ROBERT WEISSMAN – We are now having a major dispute about what kind of society America should be. Right now, the flashpoint in this controversy is Wisconsin, where tens of thousands of people are demonstrating every day in an effort to block Governor Scott Walker’s plan to all but end collective bargaining rights for public employees. But the debate is a national one. The Wisconsin showdown is only the first in a whole series of pending state conflicts. And, over the next 10 days, a corporate-friendly Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives may decide to shut down the federal government.
DAVID SWANSON –
Pick up a copy of a 1040EZ US income tax form with all the instructions, particularly pages 36-37. Here are those two pages in a PDF. You’ll discover that the U.S. government only spends 22% of its money on “National defense, veterans, and foreign affairs.” The form admits that you could leave out the “foreign affairs” part and still be at 21%. However, take a look now at the pie chart created by the War Resisters League, which shows 54% of the budget going to the military.
MARGOT ROOSEVELT – The United Nations has long courted celebrities for its peace-keeping and anti-poverty efforts, from Mia Farrow and Ricky Martin to George Clooney and Angelina Jolie.
It is a mutually beneficial arrangement. Hollywood stars grasp at gravitas; the U.N. pushes for publicity.
Now the beleaguered multi-national agency, fresh from a disappointing round of climate negotiations in Cancun, wants something more concrete: actual story lines in movies, television and social media drawing attention to the dangers of global warming.
ALEX DOHERTY – [It gives me especial pleasure to present this article to PeaceWorker readers because I recall hearing Mark Rudd speak at a rally on the U of California campus in 1968, just after the occupation he refers to below. I thought his rhetoric was wrong-headed at the time and am delighted that he – who later became one of U.S. movement’s most ardent supporters of violence – has now come to appreciate the importance of nonviolence. – Editor]
[From 1965 to 1968, Mark Rudd was a student activist and organizer in the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) chapter at Columbia University. He was one of the leaders of the Spring 1968 occupation of five buildings and the subsequent strike against the university’s complicity with the Vietnam war. After being kicked out of Columbia, he became a full-time organizer for SDS, where he helped found the militant Weatherman faction. Mark was elected National Secretary of SDS in June, 1969, then helped found the “revolutionary” Weather Underground, which had as its goal “the violent overthrow of the government of the U.S. in solidarity with the struggles of the people of the world.” Wanted on federal charges of bombing and conspiracy, Mark was a fugitive from 1970 to 1977. He spoke to NLP’s Alex Doherty on the dangers of self-indulgent activism and his thoughts on current anti-war organizing in the United States.]
AMERICAN RIGHTS AT WORK ACTION TEAM – Have you heard? 30,000 protesters flooded the Wisconsin state house, and a group of state senators have literally fled the state to fight against the worst union-busting state bill in recent memory.
Governor Scott Walker has proposed a draconian bill of cuts targeted at public workers who make our lives better every day. It’s a bill he says will fix the state’s budget shortfall – but here’s the catch: he himself helped feed that shortfall with a slew of corporate tax breaks in his first months in office!
JOE COMERFORD – On February 14, the White House released the Obama Administration’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2012, which begins on October 1, 2011. As expected, the estimated $3.7 trillion FY2012 request contains a number of critical policy and fiscal goals, including:
Reducing the government’s annual deficit by placing a five-year freeze on so-called “non-security” discretionary spending, while eliminating a series of fossil fuel-related tax breaks and projecting an end to the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans in 2012;
Investing in education, with a goal of training more than 100,000 new science, technology, engineering and math teachers over the next decade;
Rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure with a substantial infusion of federal funds into high-speed rail, nationwide wireless, the creation of a National Infrastructure Bank, and a $28.6 billion (68%) increase in highway planning and construction; and
Promoting clean energy technology with the goal of one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.
MICHAEL NAGLER – When is a whistleblower not a whistleblower? When he’s a scapegoat. Pfc. Bradley Manning is an unfortunate – and a challenging – case in point, and to understand why we need to see it in context.
URI AVNERY – We are in the middle of a geological event. An earthquake of epoch-making dimensions is changing the landscape of our region. Mountains turn into valleys, islands emerge from the sea, volcanoes cover the land with lava.
People are afraid of change. When it happens, they tend to deny, ignore, pretend that nothing really important is happening.
DAVID SWANSON – Did you know that the U.S. public wants military spending cut? Did you know that President Barack Obama wants to increase it for his third year in a row? Actually I already know that most of you didn’t know either of these things.
REP. JOHN CONYERS, JR – On February 8, we were able to vote down the House Republican Leadership’s effort to extend the PATRIOT Act surveillance law. It was a bipartisan victory, as most House Democrats and 26 brave Republicans voted to stop the bill under the special rules the Republicans invoked. I was proud to take the lead in fighting this effort to further erode our civil liberties and even more pleased to be joined by Republican civil libertarians like Ron Paul of Texas.
MICHAEL TRUE – Blind faith — adhering to a proposition with no reasonable justification of its truth — is more dangerous for politicians than it is for religionists. True believers may acknowledge their blind faith in religious dogma, while foreign policy wonks seldom acknowledge their blind faith in political dogma. Yet many legislators and administrators — as well as columnists and academics — adhere to the dogma of “military supremacy,” which dominates U.S. foreign policy. American tax payers, who have invested heavily in that dogma, may have serious questions about whether it works. The evidence?
DAVID BALL – Those who have followed Oregon PeaceWorks peace visioning will find this event to be a natural tie-in. Often when proponents of social change are asked if they are succeeding, the answer is ambiguous. Identifying a problem is easy…finding a tangible working solution becomes the trick. Amy Pearl, executive director of Springboard Innovation, has been at the forefront of finding alternative ways to create, develop, and fund sustainable solutions to societal ills like poverty, hunger, and homelessness (to name just a few). Included in her work has been the development of the ReVisioning Value conference — held this year at the Gerding Theater in NW Portland March 7-8 — which brings together a host of experts from diverse fields (civil engineering, economics, impact investing, sustainability) to create a unique two-day symposium focused on innovative techniques aimed at producing immediate results.
NORMAN SOLOMON – Norman Solomon has been a regular PeaceWorker columnist since the PeaceWorker began in 1988. By then he was already a widely published author, but I had met him more than a decade earlier as an activist in the struggle to stop nuclear power development in Oregon. From that time to this he has never stinted to tell the direct truth as he saw it and to act upon it as he was able. These are qualities we could use a lot more of in Congress. – Editor
One of the most inspiring political leaders in recent decades, Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), famously declared: “I represent the democratic wing of the Democratic Party.” Today we need progressives in Congress who will represent the progressive wing of the Progressive Caucus.
PAM RASMUSSEN BAILEY – I am living right now in northern Gaza. Israeli F-16s struck early this morning (1 a.m. Feb. 9). These were the closest I have ever been and the blasts were so loud and close I felt them in my bones. The child who was killed lived just a couple of streets over. The revolt in Egypt is crucial, but the world must not forget Gaza.
JOHN LAFORGE – Last May the Obama administration promised $80 billion to the nuclear weapons establishment for “modernizing” the arsenal. Three large H-bomb laboratories will share about $10 billion annually to “upgrade” U.S. warheads, and they will get equal sums for the next 10 years. The funds are for a new $4.5 billion “Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement” complex at Los Alamos, New Mexico; a new $3.5 billion “Uranium Processing Facility” at the Y-12 lab in Tennessee; and a couple billion more for a replacement “Kansas City Plant” in Missouri that will make nonnuclear parts for the warheads. With the buildup, the U.S. will be able to quadruple its current warhead production capacity from 20 to 80 per year, according to Nuclear Watch New Mexico.
JACKIE OROZCO – It’s just a “misunderstanding.” That’s the F.B.I. explanation about what happened at the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center in Memphis, TN last week. Agents went to the center and the Memphis Police Tactical Squad surrounded the place last night for what they are calling “safety” reasons. F.B.I. agents said they showed up because they thought there was going to be an anti-war protest. They described it as a “courtesy” call and standard procedure to send agents in case things got out of hand.
PETER BERGEL – On January 31 I met with Representative Kurt Schrader to find out what his attitudes were on several of Oregon PeaceWorks’ issues. Here are the questions I asked him followed by my notes on his answers.
DORIS MORRIS – I needed a way to express my feelings about the recent shooting involving our representative, Gabrielle Giffords, so began writing this reflection a few days ago. I am open to comments.