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Foreign Aid, the U.S. and Palestine

Foreign Aid, the U.S. and Palestine

Let us, for a moment, take a look at a part of the world where suffering is rampant. Here are some of the conditions the residents there experience:

-        Very limited potable water.

-        Electricity for six hours a day, at a maximum.

-        Children have to walk through areas destroyed by terrorist bombings to get to school. Many schools have been destroyed.

-        Unemployment is in the double-digits. It rose to 32.5% over the second quarter.

-        Food is lacking; few people have sufficient to eat, due to import restrictions.

Optimistic Thought for the New Year: The Looming Battle for Real Social Security Can Spawn a New Progressive Movement

By Dave Lindorff


I don’t care if you are 75 and retired, 61 and just about to reach the age when you become eligible for Social Security, 50 and looking out 15 or 20 years to the time when you’ll need to retire, or 25 with grandparents collecting retirement benefits and wondering what will be there when you get old. Whatever your age, don’t let anyone tell you Social Security is in trouble, or that it “won’t be around” when you need it.


Senator Kirk's War Prayer

Senator Kirk was praying to Senators Schumer and Menendez, or rather to his god but for their benefit. He was praying in his office where the three were gathered late at night. He was praying for a chance to drop bombs on Iran.

An aged stranger entered the office without a sound, despite the closed door.  He moved with slow and noiseless step toward Senator Kirk's desk, his eyes fixed upon the senator, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he reached the desk and stood there waiting. With shut lids the senator, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled senator did -- and took his place in the senator's leather chair. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience of three bewildered senators with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

"I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the room with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this -- keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the senator -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory-- must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the Iranians. O Lord our God, help us to tear their men and women and children and infants to bloody shreds with our missiles; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!"

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

Apologies to Mark Twain.

Dollarocracy: U.S. Congressmen Refuse to Address Keystone XL Southern Half Spill Concerns

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

What's the U.S. congressional response to the safety issues with the 485-mile southern half of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline raised by Public Citizen's Texas office? Mostly what Simon & Garfunkel called "The Sound of Silence" in their famous song.

Corporate media keeps US citizens in the dark: Pakistan Outs Three US CIA Station Chiefs in Three Years

By Dave Lindorff


For the third time in three years, a CIA station chief has been outed in Pakistan, a country where the CIA is running one of its largest covert operations. It’s a remarkable record of failure by the CIA, since each outing, which has required a replacement of the station chief position, causes a breakdown in the agency’s network of contacts in the country.


Kirk-Menendez-Schumer Wag the Dog Act of 2014

by Jim Lobe Copies of the bill that Sens. Kirk, Menendez, and Schumer hope to introduce in the Senate this week — presumably to be pressed for passage after the Christmas/New Year recess — are circulating today around Washington, and, as predicted, it is clearly designed to sabotage last month’s first-phase deal (the Joint Plan of Action) on Tehran’s nuclear program, as well as prospects for a final agreement. The bill is called the Iran Nuclear Weapon Free Act of 2013, although I would prefer to call it the Wag the Dog Act of 2014, given the implicit discretion it gives to Bibi Netanyahu to commit the U.S. to war with Iran. Its key provisions, as described by the sponsors, are laid out at the end of this post.

READ THE REST.

It’s been a ‘Catch-22’: My Experience with Obama(doesn’t)care

By Alfredo Lopez

The web designers will tell you: when it comes to websites, good design can't mask bad ideas.

I've been thinking about that for the last six weeks as I've confronted, with waning trust morphing into enraged frustration, the remarkably complicated corridors of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (popularly known as "Obamacare"). The problems in the roll-out of this ersatz reform are generally known and, depending on who's talking, have led to irritated calls for fixes or have been cited as proof that anything the government does that is socially responsible is a communist-inspired train wreck.

Two cheers for Pope Francis: About Time American Idiocy and Paranoia over Marxism Got Called Out

By Dave Lindorff


So Pope Francis, the new pope who has conservative American Catholics, particularly those in politics and the media, freaked out because he is criticizing capitalist greed, knows Marxists who are "good people,"  and isn't upset to be labeled one of them, even though he says "Marxist ideology is wrong.".

Murray-Ryan Budget Dumps 51.4% into Military -- Happy Human Rights Day!

Excerpted from the press release pasted below:

"In fiscal year 2014, defense discretionary spending would be set at $520.5 billion, and non-defense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion."

This is an unbelievable outrage for Congress to churn out on International Human Rights Day while numerous members of Congress were off in South Africa claiming to support the use of nonviolence to effect change in the world.

How will the U.S. public react once the media lays bare this incredible proposal? Here's enough money to work wonders in green energy, infrastructure, actual humanitarian aid, education, and many other areas all combined.  This is an amount of money very difficult to comprehend, and it's being dumped into such unpopular projects as the ongoing war on Afghanistan.

One has to wonder how our Nobel Peace Prize laureate, "ender" of the war, President Barack Obama might respond should Congress send him such a budget.  I'm sure he'll be hard-pressed not to assume he's dreaming when he reads these numbers.  I'm sure ...

Oh, wait.  What?

Obama wanted 57% to go to militarism?


 

 

I see. I get it. Don't you get it? This is 18-dimensional chess. By proposing an outrageous budget, Obama motivated Congress to scale back to something slightly less outrageous. He never could have talked them into that. This took strategic planning and plotting.  Probably some people actually fell for it, actually thought Obama wanted funding for the wars he continues and launches. Pretty funny.

CONTACT:
Murray Press Office:(202) 224-5398
Ryan Press Office: (202) 226-6100

Murray and Ryan Announce Bipartisan Budget-Conference Agreement

Two-year budget agreement would avoid government shutdown in January, provide certainty to businesses and families, and return budget process to regular order

Bipartisan agreement would provide sequester relief for defense and domestic priorities—fully offset by concrete savings and reforms—and further reduce the deficit

Short-term agreement breaks through partisan gridlock and can serve as foundation for continued bipartisan work

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, Senate Budget Committee chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced that they have reached a two-year budget agreement in advance of the budget conference’s December 13th deadline.

“I’m proud of this agreement,” said Chairman Ryan. “It reduces the deficit—without raising taxes. And it cuts spending in a smarter way. It’s a firm step in the right direction, and I ask all my colleagues in the House to support it.”

“This agreement breaks through the recent dysfunction to prevent another government shutdown and roll back sequestration’s cuts to defense and domestic investments in a balanced way,” said Chairman Murray. “It’s a good step in the right direction that can hopefully rebuild some trust and serve as a foundation for continued bipartisan work.”

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 would set overall discretionary spending for the current fiscal year at $1.012 trillion—about halfway between the Senate budget level of $1.058 trillion and the House budget level of $967 billion. The agreement would provide $63 billion in sequester relief over two years, split evenly between defense and non-defense programs. In fiscal year 2014, defense discretionary spending would be set at $520.5 billion, and non-defense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion.

The sequester relief is fully offset by savings elsewhere in the budget. The agreement includes dozens of specific deficit-reduction provisions, with mandatory savings and non-tax revenue totaling approximately $85 billion. The agreement would reduce the deficit by between $20 and $23 billion.

The House of Representatives is expected to take up the Bipartisan Budget Act first, followed by the Senate. If this bill is signed into law, the appropriations committees will then be able to work on spending bills at an agreed-upon level in advance of the January 15th deadline.


Social Justice Groups Demand Congress Slash Military Budget, Spend Money on People, Peace, Planet

Glen Davis, Jill Stein (back row), Kymone Freeman, Cheri Honkala, Leslie Ortiz (front row)

Glen Davis, Jill Stein (back row), Kymone Freeman, Cheri Honkala, Leslie Ortiz (front row)

In spite of heavy, wet snow falling on Capitol Hill, a coalition of peace, anti-hunger, anti-poverty, environmental and community groups came together to voice its objections to what it calls “runaway, dangerous military spending.”

In a press conference in the Cannon Office Building, speakers called on the Congressional Budgetary Committee to pass a budget resolution that re-directs military spending to domestic needs that serve “people, peace and the planet.” They then presented their proposed budget and supporting petitions to staffers of  Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Co-Chair of the Budgetary Committee.

After a stand-off on the budget resulting in a government shutdown in October, the Committee has until December 13 to re-negotiate some of the automatic sequestration cuts coming up next year. As it is, the Pentagon budget is due for about a 10% reduction, or $52 billion. Jill Stein of the Green Party’s Shadow Cabinet said that’s not nearly enough.

“We cannot both feed the hungry and feed our children, feed our elders, feed us and fill this absolutely bottomless pit of the military machine,” she said.

In its proposed “Peace-People-Planet” budget, the coalition outlines ten ways to slash military spending by 25 to 50%, including changing U.S. military policy (“stop policing the world”), ceasing to buy unnecessary weapons systems, and auditing wasteful practices at the Pentagon.

Taxpayer dollars should be used instead to fund social programs, job initiatives and actions to combat climate change, press conference speakers said.

READ THE REST.

A Budget for People, Peace, and Planet

Peace, Social Justice and Environmental Groups Want to Cut Runaway Military Spending, Fund Dire Domestic Needs – Social Programs, Jobs and Climate Action

(Washington, DC). Representatives from a broad coalition including over a hundred peace, anti-hunger, anti-poverty, environmental and community groups called upon Congressional leaders Tuesday to increase funding for a wide range of domestic programs by cutting runaway, dangerous military spending by 25 to 50%. In addition to a letter, the groups also delivered petitions signed by thousands of individuals

The proposed Budget for People-Peace-Planet would use the savings from the military cuts to :

- Adequately fund critical social needs, including food stamps, Social Security, improved and expanded Medicare for all, and public education including college,

·- Create a full employment public jobs program to jump start the green economy (a Green New Deal),

- Rebuild vital infrastructure.

Groups initiating the campaign include the Backbone Campaign; Coalition Against Nukes; Code Pink; Fellowship of Reconciliation, Freepress.org; Hunger Action Network of NYS; Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space; Green Shadow Cabinet; Green Party of NY; Hip Hop Congress; Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution; No FEAR Coalition; Organic Consumers Association; Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign; PopularResistance.org; Progressive Democrats of America; Roots Action; and US Labor Against the War.

With Congress aiming for a budget resolution by December 13, as determined in the deal ending the government shutdown, the groups decided to use the December 10 International Human Rights Day to highlight their call. Pope Frances also called for a Global Day of Prayer on Tuesday for increased government action to end hunger. The recent and pending cuts in food stamps are strongly opposed by the groups.

Jill Stein, President of the Green Shadow Cabinet noted, “We have spent $5 trillion over the past decade on bloody military excess in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet there are no real gains for democracy, security or stability to show for it. It’s time to end runaway military spending and the aggressive foreign policy it creates. This policy is a colossal failure. It was rejected by the American people in September when we refused to allow the President or Congress to drag us into another disastrous war. Now we must refuse to be dragged into another disastrous war budget. It’s time to put our resources where we need them – including an emergency full-employment Green New Deal to jumpstart the Green economy, halt climate change and make wars for oil obsolete. This is within our reach right now if we insist on it.”

"One out of every two Americans is now in poverty or low income. 31% of Philadelphians rely on food stamps. We're not just hungry for food. We're are hungry for jobs, for homes, for schools, for the basic necessities of life. We are hungry for justice!" said Cheri Honkala of the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign.

"Cutting the military budget in half would reduce it to where it was before 9/11 -- when it was way too high. The amount of money spent on the US military is a crime against humanity. It steals our children's future and it oppresses people across our planet. We shouldn't be cutting SNAP funds to feed our children and seniors while wasting tens of billions of dollars to build planes and tanks that often mothballed in desert parking lots as soon as they roll off the assembly line," said Mark Dunlea, Executive Director of the Hunger Action Network of NYS.

David Swanson, Campaign Coordinator, RootsAction.org noted, “It's called a defense department, but 90% of it is beyond what any other nation spends for defense, and in fact its purpose is offense -- sometimes justified as defending against distant imminent threats (although "imminent" has been redefined to mean theoretical and eventual).  Cutting just 25% of U.S. military spending across all departments and redirecting those funds could transform health and well-being, sustainable energy, education, housing, or all of the above, at home and abroad.  Actual foreign aid rather than "military aid" could make this nation the most beloved on earth for a far smaller expense than wars, and would save many times the number of lives that would be spared by ceasing to wage wars. We've got to stop shouting at each other to cut spending or raise spending and begin asking: spending on what?”

The groups initially met in a room on Capitol Hill. They then headed over to the office of Congressmember Ryan, co-chair of the budget resolution committee. News reports indicate that they are working a deal to restore higher Pentagon spending by reducing the cuts required by sequestration over the next two years.

Consuming more than half of all discretionary federal spending, the US military budget is roughly equal to the rest of the world combined. The groups charge that the military budget has become primarily corporate welfare, waste, and runaway dangerous spending- with high levels of graft, overhead, outside consultants, and duplicative and unnecessary weapon systems. The groups outlined ten ways that military spending should be cut. Critics charged that he military budget, estimated to run between $650 billion to more than a trillion dollars, has little to do with actually protecting America from security threats.. (greenshadowcabinet.us/statements/10-ways-cut-military-budget-25-50)

A hundred billion dollars is spent to maintain more than one thousand military bases in 130 countries, including Europe, Japan and Korea. Much of the Pentagon spending is wasted. Rather than having an energy policy creating resource wars and climate chaos, the US should invest in renewable energy to create jobs, avert climate disaster, and make wars for oil obsolete.

The UN General Assembly proclaimed 10 December as Human Rights Day in 1950. In 2006 the UN focused on the issue of poverty, declaring the poverty prevails as the gravest human rights challenge in the world. Human rights also includes the right to be free from the threat of violence and war, and the poverty that war creates. 

72 years after the nation was propelled into World War II by the attack on Pearl Harbor, the groups say it is time for the country to end its obsolete wartime budget - as it had done after every prior major conflict.

"More than 50 years ago.  President Eisenhower warned us about threat posed by the Military Industrial Complex. This Complex has since grown into a monster, best described as the Military Industrial Fossil Fuel Nuclear State Terror and Surveillance Complex, a sinkhole for trillions of dollars a year that should rather serve human and nature’s needs, including providing climate security for our children and grandchildren.    In face of the global threat of climate catastrophe we must implement a Green New Deal to make this goal possible.  Demilitarize, solarize and shift spending to human needs!" said Prof. David Schwartzman, Professor Emeritus or Howard University and local climate justice activist.  

The biggest challenge isn't convincing voters, it is convincing Congress to side with taxpayers rather than campaign contributors. A Feb. 25, 2013 poll by The Hill found that forty-nine percent of respondents would support cutting military spending, while just 23 percent said they would support slashing Social Security and Medicare.The Washington Post/ Bloomberg News Poll(October 6-9, 2011) found that 51% support reducing military spending in order to reduce the nation's budget deficit. Americans on average want to reduce military spending by18 percent,despite the barrage of propaganda to the contrary.

 

The People's Budget Goes to Washington

Tuesday, December 10, 2013, 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

NewLocation: Cannon House Office Building 402
Washington, DC 20002

Also, join a group photo op at 9:20-9:30 a.m., at Capitol's East Front, House Triangle, near Independence Ave. SE and New Jersey Ave.

Social and economic justice, peace, environmental and community groups are heading to Washington DC to tell Congress: We the People demand a budget that meets our critical needs - by cutting out-of-control, dangerous military spending.

Over one hundred organizationshave signed onto a letter outlining a plan to meet dire human and environmental needs by cutting the dangerous, runaway military budget by 25-50%.

Thousands of individuals have signed on to a petition calling for the same thing.

On December 10 we're delivering it to Congress! Join us and tell Congress this is the only way to end the ongoing financial and humanitarian crisis caused by this reckless and obsolete wartime budget.

Will they listen? We're not holding our breath. But we are going to tell them anyway! And we'll start building our power to compel a People's Budget in the future.

So if you can, come along to Congress on Tuesday. Bring a picture or drawing of something you personally are sacrificing in order to pay for the policy endless war.

Whether you can come or not, please ask your Congress members to attend!
202-225-3121
http://www.usa.gov/Contact/US-Congress.shtml

 

RSVP to info@greenshadowcabinet.us for updates.

See you there!

Jill Stein, Cheri Honkala, Mark Dunlea, David Swanson

The People's Budget Goes to Washington

 


Date: 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013 - 10:00am


New Location: 

402 Cannon House Office Building
Washington  District Of Columbia  20002

United States

 

Also, join a group photo op at 9:20-9:30 AM, at Capitl's East Front, House Triangle, near Independence Ave. SE and New Jersey Ave.

This week social and economic justice, peace, environmental and community groups are heading to Washington DC to tell Congress: We the People demand a budget that meets our critical needs - by cuting out-of-control, dangerous military spending.

Over one hundred organizations have signed onto a letter outlining a plan to meet dire human and environmental needs by cutting the dangerous, runaway military budget by 25-50%.

Thousands of individuals have signed on to a petition calling for the same thing.

On December 10 we're delivering it to Congress! Join us and tell Congress this is the only way to end the ongoing financial and humanitarian crisis caused by this reckless and obsolete wartime budget.

Will they listen? We're not holding our breath. But we are going to tell them anyway! And we'll start building our power to compel a People's Budget in the future.

So if you can, come along to Congress on Tuesday. Bring a picture or drawing of something you personally are sacrificing in order to pay for the policy endless war.

RSVP to info@greenshadowcabinet.us for updates.

See you there!

Jill Stein, Cheri Honkala, Mark Dunlea, David Swanson

Making good news out of bad: BLS 7% Jobless Rate for November is Nothing to Cheer About

By Dave Lindorff


The White House, and most headline writers around the country, are crowing that the November jobless rate of 7.0%, reported Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is the lowest since 2009 when President Obama took office, when it was 7.3% and rising.


But is this number really something worth cheering? 


How Can I help Cut the Military Budget by 25 to 50%?

From Mark Dunlea

Now is the time to pressure Congress for shifting our resources from the military to human needs. We compelled their attention on Syrian missiles; they listened; and they know we were right. The case for talking with, rather than bombing, Iran grows stronger by the day. The drone strikes have been scaled back. And, yet, the White House is pushing for another decade in Afghanistan, and Congress is not resisting because we aren't forcing Congress to act. The lesson of the Syrian Missile Crisis is that we have power when we speak up en masse. Congress members are home now, just as they were when the missiles were being primed. Now is the time to tell them in person. Now is the time to go to the root of the madness of militarism: the budget. If we can make them cut the military budget, and then point out that the sky hasn't fallen, bigger and bigger cuts may become possible. It's our best hope, and momentum is in our favor.

Senator Patty Murray is the lead negotiator for the Senate on the December 13 budget resolution. Call her office to tell her that we need deep cuts in military spending - much deeper than required under sequestration. Phone: (202) 224-2621 Toll Free: (866) 481-9186

We also need groups that are interested in helping to organize events in DC on Dec. 10.

Recent news reports indicate that Murray and Ryan are close to a deal to reduce the military spending cut by $20 to $30 billion a year for the next two years.

Here are the next three steps, with details below:

Educate and Mobilize your Community

Pressure Congress

Join the Day of Action December 10

Details on the next three steps:

Educate and Mobilize your Community

1. Widely circulate the links to the petitionand sign on letter(sign here) to your friends, co-workers, neighbors. More than 100 organizations have signed on the letter.

2. Ask community, faith and labor organizations to sign on to the letter. Or to write their own letter in their own language, highlight their issues. Many organizations shy away from taking a stance on military spending - but since the military gets 53 cents out of every discretionary dollar in the federal budget, if we don't cut the military, their cause won't get the funds they need. Many group leaders underestimate the public support for cutting the military budget.

The Hill. Feb. 25, 2013, Forty-nine percent of respondents said they would support cutting military spending, while just 23 percent said they would support slashing Social Security and Medicare. The Washington Post/ Bloomberg News Poll, October 6-9, 2011. 51% support reducing military spending in order to reduce the nation’s budget deficit. Americans on average want to reduce military spending by18 percent.

3. Write letters to the Editor. See this sample.Write a longer op ed, Do radio and TV talk shows. Here is a more recent op ed.

4. Organize local media events. Be creative. On Tues. December 10, International Human Rights Day, the campaign will deliver the letter and petition to Congress. Organize your own local media event. Sat. Dec. 7 is the 72nd anniversary of Pearl Harbor - isn't it time to declare the war over and demilitarize?

5. Work with other peace groups that are working to cut the military budget. Also urge them to pressure Congress to enact deep cuts - many just focus on public education or work on particular issues.

Pressure Congress

Meet with your local Congress member and ask them to both support deep cuts (25 to 50%) and to take leadership. It is not enough to preserve the cuts under sequestration (about a 5 to 8% cut). You can also hold a rally or media event (e.g., in front of their office) or organize phone ins or letter writing. Find Congressmember.

Check which committeesthey are on, The most important is the budget conference committee created by the deal to end the government shutdown. The committee will present a framework for the budget for adoption on December 13; if final action is not taken by Jan. 15, another shutdown occurs. (Members listed at the end). Defense and various budget committees also have more say. But any Congress member can show leadership and push an issue. (Funny they never argue that they don't really have any power when they run for office).

Steps. individual Congress members can take:

1. Circulate a sign on letter to other members of Congress calling for deep cuts. Cong. Barney Frank and Ron Paul got 50 of their colleagues to sign on to a letter calling for a 25% cut. They're both gone from Congress. Who will replace them? (There was a bipartisan mix of co-signers.)

2. If they are not on the Joint budget conference committee (listed below), ask them to lobby members who are. Ask them to get back to you with the response.

3. Ask them to vote against the National Defense Authorization Act which has passed the House and is now in the Senate. It supports too much funds for the military and many bad military policies.

4. Ask them to publicly speak out locally and nationally in favor of deep military cuts (e.g., write an op ed).

Join the Day of Action December 10

On the 10th of December, International Human Rights Day, we will deliver our message in person. We will deliver thousands of signature, a letter signed by organizations from across America - but we also want to deliver our voices.

Join us in Washington D.C. on the 10th as we tell Congress, the White House, the media, and the world that the War Budget must become a People's Budget.

-------------------------------------------

Members of the Budget Committee

On the Senate side, the conferees will be the full Senate Budget Committee:

·         Democrats –Committee Chair Patty Murray (WA), Ron Wyden (OR), Bill Nelson (FL), Debbie Stabenow (MI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Mark Warner (VA), Jeff Merkley (OR), Chris Coons (DE), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Tim Kaine (VA) and Angus King (I-ME)

·         Republicans – Committee Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (AL), Chuck Grassley (IA), Mike Enzi (WY), Mike Crapo (ID), Lindsey Graham (SC), Pat Toomey (PA), Ron Johnson (WI), Kelly Ayotte (NH) and Roger Wicker (MS).

And on the House side, the conferees will be:

·         Republicans –House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (WI), Tom Cole (OK), Tom Price (GA), and Diane Black (TN).

·         Democrats –House Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (MD), Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (SC), and Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (NY).

For background information on the powers of a budget committee, see here.

Would U.S. Be Selling Saudi Arabia Weapons if Everyone Knew It Funded 9-11?

Pentagon Approves Record Sale Of Advanced Arms To Countries At War
Congress will decide if deal first struck by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in April should go through.

By

... Today’s high-tech weapons manufacturers are enjoying record sales. The State Department’s Military Assistance Report stated that it approved $44.28 billion in arms shipments to 173 nations in the last fiscal year. One of the more controversial is the Defense Department’s plans to sell Saudi Arabia $6.8 billion and the United Arab Emirates $4 billion in advanced weaponry, including air-launched cruise missiles and precision munitions. The trouble is – has anyone asked where these weapons will ultimately end up?

Boeing Co. (BA) and Raytheon Co. (RTN) sent a message of support from the Obama administration for setting up the deal with these two close allies in the Middle East.

This historic deal will be the first U.S sales of new Raytheon and Boeing weapons that can be launched at a distance from Saudi F-15 and U.A.E. F-16 fighters. But this is just part of Saudi Arabia’s military shopping list. ...

READ THE REST.

'High' hypocrisy on Capitol Hill: Congressional leaders ignore calls for Radel's resignation

By Linn Washington, Jr.


Florida U.S. Congressman Trey Radel, recently convicted of possessing cocaine, rightly wears the label of Drug War hypocrite, but assigning that total to just that one prominent felon helps tends to hide the long-standing stench of Drug War hypocrisy that extends from Capitol Hill to the White House and state capitals nationwide, including members of both parties.

10 More Years in Afghanistan

When Barack Obama became president, there were 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.  He escalated to over 100,000 troops, plus contractors. Now there are 47,000 troops these five years later.  Measured in financial cost, or death and destruction, Afghanistan is more President Obama's war than President Bush's.  Now the White House is trying to keep troops in Afghanistan until "2024 and beyond." 

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is refusing to sign the deal. Here is his list of concerns. He'd like the U.S. to stop killing civilians and stop kicking in people's doors at night.  He'd like the U.S. to engage in peace negotiations.  He'd like innocent Afghan prisoners freed from Guantanamo.  And he'd like the U.S. not to sabotage the April 2014 Afghan elections.  Whatever we think of Karzai's legacy -- my own appraisal is unprintable -- these are perfectly reasonable demands.

Iran and Pakistan oppose keeping nine major U.S. military bases in Afghanistan, some of them on the borders of their nations, until the end of time.  U.S. officials threaten war on Iran with great regularity, the new agreement notwithstanding.  U.S. missiles already  hit Pakistan in a steady stream.  These two nations' concerns seem as reasonable as Karzai's.

The U.S. public has been telling pollsters we want all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan "as soon as possible" for years and years.  We're spending $10 million per hour making ourselves less safe and more hated.  The chief cause of death for U.S. troops in this mad operation is suicide. 

When the U.S. troops left Iraq, it remained a living hell, as Libya is now too.  But the disaster that Iraq is does not approach what it was during the occupation.  Much less has Iraq grown dramatically worse post-occupation, as we were warned for years by those advocating continued warfare.

Humanitarian aid to Afghanistan -- or to the entire world, for that matter, including our own country -- would cost a fraction of what we spend on wars and war preparations, and would make us the most beloved nation on earth.  I bet we'd favor that course if asked.  We were asked on Syria, and we told pollsters we favored aid, not missiles. 

We stopped the missiles.  Congress members in both houses and parties said they heard from more people, more passionately, and more one-sidedly than ever before.  But we didn't stop the guns that we opposed even more than the missiles in polls.  The CIA shipped the guns to the fighters without asking us or the Congress.  And Syrians didn't get the aid that we favored.

We aren't asked about the drone strikes.  We aren't asked about most military operations.  And we aren't being asked about Afghanistan.  Nor is Congress asserting its power to decide.  This state of affairs suggests that we haven't learned our lesson from the Syrian Missile Crisis.  Fewer than one percent of us flooded Congress and the media with our voices, and we had a tremendous impact.  The lesson we should learn is that we can do that again and again with each new war proposal.

What if two percent of us called, emailed, visited, protested, rallied, spoke-out, educated, and non-violently resisted 10 more years in Afghanistan?  We'd have invented a new disease.  They'd replace the Vietnam Syndrome with the Afghanistan Syndrome.  Politicians would conclude that the U.S. public was just not going to stand for any more wars.  Only reluctantly would they try to sneak the next one past us.

Or we could sit back and keep quiet while a Nobel Peace Prize winner drags a war he's "ending" out for another decade, establishing that there's very little in the way of warmaking outrages that we won't allow them to roll right over us.

Shifting from Defense to Offense: Americans Want Improved Social Security and Medicare and less Military Spending

By Dave Lindorff


A tectonic shift is occurring in the US body politic. Ignore the media-driven sideshow about the 2014 contest for control of the House or about the screwed-up Obamacare insurance-market website. The real political battle is over Social Security and Medicare, and there the story is a historic turn from fighting against Washington efforts to cut those programs to demanding that both be expanded.


Groups Call on Congress to Make Massive Cuts in Runaway Military Spending

A diverse array of organizations today launched a campaign to enact major cuts in wasteful military spending, as part of the December 13 federal budget resolution.

The groups include peace, human service, economic and environmental justice organizations, food sovereignty and green energy groups, and grassroots community organizations. They are calling for long overdue reductions in military spending in order to meet dire needs at home and reinvest in our future.

The groups are launching a sign-on letter calling for cuts of 25-50% in the trillion dollar military budget that accounts for 53% of all discretionary federal spending. The groups will deliver the letter to Congress on December 10 - International Human Rights Day.

The groups want Congress to focus on:

- Adequately funding critical social needs, including food stamps, Social Security, improved and expanded Medicare for all, and public education including college,

- Creating a full employment public jobs program to jump start the green economy (a Green New Deal),

- Rebuilding vital infrastructure.

Groups initiating the campaign include the Backbone Campaign; Coalition Against Nukes; Code Pink; Fellowship of Reconciliation, Freepress.org; Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space; Green Shadow Cabinet; Hip Hop Congress; Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution; No FEAR Coalition; Organic Consumers Association; Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign; PopularResistance.org; RootsAction.org and others. Additional groups can sign on to the letter here.

According to David Swanson, Campaign Coordinator for RootsAction.org, "The United States is the wealthiest nation on earth, and its government is rolling in money. Pretenses otherwise would collapse if the U.S. reduced its military budget to anything remotely resembling other countries'. Redirecting the savings would save far more lives than are taken in our wars, and improve lives at home and abroad beyond our wildest imaginings."

"Do we want to feed hungry people or feed the weapons industry? It's critical to show that we, as a people, choose food, education and green energy over bombs," said Medea Benjamin of Code Pink.

Jill Stein, Green Shadow Cabinet president, noted, "After $5 trillion and a decade spent on bloody military excess, with no real gains for democracy, security or stability - it's time to put these resources where we need them, including an emergency full-employment program to jumpstart the Green economy, halt climate change and make wars for oil obsolete."

"It is time to heed the warning of former President Eisenhower about the Congressional-military-industrial complex. We can either feed the Pentagon, or feed, house, educate and serve the American people," stated Mark Dunlea, Director of the Hunger Action Network of NYS. Representing three thousand emergency food programs feeding 3 million New Yorkers annually, the Hunger Action Network is worried about the recent and pending cuts to food stamps (SNAP) and other safety net programs.

Renowned public interest advocate, Ralph Nader, commented, "Since we no longer have major adversaries, why is the overall military budget larger than ever – taking over half the discretionary expenditures of the federal government? Our country needs to rollback the Empire, really cut the so-called defense budget and apply those monies to repairing and rebuilding our public works with good paying green jobs everywhere that cannot be exported."

Reverend Kristin Stoneking, Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation added, "Money in itself is morally neutral, but what we do with money has ultimate moral significance. Our runaway military spending  impairs and diminishes the very soul of our country as we ignore needs for food, jobs and health care among our citizens, and perpetuate a culture of violence abroad. Redirecting millions away from exporting violence and toward creating a culture of peace at home by responding to the basic needs of Americans is not only wise but right."

The groups want Congress to stop using the massive military budget to police the world. Instead they call for reviving the traditional approach of defending America from invasion or military aggression against our territorial integrity. Likewise they oppose militarization of our borders against nonexistent military threats, in violation of the human right to seek refuge from economic or political oppression. The groups want the US to pull American troops from Europe, Japan, Korea and from 1000 bases in nearly 130 countries which cost over a hundred billion dollars a year to maintain.  

The groups also want Congress to stop the massive waste and fraud in Pentagon spending, war profiteering by military contractors, and the revolving door between government and military industries.

While many Congress members understand the need to cut military spending, virtually all Congress members protect defense contracts provided to their own districts. The groups are calling for retraining and guaranteed re-employment of any displaced military-industrial workers, and for impacted communities to have a lead role in planning their green economic transition.

The coalition proposal builds on similar, though less comprehensive, measures from within Congress. Senator Bernie Sanders' recent budget blueprint calls for hundreds of billions of dollars of cuts in the military budget. In the prior Congress, more than 50 representatives signed on to a letter by then-members Barney Franks and Ron Paul calling for a 25% cut.

Fracking Lobby’s Tax Forms: Big Bucks to Media, “Other ALECs,” Democratic PR Firms

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) - the public relations arm of the oil and gas fracking industry - has released its 2012 Internal Revenue Services (IRS) 990 form, and it's rich with eye-opening revelations, some of which we report here for the first time. 

In the US Social Security’s ‘just a floor’: In Finland Saunas are Hot, Retirement is Cool

By Dave Lindorff


Helsinki—Mikko Kautto, impeccable in a blue suit and open-collared shirt, was sitting at a table in the cafeteria of the modern Centre for Pensions building on the outskirts of Finland’s capital city, answering questions about the operation of his Nordic country’s retirement system.


Veterans' Day

Veteran’s Day is over. The sparkling parades are a vague memory, and the soaring oratory has passed. The citizenry can now return to its complacency, tossing the bright, red, plastic poppies into the trash, and picking up new ones next year.

A ‘60-Minutes’ Scandal: Lara Logan, Hotness and Benghazi Gone Wild

By John Grant


Lara Logan is a formidable TV reporter who has covered wars and other stories at significant risk. She’s supremely confident and has a powerful journalistic institution supporting her. But as a would-be ethical journalist, she seems to rely too much on her sexual allure and to be too tight with elite elements of the US military establishment.

What’s more important: Security or freedom?: The Big Question the National Security State isn’t Asking

By Dave Lindorff


So National Security Agency Director Keith B. Alexander, who, along with his boss, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., thinks that “if you can collect it, you should collect it,” now is asking whether it might not be such a good idea in the case of spying on the citizens of US allies like Germany, France, Spain et al.


Yemeni Man To Tell Congress About Drone Strike That Killed Brother Who Stood Up To Al Qaeda

Faisal bin ali Jaber, a Yemeni man whose relatives were killed in a US drone strike, is traveling to the United States this week to tell his story to Congress and human rights activists at this weekend’s Drone Summit (which I’m covering for Truthout, FYI).

Jaber’s brother-in-law, 49-year-old Sheik Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, was killed in a covert drone strike on Hadhramout in August 2012. Salem was a Yemeni cleric and father of seven who preached loudly against the extremism exhibited by Al Qaeda, which his family feared would invite violent retribution from Al Qaeda linked militants. But in the end, it was US violence that ended Salem’s life as well as that of Waleed bin ali Jaber, a local policeman who was with Salem at the time of strike.

Read the rest at Dispatched from the Underclass.

Big Brother’s Loyal Sister: How Dianne Feinstein Is Betraying Civil Liberties

By Norman Solomon

Ever since the first big revelations about the National Security Agency five months ago, Dianne Feinstein has been in overdrive to defend the surveillance state. As chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, she generates an abundance of fog, weasel words, anti-whistleblower slander and bogus notions of reform -- while methodically stabbing civil liberties in the back.

Feinstein’s powerful service to Big Brother, reaching new heights in recent months, is just getting started. She’s hard at work to muddy all the waters of public discourse she can -- striving to protect the NSA from real legislative remedies while serving as a key political enabler for President Obama’s shameless abuse of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

Last Sunday, on CBS, when Feinstein told “Face the Nation” viewers that Edward Snowden has done “enormous disservice to our country,” it was one of her more restrained smears. In June, when Snowden first went public as a whistleblower, Feinstein quickly declared that he had committed “an act of treason.” Since then, she has refused to tone down the claim. “I stand by it,” she told The Hill on Oct. 29.

Days ago, taking it from the top of the NSA’s main talking points, Feinstein led off a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed piece with 9/11 fear-mongering. “The Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the United States was highly organized and sophisticated and designed to strike at the heart of the American economy and government,” she wrote, and quickly added: “We know that terrorists remain determined to kill Americans and our allies.”

From there, Senator Feinstein praised the NSA’s “call-records program” and then insisted: “This is not a surveillance program.” (Paging Mr. Orwell.)

Feinstein’s essay -- touting her new bill, the “FISA Improvements Act,” which she just pushed through the Senate Intelligence Committee -- claimed that the legislation will “bridge the gap between preventing terrorism and protecting civil liberties.” But as Electronic Frontier Foundation activist Trevor Timm writes, the bill actually “codifies some of the NSA’s worst practices, would be a huge setback for everyone’s privacy, and it would permanently entrench the NSA’s collection of every phone record held by U.S. telecoms.”

California’s senior senator is good at tactical maneuvers that blow media smoke. In late October -- while continuing to defend the NSA’s planetary dragnet on emails and phone calls -- Feinstein voiced concern “that certain surveillance activities have been in effect for more than a decade and that the Senate Intelligence Committee wasn’t satisfactorily informed.” Spinning the myth that congressional oversight of the NSA really exists, she added: “Therefore, our oversight needs to be strengthened and increased.”

As usual, Feinstein’s verbal gymnastics were in sync with choreography from the Obama White House. The “certain surveillance activities” that she has begun to criticize are the NSA’s efforts targeting the phones of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other allied foreign leaders. Feinstein mildly chided Obama for ostensibly not being aware of the eavesdropping on Merkel’s cell phone (“That is a big problem”), but she was merely snipping at a few threads of the NSA’s vast global spying -- while, like the administration as a whole, reaffirming support for the vast fabric of the agency’s surveillance programs.

The White House is now signaling policy changes in response to the uproar about monitoring Merkel’s phone, the New York Times reported on Nov. 5, but “President Obama and his top advisers have concluded that there is no workable alternative to the bulk collection of huge quantities of ‘metadata,’ including records of all telephone calls made inside the United States.” Feinstein is on the same page: eager to fine tune and continue mass surveillance.

With fanfare that foreshadows a drawn-out onslaught of hype, Feinstein has announced that the Senate Intelligence Committee will hold hearings on NSA surveillance. “Her committee is now making preparations for a major investigative undertaking, which is expected to take at least several months,” the Wall Street Journal reports. When the show is over, “The report that results from the probe will be classified.”

With Dianne Feinstein’s hand on the gavel, you can expect plenty of fake inquiries to pantomime actual oversight. She has shown a clear commitment to deep-sixing vital information about the surveillance state, in a never-ending quest for the uninformed consent of the governed. “From out of the gate, we know that her entire approach is to make those hearings into a tragic farce,” I said during an interview on C-SPAN Radio last week. “Her entire approach to this issue has been to do damage control for the NSA…. She is an apologist and a flack for the surveillance state, she is aligned with the Obama White House with that agenda, and we at the grassroots must push back against that kind of a politics.”

_____________________________________

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information about the documentary based on the book is at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org.

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