Saturday, September 20, 2014


The U.N. Climate Summit takes place on Tuesday (the 23rd).

But the real action will be on the streets this weekend when the masses claim Manhattan for the NYC Climate Convergence.

While many countries of the world support serious and meaningful measures to fight climate change, a few nations, led by the U.S., pay only lip service while pulling on the other end of the rope and taking care of their dirty-energy buddies. So what chance does the U.N. have unless we show massive "people power"?

Please visit the Climate Convergence page to learn more.

Along with the nuclear threat, climate change is the most urgent issue of our time. No less than the future of the world is at stake.


Friday, September 12, 2014


I just received this from my friends at CODEPINK. Fantastic stuff!


Alli McCracken: CODEPINK activist and manifesto coauthor.

There Is No Future in War: Youth Rise Up, a Manifesto

By Ben Norton, Tyra Walker, Anastasia Taylor, Alli McCracken, Colleen Moore, Jes Grobman, Ashley Lopez

Once again, US politicians and pundits are beating the drums of war, trying to get our nation involved in yet another conflict. A few years ago it was Iran, with “all options on the table.” Last year it was a red line that threatened to drag us into the conflict in Syria. This time it’s Iraq. 

We, the youth of America, have grown up in war, war war. 

War has become the new norm for our generation. But these conflicts declared by older people but fought and paid for by young people are robbing us of our future and we’re tired of it.

There is no future in war. 

We, the youth of America, are taking a stand against war and reclaiming our future.
War does not work. Period. 

War does not work from an economic perspective. 

In 2003 US politicians orchestrated the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq based on blatant lies — lies that have cost the American people over $3 trillion. 

Imagine what we could have done with this money: 

With $3 trillion dollars, we could have guaranteed free higher education for all interested Americans. Instead, we are wallowing in over $1 trillion in outstanding college loan debt. 

With $3 trillion, we could have created a system of universal health care. Instead, affordable health care is still out of reach for many Americans and we have no idea if there will even be a Medicare system when we are old enough to retire. 

With $3 trillion we could have renovated our decrepit public schools and crumbling public infrastructure, giving us the kind of foundation we need for a thriving nation in the decades to come.

With $3 trillion we could have created a national energy grid based not upon environmentally destructive fossil fuels, but upon renewable energy sourcessomething that our generation cares passionately about. 

Our true foes –– those endlessly gunning for war –– have been waging an economic war against us. Our foes are the ones who say we must increase Pentagon spending while we cut food stamps, unemployment assistance, public transportation, and low-income housing. They are the ones who want to destroy the social safety net that past generations have worked so hard to build. They are the ones who underfund our public schools which are more segregated today than they were under Jim Crow and then privatize them. They are the ones who throw hundreds of thousands of young people in prison, thanks to the racist and classist war on drugs, and then privatize the prisons to exploit and profit off of incarcerated citizens who make close-to-zero wages.

Throwing money at war does nothing to address the real issues we face. We, the youth of our country, are the ones who will feel this pain. The cost of war is sucking us dry; it is burdening us with debts we will never be able to pay back.

And war doesn’t even work to create jobs. Politicians say they can’t cut the Pentagon budget because the weapons manufacturers create much-needed jobs. Yes, our generation need jobs. But if members of Congress really wants to use federal spending to help us find employment, the military is the worst investment. A $1 billion investment in military spending nets 11,600 jobs. The same investment in education reaps 29,100 jobs. Whether it’s education, healthcare or clean energy, investments in those sectors create many more job opportunities than the military. The military-industrial complex does a great job lining the pockets of politicians; it does a lousy job creating an economy that works for all. 

War does not work from a national security and defense perspective. 

The war apologists claim war makes our future “safer” and “freer.” But since the tragic 9/11 attack, the US military response has made the world a more dangerous place. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the NATO bombing of Libya, the use of predator drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, and countless other examples of military operations have only increased violence and hatred. Iraqis and Afghans are certainly no safer and freer; we are certainly no safer and freer.

We refuse to let our brothers and sisters, both here and abroad, die for access to cheap Persian Gulf oil. The Iraqis, the Afghans, the Iranians, the Libyans, the Somalis, and the people of any other country our military circles like vultures, are not our enemies. They oppose terrorism more than we do; they are the ones who must bear its brunt. We must oppose US intervention not because we don’t care about them, but because we do. 

War does not work from an environmental perspective.

War is not environmentally friendly. It never has been, and it never will be. Bombing destroys the environment. It damages forests and agricultural land. It ravages ecosystems, endangering species, even forcing some into extinction.

Bombing contaminates water and soil, often leaving it unsafe to use for centuries, even millennia. This is especially true with nuclear and chemical weapons, such as those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or the missiles containing depleted uranium the US used in Iraq. And because of weapons like these, infant mortality, genetic mutation, and cancer rates are exponentially higher in the civilian areas targeted. Children in Fallujah, Iraq, a city hit hard by these weapons, are born without limbs and missing organs.

The environmental costs of war are clearly not limited to isolated moments; they persist for many lifetimes. Heavy military vehicles, in conjunction with deforestation and climate change, lead to the emission of toxic dust from the ground. Even if their homes and livelihoods haven’t been destroyed by bombs, citizens who inhale these toxins are much more susceptible to a wide variety of diseases and health problems.

The US Department of Defense has long been the country’s largest consumer of fossil fuels. Military vehicles consume obscene quantities of oil for even small tasks. If we truly care about reversing, or at least mitigating, anthropogenic climate change — what many scientists recognize as a literal threat to the future of the human species — eliminating war would be an incredibly effective first step. 

War does not work from a human rights perspective.

The world isn’t any safer and freer for the million Iraqi civilians who died. How is freedom supposed to come at the tip of a bomb?

The debate rages back and forth; “specialists” fill the TV airwaves, repackaging the same tired excuses we’ve heard for years. Most of these “experts” are old white males. The people actually affected by our bombs and our gunsmostly young people of colorare nowhere to be seen. Their voices are silenced, their voices shouted over by the corporate media, by hawkish politicians, and by the profit-hungry military contractors. 

War does not work from a historical perspective.

War has never been about freedom and liberation; war has always been about profit and empire. American historian Howard Zinn once said “Wars are fundamentally internal policies. Wars are fought in order to control the population at home.”

Military intervention gives US corporations free reign in the countries we destroy. We bomb the country, targeting public infrastructure, and our corporations build it back up again. Fat cat CEOs make millions, even billions; the country, the people of the country, are left with mountains of debt. Our corporations own their infrastructure, their industrial capital, their natural resources. War is always a lose-lose for the people. Economic and political elite in both countries will make a fortune; the people of both countries will be the ones who have to pay for this fortune.

Defenders and purveyors of war have always done empty lip service to ideals like “freedom” and “democracy”; they have always repeated tired, vacuous tropes about “assisting,” or even “liberating” peoples.

How can we trust a country that says its brutal military invasion and occupation is “humanitarian,” when, at the same moment, it is supporting repressive dictators around the world? Saddam Hussein was on the CIA payroll since the 1960s. While we were invading Iraq to “overthrow tyranny” and “free” the Iraqi people, we were supporting the King Fahd’s theocratic tyranny in Saudi Arabia, the brutally repressive Khalifa family in Bahrain, and Mubarak’s violent regime in Egypt, among countless other unsavory dictators.

When we invaded Afghanistan to “free” the Afghan people from the Taliban, the corporate media failed to mention that Ronald Reagan had supported the Mujahideen, who later became the Taliban, and the Contras throughout the 1980s. He called the latter “the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers,” while they were disemboweling civilians in a campaign of terror.

These historical events are absolutely pertinent to contemporary discussions of war. We must learn from them, as to not repeat them in the future, as to not fall for the same past political tricks.

Our naysayers say we are against the troops. We are not against the troops. US troops are disproportionately from less-privileged backgrounds. Military recruiters target impoverished communities of color, and there are many recorded instances of them using deceptive tactics to get young citizens to sign long binding contracts. These are the troops that die in US military operations. They are not our enemies. We refuse to let our brothers and sisters be cannon fodder. The real people against the troops are the ones who send our country’s poor to die in rich people’s wars.

How many times do we have to be lied to, how many times do we have to be tricked, how many times do we have to be exploited until we say enough is enough? We are tired of war! War accomplishes nothing. War only fattens the wallets of economic and political elites, leaving millions dead in its wake. War only leads to more war, destroying the planet and emptying the national treasury in the process.

We, the youth of the United States of America, oppose war.

We oppose war not because we don’t care about the rest of the world; we oppose war precisely because we do.

We oppose war not because we don’t care about our security; we oppose war precisely because we do.

We oppose war not because we don’t care about our troops; we oppose war precisely because we do.

We oppose war not because we aren’t concerned with our future; we oppose war precisely because we do. 

There is no future in war. Join us.


Thursday, September 11, 2014


More bombs, still no solutions.

Once again we have a president going rogue and ordering bombings without Congressional approval -- not to mention compassion or common sense. Obama has already started in Iraq and now is intent on hammering Syria.

Two things: 1. ISIS is a problem, but bombing hasn't proven successful at solving problems. It is, however, great at slaughtering civilians and stirring up more hatred; 2. This isn't simply about ISIS and gallantly stepping in to do the right thing. It's about American power in the region. That is as it has always been, and the way it is now.

Please sign these petitions to protest the bombings (you will find more info at these links as well):


The best approach to global peace is by supporting a global organization, the United Nations, and respecting its authority. Instead, time and time again, the U.S. has ignored this body, and international law, and even undermined it when it deemed it necessary for its own "interests."

Thirteen years ago today terrorists attacked the U.S. We all remember that day because we saw the scenes of horror on our television sets and felt the pain of the victims in our own hearts. Now close your eyes and try to picture the immense destruction that our own bombs have caused, and could do so again.

Take care,

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Sonny Liston: He struck fear in the hearts of opponents and a prejudiced society

Sometimes I think about Sonny Liston.

I like to think about a lot of interesting people and things, though it seems almost an anachronistic practice in our heads-down, mobile-device age. Sad.

But let's talk about Sonny. Sonny was interesting. But wait: Maybe you don't know who Sonny Liston was. So let's start there.

Sonny "The Big Bear" Liston was once the heavyweight champion of the world. A singularly intimidating figure and one of the hardest punchers in the history of the square circle. Mad power in both hands. Fists 15 inches around. 

Growing up he was one of 25 kids (including blood- and step-siblings) born on a sharecropper's farm in Arkansas. Year of birth unknown. As a child, he knew little more than poverty, work and violence -- savage beatings at the hands of his father.

As a man, Sonny became a crim, did time, and found boxing in prison. Or maybe boxing found him. Once out of prison he blazed a path of destruction through the amateur and professional ranks, all the way to the heavyweight title when he knocked out the more graceful -- and socially acceptable -- Floyd Patterson in the first round of their bout in Chicago on September 25, 1962. Sonny was a human wrecking ball.

Regardless of what you think of boxing, becoming the heavyweight champion of the world is an amazing feat for someone born with life's odds stacked so heavily against him. Boxing is a sport that takes incredible discipline and Sonny learned to tame the beast inside. 

But for all this, Sonny Liston is most remembered for two things.

The first is his ties to the Mob. It's a matter of record that he was in their pocket. Which leads to the second thing Sonny is remembered for: Two defeats at the hands of a young Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali. The first cost him his heavyweight crown (in Miami, Feb. 25, 1964), the second saw him fail to regain it (in Lewiston, Maine, May 25, 1965). Both bouts will forever be cast in shadow with serious doubts as to whether Liston was legitimately beaten or threw the fights (see "Mob" above). 

The details of those defeats are too numerous to recount here, and will be debated by serious fight fans til hell freezes over...possibly longer. And they add to the inscrutability of this generally quiet, brooding man. A man whose December 30, 1970 death was also shrouded in mystery. His wife found his body in their Las Vegas home -- the cause of death was never satisfactorily determined. Drug overdose, Mob killing, heart attack. There were plenty of possibilities, but nobody really cared much by then.

I visited Sonny's grave a few years back while living in Vegas. It's very simple. There were no flowers on it. But it was a peaceful resting place for a man whose life had been dominated by violence. Peaceful enough to reflect a little. I remember feeling some empathy for Sonny. His life was hard. Everybody's life is hard in one way or another. But we don't always see that and I think we should. We should make time to look up from our iPhones and actually see each other.

The world seemed to want Sonny Liston to be invisible. But like us all, he deserved to be seen.

This is the chorus from Mark Knopfler's "Song for Sonny Liston" (you can see it performed on YouTube):

He had a left like Henry's hammer
A right like Betty Bamalam
He rode with the muggers 
In the dark and dread
And all them sluggers
Went down like lead

Sonny Liston becomes champion of the whole wide world

Monday, September 8, 2014


A great piece from Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK (below). NATO is just a U.S.-led power bloc that raises tensions with Russia and gives a thin cloak of legitimacy to attacks on other countries. It has no place as a decision-maker for military interventions. We have the United Nations. And the U.S., in particular, should be giving that body support -- not constantly undermining it -- so that it has more "teeth." NATO should be dismantled in the name of peace, diplomacy and progress.

And a quote from Noam Chomsky that fits all occasions of U.S.-initiated aggression: 

“It's only terrorism if they do it to us. When we do much worse to them, it's not terrorism.”


Ukraine Conflict: Red Meat for Anemic NATO Alliance

Medea Benjamin

The footage of President Obama strolling through the ancient ruins at Stonehenge was an apt bookend to the meeting of NATO, a Cold War relic that should have been abolished after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. But while hundreds of protesters marched through the streets calling for NATO to be dissolved—“From Iraq to Ukraine, NATO only causes pain,” they chanted—NATO leaders saw the crisis in Ukraine as an opportunity to breathe new life into the moribund military alliance.

The recent NATO meeting in Wales was supposed to be about how to wind down NATO’s 12-year military adventure in Afghanistan—without admitting the monumental failure of leaving behind a fractured, impoverished nation that can’t even figure out who won the last election. Afghanistan, however, was barely mentioned. Nor was the disastrous NATO intervention in Libya that has resulted in a failed state rife with violence. And while there was some handwringing about how to deal with ISIS, it was clear most NATO countries did not want to join Obama in a new military quagmire. The meeting’s main focus was the conflict in Ukraine, a conflict that NATO played a key role in creating.

A creature of the Cold War created in 1949 to defend Europe from Soviet expansion, NATO did not dissolve when the Soviet Union collapsed peacefully. But it did assure Russia that it would not expand eastwards beyond the reunified Germany, and it would not station significant numbers of troops in Eastern Europe.

NATO broke the pledge. In 1999, it admitted three former Warsaw Pact countries: the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. In 2004, it admitted the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Today the NATO security alliance covers 28 member states. It does not include Ukraine, but Ukraine is pushing for NATO membership.

One does not have to sympathize with Putin's oligarchic authoritarianism or its annexation of Crimea to recognize the West’s intimidation. When Ukraine's corrupt but elected president was overthrown in a US-backed coup, it was scarcely paranoid for Russia to see the takeover of the neighboring state as a threat to its core interests.

For the past six months, fighting between the Moscow-backed eastern Ukrainian resistance and the NATO-backed nationalists has led to thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Instead of seeking to reduce tensions, British Prime Minister David Cameron used the Summit to announce the creation of a new rapid-reaction force of 4,000 troops. The force, to be made up of troops provided by member states on a rotating basis, would be capable of deploying on 48 hours’ notice to protect any NATO member from external aggression, which under the current circumstances means the Baltic States.

While NATO insists that is has no plans for new permanent bases in Eastern Europe, it announced that troops will be rotated to the region every four months, creating what it calls a “persistent” presence. The force will be supported with logistics and equipment, including weapons and fuel pre-positioned in Eastern European countries closer to Russia. This will be enhanced by more military exercises and air patrols, as well as exercises in Ukraine. And the US government has already committed some $60 million to provide the Ukraine military with items like night-vision goggles, body armor, and communications equipment.

Adding to Russia’s sense of encirclement, NATO is also building missile interceptor shields. NATO insists this will be purely defensive and is intended to thwart any future missile attack by a rogue state such as Iran or North Korea. But Russia views NATO deployment of interceptor missiles and radars in Romania, the Czech Republic and Poland as another form of intimidation.

NATO’s encroachment in Russia’s backyard and its backing of the Ukraine government’s bombardment of the eastern part of the country threatens not only a new Cold War, but an armed conflict between Russia and NATO-aligned countries. With Russia possessing thousands of nuclear weapons, the conflict could well spiral out of control.

The protesters outside the Summit were well aware of the danger. Russian activist and scholar Boris Kagarlitsky told the protesters that while Putin’s government is no model of democracy, the stationing of NATO troops next to its border violates Russia’s security and stokes the conflict. He also said that the Ukrainian government’s bombing of rebel areas has led to a severe humanitarian crisis, with hundreds of thousands of refugees flooding into Russia—a humanitarian crisis that the West has ignored.

During the NATO meeting, while Western leaders were calling for more troops in the region and more sanctions against Russia, the government of Ukraine and the pro-Russia separatists were actually talking peace. In fact on the last day of the Summit, NATO leaders were surprised when Ukraine's president announced a ceasefire. But instead of being greeted with cheers, NATO leaders treated the announcement as a distraction and vowed to push ahead with new sanctions. "I don't think we want to be distracted from our determination to impose further sanctions in response to Russia's major military adventure into Ukraine by these noises off about a possible ceasefire,” said UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond.

Why be distracted by a ceasefire, or put energy into promoting a non-violent solution to the conflict in Ukraine? NATO, after all, is a military alliance and, as the saying goes, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

The protesters, by contrast, had much more constructive proposals. Use the United Nations to reinforce the peace process. Scrap the missile defense shield. No Western troops in the Baltic states. And dismantle the NATO war machine.

Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human rights organization Global Exchange. She is the author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.

Monday, September 1, 2014


Mary Harris "Mother" Jones (1837-1930) -- Legendary labor organizer and cofounder of the Industrial Workers of the World

It's Labor Day. Do something for labor and please sign this petition.

American workers fought for 200 years to gain basic rights like decent wages, safe workplaces, and the 40-hour week, only to see them erode in recent times. (How many workers only put in 40 hours anymore?)

The 1% and their lapdogs despise unions and do everything they can -- legal or no -- to keep their workers from organizing. (If you want the paradigm example of this, see Wal-Mart.) The net result is a miserable 11% level of union membership amongst wage and salary employees in the United States today.

Workers carry this country -- at least when their jobs aren't shipped offshore to even more downtrodden workers. (Yes, we need to work internationally to help all people receive a livable wage, at least until such time as there can be a tectonic shift in the global economy to a purely egalitarian system.)

So, on this Labor Day, thank you to the labor force, who do the real work in this country, far from the trading floors of Wall Street and the boardrooms of the mega corporations.


Sunday, August 31, 2014


Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.
                            -- Thomas Merton, 1915-1968