Wednesday, December 28, 2011

War Funding Rolls On -- What To Do About It

source: USA Today Obamas greet military families in Hawaii
Please join me in considering some New Year's Resolutions: Get the word out about war spending vs. budget cuts. Blog, tweet, get in your local paper, write letters to the editor, reprint other people's op-eds -- like this beauty from Betsy Crites, North Carolina Peace Action Director, which ran with the title "Bring the war dollars home" in the Durham Herald-Sun (thanks to Jacqui Deveneau for sharing).

Ok, that's a partial action list for 2012. But right now, still 2011, President Obama has neither signed nor vetoed $600+ billion for continued military expansion in the coming year, and the gravest attacks on civil liberties since the McCarthy era, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It's not too late!
Call the White House 9am-5pm EST Switchboard: 202-456-1414
24 hour automated comments recording: 202-456-1111
Other things I plan to do in 2012:
  • Keep reading (while we still have the Internet). Here's a good article I started yesterday: "Economic Downturn Took a Detour at Capital Hill" by Eric Lichtblau in the NYT via Common Dreams. It's about how banks got bailed out, we got sold out -- and our "representatives" in Congress got wealthy in the process.
  • Help wage a vigorous campaign against impending Internet censorship (SOPA is the House version of the bill, PIPA is the Senate version).
  • Join a planning meeting for the statewide Bring Our War $$ Home campaign on Sat. Jan 14 at noon in Augusta.
  • Lend CODEPINK Maine support to the Union of Maine Visual Artists celebrating a creative response to the Occupy movement that has swept the planet, and is still rolling on gathering momentum. Sat. Jan 21 (snow day Sun. Jan 22) Draw-a-Thon at Harlow Gallery in Hallowell. Are you an artist? No need to wait until Jan. 21. Start creating now!
  • Join a statewide meeting to assess the Occupy movement in Maine, and to consider which paths look productive and likely for the near future. Sat Jan. 28, 9am-4:30pm (snow date: Jan 29)  Randall Student Center, U/Maine, Augusta. FMI Larry Dansinger, (207) 525-7776.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Senator Collins Wishes You (Ignore Her Voting Record) Happy Holidays!

US States Senator Susan
 Collins - Newsletter
A 1% newsletter parody, in the holiday spirit...

Senator Collins Wishes You (Keep Ignoring the Death and Destruction Her Actions as Senator Have Caused) Happy Holidays!
Click to hear some insincere b.s. about a holiday supposed to commemorate the birth
of a nonviolent protester against imperial domination by wealthy elites.
"Wreaths Across America" Obfuscating Event at the Capitol Fools Those Not Paying Attention Into Thinking I Actually Care About the People I Was Elected to "Represent"
Members of my staff stand with the wreath that should have never have been laid in front of the graves of the 4,500+ men and women from the U.S. military that died in the Iraq war I funded and defended for eight years.
Members of my Washington, D.C. staff recently commemorated this year's "Wreaths Across America," -- because, as we know, America is a country, NOT a continent -- a feel good-event that spent a negligible amount of taxpayers' money, unlike the wars we endlessly wage.

The collateral damage of needless deaths of U.S. citizens and hired mercenaries was papered over by a photo op involving one lousy wreath with flags representing each branch of  the United Corporations of U.S. Armed Forces. The wreath was placed in front of the Capitol, while visitors and attendees held a moment of silence for services members who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the profits of the 1%.

The moment of silence was also for the poor dupes who are still abroad in one of many occupations and violent takeovers of natural resources on behalf of profits for my campaign donors, and thus will be unable to spend the holidays at home with their families. Presumably the families who will celebrate the holidays with one ear cocked for the fateful knock at the front door were also the recipients of part of a moment of silence observed by my paid staff on my behalf.
The "Wreaths Across America" project, now in its 20th year of providing cover for the corporate ambitions of the military-industrial complex, utterly ignored the hundreds of thousands -- possibly millions -- of civilian deaths that have resulted from policies I have upheld at every step of the way during my tenure in Congress. Iraq alone saw the documented deaths of between 104,307 - 113,961 civilians due to violence between 2003 and the "exit" from Iraq which involved the withdrawal of all but 13,000 U.S. troops this month.

The holiday event was started by the owner of a Maine wreath company who wanted to help with the propaganda effort.  Each year people from across the country including Maine burn tons of petroleum driving to Arlington National Cemetery to lay wreaths on the graves of fallen soldiers.

Maine's Tea Party governor flew down there himself this year for a photo op that resulted in front page news above the fold in city daily newspapers across Maine. How dare he horn in on my warm fuzzy holiday tradition marrying fragrant evergreen boughs, mainstream media coverage, and death for profit?
  I Push for Additional Physical Therapists for Wounded Veterans
Bill inspired by an injured soldier's story is a great way to misdirect attention from the fact that the senator takes enormous amounts of cash in the form of campaign contributions and lavish trips abroad from the corporations who profit while U.S. working class kids gets their legs blown by the resistance to our mutliple  foreign occupations.
From the Portsmouth Herald: After a wounded U.S. Marine told U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, he is not getting the health care he needs from the military, Collins began drafting legislation to increase access to physical therapists for injured veterans.
Collins met the injured serviceman at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in Bethesda, Md. He had lost part of his leg and lives with a traumatic brain injury received when an improvised explosive device detonated while he was serving in Afghanistan, Collins said.
Collins emphasized that, while the soldier "praised the care he was getting," he was concerned by the lack of physical therapists available for other patients and himself.
"He described a session to me where the physical therapist helps him for a while, then has to turn to other patients to help them, and he feels that is impeding his recovery," Collins said during a hearing.
Read more for the Portsmouth Herald
Maine Fire Departments Receive Nearly $300,000 in Federal Grants, Diverting Attention from the Fact that the Senate Homeland Security Committee Buys WMDs for Municipal Police Departments All Over the United States

As Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, I have paid my dues and now stand ready to wield the considerable power of this post-9/11 federal agency with the creepily fascist name.

The fact that the department of Homeland Security buys armored tanks, tear gas, and military assault gear for municipal police departments -- seen in extensive use since the 99% got together in the public spaces of U.S. cities and towns -- is an inconvenient truth.

Thus we also make sure that Homeland Security does feel-good stuff and publicizes it. Who could object to someone helping fire fighters do their job for the well-being of everyone?

“Our career and volunteer firefighters are among our bravest public servants. The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program is a critical source of funds for our fire and rescue personnel,” one of my aides told me to state. “Since the creation of this program, Maine fire departments have been awarded more than $54 million to help purchase new, used, or refurbished vehicles, and to obtain equipment for firefighting, interoperable communications, chemical detection, and other purposes that are essential to first responders.”
Now We Get Down to The Real News, Buried Far Enough to be Missed By a Casual Glance at My Newsletter: Navy Mandated To Conduct Shipyard Repairs
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, alleged to be a good source of jobs, is in a fact one of the worse possible investments if the goal is to generate full-time, full-benefit employment for the largest number of people.
From the Portsmouth Herald, which as you may be starting to perceive, serves as a convenient mouthpiece for me and the corporate interests I represent: The four U.S. senators from New Hampshire and Maine are hailing a provision in the Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed Thursday that holds the Navy accountable for funding infrastructure improvements at the nation's shipyards.
Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine jointly filed the amendment, which will require the U.S. Navy to submit a plan by September 2012 detailing how it intends to pay for the backlog of improvements needed at the four public shipyards, including the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
"I am very concerned with the lack of an investment strategy to address the lack of funding to maintain and repair our shipyards," [Sen. Collins] said. The amendment would require the Navy to "accelerate construction and facility modernization projects."
Read more

By voting "yes" all four of us Senators ignored our oaths to uphold the Constitution, as well as the wishes of constituents who were actually paying attention to the most odious of the NDAA amendments, which makes it legal for either the military or the White House to indefinitely detain anyone, U.S. citizen or otherwise, deemed a possible "terrorist."

Habeas corpus and the right to a speedy trial by a jury of ones peers may not mean much in a period of history where a man was convicted last week of being a terrorist based solely on web searches, viewing videos and translating material from the Internet -- no actual acts of violence or plans to commit such in evidence. But at least Tarek Mehanna can and will appeal the decision, something that will be literally impossible under NDAA because you will just disappear and your family or your attorney won't know what you are charged with or where you are being held. Kind of like those poor guys who have been declared innocent but are still, to this day, held incommunicado from their families at Guantanamo.

Happy holidays!

(Author's note: At this point Sen. Collins' newsletter becomes so cravenly self-serving that there is no longer any need of parody. Emphasis and visual added.)
Congress Approves Final Defense Bill That Includes Senator Collins’ Provisions for Maine
The United States Senate recently gave final approval to the Fiscal Year 2012 Defense Authorization bill, which authorizes funding for the Department of Defense (DoD) and includes several provisions for Maine secured by Senator Susan Collins.  The bill, which has been approved by the House, will now be signed by the President.  It includes opportunities for funding for shipbuilding at Bath Iron Works, and other defense projects at Pratt & Whitney, Maine Military Authority in Limestone, General Dynamics Armament Technical Products in Saco, and other Maine companies.
“This legislation will support our brave military men, women and their families and provide for the continued development of technologies to counter existing and emerging threats,” said Senator Collins, who is a member of both the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.
Senator Collins’ Weekly Column: “A Bipartisan Plan to Create Jobs and Opportunity”
Mainers, like so many Americans, are frustrated that our nation’s unemployment rate remains unacceptably high. They are frustrated that people who want to work can’t find good jobs.
And people are frustrated that Washington can’t seem to set aside partisan bickering long enough to agree on a realistic path forward to spur job creation and boost our economy.

Frustration could soon result in more harm if Washington doesn’t stop the bickering and come together to extend the payroll tax cut. The 2-percent cut for employees that took effect early this year will expire at the end of December unless Congress and the President take quick action to extend it. Without the extension, 159 million working Americans will face tax increases of up to $2,000 in the coming year.
Read more
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Sunday, December 18, 2011

So Many War Crimes, Plenty of Time to Report Them -- If You Care To Know

source: @OccupyDenver slideshow on Twitter
I loved this photo, but the rest of the world will perhaps be forgiven their cynicism when they see the neo-classical domes of United States' capitol buildings and quake in fear rather than mist up over lofty ideals of government of, by, and for the people.

There's never enough time -- for me at least -- to get caught up on reading accounts of how the U.S. dba as NATO some of the time, using proxy armies and militia in other cases, projects force onto civilians in Afghanistan, and all around the globe.

This detailed account in Counterpunch, for instance, "Return to Sorman: Anatomy of a NATO War Crime" by Franklin Lamb, of just one of the 11,781 bombs or rockets that fell on people in Libya during "Operation Unified Protector" (who writes these crap names for our campaigns of death?).

The testimony of people who survived the occupation of Iraq  have mostly gone beyond sadness to bitter condemnation. Democracy Now! had Yanar Mohammed, president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, on the show to explain how much worse things are, especially for women, since the U.S. invaded and occupied her country.
source: Democracy Now! Activist rebuffs U.S. claims of a freer Iraq,"This is not a democratic country."
A theme that emerges from each of the accounts I've read of actual people in Iraq assessing the war's effects: division along ethnic and religious lines that did not exist before Shock and Awe. What a shameful legacy, indeed. What U.S. foreign policy seems to excel at in the 21st century is fomenting civil war wherever it goes. Hey, wasn't that what Osama bin Laden stated was al Qaeda's primary goal back in '01? Oh, actually, make that regime change in the countries of the Muslim world.

And let's not forget the U.S. sending millions each year in aid to the Egyptian military government so they can mow down pro-democracy protesters in their streets. Egypt is second only to the state of Israel in receiving -- let's call it what it is -- credits to purchase tear gas, bombs for Gaza and other places. Killing and maiming funded by your taxes and mine.

What's a person to do?

Source: Stefan Klenke,
These folks gathered in London to honor truth teller Bradley Manning, jailed for 500+ days for exposing some of the horrors the U.S. military visited on people living in oil-rich countries. As many have observed, Manning did not shoot anybody, rape anybody, or bomb their house; he simply exposed some inconvenient facts.

The military-industrial complex counts on their propaganda machine humming 24/7 with the most glittering entertainment and distraction money can buy. Fight it by sharing some of the truth! Even a little leaking through could prove to be an existential threat.
Source: Mondoweiss The Aftermath of a Bombed Home in Gaza
And that's why you'll never see this photo on the evening "news" in the U.S.A.

Go to your town, your congressional office, your board of supervisors, your state house, and demand -- bring our war $$ home!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

With $662 billion for military, indefinite detention for all

Source: Guardian Bradley Manning hearing -- live updates
Honor Bradley Manning today on his 24th birthday -- his second in custody -- by calling the White House message line to register your outrage at the passage of the worst annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) ever. Number to vent your spleen: 202-456-1111. Why not also call Congress while you're at it? 877-429-0678.

No one in either place cares what you think, but it may possibly relieve some of the intense anger you feel in response to habeas corpus being legislated away under the false pretense of making you safer. It's icing on the cake to have it signed into law by a faux constitutional law professor the 1% hope to scare you into voting for come November. Hey, Obama didn't invent indefinite detention. It's been in place since the outset of the war on terror.

NDAA  also approved expenditures of $662 billion for military, including wars, next year. Polls indicate most Americans don't want war against Afghanistan, didn't want the U.S. doing business as NATO to attack Libya, and don't want more than about 6% of their taxes being spent on the military in any case. Current spending on military constitutes 57% of the pie. What's wrong with this picture?
source: Waterville Morning Sentinel
Of course the outrage over continuing to make defense contractors obscenely wealthy while cutting funds for heating assistance, medical care, and food for the nearly 50% of U.S. residents now living below the official poverty line got muted by the civil liberties issue tacked on to NAAA.
Indefinite detention for all at the whim of the military, or perhaps with some power retained by the president selected by leading campaign contributors, alarmed the few who were paying attention. The Democrat party loyalists pretended to believe Obama would veto it. Now they will probably pretend that his hands were tied and he couldn't veto it. Just like they pretend Democrats oppose gutting social programs even as they agree to do so.  These people are like abuse victims who make excuses for the abuser and return to him again and again and again. Some of them grow quite nasty lately as they can feel the 99% slip away from even a whisper of belief in the false dichotomy Punch and Judy show that national  electoral politics have become.

So let's not pretend that our voting or our phone calls do anything significant to resist the shredding of the constitution, or the bankrupting of the U.S. taxpayer on behalf of Lockheed Martin, et al.

The whole system would grind to a half in an instant if the 99% simply stopped cooperating to uphold it.

Whether they realize it or not, is another matter.

So here's what I'm going to do after making those futile calls. I'm going to get with others that are as concerned as I am, I'm going to listen to their ideas, and I'm going to do my homework on the effective use of nonviolent methods (Gene Sharp documentary Dec. 18 free at SPACE gallery in Portland 7pm).

I'm going to keep working as a citizen journalist to the extent of my abilities. I'm going to watch and share the "Collateral Murder" video from Iraq, the one Bradley is accused of leaking, plus more revelations from Iraq as the ghastly first phase of its subjugation draws to a close.

Citizen journalism is what we depend on now for news. If not for a tweet, how would I know and rejoice that yesterday someone in the courtroom called out "Bradley Manning is a hero!".

If I'm indefinitely detained for speaking out? So be it. We are all Bradley Manning. (Contribute to Manning's defense fund here.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

You're sexy, you're cute, just take off your riot suit

Maxx tweet yesterday evening:
I wish they all could see how beautiful they are right now

Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, but a woman's got to sleep sometime. Thus I went to bed last night and missed seeing around 8,000 people assemble to close down commerce at the port of Oakland. And San Diego, Portland OR, Longview WA, SF, LA/Long Beach -- I saw them all yesterday face off with riot police using song, dance, signage and cheers to get their point across: police violence will only bring increased numbers of us to the streets. Related chant at raided encampment on the San Francisco side of the bay: "Occupy will never die! Evict us? We multiply." 

Source: Houston Chronicle

 But my all time favorite chant of yesterday, offered up by what sounded like mostly women's voices as the buff riot police of the OPD marced by at the Port of Oakland yesterday: 

"You're sexy, you're cute, just take off your riot suit."

Ok, Lt. John Pike is probably not sexy or cute in the buff -- but he looked pretty good as a cut out, marching on Dec. 12 in Oakland.

Susie Cagle tweet:
Best sign ever: Pike pepper spray cut-out.

Why is all this important? Because the U.S. military profit machine has been killing innocent civilians and making more enemies with drone strikes in Pakistan, against our will, and with our tax dollars. Reporting  in WIRED by Spencer Ackerman featured a rare collection of photos of bloody "facts on the ground" as the military likes to call them.

Because the Senate passed the annual defense spending authorization bill with $662 billion slated for war profiteers and their minions next year, plus the authority to detain anyone anywhere indefinitely and without charges on battlefield Earth in the war on terror. As Jon Stewart put it, So this will continue until...terror surrenders? S

Because Bradley Manning is still in detention without a day in court after 17 months. His first appearance, for a pre-trial hearing, is slated for this week. His defense has asked to call witnesses including the Secretary of State and the POTUS, who infamously said on camera of Manning: "He broke the law." Some constitutional law professor he turned out to be. 

The Magna Carta established the legal concept that indefinite detention is WRONG in 1215. This historic document established, among other rights, that of habeus corpus i.e. not being locked up indefinitely, but having an appearance in court to hear what you are being charged with. Ok, it didn't apply to serfs, only to "freemen." Guess which one your governments considers you to be?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Why the Encampments ARE Important: Waiting for Spring

From my current favorite blog We are the 99% on tumblr:
I grew up in a single parent home in a basement apartment. The government has refused to give my family any type of financial help since ‘95. My playgrounds were surrounded by rapists. My schools were filled with drug dealers. My apartment building was taken over by gang-bangers. And many of my friends have been shot/murdered. I am an African-American female. I have been told that I am at ‘the bottom of the list’…as in the government’s list of concerns. My family has never been on vacation and we still can not afford a car. BUT THAT HAS NOT STOPPED US! My mother has been ill for almost 10 years, but that has not stopped her. My brother and I have made it to college because they can’t stop us. Even now, my mother is unemployed and can’t afford our education…but guess what? THAT WILL NOT STOP US! I am 19 and have been denied jobs because my name is Akuabba. I am the 99% looking for change. Until I am able to pay off my mother’s piling medical bills, take care of my tuition bills and take my mother on a two week vacation, I will not stop occupying Chicago.
Now is the winter of our discontent, and I  am often awake too late or too early watching the sometimes violent, sometimes sneaky, sometimes ridiculous attempts of the poorly paid minions of the 1% -- whose growing arsenal of sophisticated weaponry is worth far more than their pension -- to evict the 99% from their encampments.

There has been a lot of thoughtful talk about how the encampments aren't really a necessary part of the Occupy Everything movement, and the compelling case against them lines up like so:

1) Maintaining the encampments takes so much energy and time that the activism they were supposed to supports is harmed, not helped.

2) Many of the encampments are not safe for women.

3) Many of the encampments are not safe for anyone, because in some cases municipal police deliberately populate them with violent or drug addicted citizens. In other cases, people who were already living on the streets are drawn to a place with free food, shelter, warmth and companionship -- which is understandable, and mirrors the fundamental failure of capitalism to care for people that the 99% have been talking about -- until someone gets hit on the head with a hatchet for playing a snare drum at 7am and refusing to stop when asked. A not insignificant footnote to this point is that some of the encampments were and are located in a public space that homeless people were already using.

4) The encampments necessarily look messy, ruin the grass and, for a variety of similar reasons, create a bad impression on fence sitters among the 99%. It hardly needs mentioning that the mainstream media capitalizes on this at every turn. (Remember back in the day when mean cheerleaders grew up to be mad housewives instead of snarky t.v. "news" anchors?)
CNNMoneyTech October 12, 2011
So a typical scenario, in a U.S. big city at least, goes something like this: an encampment springs up for political reasons, it attracts some apolitical people just looking to get their needs met, it becomes somewhat messy in the way of campsites everywhere, it is threatened by authorities on the basis of either crimes that occur there or perceived public health issues, it draws a large crowd of supporters in response to the threat, and it is raided under cover of darkness once the crowd has dwindled.

Repeat cycle, except maybe in the unseasonably warm but still growing chilly northern latitudes.

Sometimes an encampment wins in court, then loses, or vice versa. Sometimes, as in the case of Occupy Augusta, it loses in court and decides to decamp by choice and with dignity, rather than apply for a permit to exercise 1st amendment rights of speech, assembly, and petition for redress of grievances.

But here is why I don't agree with those who argue that encampments are not necessary to continue to grow the movement.

1) While monitoring the Twitter feed as Occupy Boston faced eviction after losing in court, I saw a tweet that said something like The last 20 calls on my phone are from people I didn't even know a month ago. #OccupyBoston.

2) For many teenagers, their closest Occupy site is like Woodstock: something inestimably attractive, shining like a beacon in the distance when one has turned 18 and one's parents can no longer forbid one to go to it.

3) Without continuous presence in public space, how much mainstream media coverage would the grievances of the 99% be getting? Compare with nearly non-existent MSM coverage of large marches, well-attended demonstrations, and small but colorful one-off events speaking truth to power.

I want to elaborate more on reason #1 because I think it is the most important. I am an organizer, and a communications specialist, so people in my area often contact me or read one of my email blasts to find out what's going on. Just yesterday one of the most dedicated long term activists in my state called to discuss something else, and was surprised -- and glad -- to learn of a large rally on Wed. 12/14 at 10am in the Hall of Flags in Augusta to protest the huge cuts to funding for health care and other services about to come down in Maine. I did not organize the rally, nor will I be able to attend, but I help by publicizing it. I do not fault my peaceful friend for not reading all the emails I send him. Who could? Even an information junkie like me often finds it challenging to know what's happening when and where, and to arrange my life so that I can show up and lend a hand. And I'm one of the lucky ones, because I have the resources and time and motivation to be involved, and the contacts to help me.

But as long as there was an encampment in Augusta, or in Bangor, or Portland, or SF, or NYC,  I didn't need any additional information. I didn't need to know anyone or coordinate with anyone if I wanted to support the effort. I just showed up. And so did students, and grandparents, and environmental advocates, and reporters, and infiltrators, and tourists, and....

This is why I think the encampments are important and will endure, sprouting again like mushrooms come spring.

One last bit of anecdotal evidence: In the summer of 2011 my sister and I visited an encampment of occupiers at Glen Cove on the northern edge of the vast waterway that is the San Francisco Bay. Indigenous people and supporters were encamped there for 97 days to block the proposed desecration of a sacred shell mound burial site -- one of the few remaining heritage sites that has not been disturbed for development. Cookie cutter McHouses in pale stucco marched down a hillside toward the bay, but stopped short of the water's edge, where a large field kitchen and many small tents dotted the undeveloped land.

We were greeted warmly at the Glen Cove encampment, and offered food; it was early in the morning, and we asked permission to sit by the side of the water to meditate, which was granted. Afterward we made an offering to the sacred fire that was kept continuously burning, after receiving some instruction about how to respect the space, and were again offered food. We talked with one of the long term campers for a while about their purpose for occupying, and when we departed we took some literature and bought a t-shirt for another family member.
Glen Cove activists. Source: Yes! Magazine
On the day after Thanksgiving (or as the Wampanoag tribe in New England prefers, the National Day of Mourning) we returned with two more people. The four of us were aghast to find bulldozers and chain link fencing, not an encampment. Of course I did some research when I got home. Turns out that the occupiers were successful in negotiating with those developing a park there not to disturb the shell mound portion of the site, or to pave it to put in a parking lot. Activists say they will continue to monitor the land use closely to see that the agreement is honored.

When Occupy Wall St. sprang up this fall I recognized where I had seen this organized, communal approach to outdoor living: at Glen Cove.

With indigenous wisdom on the proper use and care for Mother Earth, I believe the 99% can endure.

(Yes, of course there are a ton of useful, powerful actions to be taken while occupying/not occupying. More on that in my next post. A particularly lively example: the West Coast Port Shutdown plan for Monday 12/12/11. Onward!)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

1% Attack, 99% Multiply: Mustafa Tamimi, Tear Gas Fatality

The violent suppression of a demonstration in the West Bank led to death by tear gas canister -- again. In the village of Nabi Saleh near Ramallah, Mustafa Tamimi was hit at point blank range in the face by an Israeli soldier shooting at him from within a tank. Canisters were raining down onto a group of perhaps fifty unarmed civilians marching with Palestinian flags and banners in orderly fashion before being attacked. It was on Friday, the 9th day of December, 2011 that Mustafa was hit, and he died at a nearby hospital.

The high points of this amazing video of the events: a terrible glimpse of his shattered face; the UN van that was begged but refused to help;  the sheer amount of tear gas that is fired at the crowd prior to the fatal shot; the crowds that materialize post injury, and the urgency of their chanting, turning grief to determination. Toward the end there is a long moment where protesters make a metal gate cry out against injustice, in a faceoff with an IDF sound machine that seems by comparison a weak mechanism wielded by cowardly bureaucrats.

Especially watch the refusal of fear by a young shero in a pink hoody who is pulled back protectively from the more exposed side of the gate, a girl who goes right on banging, and climbs right up on top of the gate to visually challenge the bullies hiding in tanks.

This young person, and the 20 year old Gazan who rescued his baby cousin from the rubble of her family home, will lodge in my memory of the news that reached me on the International Human Rights Day, 2011.
source: Mondoweiss Ruqaya Izzidien

Migdad Elzalaan responded to air strikes in northern Gaza City yesterday by running to his uncle's house.

According to the account in Mondoweiss:
The attack killed Elzalaan’s uncle and injured 13 of his family members. Israeli authorities claim to have targeted a nearby military base, but the only reported casualties were civilian...Migdad explained, “[My uncle] told me, ‘Look after our family, look after the children. Look after them,’ and then he died, right in my arms.”

You cannot evict an idea whose time has come, such as: Israel is no longer good for Jews.

Such as: Occupy Tear Gas Suppliers. Four days before Mustafa was hit, Egyptians protesting the use of the faux non-lethal weapon in Cairo lay down in front of a plant of the sinisterly bland Combined Systems, Inc. in Jamestown, PA

Such as: When the 1% Attack, the 99% Multiply

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Night Raids, Mall Attacks, BOA Internal Memos

Here's my question. So when Homeland Security's Urban Shield kicked into gear all over our nation – how did they plan on handling the lawsuits that will result from things like a petite woman happening upon a mall antiwar demo in Austin, TX, briefly holding someone's sign, and getting three broken ribs for it? Pepper spray in NYC and then Davis, tear gas canisters in Oakland, batons everywhere, cherry pickers, ropes and ladders in Wash DC.

Won't a lot of judges have a lot to say about a lot of this thuggery on the part of police -- eventually? It's clear corporations own the Supreme Court, but does the 1% think it controls the entire judiciary?

Hooray for LA, which passed the first city resolution I've heard of to overturn the Citizens United ruling! Corporations are not people, is one of the core beliefs of the 99%.

Militarized urban police departments turning out against unarmed, nonviolent protestors hasn't looked good, and there will be a raft of lawsuits – at the taxpayer's expense. This is the sort of thing community policing was supposed to address. There have been mass actions with police violence prior to this, and the chief of police of one of them, in Seattle, has now recanted, but I think we have clearly entered a new phase. Homeland Security is giving out tanks for “free” to cities.

This is what comes of taking lessons from the skilled and brutal security forces from Israel and Bahrain. Top cops all over the globe are putting their heads together at secretive meetings, and the result is cops start aiming “non-lethal” tear gas canisters directly at people's heads, as they have been doing for years at West Bank demos. Scott Olsen became an instant hero of the revolution by getting his skull cracked at Occupy Oakland, as we all saw the dramatic images of his companions rushing to his aid. Bradley Manning has been there all along as a dramatic victim, too, and will finally get his first day in court next week. I wonder if he knows how much of a celebrity he is. It's clear he knew he was doing the right thing, but he wouldn't have known he would get so famous.

Stuff people were allowed to pick up after Zucotti Park raid. photo: Mel, Codepink NYC
So people are getting evicted over and over again, losing their stuff, their laptops, disrupting their lives even more than the meltdown of the economy as we knew it – which continues apace.

This week an internal memo showed Bank of America recognizes it has a p.r. problem around foreclosures, as the 99% turned from the cold, raided streets toward occupying foreclosed or threatened buildings. 

Nonviolent methods needed now, more than ever. Let's win! (The video I wanted to use here, of UC Davis students' powerful use of silence on the university chancellor ,has 1 million+ views.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Occupy Foreclosures, Not Afghanistan

Radiantly soggy Codepink Mel and friends at a Brooklyn action to Occupy Foreclosures today, Dec. 6. Her report: “Huge crowd..ppl leaning out of windows cheering us on.”
Right on, Mel. What are we funding right now, as news rolls out of the militarization of U.S. municipal police who get “free” -- i.e. paid for by federal taxes rather than local -- tanks, guns, tear gas and pepper spray? (Note: After I published this post the original article I linked to in Business Insider was taken down. Now it's back up again. Read it here.)

And in the  U.S. taxpayers are also funding the ruling military council in Egypt, whose next big shipment of tear gas was blocked  by heroic workers in Suez. What are we funding as your Congress and mine vote this week on annual "defense" funding of a size so gargantuan it almost defies human scale?
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Occupying Foreclosed houses makes perfect sense at this point in the nascent Occupy movement. They both literally and figuratively make visible “the problem” between the banks and the 99%. So many folks were fraudulently turned out of their homes after their mortgage was sold repeatedly at no profit or benefit to them – while others lost their housing when a family member became ill and they fell behind in the payments – causing the U.S. corptocracy's failure to provide adequate health care to hit home in a doubly cruel way.

I think a performance of "I Will Survive (Capitalism)" would go just right at a foreclosure occupation, don't you? The t.v. crews would love it.

It appears there may be a partial retreat during winter of occupying outdoor spaces, at least once it gets truly cold. (50 and rainy today at the 45th parallel. Reminds me of Decembers in the SF Bay area, not New England.) Maybe some occupiers will even get locked up on purpose like freedom fighters have been known to do – housed, heated and fed at the government's expense while studying nonviolent methods, and planning for spring.

And when we re-emerge instead of grabbing rifles we will grab our friends and head out to follow the fine example of these Garfield High School students who occupied Seattle City Hall. "NO MORE CUTS!" "FOR THE FUTURE OF OUR NATION, PUT BACK FUNDING IN EDUCATION." As hundreds of chanting kids filled the stairs and flowed through city hall's doors, one observed, "This took 72 hours on Facebook."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

"Land is Life"

Indigenous people have convened from around the troubled planet to bring the voice of life to the death-dealing corporate-controlled nation-states at climate talks in Durban, South Africa on today's Global Day of Action. Democracy Now! tweeted the photo above, and is providing ongoing coverage of the demands of those "outside" the conference to those "inside" representing the 1% who profit while using the water, air, and lands that should be held in common by the 99%.

This week I returned to my alma mater, Bowdoin College, a school for mostly the progeny of the 1% where I was a scholarship student in the 70's. I was invited by Robbie Benson, a first year student, to participate in a teach-in on the Occupy Wall St. movement. Occupy Bowdoin is getting started and has been holding weekly rallies at a branch of Bank of America in Brunswick, Maine, where the college is located. Robbie had attended a Bring Our War $$ Home teach-in a couple of months ago organized by Ricardo Zarate, a second year student. At that time Robbie shared his own story: his sister has leukemia and medical bills caused his parents, both of whom hold law degrees, to fall behind on their mortgage payments. So the bank foreclosed on the family, forcing them out of their home.

At that teach-in Robbie also shared that he had gone with a sign protesting the foreclosure and stood in front of the bank in his hometown in Massachusetts. There a police officer told him he was breaking the law and would have to apply for a $50 permit from the town to stand in public with a sign.
photo source:
During the Occupy Bowdoin teach-in about 100 people in a mixed crowd of students and community members participated in a lively discussion following brief remarks from the panel I was on. There was a good long debate sparked by conservative students who complained that the Occupy movement wanted to take money away from people like Steve Jobs, founder of Apple computers, who earned his wealth by having a good idea. Other students pointed out that Apple had prospered by exploiting cheap labor in Asia and elsewhere, with the word "wealth" being defined and re-defined in terms of human capital.

I voiced my belief that wealth needed to be defined even more broadly to include natural resources, which were once commonly held, but now are used by corporations mostly free of charge to generate profits for the few. Taxpayers pay for Superfund cleanups while CEOs collect bonuses. A ripple of approval and agreement told me this point of view was shared by many in the audience. Later in the discussion Bruce Gagnon of Bath rose to state that Native Americans had reported that European settlers who came were blinded by the "green frog skin" i.e. dollar bill, to the point that they were unable to perceive the real wealth of the Earth.

It is my firm belief that unless we return to the wisdom of indigenous peoples' stewardship of the Earth we all depend on -- and soon -- the human race is doomed.
photo source: Bangor Daily News "Penobscot River Revivial packs information, fun into celebration"

Friday, December 2, 2011

Occupy Here & Now, Not Afghanistan/Pakistan/Bahrain

Occupy Augusta, Maine photo Waterville Morning Sentinel "Arrested occupiers explain stand"
On the one hand I occupy Augusta, Maine, and sleep overnight in a teepee like in ancient times, and my inner voice is  chanting joyfully like the 99% in Oakland did at the very start of their general strike video:
Hella, hella occupy! The system has got to die !
I know in my bones that if the system doesn't, the Earth will. And that is what ultimately matters as far as human life is concerned.

Then, on the other hand, the U.S. Senate proves itself every bit as venal and corrupt as any Roman body of leeches ever was by voting – overwhelmingly, only 7 against – for the U.S. military to be able to detain anybody -- without charges -- on planet battlefield in the war on terror. What rhymes with Indefinite Detention? Could be Extraordinary Rendition. So one more time I write or call my corporate owned so-called representatives, to express displeasure. I could try to occupy their offices, which are now barricaded because my friends occupied them years ago protesting war mongering. Or I could gather with the 99% and make art, not war, and talk about what to do next.

This piece of legislation is horrible, and laws do matter, used as fulcrums for leverage, and you can't let it pass unremarked without the outrage it deserves. But, really -- how much can this surprise us when Bradley Manning has been in jail for one year and five months without a fucking day in court?

Some say, oh, but he was in the military, so that's different. Looks like we're all in the throughly militarized USA now, whether we signed up or not.

The man accused of leaking thousands of files from Iraq, Afghanistan, and the State Dept. all over the globe, the man credited with sparking the Tunisian uprising which ignited Egypt which continues to roll out in great waves of freedom seeking behavior all across the planet will finally have his pre-trial hearing Dec. 16-17 at Fort Meade, Maryland. I will be in the streets for Bradley on that day for sure. (Find out how to join a Bradley Manning support action near you.)

When I contact my senators these days, I never fail to point out something they already know: they don't represent their constituents. Lately I send copies of the Bring Our War $$ Home Penny Poll, showing how people in Maine last election day wanted their federal taxes spent (educations, health care and V.A.) and how that compares with the nearly 2/3 spent on “defense” now. It's a gravy train for drone and other WMD manufacturers, i.e. the 1%, plus salary and benefits for a portion of the working class caught in the maws of the great war machine, forced as National Guardsmen and women to defend the homeland by being stationed in, for instance, Bahrain.
Lynn Redgrave as Mother / photo credit:
Bertolt Brecht wrote "Mother Courage" about the irony of a working class parent losing her three children one by one to the war economy she depended upon to feed them.

We can do better than this. And after reading Truthout's breathtaking interview about the Occupy movement with author Arundhati Roy, I think we will.

As the high school kids say, wait until summer!