Monday, February 28, 2011

Solidarity against war spending as a (crappy) jobs program

Sarah Roche-Mahdi of Codepink Greater Boston at the State House steps in Boston Feb 26 in a BOW$H t-shirt w/ sign: Worker's Rights are Human Rights. See her in action this Sat March 5 same place 1-3pm for International Women's Day rally to Bring Our War $$ Home.
Report back from the pro-worker Wisconsin support rally in Augusta, Maine this past Sat: not a word against the military budget was heard. At Boston's rally CODEPINK coordinator Ridgely Fuller signed up as a speaker, but was told by MoveOn organizer for the rally that only one antiwar speaker would be allowed. Ridgely deferred to Veterans for Peace who were displaying their How's the War Economy Working For You? banner. Pat Scanlon did a terrific job of connecting the dots, and his call to "bring our money home" from militarism abroad was enthusiastically cheered by the crowd.

I invited the Maine affiliates of US Labor Against the War to join us in Augusta on Mon April 4 for a new conference calling on leaders to stop spending on wars in order to avoid budget cuts at home. A week later, I've had no reply. Is US organized labor so short sighted that they would rather bury their heads in the sand and continue supporting jobs programs at any price, including building weapons systems that kill workers in other parts of the world? I hope not. The time will soon come for us all to decide.

Open letter to Maine labor leaders inviting them to join us at the podium in the Hall of Flags on April 4:

The BOW$H coalition is working to connect the dots between draconian measures against working people's jobs and benefits, including pensions -- an attack which threatens even the right to collective bargaining -- and the vast amount of federal income tax money spent on wars. This includes enormous sums the Pentagon pays to private contractors, to dictators, and to extremist groups like the Taliban, among others, with little oversight into where the money actually goes.

The fact that military spending also supports a large number of full benefit union jobs is Maine is an important consideration.
We do not support throwing people out of work via cuts in military spending; we support full commitment to conversion of our industrial capacity to manufacture badly needed infrastructure. Below is a photograph of a chart I prepared for our BOW$H new conference on MLK Day in 2010. It shows in graphic form the number of jobs generated by a $1 billion investment in various sectors of our economy. Building weapon systems generates fewer jobs than building light rail or home construction elements, for example.

conversion chart.JPG
Data source:  Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier, Department of Economics and  Political Economy Research Institute
University of Massachusetts, Amherst The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities.

On numerous occasions we have lobbied our representatives in the House about the need to look to the future in creating sustainable jobs in Maine. Their recent votes on military funding indicate they are hearing this message from a broad range of constituents.

I believe Maine could lead the way nationally in converting our factories, if the workers of Maine organized in solidarity on behalf of our common best interests.

The events of April 4 will also include our 2nd Draw-in throughout the day with the Union of Maine Visual Artists. Artists will be on hand to draw how the people want to see public funds spent, and we invite participation from all Maine's working people in helping to envision a better future.

Lisa Savage
CODEPINK Maine Local Coordinator
Maine Education Assn. member 1994-present
Both CODEPINK Greater Boston and CP Maine now have a set of these awesome pink parasols. Invite us to your event!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

WTF? and what to do about it

my great-niece Eliza
It would be soooo much easier to spend my vacation days enjoying the great outdoors, visiting family, reading novels....

Why is every spare moment now in my 6th decade on Earth spent contacting like-minded and not so like-minded people to say WTF??? and what do we do about it?

Here's a list of lessons learned from my good friend Janet Weil out in California. She, too, cares about the future of our grandchildren yet unborn.
Very briefly, the lessons as I have absorbed them from the incredible courage and determination of the Egyptians (and others):

Have one central, easy-to-determine-if-it's-met demand with a few supporting demands, and STICK TO THEM;
Pick a place (or places if in more than 1 city) that is meaningful and remain there;
Turn out people with a sense of urgency and comraderie;
Stay turned out (have plans for "turnover" and getting new people coming in);
Establish some basic routines of controlling in/out process, check-ins, media, set up and clean up;
Create a culture of appreciation, support, courtesy, response to people's basic needs (the cleaning of Tahrir was so important!);
Commit to the seriousness of what's going on; stay when/after things get hard; take the blows and keep going;
and above all,
the people determine the narrative, the actions, the demands -- they are pro-active, not reactive, primarily.

Almost everything I've written applied to New Yorkers (and other Americans) after the 9/11 attacks. It's not like we don't know how to do these things; often we do them very well. We are all as fully human as the Egyptians, it's just that as a people we have been so numbed, distracted, enfeebled...
...well, not all of us!
And I would add one more thing it's clear they were doing in Cairo: read Gene Sharp's research on effective nonviolent resistance:   Here's the write up from NYT about its influence on events around the globe.

Don't do it for me, or Janet, or Gene. Do it for Eliza.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Q: What do all these places have in common?

Vet and citizen diplomat Ann Wright supporting pro-democracy movement in Bahrain 2/20/11.
A: U.S. taxpayer supported military bases and weapons systems.

"Democracy" or dictatorship, they are all markets for Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, et al.

from the Rethink Afghanistan blog:
Bringing Home 150 Troops from Afghanistan Would Fix Wisconsin’s Budget “Crisis”
Posted by robertgreenwald on February 19th, 2011

Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker is using phony budget projections to manufacture a staged “fiscal emergency” in his state so that he can whack programs and political opponents, but even his fake “emergency” pales in comparison to the cost of the Afghanistan War to his state. In fact, the U.S. would only have to bring home 151 troops from Afghanistan to save more money than Walker’s ridiculous union-busting plan. Better yet, ending the Afghanistan War altogether would save taxpayers in Wisconsin $1.7 billion this year alone, more than ten times the amount “saved” in Walker’s attack on state employee rights.  Read more...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Like camels, we eat weeds & transport gold

Iraq is now experiencing its own days of rage, and I just finished this well-referenced article on the destruction of just one sector of civil society in Iraq, that of education.

Since the occupation began there has been a steady campaign of assassination against academics, and obviously a huge diaspora of intellectuals and professionals from Iraq. (If you don't want to download a .pdf to read "Dying education in the 'blossoming' Iraqi democracy," you can read it online here on David Swanson's blog, sans footnotes.)

There is an international seminar about to begin in Belgium, and the author of the article, Dirk Adriaensens, is a member of the Brussells Tribunal Executive Committee. The seminar being convened at the University of Ghent will examine "The Situation of the Iraqi Academics: Defending Education in Times of War and Occupation." You can find out more about it on their website.

I will never forget the U.S. looking away while the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad was looted during the shocking and awful attack on that city in 2003. Allowing thugs to convert an ancient, irreplacable collection into quick cash and baubles for the super wealthy presaged the destruction of a range of cultural resources under prolonged occupation, still underway.
This ivory "Nimrud Lioness" is half of a pair, on display in the British Museum. Still missing is the other half of the pair, which was looted from the National Museum of Iraq in 2003.
Adriaensens' article describes another sector of civil society unraveling, unraveling...

Youth of Iraq not whisked away to safer places by their elders have stayed behind to struggle. The article shared translations of some of the slogans they marched through the streets displaying on their Feb 25 "Day of Rage" and since:

* We are like camels, we eat weeds and transport gold

* Our annual income from oil is $100 billion, yet we cannot find bread to eat.

The second slogan struck me as having broad appeal in the "bread intifadas" springing up all over the globe. Camels may not travel far beyond the Arab world and its closest neighbors. But overburdened workers carrying the ultra rich on their backs can make common cause from continent to continent, and coast to coast.

This image of Ishtar, Mesopotamian goddess of love, was looted during the 19th-20th century period of colonial occupation, and resides in the British Museum at present.
The Flower Carrier by Diego Rivera

Saturday, February 19, 2011

what solidarity sounds like

Wisconsin workers in their state capital cheer wildly as firefighters enter, technically exempt from the draconian bill their tea party governor sent to the legislature gutting pensions and right to collective bargaining for public workers.

The bagpipes and kilts show the communicative powers of great creative.

The firefighters demonstrate what solidarity among working people looks like.

Can't play the bagpipes or get to Madison on short notice? Use this link to send a message to the powerful, quaking like Camilla behind their bulletproof glass (love the title of the article here): Dear Poor People, Thank You for Going Without Heat So We Can Buy Another Week of War.

Here are some of the people who need to send this letter:

President Obama and CEOs in Silicon Valley Feb 17 dinner toast -- to Wisconsin (kidding).

BOW$H to Wisconsin!

From the National Priorities Project website Tools/Trade Offs:

Taxpayers in State of Wisconsin will pay $11.8 billion for proposed Department of Defense for FY2011. For the same amount of money, the following could be provided:
  • 8.8 million Children Receiving Low-Income Healthcare for One Year OR
  • 187,914 Elementary School Teachers for One Year OR
  • 258,971 Firefighters for One Year OR
  • 1.7 million Head Start Slots for Children for One Year OR
  • 3.4 million Households with Renewable Electricity - Solar Photovoltaic for One Year OR
  • 9.2 million Households with Renewable Electricity-Wind Power for One Year OR
  • 1.6 million Military Veterans Receiving VA Medical Care for One Year OR
  • 1.6 million Military Veterans Receiving VA Medical Care for One Year OR
  • 2.6 million People Receiving Low-Income Healthcare for One Year OR
  • 182,022 Police or Sheriff's Patrol Officers for One Year OR
  • 1.4 million Scholarships for University Students for One Year OR
  • 2.1 million Students receiving Pell Grants of $5550

Friday, February 11, 2011

B.S. Headlines

I thought it might be fun to collect some of the spun headlines coming from outlets who try to pretend they serve up news. Here's one I found hilarious:

Debate swirls over Mubarak legacy  CNN International

Debate swirls over what's next, ok. But legacy? Earth to CNN: Mubarak just clinched the title, Most naked emperor of the 21st Century.
This one made me lol too:

Will US help Egypt transition to democracy?

Hmmm, shouldn't there be quotation marks around the word "help" in that sentence? More:

Post-Mubarak: How the U.S. Plans to Aid Democracy in Egypt

History Upends Icon of Stability in Egypt  New York Times

For U.S., a political vacuum in Mideast Washington Post

Hear that sucking sound? That's the U.S. reputation for protecting you if you're our s.o.b. going down the drain.

Then there's that eternal source of merriment, Iran's president:

Ahmadeinejad says Egypt, Tunisia were inspired by Iran's anti-Western protests
Washington Post

Er, uh, Mr. Adhmadinejad, those were anti-government protests in Iran that inspired twittering to revolution. Or maybe you didn't notice that part? After all, you have yet to notice any homosexuals in a population of more than 70 million.

More confusion, but consider the source:

Why the Muslim Brotherhood Will Win   Fox News

As usual The Onion pens one of the more truthful headlines -- common result of attempting satire in an age that almost defies it:

Egyptian Populace To Hopefully Get Something Better Than Democracy Out Of All This

And finally, one really worth reading from Mondoweiss, the blog about the nuts and bolts of spinning the news out of Israel-Palestine and region:

Young Jews, be like Huck making common cause with Jim on the raft

(Kudos to Rae Abileah, shero for our times.)

People power

Tahrir Square, Day 18 of the "bread intifada" in Egypt. Photo and a posting from Al Jazeera's live blog du jour:  Our correspondent says the crowd is expected to "increase massively" after midday prayers.

Here, the Egyptian people non-violently demonstrate that governments without the consent of the governed are hollow, and their days are numbered.

Whom does your government represent?

BOW$H power video!

Excited to have this video in time to share at our Bring Our War $$ Home planning meeting on Saturday in Bath. It's upbeat and vibrant but pulls no punches in delivering the facts. How many teachers or how much health care for veterans could we fund with the $$$$$$$ wasted on war? Watch this to find out:

From Rae, rocking the bullhorn:
Melissa Ulto and Dana Balicki just created this AMAZING video from One Nation rally in DC in October! Check it out! Umbrella Action!
It's a great tool for organizing to Bring Our War $$ Home!

Click here to see more CODEPINK online tools to BOW$H to your community.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bring Our War $$ Home from Mubarak

San Francisco solidarity action with pro-democracy movement in Egypt.

Bring Our War $$ Home!!!!

Information is like food

Juan Cole's blog had a link to this video where one of the online activists who helped start the uprising in Egypt spoke from the heart, following 12 days in blindfolded detention, and 48 hours without sleep. Wael Ghonim is a self-proclaimed rich kid, one who lied to his boss at Google in the UAE to get some days off to join the revolutionaries in Cairo. But he got picked up right away and held by Egyptian security forces. They didn't inflict physical harm, but listen to the frantic tone when he reports his panic at being news-less for 12 days.

Information is like food to some people.

Thanks to Egypt’s DreamTV channel for providing fresh information about the intentions of the organizers, and the material and moral support from like-minded young people, in motion, rising across the region.

A fitting counterpoint is this reporting, by Al Jazeera journalist Mya Guarnieri, on the creep of fascism into Israel's hearts, minds and laws. I like how she notes that she may run afoul of Israel's creepy state security as a result of the article, and in the spirit of "might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb" adds:
(And, if I'm already headed for the clinker, I might as well state the obvious: A country that must force people to call it democratic, on pain of imprisonment, is not a democracy).
The quote that struck closest to my U.S.ian heart, however, was from a 29 year old who declined to be identified. How many of your friends and acquaintances does he sound like here? I'm reminded of a 20 year old telling me how he is disgusted by hipsters in the U.S. on the grounds that they have no principles and stand for nothing, but think themselves hip on the grounds of being vaguely artsy.
Oded, the grandson of Holocaust survivors, remarks that this kind of ultra-nationalism is at the root of both racism and fascism.

"Are you going to protest?" I ask.

"No," he says. "Right now, however self-centred it sounds, it doesn't really interest me because I have things in my personal life that are more important. And I'm lazy."
And the next thing he says reminds me of how old I am, unwilling to start over, skeptical that there's any place I'm needed more than here:
When I ask him if he thinks such apathy might allow extremists to take over, he nods. "I think [if we had a fascist government,] I would just leave," he says, voicing something I have heard many Israelis say.
Plus, I think the 20 year old might be wrong about the hipsters. If there's one thing uniting the youth of the planet at this point in history, it's their passion for information to be free. Why do you think cyber terrorists keep trying to crash Codepink's website? For fear it will feed the masses...

Bradley Manning, 258 days in solitary.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

my sign says "justice"

Great action in Portland yesterday. Diverse community and ages came together, around thirty in all over two hours. Fun to learn some Arabic.
Don't know why the green sign is upside down...
Disturbing comments on an otherwise great news story WCSH Ch. 6 tv ran: Maine group rallies for Egyptian people. I think they took down the worst one, with someone falsely claiming had called for gruesome torture of a supreme court justice (I'll spare you the details). But the online anchor repeated accusations by unnamed right wing sorts we bore some responsibility for the uprising in Egypt. Wow, delusions of grandeur by our detractors!

Of all the things HAS accomplished this year, we just can't take credit for the popular uprising in Egypt. Despite allegations that the pro-democracy demonstrators are led by militants and extremists, in fact the millions in Tahrir Square are predominately young people sick and tired of being unemployed in a repressive police state. All many have ever known in the despotic rule of Pres. Mubarak, propped up by $1 billion in aid every year fromt he U.S. taxpayers. Crowds in Cairo and other cities also include pharmacists, grandmothers, army officers, former employees of the state controlled t.v. station -- and yes, activists whose large pink banner "Solidarity with the Egyptian People!" was photographed in Tahrir and seen around the world.

We are proud of those who call for democracy no matter where in the world they are! And we call on Pres. Mubarak to step down now and allow for an orderly transition to a government of the people, by the people, and for the people!
email from my friend Brian about Obama's Egypt speech: I don't think I have heard a U.S. President talk for so long and say nothing of substance since Richard Nixon.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Who Pays for Oppression in Egypt?

My great friend Janet Weil of CODEPINK in the Bay area is the best policy wonk I know -- and I mean that as a compliment! Typically, she has pulled together the relevant facts of the day and since I have just a moment this morning I will share them with you below. This on day 11, as we watch Mubarak's armed thugs continue to kill and maim while the Egyptian army stands idly by, watching.

Washington’s mightiest leverage, should it care to demonstrate its alleged impatience, is the annual US aid package to Egypt. According to the Congressional Research Service, total aid to Egypt has averaged $2 billion annually since 1979, the year of the Camp David peace agreement with Israel. Though overall US assistance has declined over the last decade, military aid has held steady since 1983 at approximately $1.3 billion. This assistance is Foreign Military Financing, a program whose terms dictate that the recipient nation (unless it happens to be Israel) must spend the package’s full dollar value on American-manufactured weaponry. (Israel can spend a portion in its own armories.) An additional $1.558 billion, most of it military aid, has been requested for Egypt in the 2011 appropriations. On January 28, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs raised the hopes of Egyptian democracy advocates by hinting that the package could be trimmed, but there has been no reiteration since then.

Excerpt from

$1.558 billion. What we could do with that, for our schools, for green jobs, for the poor.

The FY2011 appropriations, amazingly, have still not been voted on, so there is hope this could be cut off.

The best quote I've ever heard about Egypt applies to the US as well:
"Egypt is not poor. Egypt is robbed."

Solidarity action for Egypt's struggle to be free will be held in Portland, Maine this Saturday at noon. Gather at Post Office Plaza in the Old Port Neighborhood. More info here.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Solidarity with the Egyptian People

On flickr: codepinkhq

Another photo from CODEPINKers in Cairo right now. Bring Egyptian women to the table in large numbers for a lasting peace. We need United Nations SCR1325!

I just saw a different banner being held up for a long moment on video live feed: "Solidarity with the Egyptian people."

Tonight the Army still maintaining a neutral presence -- with pro-democracy forces holding on in Tahrir Square, defying yet another curfew. Maybe the GOE should stop declaring curfews; it is eroding any credibility they may still have.

sorry Obama: WE can!!

Photos from Cairo where Medea, Tighe, Kit and some other CODEPINK activists postponed their plan to deliver aid to Gaza and have instead been documenting the uprising.

Here on the grand stage of the world's Al-Jazeera live feed we watch Egypt dance. The police waltzed out, the army waltzed in, and the peaceful multitude gathered and gathered. Random acts of kindness broke out all over. Joy and exuberance emanated from their signs, their faces, their shouts calling for Mubarak and his hastily appointed government all to stand down.

Here's the video purported to have organized Egypt, where Asmaa Mahfouz called on her fellow Egyptians to join her in Tahrir Square, Jan 25, 2011.

Then last night the dictator went on the state controlled television and made a speech. It was a little less empty than the pronouncements of our own naked emperor have been; for one thing, Mubarak swore he would die on Egyptian soil. But the main points of his speech were that outside political influence had manipulated two million or more Egyptians to hold nonviolent protests for days on end, and that he promised he wouldn't run for office again come September. Far too little, 30 years too late.

Immediately armed thugs entered the public square in Alexandria and began knifing and beating nonviolent demonstrators. Ah, it was time for the police to again make their entrance, this time disguised as pro-Mubarak demonstrators. Today in Cairo they stormed into Tahrir Square. In plainclothes they tore up the streets and hurled them at people's heads, poured boiling water down from rooftops, and attacked with molotov cocktails and animal charges. Police i.d.'s were found on some of them but was it really necessary in order to identify them? The dictator was playing the same hand that had worked for so long up until last Tuesday.

In his state of the union address Obama told us we need to win the future. Immediately vast popular uprisings began to happen across the Arab world. “Things that have not happened for thousands of years,” gibbered Robert Gibbs today, managing to sound both clueless and prevaricating at the same time. He was not-responding to questions from reporters after announcing that the U.S. was finally throwing the used up dictator under the bus of popular revolt. Gibbs, like most Americans, lacks a basic knowledge of his country's history and could be genuinely unaware of past popular uprisings that have been quashed by other dictators propped up by U.S. military aid.

I read that a portion of the Connecticut Air National Guard was deployed to the Sinai help Mubarak suppress an uprising of epochal proportions. Sounds like winning hearts and minds might be abandoned for a bombing mission. The tear gas canisters used by the hated police are laying on Egyptian streets labeled: Made in the USA.

The people rising up in Egypt is really beyond the ability of the mass media to conceal, at least here at the inception, where everyone is caught by surprise. They say the Egyptian army at 400,000 strong is the key player, and also the closest to the people. So far it has stood by and watched civil unrest break out. The police / security forces are said to number 350,000 – conscripts mostly, like the army. If the police turned it would be even more profoundly revolutionary – and we may see some of it yet.

In his speech last night Mubarak pretended not to notice the army standing idly by, just as he pretended not to notice that he had shut off the internet and cell phones. As if it isn't happening until the naked emperor acknowledges it.

Meanwhile our very own naked emperor appeared not to notice democracy thundering in as people threw off the yoke of fear that secret police and torture in prisons instills. In counterpoint, WikiLeaks released more U.S. State Department cables showing that such knowledge is far from secret.

In the state of the union address our naked emperor appeared not to notice that the masses think their economy is in the toilet, that they don't want ROTC on every college campus, and that they know when he doesn't mention the need to bring our war dollars home, he is lying by omission.

It's creepy watching the heads of state shuffle and dither, like bad actors saying lines they can't believe in, empty, hollow lines.

In one Orwellian moment among many, as Mubarak was announcing he would not run for re-election, on Al-Jazeera he was visible just above a crawl announcing that Obama had said Mubarak should not run in the next election.

Who does the p.r. for the evil empire anyway? They need a new shop.
Cairo, Jan. 31, 2011