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By Sherwood Ross
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. --- Overall, President Obama has been “a force for destruction” who has “advanced inequality, wealth concentration, deportations, imprisonments, and the de-funding of basic services in order to fund banks, billionaires, and bombers,” distinguished peace activist David Swanson says.
In an exclusive interview with this reporter, Swanson, a former staff aide to Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s presidential campaigns, said Obama has done nothing to better the lot of the nation’s poor, including Americans in the ghettos, apart from reducing “the disparity in crack-powder cocaine sentencing.”
Noting that Obama has attempted to identify himself with the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Swanson was asked if he saw any resemblance. His reply was “Two eyes and two ears and two feet and in Obama’s case two mouths. He got a Nobel Peace Prize before he did anything for peace,” Swanson said. “So did King, and King followed through and retroactively earned it. Perhaps that led to the ludicrous bestowing of the prize on Obama, who proceeded to give a pro-war acceptance speech in which he insultingly and arrogantly denounced King’s approach to world change.”
Asked if either Obama or his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton might carry out their threat to make a nuclear attack on Iran, Swanson said, “I think they are willing to and would find joy in it. Watch the video of Clinton laughing over the killing of (Libya’s ruler Muammar) Gaddafi. Watch the video of her talking about ‘obliterating’ Iran. She takes obvious pleasure in such talk, as does Obama. I don’t think it’s at the top of their to-do list, but as long as they allow Israel and Congress to roll ahead, as long as they support the propaganda against Iran, as long as they pursue sanctions as an ‘alternative’ to war that usually brings war closer, the danger will grow.”
Swanson was asked if the U.S. could defeat powerful enemies Germany and Japan in three and one half year in World War II how it has been in Afghanistan for well over a decade with no victory in sight, and whether this was not a deliberate plan to continue a high level of military funding.
“Motivations clearly include irrational machoistic power, financial profit, election campaigning, domination of territories and resources, and the inertia of the war machine,” Swanson said. “I don’t think there’s just one reason, but I think all the reasons are bad ones.”
He went on to say, “I agree that many want to keep the wars going, including those so deluded as to imagine that wars produce jobs. Connecticut’s new commission to plan economic conversion is the most encouraging step I’ve seen in a long time. Forty-nine states need to sit up and take notice.”
Asked why there is so little popular opposition to President Obama’s warlike policies compared to the public outcry during the Viet Nam war, Swanson replied: “Less of it (the opposition) is shown in corporate media, resulting in its actual diminishment. The propaganda---including the lie that people are impotent to effect change -- has become much slicker. People are directed into entertainment, ignorance, and ineffective types of activism, above all electoral campaigning.”
“Our schools are worse, our news media is worse, our political system is more corrupted. Propagandists and recruiters are more skilled. The draft is a poverty draft, presented as a favor to its direct victims rather than an assault on them. And knowledge of the crimes to be protested barely exists. A majority of Americans believes Iraq benefitted from a war that destroyed Iraq. People won’t protest that which they don’t know about.”
Asked how deeply totalitarianism is ingrained in American life, Swanson said that “Americans are among the most obedient and subservient people around. We imagine just the reverse and certainly our tendency toward obedience competes with out tendency toward independence and rebellion. But the majority of politically engaged Americans radically alter their demands depending on which of two very similar political parties is in the White House, accept imperial powers for presidents without thought, ingest corporate propaganda without resistance, and believe that even popular activism is dependent on the divine appearance of an all-powerful leader.”
Swenson went on to say, “A majority of Americans oppose drone murders of Americans but support drone murders of non-Americans. A majority of Americans want different rules for their country and other, lesser countries, including accepting the launching of wars on other nations, whether for genocidal or humanitarian reasons.”
Asked what it will take to get the pacifist message through to the multitudes, Swanson replied, “It may take some combination of independent media and infiltration of corporate media. The latter will only effectively follow the former. So our priorities are backwards right now. We need a much greater emphasis on building independent journalism. And we need a movement to educate people to rely on it. If potential activists won’t take anything seriously that they don’t see on corporate media, it does us little good to get it to them by other means.”
Swanson hosts “Talk Nation Radio” and is the author of numerous anti-war books that have drawn wide attention and praise. These include “The Military Industrial Complex at 50” and “War Is A lie.”
There's no end to the pro-war movies we're subjected to: countless celebrations of bombs, guns, and torture. They come in the form of cartoons, science-fiction, historical fiction, dramas, and reenactments pre-censored by the CIA. Movies show us the excitement without the suffering. War in our theaters resembles almost anything else more than it resembles war.
Journalists appear in our movies too, usually as comic figures, talking-head air-heads, numskulls, and sycophants. In this case, the depiction is much more accurate, at least of much of what passes for journalism.
But, starting in June, a remarkable anti-war / pro-journalism film will be showing -- even more remarkably -- in big mainstream movie theaters. Dirty Wars (I've read the book and seen the movie and highly recommend both) may be one of the best educational outreach opportunities the peace movement has had in a long time. The film, starring Jeremy Scahill, is about secretive aspects of U.S. wars: imprisonment, torture, night raids, drone kills.
Dirty Wars won the Cinematography Award for U.S. Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival 2013 and, recently, the Grand Jury Prize at the Boston Independent Film Festival. Variety calls it "jaw-dropping ... [with] the power to pry open government lockboxes." The Sundance jury said it is "one of the most stunning looking documentaries [we've] ever seen." I agree.
Typically, information that does not support our government's war agenda appears only on the printed page, or perhaps in a power-point presented to the usual heroic crowd of aging white activists gathered outside the range of corporate radar. But stroll through an airport and you'll see hardcopies of Dirty Wars displayed at the front of the bookstores. Check out the movie listings in June and July, and you're likely to see Dirty Wars listed right alongside the latest super-hero, murderfest, sequel of a sequel of some predictable Hollywood hackery.
I wrote a review of the book some time back, after which I picked up a job helping to promote the film. But I'm promoting the film because it's a great film, which is different from calling it a great film because I'm paid to promote it. And my interest remains less in selling the film tickets than in recruiting those who see the film into an active movement to change the reality on which the film reports.
This is not Zero Dark Thirty. You can't walk into Dirty Wars supporting drone strikes, night raids, and cluster bombs and walk out with your beliefs reinforced. Most viewers of Dirty Wars will leave the theater believing that U.S. wars make the United States less safe. In that moment, when people who are usually otherwise engaged have come to realize that the Department of So-Called Defense endangers us (on top of impoverishing us) is when we should sign those people up to take part in activities the following week and month and year.
The film opens by contrasting embedded war journalism -- the regurgitation of spoon-fed propaganda -- with what the viewer is about to see. And what we see is investigative journalism. The film begins by providing us with an understanding of night raids, including from the point of view of family members who have survived them. We see the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff tell Scahill that night raids that kills civilians should not be investigated. And then we see Scahill investigate them, his search leading him to secretive branches of the U.S. military involved in a variety of dirty tactics in various countries.
The film does have a failing. It doesn't tell people anything they can do about the horrors they're exposed to. But, of course, activism is possible and far more effective than any journalism -- good or bad -- will tell you.
One of the stories told in the film and the book of Dirty Wars is the story of the destruction of al Majala. On December 17, 2009, U.S. Tomahawk missiles and incendiary cluster bombs rained down on the tiny Yemeni village of al Majala, killing 21 children, 14 women, and 6 men, and burning all the homes and their contents. The government of Yemen falsely claimed responsibility. Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye disproved that claim.
Shaye reported on the carnage, including photographing missile parts labeled "Made in the United States." He reported on subsequent U.S. strikes in Yemen, working with the Washington Post, ABC News, Al Jazeera, and other outlets.
Shaye is in prison in Yemen for the crime of journalism, at the insistence of President Obama. A coalition has launched a petition today urging Obama and Yemen to set Shaye free. Fans of Dirty Wars who want to begin to do something to end the crimes committed in their names can be sent to RootsAction.org.
While the United States was searching for its citizen Anwar Awlaki to kill him, Shaye repeatedly tracked him down and interviewed him. These were tough and serious interviews, with Shaye asking Awlaki how he could possibly support acts of violence. Awlaki's image was not helped. But the U.S. government began warning media outlets not to work with Shaye, falsely accusing him of supporting al Qaeda. The Yemeni government kidnapped Shaye, threatened and released him, then snatched him again and gave him a one-sided "trial," universally denounced as a sham by human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
On February 2, 2011, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, under public pressure, had drawn up, printed out, and was prepared to sign a pardon of Shaye. But Saleh received a phone call from President Barack Obama, who opposed release of the journalist. Saleh ripped up the pardon.
The White House is feeling a little pressure over recent revelations of government spying on and seeking the prosecution of U.S. journalists. It took the targeting of a U.S. journalist for prosecution to start people like Chuck Todd and Dana Milbank chattering about Obama treating journalism as a crime. But have you heard U.S. media outlets raising concerns over the imprisonment of a Yemeni journalist at the instruction of the U.S. president?
There is much else that we are not regularly told to be found in Dirty Wars. Organizations that would like to help promote this film and organize around it in U.S. cities should contact me. With any luck, together we'll change the conversation to one aware of and unaccepting of acts of murder anywhere on earth.
Authorizing the City of Evanston to Establish a Moratorium on the Use of Unregulated Drone Technology
WHEREAS, the implementation of drone (unmanned aerial system) technology in the United States implicates the privacy and constitutional rights of United States residents, including the residents of Evanston, Illinois; and
WHEREAS, the federal government and the State of Illinois have yet to enact reasonable regulation on the use of drones within the United States; and
WHEREAS, police departments in the United States have begun to deploy drone technology absent any regulation on the appropriate use of such technology, although the Evanston Police Department has not.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF EVANSTON, COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, THAT:
SECTION 1: That the foregoing recitals are hereby found as fact and incorporated herein by reference.
SECTION 2: The City of Evanston establishes a moratorium on the use of drones in the City of Evanston in the absence of reasonable state and federal regulation of the use of drone technology which will expire without further action by the City Council two years from the date of this resolution; with the following exemptions:
1) for Hobby and Model Aircraft, defined as an unmanned aircraft that is— a) capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere;
b) flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and
c) flown for hobby or recreational purposes; and
2) the Research and Development of "Experimental Aircraft" for non-Department of Defense contracts.
SECTION 3: The City of Evanston establishes a moratorium on the use of drones in the City of Evanston in the absence of reasonable state and federal regulation of the use of drone technology; and
SECTION 4: The City of Evanston supports efforts in the Illinois General Assembly, the Illinois Senate, and the United States Congress to enact legislation (1) prohibiting information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into a federal or state court, and (2) precluding the domestic use of drones equipped with anti-personnel devices (meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed- energy), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being.
SECTION 5: The City of Evanston jointly resolves, with the Associated Student Government (“ASG”) of Northwestern University, as evidenced by the attached resolution of the ASG (Exhibit 1), to provide that the moratorium on drone use extends to all areas of Northwestern University.
SECTION 6: Copies of this Resolution will be sent to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk, U.S. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Illinois State Senators Daniel Biss and Heather Steans, and Illinois State Representatives Robyn Gabel, Kelly Cassidy and Laura Fine.
SECTION 7: This resolution 27-R-13 shall be in full force and effect from and after the date of its passage and approval in the manner provided by law.
David Vine is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at American University, author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia, and of the new article "Where Has All the Money Gone?" He discusses an overseas U.S. military base presence that maintains a million troops in other countries on a permanent basis at a cost of $170 billion per year, and which has funnelled $385 billion to private contractors (most of it to a handful of cronies) since 2001. Learn more at http://davidvine.net
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
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
By Ann Wright
I am honored to be attending the Nobel Women’s Initiative, “Moving Beyond Militarism and War,” May 28-30, 2013 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Six women Nobel Peace Laureates and 80 women from around the world are gathering to discuss the weighty and seeming insolvable problem of getting past the militarism of our world and the financial need of politicians and corporations to wage war. Nobel Peace Laureates Mairead Maguire, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Leyamh Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman will attend the conference, as well as women activists from war conflict regions.
The United States balances its endless war of terrorism with the institution of an endless "peace process" for Palestine, a process valuable for its peaceyness and interminability.
Josh Ruebner's new book, Shattered Hopes: The Failure of Obama's Middle East Peace Process, could just as easily have been called "Fulfilled Expectations: The Success of Obama's Middle East Peace Process," depending on one's perspective. Its story could be summarized: Obama's performance in this area has been of a piece with his performance in every other. Some people became very hopeful about his rhetoric and then very dejected about his actions.
In this case, among those getting hopeful were Palestinian negotiators. But they didn't just grow depressed and despondent. They felt no obligation to behave like Democratic voters. They swore off the Hopium and went to work on an international approach through the United Nations that has begun to pay off.
Obama began his "peace process" efforts "naively unprepared for the intensity of the pushback from Israel and its supporters in the United States to its demand that Israel freeze settlements," Ruebner writes. But evidence of Obama's mental state is hard to pin down, and I'm not sure of the relevance. Whether Obama began with naive good intentions or the same cynicism that he was, by all accounts, fully immersed in by his second or third year in office, the important point remains the same. As Ruebner explains, Obama employs an all-carrots / no-sticks approach with Israel that is doomed to failure.
In fact, suggesting that the White House cease providing Israel with ever more weaponry and/or cease providing Israel with ever more protection from justice following its crimes is liable to get Ruebner himself denounced as naive, along with the rest of us who think he's right. Obama's fundamental problem is not one of naiveté, but of "seriousness," of upholding the solemn seriousness of willful belief in a respectable but doomed approach. If Obama was surprised that Palestinian negotiators didn't play along with this the way U.S. "journalists" do, that would suggest he had internalized the official point of view. Whether that is naiveté or deep cynicism may be in the eye of the beholder.
Ruebner provides the chronological play-by-play from Obama's first happy shiny moves in office to his familiar flailing about in search of propaganda that would continue to hold up year after year. And Ruebner includes analysis of what activists were up to along the way.
In fact, Ruebner begins with Obama's campaign promises, which -- upon close inspection -- prove, as with every other issue, to have been much closer to the President's abysmal performance than to the glowing image people recall of his early hope-and-changey self. Obama campaigned placing all blame on Palestinians, supporting Jerusalem as Israel's undivided capital, backing resolutions and legislation in the Senate imposing sanctions on Palestinians as punishment for having held an open election, and supporting Israel during its wars on Lebanon and Gaza. Obama's speeches and his website made his position clear to those inclined to see it. Boycott campaigns against the Israeli government were, according to him, "bigoted."
As with every other area, on peace in Palestine, Obama's disastrous approach could also have been read clearly from his selection of individuals to run his foreign policy team. During the transition period prior to his inauguration, Obama took positions on many foreign policy matters, but when it came to the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza, he declared himself unable to speak prior to becoming president.
Watching the sequence of events play out post-inauguration is painful. Obama urges an end to Israel's expansion of settlements. Netanyahu suggests that Obama, with all due respect, stick his proposals where the sun don't shine. But Netanyahu backs "statehood" (someday, with no rights or power or independence or actual -- you know -- statehood) for Palestinians, but proceeds to rapidly expand settlements, effectively eliminating territory on which to create any state. Obama announces that victory has come and help is on the way!
Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave up on freezing settlements and announced that slowing the pace of the expansion would be an "unprecedented" accomplishment -- a claim that was less credible to people who had lived and suffered through many such claims before. As reward for the same lawless abuses as always, Israel received from the Obama administration more weaponry than ever, and a veto of a resolution at the United Nations opposing more Israeli settlements.
Ruebner rightly concludes:
"Obama's failure to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace resulted not only from his unwillingness to go to the mat with the Israel lobby over the issue of fully freezing Israeli settlements, not only from the scattershot, frenetic lurching of his policy initiatives thereafter. Obama also foundered because his approach relied solely on providing Israel with carrots. With the trivial exceptions of denying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu photo-ops at the White House on a few occasions and reportedly forcing him to wait for several hours before a meeting, Obama never brandished the proverbial stick. But these personal insults did nothing to create incentives for Israel to cease openly and brazenly defying U.S. policy objectives."
Hope is so much more popular than reality. But Ruebner is full of hope. He holds it out there in front of us. All that's required is a little actually useful action:
"[I]f the United States were to pull its backing for Israel's oppression of the Palestinians, then Israeli intransigence would melt away in the historical blink of an eye, as it did when President Dwight Eisenhower terminated all U.S. aid programs to Israel after it invaded and occupied the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula in 1956."
How do we get there? Part of the answer, Ruebner persuasively suggests is Boycott-Divestment-and-Sanctions (BDS), a movement that is making great strides, including in changing the public discourse, altering the sorts of things that even U.S. politicians can get away with claiming with a straight face.
Imagine if at some point during the 1990s or 1980s the President of the United States had given a speech. And this was his speech:
My fellow Americans, I've been regularly shooting missiles into people's houses in several countries. I've wiped out families. I've killed thousands of people. Hundreds of them have been little children.
I've killed grandparents, wives, daughters, neighbors. I've targeted people without knowing their names but because they appeared to be resisting an occupation of their country. I've killed whoever was too near them. Then I've shot another missile a few minutes later to kill whoever was trying to help the victims.
I don't charge these people with crimes. I don't seek their extradition. I don't even try to kidnap them. And I don't do this to defend against any imminent threat. I don't make you safer by doing this. It goes without saying (although the people in the countries I target keep saying it) that I'm generating more new enemies than I'm killing. But I urge you to remember this: All but four of the people I've killed have been non-U.S. citizens.
So here's what I'm going to do for you: I'm going to start applying the same standards I use for killing U.S. citizens to my killing of non-U.S. citizens, at least in certain countries, at least after another 18 months or so goes by. Sound good? I know, I know: what do you care? These are not even U.S. citizens we're talking about.
So, let me tell you about the four U.S. citizens.
One of them we didn't actually know who we were shooting at, and he turned out to be a U.S. citizen. Hell, for all I know a few other bodies could belong to U.S. citizens too -- It's not as if we know all the names and backgrounds.
A second one of the four we got because he was with the one and only U.S. citizen we targeted. So, that was a two-fer. We saved enough on missiles on that one to pay for a school or whatever it is people keep whining about wanting money for.
A third one was a 16-year-old American kid. He was the son of the one and only U.S. citizen I targeted. I hit him two weeks after killing his father. Sheer coincidence. I don't have any good explanation for it, but you'll just have to trust that I meant to take out a bunch of innocent non-American teenagers, and there happened tragically to be an American among them.
Fourth is the one U.S. citizen I meant to kill. I'd like to ask you to ignore certain facts about this one for the moment. Actually forever. Let's ignore the fact that we tried to kill him before any of the incidents that I now claim justified his killing. Let's ignore that my attorney general said back then that we were killing him for things he'd said, not for anything he'd done. Let's forget that we never charged him with any crime, never indicted him, never tried him, never sought his extradition, never appealed to U.S. or foreign or international courts. Let's forget that we've never made any evidence against him public, nor explained why we can't. Let's forget that nobody else has produced any evidence against him.
Now, let me tell you this: I only killed him because he was responsible for planning and executing violent attacks on the United States, was an imminent threat to the United States, and could not possibly have been captured. Got that? Write that down.
Now, it's true that courts and the legislature and the public are left out of this. But you're going to have to trust me.
There is not a single domestic or international law that permits the killing of human beings by someone who invents criteria for himself to meet and then claims on the basis of secret evidence to have met those criteria.
But, what do you care? You've already forgotten that for all but one of the people I've killed I don't claim to have met any criteria at all.
Now clap, you morons!
What would the response have been to this some decades back, as compared to last Thursday?
I think there might have been some outrage.
Instead of outrage, we're going to have more wars.
This memorial day, see if you can remember what it was like to object to giving presidents the power to murder us.
|A message to RootsAction members from Douglas Valentine, author of
The Phoenix Program: Lies about Iraq. Cash to corrupt Afghanistan. Drone wars
waged in secret. Blowback endangering us all. The CIA does not exist to defend our
freedoms. Wrapped in government secrecy, it exists to assure the political security of
rich political elites. CIA operations -- engaging in secret, legally protected wars, sabotage,
subversion, murders and tortures -- create enemies that Americans fear. And the agency
is an instrument of psychological warfare aimed at you and me.
It's time we stop funding this out-of-control agency.
You know how the government is owned by the lobbyists? Well, on Friday, we're marching on the lobbyists.
A group of unemployed workers and their families have spent the last week marching all the way from Philadelphia to DC, with the intent of marching on the US Chamber of Commerce's headquarters this Friday, May 24th. Their march is called "Operation Green Jobs," and they'll be holding the US Chamber accountable for buying off congress and using their millions to stop action on jobs, climate change, and a more equitable tax code.
WHO: Operation Green Jobs
WHAT: March on the US Chamber of Commerce
WHEN: Friday, May 24 at 10 AM
WHERE: 1615 H St NW, Washington DC 20062
If you can't make it in person, you can still join the virtual march at http://shutthechamber.org/virtualmarch. All you need to do is click the link, tell your story of how corporate greed has affected you, and your story will be seen by the world with your permission.
Whether it's any of the imperial wars for resources, catastrophic climate change, crippling poverty and unemployment or austerity, all roads lead to the US Chamber of Commerce and their lobbying efforts. Join the march in DC on Friday, or join the virtual march at http://shutthechamber.org/virtualmarch.
Lead Organizer, Shut The Chamber
President Obama is expected to announce that the eternal war on the world will have an end.
He won't say.
I too have an announcement. I promise my drinking problem will end some day.
I'm not saying. But the celebrations of the armistice in 1918 began when plans for it were announced, and the partying continued until it actually happened. Perhaps that is the best approach here. As an aid to your festivities, let me present the . . .
Afternoon Obama Murder Rap Drinking Game
(which I promise to stop playing soon)
1. The President is going to admit that he has a murder problem and propose to correct it by murdering less in certain countries. If examples occur to you of crimes you might commit that you could not continue committing by promising to limit your criminal activities in some countries but not in others, DRINK!
2. The President is going to claim to have targeted, or to have allowed an unnamed John Brennan to have targeted, only one U.S. citizen for murder but to have killed three by mistake, on top of three killed by President Bush by mistake. If you can think of outrages you might commit that you could not go on committing by claiming that 86% of them were accidental side effects, DRINK!
3. The President is going to claim that the one U.S. citizen he or his subordinate chose to murder was an imminent (meaning eventual theoretical) threat to violently attack the United States, that capture was infeasible (meaning the target was hiding following lots of death threats, but his location was known anyway), and that said citizen was a senior operational leader of al Qaeda (or an associated group or was an adherent or a backstage groupie who had once met a guy whose cousin knew where an al Qaeda meeting was held one time). If you understand what that means, DRINK!
4. The President is going to hope that nobody notices that laws against war and murder don't include exceptions for people who invent lists of arcane criteria that they require themselves to meet before murdering. If you think you could invent and meet at least three qualifications before engaging in some immoral behavior, DRINK!
5. The President is going to hope nobody notices that he did not actually meet his own criteria before murdering Awlaki. Attorney General Eric Holder now says Awlaki was killed for actions, not words. Prior to the deed, Holder said it was the "hatred spewed" on Awlaki's blog that put him "on the same list with bin Laden." Asked if he wanted Awlaki captured or killed, Holder did not say "captured if feasible," but evaded the question. Awlaki, as far as we know, was never a member of al Qaeda. Obama's and Holder's claims about Awlaki's role in terrorist attacks are undocumented claims. No evidence has been presented and no charges were ever brought in court. If you think shouting "Whoever he is, and whatever he's charged with, he did it!" would be a nifty way to get out of jury duty, DRINK!
6. The President is going to speed past the fact that over 99% of the people he's murdered have not been U.S. citizens, and that the pretense of justification so lazily applied to U.S. citizens has not been bothered with at all in these cases. He's not going to discuss "signature strikes" targeting unknown people and whoever's near them, or the targeting of the rescuers of victims. He's not going to discuss children, women, seniors. He's not going to discuss the posthumous identification of males as "enemy combatants" -- a non-legal term that adds insult to murder. He's not going to discuss the many known cases in which the victims could quite feasibly have been captured, were clearly not involved with al Qaeda in any way, and lacked any capacity whatsoever to threaten the United States. He's going to propose applying the fraudulent, meaningless, and illegal standards he applies to murdering U.S. citizens to murdering non-U.S. citizens in the future ... in some countries. If you can think of some people who might not be satisfied with this reform, DRINK!
7. The President is going to claim to be moving some but not all drone kill operations from a secret agency technically lacking in Congressional oversight to a department Congress simply chooses not to oversee. If this falls short of what you can imagine when you hear "most transparent administration ever," DRINK!
8. The President will not be speaking about how some 75 other nations with drones should begin applying his standards to their own behavior. If you think such matters are worth discussing, DRINK!
9. The President is going to brush over the question of where and how he will be ordering the murder of people by means other than missiles. If you can think of ways this might become seen as a problem down the road, DRINK!
10. The President is going to speed past the existence of a massive ongoing U.S. war on Afghanistan, larger now than when Obama moved into the White House, and expected to continue for many years after it "ends" in another year and a half. If his ability to get away with this strikes you as perhaps what he must love most about drones and how they change the conversation, DRINK!
11. If you have concerns that go unanswered about the global expansion of U.S. bases, threats to Syria, weapons provided to Israel, threats to Iran, or the gargantuan military budget, DRINK!
12. The President will leak a great deal of information about his kill list program in this speech, as he has done on some previous "I killed bin Laden!" occasions, and yet will fail to prosecute himself for espionage at the end of the speech. If you believe laws should be applied equally to all, DRINK!
Should the U.S. government be building a list of people whom a stranger has concluded based on as little as a moment's interaction are "anti-government"? Look at this photo of a U.S. Census laptop. There's a box to check if a respondent is reluctant to participate in the census.
The next screen wants the census interviewer to explain the potential interviewee's reluctance:
Notice that there is a box for hostile or threatening. That seems important. There are boxes for just not interested or too busy. There is a box for those who object that too many personal questions are asked. The basics all seem to be covered. But the Census employee is to check multiple boxes, "all that apply," and one is "Anti-government concerns." What does that mean? What do Census workers think it means? It clearly means something other than reluctant to give the government this information. To be "anti-" the government sounds like someone is in favor of overthrowing the government. And a government that thinks purely in terms of violence would inevitably interpret such a desire as one in favor of violently overthrowing the government. But surely nobody tells a representative of the government that they favor its violent overthrow unless they don't really take themselves seriously and are not actually a threat. So maybe this "Anti-government concerns" box is equivalent to "Seems nuts," but what sort of training does the survey taker have in mental health? The serious question is what lists your name goes on if somebody marks you down as Anti-government.
Carl Gibson is currently engaged in a Green Jobs March from Philadelphia to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., as part of a campaign called ShutTheChamber.org. You can join the march virtually by uploading a photo on their website, or you can join in reality at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce across from the White House at 10 a.m. Friday, May 24th. Gibson is lead organizer of ShutTheChamber and cofounder of USUncut. He discusses the damage the U.S. Chamber does to our political system pushing environmental destruction, wars, and the plutocratic concentration of wealth. Gibson says that small businesses paying dues to local chambers that themselves have little in common with the U.S. Chamber end up funding assaults on small businesses, as the local chambers fund the state chambers which fund the U.S. Chamber -- an institution that also serves to funnel vast quantities of unaccountable corporate money into politics.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
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
The Connecticut legislature has sent to the governor to sign a bill that would create 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.
There's a contradiction built into every campaign promise about transparent government beyond the failure to keep the promises. Our government is, in significant portion, made up of secret operations, operations that include warmaking, kidnapping, torture, assassination, and infiltrating and overthrowing governments. A growing movement is ready to see that end.
The Central Intelligence Agency is central to our foreign policy, but there is nothing intelligent about it, and there is no good news to be found regarding it. Its drone wars are humanitarian and strategic disasters. The piles of cash it keeps delivering to Hamid Karzai fuel corruption, not democracy. Whose idea was it that secret piles of cash could create democracy? (Nobody's, of course, democracy being the furthest thing from U.S. goals.) Lavishing money on potential Russian spies and getting caught helps no one, and not getting caught would have helped no one. Even scandals that avoid mentioning the CIA, like Benghazigate, are CIA blowback and worse than we're being told.
We've moved from the war on Iraq, about which the CIA lied, and its accompanying atrocities serving as the primary recruiting tool for anti-U.S. terrorists, to the drone wars filling that role. We've moved from kidnapping and torture to kidnapping and torture under a president who, we like to fantasize, doesn't really mean it. But the slave-owners who founded this country knew very well what virtually anyone would do if you gave them power, and framed the Constitution so as not to give presidents powers like these.
There are shelves full in your local bookstore of books pointing out the CIA's outrageous incompetence. The brilliant idea to give Iran plans for a nuclear bomb in order to prevent Iran from ever developing a nuclear bomb is one of my favorites.
But books that examine the illegality, immorality, and anti-democratic nature of even what the CIA so ham-handedly intends to do are rarer. A new book called Dirty Wars, also coming out as a film in June, does a superb job. I wrote a review a while back. Another book, decades old now, might be re-titled "Dirty Wars The Prequel." I'm thinking of Douglas Valentine's The Phoenix Program.
It you read The Phoenix Program about our (the CIA's and "special" forces') secret crimes in Eastern Asia and Dirty Wars about our secret crimes in Western Asia, and remember that similar efforts were focused on making life hell for millions of people in Latin America in between these twin catastrophes, and that some of those running Phoenix were brought away from similar sadistic pursuits in the Philippines, it becomes hard to play along with the continual pretense that each uncovered outrage is an aberration, that the ongoing focus of our government's foreign policy "isn't who we are."
Targeted murders with knives in Vietnam were justified with the same rhetoric that now justifies drone murders. The similarities include the failure of primary goals, the counterproductive blowback results, the breeding of corruption abroad and at home, the moral and political degradation, the erosion of democratic ways of thinking, and -- of course -- the racist arrogance and cultural ignorance that shape the programs and blind their participants to what they are engaged in. The primary difference between Phoenix and drone kills is that the drones don't suffer PTSD. The same, however, cannot be said for the drone pilots.
"The problem," wrote Valentine, "was one of using means which were antithetical to the desired end, of denying due process in order to create a democracy, of using terror and repression to foster freedom. When put into practice by soldiers taught to think in conventional military and moral terms, Contre Coup engendered transgressions on a massive scale. However, for those pressing the attack on VCI, the bloodbath was constructive, for indiscriminate air raids and artillery barrages obscured the shadow war being fought in urban back alleys and anonymous rural hamlets. The military shield allowed a CIA officer to sit behind a steel door in a room in the U.S. Embassy, insulated from human concern, skimming the Phoenix blacklist, selecting targets for assassination, distilling power from tragedy."
At some point, enough of us will recognize that government conducted behind a steel door can lead only to ever greater tragedy.
In an email that Valentine wrote for RootsAction.org on Monday, he wrote: "Through its bottomless black bag of unaccounted-for money, much of it generated by off-the-books proprietary companies and illegal activities like drug smuggling, the CIA spreads corruption around the world. This corruption undermines our own government and public officials. And the drone killings of innocent men, women, and children generate fierce resentment.. . .Tell your representative and senators right now that the CIA is the antithesis of democracy and needs to be abolished."
Or less corrupt.
Watch this Oldie but Goodie:
"Those in Congress who voted to authorize the war on Iraq decided that Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld, who claimed that the invasion and occupation would be good for Iraq and the United States, were somehow more credible than the broad consensus of scholars familiar with the country who correctly predicted it would be a disaster for both. This is why I believe Hillary Clinton does not have the wisdom or judgement to be president." —Stephen Zunes
Even older oldie but goodie.
Read Hillary As Hawk.
Read about a law suit against Hillary Clinton by a man put on a watch list by her after her guards roughed him up for silently protesting by turning his back.
After years of mismanagement, the Tribune Company newspapers -- including the Chicago Tribune and L.A. Times -- are up for sale. And one of the potential buyers? The Koch brothers. And wow are people outraged!
Yes, it's those Koch brothers:the billionaire businessmen who run Koch Industries, a sprawling multinational corporation involved in everything from oil to fertilizer to paper towels. But you probably know the Koch brothers for how they spend their considerable wealth: bankrolling right-wing political causes like the Tea Party movement, and funneling millions of dollars to front groups and politicians devoted to their anti-regulatory, anti-labor, and pro-corporate ideology. The Kochs have spent millions propping up climate-change deniers, and have been instrumental in funding ALEC, the powerful business lobby that pushes corporate-friendly policies at the state level.
What would the Kochs do with a few major newspapers? They would push public opinion and public despair further to the right and further into the depths. This is why taxing billionaires is not a policy driven by greed or jealousy or even the desire to put vast sums of riches to good use. Taxing billionaires is necessary if we are going to have representative government. We talk about "freedom of the press." Never mind government surveillance of reporters' phone records. Never mind the prosecutions of whistleblowers and journalists. If billionaires can dominate our communications system with what to them amounts to pocket change, while we blog dissent to people who believe nothing that doesn't appear on Tee-Vee or in a corporate paper, whose freedom of the press is it?
Some recent reports indicate that many L.A. Times staffers would consider leaving the paper if it were purchased by the Kochs -- which is probably music to their cost-cutting ears. Better than staff promising to quit is subscribers promising to unsubscribe:
"I will cancel my subscription and so will family members. We have no need for propaganda dictated by far right-wing spoiled billionaires with an anti-citizenry, pro 1% agenda. This will be the death of your struggling paper in a town that once had a proud history of journalism. It's a disgrace."
That comment was posted with a signature on this petition. Here are some more:
"If you want to increase the circulation of the New York TIMES in Los Angeles, let the Koch brothers buy the Los Angeles TIMES."
"No Koch news!!!"
"If the Koch brothers get their hands on your paper, it will only be useful as tp."
"Don't give up the integrity of your company for a measley few bucks."
"I refuse to continue my newspaper subscription if the Koch Brothers buy the Tribune. I boycott their other products so I will do the same if they buy the Tribune."
"If you sell to the Koch brothers, you can remove us from your subscription list!!"
"Don't let your long tradition of fair reporting be purchased away."
"Koch purchase is a bad deal for our nation!!!!!!!!!!!!"
"Keep the corporate greed off of our free press!"
"Selling out to the Koch's will pretty much put the kabosh on the 4th Estate's duty to afflict the comfortable."
"If the Koch Brothers take over, you'll lose this loyal reader of the Chicago Tribune forever."
"What an ignoble end to two fine papers known for excellence it would be if the Koch Bros. became the new owner. Forget about fairness and accuracy; the papers would simply become the latest bullhorn from which Charles and David would spew their propaganda. Has it come to this? Please don't sell."
"I am producer/director of Tell the Truth and Run: George Seldes and the American Press. Seldes worked 10 years for the Chi Tribune as a foreign correspondent when their foreign press corps was one of the best in the world! Remember with pride that high-quality journalism of the early Twentieth Century and don't sell out!"
"This country is going in the wrong direction, don't help it."
"As a Chicago Tribune subscriber, I can say we will no longer subscribe to either the print or online version of the Trib if this sale goes through. The reputation and standing of the Tribune organization is on the line, and it will suffer irreparable harm if the sale occurs."
"I have subscribed for 36 years and will cancel."
"As the son of a former Editor on the Chicago Tribune I urge you to remember the Colonel and stand for something. Don't turn the Trib over to men that care only for this country for what they can dredge out of it for their own personal wealth."
"I am an LA Times reader, my parents are Chicago Tribune readers. We will do everything we can to make sure everyone we know never reads another edition of these papers if sold to the Kochs."
Add your own comments for the Tribune Company to read.
Our elected and unelected officials tell us that drone strikes target top level enemies of the United States who are imminent threats to us, and that killing innocent people is avoided altogether or minimized.
But drone pilots have begun talking to the media. And they describe policies that bear a lot closer resemblance to reporting from the areas where the missiles strike. These pilots should be brought before Congress.
Here is a stunning new interview with one of them:
"So the pilot is not only flying the airplane, he or she is using all those sensors to watch a potential target, circling over it for hours or days at a time. What can you really see?
"Okay, so in a village in, say, country X, where the houses are built together, there are adults who live in this house, and these children belong to those adults because we see them out in the fields together or we see them eating dinner. So you can start figuring out who is associated with who. Who is a stranger, who is it that's visiting this house? There's a dog and it barks at strangers, so if we needed to go in and free a hostage or conduct a raid, you'd want to tell the land forces there's a dog there and either it's an attack dog or it alerts the village that somebody's coming.
"You must develop an emotional tie with the people on the ground that makes it hard if there is going to be a strike or a raid, people are going to be killed.
"I would couch it not in terms of an emotional connection, but a … seriousness. I have watched this individual, and regardless of how many children he has, no matter how close his wife is, no matter what they do, that individual fired at Americans or coalition forces, or planted an IED -- did something that met the rules of engagement and the laws of armed conflict, and I am tasked to strike that individual. The seriousness of it is that I am going to do this and it will affect his family. But that individual is the one that brought it on himself. He became a combatant the minute he took up arms."
This pilot, in fact this director of the Air Force Remotely Piloted Aircraft Capabilities Division, has not said that a high level operation leader of terrorists who is imminently threatening the United States is targeted. He has said that some ordinary guy who has chosen to violently resist the hostile foreign occupation of his country by shooting at the occupiers is targeted.
He has also not said anything to satisfy those who support the notion of just wars but want them conducted in compliance with the Geneva Conventions and other such legally binding limitations. This director of a U.S. drone kill program openly says that our public employees target a family for death if needed in order to blow up a foreign soldier from thousands of miles away. Every effort is made to avoid killing innocent family members, he says in the interview, but if it can't be avoided, well, the target "brought it on himself."
War is murder, and this type of war ought to look to most people like the murder that it is. But even if you accept war, this is not how ANYBODY claims it is to be legally done. This is beyond what Congressional witnesses or even Congress members would say is acceptable or legal. Yet this pilot blurts it out to the media with apparently no concern that his life will be inconvenienced by further questioning.
Enough is enough is enough. End this madness now.
Arun Gupta, whose writings can be found at occupyusatoday.com, discusses the lives of refugees from the U.S. war on Iraq now living in California, and the crimes of David Petraeus who has now been made a professor by the City University of New York and the University of Southern California.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
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
The CIA has been so busy consulting on Zero Dark Thirty, not to mention funding Hamid Karzai, bribing Russians, lying about weapons, and conducting humanitarian drone murders, that it didn't have any time at all to help out with Hit and Stay, and yet arguably the latter turned out to be the better film despite such a severe handicap. You can check it out at http://hitandstay.com
This is a film about people taking risks to prevent killing rather than to engage in it. The focus is on the Catonsville Nine action on May 17, 1968, 45 years ago this Friday. That action, in which activists burned draft cards and apologized for burning papers rather than children, was preceded by the Baltimore Four action of October 27, 1967, in which four activists poured their blood on draft papers. It was followed by countless other actions, leading right up to the Transform Plowshares action in Tennessee for which three are currently awaiting sentencing.
The Catonsville action received so much publicity that it had something of an Occupy effect. That is, others who felt the same way about the slaughter of the Vietnamese people but didn't believe they could do anything, suddenly began doing something. Some did very similar actions. Others tried their own approaches to the same problem. Catonsville Nine inspired other tactics, enlarged marches and rallies, and generally moved the peace movement forward. The creativity and novelty of the action even made people think about the war who hadn't before.
Draft records were destroyed, preventing the drafting of those people. So, this was substantive resistance that couldn't be undone. At the same time it was educational and inspirational. It didn't inspire sadistic shouts of "Bin Laden's dead!" It inspired people to act on their moral outrage. There were over 100 actions taken at draft boards over the next few years. Many thousands of people's draft records were destroyed, saving them from the draft and saving those they would have killed from that fate. Some of the draft offices were shut down permanently. In the end the Selective Service declared it was under assault, and Nixon declared that the military would now be volunteer.
Some of the actions went after FBI offices and U.S. attorneys offices. Activists never yet apprehended stole COINTELPRO documents and sent them to the media, exposing the FBI's abuses and creating a major news story that lasted until it was overshadowed by the Pentagon Papers -- released by Dan Ellsberg, himself inspired by the activism shown in Hit and Stay. The people shown engaging in these actions are, in many cases, still active today -- although they look a bit older. In other cases, their sons and daughters are still involved.
The name "Hit and Stay" comes from the method of engaging in civil disobedience (or civil resistance for those who prefer to point to laws being upheld through the violation of other laws deemed less important) and then staying at the scene of the crime to take responsibility. This was a communications strategy, not a masochistic drive toward suffering. Some of the Catonsville Nine went into hiding to avoid their trial and remain active, even after having stood still long enough to be arrested and charged.
The film shows us the Milwaukee 14, the DC 9 who went after the Dow Chemical Company, and the New York 8. The New York activists hit more than one location and chose not to stay. Instead, they held a press conference to claim responsibility without identifying who was at which location or agreeing to answer questions. They were not prosecuted.
We see the Boston 2, the Rhode Island Political Offensive For Freedom (RIPOFF) -- modeled after the New York 8. We see the Rochester Flower City Conspiracy, the Buffalo, the Camden 28. That last one was encouraged, assisted, and then busted by an informant, but in the trial the judge allowed defense witnesses including people like Howard Zinn. The jury nullified the law by acquitting defendants who openly admitted to their actions. The jury joined in singing "Amazing Grace," and the foreman threw a party for the defendants.
Activists have not entirely figured out how to counter the brilliant move of creating a "volunteer" poverty draft, but neither has it shut down resistance in quite the way as is generally imagined. The stories of these long-ago actions and so many thousands of actions since still inspire. And resistance is in many ways greater now. Wars are protested before they even start, and sometimes prevented from starting. There is much to inspire us in independent media reports of nonviolent actions today, but I suspect this movie has the power to inspire us further.
Jack Gilory has written a short 2-act play called The Predator. The script is available here.
The characters include a college student, a drone pilot, a senator, and a peace activist. The drone pilot supports war. The senator supports herself. The peace activist opposes murder. And the student is almost in agreement with the peace activist. All four of them turn toward the audience at the end of the play and ask "What do you think?"
What a great way to start a discussion! The play has been performed or read at Georgetown, Syracuse, and Wittenberg Universities, among other venues. It would make a great event in YOUR town and requires no expenses, just four people who can read lines. Try it out.
Local resolutions have helped advance many issues, including war opposition, when they've been passed in large numbers. When we passed a resolution in Charlottesville, Va., last year opposing any attack on Iran, I heard from numerous cities that wanted to do the same. As far as I know, none did. I heard back from some that they'd been told it was anti-Semitic to oppose a U.S. attack on Iran. I didn't have an answer to that -- not a printable one anyway.
When Charlottesville passed a resolution against drones in February of this year, I heard from people all over the country again. Since that time, to my knowledge, one little town in Minnesota called St. Bonifacius has passed something, while dozens and dozens have tried and failed. The problem seems to be that drones can have good uses as well as bad. Of course, that's grounds for halting the lawless and reckless spread of drones until we can figure out any ways in which their good use can be compatible with our Constitutional rights. But that would make too much sense. When there's money to be made, technology to be played with, and terrorists to destroy our freedoms if we don't hurry up and destroy them first, the American way is full steam ahead. But I actually think I might have at least a partial answer this time.
There are two separable issues to be addresses in anti-drone resolutions and ordinances and laws and treaties. One is weaponization. The other is surveillance. I'm not aware of anyone yet having any difficulty getting their local officials to oppose weaponized drones. Most are unaware that some U.S. localities already have drones armed with rubber bullets and tear gas. Most consider it a crazy idea -- as they should. But it is an idea that should be addressed, because it is not science fiction; it is a dystopia that is already upon us. Getting localities in the United States to oppose the use of weaponized drones in their skies should be easy. Having thus established that our towns can address the problem of drones, we could come back and deal with the complex matter of surveillance.
The best solution on surveillance may be the one produced by the Rutherford Institute and embodied in the Charlottesville resolution. There is nothing in that resolution that prevents a drone from delivering your coffee or checking out a forest fire. I wish there were, but there actually isn't. While I'd like stronger resolutions, I think at this point the movement would benefit from passing any resolutions at all. And I think the way to make it simpler, clearer, and extremely easy would be to ask our local representatives to simply oppose weaponized drones.
Ideally, of course, I'd like to see cities and counties join the movement to ban weaponized drones from the world. Such a resolution might read:
Weaponized drones (or unmanned aerial vehicles) -- including those carrying lethal weapons such as hellfire missiles, and those carrying non-lethal weapons such as tear gas or rubber bullets -- are no more acceptable than chemical weapons or land mines. Whether these drones are controlled by pilots or act autonomously, whether they are publicly or privately owned, they can have no place in a civilized world and should be banned. The City of ________ urges the State of _________, the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. State Department to pursue state, national, and international prohibitions on the development, ownership, or use of weaponized drones.
The trouble with this, of course, is that most of your city council members approve of murdering foreigners with drones. Thus it becomes a harder measure to pass. What we want, therefore, is something that does not conflict with the resolution above but addresses itself to local, state, or U.S. skies. To ease passage most swiftly, we want local resolutions that don't commit localities to anything, but simply make recommendations to states and the federal government. However, I suspect that -- as in Charlottesville -- a statement of local policy will not be a deal breaker. Here's a version of the Charlottesville resolution stripped down to the weaponized drone issue alone (just delete the last 14 words to commit your city to nothing):
NOW, THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED, that the City Council of ________ calls on the United States Congress and the State of ________ to adopt legislation precluding 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 pledges to abstain from similar uses with city-owned, leased, or borrowed drones.
Opponents of this resolution will be, and should be denounced for being, supporters of putting weaponized drones in our skies. Supporters can remain technology lovers. They can continue to believe every move we make should be videotaped by Big Brother. They can plow right ahead with their brilliant idea for replacing the pizza guy with a drone. But they will be taking a stand on a popular issue that has no opposition. There is no organized popular movement in your town in support of putting weaponized drones in the sky. There's not even a concerted effort by police, or even by the drone profiteers. They can make big bucks off surveillance. They can fill the skies with drones first. The weapons can largely come later. They are not prepared for us to build a movement against weaponized drones and then turn our focus toward the lesser offense of spying. And by us I mean essentially everyone. Libertarians and leftists are in agreement on this, and so is everybody else.
So, you can build public pressure. It's not hard. In Charlottesville, we brought a crowd of people to two consecutive city council meetings and dominated the public speaking period. You should watch the videos of the January 22nd and February 4th meetings here. We published a column in the newspaper making the case, including the case that it is proper for cities to speak up on national issues. We organized an event in front of City Hall on the day before the vote. We displayed a giant model drone produced by New York anti-drone activist Nick Mottern. Our little stunt produced coverage on the two television channels and in the newspaper. I asked people to commit to attending the meeting on a FaceBook page. And when I spoke in the packed meeting, I asked those in agreement to stand. Most of the room stood.
We presented a weak resolution at the first meeting, which put the issue on the agenda. We then proposed a stronger one, which one of the best city council members put into the official agenda for the second meeting. At the second meeting, the council members negotiated a compromise. You might want to try that approach, which we stumbled into unplanned.
You can also lay the groundwork. We invited Ann Wright and Medea Benjamin and Nick Mottern and Kathy Kelly and other great speakers to Charlottesville in the months leading up to this resolution effort. This was not part of a plan, but we knew that it never hurts to educate people about their government's crimes. If you sign the international petition to ban weaponized drones from the world, you'll see a list of organizations at the bottom. Those are the places to go for resources, speakers, props, reports, flyers, and books that can help you in this effort. You can also print out a mammoth list of signatures on the petition to impress your elected officials. Or you can gather signatures locally and add them.
It's time we made things nice and simple. Are we in favor of killer flying robots over our homes and schools, or are we not?
Once we've given the obvious answer, maybe we'll start asking each other whether we really think Pakistanis disagree.
Mark Zuckerberg's complaint box is filling up. The billionaire founder of FaceBook is behaving as destructively as other sociopaths who hoard vast riches while others starve and die for lack of medical care. And people are letting him know how they feel about it.
Zuckerberg's new advocacy group FWD.us is running TV ads in support of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. A petition asks him to stop. The comments that people are leaving on the petition ask him to do a number of other things I won't repeat. You'll never guess what they've found that rhymes with Zuck.
FWD.us is a group of plutocrats who, instead of advocating for education funding, are advocating for the immigration of educated workers. And in order to win over certain members of Congress on immigration policy, FWD.us has funded two front groups, one for Republicans and one for Democrats. Both are buying TV ads supporting Congress members who support tar sands and drilling in ANWR.
"Integrity goes a long way -- longer then any pipelines."
"How can you live with your billions and support something like this?"
"If you think this pipeline is a good idea, you need to visit the Arkansas spill, see the damage done, & maybe buy everyone affected a new house in a clean environment.
"What? REALLY?? May I suggest that you visit Arkansas...."
"Yes, what is this about - are you kidding me? This is the earth where we live that is going to be damaged."
"Are you out of your mind, supporting tar sands? Get a grip and a clue or we'll start a mass exodus from FB and bring you down! This is unacceptable and boycott-able."
"Stop talking about subjects you don't understand."
"Back to MySpace -- or whatever is next -- GOODBYE FACEBOOK! Shame on you, Zuckerberg!!"
"Only greedy creeps push the tar sands."
"F--- THE ZUCK!
"You did a great thing with creating Facebook, however, that doesn't qualify you to be making big decisions for the rest of us."
"After reading about this, I'm seriously considering divesting my 1500 shares of stock in Facebook."
"So after we get all that nasty sludge you think we should burn it up and put more crap in the atmosphere? Are you insane or suicidal? Maybe just greedy."
"Please don't share the destruction of our climate! Unlike."
"I'll be avoiding facebook until I hear that you've had a change of heart."
"Zuck, your billions don't make you God!
"Mark Zuckerberg, your young voice should not be speaking for our common destruction; has your wealth turned you plumb crazy? Has cash power corrupted you utterly? Wake up young man!"
"I have an 11 year old daughter. I put her, and the planet ahead of my business and personal profits. Wish you had the same concerns. I'm about to cancel my Facebook page."
"Go back to school and learn how to respect the earth and life!"
It's not enough to point out that our political system is completely corrupted by money, including money from coal and oil and nukes and gas. Of course it is. And if we had direct democracy, polls suggest we would be investing in green energy. But saying the right thing to a pollster on a phone or in a focus group is hardly the extent of what one ought sensibly to do when the fate of the world is at stake.
Nor do we get a complete explanation by recognizing that our communications system is in bed with our political system, cooperatively pushing lies about our climate and our budget (defunding wars and billionaires is not an option, so there's just no money for new ideas, sorry). Of course. But when the planet's climate is being destroyed for all future generations, most of which will therefore not exist, the only sensible course of action is to drop everything and nonviolently overthrow any system of corruption that is carrying out the destruction.
Why don't we?
Misinformation is a surface-level explanation. Why do people choose to accept obvious misinformation?
Here's one reason: They've already chosen to accept other obvious misinformation to which they are deeply and passionately attached and which requires this additional self-deception. The beliefs involved correlate with poor education, so government choices to fund fossil fuels and highways and prisons and Hamid Karzai rather than schools certainly contribute. But perhaps we should confront the misinformation directly, even while pursuing the creation of an education system worthy of a civilized country.
According to a Newsweek poll, 40 percent of people in the United States believe the world will end with a battle between Jesus Christ and the Antichrist. And overwhelmingly those who believe that, also believe that natural disaster and violence are signs of the approach of the glorious battle -- so much so that 22 percent in the U.S. believe the world will end in their lifetime. This would logically mean that concern for the world of their great great grandchildren makes no sense at all and should be dismissed from their minds. In fact, a recent study found that belief in the "second coming" reduces support for strong governmental action on climate change by 20 percent.
Apart from the corruption of money, whenever you have 40 percent of Americans believing something stupid, the forces of gerrymandering in the House, disproportionate representation of small states in the Senate, the Senate filibuster, the winner-take-all two-party system that shuts many voices out of the media and debates and ballots while allowing Democrats to get elected purely on the qualification of not being Republicans, and a communications system that mainstreams Republican beliefs almost guarantees that the 40-percent view will control the government.
Congressman John Shimkus, a Republican from a gerrymandered monstrosity in southeastern Illinois says the planet is in fine shape and guaranteed to stay that way because God promised that to Noah.
Senator James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma (a state whose citizens get 10 times the representation in the Senate that Californians do -- if one can accuse Diane Feinstein of representing anyone), says that only God could possibly change the climate, and we should stop being so arrogant -- as if taking $1.4 million in campaign "contributions" from fossil-fuel profiteers and imagining that your positions are purely determined by your access to an all-powerful being who runs the universe on behalf of the 30 percent of the world raised on the same fairy tales as you isn't an arrogant belief.
Another senator who claims to be a theist but not of the Inhofe-Shimkus variety, publicly denounced an unnamed colleague this week for pushing the don't-worry-God-is-on-the-job line in a recent meeting.
When a large portion of the population believes that catastrophe is a good thing, rather than a bad thing, and wars are celebrated and crises bring excitement and solidarity to our lives, the influence is toxic. Of the 40 percent who believe Jesus is on his way, some no doubt believe it more than others, allow it to shape more of their other beliefs and actions. Of the other 60 percent, some are no doubt influenced to varying degrees by the armageddonists.
Belief in theism itself reaches as much as 80 percent in the United States and includes strong activists for sustainable policies, including some who passionately proselytize using the argument that only theism can save us from our apathy in the face of global warming. And there is no question that our most dedicated peace and justice activists include some strong religious believers. But theism is essentially the belief that some more powerful being is running the show. Perhaps the armageddonists haven't really found a solution to the problem of evil ("If there is a God, he'll have to beg forgiveness from me," said a prisoner in a Nazi camp), but the non-armageddonist theists have never found a logical solution to the problem of free will, either. Theists can go either way and all make as little sense as each other. But they must all of necessity promote the notion that a more powerful being is in charge.
And where does that belief show up to damaging effect? In our politics it shows up primarily as an attitude toward presidents. While President Obama has spent five years working diligently to destroy our natural environment for all time to come, the largest block of those concerned about global warming have spent their time telling each other to trust in Him, that he works in mysterious ways, that he is up against the Evil One and must be allowed time to succeed in his battle. You see, the problem with theism is not that some of its spin-off beliefs succeed in an undemocratic system. The problem is that theism is anti-democratic at its core. It moves us away from relying on ourselves. It teaches us to rely on someone supposedly better than we. And the same 80 percent or so also believe in something called heaven, which renders real life far less significant even for those generations that get to experience it.
This, in turn, fuels a belief in optimism. We are all told to be optimists regardless of the facts, as if it were a personal lifestyle choice. Combine that with a belief that everything is part of a secret master plan, and you've got a recipe for submissive acceptance. I've had great activists tell me that everything will work out for the best, either because that keeps them going, or because they've learned that saying anything else earns them fewer speaking invitations. Hardcore optimism is compatible with active engagement. But the net effect is almost certainly a contribution to apathy.
I wish it were needless to say that I am not advocating the equally dumb position of willful pessimism. I'm proposing the unpopular position of taking the facts as they come, acting accordingly, and acting cautiously when it comes to the fate of generations as yet unborn -- even if that caution requires huge sacrifices.
There are other powerful forces weighing against action as well. There is our love of technology, including our fantasies about inventing our way out of catastrophe, colonizing other planets, re-creating species. Maybe our senator friend is onto something after all when he points to arrogance. There is also greed, including our fear that living sustainably would involve living with less of the materialistic crap that currently clutters our lives and fuels our obesity. There is also the con job continuously played on us by our government that persuades so many of us that we are powerless to effect change. It's not enough to believe that the world is being destroyed and that we humans are on our own with the plants and the other animals, if we've fallen for the biggest scam governments pull on their people, the lie that says they pay no attention to us. History teaches the opposite. People's influence on their governments is much more powerful than we usually imagine. It's weakened primarily by people's failure to do anything. Impotence is a self-fulfilling loop. Those longing for the end of the world are far from alone in imagining that we don't have the power to make the world over ourselves. Nonetheless, among the things we should be doing right now is explaining to our neighbors that Jesus isn't coming back.
Randy "Salz" Salzman is a transportation writer and researcher and the author of Fatal Attraction: Curbing Our Love Affair With the Automobile Before it Kills Us. He discusses how highway construction boondoggles that are bad for health, heritage, the environment, and even the flow of traffic, have survived in these times of cramped public budgets. In particular, Salzman looks at the example of a proposed highway in Charlottesville, Va., opposed by the public but rolling ahead toward unsafe, destructive, and ridiculously expensive construction.
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Most of the world's governments no longer use the death penalty. Among wealthy nations there is one exception remaining. The United States is among the top five killers in the world. Also in the top five: the recently "liberated" Iraq.
But most of the United States' 50 states no longer use the death penalty. There are 18 states that have abolished it, including 6 in this new millennium, including Maryland this week. Thirty-one states haven't used the death penalty in the past 5 years, 26 in the past 10 years, 17 in the past 40 years or more. A handful of Southern states -- with Texas in the lead -- do most of the killing.
The progress is slow and painful. Mississippi is right now having trouble deciding whether to spare a man just because he might be innocent. Maryland has perversely left five people waiting to be killed while banning the death penalty for any future cases. Next-door in Virginia we hold second place behind Texas and continue to kill.
Virginia electrocuted a man named Robert Gleason in January. Since then, Texas has killed four men, Ohio two, and Florida, Oklahoma, and Georgia one each -- all by lethal injection. Since 1973, there have been 141 exonerations from death row nationwide, including an innocent Virginian who came within days of being killed.
If you're convicted of killing a white person in Virginia, you're over three times as likely to receive the death penalty as you would be if the victim had been black. The injustice and backwardness is staggering, but so is the lack of democracy. Only a third of Virginians tell pollsters they favor the death penalty.
The evil of the death penalty is not limited to the instances in which it is used -- or to the corrosive influence it has on our culture. The death penalty primarily serves as a valuable chip in plea bargaining. Want someone to plead guilty, whether or not they actually are guilty? Threaten them with the death penalty. Who needs trials by jury (now used in under 2% of cases) when you have that kind of tool? And who has time for them when you've overloaded the system by treating drug use as a crime?
Remarkably, a former commonwealth's attorney here in Charlottesville, Va., named Steve Deaton is campaigning for his old job with a commitment to never use or threaten to use the death penalty.
"I believe the death penalty is barbaric and has no place in modern Charlottesville courts," Deaton says, reversing the electoral wisdom of many decades, which firmly holds that candidates must pretend to believe the death penalty is just and righteous and a deterrent to crime, even if the public thinks that's nonsense.
"I am calling for a moratorium on death penalty prosecutions," says Deaton. "During the past 20 years -- that is, the term of the incumbent Commonwealth's Attorney -- a number of capital murder charges have been brought against some people, almost all of them poor. Then the charge is often used as a bargaining chip to get the defendant to plead guilty to murder and accept a life sentence. This practice of using the threat of death to plea bargain is legal, and under current ethical standards, considered ethical. However, I find such a practice appalling. By engaging in this practice the prosecutor is tempting fate: what if their threat doesn't work and the case goes to a jury?"
Many in Charlottesville oppose the death penalty. Deaton explains the very real possibility that it will nonetheless be employed here: "The notion that no Charlottesville jury will return a death sentence is misleading. In a capital murder case the jury has to be 'death qualified,' meaning that the jurors must believe in the death penalty. Such a jury is not representative of the community! Studies have shown that a 'death qualified jury' is also much more likely to convict."
Deaton points out that prosecutors have a great deal of discretion: "A prosecutor does not have to bring a capital murder charge. They have the option of bringing a regular murder charge instead."
If elected, Deaton intends to use the enormous discretion given to prosecutors to try to make punishments more reasonably fit crimes, including so-called drug crimes. While Charlottesville City Council failed by a vote of 3-2 in February to end jail time for possession of marijuana, Deaton intends to charge those possessing marijuana with a different charge: disorderly conduct. It's technically a higher level charge -- a Class 1 misdemeanor -- but it does not carry the draconian punishments of loss of driver's license, subjection to drug testing, ruined college acceptance and student loan prospects, immigration status, etc. "If a person makes a mistake, they should be punished. They shouldn't have their lives ruined," Deaton says.
Deaton aims to counter mass-incarceration, not add to it. "The state has built a new $100 million prison in Grayson County and there is talk of expanding our local jail," he says. "All of this in spite of declining crime rates. It is time to stop feeding the prison-industrial complex. I believe the goal of the justice system should be to empty out spaces in the jails and prisons -- not to fill every available space!"
Of course, the system of mass incarceration creates a caste system by stamping the scarlet F of "Felon" on those released, no matter how many years of their lives are wasted in cages. Deaton favors restoring rights, including voting rights, for people convicted of nonviolent felonies.
Charlottesville has a chance to give the death penalty in Virginia a big push toward the door, which would help the United States and the world along that path. As Charlottesville only elects Democrats (and packs the full range of great to awful candidates into that one party) the election for Deaton is effectively the June 11th primary. Anyone in Charlottesville can vote in that primary, without swearing any loyalty to any party. And anyone else can help to spread the word or donate to the campaign.
Some human rights groups, especially Amnesty International, seem to have forgotten an important human right: peace. A petition has been launched to remind them.
These organizations are not the warmongers. They do tremendously great work addressing some of the symptoms of warmaking, including imprisonment and torture. But, because they avoid taking any position on war, and because of an apparent bias in favor of U.S. military intervention, they sometimes find themselves effectively promoting war and all the horrors that come with it. At Nuremberg to initiate a war of aggression was called the supreme international crime "encompassing the evil of the whole." Yet human rights groups are often on the wrong side of the fundamental question of war.
Amnesty International (AI) promoted the babies-taken-from-incubators hoax that helped launch the 1991 war on Iraq. AI has upheld the pretense that the US/NATO occupation of Afghanistan is about women's rights. And now Amnesty International is highlighting warmaking in Syria's civil war by one side only:
"Our team of researchers on the ground found evidence that government forces bombed entire neighborhoods and targeted residential areas with long-range surface-to-surface missiles," said an AI fundraising email on April 29th that made no mention of abuses committed by Syrian rebels supported by the U.S. and its allies.
This one-sided treatment by a group supposedly dedicated to all humans fuels the fires of a wider war from which the people of Syria can only suffer.
The email continued: "Amnesty has a strong track record of using our on-the-ground findings to pressure governments and the United Nations Security Council to hold those responsible for the slaughter of civilians accountable."
Does it? When the United States kills civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan or Libya, AI's silence has often been deafening. Shouldn't a human rights group press for an end to the killing of all humans by all parties?
While many good individuals who work for human rights groups like AI oppose wars, these organizations officially ignore President Eisenhower's warning and a half-century of evidence regarding the power of the military industrial complex -- and they ignore the criminality of war under the U.S. Constitution, the U.N. Charter, the Kellogg-Briand Pact and other laws.
These groups accept the existence of war (when not encouraging it) and then focus on specific crimes and abuses within the larger war-making enterprise. They promote the idea that human rights are governed by two sets of laws, one in peace and another weaker set in war. Voices for the human right to peace are missing and badly needed, as "humanitarianism" and "the right to protect" are used as excuses for war and intervention.
Amnesty International opposes imprisonment without trial and other abuses unless they adhere to the "laws of war," which is why AI is not opposing the outrageous charges leveled against Bradley Manning. Killing is opposed unless it adheres to the "laws of war." Under this standard, we pretend not to know whether blowing families up with drones is legal or not as long as the memos purporting to legalize it are kept hidden.
Groups like Amnesty oppose particular weapons, including the development of fully autonomous weapons (drones that fly themselves). No one in their right mind would oppose that step. But surely the human right not to be blown up does not vanish if the button is pushed by a person instead of an autonomous robot. Other organizations are pushing to ban all weaponized drones from the world.
Human rights groups should join the peace movement in targeting war and militarism itself, rather than just some of its symptoms. Amnesty International and all groups favoring human rights should be asked to oppose a U.S. escalation of war on Syria.