Category: Big Picture

Is the World Headed Toward Peace?

KENT D. SHIFFERD – With the 20th century having been the bloodiest in history, and with bombs falling in Libya, explosions in Iraq, Hamas rockets falling on Israel and a seemingly endless war in Afghanistan, the answer to the question above seems an obvious “No!” However, if you take the long view and look at some trends that have been going on more or less unnoticed for a couple of hundred years, it could well be a “maybe.”

What Can Afghanistan and Pakistan Teach Us About Nonviolence?

DAVID SWANSON – I may soon have an opportunity to meet with nonviolent activists in Afghanistan, an area of the world we falsely imagine has earned the name “graveyard of empires” purely through violent resistance. I was educated in the United States and learned in some detail about the lives of several morally repulsive halfwits who happened to have “served” in various U.S. wars, assaults, and genocides. But I was never even taught the name Badshah Khan. Were you?

Must See Chart: This Is What Class War Looks Like

GREYWOLFE359 – This chart puts the class war in simple, visual terms. On the left you have the “shared sacrifices” and “painful cuts” that the Republicans claim we must make to get our fiscal house in order. On the right, you can plainly see why these cuts are “necessary.” The reason? Because we already gave away all that money to America’s wealthiest individuals and corporations.

The People vs. the U.S. Government

DAVID SWANSON – Statistically speaking, virtually nobody in the United States of America knows that we spend more on the military than the rest of the world combined, that we could eliminate most of our military and still have the world’s largest, that over half of the money our government raises from income taxes and borrowing gets spent on the military, that our wars (outrageously costly as they may be) cost far less than the permanent non-war military budget, or that most of the financial woes of the federal and state governments could be solved just by ending a war in Afghanistan that two-thirds of Americans oppose.

Wise Investment: Save the U.S. Institute of Peace

BETTY A. REARDON AND TONY JENKINS – The New York Times recently featured significant articles highlighting the important role of non-formal civilian education and training contributing to the nonviolent toppling of dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt (Feb 13: A Tunisian-Egyptian Link That Shook Arab History; Feb 16: Shy U.S. Intellectual Created Playbook Used in a Revolution). In our peacebuilding work, we have found that such significant nonviolent political transformations are not likely to occur without the essential education and training of everyday citizens in the knowledge and skills of peacemaking, mediation and negotiation, conflict transformation, and nonviolent resistance. This is why we believe the February 18 vote in the U.S. House of Representatives in favor of amendment 100 to HR 1 (246 to 182 – largely along partisan lines) that will eliminate all federal funding for the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) is a tremendous mistake.

What Kind of Society Do We Want?

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.

Your 1040 Tax Form Lies to You

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.

Global Warming: The United Nations Courts Tinseltown

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.

NPP Analyses Obama’s FY 2012 Budget Request

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.

PATRIOT Act Extension Blocked… For Now

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.

Israel Attacks Under Cover of Egypt

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.

Pakistan is Urdu for Cambodia

JOHN LAFORGE – U.S. attacks on Pakistan using missiles fired from remote-controlled “drone” warplanes have been increasing under President Obama. These covert bombings often kill civilians in violation of the law of war. Even when the missiles somehow blow up targeted individuals, they kill mere suspects. The U.S. denies that its Green Berets, Navy Seals and CIA assassination squads are waging war in Pakistan from bases in neighboring Afghanistan, but the Pentagon has long wanted to expand its regional war there to attack suspected militants — much like President Richard Nixon secretly bombed and then sent thousands of soldiers into Cambodia.

Obama Pushes NAFTA-Style Korea Trade Deal

JAMES PLOESER AND BEATRIZ LOPEZ – It’s the moment we hoped would never come. President Obama has announced he’ll submit to Congress the Bush-negotiated, NAFTA-style Korea trade deal. Obama is moving forward on this job-killing trade deal with Korea without living up to his fair trade campaign commitments. The Korea vote will be the first major congressional trade vote of the Obama presidency, and it’s going to come up fast in the New Year.

This “Lame Duck” Had Wings

CHRIS HELLMAN – After the November elections, members of Congress returned to Capitol Hill for their “lame duck” session with one huge piece of unfinished business – the Fiscal Year 2011 budget. And while they failed to complete work on the budget – the government is currently running on a “continuing resolution” that funds federal agencies through March 4, 2011 – the lame duck session did pass legislation on a number of serious issues.

Why Did Progressive Media Miss This Important Progressive Story?

PAUL CIENFUEGOS – On November 17, Democracy Now ran a news story about the historic Pittsburgh City Council vote in their news headlines: “Pittsburgh has become the first Pennsylvania city to pass a measure barring natural gas drilling. In a unanimous vote, the Pittsburgh City Council approved the ban within city limits. Pittsburgh sits atop the Marcellus Shale formation, which has large reserves of natural gas. Opponents say natural gas drilling has contaminated water and air in communities across the nation.”

The Values That Underlie Peace

ROBERT RACK – I happened into a conversation with man sitting next to me on a plane ten or fifteen years ago that today seems almost prophetic. It was one of those gradual conversations that can happen when you’re in a car or maybe in a stuck elevator for a long time with someone, where there’s no agenda or expectations and plenty of time to quietly think about what each other is saying.

Poll: Health Care, Social Security Rated as Top Budget Priorities

BY ANGUS REID PUBLIC OPINION – As a new Congress prepares to take office in January, Americans believe that Health Care and Social Security should account for a large proportion of the country’s next budget, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found. Health Care (9.9%) and Social Security (9.9%) were the two main priorities for Americans, followed by Labor (8.4%) and Education and Training (8.4%).

North Korea’s Consistent Message to the U.S.

BY JIMMY CARTER – No one can completely understand the motivations of the North Koreans, but it is entirely possible that their recent revelation of their uranium enrichment centrifuges and Pyongyang’s shelling of a South Korean island Tuesday are designed to remind the world that they deserve respect in negotiations that will shape their future. Ultimately, the choice for the United States may be between diplomatic niceties and avoiding a catastrophic confrontation.

“War Does This to Your Mind”

KATHY KELLY – Kabul– Khamad Jan, age 22, remembers that, as a youngster, he was a good student who enjoyed studying. “Now, I can’t seem to think,” he said sadly, looking at the ground. There was a long pause. “War does this to your mind.”

Shocking Election Facts

PUBLIC CITIZEN – Stunning Statistics of the Week:
* $97: The amount per vote spent by Nevada Republican Sharron Angle and Connecticut Republican Linda McMahon – a record.
* $69: The amount per vote spent by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev).
* $33: The average cost of a vote in the midterms.

Congress: Laws to Pass Before the Republicans Take Over

MICHAEL MOORE – Welcome back to our nation’s capital, Congressional Democrats, for your one final session of the 111th Congress. Come January, the Republicans will take over the House while the Democrats will retain control of the Senate. But Dems – here’s something I don’t understand: Why do you look all sullen and depressed? Clearly you’re not aware of one very important fact: you are still completely, totally, legally in charge!

Small Community Banks Promote Radical Vision

ZACH CARTER – One response to our out-of-control and crashing economic system is to take charge of it at the local level, shouldering the big, irresponsible banks out of the picture. The concept of the Common Good Bank is a way to move toward that goal in a sensible manner. This article explains the concept. For more information on the Oregon version of the Common Good Bank, contact Salem resident Randy Jones at jonesbug@Q.com. – Editor

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?

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.

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

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?

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!

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

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

The Impossible Contradictions of Modern War

WINSLOW MYERS — The article in Rolling Stone that ended the meteoric career of General McChrystal shines light on the thought-process not only of one military man, but also on the dysfunctional paradigm now failing in Afghanistan. It is a textbook demonstration of how the mind-set of war itself, the notion of annihilating an enemy and emerging victorious, has become obsolete.