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Talk Nation Radio: Gar Alperovitz Points to Worker Ownership as Fix for Broken Democracy

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

Gar Alperovitz discusses his new book, What Then Must We Do: Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution.  Alperovitz points to long-term trends in wealth and income inequality, environmental destruction, civil liberties loss, incarceration rates, and others, to argue that ordinary political change is not enough, that systemic changes in the distribution of power are badly needed.  See http://www.garalperovitz.com

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download or get embed code from Archive or  AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

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

Wartime U.S. Travelogue

In Washington Dulles airport I noticed a large advertisement.  I'd seen it before and not paid attention.  (No doubt that's why they saturate public space with the things.)  It showed a woman's face with the words: "A car crash in California almost took her leg.  A bomb blast in Iraq helped save it."  It directed one to a website: orthoinfo.org/dominique

I'm against car crashes in California.  I'm in favor of saving Dominique's leg.  But at the website what we find is a claim that her leg was saved because her orthopaedic surgeon had experience in Iraq.  And I don't mean in the Iraqi hospitals that existed before we destroyed that country.  I mean he had experience in the destruction process. 

"Thank you, Dr. Paul Girard. How lucky was I to have an orthopaedic surgeon with wartime experience and special insights on how to treat an injury like mine?"  Thus writes Dominique, whose partner James comments on the doctor: "His experience as a wartime orthopaedic surgeon in Iraq gave him a special familiarity with traumatic limb injuries."  How would James know this?  Presumably the doctor, whose own comments don't mention the war, told him.  Or someone ghost wrote the website.

The orthoinfo.org website was created by three societies of orthopaedic surgeons that clearly know which side of the mutilated troop their bread is buttered on.  (Orthopaedic comes through French from the Greek for boneheaded.)

Surely a few people walk through U.S. airports while simultaneously living in reality, the reality in which the United States destroyed the nation of Iraq, slaughtered 1.4 million people, created 4.5 million refugees, destroyed the health and education and energy infrastructures, created epidemics of disease and birth defects, traumatized millions of children, and left behind a ruined violent anarchic state cursed with deep divisions previously unknown.

Surely some of those reality-based people are aware that a majority of Americans believes the war benefitted Iraq, and a plurality believes Iraqis are grateful.  To read, on top of that perversity, the claim that a bomb blast in Iraq saved Dominique's leg is sickening.  A doctor saved her leg.  He found a silver lining in a genocide.  The bomb blasts didn't fucking save people.  The bomb blasts killed people.  And very few of the killers or their funders or their voters seem to care.

In St. Paul, Minnesota, the state capitol is surrounded by war memorials.  No evidence of opposition to war is apparent to the casual visitor.  Militarism, as anywhere else in the United States, is everywhere visible.  The sports arena flashes a giant electronic ad for the National Guard.  But the ad flashes on Kellogg Boulevard.  Almost no one knows what Kellogg Boulevard was named for.  But local son Frank Kellogg won the Nobel Peace Prize for organizing the major nations of the world to ban war, and did so prior to all the wars honored on the grounds of the state capitol.  This of course proves that Kellogg's war opposition should be forgotten since the wars so stupidly and barbarically fought in violation of the law since his day have brought us such a wealth of benefits.  For example . . . medical miracle jackasses capable of surgery but not moral reflection. 

Local activists plan to revive memory of Kellogg's Peace Pact this August.  Stay tuned. 

Wisconsin: I remember when it was alive with protest, as North Carolina is now, when the activists joined with the Democrats and therefore labor.  I remember the pizzas ordered for Wisconsin from Cairo and vice versa.  Egypt's fate is far from clear.  But this we know.  Egypt has set an example of independent, partisan-free, uncompromising populism that shows no signs of fading away.  Egypt threw out a corrupt leader and then threw out his corrupt replacement.  We let a corrupt leader rule the United States for 8 years and then bowed down before his corrupt successor.

This country is far far too big, and the population of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area far too uncomprehending for us to walk like an Egyptian.  Clearly the people of any state you care to visit could run a respectable country if it weren't for the other 49. 

I know you don't want to hear the word secession.  But what about the word shame?  Would that be too much to ask for?

Dirty Wars Comes to Norfolk July 10

On Wednesday, July 10, at 7:15 p.m. the great Naro Cinema in Norfolk Va will be screening the great film Dirty Wars, and I'll be leading a discussion at the conclusion of the screening of the issues covered by the film and actions that can be taken.  (The film itself is about 90 minutes.)

http://narocinema.com

http://dirtywars.org

http://davidswanson.org

--David Swanson

Talk Nation Radio: Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire Says Syrians Oppose Intervention

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-nobel-peace

Mairead Maguire, recipient of the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize, speaks about here recent trip to Lebanon and Syria, where she met with refugees, combatants, members of the opposition, and members of the government.  She found that supporters and opponents of the government, including those working for political changes, overwhelming oppose foreign interference and violence.  Maguire is a founder of Peace People and of the Nobel Women's Initiative.  Maguire has nominated Bradley Manning for the Nobel Peace Prize and credits his work with helping to discourage the West from intervening in Syria.

Add your name to the petition to get Manning the Peace Prize at ManningNobel.org

Also read "Ten Problems With the Latest Excuse for War" by David Swanson.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download or get embed code from Archive or  AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

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

Sequester Optionally Applied Only to Good Things

Spending cuts have been applied by Congress to both military and non-military spending. 

In my view, the military cuts are much too small and the non-military cuts should not exist at all.  In the view of most liberal organizations, the military cuts -- like the military spending and the military itself -- are to be ignored, while the non-military cuts are to be opposed by opposing all cuts in general. 

But, guess what? 

The spending limits on the military are being blatantly violated.  Both houses of Congress have now passed military budgets larger than last year and larger than is allowed under the sequester. 

Meanwhile the sequester is being used to cut away at all that is good and decent in public policy.

In fact, the House Appropriations Committee proposes to make up for its violation of the law on military spending levels by imposing yet bigger cuts to non-military spending.  And what's the harm in that if all cuts are equally bad?

The sequester, like the anti-torture statute, the war crimes statute, the Fourth Amendment, the First Amendment, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, or the U.N. Charter, turns out to be one of those optional laws. 

Laws are for certain people.  The top general now being investigated as a whistleblower does not have a nude isolation cell at Quantico in his future, even though Bradley Manning was treated that way.

Laws are for certain things.  Shooting children in a U.S. school is a crime.  Dropping a missile on a foreign school is something more like law enforcement.  Mothers in Yemen now teach their neighbors' children at home so that they can avoid going out to school while the drones are overhead.  That's called freedom, the spread of democracy.

And this is called propaganda: "Sequester Putting Military at Risk of Becoming 'Hollow Force'."  That's a real headline, and there are dozens more like it.  Only in the U.S. military can increases be widely reported as disastrous cuts.  The half-truth is entirely unintended.  The military spending will, in fact, be disastrous.  It's just not cuts.

We have 11 percent in the United States in favor of arming Syrians, or rather "Syrians" as so many of them are recently arrived in Syria for the purpose of killing.  Eleven percent!  That's nothing.  That's less than believe in ghosts (48% of Americans according to CBS believe in ghosts).  But the U.S. military and its commander in chief do what they want to do.  Democracy be damned.  And consequences be damned.  And the people of Syria be damned.

The silver lining in the sequester's storm of misinformation is that states and localities are expecting cuts to the military.  Connecticut has set up a commission to plan a process of conversion from military to non-military industries.  I hope it will serve as a model for the other 49 states and D.C. 

But there ought to be another silver lining, and I'm not seeing it yet.   Most liberal activist groups have still not grasped that some cuts are good and others bad, that we should be campaigning for cuts to the war machine that swallows 57% of discretionary spending while campaigning for dramatic increases in spending on green energy, education, and other human needs.

Now is the moment for that realization.  Now is the time to stop saying "No Cuts!" and start saying "Move the money from evil spending to good!"

 

Extreme Whether

PLAY REVIEW

Extreme Whether


by: Karen Malpede
Featuring George Bartenieff, Zach Grenier, Kathleen Purcell, Di Zhu, and Alex Tavis

Reading: September 10, 2013
The Cherry Lane Theatre
38 Commerce St., New York, NY

Script available at: http://theaterthreecollaborative.org

Review by: David Swanson

Published in the July / August 2013 Humanist

Extreme WhetherWhen my dad, Neil Swanson, goes to rallies against the tar sands pipeline, people rush up to him and thank him for everything he’s doing. They don’t actually have any idea what a great guy my dad is. It’s just that his Scandinavian face looks a lot like James Hansen’s.

So, I already had a weird sort of family relationship to Hansen, whom I’ve never met, before I read Extreme Whether, a new play by the brilliant Karen Malpede that tells a personal story of Hansen in which everything is also political.

Hansen, of course, is the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and an outspoken advocate for putting a halt to global warming. Hansen warned Congress in the 1980s, revealed government deception in the 2000s, and has been speaking the truth, even more bluntly, if possible—and getting arrested for it—in recent years.

“Several times in Earth’s long history,” Hansen says, “rapid global warming of several degrees occurred. … In each case more than half of plant and animal species went extinct. New species came into being over tens and hundreds of thousands of years. But these are time scales and generations that we cannot imagine. If we drive our fellow species to extinction we will leave a far more desolate planet for our descendants than the world that we inherited from our elders. … And if you melt all the ice, sea levels will go up two hundred and fifty feet … producing a different planet.”

Hansen does not describe global warming as a mysterious ineluctable force, but as a policy choice made by certain powerful criminals (his word). This does not endear him to many in power, and the attacks on him are relentless, with New York Times business columnist Joe Nocera repeatedly denouncing him for hurting his own cause by being an activist, getting arrested, opposing the tar sands pipeline, and making “apocalyptic pronouncements”—never mind if they’re accurate.

Truth is not always stranger than fiction. Hansen’s story involves some pretty strange truths, but Malpede’s play adds emotional drama and strangeness aplenty. Hansen writes and speaks about his grandchildren and the fate we’re condemning all of our grandchildren to. Malpede imagines the life of a family in which Grandpa has figured out that the world is being destroyed but the world’s communications system works for the destroyers.

James HansenThe fictional family includes a climate scientist, his lover (also a climate scientist), his teenage daughter, his twin sister and her husband (denouncers of climate science), an uncle, a frog, and a piece of land. The uncle is dying, like the earth. The scientist’s wife has died from an illness diagnosed and acted upon too late. His lover has received a death threat. He has received death threats. The frog has grown six legs. The land has been polluted. The sister and her husband declare the earth in perfect health, while the scientist struggles with his situation.

Like a descendant of Cassandra, the Hansen character has spoken and has not been heard. Would better language have helped? Better charts? Was there a different way to say “the world is being destroyed” so as to make it understood before the world was destroyed? He has given up and ceased speaking publicly, but is mulling over the possibility of trying again, while his sister tries to silence him—or perhaps to entrap and belittle him. At the same time, the frog, a male, has been “feminized” by poisons in the environment, a process described as happening to young male humans as well.

And then eight years flash by, global warming gets hotter, the evidence begins to become apparent to non-scientists. But the denouncers of reality double down on their hostility toward recognizing that the earth has a problem. The struggle to speak truth to power continues through Act II, by the end of which we all have a strange family relationship with James Hansen, and each other, and all of our grandchildren. The trillions of future people whose future lives are being ruined by our coal and oil consumption are a statistic until we understand one of those trillions as a grandchild and a friend and a lover and a cousin and an aunt. Then the multiplication of that intensity of suffering by a trillion becomes almost impossible to comprehend, except perhaps with the aid of Malpede’s art.

 


David Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie and When the World Outlawed War, as well as Tube World, a children’s book that addresses global warming.

Terminal Snowden

AFP reports that "Snowden's extended stay at the Russian airport has raised comparisons to the Tom Hanks movie "The Terminal" about a man stranded in a New York airport, and [Venezuelan President Nicolas] Maduro suggested that a film should be made about the US fugitive titled "Terminal Snowden."

Support Edward Snowden

Talk Nation Radio: Peter Kuznick Tells the Untold History of the United States

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

Peter Kuznick is an associate professor of history at American University.  Together with Oliver Stone he has authored The Untold History of the United States, and the series by the same name airing on Showtime.  As director of American University’s award winning Nuclear Studies Institute, Kuznick takes students on an annual study abroad trip to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Oliver Stone will be on the trip this August, and you can go too.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download or get embed code from Archive or  AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

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

The U.S. Has a Representative Government: The Conference of Mayors

Congress can't break 10 percent approval.  Obama's arms shipments to Syria just crack 10 percent, with 11 percent approval.  Over 80 percent of Americans in more polls than I can count say over and over again that the government is broken and does not represent us.  But when the mayors of the cities of the United States get together nationally one begins to see positions taken, at least rhetorically, that resemble government of, by, or for the people.

On Monday the U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously adopted a resolution "CALLING FOR U.S. LEADERSHIP IN GLOBAL ELIMINATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND REDIRECTION OF MILITARY SPENDING TO DOMESTIC NEEDS."

Cities can follow the leads of their mayors and pass similar resolutions.  A bill in Congress (HR 1650) at least partially meets the proposals in the resolution, and cities could ask their representatives in the U.S. House to sign onto it.  The state of Connecticut this month created a commission to work for the conversion of Connecticut's economy away from militarism and toward peaceful manufacturing jobs.  Cities could create such commissions or urge their states to do so.  It would be good to see such steps follow from Monday's admirable rhetoric.  The resolution, as passed, included this:

"BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on the President and Congress to reduce funding for modernization of nuclear weapons systems, to reduce nuclear weapons spending to the minimum necessary to assure the safety and security of the existing weapons as they await disablement and dismantlement, and redirect those funds to meet the urgent needs of cities; and

"BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on the President and Congress to reduce military spending and to reinvest those funds in programs to address the dramatic increase in poverty and inequality in our country; take emergency measures to repair the social safety net and protect Social Security and Medicare; create jobs, retrain displaced workers, including military contractors, rebuild deteriorating physical infrastructure, invest in new technologies for a sustainable energy future, and aid local government to restore and maintain vital public services, reemploying teachers, police, firefighters and other workers."

The bill passed this month by the Connecticut legislature and signed by the Governor creates a commission to develop a plan for, among other things:

"the diversification or conversion of defense-related industries with an emphasis on encouraging environmentally-sustainable and civilian product manufacturing. On or before December 1, 2014, the commission shall submit such report to the Governor and, in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a, to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to commerce."

The commission "shall Advise the General Assembly and the Department of Economic and Community Development on issues relating to the diversification or conversion of defense-related industries" among other things.

Read the full text, inlcuding the make-up of the commission, which is to include labor union and peace movement representatives.  Imagine Congress creating something like that!

But Congress has, at least created this: a bill with a non-voting sponsor and no cosponsors, H.R.1650, the Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act of 2013, a bill introduced over and over again by Washington D.C.'s representative in Congress, following action by the city council of D.C.  The key part of the bill reads:

 

(a) In General- The United States Government shall--

(1) provide leadership to negotiate and enter into a multilateral treaty or other international agreement by the date that is three years after the date of the enactment of this Act that provides for--

(A) the dismantlement and elimination of all nuclear weapons in every country by not later than 2020; and

(B) strict and effective international control of such dismantlement and elimination;

(2) redirect resources that are being used for nuclear weapons programs to use--

(A) in converting all nuclear weapons industry employees, processes, plants, and programs smoothly to constructive, ecologically beneficial peacetime activities, including strict control of all fissile material and radioactive waste, during the period in which nuclear weapons must be dismantled and eliminated pursuant to the treaty or other international agreement described in paragraph (1); and

(B) in addressing human and infrastructure needs, including development and deployment of sustainable carbon-free and nuclear-free energy sources, health care, housing, education, agriculture, and environmental restoration, including long-term radioactive waste monitoring;

(3) undertake vigorous, good-faith efforts to eliminate war, armed conflict, and all military operations; and

(4) actively promote policies to induce all other countries to join in the commitments described in this subsection to create a more peaceful and secure world.

(b) Effective Date- Subsection (a)(2) shall take effect on the date on which the President certifies to Congress that all countries possessing nuclear weapons have--

(1) eliminated such weapons; or

(2) begun such elimination under established legal requirements comparable to those described in subsection (a).

#

Not a bad bill to pass, if we had anyone representing us.

Global Rescue Plan

When the wealthy nations of the world meet as the G8 or in any other gathering, it's interesting to imagine what they would do if they followed the golden rule, valued grandchildren, disliked unnecessary suffering, or wished to outgrow ancient forms of barbarism, or any combination of those.

The United States alone is perfectly capable, if it chooses, of enacting a global marshall plan, or -- better -- a global rescue plan.  Every year the United States spends, through various governmental departments, roughly $1.2 trillion on war and war preparations.  Every year the United States foregoes well over $1 trillion in taxes that billionaires and centimillionaires and corporations should be paying. 

If we understand that out-of-control military spending is making us less safe, rather than more -- just as Eisenhower warned and so many current experts agree -- it is clear that reducing military spending is a critical end in itself.  If we add to that the understanding that military spending hurts, rather than helping, economic well-being, the imperative to reduce it is that much clearer.

If we understand that wealth in the United States is concentrated at medieval levels and that this concentration is destroying representative government, social cohesion, morality in our culture, and the pursuit of happiness for millions of people, it is clear that taxing extreme wealth and income are critical ends in themselves.

Still missing from our calculation is the unimaginably huge consideration of what we are not now doing but easily could do.  It would cost us $30 billion per year to end hunger around the world.  We just spent nearly $90 billion for another year of the "winding down" war on Afghanistan.  Which would you rather have: three years of children not dying of hunger all over the earth, or year #13 of killing people in the mountains of central Asia?  Which do you think would make the United States better liked around the world?

It would cost us $11 billion per year to provide the world with clean water.  We're spending $20 billion per year on just one of the well-known useless weapons systems that the military doesn't really want but which serves to make someone rich who controls Congress members and the White House with legalized campaign bribery and the threat of job elimination in key districts.  Of course, such weapons begin to look justified once their manufacturers begin selling them to other countries too.  Raise your hand if you think giving the world clean water would make us better liked abroad and safer at home.

For similar affordable amounts, the United States, with or without its wealthy allies, could provide the earth with education, programs of environmental sustainability, encouragement to empower women with rights and responsibilities, the elimination of major diseases, etc.  For those who recognize the environmental crisis as another critical demand as urgent in its own right as the war-making crisis, the plutocracy crisis, or the unmet human needs crisis, a global rescue plan that invests in green energy and sustainable practices appears even more powerfully to be the moral demand of our time.

War-ending, earth-saving projects could be made profitable, just as prisons and coal mines and predatory lending are made profitable now by public policy.  War-profiteering could be banned or rendered impractical.  We have the resources, knowledge, and ability.  We don't have the political will.  The chicken-and-egg problem traps us.  We can't take steps to advance democracy in the absence of democracy.  A female face on an elite ruling class won't solve this.  We can't compel our nation's government to treat other nations with respect when it has no respect even for us.  A program of foreign aid imposed by imperial-minded arrogance won't work.  Spreading subservience under the banner of "democracy" won't save us.  Imposing peace through armed "peace-keepers" prepared to kill won't work.  Disarming only so-much, while continuing to suppose that a "good war" might be needed, won't get us far.  We need a better view of the world and a way to impose it on officials who can be made to actually represent us.

Such a project is possible, and understanding how easy it would be for powerful officials to enact a global rescue plan is part of how we can motivate ourselves to demand it.  The money is available several times over.  The globe we have to rescue will include our own country as well.  We don't have to suffer more than we are suffering now in order to greatly benefit others.  We can invest in health and education and green infrastructure in our own towns as well as others' for less than we now dump into bombs and billionaires.

Such a project would do well to consider programs of public service that involve us directly in the work to be done, and in the decisions to be made.  Priority could be given to worker-owned and worker-run businesses.  Such projects could avoid an unnecessary nationalistic focus.  Public service, whether mandatory or voluntary, could include options to work for foreign and internationally run programs as well as those based in the United States.  The service, after all, is to the world, not just one corner of it.  Such service could include peace work, human shield work, and citizen diplomacy.  Student exchange and public-servant exchange programs could add travel, adventure, and cross-cultural understanding.  Nationalism, a phenomenon younger than and just as eliminable as war, would not be missed.

You may say I'm a dreamer.  We number in the hundreds of millions.

Prisons Full of Innocents

There are probably more innocent men and women in prison in the United States now than there were people in prison here total -- innocent and guilty -- 30 years ago, or than there are total people in prison (proportionately or as an absolute number) in most nations on earth.

I don't mean that people are locked up for actions that shouldn't be considered crimes, although they are.  I don't mean that people are policed and indicted and prosecuted by a racist system that makes some people far more likely to end up in prison than other people guilty of the same actions, although that is true, just as it's also true that the justice system works better for the wealthy than for the poor.  I am referring rather to men (it's mostly men) who have been wrongly convicted of crimes they simply did not commit.  I'm not even counting Guantanamo or Bagram or immigrants' prisons.  I'm talking about the prisons just up the road, full of people from just down the road.

I don't know whether wrongful convictions have increased as a percentage of convictions.  What has indisputably increased is the number of convictions and the lengths of sentences.  The prison population has skyrocketed.  It's multiplied several fold.  And it's done so during a political climate that has rewarded legislators, judges, prosecutors, and police for locking people up -- and not for preventing the conviction of innocents.  This growth does not correlate in any way with an underlying growth in crime.

At the same time, evidence has emerged of a pattern of wrongful convictions.  This emerging evidence is largely the result of prosecutions during the 1980s, primarily for rape but also for murder, before DNA testing had come into its own, but when evidence (including semen and blood) was sometimes preserved.  Other factors have contributed: messy murderers, rapists who didn't use condoms, advances in DNA science that helps to convict the guilty as well as to free the innocent, avenues for appeal that were in some ways wider before the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, and the heroic work of a relative handful of people. 

An examination of the plea bargains and trials that put people behind bars ought to make clear to anyone that many of those convicted are innocent.  But DNA exonerations have opened a lot of eyes to that fact.  The trouble is that most convicts do not have anything that can be tested for DNA to prove their guilt or innocence.  Here are 1,138 documented exonerations out of that tiny fraction of the overall prison population for which there was evidence to test.  One study found that 6% of these prisoners are innocent.  If you could extrapolate that to the whole population you'd be talking about 136,000 innocent people in U.S. prisons today.  In the 1990s, a federal inquiry found that DNA testing, then new, was clearing 25% of primary suspects.  You do the math. 

Of course you can't simply do the math, because wrongful convictions could be higher or lower for the available sample than for all prisoners.  What we can be sure of is that we are talking about a large number of people whose lives (and the lives of their loved ones) have been ruined -- not to mention the lives of additional victims of actual criminals left free. 

One way to be fairly sure that the rate of wrongful conviction carries over, at least very roughly, to a variety of criminal prosecutions is to examine how those convictions came about.  Brandon Garrett's Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong examines the prosecutions of the first 250 people exonerated by DNA testing.  Garrett finds broad systemic problems that could be remedied but largely have not been. 

Of the 250, 76% were misidentified by an eyewitness -- most of the witnesses having been led to that act by police and/or prosecutor, some of them badgered and threatened, others merely manipulated.  Invalid forensic science expertise contributed to 61% of the convictions, much of it willfully manipulated, some fraction perhaps attributable to well-intentioned but negligent incompetence.  Informants, mostly jailhouse informants, and most of them manipulated and bribed by police or prosecutor, helped out in 21% of the trials.  In 16% of the cases, the accused supposedly confessed to the crime, but these "confessions" tended to be the result of police intimidation, manipulation, brutality, and simple lying.  Garrett fears that similar problems infect the U.S. justice system as a whole.

Garrett focuses on problems in policy and perspective.  People who believe all eyewitnesses are correct and truthful can mean well and nonetheless get an important point wrong.  People who aren't aware that false confessions exist won't look for them.  But people unaware of such things are not typically part of the criminal justice system, where awareness of these problems is built in but steamrolled over.  Judges ask whether witnesses were improperly led to misidentify a witness, but care little for the answers they receive.  While Garrett begins and ends his book by claiming that pretty much everyone means well, the intervening pages grown under the weight of endless malevolence.  In reading the book, I found myself over and over again scribbling "Did this guy mean well?" in the margin.

Do police feeding a false confession to their victim mean well?  When they falsely report on that procedure to a court do they mean well?  When they use tape recorders but shut them off each time they feed the prisoner new facts, do they mean well?  When they hide evidence?  When they destroy evidence?  When they stack lineups and pressure witnesses to make identifications?  When they hypnotize witnesses?  When the prosecutor employs junk science and knowingly makes false claims about it?  When simple procedures to avoid bias are known but avoided?  When expert witnesses lie for a living?  When crime labs alter reports to coverup exculpatory evidence?  When police or prosecutors bribe other convicts or codefendants to testify and tell them what to say, but lie about that procedure?  When the defense is denied competent counsel or the ability to call witnesses?  When the judge effectively acts as part of the prosecution?  When jurors pressure and threaten a fellow juror to vote "guilty"? 

"It is almost unheard of for prosecutors to be disciplined or sanctioned for misconduct," writes Garrett, who is no doubt also familiar with this saying: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."  Garrett believes that serious reforms are needed, and points to North Carolina where a commission has been set up to aid in freeing and not convicting the innocent.  If you imagine that that's what appeals courts are for, read how they handled these 250 cases.  In 23 cases, the victim was tried more than once for the same crime.  One in a blue moon the system works and frees an innocent -- just often enough to keep hope floating out there like a lottery ticket in the distance.  Even when DNA clears a prisoner, a prosecutor may propose to try him again, and then do nothing for years while he rots in prison waiting.  North Carolina has passed legislation reforming procedures for eyewitnesses, requiring the recording of interrogations, enhancing the preservation of evidence and access to DNA testing, etc.

But one of the major reforms needed is clearly a reform of attitude.  And that probably will come more quickly if we recognize what current attitudes are.  Jurors and judges should be aware of how often many prosecutors and police officers pursue conviction at the expense of the truth.  They should not prejudge in that direction any more than in the other, but they should be aware of what they are up against.  If, as a society, we valued the freedom of innocents as much as the punishment of the guilty, we would treat judges and prosecutors and defense attorneys and police differently.  We would reward protection of the innocent as much as convictions.  A "successful" prosecution would be redefined as one that, first, did no harm.  The police officer who found an alibi for a suspect would be praised and promoted just like the officer who found evidence of his guilt.  A defendant might even someday find it possible to gain representation from an attorney who at least pretended to believe in at least the possibility of his innocence, and who behaved accordingly.

In the meantime, we are generating and compounding tragedies by the thousands.  When James O'Donnell was wrongly convicted, he exploded with anger and cursed the judge and jury.  Then he composed himself and said, "I am really sorry for my outburst.  I tried to be as civil as possible.  I would never do a crime like this.  And my life is over now as I know it, my wife and kids' life.  I don't understand how the jury did this to me.  It's really not right, what they did.  I was home in bed.  I was sleeping.  I would never hit a woman.  I have a wife.  I never hit my kids, ever.  I never forced a woman to do anything in my whole life.  That's the God's honest truth . . . It's just -- I'm very sorry for my outburst.  Don't take my life away, please."

10 Problems with the Latest Excuse for War

If you own a television or read a newspaper you've probably heard that we need another war because the Syrian government used chemical weapons.

If you own a computer and know where to look you've probably heard that there isn't actually any evidence for that claim.

Below are 10 reasons why this latest excuse for war is no good EVEN IF TRUE.

1. War is not made legal by such an excuse.  It can't be found in the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the United Nations Charter, or the U.S. Constitution.  It can, however, be found in U.S. war propaganda of the 2002 vintage.  (Who says our government doesn't promote recycling?)

2. The United States itself possesses and uses internationally condemned weapons, including white phosphorus, napalm, cluster bombs, and depleted uranium.  Whether you praise these actions, avoid thinking about them, or join me in condemning them, they are not a legal or moral justification for any foreign nation to bomb us, or to bomb some other nation where the U.S. military is operating.  Killing people to prevent their being killed with the wrong kind of weapons is a policy that must come out of some sort of sickness.  Call it Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

3. An expanded war in Syria could become regional or global with uncontrollable consequences.  Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Russia, China, the United States, the Gulf states, the NATO states . . . does this sound like the sort of conflict we want?  Does it sound like a conflict anyone will survive?  Why in the world risk such a thing? 

4. Just creating a "no fly zone" would involve bombing urban areas and unavoidably killing large numbers of people.  This happened in Libya and we looked away.  But it would happen on a much larger scale in Syria, given the locations of the sites to be bombed.  Creating a "no fly zone" is not a matter of making an announcement, but of dropping bombs.

5. Both sides in Syria have used horrible weapons and committed horrible atrocities.  Surely even those who imagine people should be killed to prevent their being killed with different weapons can see the insanity of arming both sides to protect each other side.  Why is it not, then, just as insane to arm one side in a conflict that involves similar abuses by both?

6. With the United States on the side of the opposition in Syria, the United States will be blamed for the opposition's crimes.  Most people in Western Asia hate al Qaeda and other terrorists.  They are also coming to hate the United States and its drones, missiles, bases, night raids, lies, and hypocrisy.  Imagine the levels of hatred that will be reached when al Qaeda and the United States team up to overthrow the government of Syria and create an Iraq-like hell in its place.

7. An unpopular rebellion put into power by outside force does not usually result in a stable government.  In fact there is not yet on record a case of U.S. humanitarian war benefitting humanity or of nation-building actually building a nation.  Why would Syria, which looks even less auspicious than most potential targets, be the exception to the rule?

8. This opposition is not interested in creating a democracy, or -- for that matter -- in taking instructions from the U.S. government.  On the contrary, blowback from these allies is likely.  Just as we should have learned the lesson of lies about weapons by now, our government should have learned the lesson of arming the enemy of the enemy long before this moment.

9. The precedent of another lawless act by the United States, whether arming proxies or engaging directly, sets a dangerous example to the world and to those in Washington for whom Iran is next on the list.

10. A strong majority of Americans, despite all the media's efforts thus far, opposes arming the rebels or engaging directly.  Instead, a plurality supports providing humanitarian aid.

We might better spread democracy by example than by bomb. 

There are nonviolent pro-democracy movements in Bahrain and Turkey and elsewhere, and our government doesn't lift a finger in support.

But if you remember all those years of protesting wars and wishing millions of foolish partisan Republicans would join us in protesting blatant mass-murder even though the president was a Republican, I have good news for you.  The Republicans are leading the way in pretending to oppose war this time.  So, if you Democrats, who I'm sure were 100% sincere in opposing wars some years back are still ready to act, maybe -- just maybe -- we can build right now the sort of broad movement we've wanted.

If you're not too busy.

Talk Nation Radio: U.S. Peace and Justice Activists to Gather in Madison, Wisc.

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-u-s-peace

This summer three national gatherings of activists will converge on Madison, Wisconsin, allowing for cross-fertilization and creative planning of future actions for peace and justice in the United States.  YOU are invited.

The Student Power Convergence, Aug. 1-5
The Democracy Convention, Aug. 7-11
The Veterans For Peace Convention, Aug. 7-11

Talk Nation Radio speaks with Roshan Bliss of the Student Power Convergence, Ben Manski of Democracy Convention, and Doug Rawlings of Veterans For Peace.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download or get embed code from Archive or  AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

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

It's the Ownership

If you're like me you've read several books that list inspiring examples of worker owned businesses and co-ops, suggesting that expanding on such models might begin to right the wrongs of an incredibly unequal society that is growing even more unequal by the day.

The best such collection I've found is in a new book by Gar Alperovitz called What Then Must We Do?  This book also offers a powerful argument that radical change is needed, albeit an argument with some possible flaws.  First the inspiring examples:

Workers own and run factories in Cleveland, Atlanta, Washington DC, Amarillo, and many other cities.  Labor unions that once opposed worker ownership, including the Steelworkers and several others, now create worker-owned companies.  Forty percent of Americans are members of cooperatives, including credit unions.  People moved hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, from large banks to credit unions and small banks in 2011 and 2012.  (That should continue!)  Then there are community development corporations and land trusts, alive and thriving.  There are even corporations redesigned, and labeled B Corps, chartered under new laws in 12 states to allow them to legally pursue the social good as well as profits. 

Employee stock ownership plans make U.S. workers owners of their businesses in great numbers -- three million more than are members of unions in the private sector.  Federal tax incentives (don't tell Congress!) encourage business owners to sell to their employees.  Worker-owned firms are becoming more common.  They are also more profitable than other similar companies. 

It occurs to me that we need a Union-Label type operation to label and catalog the products of worker-owned companies so that we can put our support there. 

Local governments are investing in local businesses and land development.  A quarter of U.S. electricity comes from publicly owned co-ops.  These power companies are more efficient and tend to be greener.  The model is being followed by public broadband service.  Proposals that meet the textbook definition of socialism are alive and growing in red and blue states alike, and at the local and state levels.

This matters because the national government in the United States is so thoroughly corrupted.  I'm not sure Alperovitz ever directly answers the question of how a national plutocracy will be prevented from halting local and state progress on the ownership question, as it has halted local and state progress on other matters.  If the trend toward democratizing ownership is happening under the radar, how can it possibly be kept there while succeeding on the necessary scale?  If this approach to economic justice is somehow more inherently "American" than other more foreign ideas, how exactly does that protect it?  Weren't family farms and free elections and the Fourth Amendment deemed very American at one point too?  Alperovitz recommends a state-by-state approach to single-payer healthcare, but the refusal of California legislators to enact it has come at the bidding of those in Washington.  None of which is to suggest that Alperovitz is wrong to promote this strategy -- just that it may be very difficult, and some other strategies may help too.

Alperovitz frames his discussion within an understanding of serious systemic failure.  Persistent long-term trends toward income and wealth inequality, monopolized corporate power, mass incarceration, and environmental devastation churn ahead in the face of elections, activism, lobbying, and reform legislation, not to mention flip-flopping between Republican and Democratic so-called "leadership."  Alperovitz paints these as even longer term trends than we often suppose by dismissing the gains of the middle of the 20th century as an aberration produced by the Great Depression and World War II, and as gains that could not have come without a large labor movement -- something he now deems virtually impossible. 

Most activist groups, Alperovitz points out, react to cuts in public services by demanding no cuts.  This is purely defensive.  Alperovitz acknowledges that some also advocate for progressive taxation, but deems this "obviously inadequate" although the obviousness of its inadequacy is not apparent to me, except in the sense that (just like the worker-ownership model) it hasn't succeeded yet on a major scale. Yes, the plutocrats buy the elections.  The system is rigged against tax reform.  But the goal of advancing the taxation (and elimination) of billionaires as power is gradually obtained seems critical.

Alperovitz seems at times to buy into the notion that there just isn't enough money around, even if the billionaires were to be taxed at 90 percent.  But this is wrong, of course.  The nation is rolling in money, and the money is piled up in the hands of several hundred people. 

It's somewhere else as well, somewhere Alperovitz doesn't propose to look for it.  President Obama's proposed budget for 2014 devotes 57% of discretionary spending to an illegal, immoral, counterproductive, and economically destructive operation known as war and preparation for war.  While Alperovitz suggests that World War III could save the U.S. economy (were a new world war possible, which he says it isn't), economists say military spending as it exists does less for the economy than other public spending and even less than tax cuts for working people; that is to say, it is worse than nothing. 

Alperovitz seems unaware that roughly half of military spending is outside the Pentagon, in Homeland Security, in the CIA, in the State Department, in the Energy Department, etc.  So he uses the Pentagon budget alone to argue that military spending is low as a percentage of GDP.  This does not of course make it low in terms of actual dollars or as a percentage of global military spending or as a percentage of public spending in the United States.  Alperovitz believes there's little money for spending on human needs, but seems not to notice where 57% of discretionary spending is going. 

While Alperovitz raises the topic of healthcare because it takes up, he says, 20 percent of GDP, the war machine that swallows 8 or 9 percent of GDP from U.S. government purchases alone (U.S. companies also dominating international weapons sales) gets no consideration.  Leo Tolstoy, from whom the book's title is borrowed, would have noticed the existence of the military industrial complex.  He would have considered the possibility of economic conversion.  Connecticut created a commission this month to pursue conversion from war to peace manufacturing.  I suspect Alperovitz would like that model if he took a look at it. 

So, here's where I come down.  We should be pursuing everything Alperovitz recommends, and then some.  We should create worker ownership, tax the rich, cut the military, invest in our society, and act strategically at the local, state, and national levels.  We should take very seriously long-term structural failures and stop imagining that another election will fix anything by itself.  And we should, as Alperovitz wisely recommends, be preparing the ground for the best possible activism when a moment of greater possibilities arrives, or when we have succeeded in creating it.

Drones for Christ

by David Swanson | July 2013

How Jerry Falwell's Liberty U.—the world's largest Christian university—became an evangelist for drone warfare.

 http://sojo.net/magazine/2013/07/drones-christ

LIBERTY UNIVERSITY in Lynchburg, Va., was founded by televangelist Jerry Falwell. Its publications carry the slogan “Training Champions for Christ since 1971.” Some of those champions are now being trained to pilot armed drones, and others to pilot more traditional aircraft, in U.S. wars. For Christ.


 

Liberty bills itself as “one of America’s top military-friendly schools.” It trains chaplains for the various branches of the military. And it trains pilots in its School of Aeronautics (SOA)—pilots who go up in planes and drone pilots who sit behind desks wearing pilot suits. The SOA, with more than 600 students, is not seen on campus, as it has recently moved to a building adjacent to Lynchburg Regional Airport.

Liberty’s campus looks new and attractive, large enough for some 12,000 students, swarming with blue campus buses, and heavy on sports facilities for the Liberty Flames. A campus bookstore prominently displays Resilient Warriors, a book by Associate Vice President for Military Outreach Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Robert F. Dees. There’s new construction everywhere you look: a $50 million library, a baseball stadium, new dorms, a tiny year-round artificial ski slope on the top of a hill. In fact, Liberty is sitting on more than $1 billion in net assets.

The major source of Liberty’s money is online education. There are some 60,000 Liberty students you don’t see on campus, because they study via the internet. They also make Liberty the largest university in Virginia, the fourth largest online university anywhere, and the largest Christian university in the world.

More than 23,000 online students are in the military—twice as many as students who live on campus. Liberty offers extra financial support to veterans and those on active duty, allowing them to be credited for knowledge learned in the military and to study online from a war zone.

Liberty has been turning out “Christ-centered aviators” for a decade. In fall 2011, Liberty added a concentration in Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS, aka drones), making it one of the first handful of schools to do this. Now at least 14 universities and colleges in the U.S. have permits from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly drones, and many institutions, including community colleges, offer drone training.

If one chooses to concentrate studies on piloting drones, the load will include a half dozen courses on “intelligence.” Liberty students can also pick up a minor in strategic intelligence and take courses in terrorism and counterterrorism. (Liberty’s school of government brags that Newt Gingrich helped develop its course on “American exceptionalism.”)

The Pope and the Kill List

In 1984 -- the year not the book, but it was fitting -- and five years before she died, Barbara Tuchman published a book called The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam.  In one part of the book she looked at the destructive work of a series of a half-dozen popes, work destructive of the papacy, work that brought into being the protestant secession from the Catholic church.  This was offered as an example of folly, of rulers acting against the interest of their own institution.  It was also an example of what we so casually label "the imperial presidency."  That is, in these popes we watched the mad and cumulative concentration of power and normalization of abuses that Tuchman almost certainly was aware she was living through again -- along with the debasement of an institution previously imagined to embody certain principles and integrity.

Does history repeat itself?

Is the Pope Catholic?

Pope Sixtus IV (head).jpgRichard Nixon.jpg

Sixtus IV, Pope from 1471 to 1484 / Richard Nixon, President 1969-1974

"Sixtus introduced the period of unabashed, unconcealed, relentless pursuit of personal gain and power politics. . . .  Antagonism slowly gathered around Sixtus. . . . [H]e exhibited the worst  qualities of the Renaissance prince in his feuds and machinations, conducting wars on Venice and Ferrara. . . . The most scandalous of his dealings was involvement in and possible instigation of the Pazzi plot to murder the Medici brothers. . . . The internal health of the Church did not interest Sixtus."

Innocent VIII.JPGCarter cropped.jpg

Innocent VII, Pope from 1484 to 1492 /  Jimmy Carter, President 1977-1981

"Amiable, indecisive, subject to stronger-minded associates, Sixtus' successor was a contrast to him in every way except in equally damaging the pontificate, in this case by omission and weakness of character."

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Alexander VI, Pope from 1492 to 1503 / Ronald Reagan, President 1981-1989

"[T]hough cultivated and even charming, he was thoroughly cynical and utterly amoral. . . . To celebrate the final expulsion of the Moors from Spain, in 1492, the year of his election, he staged not a Te Deum of thanksgiving but a bullfight in the Piazza of St. Peter's with five bulls killed. . . . So many had been Alexander's offenses that his contemporaries' judgments tend to be extreme, but Burchard, his Master of Ceremonies, was neither antagonist nor apologist.  The impression from his toneless diary of Alexander's Papacy is of continuous violence, murders in churches, bodies in the Tiber, fighting of factions, burnings and lootings, arrests, tortures and executions, combined with scandal, frivolities and continuous ceremony. . . . Certain revisionists have taken a fancy to the Borgia Pope and worked hard to rehabilitate him by intricate arguments . . . . The revision fails to account for one thing: the hatred, disgust and fear that Alexander had engendered."

PiusIII.jpg43 George H.W. Bush 3x4.jpg

Pius III, Pope from 1503 to 1503 /  Bush Sr, President 1989-1993

He also happened.

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Julius II, Pope from 1503 to 1513 / Bill Clinton, President 1993-2001

"Years of belligerence, conquests, losses, and violent disputes engaged him. . . .  Art and war absorbed papal interest and resources to the neglect of internal reform. . . . In reference books he can be found designated as 'true founder of the Papal State'. . . . That the cost had been to bathe his country in blood and violence and that all the temporal gains could not prevent the authority of the Church from cracking at the core within ten years are not reckoned in these estimates."

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Leo X, Pope from 1513 to 1521 / George W. Bush, President 2001-2009

"'God has given us the Papacy -- Let us enjoy it.' . . . the new Pope was a hedonist . . . with as little concern for cost as if the source of funds were some self-filling magic cornucopia.  The popes' wars also earned Erasmus' scorn . . . . 'As if the Church had any enemies more pestilential than impious pontiffs. . . . The monarchy of the Pope at Rome, as it is now, is a pestilence to Christendom.' . . . Machiavelli found proof of decadence in the fact that 'the nearer people are to the Church of Rome, which is the head of our religion, the less religious they are.' . . . The abuse that precipitated the ultimate break was the commercialization of indulgences. . . . [T]he Pope was unaware of the issues and incapable of understanding the protest that had been developing for the century and a half. . . . Leo hardly noticed the fracas in Germany except as a heresy to be  suppressed like any other. . . . Leo left the Papacy and the Church in the 'lowest possible repute.' . . . . A lampoon suggested that if the Pope had lived longer, he would have sold Rome too, and then Christ, and then himself."

Clement VII. Sebastiano del Piombo. c.1531..jpgPresident Barack Obama, 2012 portrait crop.jpg

Clement VII, Pope from 1523 to 1534 / Barack Obama, President since 2009

"The new Clement's reign proved to be a pyramid of catastrophes.  Protestantism continued its advance. . . . Supreme office, like sudden disaster, often reveals the man, and revealed Clement as less adequate than expected. Knowledgeable and effective as a subordinate, Guicciardini writes, he fell victim when in charge to timidity, perplexity, and habitual irresolution. . . . By 1527, hardly a part of Italy had escaped violence to life and land, plunder, destruction, misery, and famines.  Clement's misjudgments having prepared the way, Rome itself was now to be engulfed by war."

"The folly of the popes was not pursuit of counter-productive policy so much as rejection of any steady or coherent policy either political or religious that  would have improved their situation or arrested the rising discontent.  Disregard of the movements and sentiments developing around them was the primary folly. . . . When private interest is placed before public interests, and private ambition, greed, and the bewitchment of exercising power determine policy, the public interest necessarily loses, never more conspicuously than under the continuing madness from Sixtus to Clement.  The succession from Pope to Pope multiplied the harm.  Each of the six handed on his conception of the Papacy unchanged. . . . St. Peter's See was the ultimate pork barrel.  Their three outstanding attitudes -- obliviousness to the growing disaffection of constituents, primacy of self-aggrandizement, illusion of invulnerable status -- are persistent aspects of folly.  While in the case of the Renaissance popes, these were bred in and exaggerated by the surrounding culture, all are independent of time and recurrent in governorship."

Syria: Pros and Cons

Mr. President, if I were a professional con artist paid to give you the pros and cons on engaging in a war in Syria, here's what they would be:

As you know, former president Clinton, probably understood by many to also be speaking on behalf of his wife, has called you a wuss.  Virtually nobody remembers or cares that you said "I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place."  The majority of Americans, exercising that mindset, want you to get us into a new war in the first place if the alternative is having a wuss in the White House.  I don't have a poll on that, but trust me.

This is not contradicted by public opposition to U.S. engagement in the war in Syria (as seen in the polls).  If U.S. casualties are minimized and if the financial cost can come out of the base DOD budget -- at least at first -- then the political cost is negligible while the political gain is enormous.  Unless you drag this out.  The military budget is being increased right now, and in violation of the sequester, and nobody gives a rat's ass.  They think it means jobs and non-wussiness.  Unless you drag it out.

With regard to claims of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government, the best approach is to claim certainty, and to insist on the necessity of secrecy for the evidence.  You've had a great deal of success with this approach on drone kills, NSA programs, etc.  Let the conversation focus on a demand for the evidence.  This allows you to talk about the scary dangers requiring secrecy, and to question whether your opponents have the appropriate level of patriotic barbarism. 

Meanwhile, everyone has completely forgotten that both sides in Syria are using hideous weaponry and committing horrible atrocities, while we're only aiding one side rather than both.  Nobody, in this framework, will be capable of thinking about the internationally condemned weapons we deploy, or wondering whether killing Syrians to prevent Syrians from being killed by the wrong kind of weapons even makes sense in our humanitarian (wink wink) scenario.  Much less will the legality or morality of using war to prevent war be questioned or even be questionable.  Keep the focus on the extensive evidence of chemical weapons use by Assad, one of the few individuals in the world -- we should say constantly -- evil enough to do such a thing.  Stop mentioning Syria at all.  Always refer to Assad.

Key also is swiftness.  Get this battle started!  Get progress and movement toward victory underway immediately.  If possible get a very small number of Americans killed, and killed by Assad.  Remember that the resistance to the 2003 invasion of Iraq shriveled away once the invasion happened, and that the same sort of resistance is not even here now for you.  Your image is firmly established as a non-killer.  Your telling the New York Times about your kill list terror-Tuesday meetings did nothing to change that.  Your bin-Laden announcement did nothing to change that.  The danger for you is not Texan sadist.  The danger for you is Wuss.

The secondary danger is drawing the thing out.  You've been able to escalate and prolong the war on Afghanistan for five years only because you've labeled it your predecessor's war.  The House just voted that you only get another year-and-a-half there unless they vote again.  I know, I know, it's cute how they think we give a shit what they vote for.  But Syria is not Bush's war.  If you drag it out you'll be in trouble.  And here's why you might: The people of Syria are largely against the rebels and will be even more strongly against the United States or NATO.  There won't even be a momentary flowers-and-chocolate welcome.  Both sides are heavily armed already, and the more popular side is winning.  You're proposing to fight on the less popular side in support of overthrowing a more popular government in exchange for a government that could end up opposed to Iran, but which will also be opposed to the United States, not to mention its opposition to restraint in mutilating and murdering blasphemers.  There will be a temptation to try to fix and control what is guaranteed to be broken and uncontrollable.  And that's if the whole thing doesn't expand internationally into a broader war involving several nations and costing you practically as much as Wussihood.

So, what you need is swiftness and overwhelming strength, devastation sufficient to shock and awe the Syrians as it were.  And then get the hell out of there and leave those people to their catastrophe.  That would be my advice.  You don't need, and the weapons makers and contractors who will show you their gratitude don't need, a lengthy war in order to profit.  You need an example of a successful war that can be held up as potentially needed again.  Because, of course -- while you must absolutely not say this yet -- this is what will get you into Iran.  And Iran is where the real men go, Mr. President.

You need to clamp down on Senator McCain and all other voices connecting Syria to Iran.  The two need to be separate and happen sequentially.  You need to control the media by continuing to beat the existing sticks of intimidation, while offering some carrots as well.  Do they want to break the story of the chemical weapons evidence? Do they? Do they? Then they need to watch what they say.  This can be a win-win for everyone involved, Mr. President.  The footage of the bombing of Syrian air defense batteries in urban centers will be stunning.  It should come before the Fourth of July. 

Footage from the ground in those cities, however, should be banned under the threat of indictment for aiding the enemy.  This is important.  Syria is not Libya.  A lot more people are going to die, and we do not want those images except in one key case.  We want the death of Assad on every television.  And we want it from a bomb, not a night raid.  We want to justify the killing of tens of thousands through the killing of someone so demonized that his killing justifies all killing.  At that point, you can forget anyone caring about the fate of Syria.  Just look at Iraq.  It's worse off right now than Syria is, and I can count on one hand the number of Americans who give a damn.

Courage, Mr. President!  Don't be a wuss!

A Built-In Cure for War

Erin Niemela's recent proposal that we amend the Constitution to ban war is provocative and persuasive.  Count me in.  But I have a related idea that I think should be tried first.

While banning war is just what the world ordered, it has about it something of the whole Bush-Cheney ordeal during which we spent years trying to persuade Congress to ban torture.  By no means do I want to be counted among those opposed to banning torture.  But it is relevant, I want to suggest, that torture had already been banned.  Torture had been banned by treaty and been made a felony, under two different statutes, before George W. Bush was made president.  In fact, the pre-existing ban on torture was stronger and more comprehensive than any of the loophole-ridden efforts to re-criminalize it.  Had the debate over "banning torture" been entirely replaced with a stronger demand to prosecute torture, we might be better off today.

We are in that same situation with regard to war.  War was banned 84 years ago, making talk of banning war problematic.

We were in that same situation, in fact, even before the U.N. Charter was drafted 68 years ago.  By any reasonable interpretation of the U.N. Charter, most -- if not all -- U.S. wars are forbidden.  The United Nations did not authorize the invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq, the overthrow of the Libyan government, or the drone wars in Pakistan or Yemen or Somalia.  And by only the wildest stretch of the imagination are these wars defensive from the U.S. side.  But the two loopholes created by the U.N. Charter (for defensive and U.N.-authorized wars) are severe weaknesses.  There will always be those who claim that a current war is in compliance with the U.N. Charter or that a future war might be.  So, when I say that war is illegal, I don't have the U.N. Charter in mind.

Nor am I thinking that every war inevitably violates the so-called laws of war, involving countless atrocities that don't stand up under a defense of "necessity" or "distinction" or "proportionality," although this is certainly true.  Banning improper war, while useful as far as it goes, actually supports the barbaric notion that one can conduct a proper war.  The situation in which a war would be a "just war" is as mythical as the much-imagined situation in which torture would be justified.

Nor do I mean that U.S. Constitutional war powers are violated or fraud is perpetrated in making the case for war, although these and other violations of law are frequent companions of U.S. wars.

I also do not want to dispute the advantages of banning war in the highest law, the Constitution.  There is a common misconception that holds up lesser, statutory law as more serious than the Constitution or the treaties that it makes "supreme law of the land."  This is a dangerous inversion.  Edward Snowden is right to expose violations of the Fourth Amendment.  Senator Dianne Feinstein is wrong to insist that those violations have been legalized by statutes.  Amending the Constitution to ban war would (if the Constitution were complied with) prevent any lesser law from legalizing war.  But a treaty would do that too.  And we already have one.

THE 84-YEAR-OLD BAN ON WAR

It is little known and even less appreciated that the United States is party to a treaty that bans all war.  This treaty, known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact, or the Peace Pact of Paris, or the Renunciation of War, is listed on the U.S. State Department's website (go here, open the document, scroll to page 454).  The Pact reads:

"The High Contracting Parties solemly [sic] declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.

"The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means."

Pacific means only.  No martial means.  No war.  No targeted murder.  No surgical strikes. 

The story of how this treaty, to which over 80 nations are party, came to be is inspiring.  The peace movement of the 1920s is a model of dedication, patience, strategy, integrity, and struggle.  Playing a leading role was the movement for "outlawry," for the outlawing of war, which had been legal until that point (just as people falsely imagine it to be today).  Slavery had been outlawed.  Blood feuds had been outlawed.  Duelling had been outlawed.  And outlawrists pointedly noted that not just "aggressive duelling" had been banned.  Those who went before us didn't keep defensive duelling or humanitarian duelling around but set the whole barbaric practice behind them.

Eliminating war, the outlawrists believed, would not be easy.  A first step would be to ban it, to stigmatize it, to render it unrespectable.  A second step would be to establish accepted laws for international relations.  A third would be to create courts with the power to settle international disputes.  They took the first big step in 1928, with the treaty taking effect in 1929.  We haven't followed through.  In fact we've collectively buried what was probably the single biggest news story of 1928.

With the creation of the peace pact, wars were avoided and ended.  But armament and hostility continued.  The mentality that accepts war as an instrument of national policy would not vanish swiftly.  World War II came.  And, following World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt used the Kellogg-Briand Pact to prosecute the losers of the war, not just for "war crimes," but also for the brand new crime of war.  Despite an endless plague of war on and among the poor nations of the world, the wealthy armed nations have yet to launch a third world war.

When not simply ignored or unknown, the Kellogg-Briand Pact is dismissed because World War II happened.  But what other legal ban on undesired behavior have we ever tossed out following the very first violation and what appears to have been a quite effective prosecution?  An argument can also be made that the U.N. Charter undoes the earlier pact simply by coming later in time.  But this is by no means an easy argument, and it requires understanding the U.N. Charter as the re-legalization of war rather than the ban on war that most people imagine it to be. 

In the two years since I published an account of the activism that created the Pact, I have found a great deal of interest in reviving awareness of it.  People may not be as sick of war now as they were following World War I, or at least not as open to the possibility of abolition, but many are pretty far down that road.  Groups and individuals have launched petitions.  City councils are creating a peace holiday on August 27th, the day the treaty was signed in 1928 in a scene well described in the song Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream.  A fan of the story has created an essay contest that's received thousands of entries.  Drone protesters have educated judges about the Peace Pact when they've been hauled into court for making use of the First Amendment.  A Congress member has put into the Congressional Record his recognition that the Kellogg-Briand Pact made war illegal.  And I've been in touch with other nations not party to the treaty and not party to any wars, encouraging them to sign on to the Pact and then urge certain other parties to begin complying with it.

When someone wants to legalize torture or campaign bribery they point to court proceedings marginalia, overridden vetoes, speeches, and tangentially related ancient precedents.  When we want to de-legalize war, why not point to the Kellogg-Briand Pact? It is a treaty to which the United States is party.  It is the Supreme Law of the Land.  It not only does what we want.  It does more than most people dare to dream.  I've found that some people are inspired by the Pact's existence and by the fact that our great-grandparents were able to create a public movement that brought it into existence.

This seems to me a good place to start.

David Swanson is the author of When the World Outlawed War.

Martha Rosler's Theater of Drones Buzzes into Charlottesville

The first city in the United States to pass a resolution against drones now has a drone display just across the pedestrian Downtown Mall from City Hall, thanks to Martha Rosler whose "Theater of Drones" is part of the Charlottesville Festival of the Photograph.

Click to enlarge:

 

From Charlottesville Festival of the Photograph:

Martha Rosler works in photography, video, performance, sculpture, and installation. Her work often addresses matters of the public sphere and landscapes of everyday life—actual and virtual—especially as they affect women. Rosler’s photographic series on places of passage and systems of transportation—airports, roads, subways, streets—have been widely exhibited. Rosler has for many years produced works on war and the “national security climate,” connecting everyday experiences at home with the conduct of war abroad. In 2004 and 2008, in opposition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, she reinstituted her now well-known series of photomontages House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home, originally made as a response to the war in Vietnam in the late 1960s.

“Beginning a conversation through art provides symbolic closure but does not relieve us of the necessity to keep on informing, organizing, audience building, and agitating.” – Martha Rosler

Rosler has had numerous solo exhibitions at museums and galleries internationally. In spring 2012, her solo photo exhibition Cuba January 1981 opened at Mitchell-Innes and Nash in New York City. In November 2012, she presented her performance-installation Meta-Monumental Garage Sale at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the most recent of a series of Garage Sales she has held in and around art galleries since 1973.

www.martharosler.net

Insight Conversation

Exhibit

  • Title: Theater of Drones
  • Date: June 10 - July 7
  • Location: 605 East Main Street at the Freedom of Speech Wall

Book Signing

The Paramount Theater

NSA Whistleblowing a Strong Tradition

On July 1, 2007, I posted the following report on a then-new NSA whistleblower, a story later repeatedly "broken" by ABC News, Democracy Now!, James Bamford, and others.  Thomas Drake, Edward Snowden, and NSA whistleblowers whose names we've learned are part of a rich and, I hope, growing tradition:

New NSA Whistleblower Speaks

By davidswanson - Posted on 01 July 2007

By David Swanson
http://warisacrime.org/node/24183

A former member of U.S. military intelligence has decided to reveal what she knows about warrantless spying on Americans and about the fixing of intelligence in the leadup to the invasion of Iraq.

Adrienne Kinne describes an incident just prior to the invasion of Iraq in which a fax came into her office at Fort Gordon in Georgia that purported to provide information on the location of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The fax came from the Iraqi National Congress, a group opposed to Saddam Hussein and favoring an invasion. The fax contained types of information that required that it be translated and transmitted to President Bush within 15 minutes. But Kinne had been eavesdropping on two nongovernmental aid workers driving in Iraq who were panicked and trying to find safety before the bombs dropped. She focused on trying to protect them, and was reprimanded for the delay in translating the fax. She then challenged her officer in charge, Warrant Officer John Berry, on the credibility of the fax, and he told her that it was not her place or his to challenge such things. None of the other 20 or so people in the unit questioned anything, Kinne said.

Talk Nation Radio: Rick Rowley Tells How He Made the Film "Dirty Wars"

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-rick-rowley

Richard Rowley, director of the new film Dirty Wars, describes its making and the crimes it reveals.  Over the course of fifteen years, Rowley, co-founder of Big Noise Films, has made multiple award-winning documentary features including Fourth World War and This Is What Democracy Looks Like. His shorts and news reports are also regularly featured on and commissioned by leading outlets including Al Jazeera, BBC, CBC, CNN International, Democracy Now!, and PBS. Rowley is a co-founder of the Independent Media Center. Rowley has been a Pulitzer Fellow, Rockefeller Fellow, a Jerome Foundation Fellow, and a Sundance Documentary Film Program Fellow.  For more on Dirty Wars see http://DirtyWars.org

To sign a petition to free the Yemeni journalist imprisoned at President Obama's instruction, as discussed in this program, go here.

Total run time: 29:00

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

Download or get embed code from Archive or  AudioPort or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

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

Over 30,000 Sign Thank-You Note to Edward Snowden

Already over 30,000 people have signed a thank-you note to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden at SupportEdwardSnowden.org -- a website set up by RootsAction.org.

The note reads: "We thank Edward Snowden for his principled and courageous actions as a whistleblower, informing the public about vast surveillance by the National Security Agency that undermines our civil liberties."

A few of the thousands of comments added read as follows:

"Your courage and integrity give hope to a hardened cynic. I will do what I can to raise awareness and campaign for change, and for your personal safety and liberty. Thank you."

"If only we had more people with your courage and convictions. You have helped restore my faith in humanity."

"What you've done will inspire kindred spirits around the world to take moral action despite the risks."

"Your character and courage are inspirational.  I only hope that if put in the same position I would do the right thing, as you have.  Thank you for your lesson in being a human."

"'In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.' --George Orwell.  Thank you."

"Thank you for your courageous actions in the defence of democracy, liberty and justice. You have demonstrated the highest form of loyalty and for that you have my respect and admiration. Good luck."

"They are trying to make a criminal out of the person who exposed the crime!"

"Just think how this world would be if everyone did the right thing!  Thank you Edward."

"Your courage is so rare -- thank you for this brave action to defend the 4th amendment.  Wishing you well."

"Thanks for calling attention to the Police State that we have become."

"Thank you, Edward.  We can no longer say, as did people in Nazi Germany, that they didn't know what was going on."

"Thank you for stepping up for freedom. I am proud to join with the people of the world in applauding your conscience."

"Thank you for your honesty, incredible sacrifice, and clarity. We will not allow the government or the media call this anything less than a courageous move and wake up call to resuscitate Democracy."

"I can't thank you enough for this act of  courage and personal sacrifice.  You give me hope that the forces of oppression can eventually be overcome."

"Your bravery and your actions are more than commendable. I stand with you. Keep your spirit up in the challenges ahead. Thank you for standing up for Democracy and your fellow citizens. Well done. You are a true hero."

"Bravery for principle is very contagious, thank you!"

"Thank You Edward. 'The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.' - -Albert Einstein"

"You and Bradley Manning are my heroes. I am proud of you."

"Thank you for stepping forward and putting your life at risk to save our precious liberties.  Thank you for believing in the bill of rights.  Thank you for doing what is right even when our government prohibits it.  Thank you for your efforts to stop the decline into the novel '1984'."

"Finally someone with guts."

"Bravo, Edward! You are an inspiration to all freedom-loving people!"

"Thank you for your courageous actions. I hope this will be contagious and result in many more stepping out to join you in exposing the terrible state of freedom here."

"Thank you for letting me know just how far towards fascism my supposedly democratic country has slid, all in the name of 'keeping me safe'. I salute your courage."

"Thank you Edward. We're with you all the way."

The note will be delivered to Snowden with all signatures and comments that anyone adds at SupportEdwardSnowden.org

Not Impeaching Bush Is Sure Paying Off!

Many loyal Republicans opposed impeaching George W. Bush.  So did most liberal and progressive activist groups, labor unions, peace organizations, churches, media outlets, journalists, pundits, organizers, and bloggers, not to mention most Democratic members of Congress, most Democrats dreaming of someday being in Congress, and -- toward the end of the Bush presidency -- most supporters of candidate Barack Obama or candidate Hillary Clinton. 

Remarkably in the face of this opposition, a large percentage and often a majority of Americans told pollsters that Bush should be impeached.  It's not clear, however, that everyone understood why impeachment was needed.  Some might have supported a successful impeachment of Bush and then turned around and tolerated identical crimes and abuses by a Democrat, assuming a Democrat managed to engage in them.  But this is the point: whoever followed Bush's impeachment would have been far less likely to repeat and expand on his tyrannical policies.  And the reason many of us wanted Bush impeached -- as we said at the time -- was to prevent that repetition and expansion, which we said was virtually inevitable if impeachment was not pursued.

Can You Hear Me Now?

"You just hate Republicans" was the most common argument against impeachment, but there were others.  "It's more important to elect someone different."  "Why do you want President Cheney?"  "Why do you want President Pelosi?"  "Why distract from good work?"  "Why put the country through trauma?"  "Why not focus on ending war?"  "Why not do investigations?"  "Why divide the Democrats?"  "Why start a process that can't succeed?"  "Why destroy the Democratic Party the way impeaching Clinton destroyed the Republican Party?"  We answered these questions as patiently as possible at great length and enormous repetition for years and years.

People pursued alternatives to impeachment, from spreading the word about how bad the crimes and abuses were, to pushing legislation to redundantly re-criminalize Bush's criminal behavior, to promoting supposedly lesser-evil candidates, to promoting truly good candidates, to constructing ways to drop out of society and wash one's hands of it.  The trouble was that when you let a president spy without warrant, imprison without charge, torture, kill, lie, make war, operate in secret, rewrite laws, and persecute whistleblowers, you can predict -- as we predicted for years -- that the next president will adopt and build on the same policies.  Nothing short of punishing the offender will deter the successor.

In fact, the new president, working with Congress and all of his other facilitators, has turned abuses into policies.  The scandal and secretiveness have been replaced with executive orders and legislation.  Crimes are now policy choices.  Checking off lists of murder victims is official open policy.  Secret laws are normal.  Secretly rewritten laws are established practice.  Spying in violation of the Fourth Amendment is openly defended and "legalized," with sporadic bursts of public outrage and establishment excusing, following new detailed revelations.  Whistleblowing is being transformed into treason.

This moment offers certain opportunities.  It is well-placed in between the election seasons that so debilitate the nation.  Also, bravery and integrity seem to be spreading like a contagion.  Intimidation is backfiring.  Resistance is growing, and so is whistleblowing.  Bradley Manning and Thomas Drake and Matthew Hoh and Coleen Rowley and John Kiriakou and Jesselyn Radack and many others are inspiring new whistleblowers like Edward Snowden (support him here!), and like the member of the Joint Special Operations Command who spoke out for the first time at our forum on the opening of the film Dirty Wars in D.C. on Saturday.

However, what failure to impeach Bush has done to legitimize his crimes is nothing compared to what it has done to delegitimize impeachment.  If a tyrannical president who liberals hated and who talked funny and who didn't even pretend to be killing for some higher benevolent purpose can't be impeached, then who can?  Surely not an intelligent, articulate African American who pretends to agree with us and gives speeches denouncing his own policies? 

But this is the same problem as before.  Making speeches against Bush's abuses was not enough.  Clapping for speeches against Obama's abuses -- even speeches by Obama -- is not enough.  There is a reason why people abuse power.  Power corrupts them.  And absolute power corrupts them absolutely.  Telling a handful of Congress members who are forbidden to speak about it, and most of whom don't really give a damn, what sort of outrages you are up to is not a system of checks and balances or the rule of law. 

Refusal to impeach pulls the foundation out from under representative government.  Congress won't impeach for violation of subpoenas, so it avoids issuing subpoenas, and it therefore can't compel production of witnesses or documents, so it doesn't take a position on an important matter, so the unofficial U.S. state media takes no position either, and people follow the media.

Would impeaching Obama invite rightwing delusional charges?  Would it send confusing signals rather than clear ones, given Bush's free pass?  Not if Obama and Bush were impeached together.  They've both committed many of the same high crimes.  Impeachment can take place after leaving office.  The time has come to restore seriousness to the serious tool the Constitution provides for checking presidential power.  The time has come to impeach Bush and Obama.

PHOTOS: Protesting the CIA's Drone Murder Program at the CIA on Saturday

LOTS MORE PHOTOS HERE.

Lots of positive honks and waves.  One angry guy in an SUV. Not bad.

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