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I've been fond of December 1st ever since I was born on it. I later found out that it had been on a December 1st that Rosa Parks had sat down and refused to stand up or move to the back of that racist bus in Montgomery. Later still I found out about a December 1st that had happened still earlier.
It was on December 1, 1948, that President José Figueres Ferrer of Costa Rica abolished the military of Costa Rica. He didn't "cut" its projected dream budget by a teeny fraction that sounded bigger if multiplied by 10 and announced as a reduction "over 10 years." He didn't cut it in the ordinary sense of actually cutting it. He abolished it. Costa Rica put its military in a museum and a museum in its military headquarters. It turned its military bases into schools. It turned its military budget into a fund for useful projects. In 1986, President Oscar Arias Sánchez declared December 1st the Día de la Abolición del Ejército (Military Abolition Day).
Without a military, Costa Rica has not been a perfect paradise on earth, but it has avoided invading or being invaded by other countries. It has avoided military coups and civil wars and CIA interventions (although a coup in Honduras in 2009 involved flying the president to Costa Rica).
Costa Rica is not rich, but its people have a higher life expectancy than we do in the United States. Costa Rica provides a social safety net and of course provides everyone healthcare, spending less per capita than we do but providing superior healthcare than is provided by the wealthy United States. Costa Rica is ranked by the Happy Planet Index as the #1 best place to live for happiness. The United States comes in at #150 out of 178. U.S. elections have 50% turnout and somewhere around 98% disgust. Costa Rican elections have 90% turnout and enthusiastic participation. And Costa Rica's way of life is far more sustainable than ours, one of the most sustainable in the world.
It's not a coincidence that our super wealthy country spends as much as all other nations combined on war preparations and ranks pitifully low in measures of health, education, environmentalism, happiness, and well-being. We imagine that without a big military other nations would attack ours. But why would they? Simply because ours frequently attacks others? That's a projection, not an observation.
We imagine that without the largest military ever seen, we couldn't attack other nations for their own good and the good of the world. But the tradeoff we've chosen is not one of sacrificing for the world's safety. If the United States didn't spend $1 trillion every year on war preparation and war, it could spend that money on its own people and the world's. We could have turned Afghanistan into Costa Rica over the past decade. We could have built schools and hospitals and green infrastructure. Does anyone seriously imagine that the people of Afghanistan or Pakistan or Yemen would hate the U.S. government more if it bought them a better life rather than raining its hated missiles from the sky?
Libertarians in the United States may not want to help the world, or even our own country, but they at least want to stop investing in killing. Liberals, on the other hand, want to keep the war preparations money flowing while taxing millionaires to help pay for it. Every "progressive" group in the United States right now is demanding that we protect what's left of our safety net, tax millionaires and billionaires, and (through careful silence) leave military spending right where it is or where it's headed. Costa Rica has made progress beyond the imagining of our progressives, and it hasn't done so through progressive taxation. Costa Rica has chosen not to make large-scale murder its primary public purpose, or any purpose at all.
In the United States, peace groups sometimes mark the International Day of Peace. But virtually everyone ignores Military Abolition Day. It's time we changed that.
Venezuelan Electoral Postmortems
by Stephen Lendman
Chavistas celebrated Sunday's victory. Bolivarianism triumphed over exploitive neoliberal harshness. In open, free, and fair elections, Venezuelans got to choose. It's constitutionally mandated. Every vote counts equally.
Shooting to Kill Immigrants on the Mexican Border: WTF? A Border Agent Fired First at Immigrant Smugglers?
By Dave Lindorff
Sometimes it takes a small tragedy to call attention to expose a much bigger one.
The small tragedy happened when Nicholas Ivey, a US Border Patrol agent, was shot dead on a dark night in rough terrain along the border with Mexico in Arizona, a state that has been obsessing about illegal border crossers coming into the US from Mexico seeking jobs.
International Call to Action:Support the General Motors-Colombia Hunger StrikersThirteen members of ASOTRECOL, the Association of Injured and Ex-Workers of General Motors Colombia, launched a hunger strike on Wednesday, August 1st outside the U.S. embassy to demand that GM justly compensate, provide medical care, and reintegrate over 200 workers who were fired after suffering work-related injuries. As proof of their commitment, the workers have sewn their mouths shut and plan to carry out the hunger strike to the death. August 24th marks the 24th day of their to-the-death hunger strike and 387 days of a tent occupation in front of the U.S. embassy in Bogotá. General Motors walked out of negotiations on August 6th and has since refused to return to the table. A few days ago Colombian authorities shut off the electrical supply to the hunger strikers' camp, leaving them without light and necessary medical equipment.Protests organized for August 24thDetroit: GM Headquarters, 300 Renaissance Center --- 12pmWashington D.C.: Capitol Hill --- 12pmNew York: Colombian Consulate --- 12pmBogotá: U.S. Embassy, 24/7São Paulo: Colombian EmbassyHanover: Colombian EmbassySPONSORS (as of 8/22): Witness for Peace; United Steel Workers; São José Metal Workers Union, Brazil (Sindicato dos Metalurgicos de São José dos Campos e Região); International Automotive Workers Council (Internationaler
Automobilarbeiterratschlag); Service Employees International Union 32 BJ; Occupy Wall Street Labor Outreach Committee; South East Michigan Jobs with Justice; Washtenaw Community Action Team; Graduate Employees’ Organization, AFT-Michigan, Local 3550; Lecturer Employees' Organization, AFT-Michigan, Local 6244; Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice; Moratorium Now!; U.S./Cuba Labor Exchange; Autoworkers Caravan; Organization for a Free Society; Solidarity; International Action CenterASOTRECOL website: www.asotrecol.com
Ecuador's president Rafael Correa has agreed to give the WikiLeaks founder asylum, according to an official in Quito
"Ecuador will grant asylum to Julian Assange," said an official in the Ecuadorean capital Quito, who is familiar with the government discussions.
by Stephen Lendman
Since taking office in February 1999, Chavez has been Washington's number one Latin American enemy.
He worries US officials for good reason. He's a powerful threat. He represents a good example. Venezuela's social democracy shames America's. Bolivarianism works.
By John Grant
Stop feeding the beast.
- Julieta Castellanos*
William Brownfield is a major architect in the current linkage between the failed Drug War and the War On Terror. He may succeed in making it an even greater failure in the future.
The Anti-Empire Report
I'm sure most Americans are mighty proud of the fact that Julian Assange is so frightened of falling into the custody of the United States that he had to seek sanctuary in the embassy of Ecuador, a tiny and poor Third World country, without any way of knowing how it would turn out. He might be forced to be there for years. "That'll teach him to mess with the most powerful country in the world! All you other terrorists and anti-Americans out there — Take Note! When you fuck around with God's country you pay a price!"
How true. You do pay a price. Ask the people of Cuba, Vietnam, Chile, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Iran, Haiti, etc., etc., etc. And ask the people of Guantánamo, Diego Garcia, Bagram, and a dozen other torture centers to which God's country offers free transportation.
You think with the whole world watching, the United States would not be so obvious as to torture Assange if they got hold of him? Ask Bradley Manning. At a bare minimum, prolonged solitary confinement is torture. Before too long the world may ban it. Not that that would keep God's country and other police states from using it.
You think with the whole world watching, the United States would not be so obvious as to target Assange with a drone? They've done it with American citizens. Assange is a mere Aussie.
And Ecuador and its president, Rafael Correa, will pay a price. You think with the whole world watching, the United States would not intervene in Ecuador? In Latin America, it comes very naturally for Washington. During the Cold War it was said that the United States could cause the downfall of a government south of the border ... with a frown. The dissolution of the Soviet Union didn't bring any change in that because it was never the Soviet Union per se that the United States was fighting. It was the threat of a good example of an alternative to the capitalist model.
Today, voters in Mexico head to the polls in a presidential election that has been shaken up in the last few weeks by student-led protests that are challenging the front-runner status of Enrique Peña Nieto. A victory for Peña Nieto, the candidate for the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, would mark a return to the executive office by the political party that dominated Mexican politics for more than 70 years. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City and candidate in 2006, is also running and, according to polls, is considered the second place contender.
For more, we’re joined by FSRN reporter Shannon Young. She’s been following the race and joins us from Oaxaca.
Listen to FSRN's interview here.
Cindy Sheehan discusses the new Venezuelan Constitution as a model for reforming the U.S. Constitution in the direction of greater democratic and economic rights, as well as the politics of Hugo Chavez, and her new book, Revolution: A Love Story. Cindy Sheehan is a leading U.S. peace actvist, a gold star mother, an author, blogger, and radio host.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Engineer: Christiane Brown.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
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By John Grant
Whore: (verb) To debase oneself by doing something for unworthy motives, typically to make money.
-The New Oxford American Dictionary
It’s a challenge to make adult sense of the absurdities coming out of Colombia right now.
By John Grant
The United States is finding the occupation of other nations more and more challenging. Consider the burning of Korans in Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, the bombing deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers and a host of other recent disasters. Economic challenges at home only add to the difficulty.
In such a frustrating quandary, Washington and Pentagon leaders are falling back on what they feel the US does best: Secret killing.
By John Grant
I could have been a vicious raving monster who killed and killed and left towers of rotting flesh in my wake. Instead, here I was on the side of truth, justice and the American way. Still a monster, of course, but I cleaned up nicely afterward, and I was OUR monster, dressed in red, white and blue 100 percent synthetic virtue.
Dearly Devoted Dexter
I teach creative writing in a maximum security prison in Philadelphia. During the week I scour two thrift shops for 35-cent paperbacks that I haul in to stock a small lending library I created for inmates. Amazingly, the prison had no library.
Imagine that your son, your darling little boy, was killed during the past eight years in a war that served purely to kill a whole lot of Iraqis and enrich a small number of billionaires, while causing horrible environmental damage, stripping away our civil liberties, and poisoning foreign relations elsewhere. And imagine that, instead of avoiding this reality or lying about it, you confronted it. Further, imagine that you became so famous confronting it, that everybody wanted to be your friend, at least for a minute. You might even get invited to Venezuela by President Hugo Chavez, and you might go with a mind open to hearing what he had to say.
Cindy Sheehan did. And now she's published a book about it. If Venezuela makes it to the top of the list for the next U.S. war, this book will be a valuable tool for confronting the propaganda. But why wait? Our government has attempted a coup and is openly funding opposition groups. Why wait to consider what it is we're paying to try to undo?
Venezuela could be targeted for its oil, of course. But Cindy proposes another reason why the government in Washington, D.C., that we all so love to hate except when it kills lots of people, might be targeting Venezuela. In an interview included in the book, she asks Chavez: "Why do you think the Empire makes such a concerted effort to demonize you?" His response, which has been translated from Spanish, is:
"I think for different reasons. But I've gotten to the conclusion there is one particular strong reason, a big reason. They are afraid, the Empire is afraid. The Empire is afraid that the people of the United States might find out about the truth, they are afraid that something like that could erupt in their own territory -- a Bolivarian movement; or a Lincoln movement -- a movement of citizens, conscious citizens to transform the system. . . . So, why do they demonize us? They know -- those who direct the Empire -- they know the truth. But they fear the truth. They fear the contagious effect. They fear a revolution in the United States. They fear an awakening of the people in the United States. And so that's why they do everything they can. And they achieve it, relatively, that a lot of sectors in the United States see us as devils. No one wants to copy the devil."
But we might copy some little things even from the devil if they were worth copying. What is it that Sheehan and Chavez think might be contagious if we found out about it?
This is why the book is a valuable resource now, threat or no threat, war or no war. It's a story of a people's movement, largely nonviolent. It's a story of dramatic change that was slow in coming and then burst into fruition. It's a story of a work in progress that is moving in positive directions, investing in education, protecting the environment, raising the living standards of the majority of the people. Can a new political party succeed? Yes, it can. Can an outworn Constitution be rewritten at great length and well by a popular movement? Yes, it can. (PDF). Cindy lists some of the changes brought by this Constitution:
· added a "people's branch"
· added an "election's branch"
· citizens are able to recall the president
· health care is enshrined as a human right
· education is enshrined as a human right
· gender inclusivity in the language
· equal rights for women under the law
· only the people can amend the document
· aggressive indigenous rights
· commits the power of the state to protect the environment
The horror! I know some USians who don't dare HOPE for such a CHANGE. I even know some who are learning that such changes are perfectly possible, but that they don't come about through hoping, or through voting alone.
The weakness of the Venezuelan revolution, however, is very similar to the weakness of US liberalism. Each pins its hopes on a single messiah. Of course, Chavez is making the poor richer, while Obama is making the rich richer. But it appears entirely possible that positive movement in Venezuela will be thrown into reverse when Chavez dies. Chavez ought to be teaching his nation not to depend on one man. He ought to step down while alive and well enough to help guide his successor. He ought to move on to a focus on uniting the nations of South America. That he does not do this seems to me a mark against his character. But it does not change the fact that the Venezuelan people have been empowered to rule by referendum, while in the United States the presidency has been made more powerful than that of Venezuela -- and without the addition of direct democracy. The Venezuelan Constitution has already been amended, by public referendum. The U.S. Constitution hasn't been touched in 40 years except through dramatic changes imposed by the Supreme Court or the President.
The question that my mind focuses on in reading Cindy's account is not, however, what can I find wrong with Chavez. It's this: Can we make an Occupy movement worthy of the title Bolivarian?
In Air America: Under the Imperial Eye, Chris Floyd reports on the recent revelation that Iraq's supposedly "sovereign airspace" is constantly under surveillance by a network of drones operated by the State Department. Apparently the only reason this news came to light is because of a publicly available government appeal for private bids on the project. Neither we nor Iraqis were meant to know:
"Iraqis were outraged this week to find they are being spied upon by a fleet of American drones hovering constantly in their supposedly sovereign skies, long after the supposed withdrawal of American forces."
Beating Up on Chavez - by Stephen Lendman
Since inaugurated in February 1999, he's faced open US hostility, including by go-along major media scoundrels.
By John Grant
Hugo Chavez is at it again, sticking his thumb into the eye of the overbearing United States of America. And, true to imperial historical form, the US is playing the outraged hemispherical nanny and blustering back.
Chavez is currently playing a round of the game my-enemy’s-enemy-is-my-friend and is hosting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Caracas. The Iranian president is on a tour of friendly leftist regimes in Latin America, while the leaders of our great nation whistle and look at the ceiling when Israeli agents murder Iranian scientists in broad daylight.
Marcelo Raimon, Proceso
WASHINGTON, 27 de mayo (apro).- Mientras el pasado miércoles 25 en Londres el presidente de Estados Unidos, Barack Obama, prometía --junto al primer ministro de Gran Bretaña, David Cameron--, “incrementar la presión” sobre el régimen libio, en Washington la Cámara de Representantes debatía intensamente la posibilidad de conceder al jefe de la Casa Blanca todavía mayores poderes para combatir al “terrorismo” en cualquier lugar del planeta.
El proyecto 1034 de la nueva ley de autorización de gastos para el ministerio de Defensa es tan ambigua, que hace posible la entrega al presidente de un permiso para llevar la guerra contra Al Qaeda donde sea, por lo que varias organizaciones de derechos civiles, como la American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lanzaron, por ahora sin suerte, una campaña urgente para presionar al Congreso.
BY NOBEL PRIZE WINNER ADOLFO PEREZ ESQUIVEL, BUENOS AIRES, MAY 5, 2011:
FROM NOBEL TO NOBEL
In addressing you I do it fraternally and, at the same time, to express my concern and indignation after witnessing the destruction and death caused in several nations in the name of “freedom and democracy”, two words that have been twisted and stripped of meaning, and how you end up justifying murder, which was cheered up as if you were talking about a sports event.
My indignation refers to the big celebration of this assassination by North American social sectors, chiefs of state in Europe and other countries…a murder ordered by your administration and the satisfaction in your smiling face while stating that it was “in the name of justice”.
By Catherine Hornby
ROME | Wed May 18, 2011
(Reuters) - Up to 27 million people are modern-day slaves, and migrants fleeing violence in North Africa are among those most at risk of being exploited, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday.
Countries where migrants arrive should try to identify potential victims and protect them, rather than opting for immediate repatriation which often sends them back into the hands of human traffickers, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca said.
Tens of thousands of migrants are fleeing turmoil in North Africa, with many trying to reach Europe by boat, but the problem of slavery exists all over the world and India, Thailand and Malaysia are among the worst-affected countries.
Resurrecting the Bogus FARC-EP Files/Venezuela Connection - by Stephen Lendman
The story surfaced in March 2008 after Colombia's military, with US Special Forces help, attacked a FARC-EP rebel camp in Ecuador. Over 20 people were killed, including 16 or more FARC-EP members while they slept. Key among them was Paul Reyes, the FARC-EP's second-in-command, their peace negotiator, public voice, and lead figure in the Chavez-led hostage negotiations with Colombia at the time.
Tensions rose when Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos Calderon said three laptops and other materials were found at the FARC-EP camp. Containing provocative evidence, he said, it showed a Chavez/Ecuadorean President Raphael Correa link to FARC-EP rebels, including Venezuela providing them weapons, munitions, and about $300 million.
By Ron Ridenour
(Part II of journalist Ridenour’s political autobiography, Solidarity and Resistance: 50 Years With Che)
Wilfred Burchett was a key source of information for many of us who wanted to understand what the United States was doing against Southeast Asians. Burchett was an intrepid reporter for decades. He was the first correspondent to enter Hiroshima after the nuclear bombing and brought the world the military-censored news of its horrors.
(This article is the first of seven pieces dedicated to the Cuban revolution and its defeat of the US imperialist invasion 50 years ago, April 17-19, 1961, and embraces my half-century struggle.)
I. Sharing Che’s Activism
Che’s penetrating eyes stare at me seriously as I write about him. It is strange that I have never written about him before, other than to quote him. Perhaps it is because Che has been too large a figure for me to tackle? I don’t know. This writing, though, is a commemoration of Che and of my 50 years in our common struggle.
Ernesto Guevara was my greatest personal inspiration and Cuba’s revolution was my greatest collective inspiration—along with the Vietnamese resistance fighters. Nicknamed Che, an Argentine expression, he lived and died as he preached. Che’s internationalist ideals, his consequent actions, his integrity and charm, have influenced my life all these decades.
Evidence of Quid Pro Quo with Guerrilla, Paramilitary Groups Contradicts 2007 Plea Deal
Colombian Military Officials Encouraged, Facilitated Company's Payments to Death Squads
More than 5,500 Pages of Chiquita Records Published Online by National Security Archive
March 2000 notes of Chiquita Senior Counsel Robert Thomas indicate awareness that payments were for security services.
By John Grant
“And we never really face what is in front of us, never face what is inside our gutless language of cartels and drug lords and homeland security, never face that forces are unleashed on the land with names like poverty, a fix, murder, and despair, and our tools cannot master these forces. …Things happen and no one says much. Then after a while, no one admits the thing even happened.”
--Charles Bowden on life in Ciudad Juarez
US Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual resigned last week after cables he sent were released by WikiLeaks suggesting he thought Mexican police and military forces were crippled by corruption.
Truth was no defense in Pascual’s case.
Warns Any Radiation Exposure Is Unsafe
Washington, DC - March 19, 2011 – Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) today called for a nationwide
moratorium on new nuclear reactors in the United States and a suspension of operations at the nuclear reactors with a similar design as those involved in the disaster in Japan, as well as those on fault lines. PSR cited the medical risks associated with any level of radiation exposure regardless of how small. Lower doses result in less chance of harm than higher doses, but any dose level can put an individual at risk.