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Why We Should Outgrow "Diversity of Tactics" Before Protesting NATO

The Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda  has nothing on its website about using nonviolence, supporting nonviolence, or opposing violence.

The G8 and NATO Protest also has nothing like that, but does have this:

"As we plan our actions and tactics, we will take care to maintain appropriate separations of time and space between divergent tactics."

A month ago I blogged that I would not endorse Occupy the RNC or DNC because both groups were refusing to state that they opposed violence.

Occupy the RNC has now put this on its website:

"We are not organizing actions, especially violent ones. That would just be stupid. We exist to provide information and facilitate logistics for people resisting the RNC."

Not how I would have put it.  Nor would I have added:

"Don't fuck with us. We'll sue you."

But foreswearing violence and calling it stupid is enough for me.  I wish Occupy DNC could bring itself to do as much.  Better yet, just add "We oppose violence and will not use it."

That would be ideal, smart, strategic, and beneficial to the movement.

When the cops start a riot in Chicago on May 20th, raise your hand if you think CNN will base its coverage on your Youtube of what really happened and ignore that statement above about "space between divergent tactics."

Back in November, some good activists working with Occupy Wall Street wrote:

"‘Diversity of tactics’ becomes an easy way to avoid wrestling with questions of strategy and accountability. It lets us off the hook from doing the hard work of debating our positions and coming to agreements about how we want to act together. It becomes a code for ‘anything goes,’ and makes it impossible for our movements to hold anyone accountable for their actions."

In other words, it's not consensus.  It's minority rule.  Most of us favor an openly nonviolent movement, publicly commited to nonviolence.  When I question organizers of these protests, they practically scream that that is indeed what they favor, but that they want to be inclusive and not allow the 1% to divide us.  Is destroying us better than dividing us?  Is scaring away the majority of the 99% a price worth paying to be inclusive of 10 people who want to smash windows and 2 guys who want to smash police officers?  What about the openness lost by embracing tactics that require secrecy?

"The Occupy movement includes people from a broad diversity of backgrounds, life experiences and political philosophies. Some of us want to reform the system and some of us want to tear it down and replace it with something better. Our one great point of agreement is our call for transparency and accountability. We stand against the corrupt institutions that broker power behind closed doors. We call to account the financial manipulators that have bilked billions out of the poor and the middle classes.

"Just as we call for accountability and transparency, we ourselves must be accountable and transparent. Some tactics are incompatible with those goals, even if in other situations they might be useful, honorable or appropriate. We can’t be transparent behind masks. We can’t be accountable for actions we run away from. We can’t maintain the security culture necessary for planning and carrying out attacks on property and also maintain the openness that can continue to invite in a true diversity of new people. We can’t make alliances with groups from impacted communities, such as immigrants, if we can’t make agreements about what tactics we will employ in any given action.

"The framework that might best serve the Occupy movement is one of strategic nonviolent direct action. Within that framework, Occupy groups would make clear agreements about which tactics to use for a given action. This frame is strategic—it makes no moral judgments about whether or not violence is ever appropriate, it does not demand we commit ourselves to a lifetime of Gandhian pacifism, but it says, ‘This is how we agree to act together at this time.’ It is active, not passive. It seeks to create a dilemma for the opposition, and to dramatize the difference between our values and theirs.

"Strategic nonviolent direct action has powerful advantages:

"We make agreements about what types of action we will take, and hold one another accountable for keeping them. Making agreements is empowering. If I know what to expect in an action, I can make a choice about whether or not to participate. While we can never know nor control how the police will react, we can make choices about what types of action we stand behind personally and are willing to answer for. We don’t place unwilling people in the position of being held responsible for acts they did not commit and do not support.

"In the process of coming to agreements, we listen to each other’s differing viewpoints. We don’t avoid disagreements within our group, but learn to debate freely, passionately, and respectfully.

"We organize openly, without fear, because we stand behind our actions. We may break laws in service to the higher laws of conscience. We don’t seek punishment nor admit the right of the system to punish us, but we face the potential consequences for our actions with courage and pride.

"Because we organize openly, we can invite new people into our movement and it can continue to grow. As soon as we institute a security culture in the midst of a mass movement, the movement begins to close in upon itself and to shrink.

"Holding to a framework of nonviolent direct action does not make us ‘safe.’ We can’t control what the police do and they need no direct provocation to attack us. But it does let us make clear decisions about what kinds of actions we put ourselves at risk for.

"Nonviolent direct action creates dilemmas for the opposition, and clearly dramatizes the difference between the corrupt values of the system and the values we stand for. Their institutions enshrine greed while we give away food, offer shelter, treat each person with generosity. They silence dissent while we value every voice. They employ violence to maintain their system while we counter it with the sheer courage of our presence.

"Lack of agreements privileges the young over the old, the loud voices over the soft, the fast over the slow, the able-bodied over those with disabilities, the citizen over the immigrant, white folks over people of color, those who can do damage and flee the scene over those who are left to face the consequences.

"Lack of agreements and lack of accountability leaves us wide open to provocateurs and agents. Not everyone who wears a mask or breaks a window is a provocateur. Many people clearly believe that property damage is a strong way to challenge the system. And masks have an honorable history from the anti-fascist movement in Germany and the Zapatista movement in Mexico, who said “We wear our masks to be seen.”

"But a mask and a lack of clear expectations create a perfect opening for those who do not have the best interests of the movement at heart, for agents and provocateurs who can never be held to account. As well, the fear of provocateurs itself sows suspicion and undercuts our ability to openly organize and grow.

"A framework of strategic nonviolent direct action makes it easy to reject provocation. We know what we’ve agreed to—and anyone urging other courses of action can be reminded of those agreements or rejected.

"We hold one another accountable not by force or control, ours or the systems, but by the power of our united opinion and our willingness to stand behind, speak for, and act to defend our agreements.

"A framework of strategic nonviolent direct action agreements allows us to continue to invite in new people, and to let them make clear choices about what kinds of tactics and actions they are asked to support.

"There’s plenty of room in this struggle for a diversity of movements and a diversity of organizing and actions. Some may choose strict Gandhian nonviolence, others may choose fight-back resistance. But for the Occupy movement, strategic nonviolent direct action is a framework that will allow us to grow in diversity and power."

Between now and May 20th in Chicago would be an ideal time to spread understanding of this.

Talk Nation Radio: When a War Veteran Tortures His Daughter, and She Survives

Michelle Brown survived a childhood of ongoing abuse and torture at the hands of her father.  She is the author of "This Girl's Life: Being the Child of a War Veteran." Brown discusses her experience, her understanding of what caused it, and her advice to others.

The image at right from the book's cover shows the author with her husband.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.

Producer: David Swanson.

Engineer: Christiane Brown.

Music by Duke Ellington.

Download or get embed code from Archive.org or AudioPort or Radio4All or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

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The Drone

Listen.

Listen.

Listen to the endless steady droning

To the buzzing almost moaning

Of the invisible unmanned plane,

The imminent howling pain,

Or is it death?

Or will that omnipotent thing refrain?

Will the humans who make it kill

Change their minds and make it stop?

     It buzzes still!

It's the sound of murder unseen,

The sound of the dying of the American dream,

The relentless sound of streets unclean

Full of homeless people and limousines.

It is the sound of the war machine.

It is the sound of an empire drowning.

The Shifting Strategies of Empire

Remarks at the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) Conference:

President Obama this week declared the war on Iraq to be an honorable success that has given us a brighter future. Are you fired up? Ready to go?

Eric Holder this month explained that it's legal for a president to kill anyone anywhere, or to imprison them, or to spy on them. I started to get upset about this, but then I remembered that Holder is a Democrat. That made me feel much better.

Governor of Maine Sticks Out Tongue at Constituents - Guess Why

Governor of Maine Sticks Out Tongue at Constituents

Gov. Paul LePage of Maine sticks out his tongue at his constituents.

Photo credit: Peter Woodruff

Here's why:

Why I'm Now Endorsing Occupy the RNC

Three weeks ago I blogged that I would not endorse Occupy the RNC or DNC because both groups were refusing to state that they opposed violence.

Occupy the RNC has now put this on its website:

"We are not organizing actions, especially violent ones. That would just be stupid. We exist to provide information and facilitate logistics for people resisting the RNC."

Not how I would have put it.  Nor would I have added:

"Don't fuck with us. We'll sue you."

But foreswearing violence and calling it stupid is enough for me.  I wish Occupy DNC could bring itself to do as much.  Better yet, just add "We oppose violence and will not use it."

Robots Kill, But the Blood Is on Our Hands

In her spare time, between nonstop peace activism and leading international exchanges, Medea Benjamin has somehow managed to write the best book yet on the most inhuman form of war yet.  The book is called "Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control."  The foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich and a form to pre-order the book are here.

Even if you've been reading everything you could about drones, attending peace conferences, and protesting in the lobbies of drone companies like General Atomics, you will learn a great deal from this book.  In fact, I'm willing to bet that even if you "pilot" drones from a desk for a living you will learn a great deal from this book.  And if you have not been paying attention to drones, then you really need to read this book.

Many Americans first heard about "unmanned aerial vehicles" as weapons when Colin Powell told the United Nations in 2003 that Iraq might use them to attack the United States.  This turned out to be a projection as well as a lie.  It was, of course, the United States that used drones, among other weapons, to attack Iraq for nine years, and the U.S. drones are still in the skies of Iraq today, as well in the skies of many other countries.

Would You Stop a Friend from Destroying the Earth?

What would you do if someone had a button that could destroy the earth and they were walking across the room to push it?  Would you stand in the way?  Would you talk them out of it?  Would you sit by and watch, maybe make a sarcastic remark or two?  What if the button might destroy the earth or might just destroy part of it?  What if it might leave most of the earth intact but kill millions of people, but what if you had no way of being sure how far the destruction would spread? 

Here is an animation made by the Union of Concerned Scientists on the damage a strike on Iran would likely cause, including the death of three million people.

Here is a New York Times article on what would likely happen next, including a war at least regional in scope and involving the United States.

The information used in the animation above and reported by the New York Times as well comes from that peacenik hippie source of antiwar propaganda: the Pentagon, the same institution that says Iran has no nuclear weapons program.

Here's a lot more information on what attacking Iran would involve.

United for Peace and Justice has created a place where we can pledge not to sit by and watch: http://iranpledge.org

Here's the pledge:

"If the United States applies increased sanctions, invades, bombs, sends combat troops or drones, or otherwise significantly escalates its intervention in Iran or the region directly or through support of its allies, I pledge to join with others to engage in acts of legal protest and/or nonviolent civil disobedience to prevent or halt the death and destruction which U.S. military actions would cause to the people of Iran, the Middle East, our communities at home, and the planet itself."

When you take the pledge you can choose to commit to legal protest (is protesting still legal? who knew?) or nonviolent civil resistance (or "disobedience").  I encourage you to do both: http://iranpledge.org

Samantha Miller of Military Families Speak Out, who helped organize the pledge, told me, "Ten years of war have taken a serious toll on service members and their families.  Frequent deployments and lack of access to mental health care have left military communities in a precarious situation, with 18 veterans committing suicide every day.  We need to end the war in Afghanistan and take care of our veterans, not start new wars."

Medea Benjamin, cofounder Code Pink and Global Exchange, said "Right now, our government is hearing from the 1 percent who are gunning for a war with Iran. We, the 99%, must raise our voices and let our government know just how profoundly committed we are to stopping another catastrophic war. That's why I'm taking the pledge."

Imagine if 99 percent of us, or even 10 percent of us, took this pledge and followed through.  We would prevent this war and every other war to come.  War would be a thing of the past.

If we do not act, our species could end up becoming the thing of the past. 

Let's choose survival and peace.

Talk Nation Radio: The Power of Theater to End Militarism

Antiwar playwrite Karen Malpede, whose play Another Life is the focus of a Festival of Conscience now running in Brooklyn, N.Y., explains the development of drama as katharsis for antiwar veterans in ancient Greece and the power that the theater has to oppose militarism today.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.

Producer: David Swanson.

Engineer: Christiane Brown.

Music by Duke Ellington.

Download or get embed code from Archive.org or AudioPort or Radio4All or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Embed on your own site with this code:

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No Justice Without Peace

 

By David Swanson,  Remarks at Left Forum

Last night in New York City, by my unscientific estimate, two-thirds of the people on the streets had alcohol in them.  A young man celebrating his wedding engagement was stabbed to death.  A party a third floor apartment to collapse into the second floor.  And the NYPD was busy beating the only sober people in town, the nonviolent activists at Occupy Wall Street.  When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the Louisiana National Guard was busy killing people in Iraq.  We've done something worse than get our priorities wrong when we've moved resources to harming people rather than helping people.

Elections: What Are They Good For?

By David Swanson, Remarks at Left Forum

I think two opposing trends have been at work in U.S. history. One is that of allowing more people to vote. This is an ongoing struggle, of course, but in some significant sense we've allowed poor people and women and non-white people and young people to vote. The other trend, which has really developed more recently, is that we've made voting less and less meaningful. Of course it was never as meaningful as many people imagine. But we've legalized bribery, we've banished third parties and independents, we've gerrymandered most Congressional districts into meaningless general elections and left one party or the other to exercise great influence over any primary. Rarely does any incumbent lose, and rarely does a candidate without the most money win. Extremely rare is a winning candidate who lacks some major financial backing. Rarer still is a candidate who even promises to pursue majority positions on most major issues, or who convincingly commits to following the will of the public over the will of the party. Most Congress members are pawns in a government with two partisan voices, not the voices of 535 individual representatives and senators. Rare, as well, is any possibility in a close primary or general election of verifying the accuracy of a vote count.

Nine Years Later: More Shocked, Less Awed

By David Swanson, Remarks at the Left Forum

When I lived in New York 20 years ago, the United States was beginning a 20-year war on Iraq. We protested at the United Nations. The Miami Herald depicted Saddam Hussein as a giant fanged spider attacking the United States. Hussein was frequently compared to Adolf Hitler. On October 9, 1990, a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl told a U.S. congressional committee that she’d seen Iraqi soldiers take 15 babies out of an incubator in a Kuwaiti hospital and leave them on the cold floor to die. Some congress members, including the late Tom Lantos (D., Calif.), knew but did not tell the U.S. public that the girl was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States, that she’d been coached by a major U.S. public relations company paid by the Kuwaiti government, and that there was no other evidence for the story. President George H. W. Bush used the dead babies story 10 times in the next 40 days, and seven senators used it in the Senate debate on whether to approve military action. The Kuwaiti disinformation campaign for the Gulf War would be successfully reprised by Iraqi groups favoring the overthrow of the Iraqi government twelve years later.

3-Hour Military Test Secretly Administered in Thousands of High Schools

Pat Elder of the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy (StudentPrivacy.org) explains how the U.S. military gets away with requiring students in thousands of U.S. high schools to take a 3-hour career inventory test with the results going straight to recruiters without students' or parents' knowledge.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.

Producer: David Swanson.

Engineer: Christiane Brown.

Music by Duke Ellington.

Download or get embed code from Archive.org or AudioPort or Radio4All or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

Embed on your own site with this code:

<iframe src="http://www.archive.org/embed/3-hourMilitaryTestSecretlyAdministeredInThousandsOfHighSchools" frameborder="0" height="40" width="500"></iframe>

Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities

PREAMBLE

Whereas the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not self-enforcing,

Whereas statement of the inherent dignity and of the equal and supposedly inalienable rights of all members of the human family achieves little without a struggle against greed, injustice, tyranny, and war,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights could not have resulted in the barbarous acts that have outraged the conscience of humankind without the cowardice, laziness, apathy, and blind obedience of well-meaning but unengaged spectators,

Whereas proclaiming as the highest aspiration of the common people the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want doesn't actually produce such a world,

Evidence of War Lies Public Pre-War This Time

When President George W. Bush was pretending to want to avoid a war on Iraq while constantly pushing laughably bad propaganda to get that war going, we had a feeling he was lying.  After all, he was a Republican.  But it was after the war was raging away that we came upon things like the Downing Street Minutes and the White House Memo

Now President Barack Obama is pretending to want to avoid a war on Iran and to want Israel not to start one, while constantly pushing laughably bad propaganda to get that war going.  We might suspect a lack of sincerity, given the insistence that Iran put an end to a program that the U.S. government simultaneously says there is no evidence exists, given the increase in free weapons for Israel to $3.1 billion next year, given the ongoing protection of Israel at the U.N. from any accountability for crimes, given the embrace of sanctions highly unlikely to lead to anything other than greater prospects of war, and given Obama's refusal to take openly illegal war "off the table."  We might suspect that peace was not the ultimate goal, except of course that Obama is a Democrat.

However, we now have Wikileaks cables and comments from anonymous officials that served as the basis for a report from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested the United States approve the sale of advanced refueling aircraft as well as GBU-28 bunker-piercing bombs to Israel during a recent meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, a top U.S. official said on Tuesday.  The American official said that U.S. President Barack Obama instructed Panetta to work directly with Defense Minister Ehud Barak on the matter, indicating that the U.S. administration was inclined to look favorably upon the request as soon as possible. During the administration of former U.S. President George Bush, the U.S. refused to sell bunker-penetrating bombs and refueling aircrafts to Israel, as a result of American estimates that Israel would then use them to strike Iran's nuclear facilities.  Following Obama's entrance into the White House, however, the United States approves a string of Israeli requests to purchase advance armament.  Diplomatic cables exposed by the WikiLeaks website exposed discussion concerning advanced weapons shipments. In one cable which surveyed defense discussions between Israel and the United states that took place on November 2009 it was written that 'both sides then discussed the upcoming delivery of GBU-28 bunker busting bombs to Israel, noting that the transfer should be handled quietly to avoid any allegations that the USG is helping Israel prepare for a strike against Iran.'"

Why supply Israel with the weapons to attack Iran more forcefully if you don't want Israel to attack Iran?  The Israeli newspaper Maariv claims to have the answer.  Apparently people in the know are spilling the beans earlier this war cycle:

"The United States offered Israel advanced weaponry in return for it committing not to attack Iran's nuclear facilities this year, Israeli daily Maariv reported on Thursday.  Citing unnamed Western diplomats and intelligence sources, the report said that during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington this week, the US administration offered to supply Israel with advanced bunker-busting bombs and long-range refuelling planes.  In return, Israel would agree to put off a possible attack on Iran till 2013, after the US elections in November."

One point can be little doubted here, namely that this would be the biggest damn story in U.S. "progressive" circles if Obama were a Republican.  But even though he isn't, there could conceivably be SOME interest in the fact that a serious news outlet is reporting that Obama has taken steps to facilitate an attack on Iran and to delay it until after his own hoped-for reelection.

Even Reuters has noted this development:

"A front-page article in the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv on Thursday said Obama had told Netanyahu that Washington would supply Israel with upgraded military equipment in return for assurances that there would be no attack on Iran in 2012."

Now, the usual handful of progressive Congress members has just introduced a bill that would compel the U.S. government to talk to the government of Iran.  Seems sensible enough (even if it frames it as an effort to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon).  We do ask that much of our children when they become involved in disagreements.

But Congressman John Conyers, one of the cosponsors of that bill, had another trick up his sleeve when Bush was in the White House.  Nobody believed him, of course, but for what it was worth, after refusing to impeach Bush for countless offenses, Conyers swore that if Bush attacked Iran, then he Conyers would launch impeachment proceedings.  Now, Conyers is back in the minority party in the House, but even minority members can raise the threat of impeachment efforts.  And at the moment they could join a member of the majority in doing so.  That's because Congressman Walter Jones has introduced H. Con Res 107, which reads:

"Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that, except in response to an actual or imminent attack against the territory of the United States, the use of offensive military force by a President without prior and clear authorization of an Act of Congress violates Congress's exclusive power to declare war under article I, section 8, clause 11 of the Constitution and therefore constitutes an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor under article II, section 4 of the Constitution."

Now, this does not clearly cover an attack with U.S. weapons and advice carried out by another nation, but it does cover the question of U.S. entry into a war started by Israel, even if U.S. troops and bases abroad have been attacked in retaliation.  And it covers possible U.S. war making in Syria.  And it covers over 100 nations where U.S. Special Forces are now operating.  And it covers our current and prospective drone attacks in various parts of the world.

Of course, such an impeachment effort is also treasonous, given Obama's membership in the Democratic Party -- unlike the completely non-treasonous acts of openly "legalizing murder," or lying to the nation about efforts to avoid a war.

Hunger-Striking Students Finally See Some Progress for University of Virginia Workers


A living-wage campaign has been pressing the university's overpaid administrators to treat its workers better for the past 14 years.
 

A living-wage campaign at the University of Virginia has been pressing the university's six-figure-salary administrators to treat its workers better for the past 14 years, sometimes winning higher wages, but always watching them be wiped out by the soaring cost of living in Charlottesville. The workers, lacking a union, and witnessing retaliation against some who have spoken out, have been reluctant to take the lead in the fight, but students have stepped up to the task.

From February 18 to March 1, UVA students -- a dozen at first, but growing to a group of 20 -- refused to eat. Some lasted the entire 12 days with no food. Others broke their fast for medical reasons. They all suffered pain and exhaustion. Their joints hurt. Their legs got weak. They had difficulty climbing stairs. They found it harder to carry books, and harder to concentrate. They wore lots of layers despite the spring-like weather, and still felt cold. But they said they found strength and warmth in the growing support for the cause that had led them to launch a hunger strike.

"It's hard not to eat," said Marguerite Beattie, a fourth-year psychology major, "but imagining what the workers are going through makes it easier." "I see workers every day," she said. "They clean my dorm, the toilets, the showers, every day. Once when we were going on break, I asked one woman whether she had any vacation plans. She said she'd only been on vacation one time in her entire life."

UVA has long hidden its most poorly compensated workers on the books of private contractors and refused to say how many of them there are or what they are paid. The living-wage campaign has just won a commitment from the university to audit its contractors and report on the number of employees and their pay. The campaign has also won assistance from both the AFL-CIO and the SEIU, one of the latter's locals having recently committed to organizing UVA contract employees. The student-led campaign is gearing up for greater activism and union organizing this spring, but what achieved these successes and what has led the students (and alumni like me, who were part of the campaign 14 years ago) to say that an all-time high point has been reached in UVA activism is the use of creative nonviolence -- the hunger strike the students resorted to this month after countless other tactics had failed to yield fruit.

Among those who came and spoke at the daily rallies were national figures like Jill Stein, Green Party presidential nominee, and representatives of the two labor organizations suddenly inspired to support workers at UVA. Joseph Williams, one of the hunger strikers, is a varsity football player who was willing to risk his position on the team. That sacrifice attracted other students and national media to the cause.

Working In Jefferson's Sweatshop

Teresa Sullivan became UVA's first female president in 2010. Sullivan is a labor sociologist who has coauthored a text book that states, "Being paid a living wage for one's work is a necessary condition for self-actualization....The provision of wages adequate to meet basic needs is a fundamental requirement before work can be experienced as rewarding and meaningful." But for the past two years Sullivan has done no more to meet the demands of the living-wage campaign than her predecessor.

The reason many workers at UVA don't take vacations (or eat in restaurants or go to movie theaters) is that, even though they work full time, what they are paid won't cover their ordinary bills. Many people employed by the university, whether directly or through contractors, take on second jobs. Some have third jobs. Some work second jobs at UVA for lower hourly pay than at their first job -- a practice that would seem to violate the legal requirement of time-and-a-half for overtime, except that the two jobs are technically for different employers, one being the university and the other one of its contractors. These long hours are so poorly compensated that many depend on family members and government benefits just to pay for housing, food, clothing, and transportation. There are no extras beyond those necessities.

Living-wage advocates note that just about everyone would prefer to be paid decently for the work they do than to work without fair compensation and be caught in a safety net that might better serve the unemployed. In debates over living-wage proposals, it is always the think tanks serving the hotel and restaurant lobby, such as the Employment Policies Institute, that advocate for earned income tax credits and other mechanisms to transfer the burden of worker pay from large employers to the public at large.

Many of the lowest paid workers at UVA are contract employees. They work for one of the companies the university hires to cook food, cut grass, clean bathrooms, answer phones, etc. -- companies such as Aramark, Turners Cleaning Service, and Zaatar Services/Service Master Cleaning. "Bob," a contract employee working in the dining hall told the living wage campaign that he has worked 45 hours a week for the past 10 years, but was only able to afford a babysitter for his two small children because he had taken on the stress of another 25 hours per week at a second job.

Tom, a direct employee of the university (all but one of these employees’ names have been changed to protect their identities) is a landscaper for the university's grounds. Tom said he could not think of anyone in his department who didn't have a second job, and many had a third, while most still clamored for all the overtime they could get on their first job. The stress, he said, was damaging physically and mentally.

"The administration would be better off paying a living wage," Tom said, "so that people were not sick all the time, stressed all the time, fighting with their wife all the time. When you can't pay your bills, it's always on your mind." Tom said he witnesses alcoholism on a regular basis, as well as cases of domestic violence during the years that he has worked for UVA.

Another landscaping worker, Mike Henrietta (his real name), said it's not uncommon for colleagues who hunt to share a deer, or for those who raise chickens to share a chicken, with those UVA employees who are in worse straits than themselves. Tom agreed, saying, "A buck will put 80 pounds of meat in your freezer, and that can make a big difference. A lot of guys will do it, in and out of [hunting] season."

Tom also pointed to a darker side of the desperation among employees at what is often called Mr. Jefferson's University. "I talked to one of the supervisors," he said. "He had a rope for a belt, and I asked him why. He said that he'd left his belt and a pair of pants on a chair for a couple of hours and somebody in our department had stolen them." Gone along with the pair of pants and belt, Tom said, is just about anything that's left lying loose, including weed-eaters and blowers. "When you're desperate, you get sticky fingers."

Martha works as an administrative assistant for a contractor named Morrison Management Specialists at the UVA Hospital. Her 40-hour job was cut back to 36 hours a couple of years ago, leaving her an annual salary of under $27,000. She manages to pay the rent by sharing a four-bedroom apartment with three other people. Many of her colleagues, she said, make significantly less than she does and have children to support. What they complain for want of most, she said, are shoes, pants, books, and clothes for their children for school.

Jane, another contract worker who has been in touch with the living wage campaign is paid $7.50 an hour. That's $300 a week, or $15,600 per year. That's not “starting pay” that one might expect to quickly increase; she's already been working there for years. She has no health benefits and must pay for her own uniform and parking. Even the managers in the company she works for are paid only $9.50/hr.

Working with research by the Economic Policy Institute (not to be confused with the aforementioned Employment Policies Institute), UVA's living wage campaign has calculated that a living wage in Charlottesville, Virginia, is $13 per hour plus health coverage. That wage, according to EPI, should allow two full-time working adults with two children to pay for just their necessities and nothing more. A single-income household, of course, is left with a greater struggle. Some employees of the University of Virginia, hired through contracting companies, are now paid 58 percent of what they need, or rather of what they would need if they were provided health coverage, which they are not.

UVA has an endowment of over $5 billion and has built many new buildings, including sports facilities, in recent years. One of its vice presidents was paid $650,000 in 2011, one of its professors $561,100, another $518,900, and its new president, Teresa Sullivan, $485,000. David Flood, a graduate student in anthropology and one of the hunger strikers, said that the most generous estimate of what it would cost the university to bring all workers up to a living wage would be less than 1 percent of UVA's annual budget. (The figure must be guessed at until the university does that audit.)

Charlottesville has just over 40,000 inhabitants, and its largest employer, the university, employs 20,000 people, some commuting from outside the city limits, many of them at poverty wages. Just over 27 percent of Charlottesvillians live below the federal poverty line. The city government has a living wage policy in place and has asked the university to match it. Some UVA employees rely on public housing, social services, and food stamps. One city council member has complained that "the city is subsidizing UVA's low rates of pay with social safety nets."

Neighborhoods in Charlottesville are largely segregated by wealth and race, and struggling workers tend not to approach students or tourists with their concerns. Workers fear retaliation if they speak out. In December 1999, a UVA hospital cafeteria cashier named Richelle Burress was suspended for wearing a living wage button on her uniform. Tom said he'd seen workers who had spoken out marginalized and denied any promotion. Everyone asks him how the campaign is going, he says, but none of them will dare join it. Martha agreed, saying, "In a right-to-work state an employer doesn't really need a reason to fire you, and we know that." Of course, this can also be true in a non-right-to-work state if a union contract does not prevent it.

In April 2011, the university released a statement saying, "Faculty and staff who, in good faith, engage in constitutionally protected freedom of expression should do so without fear of reprisal." But many are not convinced. Not only has the university administration been turning down requests for comment from media outlets, according to the living wage campaign's press contact Emily Filler, but it recently instructed workers not to speak with the media. David Flood, the hunger-striking student, denounced such tactics as illegal, violating First Amendment rights and rights against workplace retaliation. "Employees have been told not to engage with us," he said.

Taking Action

Flood and his fellow "wagers," as they call themselves, have organized, educated, rallied, staged sit-ins, won the support of over 300 faculty members, recruited the help of numerous organizations on campus and off, and published and annually updated a 75-page report called "Keeping Our Promises," which makes a historical, moral, and legal argument for a living wage. Some 150 localities, and 22 of the 25 top-ranked universities in the country have living wage policies, and a number of studies having concluded that they reduce poverty without reducing employment.

UVA's living wage campaign, the first on a college campus, was launched in 1998, demanding an $8/hr living wage, indexed to keep pace with the cost of living. In 2000, UVA raised its lowest pay for direct employees from $6.10 to $8.19, without ever acknowledging the campaign, and without indexing the new rate to inflation. Unfortunately, the move didn’t help most of the low-wage workers, who are employed through contractors. The $8 campaign won living wages from the city, the public school system, and many private employers in Charlottesville. But at UVA the wages continued to drop in real terms as the cost of living soared.

In 2006, 17 students were arrested for sitting in the president's office, and a professor who tried to join them was arrested and later fired. The university raised wages once more, again without acknowledging the campaign, and again without indexing them to inflation.

President Sullivan has pointed to a 2006 state attorney general's opinion that a living wage at UVA would not be legal, an argument to which the campaign has replied with its own legal opinions and examples from around the country. Sullivan has argued that UVA now pays $13 with benefits included, but the campaign's demand is for $13 plus benefits, and for contract employees to be covered as well. The president has claimed that she cannot promise cost of living increases without knowing what future budgets will be, even though other expenses of far greater dollar amounts have been committed to. She has said state-imposed wage freezes cannot be predicted, but the campaign says such freezes do not prevent raising the minimum rate.

UVA's associate vice-president for public affairs, Carol Wood, declined to comment for this article.

The hunger strike was timed to overlap a three-day meeting of UVA's Board of Visitors. The BOV is the corporate board of the University of Virginia, its members appointed by the governor of Virginia and approved by the state’s General Assembly. The BOV is responsible for long-term planning and approves new policies and budgets at UVA. Flood and other students met twice with Sullivan and other top administrators. Flood described their decision making structure as "opaque," but said he had no doubt that if Sullivan and her administration agreed to a living wage, they could implement it and so inform the Board of Visitors.

Emily Filler was encouraged by the hunger strike, saying that in the course of two weeks a great deal of attention had been gained, many more students had become aware of the campaign, the university had for the first time agreed to audit its contractors and report on its employees' numbers and what they are paid, and two labor organizations -- SEIU and AFL-CIO -- had been brought to campus because of the attention surrounding the hunger strike.

"Right after spring break," Filler said, "we'll start organizing contract employees."

Asked if the campaign was over now that she was going back to eating, Marguerite Beattie said, "Oh, we're not giving up until there's a living wage."

This story was produced by the independent Economic Hardship Reporting Project, co-edited by Barbara Ehrenreich and Linda Jue.

David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at davidswanson.org and warisacrime.org and works for the online activist organization rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio.

Top 10 Genius Reasons to Keep Troops in Afghanistan

1. When you're setting a record for the longest modern war, cutting it short just increases the chances of somebody breaking your record some day.

2. When Newt Gingrich, Cal Thomas, and Lindsey Graham turn against a war, keeping it going will really confuse Republicans.

3. If we pull U.S. troops out after they have shot children from helicopters, kicked in doors at night, waved Nazi flags, urinated on corpses, and burned Korans it will look like we're sorry they did those things.

4. U.S. tax dollars have been funding our troops, and through payments for safe passage on roads have also been the top source of income for the Taliban.  Unilaterally withdrawing that funding from both sides of a war at the same time would be unprecedented and could devastate the booming Afghan economy.

5. The government we've installed in Afghanistan is making progress on its torture program and drug running and now supports wife beating.  But it has not yet mandated invasive ultrasounds.  We cannot leave with a job half-finished, not on International Women's Day.

6. We have an enormous prison full of prisoners in Afghanistan, and closing it down would distract us from our essential concentration on pretending to close Guantanamo.

7. Unless we keep "winning" in Afghanistan it will be very hard to generate enthusiasm for our wars in Syria and Iran.  And with suicide the top killer of our troops, we cannot allow our men and women to be killing themselves in vain.

8. If we ended the war that created the 2001 authorization to use military force, how would we justify our special forces operations in over 100 other countries, the elimination of habeas corpus, or the legalization of murdering U.S. citizens?  Besides, if we stay a few more years we might find an al Qaeda member.

9. A few hundred billion dollars a year is a small price to pay for weapons bases, a gas pipeline, huge profits for generous campaign funders, and a perfect testing ground for weapons that will be absolutely essential in our next pointless war.

10. Terror hasn't conceded defeat yet.

The Peace Movement Needs Kucinich, With or Without Congress

If Congressman Dennis Kucinich becomes simply Dennis Kucinich sans the "Congressman" his value to the peace movement need not diminish. 

I admit it's been nice having someone in Congress who would say and do what he would.  There have been and remain other relatively strong voices for peace, but none as strong as Kucinich's.  His resolutions have forced the debates.  His bills have changed the conversation.  His questioning of witnesses has afflicted the comfortable while seeking to comfort the afflicted.  Perhaps Congressman Norman Solomon will pick up the baton.  Time will tell.

Talk Nation Radio: Students Hunger Strike for a Living Wage

Hunter Link of the University of Virginia's Living Wage Campaign explains why he and other students stopped eating and why workers at UVA can and should be paid a living wage.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.

Producer: David Swanson.

Engineer: Christiane Brown.

Music by Duke Ellington.

Download or get embed code from Archive.org or AudioPort or Radio4All or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

What's the Matter With Norway?

The beautiful thing about the internet is that whenever you write an essay on a topic you imagine is new, some wonderful person contacts you within about an hour who's written a whole book about it.  This is different from writing a book about something new (or old) like the Kellogg-Briand Pact (everybody still thinks it must be a breakfast cereal).

Fredrik Heffermehl's book "The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted," is a wonderful thing to discover.  I understand if you just can't stomach discovering that Norway and the committee that hands out the peace prizes have become as corrupted as a Congressman.  But if awardees like George Marshall, Henry Kissinger, Yasser Arafat, and Barack Obama already had you scratching your head a little bit, you may appreciate learning the details of where the prize bestowers ran off the rails and how they might manage to climb back aboard the peace train.

Alfred Nobel left behind a legally binding will that required giving a prize to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."  Like the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, the Nobel Committee has largely abandoned its original mission.  Carnegie and Nobel are dead and none the wiser, but those of us who like the idea of a well-funded peace movement are painfully aware.

The Nobel prize for peace was not designed as merely an honor, but as a significant source of funding for "work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."  Yet, with each annual prize, as with each year's operation of the Carnegie Endowment, the peace movement is none the better funded.  Warmongers take the funding, or admirable and heroic humanitarians take the funding, but these are not people working toward or even believing in the desirability of the aims for which the prize was created and legally established in Nobel's will.

Heffermehl examines the language of the will in the original Swedish, the thinking and influences that went into it, the reasons why Nobel chose the Norwegian parliament to appoint the committee for the administration of the prize, and the activities and the worldviews of what Nobel termed in the will "champions of peace."  Legally, Heffermehl argues, it is the will that counts, not each and every opinion Nobel might have held at some point in his life.  While peace congresses are still held, work is still done to abolish standing armies, and many working on these projects also work for what Heffermehl translates as confraternity among nations, much of this work is little known in the media and unknown to the prize committee, which has lost touch with its mission.

Heffermehl argues persuasively that no Nobel prize for peace has been awarded with appropriate justification since 2001.  In fact, in his analysis, 50 of the 120 prizes given between 1901 and 2009 were not justified.  Heffermehl bases that judgment primarily on the case made for each laureate by the committee awarding the prize.  Were he to examine the laureates and those passed over, the number of unjustified prizes might increase. 

Heffermehl also looks at the justification for the prizes awarded under each of the 12 committee chairs and six committee secretaries that have ever held those posts.  The two chairs who have served since 2003 receive far and away the worst scores, while the two who served up through 1941 score dramatically better than the others.  Similarly, the two secretaries who held that position up through 1945 receive high marks, while the one, Geir Lundestad, who has been Secretary since 1990 has, in Heffermehl's scoring, performed miserably. 

World War II shifted thinking in Norway and elsewhere toward militarism and the notion of the inevitability of war.  While France and Germany have ceased attacking each other, there hasn't been a war between wealthy powers in 70 years, and the only wars we have now are against poor countries, somehow common wisdom holds that the abolition of war is a silly idea.  But is legally complying with a dead man's will a silly idea too? 

After World War II it wasn't just thinking that changed, but procedure as well.  No longer does the Norwegian parliament choose the most qualified peace leaders to serve on the committee.  Instead, each political party picks committee members in proportion to the party's strength in the parliament, even if the party is pro-war.

Yet it was not until 1990 that the real corruption began to eat away at Nobel's legacy.  Lundestad has created more pompous ceremonies, an annual concert, and a permanent Nobel Peace Center in Oslo filled with cutting edge technology.  While the five-member committee in Norway used to have no need for funding, the prizes simply being awarded directly to the laureates, now funding became critical, and much of that funding became corporate.  Are images of the fancy new DC building belonging to the "United States Institute of Peace (unless there's a war)" flashing through your mind?  Lundestad is a professional fundraiser now who finds time for Bilderberg conferences but not peace congresses. 

Heffermehl made his case in Norwegian pre-Obama, and was oh-so-predictably-and-depressingly hopeful when the committee absurdly bestowed its prize on the new U.S. President in 2009.  It was Obama's pro-war acceptance speech that led Heffermehl to unhesitatingly add him to the list of undeserving laureates.  But there were other reasons.  Heffermehl claims to have a source who knows that promotion of Oslo as a tourist destination weighed in the selection of Obama.  Alfred Nobel had, of course, not mentioned that motivation in his will at all. 

Heffermehl proposes that Nobel's will be followed, that the commercial activities of the Nobel Foundation be dropped, and that the combination of the roles of committee secretary and commercial director be ended.  I think he has a point.

Here's a video of Lundestad disingenuously defending the selection of Barack Obama.

Lundestad is scheduled to speak on Saturday, March 3rd, in Minnesota, where Coleen Rowley will be asking him pertinent questions about faithfulness to Nobel's will.  If you can't make it to Minnesota, you can sign this petition Rowley has set up.

If this thing gets turned around and Nobel peace prizes are awarded for a number of years to real champions of peace, then it should almost go without saying that Fredrik Heffermehl, who has created a formal investigation of the matter in Sweden, will have earned himself the prize as well.

Why I've Refused to Endorse the Protests of Either the RNC or the DNC

Don't get me wrong.  I want the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in Tampa and Charlotte protested, denounced, shamed, nonviolently occupied, and ideally prevented from occurring, at least until they credibly support peace, justice, and democracy -- or pigs fly, whichever comes first.  I've said so and encouraged such organizing for months.  I hope to be a part of it.

But when asked to endorse http://protestdnc.org and http://resistrnc.org I have said no twice, and for the very same reason.  The former lists this as among its principles:

Misguided Peace Prizes Come Home

The Nobel Committee is under pressure for having ceased to award the Nobel Peace Prize for work aimed at peace.

Now comes the University of Virginia which has just announced that it plans to award the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal to Jessica T. Matthews, head of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

It is highly unlikely that UVA would be making that award were the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace working for what Andrew Carnegie required that it work for, namely international peace.

Carnegie provided the funding for the Endowment requiring that it work to eliminate war, and that once war was eliminated the endowment move on to abolishing the second worst thing in the world.

The Endowment has moved on, while wars still occur.  It claims to have redefined it mission to include economic matters.  Its programs do not include the abolition of war at all, but focus on several other areas.  Matthews excuses herself for this by pretending that eliminating war is not attainable:

"The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is the oldest international affairs think tank in the United States. Founded by Andrew Carnegie with a gift of $10 million, its charter was to “hasten the abolition of war, the foulest blot upon our civilization.” While that goal was always unattainable, the Carnegie Endowment has remained faithful to the mission of promoting peaceful engagement.

Several defining qualities shine through in Carnegie’s history: the consistent excellence of the research; the institution’s unusual ability to stay young as it grew in age by regularly reinventing itself to stay ahead of the tide of change in the world; and a determination that its work should produce real change in the real world.

The most recent reinvention was the announcement of our Global Vision of 2007, a plan to create the world’s first global think tank. Today, with a thriving network of locally staffed centers in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and America, the institution is on its way to achieving that ambitious goal. Those of us, past and present, who have had the great fortune to serve this extraordinary institution can look forward to our second century with a real sense of accomplishment and with the expectation of notable contributions to a more peaceful world yet to come.

Jessica T. Mathews
President

It's fitting that Matthews will accept her award at the home of Thomas Jefferson, a man who believed that ending slavery was unattainable, just as others have believed that ending every foul practice once established is unattainable.  In fact, ending war is perfectly within our grasp.  But that doesn't mean we can afford to have someone divert hundreds of millions of dollars from the task, even if they do find creating uncontroversial websites and "think" tanks more convenient.

Talk Nation Radio: Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy on Bahrain, AIPAC, and Military Spending

Robert Naiman, just returned from Bahrain, discusses the popular uprising there, the upcoming conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its push for war with Iran, and the prospects for reducing U.S. military spending.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson

Producer: David Swanson

Engineer: Christiane Brown

Download from Archive.org or AudioPort or Radio4All or LetsTryDemocracy.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network

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

Un-Cheating Justice: Two Years Left to Prosecute Bush

Elizabeth Holtzman knows something about struggles for justice in the U.S. government.  She was a member of Congress and of the House Judiciary Committee that voted for articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon in 1973. She proposed the bill that in 1973 required that "state secrets" claims be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. She co-authored the special prosecutor law that was allowed to lapse, just in time for the George W. Bush crime wave, after Kenneth Starr made such a mockery of it during the Whitewater-cum-Lewinsky scandals.  She was there for the creation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in 1978. She has served on the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group, bringing long-escaped war criminals to justice.  And she was an outspoken advocate for impeaching George W. Bush.

Holtzman's new book, coauthored with Cynthia Cooper, is called "Cheating Justice: How Bush and Cheney Attacked the Rule of Law and Plotted to Avoid Prosecution -- and What We Can Do About It."  Holtzman begins by recalling how widespread and mainstream was the speculation at the end of the Bush nightmare that Bush would pardon himself and his underlings.  The debate was over exactly how he would do it.  And then he didn't do it at all.

So Many Prisons and No Room for War Propagandists?

Article VI of the US Constitution makes treaties the United States signs and ratifies the supreme law of the land.  The United States has signed and ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 20 of which reads:

1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.

2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.

But the United States has ratified that with this reservation:

 "(1) That article 20 does not authorize or require legislation or other action by the United States that would restrict the right of free speech and association protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States."

So, in a sane world in which freedom of speech had not already been stretched to include the bribery of elected officials, there would be a serious question to place before our courts, or our legislature, or -- better -- our people: Does the First Amendment protect this?

Preaching Peace

Sermon by David Swanson on February 26, 2012, at Unitarian Universalist church in Hilton Head, SC. Video by Alan Ammann.

Lifting the Shadow of War

David Swanson on February 25, 2012, in Hilton Head, SC, with HiltonHeadForPeace.org. Video by John King.

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