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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.

Palestine on Talk Nation Radio

Talk Nation Radio for February 22, 2012

Christopher Allen-Doucot on his 2011 experiences in Palestine, where a peaceful protest movement continues.

U.S. Catholics are celebrating a holy week and it seemed appropriate to reair our special with this prominent Catholic peace activist. Chris Doucot talks about what he saw in Palestine of a growing protest movement as he puts the occupation in perspective. We hear about the impacts of the right wing religious movement, Christian Zionism, on the lives of Palestinian Muslims, Christians and Jews, through recent history.

While peace talks between Israel and Palestine remain stalled, a growing number of peace activists from around the world are visiting Palestine to observe or participate in a growing protest movement there. At stake are the illegal Israeli settlements and separation wall, and a lack of access to Jerusalem where many holy sites are now blocked off for both Jewish and Christian Palestinians. The event was organized by the Israel/Palestine Peace, Education and Action Group of N.E. CT. They invited Chris Allen-Doucot to discuss his recent visits to Palestine and Afghanistan.

(First aired April/May 2011, still very fresh and relevant. Meanwhile, David Swanson tools up for continued great programming. He is forming a production team.) 

Total Run Time: 29:28

Host: David Swanson

Producer: David Swanson

Download at Pacifica’s Audioport here http://audioport.org/index.php?op=program-info&program_id=40426&nav=&

Or at Archive.org here http://www.archive.org/details/ChrisAllen-doucotOnVisitToPalestineSettlersBothJoinInProtestsCause

The 10 Most Excellent Reasons to Attack Iran

1. Iran has threatened to fight back if attacked, and that's a war crime. War crimes must be punished.

2. My television says Iran has nukes.  I'm sure it's true this time.  Just like with North Korea.  I'm sure they're next.  We only bomb places that really truly have nukes and are in the Axis of Evil.  Except Iraq, which was different.

3. Iraq didn't go so badly. Considering how lousy its government is, the place is better off with so many people having left or died.  Really, that one couldn't have worked out better if we'd planned it. 

4. When we threaten to cut off Iran's oil, Iran threatens to cut off Iran's oil, which is absolutely intolerable.  What would we do without that oil? And what good is buying it if they want to sell it?

5. Iran was secretly behind 9-11. I read it online. And if it wasn't, that's worse. Iran hasn't attacked another nation in centuries, which means its next attack is guaranteed to be coming very soon.

6. Iranians are religious nuts, unlike Israelis and Americans.  Most Israelis don't want to attack Iran, but the Holy Israeli government does. To oppose that decision would be to sin against God. 

7. Iranians are so stupid that when we murder their scientists they try to hire a car dealer in Texas to hire a drug gang in Mexico to murder a Saudi ambassador in Washington, and then they don't do it -- just to make us look bad for catching them.

7. b. Oh, and stupid people should be bombed.  They're not civilized.

8. War is good for the U.S. economy, and the Iranian economy too.  Troops stationed in Iran would buy stuff.  And women who survived the war would have more rights.  Like in Virginia.  We owe Iranians this after that little mishap in 1953.

9. This is the only way to unite the region.  Either we bomb Iran and it swears its eternal love to us.  Or, if necessary, we occupy Iran to liberate it like its neighbors.  Which shouldn't take long.  Look how well Afghanistan is going already.

10. They won't give our drone back.  Enough said.

Why Students Are Hunger Striking in Virginia

Twelve students at the University of Virginia on Saturday began a hunger strike for a living wage policy for university employees.  They've taken this step after having exhausted just about every other possible approach over a period of 14 years.  I was part of the campaign way back when it started.  I can support the assertion made by hunger-striking student A.J. Chandra on Saturday, who said,

"We have not spent 14 years building up the case for a living wage.  Rather, the campaign has made the case over and over again."

UVA Living Wage Hunger Strike 1

This is the latest in a long series of reports making the case.

Another striking student, David Flood, explained,

"We have researched long enough. We have campaigned long enough. We have protested long enough. The time for a living wage is now."

UVA was the first campus with a living wage campaign back in the late 1990s, but many campuses that started later finished sooner.  UVA has seen partial successes.  In 2000, the university raised wages to what was at the time a living wage.  But those gains have been wiped out by inflation.  Local businesses have voluntarily met the campaign's demands, and the City of Charllottesville has both implemented a living wage policy and called on UVA to do so.

When we started, no one dared to say the word "union," but by 2002 a union had formed.  It lasted until 2008, and now a new organizing drive is underway. 

Workers, however, still fear being fired for joining a union or for joining the living wage campaign.  (Does anyone recall the Employee Free Choice Act from way back yonder in 2008? It would really come in handy.) With workers fearing retribution, students and faculty are the campaign's public face, and even some students (especially those with scholarships) and faculty are afraid to take on that role.

In 2006, UVA students tried a sit-in as a tactic to pressure the University's Board of Visitors.  The students were arrested after four days, and wage policies unaltered.  But now they are looking to the model of Georgetown University's successful hunger strike in 2005.

Since 2006, the campaign has been building support among workers, faculty, and the Charlottesville community whose economy is dominated by UVA and almost a quarter of whose population is below the federal poverty line.  Here's a debate on the topic from 2011. A petition has been signed by 328 faculty members.

UVA Living Wage Hunger Strike 2

A rally was held on the steps of the Rotunda on Saturday to launch the hunger strike.  Chandra told the gathered crowd that this 14-year campaign by an ever-changing cast of students who typically stay only 4 years has tried teach-ins, concerts, film showings, petitions, letter-writing, marches, seminars, reports, and community outreach of all sorts.  Speaking privately, he told me that the university measures its success by its publications and many other quantities. "The well being of the lowest paid workers," he said, "has to be part of deciding whether this is a successful institution."

Without pressure for action, Chandra said, "the same passive acceptance of injustice that allowed blacks to be excluded from UVA until 1950 and women until 1970" will win out. 

Hunter Link is another hunger-striking student, the only one of the 12 not currently enrolled.  He graduated in December.  He pointed out that UVA sends students abroad to do service projects with money it could have used to pay its own workers a living wage.  Of course, it also builds giant sports arenas, raises its top salaries, and adds more buildings to its main campus all the time. 

For most of the past 14 years, UVA had a president who gave no indication that I ever saw of caring in the least what happened to the people who scrubbed his toilets.  Now, UVA has a new president, its first female president.  Her name is Theresa Sullivan, and she has published books, including quite recently, advocating for a living wage.  When it comes to actually paying one at UVA, where doing so would cost a fraction of a percent of the billions of dollars UVA is hoarding, Sullivan sings a different tune.

UVA Living Wage Hunger Strike 4

Hunter Link read to the crowd on Saturday a letter from an unnamed worker who complained that President Sullivan talks about "a caring community" but -- asks the worker -- "what good are values if you don't live them?"

It's popular in U.S. politics these days to prefer words to actions, but the UVA living wage campaign is taking the opposite approach, pointing out the deceptions in Sullivan's claims.  "Contrary to President Sullivan's inexplicable claims," said hunger-striker David Flood, "real wages have declined in the past six years."  Objecting to non-monetary compensation as an alternative to wages, Flood remarked to loud applause: "You cannot pay the rent with a course at UVA.  You cannot buy medicine with a coupon good only at the UVA company store."  Before UVA workers can take classes, Flood said, they must be able to buy housing, food, and medicine.  They must be able to live in the community that they make possible.  I would add that they must be able to quit their second or third jobs if they are to have time for taking classes.

The living wage campaign is demanding a minumum wage for direct, contracted, and subcontracted employees of no less that $13, and that wages be adjusted each year to comply with the Economic Policy Institute's regionally sourced cost-of-living and inflation calculations.  This must be implemented without reducing other benefits, including healthcare, without under-staffing, without reducing hours worked, and without demanding increased productivity.  We started out demanding $8, and if the University had met that demand and indexed it to the cost of living, this campaign would have ended.  Professor Susan Fraiman, who has been part of the campaign from the start, remarked on Saturday that she very much hoped she was speaking at the last living wage rally that would be needed.  That will depend on the impact of the hunger strike.

UVA Living Wage Hunger Strike 3

The strikers have set up a permanent vigil between the Rotunda and the UVA Chapel.  The strikers are informed, articulate, dedicated, and deadly serious.  They've had physicals and will consume only liquids.  One of them, Hallie Clark, pointed out that the Black Student Alliance rallied for higher wages at UVA in 1969.  This has been a long struggle indeed. And the majority of the lowest paid workers at this slave-built campus are still black.  The honor code still forbids cheating on tests or treating students as if they would cheat on tests.  But it does not at the moment require presidents who have publicly articulated the moral demand for a living wage to actually pay one.

President Sullivan must work with UVA's Board of Visitors.  The board members are almost all from out of town.  Most students and workers have no contact with them.  They are not a part of the Charlottesville community.  Some of them are graduates of UVA's Darden Business School, which of course teaches the benefits of low pay for workers other than oneself and erases from consideration the question of whether a worker must hold a second job, or must use only emergency rooms for healthcare, or must leave his or her children unsupervised.  When I was a graduate student in philosophy at UVA, I took a course at Darden that was jointly listed as business and philosophy.  The course sought to apply ethics to the view of business regularly promoted at Darden, which felt a bit like applying a stick of lipstick to a large and fast-moving pig.

Here's a list of the members of the Board of Visitors along with their phone numbers. You can also click their names to email them. Or click HERE to email them all at once.  Hunter Link told me the campaign had been in touch with Mark Kington of the Finance Committee and found him less than supportive.  Here's what the various members do for their day jobs.  Other than the student member and the ex-officio member, if you can find a connection between any of the other members and education please let me know.  They seem to be almost all bankers, lawyers, CEOs, and . . . well, the sort of gang that ought to be the Board of Visitors for Darden Business School, not UVA; except they wouldn't have to visit as Darden has its own supply of these types.

President Sullivan is going to have to take the lead here.  It is her students refusing to eat, across the street from her house.  Her office phone is 434-924-3337.  During the next week, she and the board members need to hear from every single one of us who cares.  The Board of Visitors will be meeting next week.  There will be rallies every day this week, leading up to that meeting.  To get involved, go to livingwageatuva.org

UVA Living Wage Hunger Strike 5

Talk Nation Radio

Talk Nation Radio (found at talknationradio.com) has long been hosted wonderfully by Dori Smith. I've enjoyed being a guest on her program and am now honored to be hosting the show.  I'll have a new show available every week.  Guests lined up include Robert Naiman, Pat Elder, Michelle Brown, Karen Malpede, John Horgan, Cindy Sheehan, Jeff Cohen, Coleen Rowley, Marcy Winograd, Jeff Clements, and Bruce Gagnon.  But the first guest is Paul Chappell. Enjoy!

Author, Activist, War Veteran Paul Chappell on How We End War Forever 

Paul Chappell discusses the investigations into the making of war and of peace found in his books "Will War Ever End," "The End of War," and the just published "Peaceful Revolution: How We Can Create the Future Needed for Humanity's Survival." Chappell also authored a chapter in "The Military Industrial Complex at 50."

Total Run Time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson

Producer: David Swanson, in Charlottesville, VA

Music: Duke Ellington

Syndicated by Pacifica Network

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

Download from Archive.org, or AudioPort.org, or DavidSwanson.org.

Embed on your own site with this code: <iframe src="http://www.archive.org/embed/AuthorActivistWarVeteranPaulChappellOnHowWeEndWarForever" frameborder="0" height="50" width="400"></iframe>

A One Percenter Puts Over $200 Million into the Peace Movement

I'll tell you who did this below.  First read part his rather unusual letter:

"I have transferred to you as trustees $231 million in bonds, the revenue of which is to be administered by you to hasten the abolition of international war, the foulest blot upon our civilization.  Although we no longer eat our fellow men nor torture prisoners, nor sack cities killing their inhabitants, we still kill each other in war like barbarians.  Only wild beasts are excusable for doing that in this, the Twenty First Century of the Christian era, for the crime of war is inherent, since it decides not in favor of the right, but always of the strong.  The nation is criminal which refuses arbitration and drives its adversary to a tribunal which knows nothing of righteous judgment. . . .

"I hope the trustees will begin by pressing forward upon this line, testing it thoroughly and doubting not.

"The judge who presides over a cause in which he is interested dies in infamy if discovered.  The citizen who constitutes himself a judge in his own cause as against his fellow-citizen, and presumes to attack him, is a law-breaker and as such disgraced.  So should a nation be held as disgraced which insists upon sitting in judgment in its own cause in case of an international dispute. . . .

"Lines of future action cannot be wisely laid down.  Many may have to be tried, and having full confidence in my trustees, I leave them the widest discretion as to the measures and policy they shall from time to time adopt, only premising that the one end they shall keep unceasingly in view until it is attained is the speedy abolition of international war between so-called civilized nations.

"When civilized nations enter into such treaties as named, and war is discarded as disgraceful to civilized men, as personal war (duelling) and man selling and buying (slavery) have been discarded . . . the trustees will please then consider what is the next most degrading remaining evil or evils whose banishment -- or what new elevating element or elements if introduced or fostered, or both combined -- would most advance the progress, elevation and happiness of humanity, and so on from century to century without end, my Trustees of each age shall determine how they can best aid humanity in its upward march to higher and higher stages of development unceasingly. . . ."

War Propaganda in the Anti-War Punditry

To the Charlottesville Daily Progress

To the Editor:

"Headed to another Persian Gulf War" is a helpful column in that it seeks to avoid a war on Iran, but unhelpful in that it makes that war just a little bit more likely. 

Don Nuechterlein claims to know the motivations of our two presidents Bush in launching a pair of wars on Iraq.  But he makes no mention of oil, of bases, of profits, or of global politics.  The babies-taken-from-incubators fraud is forgotten along with the WMD lies.  In fact, the WMD lies of 2002-2003 are given new support -- albeit baseless and undocumented -- in Nuechterlein's claim that the war was intended "to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime and prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons."  It had of course been totally and entirely prevented from any such thing, prior to and without the war.  Overthrowing a foreign government is not a legal basis for a war.  Limiting weapons production, even when not a fantasy cooked up in Washington, is not a legal basis for war.  In fact, there is no legal basis for war, which is banned by the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the U.N. Charter, and banned to presidents acting without the Congress by the U.S. Constitution.

By the next paragraph Neuchterlein is referring to Iran's "nuclear arms program," something the existence of which is supported by zero evidence, something the U.S. Secretary of "Defense" says does not exist.  Neuchterlein doesn't argue that it exists.  That would make him seem like a pro-war propagandist.  He just assumes baselessly that it exists in order to proceed from there to an argument for being very reluctant and oh-so serious about going into another spree of pointless mass murder. 

In the next paragraph we hear that Iran is refusing to negotiate.  Iran has tried repeatedly to negotiate the end of its nuclear energy program or the exportation of its uranium for refinement outside of the country.  It is difficult for Iran to negotiate when the U.S. State Department doesn't speak to it.  Neuchterlein, to be sure, is opposed to acting rashly on the basis of Iran's supposed refusal to negotiate.  Nonetheless he is in favor of pretending it exists. 

We then learn that "All Arab countries, especially in the Persian Gulf region, live in fear of Iran's hegemonic ambitions."  What world does that claim come out of?  Can Neuchterlein name one Arab Gulf country with an Iranian military presence?  Can he name one without a U.S. military presence?  Two paragraphs later he's admitting that Syria (not a Gulf state) is aligned with Iran.

Neuchterlein frames the choices as including sanctions or war.  But sanctions, for which Nuechterlein offers no evidence (and I know of no evidence) that they are having a serious negative impact on the Iranian government, are a step toward war, not away from it.  They strengthen nationalism, not democracy.  They punish ordinary people (and by punish I mean kill), not presidents. 

Neuchterlein then describes Obama as a fellow reluctant warrior who might be forced into a war against his deep desire, despite the fact that Obama has been pushing very similar propaganda to Neuchterlein.  Neuchterlein labels Newt Gingrich "pro-Israel," even though a majority of Israelies are against attacking Iran and Gingrich is for it.  Neuchterlein pretends that Obama has no influence over Israel, even though the United States gives Israel billions of dollars worth of weapons, vetoes every measure of accountability for Israeli crimes at the United Nations, and works closely with the Israeli military and Mossad. 

NBC this week reported that Israel is funding and training the Iranian group MEK to engage in terrorism in Iran.  The MEK is a group the U.S. government has designated terrorist, but which a gaggle of big whigs like Howard Dean and Rudi Giuliani illegally work for, and which the U.S. government, like Israel, has been funding, according to Seymour Hersh.  But the onus is on Iran to start "negotiating." 

How about this negotiation: all paries stop threatening war, and all parties comply with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  You see the trouble?  Iran has already met both of those demands and always had, whereas Israel and the United States have not and have no intention of doing so.

After his onslaught of lies, Neuchterlein proposes that we avoid war if possible.  If possible?  It is ALWAYS possible to avoid war.  But there is no easier way to get into a war than by establishing that it might be "impossible" to avoid, thus removing all moral and legal responsibility.

Please check facts even in the "Commentary."

Thank you.

David Swanson


Learning From La Venezuela

Imagine that your son, your darling little boy, was killed during the past eight years in a war that served purely to kill a whole lot of Iraqis and enrich a small number of billionaires, while causing horrible environmental damage, stripping away our civil liberties, and poisoning foreign relations elsewhere.  And imagine that, instead of avoiding this reality or lying about it, you confronted it.  Further, imagine that you became so famous confronting it, that everybody wanted to be your friend, at least for a minute. You might even get invited to Venezuela by President Hugo Chavez, and you might go with a mind open to hearing what he had to say.

Cindy Sheehan did.  And now she's published a book about it.  If Venezuela makes it to the top of the list for the next U.S. war, this book will be a valuable tool for confronting the propaganda.  But why wait?  Our government has attempted a coup and is openly funding opposition groups.  Why wait to consider what it is we're paying to try to undo?

Venezuela could be targeted for its oil, of course.  But Cindy proposes another reason why the government in Washington, D.C., that we all so love to hate except when it kills lots of people, might be targeting Venezuela.  In an interview included in the book, she asks Chavez: "Why do you think the Empire makes such a concerted effort to demonize you?"  His response, which has been translated from Spanish, is:

"I think for different reasons. But I've gotten to the conclusion there is one particular strong reason, a big reason. They are afraid, the Empire is afraid.  The Empire is afraid that the people of the United States might find out about the truth, they are afraid that something like that could erupt in their own territory -- a Bolivarian movement; or a Lincoln movement -- a movement of citizens, conscious citizens to transform the system. . . . So, why do they demonize us? They know -- those who direct the Empire -- they know the truth. But they fear the truth. They fear the contagious effect. They fear a revolution in the United States. They fear an awakening of the people in the United States. And so that's why they do everything they can. And they achieve it, relatively, that a lot of sectors in the United States see us as devils. No one wants to copy the devil."

But we might copy some little things even from the devil if they were worth copying.  What is it that Sheehan and Chavez think might be contagious if we found out about it? 

This is why the book is a valuable resource now, threat or no threat, war or no war.  It's a story of a people's movement, largely nonviolent.  It's a story of dramatic change that was slow in coming and then burst into fruition.  It's a story of a work in progress that is moving in positive directions, investing in education, protecting the environment, raising the living standards of the majority of the people.  Can a new political party succeed?  Yes, it can.  Can an outworn Constitution be rewritten at great length and well by a popular movement?  Yes, it can. (PDF). Cindy lists some of the changes brought by this Constitution:

·      added a "people's branch"
·      added an "election's branch"
·      citizens are able to recall the president
·      health care is enshrined as a human right
·      education is enshrined as a human right
·      gender inclusivity in the language
·      equal rights for women under the law
·      only the people can amend the document
·      aggressive indigenous rights
·      commits the power of the state to protect the environment

The horror!  I know some USians who don't dare HOPE for such a CHANGE. I even know some who are learning that such changes are perfectly possible, but that they don't come about through hoping, or through voting alone. 

The weakness of the Venezuelan revolution, however, is very similar to the weakness of US liberalism.  Each pins its hopes on a single messiah.  Of course, Chavez is making the poor richer, while Obama is making the rich richer.  But it appears entirely possible that positive movement in Venezuela will be thrown into reverse when Chavez dies.  Chavez ought to be teaching his nation not to depend on one man.  He ought to step down while alive and well enough to help guide his successor.  He ought to move on to a focus on uniting the nations of South America.  That he does not do this seems to me a mark against his character.  But it does not change the fact that the Venezuelan people have been empowered to rule by referendum, while in the United States the presidency has been made more powerful than that of Venezuela -- and without the addition of direct democracy.  The Venezuelan Constitution has already been amended, by public referendum.  The U.S. Constitution hasn't been touched in 40 years except through dramatic changes imposed by the Supreme Court or the President.

The question that my mind focuses on in reading Cindy's account is not, however, what can I find wrong with Chavez.  It's this: Can we make an Occupy movement worthy of the title Bolivarian?

Exactly How Cheap the University of Virginia Is

Let's approximate (and let's go high) that the University of Virginia in Charlottesville has 2,000 direct and contracted (it won't say how many contracted, so we have to guess) employees working for under $13 per hour as demanded by the Living Wage campaign.  And let's imagine they work on average 40 hours per week and 50 weeks a year, and let's imagine they earn the bare legal mimimum of $7.25 per hour.  That would mean that it would take $23 million to make things right, to allow fulltime workers to pay their bills, quit their second jobs, see their families, and take care of their health.

Who has $23 million?

It turns out that UVA has got $4.76 BILLION.

I hate to have to point this out, but $23 million is less than a half a percent of $4.76 billion.  (If my math is off that's UVA's fault too! :-)

If you earn $50,000 a year, do you ever give $200 or so to good causes?  UVA isn't being asked to do that.  It's being asked to pay people a decent humane wage for their hard work.

There's little less honorable than greed.  Doesn't UVA have an honor code?

Chat I Just Had With Homeland Security

After publishing this report I was contacted by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).  The individual involved never returned my call.  Instead I heard from Brian Hale who said he had been with Director Morton at the event recently held at the University of Virginia and discussed in my report.  He told me that ICE in fact had nothing to do with contacting activists, that in fact Ed Ryan (who had contacted local residents from an ICE email address) actually worked for Federal Protective Services which used to fall under ICE and still has some ICE email addresses.  I asked Hale, regardless of department, why any branch of Homeland Security was using our money to contact us in a manner that intimidated people out of exercising their First Amendment rights.  Hale told me to ask Federal Protective Services (FPS).

I reached Rob Winchester at FPS.  I asked him about the January 20th MovetoAmend.org "Occupy the Courts" events held here in Charlottesville, Va., and around the country.  He said that FPS inspectors had tried to facilitate events in order to get them permitted and make them legal.  Some of the events, he said, were on federal property.  The intent had been dialogue and not intimidation.  If people were intimidated, he said, he apologized for that.

I told Winchester that the street corner where the Charlottesville event was held is routinely used for demonstrations without permits or authorizations beyond the First Amendment, and that we have never had a problem, but that the FPS contacts instructing people to inform authorities of their plans by certain deadlines and so forth had in fact intimidated people out of exercising their rights. 

Winchester replied that at one location elsewhere in the country some people had "been pushing against the barricades."  I didn't ask what the barricades were doing there.  In another location, he said, "our folks were laughing and joking with the people there."  Mine was the first report of any intimidation, he said.

I pointed out that people who are intimidated by FPS contact do not phone in to the FPS to report that they feel intimidated.  Winchester said that he understood and would pass this along as "lessons learned."  I thanked him for his apology and for understanding.  But this is clearly a work in progress.  Many would like to be free to hold rallies without the presence of a militarized federal force, regardless of whether that force is joking and laughing with us.  Many would like to be left alone to exercise their First Amendment rights undisturbed rather than fund Big Brother to the tune of $75 billion per year, no matter how benevolent the intentions.  The problem is not Ryan or Winchester but the system they have made themselves a part of.

My advice to intimidated activists is to not leave me the only person phoning in to complain.  Phone in.  Phone every day.  Ask for a meeting to discuss the problem.  Call 202-282-8000.

Defense of "Anarchism" in Oakland Occupy or Anywhere Unconvincing

This reply to Hedges and defense of violence completely fails to persuade.

The primary argument seems to be that if you are not in Oakland and familiar with every detail you shalt not offer your advice.  But knowing whether the person who smashed a window was wearing a mask or not hardly eliminates the possibility of usefully commenting on whether it helped or hurt to smash that window.  The defense article describes violent clashes with police and concludes "No one can agree on who attacked first." So, even being there results in important ignorance.  But in a movement publicly and convincingly committed to nonviolence we would all know who attacked first.  It would have to have been the police.  In fact, there would be no "attacked first" but simply "attacked."  In a movement hollowed out by acceptance of "diversity of tactics" (as euphemism for violence) nobody could ever be sure, even if we had witnesses and videos.  Quoting MLK in arguing against what he so persuasively denounced every day for years is a new low.

Do We Approve of Murder Based on Political Party? Pollsters Don't Want You to Know.

A poll published on Wednesday at the Washington Post finds that a majority of even "liberal Democrats" approves of Obama killing US citizens.  Of course, this would almost certainly be different if Obama were a Republican. 

What if an organization with money but no partisanship (are there some?) were to commission a poll from a pollster willing to face a firestorm of attacks from the political parties (are there any such pollsters?), a poll that would ask people all their demographic info, including politics and party identification if any, and ask some of them:

If President Obama had to kill a US citizen to protect the nation, based purely on the word of the President, would you approve?

If President Obama had to imprison a US citizen with no trial to protect the nation, based purely on the word of the President, would you approve?

If President Obama had to launch a war without congressional authorization in order to protect the nation, based purely on the word of the President, would you approve?

If President Obama determined it to be necessary to deploy a nuclear bomb and did so, would you approve?

The poll would ask those questions of a large enough sample to be well represented in each demographic category.  Then a similar sample would be asked the  same questions with Romney substituted for Obama.  Then others would be asked the questions about a President Santorum, and others with Gingrich. 

The results would almost certainly show that many in the United States do indeed place loyalty to political parties or elected officials above matters of life and death -- at least the lives and deaths of others.

This would, of course, be shameful, and if it made it into the corporate news it would make all types of partisanship look bad.  It might, very likely, however, make one brand of partisanship look worst.  I would predict that Republicans would each be highly approving of these abuses by at least one Republican candidate, and that their approval would diminish for the others, and especially for Obama.  Democrats, I expect, would be less approving, but still strongly approving in the case of Obama, but that there would be a particularly significant drop off in approval by Democrats of such crimes if committed by any of the Republicans. 

What pollster would be willing to test these assumptions?

Of course, in reality there is such a thing as being too late.  Opposing abuses when Bush is president, but limiting the opposition at the behest of the Democratic Party, was followed by support for Obama's protection of and continuation and expansion of the crimes.  Now shady Bush policies have become open "legal" practice.  It is too late to take them back from the next Republican president, or any president, without fundamental change to our government.  If we continue down the current path, eventually the partisanship will retreat on this issue and supporters of presidential murder will tend to support it by any president and to imagine that no alternative to that exists.

ICE Director Confronted on Intimidation of Nonviolent Citizen Activism

John Morton, Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, spoke on Monday at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.  Here's the University's report.  Here's the local newspaper's. Both report only on what Morton said, without mentioning what he was asked about by members of the audience following his opening remarks. 

He could have been asked about record breaking deportations and the recklessness that has deported U.S. citizens.  Perhaps he was. I wasn't there.  But Erin Rose, who was there, sent this report:

"Last night I got up the nerve to go confront the director of ICE, John Morton, where he was giving a lecture on the duties and achievements of ICE at the University of Virginia Law School. I went with Nancy, who is a very gutsy woman and really inspires me. We listened while the director spent one hour explaining what his department does. Besides undocumented people, they also deal with child abusers. (I didn't understand that connection.) He told us that since the beginning of his tenure the death rate among ICE prisoners has gone down from dozens a year to less than 10 a year.  (Were we supposed to clap?)  He also said that incarceration has gone up 50% since he got there. They contract with private corporations and the taxpayer pays the bill. He also said the system needs to be entirely redone, revamped. He gave absolutely no indication what would be necessary or even why....

"... When it was time for questions, Nancy stood up and introduced herself as not a lawyer or a child molester, but just a common citizen who would like to know why ICE considers American citizens who are just disagreeing with their government in a open, planned, peaceful, democratic demonstration, their purview? She referred to our protest against Citizens United [held on January 20th in Charlottesville] and told him that many organizers across the country had been intercepted before the event and monitored during the event by special agents of ICE. He answered that he had no knowledge of it, immediately dismissed it, and went on to the next question.

"So I raised my hand, stood up and told him that I was one of those organizers and that I know of many others -- dozens -- who were contacted and questioned. I asked him how he doesn't know the functions of his own department? When he continued to deny any knowledge of this, I turned to the gentile and learned audience and told them that even though he is not telling them, they should know that this department, which was ostensibly set up to deal with immigration control of foreigners, is now concerning itself with local American citizens that dare to disagree with their government. And that even more disturbing, they are not admitting to this. I stressed that this concerns them and this is what they need to know from this lecture. I then walked out. I was chased by a strange man who caught me just as I left the building, wanting to know what organization I was from. When I asked him what he was doing there, he was vague. Again, he pressed me for information but I blew him off and left quickly. Nancy, who stayed til the end, later told me that she was also approached by this man, who seemed to want to learn as much as he could about us. I went home feeling sick to my stomach and quite depressed. I had expected an explanation in answer to my question, certainly a justification- but not a complete denial. How do you explain this?"

Now, I was the speaker at the January 20th event, and I never heard anything from ICE -- and that always seems to be the case and always leaves me very skeptical.  So I asked Erin for more information, and she sent me this email that she had received:

Ryan, Edward A <aryan@ice.dhs.gov> wrote:
From: Ryan, Edward A <aryan@ice.dhs.gov>
Subject: January 20, 2012 - Occupy the Courts
To: [Erin and 13 other people.-DS]
Date: Monday, January 23, 2012, 5:32 AM

    To all,

    You were previously identified as an Organizer or part of the planning process for the January 20, 2012, “Occupy the Courts” movement. Federal Protective Service representatives reached out to you before hand to attempt to assist in your planning of the event and facilitate any permitting required and coordinate and provide information regarding any additional entities you might have had to contact.

    As this event is now over, we are always trying to improve in our outreach program. I am asking that by the close of business, January 25, 2012, you provide me with any feedback you can as well as answer the few questions posed below.

    Question 1:

    Were you satisfied in the information that was provided to you during the initial contact by Federal Protective Service representatives?

    Question 2:

    Was the Federal Protective Service able to assist you in your planning process?

    Question 3:

    On the day of your event, were the Federal Protective Service Officers courteous, respectful and helpful?

    Question 4:

    In your opinion, is there anything we could have done better?

    I thank you for your time and the Federal Protective Service looks forward to working with you again.

    Ed Ryan
    Special Agent
    U.S. Department of Homeland Security
    Federal Protective Service
    (215) 521-2146  Office
    (215) 521-2169  Fax
    edryan@dhs.gov

The event in question was held, as planned and publicly announced, on a street corner in front of a federal court house.  The same location has been used for a peace rally every Thursday afternoon for many years without incident or interference.  During the event, four uniformed "officers" of some sort were visible inside the glass front of the building, watching us.  To my knowledge, they never emerged, and we never entered.  Whether they had any colleagues there without uniforms I couldn't say for sure.

Erin has expressed her concern thus:

"If the stated mission of ICE is to 'uphold public safety by enforcing immigration and customs laws,'  what does ICE  have to do with us, a group of legal American citizens peacefully assembling in our home town? Doesn't that seem weird? I mean, I realize ICE is under the umbrella of Homeland Security -- although I think even the overlap between these two is strange.  However, if these two departments have something in common, it is that they were both set up to deal with foreign and covert threats.  Homeland Security was ostensibly set up to counteract terrorism. Terrorists do not announce their protests by posting flyers all over town. Terrorists do not wave colorful signs to get attention. Just how are two government departments, which were supposedly set up to deal with foreign, covert threats, now concerning themselves with we, the people?"

These seemed like reasonable questions, so I phoned up Ed Ryan to ask him.  I left a voice message at 11:50 a.m. on Wednesday.  I'm still waiting for his helpful call. 

The event in Charlottesville was one of dozens all over the country on January 20th organized by MovetoAmend.org, and reports from elsewhere are that the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Marshalls were very eager to "facilitate" rallies planned in front of court houses.  Concerns about this that have been communicated to me include that it helps to habituate us to accepting official and authoritarian intrusion, inspection, and approval of our decisions to exercise our First Amendment rights, and that it intimidates some people who then choose not to take part in public events at all.  I've seen both of those reactions first-hand.

We're spending $75 billion a year above and beyond the wars and above and beyond the "Defense Department" in order to establish a department focused on "the Homeland," since the "Defense Department" is obviously defending something else entirely.  The result has not just been grotesque profiteering, guarding cows, arming police for war, harassing minorities, and so forth.  It has also been employing people like Ed Ryan to make sure that my friends know Big Brother is watching them when they dare to hold up a poster proclaiming the rights of people over those of corporations. 

Does this seem like good money spent to you?  What if the Homeland really was insecure?  I'm still waiting for the relevant bureaucracy to return my call.

The Election We Should Be Following

For progressives and populists around the country who take an interest in Congressional races there are always a few good challengers we might hope to send to Washington.  Incumbents, we assume, can take care of themselves. 

But in Northern Ohio, redistricting has thrown two incumbents into one district.  It's a heavily Democratic district created purposely to guarantee a number of other districts to Republicans.  The incumbents are both Democrats, both white, both 65, and many imagine that they do similar work in Washington.  In fact, they could not be more different.  One of them does tremendous good for our national politics, working to move our government in a better direction from inside it, just as the rest of us do from the outside.  We cannot afford to lose him.  We would be obliged to work for his reelection even if his opponent were far above average.  The record suggests something else.

A useful example to highlight the contrast between Congressman Dennis Kucinich and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur is found in the funding of wars.  Between 2001 and 2009, Congresswoman Kaptur voted for $545 billion in war funding, voting Yes over and over again for Bush's wars.  Congressman Dennis Kucinich voted for a total of $17 billion. (See the chart below.) 

In the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, Kucinich's was the clearest voice against it.  He circulated evidence of war lies to his colleagues.  He organized many of them to vote No with him.  Kaptur, too, voted No on the authorization.

But once the war had started, many Congress members, including Kaptur, turned around and voted to fund its continuation and escalation, year after year, even as the public turned more and more strongly against the war.  While Kucinich was working to impeach Bush and Cheney, Kaptur was voting to fund their wars.  While Kucinich was advancing resolutions to shift the debate toward ending wars and preventing new ones, Kaptur was claiming wars made us safer and reciting "support the troops" rhetoric, as though what veterans need most is the creation of more injured veterans. 

This distinction matters more than ever as the prospect of a war on Iran looms larger.  Kaptur wants NASA and the Pentagon to work together more closely, while Kucinich opposes the militarization of space.  Kaptur seems to believe the military industrial complex is a beneficial jobs program, whereas Kucinich seems to believe it is what Eisenhower said it would be.

Congresswoman Kaptur has been spending a lot of money on television ads in hopes of defeating Kucinich in the upcoming primary.  Where does her money come from?  Well, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets.org), in the current election cycle, she gets 77% of her money from PACs, and 5% from small individual contributors.  Kucinich, in contrast, gets 5% from PACs, and 68% from small individual contributors.  Kucinich does not get money from war contractors.  Kaptur is a different story.  Thus far, in the current election cycle, her fourth biggest "contributor" is a little operation known as General Dynamics.  Her third biggest is Teledyne Technologies.  Tied for seventh place are American Systems Corp and Northrop Grumman.  Tied at 16th are Boeing and Lockheed Martin.  Most of these corporations have been among Kaptur's regular funders in past campaigns as well.  They are also among the leading violators of U.S. laws. 

According to the Federal Contractor Misconduct Database (ContractorMisconduct.org), these are the worst four offenders from any industry:

Contractor                           Federal Contract $       Instances of Misconduct        Misconduct $
                                                     (FY2010)                          (Since 1995)                        (Since 1995)

1. Lockheed Martin                      $34367.4m                           57                                       $590.1m

2. Boeing Company                     $19366.6m                            43                                       $1600.5m

3. Northrop Grumman                   $15522.7m                          35                                       $850.7m

4. General Dynamics                  $14908.8m                             13                                        $78.5m

Among the types of misconduct engaged in by these four leaders, as detailed at the above database, are the following: contract fraud, kickbacks, defective pricing, unlicensed exports, emissions violations, groundwater cleanup violations, inflated costs, providing of bribes and sexual favors, nuclear safety violations, nuclear waste storage violations, federal election law violations, radiation exposure, illegal transfer of information to China, violations of the National Labor Relations Act, embezzlement, racial discrimination and retaliation, age discrimination and retaliation, unauthorized weapons sales to foreign nations, retaliation against whistleblowers.  And that's just Lockheed.  In fact, that's just a small sampling of just Lockheed.  Why take money from these companies?

According to the National Priorities Project (CostOfWar.com) Kaptur's Ninth District of Ohio (prior to redistricting) has shelled out over $3.1 billion for wars since 2001.  That expense has been with Kaptur's full cooperation.  And that is an expense measured purely in dollars taken from tax payers to pay for wars.  It does not include further costs for veterans' care, for interest on war debt, for increased fuel prices, or for lost opportunities.  Nor does it include the cost already extracted of several times the $3.1 billion for a base annual military budget that has roughly doubled this decade and done so on the basis of the wars. 

According to a report titled "The U.S. Employment Effects of Military And Domestic Spending Priorities: An Updated Analysis," (PDF) by Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, (October 2009), spending the same dollars on the military (without specifying war spending which would likely make the contrast even greater) produces many fewer jobs than if spent in other industries.  If Ohio's Ninth District's $3.1 billion had been spent on tax cuts for working people, instead of on the military, the people of the Ninth District could have seen a net gain of 9,920 jobs.  That's considering the full impact of jobs lost, directly created, and indirectly created.  Military spending, purely in terms of job creation, is worse than nothing.  Tax cuts -- not for Mitt Romney but for the rest of us -- does more good.

But the same study also shows a better path.  If the $3.1 billion had been taken away from the military and spent instead on clean energy, we would have seen a net gain of 17,050 jobs.  If instead the investment had gone to healthcare, the net gain would have been 24,000 jobs.  And if the choice had been to fund education, the gain in jobs would have been 54,250.  Could Ohio's Ninth District use 54,250 jobs?  Not many people would choose to chase those jobs away in order to support wars based on lies, wars that endanger us, wars that devastate the natural environment, wars that erode our civil liberties, wars that carry a heavy human cost -- not just an economic one.  Not many people, but one of them is Marcy Kaptur.

If you visit Kaptur's campaign website at MarcyKaptur.com, only one specific issue is immediately visible, front and center: celebration of a World War II memorial.  At Kucinich.us there is also only a single issue immediately visible: a petition urging the Congressman's colleagues to stop funding the war in Afghanistan.  In the "Agenda" section of Kaptur's site there is no acknowledgement that war or peace is an issue to be considered at all.  In the "Issues" section of Kucinich's site, there is a section on war and peace that addresses a number of specific wars.

There is also, on the Kucinich site, a lot more detail than on Kaptur's about numerous other issues.  The example of wars and war funding is fairly typical.  In rough terms, Kucinich tends to back peace, justice, and the will of the public, while Kaptur tends to back the very same things when and if the leadership of the Democratic Party happens to do so.  Back on February 25, 2010, she voted to extend the PATRIOT Act without reforms of its abusive procedures.  Kucinich voted No.  Back on October 23, 2007, Kucinich had also voted No on the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act, while Kaptur voted Yes.  On December 8, 2010, she voted against the DREAM Act, while Kucinich and a majority of the House and of the Democrats voted for it.  Any elected official will let us down sometimes, but Kaptur is just no Kucinich. 

Many organizations agree. VoteSmart.org lists the rankings of various groups.  Planned Parenthood gives Kucinich a score of 100%, Kaptur 71%.  The ACLU scores Kucinich 94%, Kaptur 75%.  Also favoring Kucinich in their rankings are the Arab American Institute, the Human Rights Campaign, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the League of Conservation Voters, Peace Action, the AFL-CIO, the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, etc.  I'm not being selective here.  There don't seem to be any progressive analysts scoring Kaptur over Kucinich on anything.  Progressives like Alan Grayson and Barney Frank are urging us to support Kucinich over Kaptur.

How independent and principled a member of Congress is has a direct, and sometimes devastating, impact on their district and the nation and the world.  Kaptur believes a nuclear power plant at the edge of Lake Erie with a bad history of safety violations should be allowed to continue to operate, while Kucinich has asked for it to be repaired or decommissioned.  Only one of these two representatives is putting the safety of the public first. 

I believe people who care about the future of the United States, from Ohio's new Ninth District or anywhere else, should be following and supporting Kucinich's campaign.  If he loses, we lose.  We may not always agree with him.  He may not always be able to win over a majority of his colleagues.  He may sometimes let us down.  But were he not there, votes that helped end the Iraq war would have never been held.  Debates that have helped curtail further war making would simply not have happened.  Articles of impeachment for Bush and Cheney would never have been introduced.  Countless witnesses before House committees would have gotten off without ever facing the important questions.  Many people pushing for single-payer healthcare in their states would have never heard of it.  Our televisions would be better able than they are now to pretend that majority positions on major issues do not exist, because there would not be that one man in the government willing to raise the issue and publicly lobby his colleagues to join him.

We're such defeatists these days, that we either condemn Kucinich's compromises, forgetting that Kaptur outdoes him in that regard 100-fold, or we imagine that because he's so much better he must be doomed to lose.  On the contrary, Kucinich has a long history of winning congressional elections, both primaries and general.  While the redesigned district includes a larger population from Kaptur's former district than from Kucinich's, it includes more Democrats from Kucinich's than from Kaptur's.  Kucinich inspires his supporters, and in primaries it is the relative turnout of tiny percentages of people that decides. 

Who is in Congress or the White House is going to be of far less importance than who is in the streets and what kind of people's movement is developed to nonviolently resist injustice and war.  But without a single voice inside Congress willing to speak up in the ways Kucinich has, the people's movement will suffer.  There's no lesser-evilism required here.  Kucinich is actually a good representative.  There's no partisanship required here.  Love a party or hate them all; regardless, we should reward those who have listened to our demands.  Or why would anyone listen again?

##

The table below shows enacted appropriations, adapted from "The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11" by Amy Belasco, Congressional Research Service, March 29, 2011, (PDF).  Votes are on final passage of the conference report unless there was no recorded vote.  In that case, the indicated vote is on initial House passage.

Name of Law

Public Law No.

Date Enacted

DOD Funds ($bln)

Kucinich Voted

Kaptur Voted

FY01 Emerg. Supp. Approp. Act for Recovery from and Response to Terrorist Attacks on the US

P.L. 107-38

9/18/01

13.6

Yes

Yes

FY02 Dept. Of Defense and Emergency Terrorism Response Act

P.L. 107-117

1/10/02

3.4

Yes

Yes

FY02 Emergency Supplemental

P.L. 107-206

8/2/02

13.8

No

Yes

FY03 Consolidated Appropriations

P.L. 108-7

2/20/03

10.0

No

Yes

FY03 Emergency Supplemental

P.L. 108-11

4/16/03

62.6

No

Yes

FY03 DOD Appropriationsa

P.L. 107-248

10/23/02

7.1

No

Yes

FY04 DOD Appropriations Act (rescission of FY03 funds)

P.L. 108-87

9/30/03

-3.5

No

Yes

FY04 Emergency Supplemental

P.L. 108-106

11/6/03

64.9

No

No

FY05 DOD Approps Act, Titles IX & Xb

P.L. 108-287

8/5/04

25.0

No

Yes

FY05 DOD Appropriations Actc

P.L. 108-287

8/5/04

2.1

No

Yes

FY05 Supplemental Appropriations

P.L. 109-13

5/11/05

75.9

No

Yes

FY06 DOD Approps. Act, Title IX

P.L. 109-148

12/30/05

50.0

No

Yes

FY06 DOD Appropriations Actc

P.L. 109-148

12/30/05

0.8

No

Yes

FY06 Emergency Supplemental

P.L. 109-234

6/15/06

66.0

No

Yes

FY07 DOD Appropriations Act

P.L. 109-289

9/29/06

70.5

No

Yes

FY07 Supplemental, Amendment #2 (Did not include Withdrawal Deadlines from Iraq)d

P.L. 110-28

5/25/07

94.5

No

No

FY08 Continuing Resolution

P.L. 110-92

9/29/07

5.2

No

Yes

FY08 DOD Appropriations Act

P.L. 110-116

11/13/07

11.6

No

Yes

FY08 Consolidated Approps. Act

P.L. 110-161

3/11/04

70.0

Not voting

No

FY08 Supplemental, FY09 Bridge Approps. Act (Roll call #431)d, e

P.L. 110-252

6/30/08

157.9

No

No

FY09 Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act

P.L. 110-329

9/30/08

2.5

No

Yes

FY09 Supplemental Approps. Act

P.L. 111-32

6/24/09

80.0

No

No

FY10 Consolidated Appropriations Act

P.L. 111-117

12/16/09

1.4

No

Yes

FY10 DOD Approps. Act, Title IX

P.L. 111-118

12/19/09

127.3

No

Yes

FY10 Supplemental

P.L. 111-212

7/27/10

30.8

No

No

FY11 DOD and Year-Long Continuing Resolutionf

P.L. 112-10

4/15/11

159.1

No

No

TOTAL WAR FUNDING VOTED FOR

 

 

 

$17 billion

$545.3 billion

a.      FY03 Appropriations Act included $7.1 billion in regular FY03 defense appropriations for GWOT thatDOD cannot track; the FY04 DOD Appropriations Act rescinded $3.5 billion in FY03 war monies.

b.      Title IX funds in FY05 do not include a $1.8 billion scoring adjustment that reverses the previousrescission of FY04 funds because this did not change wartime monies.

c.      Reflects funds obligated for Operation Noble Eagle from DOD’s regular appropriations as reported by the Defense Finance Accounting Service.

d.     The House took separate votes on different sections of the bill, which were then combined when sent to the Senate.

e.      The FY08 Supplemental included funds for both FY08 and bridge funds for FY09.

f.       This bill was the final DOD Appropriations Act and the final version of the CR.  It was preceded by seven other CRs.

The Betrayal of the Nobel Peace Prize

Alfred Nobel's will, written in 1895, left funding for a prize to be awarded 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."  

27 of 35 Bush Articles of Impeachment Apply to Obama

When Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced 35 articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush on June 9, 2008, the 35 had been selected from drafts of nearly twice that many articles. 

President Obama has accumulated his own massive list of high crimes and misdemeanors that were unavailable for Bush's list (thing's like openly murdering U.S. citizens, launching massive drone wars, selectively and abusively prosecuting numerous whistleblowers as spies, holding Bradley Manning naked in isolation, attacking Libya without so much as bothering to lie to Congress, etc.).

Nonetheless, it is instructive to review the 35 Bush articles in the Obama age.  It quickly becomes apparent that Obama has either exactly duplicated or closely paralleled most of the 35.  Here's what I mean:

Article XXVI
Announcing the Intent to Violate Laws with Signing Statements.

Click the link to read the article introduced against Bush.  Obama campaigned against this abuse and has routinely engaged in it as president.  Worse, he has established the policy of silently relying on previous Bush or Obama signing statements rather than restating his intention to violate laws each time such intention is relevant to a bill he is signing.

Article XXII
Creating Secret Laws.

Obama similarly uses Department of Justice arguments to reverse the commonly understood meaning of laws (bombing Libya is neither war nor hostilities, for example).  And he similarly uses arguments that are kept away from public sight.  While the United Nations, foreign nations, and human rights groups have questioned the legality of drone strikes, Obama has not provided his legal defense or even felt obliged to make any assertion as to which victims were intended and which were "collateral damage."  This week the ACLU sued for release of such information.  In addition, Obama announced in 2009 that he would review all of Bush's signing statements and decide which ones to keep as law and which to discard, but the public has never been told the outcome of that review.

Article XVII
Illegal Detention: Detaining Indefinitely And Without Charge Persons Both U.S. Citizens and Foreign Captives.

Obama did this from day one, proclaimed it in front of the Constitution in the National Archives, formalized it in an executive order, signed it into law this past New Year's Eve, and expanded the practice at Bagram.

Article XXIII
Violation of the Posse Comitatus Act.

Obama has continued each abuse detailed here and added to them, including through his use of the military to keep journalists away from the BP oil disaster and in an effort to break a strike at the ports of the Pacific Northwest.

Article XIX
Rendition: Kidnapping People and Taking Them Against Their Will to "Black Sites" Located in Other Nations, Including Nations Known to Practice Torture.

Obama has publicly claimed the power to continue this practice, in fact continued this practice, maintained black sites despite announcing an end to them, and worked to coverup and protect related crimes by his predecessor.

Article XX
Imprisoning Children.

Obama has continued this practice and added to it the murdering of children, refusing to say that Abdel-Rahman Anwar al-Awlaki was not intentionally targeted or that he, Obama, does not have the legal power to murder U.S. children.  Non-U.S. children continue to die in significant numbers from drone strikes and by other means (including intentional targeting from helicopter) as part of Obama's escalated war on Afghanistan.

Article XVIII
Torture: Secretly Authorizing, and Encouraging the Use of Torture Against Captives in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Other Places, as a Matter of Official Policy.

Obama has claimed the power to torture, worked to coverup and protect related crimes by his predecessor, and continued to allow torture.  He has also pressured other nations, including Spain, to drop prosecutorial investigations of U.S. crimes of torture.

Article XXIV
Spying on American Citizens, Without a Court-Ordered Warrant, in Violation of the Law and the Fourth Amendment.

Obama has continued these practices and worked to coverup and protect related crimes by his predecessor.

Article XXV
Directing Telecommunications Companies to Create an Illegal and Unconstitutional Database of the Private Telephone Numbers and Emails of American Citizens.

Obama has continued these practices and worked to coverup and protect related crimes by his predecessor and guilty corporations.

Article XXI
Misleading Congress and the American People About Threats from Iran, and Supporting Terrorist Organizations Within Iran, With the Goal of Overthrowing the Iranian Government.

Obama has continued these practices.  In his most recent State of the Union speech he said, "America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal.  But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible . . . if Iran changes course."  When Iran recently took down a U.S. drone, Obama simply asked that it be returned.

Article XVI
Reckless Misspending and Waste of U.S. Tax Dollars in Connection With Iraq and US Contractors.

Obama's Pentagon is no more audited or accountable, nor the routine scandals involving misplaced millions or billions of dollars less frequent.  No-bid contracts have increased.  Privatization has increased.  Secrecy has increased.  The use of Special Forces in secret non-war wars has spread to more nations.  The permanent stationing of U.S. troops has spread to more nations.  Secret agencies, including the CIA, have been given larger war-making roles.  And Obama continued the war on Iraq long beyond the date by which he had promised to end it, and continues to maintain thousands of mercenaries in Iraq, and to use drones in the skies of Iraq.  He has also worked to coverup and protect related crimes by his predecessor.

Article XV
Providing Immunity from Prosecution for Criminal Contractors in Iraq.

Obama's insistence on continuing this practice not just beyond 2008 but beyond 2011, combined with the Iraqi government's refusal to agree, resulted in Obama's decision to comply with the Bush-Maliki treaty to end the war on Iraq by this past New Year's Eve.

Article XXX
Misleading Congress and the American People in an Attempt to Destroy Medicare.

The details have to be changed to apply this article to Obama.  The changes are not in Obama's favor.  Obama met in secret with the CEOs of health insurance corporations and pursued a vision of healthcare reform that they had secretly influenced.  In so doing, he misled Congress and the American people.  He is quite open, in contrast, about his willingness to slash Medicare, as well as Medicaid.

Article XXXI
Katrina: Failure to Plan for the Predicted Disaster of Hurricane Katrina, Failure to Respond to a Civil Emergency.

The victims of Katrina have still not been compensated, nor the environmental and urban damage undone.  Instead the BP oil disaster has been added.  Obama intentionally misled the Congress and the public, downplaying the quantity of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.  He allowed a clean-up operation that was nothing of the sort.  No real clean-up or recovery is planned.  Nor have the corporations or their supposed regulators been held accountable.

Article XXXII
Misleading Congress and the American People, Systematically Undermining Efforts to Address Global Climate Change.

Obama's approach to systematically undermining efforts to address global climate change has included blocking possible global agreements at meetings in Denmark and South Africa, while promoting "clean coal," "natural gas," and "safe fracking."

Article XIV
Misprision of a Felony, Misuse and Exposure of Classified Information And Obstruction of Justice in the Matter of Valerie Plame Wilson, Clandestine Agent of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The exposing of a secret agent has not been repeated, but retribution against whistleblowers has been taken to new heights with more prosecutions under the Espionage Act than by all previous presidents combined.

Article XXXIV
Obstruction of the Investigation into the Attacks of September 11, 2001.

We're still waiting.

Now, we come to the launching of the war on Iraq:

Article I
Creating a Secret Propaganda Campaign to Manufacture a False Case for War Against Iraq.

Article II
Falsely, Systematically, and with Criminal Intent Conflating the Attacks of September 11, 2001, With Misrepresentation of Iraq as a Security Threat as Part of Fraudulent Justification for a War of Aggression.

Article III
Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction, to Manufacture a False Case for War.

Article IV
Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Posed an Imminent Threat to the United States.

Article V
Illegally Misspending Funds to Secretly Begin a War of Aggression.

Article VI
Invading Iraq in Violation of the Requirements of HJRes114.

Article VII
Invading Iraq Absent a Declaration of War.

Article VIII
Invading Iraq, A Sovereign Nation, in Violation of the UN Charter.

Article XII
Initiating a War Against Iraq for Control of That Nation's Natural Resources.

Article XIIII
Creating a Secret Task Force to Develop Energy and Military Policies With Respect to Iraq and Other Countries.

It was too late for Obama to exactly duplicate these offenses, as the war against Iraq was already underway.  But President Obama has embraced the lies that launched that war.  He claimed in 2010 that the war on Iraq had been launched in order to disarm that nation.  In the news around the world on the day of Obama's most recent State of the Union speech was the anger among Iraqis at the failure of the United States to hold anyone seriously accountable for the 2005 massacre in Haditha.  The story was a useful reminder of how the operations of the U.S. military over the past decade have fueled hostility toward our nation.  President Obama began his speech by claiming the opposite, asserting that the war on Iraq has made us safer and "more respected around the world."  Obama has repeatedly used such rhetoric to pivot to promotion of his escalated war in Afghanistan or other military operations.  Similarly, President Obama misled the nation about the purpose and nature of a war on Libya that has left Libya, like Iraq, in worse shape, and which has left Constitutional war powers in tatters, as the Congress declared itself opposed to the war and the war continued.  Meanwhile misleading propaganda about Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other nations continues to emerge from the Obama administration.  The Director of National Intelligence has just claimed that Iran is a threat to the United States.  While the Iraq War may have "ended," the Authorization for the Use of Military Force has been kept in place allowing Obama to use it as a legal argument for other military operations and abuses of civil rights.  Also emerging with ever greater frankness from the Obama White House and Pentagon, including from the President, is the claim of presidential prerogative to launch military attacks on sovereign nations, involving deaths to both militants and civilians, without any consideration of Congress, the Constitution, the War Powers Resolution, the United Nations or its Charter, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, or any other law. 

There is no quantitative way to measure whether Obama's additions to the presidential powers accumulated by Bush and Bush's predecessors equals or exceeds those added by Bush.  But measured against the pre-Bush baseline, or against the written rule of law, Obama's power abuses far outstrip Bush's, while in the category of immediate death count Bush retains a significant lead.

Would Romney or Gingrich be even worse?  That's quite likely.  If we continue to self-censor on these matters, Obama Part II will also be significantly worse.  A popular movement against these abuses could make any White House occupant better than the current one, even if it's the same individual.  Remember what Howard Zinn taught: It's not who is sitting in the White House; it's who is doing the sit-ins.

A Crazy Republican Attack That Obama Himself Agrees With

Imagine if a bunch of the craziest war-hungry Republicans in the House filmed themselves in a nutty bat-guano video packed with lies addressed to the President of the United States.  And then imagine President Barack Obama almost immediately agreeing with them.  I can think of two ways in which such a series of events could go unnoticed, as it just has

First, it could be about something insignificant. But this was about undoing the automatic cuts to the military mandated by the failure of the Supercommittee (remember, the top news story of a few months back?).  The military, across various departments, swallows over half of federal discretionary spending, and there's no greater obsession in the corporate media than the great Spending vs. Cuts issue.  This is NOT insignificant.

Second, it could be about something that the elites of both major parties agree on, the media therefore ignores, most Republican voters love, and Democratic voters pretend not to notice because the President is a Democrat and an election is less than a year away.

If you're guessing the second option, you are right. (Tell them what they've won, Leon!)  You are now the proud owners of the most expensive military ever seen, plus coming increases that will be presented as "cuts."

When the Supercommittee failed, automatic federal budget cuts were to kick in -- half to things we need and half to the bloated military.  The military cuts would take us back to 2004 spending.  We seem to have survived 2004 and the years preceding it OK.

The Pentagon claims to be making other cuts already, but they are "cuts" to dream budgets resulting in actual budget increases -- and that's not even counting increased war spending through other departments.

House Republicans have sent President Obama this crazy video opposing military cuts and introduced legislation to slash 10% of non-military government jobs instead. In the Senate, John McCain is said to be working on a similar bill.

Meanwhile "Defense" Secretary Leon Panetta has just announced the Obama Administration's position: They will oppose the automatic cuts, or any other actual cuts, to the military. This will mean severe cuts to education, transportation, and -- as President Obama indicated in his State of the Union speech -- to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

At last Thursday's press conference the first question following Panetta's remarks was:

"Mr. Secretary, you talked a little bit on this, but over the next 10 years, do you see any other year than this year where the actual spending will go down from year to year? And just to the American public more broadly, how do you sort of explain what appears to be contradictory, as you talk about, repeatedly, this $500 billion in cuts in a Defense Department budget that is actually going to be increasing over time?"

Panetta had no substantive answer.  And he didn't need one.  The media almost unanimously put out the false story that the military was undergoing serious cuts.  That first year's cut, by the way, is 1%, to be followed by nine years of larger increases. 

You might have forgotten that in 2008, three times in three presidential debates, Senator John McCain proposed cutting the military, while Senator Obama campaigned on increasing it -- one promise he has actually kept. 

Lately supporters have been saying that the President will become the Obama of our Dreams once he's a lame duck.  But the history and the logic of lame duck officials is that they become less, not more, representative of the public will.  And the public will is strongly in favor of major cuts to the military.

Others may be inclined to suggest that while Obama and Panetta are increasing the military and calling it "cuts," they are actually cutting the budget for wars.  Some may have been misled by this line in the State of the Union: "Take the money we're no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home."

But in reality, Obama and Panetta are proposing to cut the war budget by only $27 billion.  Meanwhile, the $27 billion has already been spent elsewhere in the Pentagon budget.  Plus military spending is on the rise in other departments.  Plus any new wars and confrontations -- like in Iran or Syria -- will offer the opportunity for supplemental bills.  And less expensive but more secretive and equally deadly wars are underway, investment will increase in drones and special forces, and I have doubts we could rebuild our nation here at home for $13.5 billion even if we had it, while continuing to dump over $1 trillion into preparations for the crime of war year after year.

We do have the option to resist.

##

David Swanson is a campaigner for RootsAction.org and author of "War Is A Lie."

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