You are hereCongress
By John Nichols, The Nation
The Constitution of the United States can be amended in two formal ways: from the top down and from the bottom up.
But New Mexico legislators have found a third way and, hopefully, other state legislators around the country will follow their lead.
The US Constitution is traditionally amended via a process that begins with the endorsement of an amendment by the US House and US Senate and then the ratification of that amendment by the requisite three-fourths of state legislatures. That’s the top-down route. The bottom-up route begins when two-thirds of the state legislatures ask Congress to call a national convention to propose amendments.
By Dave Lindorff
The attacks and attempted attacks this week on Israeli embassy personnel in Georgia, India and Thailand should serve as a serious warning to the people of both Israel and the US that there will be an increasingly heavy price to pay for the kind of government-sponsored terror that both countries have long practiced, and that too many Americans and Israelis have mindlessly cheered on.
The technology of terror has become so wide-spread, and the materials needed to construct magnetically-attached car bombs, cell-phone detonators, armor-piercing IEDs, diesel/fertilizer bombs and the like, so accessable at consumer shops, hardware stores and local junkyards, that any government, and even any relatively savvy non-government group, can assemble and employ them.
On February 1, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that the United States will end its combat missions in Afghanistan by “mid- to the latter part of 2013.”
This announcement – whether intended by the Obama Administration at this time is not clear – marks a welcome and accelerated withdrawal timetable. Previously, combat operations were supposed to end in 2014.
The New York Times called the pronouncement “a major milestone toward ending a decade of war in Afghanistan.”
The sooner American military forces exit from Afghanistan – after spending so many lives and treasure – the better.
This step was pressed for in amendments offered last year in the Senate by Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and in the House by Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Walter Jones (R-NC).
Many questions still remain. While Sec. Panetta has indicated a shift towards an "training, advice and assist" role, there has been too little clarity on what this means, including whether there will be what Panetta calls “an enduring presence” in Afghanistan that could continue for years and what will be the actual timetable for the withdrawal.
In support of the Administration’s decision, a bipartisan group of six House members is circulated for signatures a letter to go to President Obama.
The 20 signers thus far as of 2/8 are (and this list will be updated daily):
Justin Amash (MI)
Bruce Braley (IA)
Lois Capps (CA)
Judy Chu (CA)
John Conyers, Jr. (MI)
Jimmy Duncan, Jr. (TN)
Sam Farr (CA)
John Garamendi (CA)
Raul Grijalva (AZ)
Janice Hahn (CA)
Martin Heinrich (NM)
Jesse Jackson, Jr. (IL)
Walter Jones (NC)
Barbara Lee (CA)
John Lewis (GA)
Ben Ray Luján (NM)
Jim McGovern (MA)
Gary Peters (MI)
Henry Waxman (CA)
Lynn Woolsey (CA)
The letter follows:
The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President,
We write to express our support for the Administration’s announcement on February 1st that the United States will complete combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of next year.
From information reported in the media, the U.S. intends to transition from major combat operations in Afghanistan to a “training, advice and assist role” by the middle-to-latter part of 2013. We applaud this announcement by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to accelerate the transition away from combat operations, and it provides assurance that the timeframe outlined in your 2009 speech at West Point will be carried out. As you know, many of us support an even more rapid withdrawal of all our troops from Afghanistan.
The majority of Americans want a safe and orderly military withdrawal from Afghanistan as quickly as possible, as recent public opinion polls indicate. The desire by the American people for an accelerated transition in Afghanistan was reflected in votes taken in Congress last year, in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate during their respective debates on amendments offered by Representatives McGovern and Jones and by Senator Merkley to the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. These votes show there is strong bipartisan political support to take bold steps regarding U.S. policy in Afghanistan.
The past 10 years have cost America dearly in the blood and sacrifice of our military servicemen and women and their families, and in our nation’s fiscal health and security. The United States intervened in Afghanistan to destroy al Qaeda’s safe haven, remove th Taliban government that sheltered al Qaeda, and pursue those who planned the September 11th attacks on the United States; those objectives have largely been met and no longer require a large presence of combat troops in Afghanistan. While questions remain about the details of the announced transition – when and how quickly U.S. troops will be coming home, the number and purpose of troops that might remain in Afghanistan and for how long a period, the costs and the savings of accelerating the completion of combat operations – the February 1st announcement clearly signals that now is the moment to initiate the transition, end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home.
Members of Congress
Excerpted from Sarah Anderson at IPS:
Key elements of tax reform to reverse extreme inequality
This section draws heavily from the forthcoming book by my Institute for Policy Studies colleague Chuck Collins, 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It (Berrett-Koehler, March 2012).
New income tax brackets for the 1 percent. Under our current tax rate structure, households with incomes over $350,000 pay the same top income tax rate as households with incomes over $10 million. In the 1950s, there were 16 additional tax rates over the highest rate (35 percent) that we have today.
A tax on financial speculation. The richest 1 percent of Americans contributed to the 2008 economic meltdown by moving vast amounts of wealth into the speculative shadow banking system. Our society is still paying the mammoth social costs of this meltdown — through home foreclosures, unemployment, and the destruction of personal savings. A modest federal tax on every transaction that involves the buying and selling of stocks and other financial products would both generate substantial revenue and dampen short-term speculation. For ordinary investors, the cost would be negligible. A financial speculation tax would amount to a tiny insurance fee to protect against financial instability.
A higher tax rate on income from wealth. Giving tax advantages to income from wealth also encourages short-term speculation. With carefully structured rate reform, we can end this preferential treatment for capital gains and dividends and, as Warren Buffett and other analysts have noted, encourage long-term investing.
A progressive estate tax on the fortunes of the 1 percent. The wealthiest Americans have all benefited from generations of investments in pubic goods that have left the United States with an infrastructure — in everything from education and roads to dispute resolution — that enables wealth creation. Our wealthy have a responsibility to give back to the society that has given them so much. The current estate tax on inherited wealth stands at 35 percent and only applies to estates over $5 million ($10 million for a couple). Congress could raise additional revenue from those with the greatest capacity to pay by establishing a progressive estate tax with graduated rates and a 10 percent surtax on the value of an estate above $500 million, or $1 billion for a couple.
An end to tax haven abuse. By one estimate, the use of tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals costs the federal treasury $100 billion a year.23 These havens are transferring wealth out of local communities into the foreign bank accounts of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful.24 Tax havens, or more accurately “secrecy jurisdictions,” can also facilitate criminal activity, from drug money laundering to the financing of terrorist networks.
A wealth tax on the top 1 percent. A “net worth tax” could be levied on household assets, including real estate, cash, investment funds, savings in insurance and pension plans, and personal trusts. Such a tax could be calibrated to tax wealth only above a certain threshold. For example, France’s solidarity tax on wealth only kicks in on asset value in excess of $1.1 million.
The elimination on the cap on social security withholding taxes. Extending the payroll tax to cover all wages, not just wage income up to $110,100, would be an important step. Some of our richest Americans are done paying withholding taxes in January, while ordinary working people pay all year.
Our current levels of extreme inequality did not suddenly appear. They have grown steadily over the past 30 years. Reversing this inequality trend will be a long-term challenge. But we have transformed a highly divided nation into a more stable and equitable society before. We can certainly do it again.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 3, 2012) -- Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today sent the following message to his colleagues in Congress.
See video here.
During an interview last month on CBS’ Face the Nation, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta set the record straight on Iran: “Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No.” But if you read recent news reports lately, you’d think otherwise.
The media coverage on Iran is mirroring the coverage in the lead-up to the Iraq war: grand claims about a smoking gun that doesn’t exist. For example, The New York Times incorrectly reported last month that the latest International Atomic Emergency Agency (IAEA) report on Iran concluded that their nuclear program had a military objective. The paper’s public editor, Arthur Brisbane, was forced to acknowledge their mistake and wrote: “Some readers, mindful of the faulty intelligence and reporting about Saddam Hussein’s weapons program, are watching the Iran nuclear coverage very closely.” Other media outlets such as National Public Radio, PBS and The Washington Post have been challenged on their coverage too.
A recent publication from the Center for Strategic and International Studies titled “The IAEA’s Iran Report and Misplaced Paranoia,” noted that “With few exceptions, these revelations are not exactly new. More importantly, neither is the thrust of the report: that Iran is developing some capabilities that can only be understood as preliminaries to the development of nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, early coverage of the report’s release gives the opposite impression.”
Many have recognized that the media failed to do its job in the lead-up to the Iraq war. The potential consequences of treading on that same path with Iran are grave. The U.S. has thus far spent over $1.2 trillion of borrowed money on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Military action against Iran would be disastrous for the region and for U.S. moral standing. A serious diplomatic track based on mutual trust and respect is the only way to achieve increased transparency.
Dennis J. Kucinich
Member of Congress
By Dave Lindorff
Let’s see now. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence who oversees both the FBI and the CIA, is warning that Iran’s leaders have “changed their calculus” and, as the Wall Street Journal puts it, “now appear willing to conduct an attack within the US.”
Speaking at a Join Intelligence Committee hearing in Congress, the aptly-named Clapper said that Iranian leaders, “probably including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei” are “now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States as a response to real or perceived actions that threaten the regime.”
Well gee, that sure should come as a shocker.
Imagine if a bunch of the craziest war-hungry Republicans in the House filmed themselves in a nutty bat-guano video packed with lies addressed to the President of the United States. And then imagine President Barack Obama almost immediately agreeing with them. I can think of two ways in which such a series of events could go unnoticed, as it just has.
First, it could be about something insignificant. But this was about undoing the automatic cuts to the military mandated by the failure of the Supercommittee (remember, the top news story of a few months back?). The military, across various departments, swallows over half of federal discretionary spending, and there's no greater obsession in the corporate media than the great Spending vs. Cuts issue. This is NOT insignificant.
Second, it could be about something that the elites of both major parties agree on, the media therefore ignores, most Republican voters love, and Democratic voters pretend not to notice because the President is a Democrat and an election is less than a year away.
If you're guessing the second option, you are right. (Tell them what they've won, Leon!) You are now the proud owners of the most expensive military ever seen, plus coming increases that will be presented as "cuts."
When the Supercommittee failed, automatic federal budget cuts were to kick in -- half to things we need and half to the bloated military. The military cuts would take us back to 2004 spending. We seem to have survived 2004 and the years preceding it OK.
The Pentagon claims to be making other cuts already, but they are "cuts" to dream budgets resulting in actual budget increases -- and that's not even counting increased war spending through other departments.
House Republicans have sent President Obama this crazy video opposing military cuts and introduced legislation to slash 10% of non-military government jobs instead. In the Senate, John McCain is said to be working on a similar bill.
Meanwhile "Defense" Secretary Leon Panetta has just announced the Obama Administration's position: They will oppose the automatic cuts, or any other actual cuts, to the military. This will mean severe cuts to education, transportation, and -- as President Obama indicated in his State of the Union speech -- to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
At last Thursday's press conference the first question following Panetta's remarks was:
"Mr. Secretary, you talked a little bit on this, but over the next 10 years, do you see any other year than this year where the actual spending will go down from year to year? And just to the American public more broadly, how do you sort of explain what appears to be contradictory, as you talk about, repeatedly, this $500 billion in cuts in a Defense Department budget that is actually going to be increasing over time?"
Panetta had no substantive answer. And he didn't need one. The media almost unanimously put out the false story that the military was undergoing serious cuts. That first year's cut, by the way, is 1%, to be followed by nine years of larger increases.
You might have forgotten that in 2008, three times in three presidential debates, Senator John McCain proposed cutting the military, while Senator Obama campaigned on increasing it -- one promise he has actually kept.
Lately supporters have been saying that the President will become the Obama of our Dreams once he's a lame duck. But the history and the logic of lame duck officials is that they become less, not more, representative of the public will. And the public will is strongly in favor of major cuts to the military.
Others may be inclined to suggest that while Obama and Panetta are increasing the military and calling it "cuts," they are actually cutting the budget for wars. Some may have been misled by this line in the State of the Union: "Take the money we're no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home."
But in reality, Obama and Panetta are proposing to cut the war budget by only $27 billion. Meanwhile, the $27 billion has already been spent elsewhere in the Pentagon budget. Plus military spending is on the rise in other departments. Plus any new wars and confrontations -- like in Iran or Syria -- will offer the opportunity for supplemental bills. And less expensive but more secretive and equally deadly wars are underway, investment will increase in drones and special forces, and I have doubts we could rebuild our nation here at home for $13.5 billion even if we had it, while continuing to dump over $1 trillion into preparations for the crime of war year after year.
We do have the option to resist.
Avoiding Disaster: The Consequences of Attacking Iran, and its Alternatives
- A Briefing on Middle East Security and Global Terrorism -
· Paul R. Pillar, Georgetown University, Professor and Former National Intelligence Officer
· Geneive Abdo, The Century Foundation, Director of the insideIRAN project
· Jamal Abdi, National Iranian American Council, Director of Policy
· Heather Hurlburt, National Security Network, Executive Director
· Alejandro J. Beutel (Moderator), Muslim Public Affairs Council, Government & Policy Analyst
Monday, January 30, 2012
121 Cannon HOB
- Lunch will be served -
Rising tension with Iran has led some in Washington to wonder if the United States is inevitably sliding toward war. Iranian officials recently threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a vital waterway for nearly one-fifth of the world’s oil, and an Iranian nuclear scientist was mysteriously assassinated in the fourth such attack in two years.
Sometimes lacking from these discussions is serious consideration of the potential consequences of a preemptive military strike against Iran. Many believe that such an attack could quickly escalate into a regional war.
In order to discuss the potential consequences of a military strike against Iran, the Muslim Public Affairs Council is hosting a briefing with some of the nation’s top Iran and U.S. national security experts.
Would a military strike eliminate Iranian ability to develop a nuclear weapon? How would an attack affect regional and U.S. security? What would be the effect on oil prices and the global economy? How would an attack affect the Iranian regime and pro-democracy activists?
Keith Ellison Barbara Lee
Member of Congress Member of Congress
Lee: National Strength Tied to Economic Strength
Members join Lee in penning letter to President asking for restraint on military spending
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) issued the following statement in response to the Pentagon’s preview of the 2013 budget request:
By Steven Kull, World Public Opinion .org
This article was originally published in tandem with an article by R. Jeffrey Smith on IWatch, a publication of the Center for Public Integrity.
What do average Americans say when they are faced with the budget tradeoffs on national security that policymakers face today? When polls ask in the abstract about defense spending, Americans are often reluctant to cut it. However when Americans are asked to consider the deficit and presented with tradeoffs, majorities cut defense and cut it more than any other area of the budget. Furthermore when they learn how much of the budget goes to defense, large majorities cut it, on average quite deeply.
(Image Credit: Greg West)
This issue has become confused in public discussion, because many polls simply ask Americans whether they favor cutting defense, increasing it, or keeping it the same. These find that more favor cuts than increases, but those favoring cuts are still fewer than half of those surveyed. A February 2011 Pew poll found only 30% ready to cut, while fewer (13%) favored increases, and most (53%) said they accepted current levels.
When pollsters frame the issue in terms of the budget deficit, the number ready to cut defense may rise to about half. Most recently, an October Washington Post/Bloomberg Poll asked respondents whether they supported or opposed "reducing military spending" to help reduce the nation's budget deficit. Fifty-one percent supported it and 42 percent were opposed. Some polls have found lower numbers in support.
As respondents are given more information, support for reductions rises. When Quinnipiac University in March simply told respondents that defense, Social Security and Medicare together constitute more than half of the federal budget, 54% favored cutting defense spending.
And when they are asked to choose between defense and other programs, defense is consistently the most popular program to cut. When CBS/NY Times, on several occasions over the least year asked respondents to choose where they would prefer to cut Medicare, social security or the military, 45-55 percent chose the military, 16-21 percent Medicare, 13-17 percent Social Security.
If respondents are given choices between large and small cuts, overall support for cutting rises even more. In a Kaiser Foundation poll conducted in September, 67% favored some reduction in defense to address the deficit, with 28% favoring a major reduction and 39% a minor reduction.
In this new report (PDF), the Congressional Research Service gives its stamp of approval to law-altering presidential signing statements, emphasizing that both Obama and Bush used them, and blurring the distinction between how these presidents and their predecessors (Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton) used them. The CRS is "nonpartisan" in the sense of "bipartisan." When both parties do it, that means it is not illegal.
Note the false claim that cuts have already been made. Cuts to dream budgets are not cuts to actual spending. Note the use of dollar figures arrived at by combining 10 years of budgets to make possible cuts sound large, as viewers assume a single year's budget is under discussion. Note the pretense that the automatic cuts will all be made to the military, whereas the law actually permits making them to the State Department and other areas as well. Note the claim that they will save jobs by cutting 10% of public jobs, as if military jobs are jobs and non-military jobs are not, even though the same dollars produce more jobs when spent in non-military industries. And of course there is no mention here of how enormous U.S. military spending is in comparison with the rest of the world.
Here's the bill: HR3662. Thanks to Mike Prokosch for pointing this out.
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the `Down Payment to Protect National Security Act of 2011'.
SEC. 2. REDUCTION IN THE NUMBER OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES.
(a) Definition- In this section, the term `agency' means an executive agency as defined under section 105 of title 5, United States Code.
(b) Determination of Number of Employees- Not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget shall determine the number of full-time employees employed in each agency. The head of each agency shall cooperate with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget in making the determinations.
(c) Replacement Hire Rate-
(1) IN GENERAL- During the period described under paragraph (2), the head of each agency may hire no more than 1 employee in that agency for every 3 employees who leave employment in that agency.
(2) PERIOD OF REPLACEMENT HIRE RATE- Paragraph (1) shall apply to each agency during the period beginning 60 days after the date of enactment of this Act through the date on which the Director of the Office of Management and Budget makes a determination that the number of full-time employees employed in that agency is 10 percent less than the number of full-time employees employed in that agency determined under subsection (a).
(d) Waivers- This section may be waived upon a determination by the President that--
(1) the existence of a state of war or other national security concern so requires; or
(2) the existence of an extraordinary emergency threatening life, health, public safety, property, or the environment so requires.
SEC. 3. REDUCTION OF DISCRETIONARY SPENDING LIMITS TO ACHIEVE SAVINGS FROM FEDERAL EMPLOYEE PROVISIONS.
Section 251(c) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 is amended to read as follows:
`(c) Discretionary Spending Limit- As used in this part, the term `discretionary spending limit' means--
`(1) with respect to fiscal year 2012--
`(A) for the security category, $684,000,000,000 in new budget authority; and
`(B) for the nonsecurity category, $359,000,000,000 in new budget authority;
`(2) with respect to fiscal year 2013--
`(A) for the security category, $686,000,000,000 in new budget authority; and
`(B) for the nonsecurity category, $361,000,000,000 in new budget authority;
`(3) with respect to fiscal year 2014, for the discretionary category, $1,051,000,000,000 in new budget authority;
`(4) with respect to fiscal year 2015, for the discretionary category, $1,070,000,000,000 in new budget authority;
`(5) with respect to fiscal year 2016, for the discretionary category, $1,091,000,000,000 in new budget authority;
`(6) with respect to fiscal year 2017, for the discretionary category, $1,115,000,000,000 in new budget authority;
`(7) with respect to fiscal year 2018, for the discretionary category, $1,141,000,000,000 in new budget authority;
`(8) with respect to fiscal year 2019, for the discretionary category, $1,166,000,000,000 in new budget authority;
`(9) with respect to fiscal year 2020, for the discretionary category, $1,192,000,000,000 in new budget authority; and
`(10) with respect to fiscal year 2021, for the discretionary category, $1,217,000,000,000 in new budget authority;
as adjusted in strict conformance with subsection (b).'.
SEC. 4. REDUCTION OF REVISED DISCRETIONARY SPENDING LIMITS TO ACHIEVE SAVINGS FROM FEDERAL EMPLOYEE PROVISIONS.
Paragraph (2) of section 251A of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 is amended to read as follows:
`(2) REVISED DISCRETIONARY SPENDING LIMITS- The discretionary spending limits for fiscal years 2013 through 2021 under section 251(c) shall be replaced with the following:
`(A) For fiscal year 2013--
`(i) for the security category, $546,000,000,000 in budget authority; and
`(ii) for the nonsecurity category, $501,000,000,000 in budget authority.
`(B) For fiscal year 2014--
`(i) for the security category, $551,000,000,000 in budget authority; and
`(ii) for the nonsecurity category, $500,000,000,000 in budget authority.
`(C) For fiscal year 2015--
`(i) for the security category, $560,000,000,000 in budget authority; and
`(ii) for the nonsecurity category, $510,000,000,000 in budget authority.
`(D) For fiscal year 2016--
`(i) for the security category, $571,000,000,000 in budget authority; and
`(ii) for the nonsecurity category, $520,000,000,000 in budget authority.
`(E) For fiscal year 2017--
`(i) for the security category, $584,000,000,000 in budget authority; and
`(ii) for the nonsecurity category, $531,000,000,000 in budget authority.
`(F) For fiscal year 2018--
`(i) for the security category, $598,000,000,000 in budget authority; and
`(ii) for the nonsecurity category, $543,000,000,000 in budget authority.
`(G) For fiscal year 2019--
`(i) for the security category, $610,000,000,000 in budget authority; and
`(ii) for the nonsecurity category, $556,000,000,000 in budget authority.
`(H) For fiscal year 2020--
`(i) for the security category, $624,000,000,000 in budget authority; and
`(ii) for the nonsecurity category, $568,000,000,000 in budget authority.
`(I) For fiscal year 2021--
`(i) for the security category, $638,000,000,000 in budget authority; and
`(ii) for the nonsecurity category, $579,000,000,000 in budget authority.'.
SEC. 5. CALCULATION OF TOTAL DEFICIT REDUCTION.
Section 251A of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 is amended--
(1) in paragraph (3)(A), by striking `$1,200,000,000,000' and inserting `$1,073,000,000,000';
(2) in paragraph (4), by striking `On January 2, 2013, for fiscal year 2013, and in' and inserting `In';
(3) in paragraphs (5) and (6), by striking `2013' each place it appears and inserting `2014'; and
(4) in paragraph (7), by striking subparagraph (A) and by striking `(B) FISCAL YEARS 2014-2021- ', moving the remaining text 2 ems to the left, and redesignating clauses (i) and (ii) as subparagraphs (A) and (B), respectively.
A 24-member delegation from Japan is in Washington, D.C., this week opposing the presence and new construction of U.S. military bases in Okinawa. Participating are members of the Japanese House of Councilors, of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, and of city governments in Okinawa, as well as leading protest organizers and the heads of several important organizations opposed to the ongoing U.S. military occupation of Okinawa.
The famously stingy U.S. tax payer, frequently seen bitterly protesting outrageously wasteful spending of a few million dollars, is paying billions of dollars to maintain and expand some 90 military bases in Japan (and to make those who profit from such business filthy rich). Thirty-four of those bases, containing 74% of their total land area, are in Okinawa, which itself contains only 0.6% of Japanese land. Okinawa is dominated by U.S. military bases and has been for 67 years since the U.S. forcibly appropriated much of the best land.
The people of Okinawa tell pollsters year after year that they oppose the bases. Year after year they elect government officials who oppose the bases. Year after year they march, sit-in, protest, and demand to be heard. Year after year, the national Japanese government confronts the issue and fails to take any decisive steps to resolve it. Year after year, the people of the United States remain blissfully unaware that, as in so many other places around the world, our military occupation of Okinawa is ruining people's lives.
Members of the delegation spoke at Busboys and Poets in Washington, D.C., Monday night. Toshio Ikemiyagi thanked people who came to hear them and pointed out that we all looked healthy and alert. That, he said, is because you have all had sleep. You've been able to sleep at night without deafening jet noise, he said. Ikemiyagi is the lead attorney on a lawsuit challenging the Kadena Air Base's noise pollution. He played us a video on Monday of what it is like. For the people who live there, he said, the war that ended 67 years ago has never ended.
Keiko Itokazu, a Member of the Japanese National Diet, depicted in this painting, said the Okinawan people had been heartbroken since having been unable to protect a 12-year-old girl from gang rape by U.S. troops in 1995. The Status of Forces Agreement between the United States and Japan gives U.S. troops immunity from Japanese prosecution. Between 1979 and 2008, U.S. forces in Okinawa caused 1,439 accidents (487 of them airplane related), and 5,584 criminal cases (559 of them involving violent crimes). The list includes fatal driving incidents, residential break-ins, taxi robberies, sexual violence, and other serious crimes against local citizens.
I spoke recently with Maria Allwine who describes herself as "a former Marine Corps spouse." She said, "It is common practice for military personnel to use Japanese women as 'mama-sans,' exchanging house cleaning and sexual favors for money. Nothing new, but it's given a wink and a nod by military brass. Those who don't cheat are considered abnormal by their peers."
The sex police are as absent as the skinflints from their usual place of prominence in U.S. political debate when it comes to occupying other people's countries. Imagine, however, just for a moment, that even one Japanese military base existed in the United States, and imagine that even one Japanese soldier committed a single crime. Can you imagine some things that U.S. television talking heads might say?
Our military is trying to build yet more bases in Okinawa. Why, you ask? Word around town is that even the Pentagon thinks it serves no purpose, but the Marine Corps likes to hold onto anything it's got. The Marines have even named one of their bases in Okinawa for Smedley Butler, the author of "War Is A Racket," and a man whom the Marines once imprisoned at Quantico for having spoken badly of Benito Mussolini. Don't look for logic. Look for petty rivalry and power, combined with unaccountability and we the people missing in action.
The least popular base in Okinawa is probably Futenma Air Base, which sits in the middle of a city, near schools, a hospital, and houses -- houses which military helicopters have been known to crash into. The Marine Corps plans to bring the accident-prone MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft to Futenma in 2012. Overwhelmingly, the people of Okinawa want the base closed, and do not want it relocated to a less populated area, and do not want it combined with another existing base. For the past 16 years, residents of Henoko, a location under consideration for relocation of the base, have held a continuous sit-in protest without pause. They have also risked their lives hanging onto a floating platform in the ocean, surrounded by supportive fishing boats, successfully preventing the military from surveying the site for construction.
Hiroshi Ashitomi has been a leader of the nonviolent resistance in Henoko for 16 years. "We use our own bodies," he said on Monday, "to resist aggressive actions by the Japanese government." Pointing to the picture of Gandhi in the collage on the wall at Busboys, Ashitomi said, "We follow the example of Gandhi. It is not easy. We receive threats from the police. But we are determined to use nonviolent resistance, and we get a lot of support from all over Japan. We are trying to protect the environment, so many young people from all over Japan come to our tent and participate in our resistance."
In fact, the environment and the rights of certain endangered species have come to dominate the anti-base movement in Okinawa. Apparently the rights of humans are far less interesting than the rights of the black naped tern, the blue coral, or above all the dugong. The dugong is the manatee-like creature in this photo. Osamu Makishi of the Citizens' Network for Okinawan Biodiversity spoke movingly about these species and their ecosystem on Monday, which he said are protected by treaty.
The Japanese delegation is meeting with Congress Members, including Senator Jim Webb on Wednesday, urging them to close and consolidate bases. I once accompanied a group of Italians on almost identical visits to Congress. The people of Vicenza, Italy, oppose the bases the U.S. military and the national Italian government impose on them, just as the people of Okinawa do. The congress members and staffers we met with at that time gave not the slightest damn for human rights or the environment or popular opinion. I don't think any of the Japanese delegates expect to encounter such humanity this week either. Their hope is to highlight the financial costs to the United States of the occupation of Japan. My hope is that we can help them by telling our misrepresentatives that we agree with the members of the delegation. If you're inclined to help, please call your rep and two senators with that message.
Specifically, the delegation is asking for the closure of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station; cancellation of plans to construct a new Marine Corps air base at Cape Henoko; reduction of unbearable noise caused by air operations at Kadena Air Base; withdrawal of any proposal to integrate Futenma's helicopter squadrons into Kadena's operations; an end to the construction of six new helipads in the Yanbaru forest in northern Okinawa; and revision of the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement to allow fair prosecutions of crimes.
Ultimately, however, the members of the delegation want the bases all to be closed. And they do not want them relocated to Guam or Australia or anywhere else, except perhaps to the United States. Itokazu suggested that the U.S. government could save money and produce jobs by bringing bases home. But, of course, we don't want a military occupation any more than Japan does, and the same money would produce more jobs if spent on a non-military industry.
Base opponents in Okinawa work with others in Korea, Guam, and Hawaii, and with former residents of Diego Garcia, as well as others around the world. An international conference called "Dialogue Under Occupation" was held in Okinawa last summer. In fact, people are working extremely hard in cities around the world to shut down or prevent the construction of giant military bases that we in the United States pay for and are endangered by but have very little awareness of.
John Feffer of the Institute for Policy Studies (see http://closethebase.org ) believes Futenma can be closed and can serve as a model for closing more. It is very difficult, however, Feffer says, to accomplish base closings cleanly without some sort of asterisk attached. When a base was closed in Seoul, Korea, a new one was opened outside it. When bases were closed in the Philippines, a Visiting Forces Agreement was drawn up. Yet, the Navy left Vieques, and the President of Ecuador seems to have found the magic formula in his proposal that any U.S. base in Ecuador be matched by an Ecuadorean base in Florida.
Here is another proposal: bring in the IAEA for inspections. No independent organization has verified U.S. claims to no longer be storing nuclear weapons in Japan. On the model of Iran, if full inspections are not permitted by, say, Thursday, or even if they are, we should seriously consider launching preemptive strikes against ourselves. The Constitution that the United States imposed on Japan 65 years ago forbids war preparation, yet the United States trains its forces in Japan to fight wars elsewhere in the world. Are we spreading democracy or hypocrisy? Are we building trust or animosity?
Ikemiyagi says democracy requires U.S. withdrawal from Okinawa. As with the location of nuclear power plants in Japan, he says, the Japanese government wants the military bases out of sight. If Tokyo wants bases, he says, then put them in Tokyo. The people of Okinawa have had enough.
Haven't we all?
It’s three years since President Obama promised to close Guantánamo.
Remind President Obama of his promise. Sign the petition on the White House’s “We the People” website urging him to honor his promise. 25,000 signatures are needed by February 6 to secure a response, so please sign up, and please spread the word.
What happened to President Obama’s bold promise?
Three years ago, on January 22, 2009, President Obama issued an executive order promising to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay within a year, but he did not move swiftly to implement his promise, and Congress then stepped in with onerous restrictions on the release of prisoners or their transfer to the US mainland for any reason, even to be tried or imprisoned.
Instead of being closed, Guantánamo still holds 171 men, even though 89 of these men were cleared for release more than two years ago by the interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force (PDF), which was established by the President after taking office.
By Dennis Kucinich and Russell Simmons on Huffington Post
This is not a progressive issue or a conservative issue. This is not a Tea Party issue or a liberal issue. This is an American issue. Money is destroying our politics and our political system. The signs are everywhere. A "super PAC" supporting Mitt Romney spent $3.5 million to knock Newt Gingrich out of the lead in Iowa. A super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich is spending a greater amount of money to return the favor to Mitt Romney in South Carolina. Our electoral system has become such a joke that two late-night comedians are now actually participating in it and are generating great laughter just by demonstrating how it operates.
I recently recommened a comprehensive Constitutional amendment addressing the corruption of our elections.
The largest piece of it, largely inspired by an amendment drafted by Russell Simmons, had not been introduced in Congress . . . until now.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich has just introduced HJRes100 which proposes this Constitutional Amendment:
Section 1. All campaigns for President and Members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate shall be financed entirely with public funds. No contributions shall be permitted to any candidate for Federal office from any other source, including the candidate.
Section 2. No expenditures shall be permitted in support of any candidate for Federal office, or in opposition to any candidate for Federal office, from any other source, including the candidate. Nothing in this Section shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.
Section 3. The Congress shall, by statute, provide limitations on the amounts and timing of the expenditures of such public funds.
Section 4. The Congress shall, by statute, provide criminal penalties for any violation of this Article.
Section 5. The Congress shall have the power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
This does not state that corporations are not people or bribery is not speech or the moon is not made of cheese, but it proceeds accordingly and handles the corruption of our elections as effectively as anything I've seen. No amendment is completely comprehensive, but no completely comprehensive amendment is likely to get passed (or even read). I also doubt very much that Congress will ever advance any such amendment, at least until there is a serious threat from two-thirds of the states to circumvent Congress with a Constitutional Convention.
But if there is an amendment to build the list of cosponsors on, this looks like the one. This looks to me like something that the anti-corporate-personhood movement, the clean elections movement, the peace movement, and every other cause for peace, justice, or representative government should get behind. I don't mean get behind a politician or a party or censor your own complete demands. I mean get every possible Congress member to cosponsor this bill, which exists because of our movement.
Blocking funding without providing public financing is a half-solution. Limiting private election spending while leaving loopholes is no solution. Prohibiting private spending, creating public financing, and making those laws enforceable is a huge chunk of the solution.
We can all remember "H J Res 100". Now to ask our misrepresentatives to sign on!
Don't take it from me. Take it from the book being published today that will mainstream the movement to end corporate personhood: "Corporations Are Not People: Why They Have More Rights Than You Do, And What You Can Do About It," by Jeff Clements with foreword by Bill Moyers.
Clements traces the development of the legal doctrine of corporate personhood back long before the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision two years ago this month, in particular to President Richard Nixon's appointment of Lewis Powell to the Supreme Court in 1972. Led by Powell's radical new conception of corporate rights, Clements shows, the court began striking down laws that protected living breathing persons' rights in areas including the environment, tobacco, public health, food, drugs, financial regulation, and elections.
Unconstitutional War: Strategic Risk in the Age of Congressional Abdication
by Joseph V. Gallagher III
By John Grant
Ever since George W. Bush lost the popular vote by 500,000 souls and was selected President by a right-leaning Supreme Court, the United States has seemed to me devoted to a twisted fate of slow-motion Armageddon.
What seems to guarantee this is one of our most characteristic American traits: We don’t learn from the past; instead, we choose to officially forget embarrassing history so we can move on from our debacles without losing an ounce of glory. We all know how it goes: Sure, mistakes were made, but we need to keep our eye on the ball and move forward. The costs are paid in slow motion and out of sight.
Selective Sympathy: War’s Mayhem and Murder is Somehow Less Hard to Bear than the Humane Termination of an Injured Animal
By Dave Lindorff
The officer rested his arm holding the stock of the assault rifle on the top of a log pile, and aimed directly between the target’s eyes. She was looking directly at him, unblinking, from 30 feet away, and exhibited no fear. “I hate doing this,” he muttered, before finally pulling the trigger.
A sharp “bang!” rang out, her head jerked up and then her whole body sagged to the ground, followed by some muscle jerks, and it was over.
The officer went over and checked the body, decided no second shot was needed to finish the job, and then walked back to his squad car, took out his phone, and called in the serial number of his rifle, reporting his firing of one round, as required by regulations.
By Dan DeWalt
Predator Odrona is about to sign a military authorization bill [Carl Levin's S-1867] that puts every one of us at risk of being detained by our own military. If the government decides that you are a terrorist threat, the military will be able to kidnap you and deny you the right to a trial or even the right to know why you're being held.
19 December 2011 - Almost two-thirds of countries asked by human rights groups about their involvement in extraordinary rendition flights have failed to comply with freedom of information requests – with European nations in particular accused of withholding evidence of the controversial CIA programme.
TODAY is the Senate's turn to vote on FY2012 "Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which the House passed yesterday evening by a vote of 283-138. This bill contains $554 billion for the Pentagon base budget and another $115.5 billion for the wars, and includes dangerous provisions for the "indefinite detention" of terrorism suspects. (Roll Call Here)
We need to flood the Capitol switchboard with calls to our Senators calling upon them to Vote "No" on this dangerous and wasteful bill. Please add your voice TODAY: Capitol switchboard 202-224-3121.
Background: The House of Representatives passed the FY2012 Defense Authorization bill last May by a vote of 322-96. The Senate passed its version of the "Defense" Authorization bill last week. (Roll Call Here). A joint conference committee completed work on a final version of the NDAA over the weekend. It was this version, which just passed the House. Among its disturbing features:
- *It authorizes $554 billion for the Pentagon's bloated base budget and $115.5 billion for continuing the wars.
- *It drops the Merkley language, which required a plan for the accelerated withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan before 2014.
- *It provides for the indefinite detention of people suspected of terrorism, without charges or trial and mandates military detention for a subset of terrorism suspects.
- *It bars the transfer of detainees currently held in Guantanamo to the United States for any reason including trial.
- *It requires draconian sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran directly threatening the economic well-being of average Iranians.
Senate votes will be coming today! Please make your calls now! Capitol switchboard 202-224-3121.
Let your Senators know that you want them to vote against the FY2012 "Defense" Authorization bill because it imperils civil liberties, continues an endless war in Afghanistan and elsewhere, wastes billions of dollars that 99% of Americans need for a more secure life here at home.
And please let us know of any feedback you receive. firstname.lastname@example.org
Gael and Rusti
Co-conveners UFPJ Legislative Working Group
By Dave Lindorff
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Dec. 14) -- Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today outlined his opposition to H.R. 1540, the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in a speech on the House floor. The NDAA contains unprecedented language that would authorize the military to indefinitely detain individuals without charge or trial – including U.S. citizens and those captured on U.S. soil. It also “affirms” that the U.S. is in an armed conflict with Al Qaeda, the Taliban and “associated forces” (that are undefined), setting the stage for permanent global warfare.
“This bill authorizes permanent warfare anywhere in the world. It gives the president unchecked power to pursue war. It diminishes the role of this Congress. The founders saw Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, which places in the hands of Congress the war power, as essential to a check and balance against the executive abuse of power. This legislation diminishes Congress' role in that regard.”
“This legislation authorizes the military to indefinitely detain individuals without charge or trial, including the detention of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. In short, what this bill does is it takes a wrecking ball to the United States Constitution and gives enormous power to the government or the state. I want friends on both sides of the aisle to understand this; we are giving the state more power over individuals with this bill. It’s the wrong direction.”
“Our children deserve a world without end, not a war without end. Our children deserve a world where they know the government will protect them, that it is not going to rule over them by invading their very thoughts and going, as the PATRIOT Act does, going into their banking records or into their educational records. We have to keep the government out of people's lives and stop the government from getting more into war which gives the government more control over people. This is the time we take a stand for the Constitution and a stand for a government which is smaller when it comes on matters of war.”
H R 1540 RECORDED VOTE 14-Dec-2011 6:58 PM
QUESTION: On Agreeing to the Conference Report
BILL TITLE: To authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2012 for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction, and for defense activities of the Department of Energy, to prescribe military personnel strengths for such fiscal year, and for other purposes
Jackson Lee (TX)
Lungren, Daniel E.
Sánchez, Linda T.
---- NOES 136 ---
---- NOT VOTING 14 ---
Johnson, E. B.
Here is the text of a portion of the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act marked up to indicate changes made by the conference committee. The changes in red gave the White House "flexibility" but did nothing to save the Bill of Rights from this assault.
Subtitle D--Detainee Matters
SEC. 1031. AFFIRMATION OF AUTHORITY OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE UNITED STATES TO DETAIN COVERED PERSONS PURSUANT TO THE AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE.
(a) In General- Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons (as defined in subsection (b)) pending disposition under the law of war.
(b) Covered Persons- A covered person under this section is any person as follows:
(1) A person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored those responsible for those attacks.
(2) A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.
(c) Disposition Under Law of War- The disposition of a person under the law of war as described in subsection (a) may include the following:
(1) Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force.
(2) Trial under chapter 47A of title 10, United States Code (as amended by the Military Commissions Act of 2009 (title XVIII of Public Law 111-84)).
(3) Transfer for trial by an alternative court or competent tribunal having lawful jurisdiction.
(4) Transfer to the custody or control of the person's country of origin, any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity.
(d) Construction- Nothing in this section is intended to limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force.
(e) Authorities- Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities, relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.
(f) Requirement for Briefings of Congress- The Secretary of Defense shall regularly brief Congress regarding the application of the authority described in this section, including the organizations, entities, and individuals considered to be `covered persons' for purposes of subsection (b)(2).
SEC. 1032. REQUIREMENT FOR MILITARY CUSTODY.
(a) Custody Pending Disposition Under Law of War-
(1) IN GENERAL- Except as provided in paragraph (4), the Armed Forces of the United States shall hold a person described in paragraph (2) who is captured in the course of hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) in military custody pending disposition under the law of war.
(2) COVERED PERSONS- The requirement in paragraph (1) shall apply to any person whose detention is authorized under section 1031 who is determined--
(A) to be a member of, or part of, al-Qaeda or an associated force that acts in coordination with or pursuant to the direction of al-Qaeda; and
(B) to have participated in the course of planning or carrying out an attack or attempted attack against the United States or its coalition partners.
(3) DISPOSITION UNDER LAW OF WAR- For purposes of this subsection, the disposition of a person under the law of war has the meaning given in section 1031(c), except that no transfer otherwise described in paragraph (4) of that section shall be made unless consistent with the requirements of section 1033.
(4) WAIVER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY- The
Secretary of Defense President may, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, waive the requirement of paragraph (1) if the Secretary President submits to Congress a certification in writing that such a waiver is in the national security interests of the United States.
(b) Applicability to United States Citizens and Lawful Resident Aliens-
(1) UNITED STATES CITIZENS- The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.
(2) LAWFUL RESIDENT ALIENS- The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to a lawful resident alien of the United States on the basis of conduct taking place within the United States, except to the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States.
(c) Implementation Procedures-
(1) IN GENERAL- Not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall issue, and submit to Congress, procedures for implementing this section.
(2) ELEMENTS- The procedures for implementing this section shall include, but not be limited to, procedures as follows:
(A) Procedures designating the persons authorized to make determinations under subsection (a)(2) and the process by which such determinations are to be made.
(B) Procedures providing that the requirement for military custody under subsection (a)(1) does not require the interruption of ongoing surveillance or intelligence gathering with regard to persons not already in the custody or control of the United States.
(C) Procedures providing that a determination under subsection (a)(2) is not required to be implemented until after the conclusion of an interrogation session which is ongoing at the time the determination is made and does not require the interruption of any such ongoing session.
(D) Procedures providing that the requirement for military custody under subsection (a)(1) does not apply when intelligence, law enforcement, or other government officials of the United States are granted access to an individual who remains in the custody of a third country.
(E) Procedures providing that a certification of national security interests under subsection (a)(4) may be granted for the purpose of transferring a covered person from a third country if such a transfer is in the interest of the United States and could not otherwise be accomplished.
(d) AUTHORITIES.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect the existing criminal enforcement and national security authorities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or any other domestic law enforcement agency with regard to a covered person, regardless whether such covered person is held in military custody.
(e) Effective Date- This section shall take effect on the date that is 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and shall apply with respect to persons described in subsection (a)(2) who are taken into the custody or brought under the control of the United States on or after that effective date.