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You meet simply wonderful and incredibly smart people at nonviolent occupations. At least I do. I just met someone who knows exactly what they are talking about but does not want to be identified in any way other than by the name "Prof." Prof has been thinking about how to strengthen the Occupy movement, how to build a structure for it -- or rather how to allow it to build one itself, from the ground up, with ideas moving up levels of representation, not down as we're all so used to, and with people who cannot or will not or anyway do not sleep in public squares able to take part in a lasting and effective way. I cannot recommend too strongly that every Occupation look into this and click the links, hold trainings, and get this rolling. --David Swanson
Believe it or not, November 11th was not made a holiday in order to celebrate war, support troops, or cheer the 11th year of occupying Afghanistan. This day was made a holiday in order to celebrate an armistice that ended what was up until that point, in 1918, one of the worst things our species had thus far done to itself, namely World War I.
World War I, then known simply as the world war or the great war, had been marketed as a war to end war. Celebrating its end was also understood as celebrating the end of all wars. A ten-year campaign was launched in 1918 that in 1928 created the Kellogg-Briand Pact, legally banning all wars. That treaty is still on the books, which is why war making is a criminal act and how Nazis came to be prosecuted for it.
Feints and baby steps in the direction of eventually ending a massive crime are not enough. Hoping to meet a distant deadline for ending a war that cannot be justified for a single day is not enough. A new misunderstanding should not be piled on top of other fictional accomplishments (the closing of Guantanamo, the complete withdrawal from Iraq, universal health coverage, etc.). But if we don't understand that we are beginning to move things in the right direction many among us will lose heart and others will miscalculate.
This is what the Associated Press had to say on Thursday morning as we prepared to march on the White House and the Treasury to demand a serious effort from Obama in France to bring the G20 (and the Congress) to back a financial transaction tax, and as planning continued to protest the ever-less-popular Obama's expected authorization of a disastrous tar sands pipeline:
What struck me in reading Cville Weekly's excellent new profile of an Afghanistan War veteran, and in writing this profile of another Army veteran who never made it into (foreign) combat, is how many times I've heard the same story. Kids grow up admiring their parents' and grandparents' military "service," then join the military, and then afterwards find out how traumatic and horrific their family members' experiences were. What if veterans told their kids the truth early on, in an age-appropriate manner as their children grew up? Some studies say a majority of recruits are from military families. What if those potential recruits had known the truth prior to having to learn it first-hand?
Can occupations survive a winter of global weirding, escalated police brutality, and the corporate media's venom? Should they?
In some parts of the country there will be no cold weather. In others, police abuses will result in larger occupations, not smaller. And it's certainly possible that for the first time in recent years an independent progressive populist campaign will survive the enmity of the corporate media.
In other cases, the cold, the communications assaults, fatigue, and the difficulties encountered by activist camps that also become homes for the homeless and the mentally ill may begin to erode the usefulness of encampments.
What to do?
Here's one activist's recommendations:
Weaponized UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), also known as drones, have their own caucus in Congress, and the Pentagon's plan is to give them their own state as well.
Under this plan, 7 million acres (or 11,000 square miles) of land in the southeast corner of Colorado, and 60 million acres of air space (or 94,000 square miles) over Colorado and New Mexico would be given over to special forces testing and training in the use of remote-controlled flying murder machines. The full state of Colorado is itself 104,000 square miles. Rhode Island is 1,000 square miles. Virginia, where I live, is 43,000 square miles.
Leah Bolger of Oregon is the Vice President of Veterans for Peace, is occupying Freedom Plaza, and risked jail on Wednesday, with another case pending against her, to speak up in the Super Congress (Deficit Committee) hearing, in which she was arrested. She has been released.
Bolger comments: "I had to speak up. The witness, Douglas Elmendorf, was hiding the fact that military spending has increased dramatically in real terms and as a percentage of discretionary spending. He was focused on percentage of GDP, as if war spending should increase whenever it can, not whenever it has to. The simple deficit solution of taxing the rich and curtailing the militarism is favored by the majority of the public. The 99% had no other voice in that room to compete with those of the corporate lobbyists."
Members of Freedom Plaza and McPherson Square occupations are in the hearing room and marching to rally outside it.
Hensarling, co-chair of Supercons, just lied that military budget has shrunk as % of budget -- see the facts.
Neither Patty Murray, D from Boeing, or Hensarling, R from Texas, has mentioned taxing the rich.
Their witness today sure ought to bring it up.
Douglas Elmendorf is NOT thus far talking about taxing the super rich. He is talking about spending, including military spending, which he calls "defense." He is not using the larger category of "security," prefering to use "defense." But he is talking entirely about discretionary spending, which is a huge problem for this gang and its efforts to go after things it's not allowed to go after -- like Social Security.
Elmendorf describes "defense" spending as declining as percentage of GDP, not as percentage of discretionary spending.
He is proposing very slight caps on base "defense" budget, not counting wars, and on non-"defense" spending. He's offering more than one option.
The C-Span camera is angled to avoid any audience members. The public has been told signs cannot be held and no one can speak.
I am not in the room because of the recent trend toward treating laptop computers as threats to committee hearings.
Here's the testimony from Elmendorf.
Murray is eager to cut nondiscretionary "entitlements," totally avoids possibility of taxing billionaires or corporations, claims that eliminating all discretionary spending would still leave deficit. Elmendorf does not address that claim but agrees that discretionary spending is a shrinking share of all spending.
Excerpt from the testimony:
Discretionary funding for 2011 totaled $1,277 billion: budget authority of $712 bil-
lion for defense and funding totaling $566 billion for nondefense activities, including
$54 billion in obligation limitations for some transportation programs (see Table1).
Budget authority provided for defense activities in 2011 was $3 billion (or less than
1percent) below the amount provided the year before; the sum of discretionary bud-
get authority and obligation limitations for nondefense programs was $39 billion (or
7percent) below the amount provided in 2010. Nevertheless, discretionary outlays in
2011 were close to the amounts spent in 2010, CBO estimates, because of spending
from funds appropriated in previous years.
Questioning continues but lacks a little something I like to call:
TAX THE RICH!
Also, the crowd out in the hallway, outside a number of thick marble walls is giving up and moving on, having not -- as far as I know -- been heard inside the committee room.
Update: the folks say they WERE heard, the doors opened, the media made aware.
Apparently the military spending fairy is in the room too.
Baucus points out that military spending is higher now in inflation-adjusted dollars than during the Korean or Vietnam or Cold wars. Elmendorf admits it. $700 billion now compares to $240 billion during the Korean war. He points out that no caps have been put on or proposed for wars. Baucus gets Elmendorf to admit the obvious point that capping war spending would save money.
Rep Clyburn now points out the CBO's own study linked above showing the upper 1% has increased avg income by 275% while middle 60% of us have seen an increase of 40% over the same period of 28 years.
Rep Clyburn lamely and folksily mentions taxes, but doesn't propose taxing the wealthy or corporations.
Sen Rob Portman (R, Ohio) points out that "defense" has grown from 25% to 50% of discretionary budget.
The march has returned to Freedom Plaza.
The Washington Post says we're wearing out our welcome; we're also using the Washington Post as a welcome mat.
I'm stopping watching the hearing.
In other news, a bankster is being prosecuted.
One of the most valuable benefits of putting political action into the form of nonviolent encampments is that we learn each other's stories as we occupy our public parks and squares. Here's a story from the October2011 occupation in Freedom Plaza, Washington, D.C. There are many more, and we'd like to hear yours when you join us.
Aristine Maharry is 29 years old and now lives in Freedom Plaza. She grew up in a very military family, with members of her family having participated in every major U.S. war going back to the war for independence, and with members of every generation having joined the military.
Maharry's family did not encourage her to aspire to a military career, but -- as in many such stories I've heard -- actions spoke more loudly than words. Maharry was proud of her father's military experience. She hoped from a very young age to join the U.S. Army. She grew up playing at army with her half-brothers. They would flip the couch on its side and toss pretend grenades. She loved the board game Risk. The biggest holiday in Aristine's family was the Fourth of July. She doesn't say she bled red white and blue. She says she bled green, Army green. She wanted to serve her country and other people. She was willing to die for her country. She was proud of her country.
Aristine was a good student and a good athlete. At age 7 she tested with an IQ of 185. She was placed in gifted and talented classes in all of the many public schools she attended. She got good grades, ran track, and was president of the Future Business Leaders of America at West Potomac High School in Northern Virginia, where at 16 she dual enrolled at George Mason University. She graduated from high school at 18 in the year 2000, was married the next January and pregnant in February.
Aristine knew that the military would be reluctant to enlist a mother of a child under 1 year of age. She hoped to take part in the Green to Gold program, enlisting and eventually becoming an officer. Her own father had dropped out of college to enlist and fight in Vietnam. She admired that history. However, when her first son was nine months old, Aristine became pregnant again. She headed to the recruiter's office when her second son turned one in May 2004. She had a family and a good job in management training new personnel in the pharmacy department of Liberty Medical Supply in Florida. But recruiters' job is to recruit, and Maharry didn't require any persuading.
She arranged to train at the same camp her father had trained at, Fort Leonardwood in Missouri. She headed there in December 2004, leaving behind a husband and two little boys for the holidays. Aristine says it was a very sad time for her, very difficult, and also very cold in Missouri. But, she thought to herself: "All the other soldiers have families too. They do it. I'm not different. I can serve too. I want to do my part as an American." She signed up to become a combat medic, hoping to care for injured soldiers.
The first few weeks of training in January were extremely hard, she says: lots of pushups, not a lot of sleep, but a great deal of hostility from drill sergeants conditioning recruits to face hostility in battle, struggling with their own post-traumatic stress, or simply acting out their sadism. Aristine characterized it as "ten times worse than in the movies." She was in Charlie Company, Third Battalion, 10th Unit, 4th Platoon. Her platoon had four drill sergeants, three of them male named Davis, Harris, and something like Fontana (she doesn't remember this name clearly), and one female drill sergeant named Gilliard.
The woman sergeant was not what you would call gentle and loving. Aristine witnessed Gilliard yank a male soldier across a desk and injure him. His offense had been to request a pen. Fontana (or whatever his exact name was) made Gilliard look sweet and delicate by comparison. He was shorter and meaner than the others, according to Maharry. She saw him slam a female private named Barr up against a wall.
Aristine is amazingly understanding of this abuse. The sergeants, she says, had just done tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. The training was their rest period between tours of combat. They were all, she believes, dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Aristine's understanding this is even more amazing considering what happened next.
Yesterday, NPR's PR flack was haranguing me on the phone about how NPR had nothing to do with getting Lisa Simeone fired from an independent program called Soundprint. This was despite NPR having gone public with its concerns over Simeone's "unethical" participation in democracy, and Soundprint's referencing of NPR's "ethics" rules in firing Simeone. It was also despite NPR's clear intention to get Simeone removed from our airwaves.
I have no evidence that NPR contacted Soundprint, but "World of Opera" is a different story. Today I read that NPR has dropped distribution of "World of Opera," a program produced by WDAV which contracts with Simeone to host it. NPR's original frantic email and blog post had read:
By David Swanson, RootsAction.org
I just got an email from Huffington Post telling me that Obama was keeping his campaign promise to get U.S. troops out of Iraq. Not quite. Here's a video of Obama's promise.
In that 15-second video he says: "I will promise you this: that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank."
Here's the Huffington Post:
Lisa Simeone learned about her "ethical" lapse from NPR's public blog post, or rather from reporters calling her about it.
Lisa was soon thereafter fired by Soundprint, which cited NPR's "ethics" rules and according to Lisa would have been strongly influenced by NPR's post and email if they saw them (she doesn't know if they did).
There is no evidence whatsoever that NPR contacted Soundprint.
NPR's email and blog post said "We're in conversations with WDAV about how they intend to handle this. We of course take this issue very seriously." (The issue of participating in a democratic society and not backing a corporate agenda like bigshot NPR hosts who opinionate on Fox, in op-eds, and at big business speaking events for big bucks.)
Lisa was told to be on a phone call with NPR and WDAV yesterday morning, but NPR
and WDAV canceled the call without telling her, as she waited by the phone.
The most remarkable thing about the Occupy Movement is that it is happening without funding. Yes, donations are starting to pour into Occupy Wall Street, but not at the level that could really boost this campaign to replace plutocracy with popular participation. And most of the other occupations around the country are poor or penniless, with their futures in some doubt because of that status.
The movement that won women the right to vote got a huge boost when a supporter left $2 million to Carrie Chapman Catt for that purpose, and Catt was able to use almost half of that amount after holding off relatives of the deceased donor in court. The peace movement that gave us the Kellogg-Briand Pact in 1928 was funded by robber barons and others to the tune of many millions of 2011 dollars per year. The civil rights movement depended on funding from its supporters.
in short, NPR claims Soundprint acted on its own to fire Simeone
but NPR was publicly pushing the issue -- see that blog post I linked to
and the Soundprint exec producer referred to NPR's ethics policy when firing Simeone
NPR also pushed WDAV to take action (presumably by firing Simeone, no other actions having been discussed) and WDAV refused, resulting in the announcement by both WDAV and NPR that WDAV would not fire her
Simeone has been fired by Soundprint but not by WDAV]
National Public Radio on Wednesday discovered that a woman named Lisa Simeone who
produced hosted a show about opera called "World of Opera" had been participating in a nonviolent occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., organized by October2011.org. That same day, NPR persuaded a company for which Simeone worked to fire her, cutting her income in half and purging from the so-called public airwaves a voice that had never mentioned politics on NPR.
This frantic email was sent to all NPR staff:
Sent: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 6:12 PM
Subject: From Dana Rehm: Communications Alert
To: All Staff
Fr: Dana Davis Rehm
Re: Communications Alert
We recently learned of World of Opera host Lisa Simeone’s participation in an Occupy DC group. World of Opera is produced by WDAV, a music and arts station based in Davidson, North Carolina. The program is distributed by NPR. Lisa is not an employee of WDAV or NPR; she is a freelancer with the station.
We're in conversations with WDAV about how they intend to handle this. We of course take this issue very seriously.
As a reminder, all public comment (including social media) on this matter is being managed by NPR Communications.
All media requests should be routed through NPR Communications at 202.513.2300 or email@example.com. We will keep you updated as needed. Thanks.
Also see NPR's blog post about this here.
About three and a half hours after the above email was sent, Simeone had been fired by a show called Soundprint as punishment for having been "unethical." Here is her bio on that show's website. And here she is on NPR's.
Soundprint is a show that does touch on politics and includes political viewpoint in Simeone's ledes, but it is not an NPR program and not distributed by NPR. It is, however, heard on public radio stations. Despite the title "NPR World of Opera," that show is produced by a small station called WDAV for which Simeone contracts. Simeone was not an NPR employee. WDAV has not expressed any concern over Simeone's "ethics."
Simeone told me: "I find it puzzling that NPR objects to my exercising my rights as an American citizen -- the right to free speech, the right to peaceable assembly -- on my own time in my own life. I'm not an NPR employee. I'm a freelancer. NPR doesn't pay me. I'm also not a news reporter. I don't cover politics. I've never brought a whiff of my political activities into the work I've done for NPR World of Opera. What is NPR afraid I'll do -- insert a seditious comment into a synopsis of Madame Butterfly?
"This sudden concern with my political activities is also surprising in light of the fact that Mara Liaason reports on politics for NPR yet appears as a commentator on FoxTV, Scott Simon hosts an NPR news show yet writes political op-eds for national newspapers, Cokie Roberts reports on politics for NPR yet accepts large speaking fees from businesses. Does NPR also send out 'Communications Alerts' about their activities?"
Let's be clear about Simeone's political activities. We have three quarters of the country wanting billionaires taxed, two-thirds wanting wars ended, large majorities wanting funding moved from the military to green energy and education and jobs. Simeone has been taking part in a nonviolent encampment designed to facilitate the petitioning of our government for a redress of grievances, a right guaranteed by the First Amendment. That's all. She has been participating. Nothing more. There is nothing more specific to the allegation, nothing in particular that she has allegedly done other than participate in a nonviolent mass mobilization on behalf of majority opinion.
It may be difficult for NPR bigwigs to understand why we don't all just rent $400 per night hotel rooms instead of littering a public square with tents. But NPR's highly paid political agitators on behalf of the 1% are part of the problem. They are what we are protesting. And that is presumably what makes our speech and assembly "unethical."
Or perhaps the breach of ethics is to be found in behaving as a decent citizen while simultaneously possessing some connection to the most insidious corporate loudspeaker in the country, one labeled "public" but belonging to the 1%.
The most important point to stress here, I think, is that all requests should be routed through NPR Communications at 202-513-2300 or firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATE: NPR claims not to have caused the Soundprint firing (and to only be pushing for action against Lisa by WDAV):
Your post this morning was wholly inaccurate. We’d ask you to please make corrections immediately.
To set the record straight, here are the facts:
It has been reported that NPR had a role in the decision made by the management of the public radio program Soundprint to end its relationship with Lisa Simeone as the program's host. This is not true. Soundprint is an independent public radio program that is not produced by NPR. NPR had no contact with the management of the program prior to their decision. We learned about it after the fact, through media reports.
Other than Lisa's role as host, Soundprint and WDAV's World of Opera are completely unrelated. As we indicated last night, we are in conversation with WDAV about this matter. We fully respect that the management of WDAV is solely responsible for the decision making around Lisa's participation in Occupy DC and her freelance role with WDAV's program.
You may find more at our blog, www.npr.org/thisisnpr
When will you correct your post to remove NPR from the equation?Please let me know if you have questions.
| Anna Christopher Bross | Director, Media Relations | email@example.com | 202.513.2304 | 202.680.3848 | @NPRanna
UPDATE 2: WDAV has stood strong in the face of NPR pressure and will not fire Simeone. NPR has confirmed this:
Classical public radio station WDAV says Lisa Simeone will continue to host World of Opera.
Please contact WDAV for further details: http://www.wdav.org/default.htm
Simeone thus far remains fired from Soundprint.
UPDATE 3: The Executive Producer of Soundprint, when firing Simeone, told her on the phone that she had violated NPR's code of ethics. She [the executive producer of Soundprint] brought NPR into it.
UPDATE 4: Public supports Simeone on WDAV website: Read the comments below the post.
I've been arrested before and always paid a fine right away, perhaps because I was part of a larger group. This time they're threatening us with fines and jail, which I certainly did not expect. Watch:
We can fit our demands on a bumpersticker: "Majority Rule" or "People Over Profits" or "Love Not Greed." But we don't want to. Our government is doing everything wrong, and we should be allowed to present the full list of grievances. We can, however, give the world a thousand words' worth in an image, a pie chart to be exact. Our federal budget funds the wrong things. We want it to fund the right things.
Here are pie charts produced by some of us members of the 99%: gallery.
Here's where you can make your own: start.
Let's add this one to the large number of arrests being reported in NY and around the world.
"Tonight, Progressive Caucus Chair Karen Bernal, activist Cindy Sheehan and at least one dozen other peaceful protestors were arrested at Occupy Sacramento. I counted about 35 police vehicles and dozens of officers in riot gear as the peaceful demonstrators occupied Cesar Chavez Park after a day when hundreds of protestors marched to the CA State Capitol. I'm sending this from my phone, but will have more details, photos and video in the morning." --Bill Lackemacher
Last week, President Obama racked up several more broken campaign promises as he pushed through Congress three new job-killing corporate trade agreements. The Senate Finance Committee was quite open about the fact that these agreements will kill off more jobs and eager to mitigate the damage with band aids attached to the treaties. Some of us who were in the hearing room felt an obligation to speak up and ask why in the world the senators -- with perfect bipartisan harmony -- insisted on causing the damage in the first place. And for that we were thrown in jail.
Imagine the denunciations of human rights abuses in Colombia if the plan for that country this week were war rather than corporate exploitation to produce impoverishment to produce drug crops to produce war. Imagine the denunciations of human rights abuses in Iran having continued as usual if U.S. cops weren't cracking skulls in New York, Boston, Denver, and San Diego. Maybe we wouldn't have needed the Tale of the Moronic Mexican Iranian Assassins at all.
Also last week, President Obama pretended to try to pass a weak gesture in the way of lessening the damage of his policies with separate legislation known as a "jobs bill." But he made no serious effort to get it passed and according to many observers wanted it to fail. It was blocked by Democrats as well as Republicans in a Democratic Senate. Nonetheless, the purpose was apparently to create a campaign ad for what the same president will supposedly try to do in 2013 if reelected, and if tens of millions of us are still obediently filling out job applications.
Thanks in large part to the New York and national corporate media a massive campaign to shift power away from giant corporations and into the hands of the people is now afoot all across this continent. It was inspired by peoples' nonviolent uprisings in other countries and sparked by courageous nonviolence on Wall Street.
Can we keep it going and growing despite the unreliability of the corporate media? When the television networks created Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas, for us -- following the courageous stand taken by Cindy Sheehan -- they later turned against the movement and against Cindy. Already they are working to depict our occupations as violent, misdirected, undirected, and impotent.
See also Indymedia.
How 99% Prevented Senators from Working Yesterday
By David Swanson
At exactly 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday a few hundred people began preventing any work that might have been done in the Senate Hart Office Building. Until sometime past noon, the noise of incessant chanting and the spectacle of banners, flags, and flyers actually flying down into a large atrium directed the attention of staffers and corporate lobbyists in every window away from their work. For another half hour or so, the police worked to clear people out of hallways and quiet them down. The police closed off access to the building for visitors.
For another hour or more, our friends who had chosen to demonstrate in front of the building displayed giant signs, played thundering music on their drums, and generally kept people away from the now closed building entrance.
Our chants were clear enough for easy comprehension by just about anyone over the age of 3 other than perhaps CNN producers:
"How do we fix the deficit? End the wars! Tax the rich!"
"Senators for sale, go to jail!"
"We are the 99 percent and so are You are the 99 percent and so are We are the 99 percent …."
Videos tell the story: http://warisacrime.org/hart
While a few people inside the atrium chose not to comply with orders to be quiet or disperse and were arrested, most of us were not. Six people were arrested, but I don't know the details of all six arrests. We could do this sort of thing every day without arrests if done right.
Later in the day, in the next building over, the Senate Finance Committee met to discuss ways it could kill off more jobs, including new corporate trade aggreements with Colombia, Panama, and Korea. Four of us, including me, were arrested for speaking up in protest. Others, including Robert Naiman, managed to avoid arrest even while speaking out. This required merely wearing the congressional uniform (a suit and tie) and not being too loud.
I've been told there are good videos and photos of our protestations in the committee hearing but can't find them, so please share if you can. There was also, of course, C-Span. (Here's C-Span video of committee protest.)
The Hart Senate Office Building has a multistory atrium with hallways open to it from four sides on the third, fifth, and seventh floors. The three Senate office buildings are connected inside, and have entrances all around them through which you are allowed to simply walk in at any time. It is not difficult to bring banners inside, either stuffed in a backpack or hidden under your clothes. A hundred people or more can make enough noise to halt work in all the surrounding offices. And the police give three warnings before arresting you. (Be careful, though, because it's impossible to hear the police talking during the chanting and clapping by yourself and your friends.)
In committees it is usually possible to hold up signs before the gavel of the chairman or chairwoman bangs the hearing into session. Then, if you speak up, there may be warnings, you may be escorted out, or you may be arrested. It is usually possible to find out beforehand. We knew we were likely to be arrested on Tuesday and did not care.
The downside to being arrested by the Capitol Police is that they can be very slow, and then you can end up with a distant court date that you have no option but to appear for, or you will face a separate criminal prosecution. The police themselves are polite and professional, but they have antiquated computers and not enough of them. They do most of their work by hand on endless pieces of paper, copying information from form to form by hand. They even have typewriters. We were processed by trainees, but training wasn't the only thing lacking. They needed decent equipment and, frankly, decent educations. In the shadow of the government buildings used to pour trillions of dollars into wars and the enrichment of our corporate overlords, the government's own guardians emerge from a magnificently mediocre school system to find employment in an underfunded operation that does the bidding of our fascistic committee chairmen to the extent of its abilities. Average time for processing arrestees on Tuesday was about four hours.
If you have a charge pending as I now do, it can be harder to get released at all if arrested again. So, a strategy that involves arrests, or an effort to fill the jails, can result in a reduction in available people for further actions.
However, we can prevent work in one congressional office building or another, day after day, without necessarily having anyone arrested. At this point I'm leaning in that direction. Unless, of course, Congress discovers the need to end the wars and tax the rich.