from states. The same is established in the Jefferson Manual, the rulebook for the House originally written by Thomas Jefferson for the Senate. In 1967, a court in California ruled (Farley v. Healey, 67 Cal.2d 325) that "one of the purposes of local government is to represent its citizens before the Congress, the Legislature, and administrative agencies in matters over which the local government has no power. Even in matters of foreign policy it is not uncommon for local legislative bodies to make their positions known." Abolitionists passed local resolutions against U.S. policies on slavery. The anti-apartheid movement did the same, as did the nuclear freeze movement, the movement against the PATRIOT Act, the movement in favor of the Kyoto Protocol, etc. No locality is an island. If we become environmentally sustainable, others will ruin our climate. If we ban assault weapons, they'll arrive at our borders. And if the skies of the United States are filled with drones, it will become ever more difficult for any city or state to keep them out.

How to pass a local resolution: Every city or county is different, but some rules of thumb are applicable. To the extent possible, build understanding of the issues.  Invite speakers, screen films, hold conferences.  To the extent possible, educate and win over elected officials.  Make the case that localities have a responsibility to speak on national issues to represent the interests of local people.  Make the case that the time to act is before the problem expands out of control. Most states are considering drone legislation, so refer to that activity in your state. Make clear that you are aware of countless benevolent and harmless uses of drones but that you are prioritizing Constitutional rights and want exceptions made for uses that do not endanger self-governance rather than drones being made the norm and restrictions the exception. The Congressional Research Service says drones are incompatible with the Fourth Amendment. The U.N. Special Rapporteur says drones are making war the norm.  If possible, propose the weakest resolution you can, and ask the local government to put it on the agenda for consideration; then propose the strongest possible resolution you dare.  You may end up with a compromise, as happened in Charlottesville. Work the local media and public. Pack the meeting(s). Take advantage of every opportunity for the public to speak. Unlike at the state or national levels, you are unlikely to face any organized opposition. Make your most persuasive case, and make a great show of public support. Equate a "No" vote with support for cameras in everyone's windows and armed drones over picnics. Equate a "Yes" vote with prevention of racial profiling, activist profiling, and the targeting of all sorts of groups that can be recruited into your campaign.

STATES: See full text of all resolutions at warisacrime.org/resolutions

Oregon has passed a law banning weaponized drones in all cases and banning drone use by law enforcement unless they have a warrant, they have probable cause without a warrant, or for search and rescue, or for an emergency, or for studying a crime scene, or for training (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).

Virginia has passed a law banning local and state (but not federal or National Guard) government drone use for two years unless various color-coded alerts are activated or there is a search or rescue operation or for training exercises or for drone-training schools, and strictly banning (for two years) any state or local weaponized drones.

Florida has passed a law banning law enforcement agencies from using drones to gather information unless they think they have some sort of reason to do so (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).

Idaho has passed a law banning drone surveillance "absent reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal conduct" except in pursuit of marijuana in which case no such suspicion is needed (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).

Illinois has passed a law banning drones except for law enforcement agencies that have a warrant or when the Secretary of Homeland Security shouts "terrorism!" or they are reasonably suspicious it's needed or are searching for a missing person or are photographing a crime scene or traffic crash scene (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).

Tennessee has passed a law banning law enforcement drones unless the Sec. of Homeland Security shouts "terrorism!" or there's a warrant or there's suspicion without a warrant (and the Fourth Amendment be damned).

Texas has passed a law banning the capturing of images with drones except for ... too many exceptions to list.

Congressman Grayson passed an amendment to a DHS funding bill banning DHS from using weaponized drones, a step that must be repeated each year for this and other agencies unless a full national or international ban is put in place.

This article as a double-sided, single-page handout: PDF.

Support WarIsACrime



Donate.








Tweet your Congress critters here.


Advertise on this site!




Facebook      Twitter





Our Stores:























Movie Memorabilia.



The log-in box below is only for bloggers. Nobody else will be able to log in because we have not figured out how to stop voluminous spam ruining the site. If you would like us to have the resources to figure that out please donate. If you would like to receive occasional emails please sign up. If you would like to be a blogger here please send your resume.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.