Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nine Months In Solitary. You Try It. #FreeBrad

 T-shirts benefit Firedoglake, not the Manning defense fund. But how cool is this graphic?
Soon, Bradley Manning will testify at his court martial pre-trial hearing for giving Wikileaks info about how our government and its military operate. I can't wait!

It will be the first time he has spoken in public about his situation, unless you count his recent admission that he was the source of the information provided to Wikileaks. Info published by mainstream news outlets like the Guardian and the New York Times though you don't see any of them in 900+ days of detention without a trial and no editors got put in nine months of solitary confinement at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia.

Quantico is the place I witnessed what seems now to be foreshadowing of the large scale military style response to fairly small crowds of non-violent protestors. It mirrored the out of proportion violence being done to a young intelligence officer who followed his conscience and dared to defy authority.

The government is hard pressed to prove that what Manning did harmed anyone, but he has been brutally treated just the same. A portent of what the response would be in cities across the continent when Occupy broke out. OWS sign: "If banking regulations were enforced like camping laws in this country, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in."

In March 2011 when we stood outside Quantico when Bradley was being detained in the worst conditions -- sleep deprivation, forced nudity, and other humiliation tactics. This was before they moved him to Leavenworth. While he faced the demons inside the facility, his supporters outside faced scores of the following: military police, state police, town police, county sheriffs, mounted police, K-9 police, riot squad police, and commandos in cammo with automatic weapons. We were outside the gates of the base and at one point officers shut down the major road that we were standing along side in an open field, a couple hundred of us, with our signs. Then they kettled us into the now closed street using metal barricades. In an act of civil disobedience retired Col. Ann Wright sat down in the road and, according to his own account, Dan Ellsberg was then inspired to sit down with her. Then others joined in. Last I saw of her that day, riot police with shields were wrenching her arm as she did not get up quickly enough when they told her to get up.

Now the action has moved to Ft. Meade where the pre-trial hearings have been going on. Today's update for Nov. 27, 2012 from the website BradleyManning.org:
At this extremely important hearing, Bradley’s lawyer David Coombs will focus on the abuse Bradley endured in Quantico, VA. It is now well-known that Bradley was held for nine months in solitary confinement, in conditions that were declared by UN Chief Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez to be “cruel, inhuman and degrading.” David Coombs will present evidence that brig psychiatrists opposed the decision to hold Bradley in solitary, and that brig commanders misled the public when they said that Bradley’s treatment was for “Prevention of Injury”. 
I am looking forward to hearing what Brad has to say in court. He is the most significant political prisoner in the U.S. of our time. He has been in jail for years for sharing mildly classified information, even though war criminals who have waged genocide walk free.

A cool holiday gift that communicates. Note: T-shirts benefit Firedoglake, not the Manning defense fund.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful for Bradley Manning, Wikileaks & Courage To Tell The Truth

This nation celebrating its pseudo-historical day of thanksgiving was built on genocide. The treatment of the tribes encountered by English settlers in what is now the New England region of the U.S.A. was deplorable. Besides accepting hospitality while plotting to steal the hosts land, settlers put large numbers of people including elders and little children on an island off the coast to freeze and die. I could go on and on with details about outrageous treatment of the Native Americans for hours, right up to the present day, without running out of material. In the 21st century, tribal lands are mined for uranium, polluted, and despoiled. What else is new. Time for patriarchy to step down.

Part of the cultural cognitive dissonance between Europeans and the people they found living in the Americas was the concept of land ownership. Territory one could expect to harvest food from is not land with a deed that can be bought and sold. The commons were still a living concept in the New World, but a rapacious and greedy bunch of adventurers along with a few religious fanatics who were just positive God was on their side imposed the ugliness of borders, lines drawn in the sand and watered with blood. Oh, and don't forget the water under the land, also very important to sieze, own, and control for profit.

Today when I thought about what I'm thankful for, most of my material prosperity seems like it has come at the expense of either theft or enslavement. I'm wearing clothes I bought second-hand, but somebody somewhere slaved in a factory to produce it. I'm enjoying the Kennebec River and the Maine woods but some white folks a few generations back had to kill to secure access to them. Or maybe they just did it the sneaky way, with biological weapons like smallpox infested blankets.

The whole concept of land ownership has been a colossal failure and has led to the near-fatal poisoning of our planet. Whether we'll be able to pull ourselves back from the brink once capitalism and patriarchy fall remains to be seen.

In the meantime I'm thinking about information, and how the governments who work for the super wealthy think they ought to be able to own that, too. Bradley Manning has been in detention for hundreds of days for daring to think that he and the people he was supposedly protecting owned some of the information that their taxes paid to collect. Having sworn an oath to uphold the constitution when he joined the army, Bradley is alleged to have made statements indicating that he thought that included making information available to people who could think about it and talk about it, exercising their rights in a republic.

The government is out to prove that Bradley was wrong, but there are thousands -- perhaps millions -- of his supporters worldwide who know that he was right. Information does belong to the people. It doesn't only belong to those with the wealth to smother it into submission. Information wants to be free. Like land, air and water want to be free.

I'll bet Bradley Manning wants to be free, too. Happy Thanksgiving in Leavenworth, Brad. And thanks for striking a blow for freedom when you had the chance.
...Manning’s motives, as summed up in this online chat, prior to his arrest: “I want people to see the truth… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public… I was actively involved in something that I was completely against.” According to the prosecution, Manning also provided the following note, to WikiLeaks, when he, anonymously, uploaded a cache of battlefield reports of the Iraq War: “This is perhaps one of the most significant documents of our time… removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st century asymmetric warfare.”   
Source:  Analysis: Bradley Manning accepts responsibility for act of conscience by Jeff Paterson posted at BradleyManning.org

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Defend Social Progress Meet Up In Maine Dec. 15

Dear friends in Maine,
We invite you to an important meeting to discuss the "sequestration" and "fiscal cliff" issues coming up in January.  This is another chapter is the ongoing deterioration of the federal government's commitment to using federal tax dollars to support the basic human needs of our people. It is time to "take back our government" by insuring the safety and security of all who live here, rather than emphasizing the needs of corporations and an overreaching military.

We will meet on Saturday, December 15 from noon until 3:30 pm at the Mediation and Facilitation Resources building, 11 King St., Augusta (off State St. at corner with Pat's Pizza, a few blocks south of the State Capitol).  Snow date will be same time on December 16. 

Please bring food to share (or for yourself) while we have lunch and get to know each other between noon-1 PM. The planning meeting will follow. If you are unsure of the location or directions, contact Larry Dansinger at (207) 525-7776.

Reports are already surfacing that President Obama will move quickly to sign a deal with the Republicans in Congress to cut Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid in return for some tax increases on the rich.

On Election Day the Budget for All question won overwhelmingly in all 91 cities and towns across Massachusetts in which it was on the ballot, averaging a 75% yes vote, 25% no -- even passing in towns carried by Scott Brown.  This ballot question called for an end to social program cuts, an end to costly wars ($8 billion a month in Afghanistan), and for increased taxes on the rich.  Clearly the public is seeing these important connections.

We are not proposing to start a new group.  We do think though that by bringing together people who have not worked together in the past we can all be stronger than we are now.  Our new senator Angus King will play a key role in these budget negotiations and we should be developing a coordinated campaign to mobilize the public so that Congress and President Obama hear from the people in Maine soon.

The goal of the meeting will be to listen to one another and discuss strategy options to protect social progress from becoming the victim of the debt crisis in Washington.  By building and expanding our networks we can resist budget cuts to social programs and transfer any cuts to the bloated military.

We hope that your organization will be able to send one or more representatives to this strategy and action meeting.  We will be sharing this invitation with labor, religious, peace, social justice, women’s, environmental groups, and more.  Please feel free to pass this letter on to others who you think might be interested.

The time has come for us to connect the dots to survive and bring greater harmony and equality to our country. The only way we will be able to effectively deal with the massive corporate money now being poured into Washington is to get beyond our traditional single issue organizing and move toward a more cooperative and collaborative model.

We look forward to seeing you on December 15. 

For peace and environmental and social justice,

- Professor Doug Allen, University of Maine (Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine and Maine Peace Action Committee)
- Rev. Bill Bliss (Neighborhood Faith Community, United Church of Christ, Bath)
- Read Brugger (Team 350 Maine)
- Chris Buchanan (Environmental activist)
- Richard Clement (Maine Veterans for Peace)
- Kenny Cole (Maine visual artist)
- Larry Dansinger (ROSC)
- Jacqui Deveneau (Maine Greens)
- Denise Dreher (Pax Christi Maine)
- Bruce Gagnon (Global Network & Bring Our War $$ Home Campaign)
- Betsy Garrold/Bob St. Peter (Food for Maine's Future)
- Judy Garvey/Jim Bergin (Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition)
- The Rev. Carol L. Huntington (Deacon, Episcopal Diocese of Maine & Social Worker)
- Jennifer Lunden (Social worker)
- Jessica Moore (Peace Action Maine)
- Rosalie Tyler Paul (American Friends Service Committee, Maine)
- Ilze Petersons (Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine)
- Mike Reynolds (AbilityMaine)
- Richard Rhames (Biddeford City Councilor)
- Judy Robbins (Peninsula Peace and Justice)
- Lisa Savage (CODEPINK & Bring Our War $$ Home Campaign)
- Robert Shetterly (Americans Who Tell the Truth)
- Mary Beth Sullivan (Social worker)
- Rev. Mark D. Wilson (Bath, Maine)
- Donna Yellen (Social worker)

* Groups are listed for identification purposes only

Monday, November 12, 2012

Propping Up A Rotten System Is The Liberal Curse

Image: Occupy NH Primary
One of the the greatest dangers of the thinking error I call "false dichotomy" is the misperception that a loss for one "side" is a win for the other. The multi-billion dollar professional sports industry exists partly to distract us from the killing and enslavement necessary to support our lavish, unsustainable lifestyle, but mostly as a strategy to enforce the notion that dichotomy is fundamental to understanding the modern world.

Potential thinkers fall prey to the error early in life, and are then severely handicapped when it comes to thinking about nuances, or analyzing situations where black vs. white thinking does not apply.

Public education in this country -- at most locations anyway -- reinforces the notion, teaching over and over again how the colonies rebelled and threw off the chains of tyranny imposed by monarchy and colonialism. Our side won!!!

Never mind that the U.S. is essentially the heir of what was at the time the most rapacious of global imperial powers. We're a white supremacist, genocidal, upstart colony riding on the (now subsiding) wave of immense material wealth got by stealing the continent from indigenous tribes. Treaties and other forms of law were used to trick and dispossess our land's former inhabitants, epidemic disease was willfully induced, and brute force relocation was used against the survivors. You can see it as the final act in the old play of Rule Britannia, or the first act in the new play of U.S. global hegemony.

These thoughts are in my mind as Thanksgiving approaches and I am digesting the news about CIA director and ex-general Petraeus resigning over the sort of martial infidelity that shocks no one in this day and age. Compared with acting like a teenager in the oval office with an intern, Petraeus' dalliance seems positively dignified; at least his paramour was an adult with a real job.

It just seems amazingly coincidental that a CIA outpost in Benghazi, Libya was recently overrun and several of its staff killed -- including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, who was there for reasons we have not and likely will not hear honestly explained. If you've studied history much you know that competition is fierce at the highest levels of rich, predatory empires of any sort. And right now who's in control of military aid flowing from Libya to militants in Syria, which lies along the path to defeating Iran for control of the Persian Gulf?

The dichotomy I'm interested in is the one between spending tax revenues for corporate welfare (buying expensive weapons systems that are the biggest polluters on earth, for instance, or letting hugely profitable entities like oil companies operate virtually tax free at our expense) or spending tax revenues actually taking care of people. As we've seen from the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, which has been like Katrina but with cold weather, government no longer even makes a pretense of responding to people's basic needs. Ditto wealthy organizations like the Red Cross with their own powerful elites.
As the so-called "fiscal cliff" approaches and progressives make ready to cave on reducing the entitlements that are the last safety net for so many in the U.S., I want to go down fighting for economic justice. I respect the Occupy Sandy folks who are exhausting themselves delivering the disaster relief not forthcoming from government by billionaires, but I also know that getting drawn into propping up a rotten system can be a sinkhole for energy and morale.

It's like I heard an activist say in a video organizing students to promote Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions on Israel: Palestinians are not a downtrodden people in need of charity. They are a dispossessed people, in need of justice.

Charity is so much more polite and less challenging, generally. Timid types can participate without fear of being disruptive to the genteel veneer hiding violent repression. Fundraisers where everyone has a nice meal are so much more enjoyable than getting arrested and brutalized by police for exercising the right to speech and assembly, for example.

Coming together for mutual aid can be a powerful movement builder.

But a movement is only worth building if its ultimate aim is to remove the underpinnings of a venal and corrupt system.

Here are anti-austerity protesters in Spain early this autumn. Let's make our own government fear this kind of public rejection of government by and for the wealthy, and austerity for the rest of us.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Principled Resistance To Holding Your Nose While Voting

Guest post today from Pat Taub, my friend and sister blogger and now a CODEPINK Local Coordinator in her own right. 

Here she answers a family member who chastised her for stating that she intended to vote for the Green Independent Party candidate for president.
My own political outlook has changed rather dramatically over the last ten years.  It has a lot to do with my engagement with progressive groups like the ACLU and Amnesty International, Codepink, Veterans for Peace, conversations with peace workers and friends who have lived and/or spent time in Afghanistan, Palestine and other hot spots and the internet.  Some ten years ago I would read the NYT regularly and listen to NPR regularly.  Most of my political views were informed from their reporting and editorials.  But as I spoke with civili liberties lawyers, international peace workers and read reports online that don't make it into the mainstream publications, my former views were contradicted. I was getting information about Palestine and Afghanistan and other international places along with stories of congressional corruption that were being ignored at home. Today I rely on Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, Al Jazeera (who had an excellent report today on volunteers coming to Palestine to help with their olive harvest--a report that would never make into the pro-Israeli US press), Chris Hedges of Truthdig, the Black Agenda, Glen Greenwald of the Guardian, Robert Fisk of the Independent. among others.  

I don't regard a vote for Jill Stein as a protest vote but as a clear difference.  While there are, to my way of thinking, minor differences between Obama and Romney, neither man represents the interests of the average American. They are both beholden to corporate America.  I don't think I will ever again vote for a major party candidate. Real change in America has always come from outside movements, like the Suffragettes, the Socialists, labor organizers, etc. It has not come from within either party.  For example, the Socialists pressured FDR to implement New Deal legislation. I want to be part of such a movement and will resist and work for change until I die.  Occupy held some of this promise.  It's not dead but reforming.  I take heart from the young occupiers I know and do all I can as an elder to support them.

I voted for Obama and even worked for him, but, for me, he has proven to be a tool of Wall Street and the Pentagon.  Not one Wall St. executive has been arrested while Bradley Manning has been in detention, including months of solitary confinement (tantamount to torture), for almost two years without due process.  All he did was exercise freedom of speech.  Obama's foreign policy is much more aggressive in many ways than Bush's.  Obama only left Iraq because the Iraqi govt. insisted on prosecuting soldiers and contractors if they continued to break the law--no immunity.  Obama has many Bush cronies working for him in the CIA and the State Dept.  John Brennan, the architect of the new "permanent war" (a playbook for targeted assignations and increased surveillance without habeus corpus) was one of Bush's right hand men and is reported to be Obama's main confidante.  The NDAA is both highly illegal and immoral.  I don't think any legislation Bush passed even compares on unconstitutional grounds to the NDAA.

The report issued two weeks ago and compiled by a joint research team from NYU and Stanford law schools found that the drone attacks in Pakistan (which have increased ten fold under Obama compared to Bush) leave the residents in a permanent state of terror.  Drones hover in the background 24 hours a day.  Residents never know when they will strike. Out of fear they keep children home from school and have stopped holding weddings and funerals.  What's worse, the Obama team practices "double tap," which means when villagers try to go to help injured drone victims they are targets.  Civilian casualties were found by this report to be in the 1000's while Obama claims under 15.  I can't support a man who kills women and children so casually.  I don't see how our foreign policy could be any more horrific under Romney. Additionally the consensus from the Stanford/NYU report was that the drone killings of innocents are fueling anti-America hatred world wide.  (Drones are being used extensively in Yemen and Somalia as well.)

Your concern about Social Security benefits is legitimate.  I still don't think Obama will offer you the protection you need.  Again, as I said before, I hope I'm wrong.

I could go on and on.  Quickly: I am troubled by the fact that Obama has deported more undocumented workers in his 4 years than Bush did in 8 years.  The argument that a Romney Supreme Court appointee would be devastating doesn't hold much ground with me.  I ask myself,  "How will a Supreme Court appointment make a difference with the financial implosion and climate change and economic inequality?"

So, there you are.  I will vote for Jill Stein because I see her as morally and ethically reflecting views I can support.

I didn't write any of the above to change your mind but rather to give you a fuller sense about what's behind my thinking.

I hope I can do my small part to make the world a better place for my two grandchildren.  They drive my activism.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Draw-A-Thon Unites Public + Artists To Bring War $ Home

Draw-A-Thon posters created in 2010 at the Portland Public Library.
Art is in the air! The coming Armistice / Veterans Day holiday, Mon. Nov. 12, will see the full energy of a Draw-A-Thon unleashed as ideas to Bring Our War $$ Home are realized. Envisioning will begin promptly at 10am at the lovely Waterfall Arts in Belfast, Maine, a converted old schoolhouse that is exhibiting "The War On Peace" with works by Rob Shetterly and Alan Magee, now until Nov. 21.

CODEPINK State of Maine is sponsoring along with the Union of Maine Visual Artists, Veterans for Peace Maine chapters, and the Global Network Against Nuclear Power and Weapons in Space. All are members of the coalition waging the campaign to connect the dots between out of control military spending and unmet needs at home. Together we say stop funding the military and instead build schools, housing, jobs, and provide clean water, wholesome food, and medical care.

Bring Our War $$ Home!

Artists team up with the public to generate ideas and a lot of art is made on the spot. Here's some from past years:

Brian Reeves creating his now classic "Cash Bazooka"

As at a previous Draw-A-Thon held on Armistice / Veterans Day in 2010, veterans may sit for their portrait if they wish.

Also, people wandering by can pick up their own crayon, or tell someone else what they'd like to see.

Photos by Draw-A-Thon artist William Hessian from his Bearded Bunny Blog
Sometimes it leads to t-shirts. You never know what might happen. Join us! Mon. Nov. 12 from 10am to 6pm. Here are more details from organizer Kenny Cole:
The art activist organizers are concerned about the cost of war to Maine taxpayers, which they estimate at $3.5 billion and propose that these war dollars be brought back to the US and repurposed. 
The free event is open to the public with a special offer to veterans to come have their portraits drawn by the participating artists. All are invited to bring creative energy and ideas to help envision how to better spend war dollars. Some artists will draw their own ideas, some will translate requests and ideas into images and others will draw portraits of veterans. Participating artists include Natasha Mayers, Rob Shetterly, Kenny Cole, Nora Tryon, Brian Reeves and others...
For more information on the draw-A-Thon, visit mainedrawathon.blogspot.com.
Waterfall Arts
256 High St.
Belfast, ME 04915
(207) 338-2222
Creating community in harmony with nature through the transformative power of the arts - Feel the Power of Art
Finally, here's a video I made of a Draw-A-Thon that turned into a Print-A-Thon at the Portland Public Library in January, 2011. Some of Rob Shetterly's many portraits from the series "Americans Who Tell The Truth" were on exhibit then, too. Good times.

Why Most People Won't Know About Drones Until One Is Right Over Their Head

From Portland, Oregon anti-austerity protest Nov. 3 where about 25 people were pepper sprayed by police.
I'm in an interesting discussion with sister activists about our ongoing campaign to raise awareness among the general public about drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles. These flying killer robots cost a bundle, and are used both to kill people and to spy on them. They are already flying over the borders of many countries, including our own.

Here we are performing a die-in during the First Friday Art Walk on Nov. 2 in Portland, Maine.

You can see a daylight performance of the die-in in this video made the last time we staged the event (with a lot more people) at various locations in Portland, Maine on Oct. 8:

The discussion we're having is about whether we're reaching anybody to accomplish our goal of raising awareness about drones. Most in the U.S. go "huh?" if you ask them if they know about drones. If you follow by saying that drones have killed people this year not only in Pakistan and Yemen but also Somalia, Indonesia and the Philippines, they are incredulous.

The Washington Post did a three piece series plus an op-ed on drones recently, which was seen by many as evidence that awareness is growing. They didn't echo CODEPINK's call to ground the drones, but they did at least question the wisdom of the extreme secrecy that surrounds the Obama administration's drone assassination program.

Activists are debating (yes, actually debating -- you know, where each person offers the best arguments they can muster for their position, and the tone is civil with no interrupting) how best to bring the message about drones. Our theatrical director wants to keep it non-didactic, so that spectators are not told what to think but are offered a provocative spectacle to stimulate their own thinking and analysis. Signs and flyers offer additional factual information about drone casualties.

Another organizer wants us to be more explicit, to make sure that passersby really understand why people are dropping to the ground and being covered by bloody sheets and prayed over while people clad all in black labeled with names like Reaper and Predator hover menacingly to the steady beat of a drum. Part of the discussion is about whether to stage these performances in daylight, after dark, on holidays, on public streets, in front of grocery stores, or during well-attended cultural events like the art walk.

This month we did it in the semi-dark because a group of Occupy activists invited the die-in to be part of their Halloween-to-Friday-art-walk series of events "99 Horrors of Capital." They took time out from their sweet occupation of a different corner of Congress and State streets to help leaflet and hold signs. Afterwards everyone enjoyed free local food and entertainment including a fire eater, a pumpkin headed guitarist, a rapper, and much more.

There was also a ton of political art on display in other places that night, including a group show at the Meg Perry Center, and Kenny Cole's solo show at Aucocisco Galleries.

"The Luckiest Generation" by Kenny Cole who wrote in his artist's statement: "I’ve begun to grow alarmed at the storm of misinformation levied by a retrograde army of spin brokers working today."
What to do about the perfect storm of misinformation that characterizes the 21st century? That is the question.