Wednesday, March 20, 2013

ARRT Says: Universal Health Care Is A Human Right!

The Union of Maine Visual Artists "Art Rapid Response Team" (AART) has produced several banners for communicating the message that health care is a human right. Share them, wear them, and let our collective voices cry out that we are both literally sick and sick at heart from spending $3-5 TRILLION attacking and occupying Iraq -- while people go without health care.

The lady who does my hair was limping when I saw her last time. She had been kicked in the knee by a horse back in the fall, and then missed the last step on the stairs causing her knee to go out. She was wearing a knee brace and planning to spend the entire day standing and working on people's hair.

"You must have been tempted to call in sick," I said, and she agreed, but said she needed to earn money. She is middle aged, and as a self-employed hairdresser she cannot afford health insurance. Obamacare did not fix that. The doctor she consulted advised a "mega expensive test" and probably surgery, neither of which she can afford.

This ARRT banner is for her:

And this one:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Weapons Industry Driving Us Down To Hell

From the years 1980-84 I lived in Tokyo, Japan. Right-wing ranters on flatbed trucks were always to be found in the old part of Tokyo near the Emperor's residence. They were livid about the Kurile Islands which were grabbed by Russia at the end of WWII. Most of my friends -- young parents, artists or salary men who had gone to Todai (Tokyo University) or Kyodai (Kyoto University) -- considered the men with the megaphones quaint relics. They assured me that the Japanese people had learned their lesson about militarism, and that they now had a Constitution that expressly forbade funding a military. "The industrial cartels dragged us into war by invading and attacking countries, and we Japanese suffered very much as a result. We will not go down that path again." Many people told me some version of this over the course of the four years I lived there.

Of course U.S. military bases were found throughout Japan, and even though the war had been over for almost forty years, it was pretty clear they were there to stay. This created cognitive dissonance: Japan was pacifist, yet filled withe another nation's military outposts? Then there was the b.s. I'd always been told stateside about how hugely benevolent the Marshall Plan following the U.S. attacks using nuclear weapons to wipe out two cities. When I had a child on December 7 I realized that none of my Japanese friends knew the significance of that date for the U.S., or even what the words "Pearl Harbor" referred to. They only remembered August 8, date of the cataclysmic bombing of Hiroshima. 

Now I watch the industrialists of my own country drag us into one endless war after another, stitched together with bursts of killer robot strikes at regular intervals. My whole lifetime has been like that, and it just keeps getting worse. 

Here's how our own military industry operates our government: did you know sequestration doesn't apply to the "Overseas and Contingency Operations" budget? Nope. The funding for wars like Afghanistan and Iraq is separate from the base Pentagon budget and was explicitly protected from any mandatory cuts to balance the budget. Are you surprised? When it comes time for cuts, you already know that some budget line items are more equal than others.

More fun for Maine: Sen. Susan Collins announced her excitement over the possibility of building a nuclear missile defense site way up on the northern border. The local newspaper loyally followed suit, running the story under the headline: Maine may be chosen for missile defense system site. You can almost hear their breathless enthusiasm. Hilariously, the need for this is justified by -- the threat posed by North Korea! (Never mind the lure of those rapidly thawing Arctic sea lanes and the minerals and potential petroleum beneath them. Just never mind.)

With sequestration in place, those kept in power by WMD merchants are scrambling to service the folks that put them in office. And the people be damned.

Year after year, our congress refuses to revoke the the Authorization for Use of Military Force, used by presidents for a more than a decade to bomb just about anybody they please. It just wouldn't look patriotic to tear up the blank check for endless war that 9/11 is supposed to have justified.

Rep. Barbara Lee, the only member of Congress who dared to vote against the AUMF in 2001, has introduced a bill to repeal it. You can click here to tell the person who "represents" you in Congress to revoke the AUMF.

At the 10th anniversary of attacking Iraq under the ridiculous sobriquet "Shock and Awe" we're reminding ourselves that the whole war and occupation were founded on a series of known lies. It doesn't matter, because the purpose was making money and it succeeded handsomely on that score. We left Iraq in ruins and rife with civil unrest, exactly as intended.

The Japanese people ended up starving for years, and devastated when their unaffordable military empire collapsed.

We of the Bring Our War $$ Home campaign and allies will be out in Maine with doorhangers during April, talking with our neighbors about where our resources are going (57% to military, currently) and where they should be going.

The conversations we have while passing out the doorhangers are often encouraging because of the realization of how much we have in common with our neighbors.

Our government is in trouble, people know it, and many of them understand the urgent need to come together in these perilous times.
anti-austerity marchers in Spain, Feb. 2013  photo: Sergio Perez / Reuters

Monday, March 18, 2013

Ten Years After, The Stench Remains

The stench of bodies burned by white phosphorus, of stillborn children with depleted uranium-induced deformities so gross they are barely recognizable as human, of torture and rendition conducted by contracting firms such as Blackwater (now known as Academi), recently revealed as directly in the employ of the CIA and its taxpayers; the stench of burning oil fields, of hungry children shivering in the cold in North America, of the farts of fat, sleek war profiteers the mainstream media tells us to revere as "winners" in the vicious game of access to the dirty fuels that keep the light burning for capitalism.

Business, politics and war -- there you have it. Haliburton, the love of Dick Cheney's life, made billions off the Iraq war.  Bush will get a presidential lie-brary in Texas. Rice will continue with lucrative teaching and lecturing gigs. Et cetera, ad nauseum.

The people of Iraq will continue to suffer the effects of civil unrest, and of the destroyed infrastructure that was never repaired even though corporations billed the U.S. government billions to do the job.

The veterans who went to invade Iraq will continue to wrestle the demons of despair, many broken in body and spirit. Many will not make it back to their families or the lives they left behind. Many went into the military after the gigantic lie of 9/11 -- that it was the unaided work of Islamic terrorists -- and many more went, not out of idealism, but because there were no living wage jobs for kids with high school diplomas, and they wanted the money to go to college. They never studied true world history and current events, so they never really knew that the dictator they were supposed to be risking their lives to topple had been a close U.S. friend and ally for years.

Four million Iraqi refugees, one million of whom have yet to return home. At least hundreds of thousands, perhaps as many as a million civilian deaths in Iraq. A highly profitable war for the 1%. That's why Bush made a buffoon of himself very early in the occupation declaring "Mission Accomplished." The direct feed from the U.S. taxpayer to the corporations that kept him in office was firmly in place. And in 2013, the U.S. taxpayer is still bleeding dollars into those accounts faster than a human being could even count.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sacred Cows & Pull The Pork: Whose Ox Is Being Gored?

Corporate communications specialists come up with messaging and test it using focus groups. Using fearmongering as their primary strategy, and huge sums of money as blunt instruments to deliver the fear, they favor slogans like "hollow the force" and "playing games with America's national security."
There is an important discussion occurring among peace workers around messaging during the federal budget follies known as sequestration. Much of it is in response to attempts to widen the tent under which radical peacemakers gather, inviting in disparate elements such as labor unions. Many of these unions have been carrying water for the Democratic Party and are apparently unable to criticize an elected Democrat even when he or she acts like a Republican. (Full disclosure: I count the union I pay dues to, the National Education Association, among them.)

Jobs Not Wars is one such attempt. Hoping to appeal to the dwindling middle class and its aspirants, the campaign is hamstrung by the inconvenient truth that jobs equal weapons manufacturing in every congressional district in the land. "Pull the Pork" is a slogan that has been in use these past weeks; "pork" of course refers to congressional spending in one's district as a way of delivering what the voters supposedly sent you to Washington for.

But Jobs Nots Wars is a slogan likely to resonate negatively with the largely youthful uprising of Occupy Wall St. and everywhere. Typically those activists do not want a job under capitalism, they want to replace capitalism because
Most Occupiers believe that "another world is possible." They are typically not interested in compromise with the rotten old system. Cutting the Pentagon budget by 10% over ten years would be, to most in OWS, an insipid ask.

Appealing to concerns over the unraveling of the middle class dream is another big tent strategy. Examining this it struck me that the middle class dream was a belief for old people. Following the trends of a younger demographic seems more likely to build a movement. Still, old dreams die hard...and the peace movement is, demographically, quite old at this point.

The women-led peace and justice group CODEPINK is willing to expend some energy to hold elected officials accountable because 1) we still can (the use 'em or lose 'em approach to our rights under the Constitution) and 2) most people are scared to. Speaking for myself, I don't expect it to change much of anything. But such activity can be a good platform for communicating to the general public especially via the mainstream media which will cover something if it happens in a Senate hearing, but not if it happens outside on the pavement. CP is all about finding multiple ways to communicate, to break through wall of silence enforced by secretive government and complicit corporate media.

Because a detailed account of how corporations like General Dynamics maintain a stranglehold on government by means of what Nicholas J.S. Davies calls  “'legalized bribery' within a superficially democratic system" is simply too unpalatable for most U.S. citizens to bear.

That's why humor is a CODEPINK tactic. It reaches people who are not going to take the time or risk bumming their high by reading Medea Benjamin's well-researched book on drones

To whip up support for demanding the White House release their secret legal memos used to justify drone strikes by the CIA, CODEPINK teamed up with the very popular comedian Jon Stewart of The Daily Show to send out a serious message surrounded by silliness:
I like the president, but if he's going to claim the right to kill me with a flying robot, don't I at least deserve to know why?
Clicking on one link leads to serious information about the secret memos. Clicking on another generates a letter calling on Patrick Leahy "the big, bald-headed Democrat who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee – to get his hands on those drone memos. If he does, he'll be doing a public service."

I'm sure many in the peace movement will be offended by the silliness, the phrase "I like the president," or even the pink. I've been told my big pink wig "trivializes our message." I disagree, because it very often becomes the medium for getting out the message on network t.v. or the front page of the newspaper. That's my public service.

Besides, young friends sheepishly tell me The Daily Show and/or The Colbert Report is where they get most of their news. Sugar coating makes bitter pills easier to swallow, and tailoring the message to the audience is just good communication.

You would think that citizens would recognize their ox being gored and care about the threats to their freedom of 57% spending on military while banks are bailed out and the liberal class claims that cuts to Social Security and Medicare are necessary. And citizens might know some of this, and they might care.

But they also might be quite busy working at their three McJobs.