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People from Yemen and Pakistan and elsewhere have told me, and have testified in the U.S. Congress, that they have a hard time convincing their neighbors that everyone in the United States doesn't hate them. There are buzzing killer robots flying over their houses night and day and every now and then blowing a bunch of people up with a missile with very little rhyme or reason that anyone nearby can decipher. They don't know where to go or not go, what to do or not do, to be safe or keep their children safe. Their children have instinctively taken to crouching and covering their heads just like U.S. children in the 1950s were taught to do as supposed protection from Soviet nuclear weapons.
The good news is that, of course, we don't all hate Yemenis or Pakistanis or Somalis or Afghans or Libyans or any of the other people who might suspect us of it. The bad news -- and the news that I'm afraid would be almost incomprehensible to many millions of people around the world -- is that most of us have only the vaguest idea where any of those countries are, some of us don't know that they ARE countries at all, and we pay far greater attention to our sports and our pets than to whom exactly our government is killing this Tuesday.
This obliviousness comes into sharpest relief perhaps when we elect the officials who are legally called on to decide on our wars. The extent to which Congress has handed war making over to presidents is also brought out by observing Congressional elections. It is not at all uncommon for U.S. Congressional candidates' platforms to entirely ignore all questions of war and peace, and to win support from either Democrats or Republicans despite this omission -- despite, in particular, taking no position on the area funded by 57% of the dollars they will vote on if elected, namely wars and war preparations.
Here in Virginia's Fifth Congressional District, a man named Lawrence Gaughan recently announced as a Democratic candidate for Congress. I'd never heard of him, so I took a look at the "Issues" section of his website. Not only WAS there such a section (some candidates campaign purely on their biography without taking positions on anything), but Gaughan's site had clear forthright statements on a number of important issues. He backed labor unions despite their virtual nonexistence in his district. He admitted the existence of climate change. He backed Eisenhower era tax rates (!!). And his statements made commitments: "I will not vote for any tax cuts for those making over 250,000 dollars a year." "I support the Dream Act." "I would vote for any legislation that would bring back jobs in construction, manufacturing and production." Either this guy had real principles or he was just too new for anyone to have explained to him how to make his promises vague enough not to commit himself to any specific actions.
All too typically, however, when I scrolled through the "Issues," I noticed a gap. I sent this note off to the candidate's staff:
"Your candidate has some of the best and clearest positions on domestic issues that I've seen, and dramatically superior to Congressman Hurt's, but judging by his website as it stands today he seems to have no position on foreign policy whatsoever, or even on that 57% of discretionary spending that, according to the National Priorities Project, goes to militarism. For people who support domestic social justice AND peace in the world in this district, we are put in a bind by our history. Congressman Perriello voted for every war dollar he could, and has made a career of pushing for new wars since leaving office. Congressman Hurt is a disaster on other issues but listened to us and took a stand against missile strikes on Syria. He even listened to us on lawless imprisonment and voted against a "Defense" Authorization Act on one occasion. Helpful as it is to know what Lawrence Gaughan thinks of 43% of the budget, some of us are really going to have to know what he thinks of the larger part. Would he cut military spending? Would he oppose new wars? Does he oppose drone strikes? Would he repeal the authorization to use military force of '01 and that of '03? Would he support economic conversion to peaceful industries on the model now set up in Connecticut? Would he advance a foreign policy of diplomacy, cooperation, actual aid, and nonviolent conflict resolution? Are there any foreign bases he would close? Does he think having U.S. troops in 175 nations is too many, too few, or just right? Does he support joining the ICC? Thanks for your time!"
A couple of days later, Gaughan called me on the phone. We talked for a while about foreign policies, wars, peace, militarism, the economic advantages of converting to peaceful industries, the danger of handing war powers over to presidents. He said he opposed wars. He said he wanted to take on the influence of the military industrial complex. He didn't seem particularly well informed, but he seemed to be coming from a fairly good place or to at least be willing to get there.
He proposed allowing military veterans to never pay any taxes. That's not exactly the sort of resistance to militarism that President Kennedy had in mind when he wrote that wars would continue until the conscientious objector has the honor and prestige of the soldier. Gaughan offered no tax cuts for conscientious objectors. Still, he said he'd get some good statements on foreign policy added to his website right away. He also said he'd be willing to debate the other candidates, including the incumbent, on foreign relations, should peace groups create such a forum and invite him.
Lo and behold, the next day, this appeared on Gaughan's website:
"We have strayed from our constitution when it comes to the defense of our nation and declaration of war. I was opposed to the war in Iraq for many reasons. The enormous price paid by our brave men and women as well as the huge financial debt that we incurred was not necessary. Republicans in Congress continue to defer those costs on our military personnel and our veterans through the sequester and other austerity measures.
"Not withstanding the government shutdown, the Republican budget proposals that my opponent, Robert Hurt, has voted for over the past three years, have forced the Pentagon into reductions that have taken a tremendous toll on enlisted personnel right here in our district. These political policies are also causing reductions to TriCare, active duty health benefits, and to retired military pensions. As the greatest nation on earth, it is unacceptable that we have homeless veterans or military families who struggle to pay the bills.
"We owe so much to the men and women who serve. Instead of laying off soldiers and cutting funding for the VA, we could begin by eliminating the ongoing fraud by military contractors. Fraud committed by dozens of irresponsible military industry corporations have cost taxpayers more than $1.1 trillion. Eliminating this fraud would offset most of the estimated $1.2 trillion in policy savings required over the next decade in order to realize the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated $1.4 trillion in deficit reduction without 'gutting our military'. Furthermore, as a component of tax reform, there should be a tax exemption status for veterans written into the tax code."
His topic, all too typically -- people around the world should understand -- is not how to relate to the 95% of humanity that is not in the United States, but how to treat "The Military."
His first sentence echoes our discussion of the past three-quarters century of undeclared wars, but doesn't spell it out. Will he oppose wars that lack a Congressional declaration or not?
He picks one past war to oppose without stating his position on future wars. He describes the costs of a war that killed some million Iraqis and destroyed a nation as all being paid by the U.S. and its soldiers.
He blames the sequester agreement on only one of the two parties that agreed to it, and buys into the myth that it has resulted in cuts to the military. (True, Democrats in the Senate recently put up a token effort to fund veterans' needs and were blocked by Republicans.) Gaughan claims that we owe "so much" to members of the military who "serve." What exactly do we owe them? Can he name something that we owe them? He doesn't want soldiers to be "laid off," as if employing them is a make-work jobs program.
In my view we owe veterans housing, healthcare, education, a clean environment, and a healthy society because they are human beings -- and we owe it equally to every other human being. But we shouldn't pretend that the military's so-called "service" isn't making us hated around the world. We shouldn't try to produce more veterans as if there were something noble about murdering people.
Gaughan almost closes on an up note. He acknowledges fraud by military contractors. He even calls them "military," rather than using the misleading term "defense." But then he makes clear that he doesn't want to cut the military. He wants to create efficiency to avoid cuts while saving money.
Would he repeal authorizations to use military force? Who knows. Would he back future wars? Who can tell? Does he believe U.S. troops should be in 175 nations? Perhaps. But if they were in 182 would he then think 182 was the right number? Does he favor allowing presidents to murder people with missiles from drones or by any other means? Does he think antagonizing Russia and China and Iran should remain the focus of U.S. foreign policy? Does he want the occupation of Afghanistan ended? Who knows.
He brought up a Department of Peace on our phone call, but it didn't make the website yet. One can hope that Gaughan's website is a work in progress. There's certainly a chance he'll become a far better candidate and Congress member than this district has had in a long time.
But this, dear world, is more or less how the world's largest-ever killing machine operates. It turns its eyes away from the machine's work and, if pushed, debates the care of the machine itself -- maintaining more or less complete obliviousness to the horrors the machine produces in those far away places where you live and die.
By Bud Alcock
Panchimalco, El Salvador-- Thirty years ago, on a miserably hot and humid July day in 1983, I went to Washington DC with my wife and two-year-old son in his stroller. We were there with tens of thousands to protest US involvement in civil wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador. Last month, I became re-acquainted with the political struggle of El Salvador as a member of an international delegation to observe the first round of their presidential election on February 2nd.
Criticizing repression of protest abroad, practicing it at home: What if Americans Demanded the Ouster of This Government?
By Dave Lindorff
Ukraine’s new rulers, in one of their first acts, have disbanded that country’s riot police.
By Dave Lindorff
President Obama, five years late, decried the terrible income gap in the US, which has worsened during his years in the White House, and offered the puny “fix” of raising the minimum wage paid to employees working on federal projects from its current $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. This executive order, which could have been done when he took office in the depths of the Great Recession back in 2009 would be not immediate but would be phased in over the next three years.
By Linn Washington
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s Bridgegate defense of being misled by staff members resembles a defense advanced in 1999 by another once top Republican NJ official to distance himself from a his role in a contentious 1990s-era scandal that roiled the Garden State: racial profiling by NJ state troopers that targeted minorities for illegal enforcement.
It would make a tremendous difference nationally and internationally to have a real activist, progressive, populist, and democrat as mayor of our nation's capital. Imagine a leading opponent of war as mayor of the world center of war making. Imagine major public initiatives to address the massive poverty and racial disparity in the headquarters of the greatest wealth machine on the planet. Imagine the model set in Washington for school systems elsewhere based on public community schools rather than corporate commodification of mis-education.
Imagine Congress forced to work in a place with living wage laws, wise environmental practices, free mass transit, perhaps a public bank -- a place where the quality of life rises for all and trickledown propaganda can't utter its first syllable without being mocked. Imagine the home of the U.S. government as a living breathing counterexample to every acontextual ahistorical anti-intellectual claim for the benefits of violence over diplomacy, monopolistic capitalism over the social good, and brutal pigheadedness over civic engagement and innovation.
I hardly ever promote candidates. We're not going to vote our way to peace and justice -- much less vote our way to clean, open, verifiable elections with public financing and free, fair media time. But Washington, D.C., is actually a place where Andy Shallal has a chance to get himself elected. He's in a 7-way race, and people want a newcomer.
Andy Shallal! Most of you know who this is. Andy has been a leading opponent of wars and militarism, of racism, and of extreme materialism. Andy has testified before Congress, rallied crowds, and gone to jail for justice. He's helped keep Northrop Grumman from living off DC taxpayers. He's pushed for higher wages from Wal-Mart, and paid them at his own restaurants. He's the owner of four -- soon to be six -- Busboys and Poets restaurants, the places where all the best organizations and campaigns find a free space to meet, strategize, communicate, and entertain -- spaces that always seem a bit more integrated by age, race, and background than anywhere else in DC.
Andy is not just a personality, not just a backstory, not just an aura or a brand name. He has proposals ready to work on. He wants a moratorium on school closings. He wants money put back into the minimum wage (what's commonly and misleadingly called "raising" it). He wants the voting age dropped to 17. Andy is on the board of trustees of the Institute for Policy Studies. That's like having your own cabinet already formed, but formed by geniuses and actual small-d democrats.
I can think of another major city where a mayor was recently elected with great fanfare and great expectations, but the disappointments came quickly. I don't know how that will work out, but I know that Andy won't disappoint. He also would not want public activist pressure to go away. We'll need to pressure Andy and the D.C. City Council, we'll need to organize and educate and listen to and learn from our neighbors. We'll need to keep doing what we do, but we'll do it with the mayor on our side, the mayor of an international city, a city with sister cities on every continent, a city with great influence on public discussion at home and abroad.
This is a campaign for us all, no matter where we live.
Andy is the guest this week on Talk Nation Radio. Listen here.
His own website is at http://Andy4DC.org
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Andy Shallal is running for mayor of Washington, D.C. Learn more and support him at http://andy4dc.com
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Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
A 1991 report tracked down by DeSmogBlog from the University of California-San Francisco's Legacy Tobacco Documents reveals that the State Policy Network (SPN) was created by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), raising additional questions over both organizations' Internal Revenue Service (IRS) non-profit tax status.
by Stephen Lendman
On June 14, Iranians began voting. They'll choose their 11th president. By law, incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can't compete. He's limited to two terms. He's been president since August 2005.
With U.S. approval of Congress holding steady at a whopping 15%, one wonders just who it is the elected representatives are representing. Perhaps we can answer that question, by looking at some of their recent activities, and considering some of the things currently left undone.
It has been some time since the language of U.S. politics has been twisted so far as to render words nearly meaningless. In an effort to clarify what is actually being said in Washington, D.C., this writer offers this glossary of terms, with historical context, current usage and, at times, synonyms and antonyms.
Some of these words and terms have been around for a while; others are brand new.
Venezuela's Maduro Inaugurated
by Stephen Lendman
Latin American and other heads of state attended Maduro's inaugural ceremony. Earlier he accused opposition forces of triggering post-election violence.
"We have stopped a coup in its first stage," he said. "They are beaten, but they are coming back with a new attack." On Thursday, he flew to Lima.
Two scenes of terror this week, only one terrorism investigation: The Real Terrorists are the Corporate Execs Who’ve Bought the
By Dave Lindorff
The way I see it, we had two acts of terrorism in the US this week. The first took place at the end of the historic Boston Marathon, when two bombs went off near the finish line, killing three and seriously injuring dozens of runners and spectators. The second happened a couple days later in the town of West, Texas, where a fertilizer plant blew up, incinerating or otherwise killing at least 15, and injuring at least 150 people, and probably more as the search for the dead and the injured continues.
by Stephen Lendman
Venezuela's spirit of democracy lives. Celebratory fireworks followed Maduro's win. They were more subdued than last October. Chavez won then by 11 points.
Sunday's results were much closer than expected. Polls had Maduro way ahead. With 99.2% of the vote counted, his victory margin was 1.6%.
by Stephen Lendman
On Sunday, April 14, PSUV's Nicolas Maduro (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) faces opposition Rountable of Democratic Unity (MUD) candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski.
Most Venezuelans deplore him. They do so for good reason. He represents oligarch power, ties to Washington, and returning Venezuela to its ugly past.
Mid-April Venezuelan Presidential Elections Scheduled
by Stephen Lendman
Venezuela's National Electoral Council (CNE) President Tibisay Lucena announced Sunday, April 14. Acting President Nicolas Maduro carries Chavez's torch.
He'll do it responsibly. Millions of Venezuelans depend on him. He won't them down. It won't be easy. He faces enormous obstacles. So did Chavez.
Vatican Changing of the Guard
by Stephen Lendman
In April 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI. At the time he said:
"Dear brothers and sisters. After the great Pope John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the lord."
By Linn Washington, Jr.
America’s corporate news media love highlighting David-besting-Goliath stories…except apparently, when the fallen Goliath is major media mogul Rupert Murdoch – the billionaire owner of America’s caustic FOX News and other entities.
By Kourosh Zaibari
Venezuelan Leadership Up for Grabs?
by Stephen Lendman
New reports about Chavez's health raise concerns. He's struggling to recover from complicated cancer surgery. Previous articles explained. More on his current status below.
On October 7, Venezuelans overwhelmingly reelected him. They want no one else leading them. He transformed national politics responsibly. He established participatory democracy and social justice.
Venezuelans Vote Again
by Stephen Lendman
In America, money power controls elections. People have no say. Each party replicates the other. Venezuela is different.
Voters take full advantage. They choose real democrats over fake ones. It shows in how Venezuelans are governed.
I took a walk up the hill yesterday.
It was a little muddy for sneakers.
I could feel the chill
Coming up through my soles.
At the top I turned
And was surprised to see
By Dave Lindorff
One little-noted but important result of the November election in the US that returned President Barack Obama to the White House for another four years is that the right-wing Israeli government and the Zionist lobbying organization AIPAC (for American Israel Public Affairs Committee) took a surprising drubbing and emerge a much weaker political influence going forward in US politics.
Money Party Wins US Election
by Stephen Lendman
The same party wins every time. Duopoly power rules. America is a one party state with two wings. Each replicates the other. On major issues mattering most, not a dime's worth of difference separates them.
The late Gore Vidal explained it as well as anyone. Some of his best comments included:
By Dave Lindorff
Okay, the etch-a-sketch vulture capitalist who would have given us four years of that smarmy missionionary-at-your-door smile, was thankfully sent packing by the voters, and Barack Obama gets four more years in the White House.
Today is election day here in these United States of America and this contest is- we have been told- the most important election of our lifetime and yet an estimated 90 million eligible voters will not vote at all.
Why is that?