Author: Oregon PeaceWorks

The Prison Boom Comes Home to Roost

JAMES CARROLL – Will the fiscal collapse that has laid bare gross inequalities in the U.S. economic system lead to meaningful reforms toward a more just society? One answer is suggested by the bursting of what might be called the “other housing bubble,” for these two years have also brought to crisis the three-decade-long frenzy of mass imprisonment. If there was a bailout for bankers, can there be one for inmates?

Are Cruel Years Coming to a Neighborhood Near You?

WILLIAM LOREN KATZ – In 2010, with the blessing of a five-to-four Supreme Court, unlimited money from anonymous corporate sources was allowed to select candidates and call the political tune. It is hardly surprising the party best able to tap these funds scored major gains. While suspicious of repentant witches, the public fell for a heroic narrative of capitalist individualism gallantly charging into the 20th century bearing gifts for all. Rand Paul, the clearest voice of the victorious Republican Party, championed the tried and true values of American individualism, freedom and capitalism of this earlier time.

The Independent Private Contractor Military is Now in Control

MARTI HIKEN AND LUKE HIKEN – A funny thing happened on the way to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The U.S. military became privatized. Private contractors, i.e. mercenaries, are now the predominant military force comprising the armamentarium of the United States. In effect, private contractors supplanted the U.S. military as the primary decision-makers and fighting force of the U.S. government.

Path for Vote on New START Treaty this Year Goes Through Kyl

JOSH ROGIN – According to top officials the administration is working hard to secure a floor vote for the New START nuclear reductions treaty with Russia during Congress’s post-election lame duck session. “We are looking to pursue a final vote on the floor before the end of the year and we think it’s very important to continue working very hard in that direction,” said Rose Gottemoeller, the treaty’s lead negotiator and Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation. “Every day that goes by is another day we do not have inspectors on the ground in the Russian Federation… We’re going to continue to do everything we can over the coming weeks to see it ratified and entered into force this year.”

Learning from the Tea Party

TED GLICK – Polling and pundits tell us that tonight we will see a significant political incursion from the right wing, if not, indeed, a complete power takeover. We may not appreciate the Tea Party, but we had better learn a few lessons from them, as this article suggests. Business as usual is not serving us well and if we let it continue to run our nation’s business, we will be increasingly unhappy with the results. – Editor

How (Not to) to Organize a Community

DMITRY ORLOV – Just in time for Halloween comes a fascinating thought piece about some real-life horror: one vision of how some of today’s most positive community-building activities to could turn on us in the face of declining access to oil. Avoiding this future is another strong reason to do the peace visioning Oregon PeaceWorks has been calling for and facilitating. People who do not want to live in the world Orlov posits must take up the challenge of strategizing ways to avoid it. – Editor

Syria Reasserts Its Centrality to Peace

ALON BEN-MEIR – Despite efforts to internationally isolate Syria, especially during the Bush era, Syria has reasserted itself as a central player in the Middle East. Following the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, the United States withdrew its ambassador to Beirut, intensified sanctions against Damascus and sought to deepen Syria’s isolation from the international community. The recent array of high-level visitors to Damascus-including United States officials-demonstrates that President Bashar al-Assad has weathered the storm of isolation and has emerged as an essential actor in resolving regional disputes, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel should now respond favorably to Damascus’ call for renewed peace talks, and in so doing utilize Syria’s influence to advance peace, rather than thwart it.

Afghan Youth Group Undermines Prejudice

DAVID SMITH-FERRI – Bamiyan Province in Afghanistan, a stunningly beautiful mountainous region, is located in the center of the country, roughly 100 miles from Kabul. Most people here live in small, autonomous villages tucked into high mountain valleys, and work dawn to dusk just to scratch out a meager living as subsistence farmers, shepherds, or goatherds. The central government in Kabul and the regional government in Bamiyan City exercise little or no control over their lives. They govern themselves, and live for the most part in isolation.

Given this, who would imagine that Afghan youth from small villages across Bamiyan Province would come together to form a tight-knit, resilient, and effective group of peace activists, with a growing network of contacts and support that includes youth in other parts of the country and peace activists in the U.S. and in Palestine?

Calling in the Feds on Nonprofit Front Groups

KEVEN ZEESE – One reason why the U.S. sees ongoing wars, massive military budgets and record arms sales is because the military industrial complex spends massively on elections. This year, corporate spending on elections is worse than ever thanks to the Citizens United decision and political operatives like Karl Rove who have created nonprofit front groups to hide the source of campaign donations. These front groups are designed to evade federal election laws and federal tax laws. The violations of law are quite evident.

Following Up on Minnesota FBI Raids

MINNEAPOLIS ANTI-WAR COMMITTEE – On September 24, the FBI raided the homes and offices of peace workers in Minneapolis, MN and elsewhere (see The PeaceWorker, Oct. 1 and Oct. 17). Here is the most recent news and action request from the Minneapolis Anti-War Committee, including an excellent resolution currently in the Minnesota Legislature. – Editor

Oppose Animal Wrongs

CRAIG AND CHERIE CLINE — We have given our personal support to a great many “animal issues” organizations over the past 40 years. We think it would be highly beneficial for all of the organizations (and at least indirectly beneficial for all the animals) if they were to better engage and network with each other. Their “common cause” is, of course, various kinds of animals and the effects of human actions, or inactions, on those animals.

Progressive Canaries in a Political Mine

NORMAN SOLOMON — Take it from David Axelrod. “Almost the entire Republican margin is based on the enthusiasm gap,” the president’s senior adviser said last week. “And if Democrats come out in the same turnout as Republicans, it’s going to be a much different election.” But we don’t get to have a different election.

Take Action to Oppose FBI Raids

PETER BERGEL — On October 1, The PeaceWorker ran an article on the frightening and unconscionable FBI raids on peace workers that happened in the Minneapolis area and elsewhere. Since then, some activists have refused to cooperate with a Grand Jury, thereby running the risk that they will be jailed.

The Top Censored Stories From 2009-2010

PROJECT CENSORED — Project Censored annually picks stories the corporate media should be covering, but aren’t. The links below identify the stories and take you to bibliographies that spell them out. Many of the issues Project Censored selects are so suppressed that you may not even be aware of them, yet what you don’t know definitely can hurt you. Check them out. — Editor

Are the Dems Really Listening?

MICHAEL MOORE — Ok! We’re halfway through the week and we’re off to a great start. Last week I gave the spineless Dems five friendly suggestions for things they could do on the off chance they were interested in winning the midterm elections on November 2nd:
1. Deliver a blunt, nonstop reminder to the American people about exactly who it was that got us into the mess we’re in.
2. Declare a moratorium on home foreclosures.
3. Prosecute the banks and Wall Street for the Crime of the Century.
4. Create a 21st century WPA (hire the unemployed to rebuild America).
5. Pledge that no Dem will take a dime from Wall Street in the next election cycle.
So how are we doing 5 days later? Not bad! It turns out that at least some of these ideas were so simple even elected Democrats could come up with them!

What If Peace Broke Out? One Man’s View

ED HEMMINGSON — My thoughts here are in response to Oregon PeaceWorks’ call for personal visions of what the world might look like if “peace broke out.” That term of course, is a satirical twist on the common expression, “war broke out,” which is used by the popular media, as though war were some wild beast that just got loose. In reality, war is the result of cold calculations by people in power who see it as being to their advantage.

5 Things Dems Can Do to Turn It Around by November 2nd

MICHAEL MOORE — Not only does Michael Moore express many of the frustrations progressives currently experience in relation to the leadership of the Democrats in Congress and the White House, but he also – and much more importantly – suggests some quick fixes the Democratic leadership could and should implement to head off their self-destructive race to the bottom. – Editor

U.S. Neutrality Essential in Mid-East Peace Talks

JACK KIRKWOOD — American leaders and commentators often refer to Israel as our ally. Yet despite six decades of relationship, this term gained wide usage only after President Bush declared alliance with Israel against the terrorists after 9/11/01. American forces have never joined Israel in any military campaign.

FBI Raids Anti-War and Solidarity Activists’ Homes

ACTIVIST SOURCES — The FBI initiated a raid on six houses in Chicago and Minneapolis on Friday, October 24, 2010, at 7 a.m. central time. About a dozen activists in Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan were handed subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury. They also attempted to intimidate activists in California and North Carolina.

“End of Combat” Claim Disputed

JOHN LAFORGE — The press made a big deal of it. The president even starred in an Oval Office TV show about the “end to U.S. combat” in Iraq, which was announced on August 31. Mr. Obama said he’d fulfilled a promise to end the war. Obama’s bit of theater cost less than George Bush’s May 1, 2003 shameless declaration of “mission accomplished,” his circus-act-in-military-flight-suit-to-the-flight-deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. Yet the president’s speech was just as dishonest.

Peace Movement Wins a Victory in Court

JOHN DEAR — “Fourteen anti-war activists may have made history last week in a Las Vegas courtroom when they turned a misdemeanor trespassing trial into a possible referendum on America’s newfound taste for remote-controlled warfare.” That’s how one Las Vegas newspaper summed up our stunning day in court on Tuesday, when fourteen of us stood trial for walking onto Creech Air Force Base last year on April 9, 2009 to protest the U.S. drones.

When You Get a Whiff of Disaster, Pay Attention!

TOM HASTINGS — San Bruno, California, is about 12 miles south of San Francisco, near the airport. That is where the gas line ruptured and exploded into a massive fireball hundreds of feet tall, burning dozens of homes, killing at least four, and injuring many others. Residents report having gotten whiffs of gas now and then for a period beforehand.

Right-Wing Republicans vs. Corporate Democrats vs. Progressive Populists

NORMAN SOLOMON — At this bleak political moment, gaining congressional power for progressives might seem like pie in the sky. More and more desperate efforts are underway to stave off a Republican takeover of Congress. But the necessity of trying to prevent right-wing rule on Capitol Hill should not obscure the need to win more seats for genuine progressives.

Moving Beyond Peace Processes Past

AFIF SAFIEH — The Obama administration has been persistent about the Middle East peace process. But is it serious about peace? If it is, and I believe that President Barack Obama is personally serious in spite of widespread skepticism among Arabs and Palestinians, then this administration needs to understand why its predecessors have failed. There were serious flaws in previous peace processes, and I saw how they played out firsthand from my posts in London, Washington and Moscow.

Time to End the Cuban Travel Ban

EPISCOPAL PUBLIC POLICY NETWORK — The Cuba travel ban has done nothing, over the past five decades, to weaken the Cuban government or to prompt reforms in political or human rights. Most importantly, the Cuban people have been harmed by the ban because they have been cut off from the friendship and support of the American people.

How Should Progressives Respond to the End of the Oil Age?

ERIK LINDBERG — The August issue of “The Progressive” featured a series of essays on “the Big Spill” in the Gulf of Mexico, with the intention, I believe, of bringing our oil addiction into the foreground of political dialogue. In his article, “Energy Extremism,” Michael Klare thus asks a vital question about the end of the oil age. It is a question that has been painfully absent from any sustained dialogue: “How, then, should progressives respond to the current [energy] crisis?”

Trade Offs Tool Shows the Magnitude of Federal Budget Spending

NATIONAL PRIORITIES PROJECT — With all eyes on our nation’s budget, National Priorities Project (NPP) has overhauled its Trade Offs Tool designed to clarify the magnitude and localized impact of federal spending programs. The tool estimates FY2011 spending for select federal programs for individual states, counties, congressional districts, and towns. It then represents these dollar amounts in terms of localized costs of alternative goods and services such as police, teachers, or care for military veterans.

How Many Attacks on our Liberty Can We Tolerate?

PETER BERGEL — Here’s another intrusion into the rights that most of us thought were sacrosanct in these United States: now government agents can sneak onto your property in the middle of the night, put a GPS device on the bottom of your car and keep track of everywhere you go. This development is the result of a Portland case affirmed by the Ninth Circuit, which includes eight western states. Worse yet, the law draws a line of privilege between the rich and the poor. The rich have rights, the poor don’t.

Ocean Energy Generator Demonstrates Potential

SUZY KIST — Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC), an industry leader in tidal, river and deep-water ocean current energy technology and projects, announced on August 18 that its Beta Power System, the largest ocean energy “power plant” ever installed in U.S. waters, has successfully generated grid-compatible power from tidal currents at its Cobscook Bay site in Eastport, Maine.

Nuclear Weapons and the Way We Think

WINSLOW MYERS — Two strategic goals of the U.S. are an apparent desire to control Middle East oil and the expressed commitment to help keep Israel safe. This requires the U.S. to refuse the laudable vision of the Middle East as a nuclear weapons-free zone, which would demand that Israel dismantle its nuclear arsenal. Instead, news reports indicate that Israel may be gearing up for a pre-emptive attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Gen. Petraeus Goes to Media War

NORMAN SOLOMON — It’s already history. In mid-August 2010, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan launched a huge media campaign to prevent any substantial withdrawal of military forces the next summer. The morning after Gen. David Petraeus appeared in a Sunday interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to promote the war effort, the New York Times front-paged news of its own interview with him — reporting that the general “suggested that he would resist any large-scale or rapid withdrawal of American forces.”

You Can Get It If You Really Want

PETER BERGEL — Two days ago, The PeaceWorker published an explanation by Rep Peter DeFazio of his recent votes on funding the war in Afghanistan. This article was encouraging in that it expressed the misgivings many of us have about the war and those prosecuting it. It also explained in a cogent way what the “best thinking” in liberal Congressional circles is these days concerning how to extricate ourselves from the Vietnam-like mess which the Afghanistan situation has become. At the same time, the article revealed why the peace “movement” needs so desperately to rethink its overall strategy.

DeFazio Explains His Opposition to Afghanistan War Funding

REP. PETER DEFAZIO — Given that the war in Afghanistan has entered its ninth year without clearly defined objectives or an exit strategy, I wanted to provide you an update of my continued opposition to our head-in-the-sand Afghanistan policies. We recently saw a major shakeup in military leadership in Afghanistan, but it is clear that this will not translate to a major change in strategy.

Drone Protesters Challenge Genocidal Policy

JASON WHITED —
Fourteen nonviolent direct actionists at Creech Air Force Base in Southern Nevada face charges for entering the base to protest the use of unmanned weapons which kill indiscriminately halfway around the world. These weapons are guided to their targets from air-conditioned trailers at Creech. Trial for the “Creech 14” is set for September 16, but their action has focused UN attention on the issue of drone warfare.

Time to Get Out of Afghanistan

RALPH NADER — The war in Afghanistan is nearly nine years old — the longest in American history. After the U.S. quickly toppled the Taliban regime in October 2001, the Taliban, by all accounts, came back stronger and harsher enough to control now at least 30 percent of the country. During this time, U.S. casualties, armaments and expenditures are at record levels.

Top 5 Social Security Myths

EDITOR– The “realities” listed in this article are correct as far as they go, but they do not go far enough. While it is strictly true that “there is no Social Security crisis” because the Social Security Trust Fund “is full of U.S. Treasury Bonds,” the implication is that everything is all right. This is emphatically not the case. Please read the MoveOn article and also the PeaceWorker editorial that follows it.

PeaceWorker Comments on Social Security Article

PETER BERGEL — For decades, beginning during the Vietnam War, our elected leaders have tried to mask the size of the national debt they have permitted to accumulate by “borrowing” the surplus from the Social Security Trust Fund. This was done without consulting the public in any way, and largely without public knowledge, even though this money was set aside from all workers’ paychecks in an insurance program guaranteed to provide funds for them in their old age. To be precise, the government purchased U.S. T-bonds with our insurance money.

Met Office Report: Global Warming Evidence Is ‘Unmistakable’

LOUISE GRAY — A new climate change report from the Met Office [meteorological and climate change forecasts for the UK and worldwide] and its U.S. equivalent has provided the “greatest evidence we have ever had” that the world is warming. It is the first time a report has brought together all the different ways of measuring changes in the climate. The report brings together the latest temperature readings from the top of the atmosphere to the bottom of the ocean

We’re Not Ready for a Nuclear Power Plant Disaster

BOB HERBERT — We were told by oil industry executives and their acolytes and enablers in government that deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico would not cause the kind of catastrophe that we’ve been watching with an acute and painful sense of helplessness for the past three months. Advances in technology, they said, would ward off the worst-case scenarios. Fail-safe systems like the blowout preventer a mile below the surface at the Deepwater Horizon rig site would keep wildlife and the environment safe.