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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.
And we're never giving it back. Our permit for Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., expired, we refused to leave, and the Park Police has just proposed to let us stay for four more months.
We've agreed. We have not said that when the four months are over and the American Spring is here we will leave.
In fact, we intend to make it possible for anyone to visit D.C. with free accommodations. Just bring a sleeping bag and agree to work with us to pressure Congress, the White House, K Street, the Pentagon, and all the lobbyists and profiteers for peace and justice. We have free food, we have free drink, we have free trainings and seminars, we have tents, we have peace keepers, we have a big victory under out belts, and we welcome all peace makers for they shall inherit Freedom Plaza. We own it. It is ours. It shall remain ours world without end.
The Taste of DC food festival just gave us all their remaining food. Or at least all the individual booths did. Ben and Jerry's just endorsed us. Busboys and Poets just fed us. Businesses that support us will be honored and supported by 99 percent of this country.
So, here's the plan: Bring us your reports from around the country at your local Occupations. Fill us in here in the Empire's Capital. We will fill you in too. We will train and inspire and connect you with the rest of this global movement. Then go back home energized. Come down from New York and go back up. We need to coordinate on a personal level.
Our brothers and sisters in McPherson Square have a growing occupation too. Join them. Join us. We're family. We disrupted the work of the NSA today, and the Association of the Army's convention at which our women had generals crawling under tanks to avoid cameras. We shut down a celebration of Christopher Columbus as well.
And Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. sharp in Our Freedom Plaza we will set off to "welcome" Congress back to town. Join us. We are legion.
The one thing that we need now is money, and you can contribute it at http://october2011.org
Or you can wait for the bankster war machine to confiscate your money, eat your retirement, swallow your healthcare, foreclose on your home, and tax you into debt to pay for plutocrats' profiteering.
It's up to you.
It's up to us.
Sunday night, our permit expired for occupying Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. So, we threw a dance party, and when we could dance no more, we went to sleep in Freedom Plaza.
We have until 2 p.m. today to remove our possessions. We do not intend to do so. We suspect that if the police want to remove us by force they will wait until evening. So we're throwing a dinner party, and 99% of the country is invited.
Our permit is now the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
NO DRONES - END AFGHAN WAR
Pepper-Sprayed for Peace
By David Swanson
I've been coughing and vomiting, and my head aches from pepper spray. I'll post videos and photos of why at the link above.
We intended to hold signs and sing inside the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, protesting its promotion of unmanned drones, missiles, and bombs, including its sponsorship by and promotion of weapons corporations. We don't have any museums promoting health coverage or education or retirement security.
We had marched from the Freedom Plaza and McPherson Square occupations, taking over the streets of DC. The museum knew we were coming. Some of our group got in and dropped a banner. Hundreds of us did not. Instead, we were greeted at the door with cans of pepper spray.
There were three sets of entrance doors. I was among the first to open the third set of doors. A guard shook a can of pepper spray in front of me and demanded that we back out. But a dozen feet away at the second set of doors, people were staggering out and collapsing in pain, having been pepper sprayed in the face. I started to go toward them, but began coughing and vomiting. A lot of people were effected, directly or -- like me -- indirectly by the pepper spray.
It is not true that we assaulted the police. Nobody was accused of or charged with that. I didn't hear about it until later from the media. A young woman named Thi Le was told she'd be charged with assaulting a police officer after she was pepper sprayed and handcuffed, but they switched the charge to disorderly conduct and released her a few hours later.
It is not true that they only pepper sprayed one person. Many people were pepper sprayed.
It is not true that the crowd dispersed. The guards locked the doors and closed the museum. We had not planned to close the museum but to demonstrate and leave. With the museum closed and one of our own in custody, we held a rally on the steps as more people made their way over from Freedom Plaza to join us. We were there for hours.
We will be here for as long as it takes.
Congress comes back to this town on Tuesday.
We're not scared.
We're not discouraged.
We're not fooled.
We've got demands as clear as a blue sky:
Occupy Wall Street
Occupy K Street
And Never Give it Back!
Veterans For Peace issues the following statement from Freedom Plaza, Washington D.C., 6pm Saturday October 8.
Approximately 50 members of Veterans For Peace participated in a march this afternoon from Freedom Plaza to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on the National Mall. The museum was featuring an exhibit on unmanned drone bombers that a group of about 250 people from the October2011.org encampment at Freedom Plaza intended to protest.
The marchers ascended the museum steps, chanting, “When drones fly, children die.”
They opened the doors at one of the three entrances, and when that entryway became full, they went to the second and third entrances.
VFP Acting Director Mike Ferner said, “I was at the first entranceway, holding the door open for people to enter. I saw a police or security officer in a white shirt hold his hands up, telling people to stop. The marchers continued and the officer began pepper-spraying everyone. From everything I saw until that moment, there was no reason for the pepper-spraying. The door of the museum clearly said “free admission.” It did not say “Free admission if you are quiet” or “Free admission unless you have opinions contrary to government policy.’
“This was a clear abuse of authority and a use of force far beyond what was called for. Our members are consulting with National Lawyers Guild attorneys who are working with the october2011.org encampment.”
“We are aware that one of the marchers shoved aside one of the officers. We do not condone this behavior.”
Veterans For Peace is one of several groups organizing the October2011.org encampment. VFP is an organization composed of U.S. military veterans from WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq wars and every period in between.
Another blog on this is here.
And here's a report from an American Spectator reporter who infiltrated our movement in order to mock it and then got pepper sprayed by museum guards.
Friday was a good day for waking up in Freedom Plaza and for occupying the headquarters of the drone manufacturers. Fast forward to minute 44 on this video http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/17729809 Their intelligence about which way we were coming from was no better at keeping us out of their building than the CIA's intelligence is at making sure the "right" people are murdered with the drones.
Friday was a good day for marching to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial and talking about his opposition to militarism, racism, and consumerism.
And finally Friday night, the people of Freedom Plaza hesitantly found their democratic voice. Nobody despises touchy-feely process discussions more than I do. I prefer majority rule to pseudo-consensus any day, and I only wiggle my fingers when the air gets below zero and I need to keep them warm. But after enough process had been processed, our crowd began to hold informative discussions and make informed decisions.
What helped a lot was the requirement that the microphone be turned off late at night and our adaptation of OccupyWallStreet's human microphone, in which statements are repeated by the crowd. Only very rarely did anyone need statements repeated in order to hear them, but the repeating of them cut down on side conversations and kept speakers to concise statements.
We decided on activities for Saturday through a process that allowed people to feel ownership over their occupation of Washington, D.C. We'll be headed over to the National Mall in the afternoon, but starting at 11 a.m. we'll be reaching out to tens of thousands of visitors to a street festival called The Taste of D.C. Here's the content of flyers we'll be using, prepared ahead of time by Catarina Correia and others:
A Taste of DemoCracy
Are you craving a little peace with your pinot?
Some justice with that jasmine tea?
Then come by FREEDOM PLAZA, just a few steps from where you are, for ORGANIC and SUSTAINABLE solutions to the problems we face.
Join us in demanding that the PEOPLE get a seat at the table.
Nothing tastes sweeter than democracy in action.
"A newcomer to the DC market, A New World serves authentic American fare with a twist.
You won't be disappointed."—Jane Doe
"It was so good, I didn't want to leave."—John Doe
Sample menu on reverse side
A NEW WORLD
A fresh dining experience where no one is turned away and all items are available 24 hours a day, every day
ORGANIC FREE-RANGE ELECTIONS
Served with a paper trail, instant run-off voting and garnished with public financing
SAUTEED SINGLE-PAYER HEALTHCARE
A heaping portion of healthcare served free of charge, accompanied by mental, dental, and vision benefits and drizzled with free prescription drugs
Fresh-picked world peace, sustainably grown, accompanied by a weapons reduction and war-crime accountability
JUNIPER BERRY JOBS
Perfectly seasoned jobs package served with paid leave, worker rights and safe and dignified working conditions
Marinated for centuries in democratic principles and prepared without lobbyists
POMEGRANATE PUBLIC EDUCATION
Sprinkled with well-paid teachers and completely NCLB-free
PUBLIC MEDIA TORTE
Layered with facts and served with our famous "truth" sauce
Afghanistan has been engaged with more than 30 years of war with thousands of civilians killed or injured since 2001.
It is under these conditions that children are at extreme risk of violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect.
The children of Afghanistan are growing up in one of the least developed countries in the world. Six percent of babies die at birth and 25 percent before their 5th birthday. Conflict and political violence force millions of children and their families to flee their homes and as a result displaced families spend years in situations of uncertainty and insecurity.
Girls face multiple gender discrimination from the earliest stages of their life and throughout childhood. 70 percent of school-age girls do not attend school. Ninety-four percent of births are not registered.
A child's basic right to life and development is seriously compromised for the children growing up amid the conflict in Afghanistan.
Hundreds of children continue to die as a result of attacks and air strikes by insurgent groups, international military and armed forces and the Afghan National Army (ANA). During 2009, the UN confirmed that a total of 346 children were killed, of which 131 were killed as a result of air strikes and 22 in night raid operations by International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF).
Not only do children die, they can also be recruited and used to fight in armed forces and groups.
Children, especially boys, continue to be sexual abused by armed forces and the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict notes that little has been done to prevent and punish sexual violence.
Around 1.6 million children are left orphaned in Afghanistan mainly due to conflict, depriving these children of family life. The destroyed education infrastructure needs to be rebuilt, and, in the face of growing armed attacks to schools, demand for education needs to be bolstered.
A quarter of the world's refugees have come from Afghanistan during this or the preceding wars. Children's rights are compromised primarily by the psychological consequences of the war and violence and their health and nutritional status is a major cause of concern. Hunger, sickness, and deprivation are aggravated, as well as fundamentally caused by, the violence of the war. We need to recognise the children's rights violations in Afghanistan. We need to break the silence and recognise the injustice.
The violations of children's rights documented in this report will shock and outrage most people throughout the world. There are a lot of categories of abuse and a lot of statistics here, but the story they tell is a simple one.
Afghan children are suffering terribly. Afghan children are not a side issue, not collateral damage. The majority of the people in Afghanistan are children. After the first decade of the US-NATO occupation, Afghanistan has become the very worst place on earth to give birth to or raise a child.
Hunger, sickness, and deprivation are aggravated, as well as fundamentally caused by, the violence of the war. A quarter of the world's refugees have come from Afghanistan during this or the preceding wars. Refugee children and the children of refugees have been deprived of a home. But those back home tend to be worse off.
In too many cases, they are deprived of the right to life and development by death rained down from above or kicking in doors at night. In willful or accidental ignorance of the information reported here, commentators justify this war as being fought in the name of human rights by discussing only the sorts of rights that are a top concern to people who are not being bombed or shot or struggling to find food.
Ignorance is a key issue raised by this report. Not only do too many Afghan children lack education, but we lack any knowledge of too many Afghan children.
Ninety-four percent of births are not registered. Twenty-five percent of children born die before their fifth birthday.
There is not a tree-falling-in-the-woods-unheard philosophical enigma here. These children really do exist. They just don't enjoy it very much, and it doesn't last very long.
On August 6, 2011, numerous US media outlets reported "the deadliest day of the war" because 38 soldiers, including 30 U.S. troops, had been killed when their helicopter was shot down.
But compare that with the day of May 4, 2009, discussed in this report, on which 140 people, including 93 children, were killed in U.S. airstrikes. We are denying to each other through silence and misdirection every day that the children of Afghanistan exist. But their deaths are rising.
Their access to hospitals is diminishing. And we believe we are continuing to occupy their country, launch drone strikes, perform night raids, and disappear prisoners for their own good.
What if we're wrong? What if the world outside our little cocoon, the world that recognizes the rights of children, condemns our behavior? What if the option of ceasing to occupy Afghanistan only seems unavailable because, like Afghanistan's children, we refuse to look at it?
The Children of Afghanistan: an analysis of children's rights. Report by Lisa Davis Download...
Thursday morning, thousands of people moved into Freedom Plaza, Washington, D.C., site of the 1968 Poor People's Campaign's Resurrection city.
Can a movement of the 99% of us who are living off the plutocrats' crumbs pick up the cause of social justice?
Day 1 was largely speeches and music, but energized by the sense that something new is building. We went over to the Chamber of Commerce and shut that criminal operation down for a while, and as we marched through the streets, including K Street, cars honked not in complaint at the traffic jam but in support of what we were doing.
Everyone I talk to supports what we are doing. Everyone wants our corrupt government to represent people. Everyone wants the rich taxed, the wars ended, and the money moved from militarism to human needs.
And a few more people are beginning to realize that we're all having the same problems, and that we are much more numerous than those who are profiting from our impoverishment. The Romans didn't want slaves marked as slaves, because then they might recognize their numbers. This is that kind of moment.
But we're not here just to give speeches, sing songs, or carry posters through the streets. We're here to nonviolently shut down the operation of a government that will literally ruin the world if we don't stage an intervention.
A Citizens’ Campaign for a New National Security Policy by Gareth Porter*
1. Winners and Losers in the U.S. “War on Terror”
Drones have a congressional caucus now.
Here are its bipartisan (yay!) members.
Here are some constituencies that do not have their own congressional caucuses:
The Violently Occupied
Here's what you can do about it.
Lately, the phrase "public servants" has struck me as ironic, not because government officials fail to serve the public, but because much of the public serves them. The public is the servants. Activist groups and individuals devote themselves to bettering the fortunes of political parties or politicians, at the expense of pressuring government officials to represent public demands.
Nobody favors eliminating elections, and nobody favors eliminating activism. But there are those who cannot see how prioritizing money-marinated, gerrymandered, cable-news-controlled, unverifiable elections will reverse the train wreck in progress. And there are those who cannot see what it would mean to engage in activism that wasn't aimed at promoting electoral victories.
Obama just proposed three job-killing corporate trade agreements
Here's a useful comparison:
Remarks at Take Back the Dream conference, October 3, 2011.
Back around May or June a bunch of us announced plans for this coming Thursday, October 6th, to occupy Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., not for a march or a rally, and not for a day or a weekend, but to create a central space for an ongoing occupation from which we would engage in nonviolent resistance.
We were inspired by the Arab Spring and Wisconsin and working for a U.S. Autumn. Now of course we are also inspired by the Occupation of Wall Street. It's been wonderful to see more and more people and organizations compelled to join in that action, and to see militarism and plutocracy opposed together by a movement that refuses to be dumbed down into a sound bite.
Over 150 organizations are part of the planning for Freedom Plaza at October2011.org and all are encouraged to join. Wall Street's servants on K Street, in the Pentagon, and in our government may be feeling comfortably distant from Wall Street right about now. But I don't see any reason to support protests of the wealth that corrupts our government and not protests of the government corrupted by that wealth. Choosing to be corrupted is an active choice. Corruption is not something imposed on helpless victims.
We chose October 6th because the Afghanistan War was due to begin its second decade. Over 4,000 people have taken this pledge:
"I pledge that if any U.S. troops, contractors, or mercenaries remain in Afghanistan on Thursday, October 6, 2011, as that occupation goes into its 11th year, I will commit to being in Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., with others on that day with the intention of making it our Tahrir Square, Cairo, our Madison, Wisconsin, where we will NONVIOLENTLY resist the corporate machine to demand that our resources are invested in human needs and environmental protection instead of war and exploitation. We can do this together. We will be the beginning ."
I hope you'll go and pledge the same at October2011.org
It has been three years now since a Russian ambassador to Afghanistan said the United States had repeated all of the Soviet Union's mistakes in Afghanistan and had moved on to new ones. Mistakes is a common euphemism for crimes and other words that we would be applying were ours the country violently occupied, were ours the bulk of the deaths and misery, were our doors being kicked in and our loved ones disappeared, were the missiles hitting our homes.
Every year, of course, as British Member of Parliament Rory Stewart recently pointed out, top western officials have claimed that whatever year it was would be the decisive one. And each year it has not been. This past week, the United Nations reported an increase in violence in Afghanistan of about 40 percent over last year. NATO deemed that story inappropriate and announced its own findings the very next day. It turns out that, if you believe violence isn't violence when it's committed by the United States and allies, then you can look at certain types of violence initiated purely by Afghans and identify a dramatic decrease of . . . wait for it . . . 2 percent.
But don't book that Afghan vacation just yet.
Migratory birds have been avoiding Afghanistan for some years now. Afghans with higher educations have been leaving for decades. War profiteers, and occupation profiteers, and so-called reconstruction profiteers seem to know their way out. But imperial rulers, whether British or Soviet or U.S., Nobel Peace Prize winners or otherwise, seem utterly incapable of withdrawing other people's kids from Afghan wars until no other option remains.
And why this inability to leave? Why stay? It's not to track down Osama bin Laden on the off chance he wasn't really given that proper Muslim sea burial. It's not to find the number 8 regional leader in al Qaeda, and certainly not to oppose the Taliban which feeds off the occupation. It may be for politics, but U.S. opinion polls could hardly scream "Get out!" more clearly. It is almost certainly for profits and pipelines and permanent bases. A U.S. executive, er excuse me "job creator," told NPR this summer that if the occupation of Afghanistan were scaled back he really hoped there could be a big occupation of Libya.
But there's apparently another reason why armed U.S. citizens and their foreign workers are still in Afghanistan, and it's not to keep us safe. The 2006 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, among other studies, made clear that these wars make us less safe, not more. Almost four years ago, at a conference in Washington, D.C., on al Qaeda, former State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism Daniel Benjamin listed ways to reduce the threat of terrorism. Afterwards, journalist Gareth Porter asked him whether ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq should have been on his list.
“You’re right,” he answered. And then he added, “But we can’t do that.”
“Why not,” Porter asked.
“Because,” he said, “we would have to tell the families of the soldiers who have died in those wars that their loved ones died in vain.”
Since then, of course, a lot more people have died in vain.
This is what it comes to, and why nonviolent occupations of our own back in Der "Homeland" are required. Our government has gone insane. It is killing people purely because it has already killed people.
War was banned by the nations of the world in 1928 and an 85-1 vote in the U.S. Senate in 1929 following a decade of work by a peace movement that refused to give up. And now we accept war as the air we breathe. In 2008 we may not have voted in "four more years," but we did get four more wars: Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, added to Iraq and Afghanistan, with routine murders of particular human beings and those standing too close to them now openly inclusive of U.S. citizens.
To a growing extent, we see through this just as we see through austerity, environmental destruction, corporate welfare, and political corruption. But merely waiting for another money-soaked, gerrymandered, cable-tv-controlled election on unverifiable voting machines is not going to be sufficient. We're not against elections. This is not either-or. We're not against elections: we're demanding reforms that would allow us to have meaningful elections. But redirecting OccupyWallStreet energy into elections, as was done to Wisconsin, would be an act of betrayal.
Super Congress Member John Kerry's home state is fifth in the nation in military spending, employing lots of registered voters building machines of death for Raytheon, the former head of which company was brought in by the Obama administration as Deputy Secretary of Defense and who told the Washington Times in June, "The wars of the future will be longer, deadlier and waged against a more diverse variety of enemies than ever before."
Super Congress Co-Chair Patty Murray, Democrat from Boeing, since 2007 has taken $276,000 from war industries, Max Baucus $139,000, Dave Camp $130,000, John Kerry $73,000, and so on. The President who must sign or veto whatever comes out of the Super Congress and the Less Than Super Congress took over $1 million from war industries just in the 2008 election, not to mention $39 million from finance, insurance, and real estate. Targeting our social safety net is a goal that Wall Street and the military industrial complex have shared for many years. And of course the general corporate exploitation of foreign resources and workers depends on the threat of military force. Military spending has increased at the President's request each year since 2008 as well as since 2001.
Thanks to Occupy Wall Street, a conversation has been launched about the damage the wealthiest one percent is doing to the rest of us. California just pulled out of a mortgage fraud settlement deal that is expected to let the crooks off easy. Who's to say Occupy Wall Street didn't influence that decision.
The Super Congressional crusade to slash spending can only be carried through without causing massive misery and death in one of two ways, neither of which the U.S. Congress or President wants to touch, but both of which are central demands of the Occupation movement. The first is to significantly raise taxes on the super wealthy. The second is to significantly cut spending on the military. A progressive demand right now is not "Jobs Not Cuts" but "Jobs Not Wars."
Seventy members of Congress have pointed out that ending the two biggest current wars in fiscal year 2012 would save $1.8 trillion over the following decade, above planned savings from promised reductions in troops. But war spending is pocket change in comparison with the overall military and security budget. Economists have studied the impact on job creation of various types of government spending. It turns out that we could have full employment in the United States purely by redirecting a fraction of the Pentagon's budget. We could create 29 million jobs above and beyond reemployment for workers displaced in a conversion, just by moving funds from the Pentagon into education, healthcare, clean energy, and tax cuts. This calculation, if not my ideal plan, would leave military spending in several departments including Homeland Security untouched and leave the Department of So Called Defense more money than it had 10 years ago.
Leon Panetta, who holds the position that we used to more usefully call "Secretary of War," considers $350 billion over 10 years, or $35 billion per year, to be serious cuts to the national security budget. But he's discussing cuts to dreamed of future budgets. The current budget would still increase under those so-called cuts. But imagine really taking $35 billion from a budget of well over a trillion. (According to Chris Hellman of National Priorities Project, the security budget is $1.2 trillion, including the spy agencies and various other departments.) That would be a cut of less than 3.5 percent.
China spends about $114 billion per year on its military. Let's generously assume there are enough hidden costs in China's budget to double it to $228 billion. And let's assume that we must spend twice as much as they do, because . . . well, just because. Now we're at $456 billion. How do we get from there to Panetta describing a U.S. security budget of $965 billion as the lowest we can safely go, and a budget of $950 billion as "doomsday"? Is the danger here to us or to the profits of the weapons makers who are also demanding that any cuts made be made to troops' benefits rather than to weaponry?
“Every gun that's made," said Dwight David Eisenhower, "every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed." It also signifies death and injury to those on the receiving end, almost all of whom are non-Americans. But we cannot have a movement in this country demanding funding for anything decent or humane without having a movement to restrain the machine that is sucking down over 63 percent of discretionary spending (including care of veterans but not including Homeland Security or interest payments on war debt), serving as our biggest polluter of the natural environment, and providing the leading justification for eroding our civil liberties.
These are the demands we will bring to Freedom Plaza beginning Thursday:
• Tax the rich and corporations
• End the wars, bring the troops home, cut military spending
• Protect the social safety net, strengthen Social Security and improved Medicare for all
• End corporate welfare for oil companies and other big business interests
• Transition to a clean energy economy, reverse environmental degradation
• Protect worker rights including collective bargaining, create jobs and raise wages
• Get money out of politics
There's a widespread belief that such a list of demands must be reduced to one bumper sticker. But is what I just read really too many words for people who pass 10,000-word laws meant to govern us? There are 100s of times as many words as in this list of demands in the instruction booklet for a blueray player, something your average American seems able to handle. Nobody insisted that Thomas Jefferson reduce the Declaration of Independence to an eight-second sound bite. We aren't going to win this by getting pithier, and let me let you in on a little secret: Corporate television doesn't dislike resistance to corporate power because its advocates are unskilled at framing and messaging. We aren't going to win this by kicking ourselves. We aren't going to win this by dividing ourselves: we need to be willing to stand in uncomfortably large coalitions, side by side with people who like different parties or candidates or who hold what we think are bizarre views of the world. In Freedom Plaza there will be no promotion of any party or any candidate. We will be speaking as we the people to them our government.
And we will have a lot more fun than can be had sitting home and griping or even engaging in all variety of other useful activities, from phone calling to emailing to tweeting to sitting in conferences listening to me. I mean way more fun, the kind of fun in solidarity with others that medical science says is good for our health, the kind of fun that can take young people buried in student debt and joblessness away from enormous signing bonuses offered by the war machine. Young people will be reached in Freedom Plaza through seminars, libraries, outdoor films, and the experience of democratic decision making and risk taking. And the price is right. Compared with $259 per night here in the Hilton, the accommodations in Freedom Plaza will be priceless.
"Power concedes nothing without a demand," said Frederick Douglass. "It never did and it never will."
Videos by Lionel Heredia freedommediafilm at gmail dot com
I sat down during a lengthy protest occupation to play a game of chess, but my friend was better than I am. So, halfway through the match, I said to him, "What's your one move?"
He didn't know what I meant. "What's your one winning move," I said, "and which piece are you going to use? Get all the other pieces off the board. If you can't win with one piece in one move, you'll never win!"
My voice was getting louder as I said this.
He was looking at me like I was a little bit nuts. "Sure I will," he said very slowly as if I were an idiot, "and you won't even see it coming."
I tried to reason with him. It was for his own good. "What's your one simple move? What's your one simple move? What's your one simple move?" I was practically screaming, but he still didn't understand, so I did the only thing I could. I jumped on the chess board with both feet. If he couldn't be simple, I could at least stop him from being complicated!
In a recent debate Congressman Ron Paul claimed the United States military had troops in 130 countries. The St. Petersburg Times looked into whether such an outrage could actually be true and was obliged to report that the number was actually 148 countries. However, if you watch NFL football games, you hear the announcers thank members of the U.S. military for watching from 177 countries. The proud public claim is worse than the scandalous claim or the "investigative" report. What gives?
Remarks at Lynchburg College on September 26, 2011
I'd like to thank Dave Freier for inviting me, and all of you for being here. I think I was invited to speak about my most recent book, War Is A Lie, but I asked Professor Freier if it would be all right to speak about my next book, not yet finished, and he agreed. So, the following is a relatively very short summary of a forthcoming book that is not yet finished, and which I need your help with. It would be very helpful to me if you let me know when I've finished these opening remarks what was unclear, what didn't make sense, or what didn't persuade you, as well as what -- if anything -- seemed useful or inspiring.
It would also help me a lot if you would raise your hands to show your views on a few questions. First, raise your hand if you believe that war is illegal. I don't mean particular atrocities or particular types of wars, but war. And I don't mean bad or regrettable, but illegal. If you're not sure or think it's not a good question don't raise your hand. OK, thank you. Now, raise your hand if you think war should be illegal. OK, thank you. And now raise your hand if you know what the Kellogg-Briand Pact is. All right, that was very helpful. Now, let me tell you a little story, or at least a few pieces of it.
In 1927 and 1928 a hot-tempered Republican from Minnesota named Frank, who privately cursed pacifists, managed to persuade nearly every country on earth to ban war. He had been moved to do so, against his will, by a global demand for peace and a U.S. partnership with France created through illegal diplomacy by peace activists. The driving force in achieving this historic breakthrough was a remarkably unified, strategic, and relentless U.S. peace movement with its strongest support in the Midwest; its strongest leaders professors, lawyers, and university presidents; its voices in Washington, D.C., those of Republican senators from Idaho and Kansas; its views welcomed and promoted by newspapers, churches, and women's groups all over the country; and its determination unaltered by a decade of defeats and divisions.
The MIC50.org conference was so packed with speakers that a lot of wonderful things just couldn't fit. We turned away dozens of great speakers and other opportunities. Our cup runneth over.
We also had an artist donate two beautiful original paintings for us to auction off as a set together, and we never managed to hold the auction. So, the auction will be happening online between now and October 3rd. Submit your bids, and the highest bid will be regularly posted on this page.
Click for larger image:
These are two original paintings created for the MIC50.org conference by Ted Millich. The two characters are Chinese, separately 'harmony' and 'balance,' together they mean 'peace.' Harmony, with the enclosed loop on the right, usually goes to the left or above the character that looks more like a big cross. The notations inside the characters also signify peace in a variety of ways.
The paintings are about 15" high.
Your donation will fund further work for peace, including the publication of the forthcoming MIC50.org book.
"How many PRT [Provincial Reconstruction Team] staff members does it take to screw in a light bulb? One to hire a contractor who fails to complete the job and two to write the press release in the dark."
A FOB is a Forward Operating Base, and the Fobbits who live in them have their own brand of sad SNAFU humor, enough to fill many volumes and constituting, in my opinion, the silver lining of our wars. The above bit is taken from Peter Van Buren's new book "We Meant Well." The author has been in the U.S. Foreign Service for 23 years, working in Taiwan, Japan, Korea, the U.K., Hong Kong, and -- from 2009 to 2010 -- in Iraq. The book is about Iraq.
Wednesday evening, when the news was mistakenly announced that Troy Davis would not be killed, the crowd that I was with erupted with joy and with the enthusiastic realization that we all were capable of believing that something good had been done by our government. I was at the dedication of the Howard Zinn room in the new Busboys and Poets restaurant in Hyattsville, Maryland.
Some of us had been assigned to read selections from the late Zinn's "Voices of a People's History of the United States." I was asked to read John Brown's courtroom speech in which he said, "Now if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children, and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I submit: so let it be done!"
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Remarks at MIC-50 Conference http://mic50.org
So, here we are 50 years and 8 months tomorrow from the day on which President Dwight Eisenhower, on his way out of office, warned: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." I don't think we're here to propose Eisenhower or anyone else as a perfect model of all virtues. But what he said that day 50 years ago, in a very flawed and imperfect speech, was one of the most prescient predictions and potentially valuable warnings ever offered on the face of this earth. I say potentially because we have yet to heed it.