Tuesday, April 14, 2015


CODEPINK Statement on Cuba’s Removal from the US Terrorist List

We applaud President Obama for the announcement today that Cuba will be taken off the list of state sponsors of terrorism. In addition to the economic embargo imposed in 1962, Cuba has unjustly languished on the U.S. State Department’s state-sponsored terror list since 1982—despite posing no threat to the United States’ national security. Today, we are happy to note that this has finally changed.

It was President Ronald Reagan who put Cuba on the terrorism list. He sought to blacklist Cuba’s support for leftist movements in Central and South America, movements that challenged US hegemony in the region. And after denouncing Cuba as a sponsor of terrorism, Reagan pursued his own campaign in Central and South America—funding the extreme right, conducting covert military actions, brokering illegal arms deals, and attempting coup d’etats.  

The infamous US terror list includes only three other nations: Iran, Sudan, and Syria and curiously omits North Korea. Many people around the world found it hypocritical for the United States to single out Cuba while ignoring support for terrorism by U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt and Israel, especially since Cuba is known for exporting doctors, musicians, teachers, artists, and dancers -- not terrorists. They could also argue that US actions--such as invading Iraq on the basis of lies or killing people by drones with no due process--would merit labeling the US itself as a state sponsor of terror.

President Obama’s announcement that Cuba will be taken off the terror list follows the historic announcement on December 17, 2014 that the U.S. and Cuba would seek to normalize relations. Why the drastic change after decades of bitterness? As Obama said during his State of the Union speech, “When what you’re doing doesn’t work for 50 years, it’s time to try something new."

Cuba’s removal from the list will hopefully warm efforts to normalize relations between the two nations. The terrorism designation was Cuba’s primary demand in reestablishing diplomatic ties. Serving as a point of contention during diplomatic talks, the dispute has even snarled progress towards opening embassies.

So now that Cuba is off the terror list, what happens next? Hopefully, the “Interest Sections” in both countries will be turned into embassies. It will be easier for international banks to do business with Cuba and the staff of the soon-to-be re-minted Cuban Embassy will finally be allowed to bank in the United States instead of having to conduct all their transactions in cash. But sadly, not much will change until the economic embargo is lifted. The president himself can make further changes by executive authority, but ultimately the lifting of the embargo must be done by Congress.

President Obama’s announcement to remove Cuba from the State Department’s state-sponsored terror list is a step in the right direction, but we still have a long road ahead. As Cuba’s removal from the list opens the pathway to opening embassies, we must now turn to Congress and demand that they further the president’s actions by ending the American travel ban to Cuba and the entire economic embargo

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Carl Jung, 1875-1961

I was thinking about the peculiarities of white culture. Some of our ridiculous priorities and the phenomena of colonialism and imperialism that we propagated. 

A friend pointed me to this anecdote about famed Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, in which Jung encounters the chief of the Taos pueblos in New Mexico in 1932:

"I was able to talk with him as I have rarely been able to talk with a European," Jung recalls. Chief Ochwiay Biano, which means Mountain Lake, must have sensed a kindred spirit in the Swiss doctor, because he was devastatingly candid with him.

Chief Mountain Lake: "See how cruel the whites look. Their lips are thin, their noses sharp, their faces furrowed and distorted by folds. Their eyes have a staring expression; they are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something. They are always uneasy and restless. We do not know what they want. We do not understand them. We think that they are all mad."

When Jung asks why he thinks they are all mad, Mountain Lake replies, "They say they think with their heads."

"Why of course," says Jung, "What do you think with?"

"We think here," says Chief Mountain Lake, indicating his heart.

Take care,
PS: "House On Fire" celebrated its 5th anniversary this month. Thanks for your support!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


The only way to change the world is through action.

Direct, persistent, well-thought-out action. But before action comes education. People have to be educated in the issues and dangers we're faced with. As is often said: Many folks don't know that they don't know.

I have a feel-good education anecdote.

My son is in elementary school at an extremely good school. No, not an expensive private school. That's not what I take for "extremely good" when it comes to education. No, he attends a school where the students are encouraged to think, not just remember. A school where conventions are challenged and free-thinking is the norm. A school where you don't have to repeat the Pledge of Allegiance every morning like sheep.

All of the teachers are enthusiastic, creative, caring. The students love going to school and absenteeism is not a problem. (Pretty good clues as to what young minds hunger for!)

One teacher my son has is particularly eager to have the kids consider core values and analyze fundamental issues. About a week ago she played a documentary in class from the BBC's program "Panorama." Undercover reporters were wired up with mini-cameras and sent into Apple factories in China. What was revealed was shocking, but hardly surprising.

The workers were pushed to exhaustion and the rights that Apple "guarantees" were routinely disregarded.

The teacher held discussion after the video and also looked at Apple's response to the film (which was outrage and denial, of course).

We don't just need more money put into schools -- although we definitely do need that. We need schools that are not just preparing our kids to follow all the capitalist conventions and be docile in a world of steadily decreasing returns. We need schools and teachers that fly free of corporate, religious or government influence. Schools where paradigms are broken and crucial problems such as the climate crisis take center stage, rather than being swept and stapled under the rug.

There are good teachers out there, doing these things and possibly risking censure or worse. There's usually a high price for telling the truth in the face of power. That has to change.

Encourage your kids to think for themselves. And praise those teachers who do likewise.

Take care,

Monday, March 2, 2015


Here's the latest piece from my friends at CODEPINK.

10 Reasons To Pray for AIPAC’s Decline                               By Medea Benjamin

As a secular Jew, I don’t do much praying. But this week, as the powerful pro-Israeli government lobby AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) holds its annual policy meeting in Washington DC, I’m praying that this year marks the beginning of the end of the lobby’s grip on US foreign policy.

From March 1-3, over 10,000 AIPAC supporters will descend on the nation’s capital. The meeting comes at a time when the relationship between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is at an all-time low. Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress right after he speaks at the AIPAC conference is seen by the White House as a direct attempt to undermine the president and his administration’s nuclear talks with Iran. In an unprecedented move, over 50 brave congresspeople have decided to skip Netanyahu’s Congressional address.

AIPAC’s support of the Israeli prime minister over the US president is turning AIPAC into a Republican-biased lobby that could hopefully prove fatal to its future influence in Washington. Here are ten reasons why this would be good for world peace:

1. AIPAC wants to sabotage nuclear talks with Iran. AIPAC – like the Israeli government –has no faith in the complex negotiations under way between Iran and the US (along with its five partners) to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. It pushes for greater sanctions on Iran knowing that—as Secretary of State John Kerry has said—additional sanctions would threaten the diplomatic path. AIPAC, which has successfully lobbied the US government to adopt crippling economic sanctions on Iran in the past, is ignoring White House warnings and its lobby day this year will push for the Kirk-Menendez sanctions bill, a bill the President has vowed to veto. If the nuclear talks fail, the violence that has engulfed the Middle East will only get worse and will put the US on a dangerous path to more war.

2. AIPAC promotes Israeli settlements in direct opposition to international law. As of this past year, approximately 350,000 Israelis are recorded as living in illegal Israeli settlements, a record high. Despite the fact that United Nations Human Rights Council requested the removal of all of the West Bank’s settlers and cessation of all settlement activities without preconditions, settlement construction has increased by 40% under Prime Minister Netanyahu. Israeli settlements violate the Geneva Conventions and can be prosecuted within the International Criminal Court as “gross violations of human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law.” No wonder AIPAC doesn’t wait Palestine to become a member of the ICC...

3. AIPAC supports the horrific Israeli invasions and siege of Gaza. Claiming Israel was forced to defend itself against Hamas, AIPAC supported the Israeli offensive during the summer of 2014 called “Operation Protective Edge.” The attack resulted in thousands of deaths (including over 500 children), 6 UN schools and hospitals flattened, 18,000 housing units destroyed, 108,000 people displaced from their homes. Robert Cohen, the president of AIPAC, justified the Israeli offensive in a meeting with Congress on July 23rd. AIPAC also supported the prior two invasions of Gaza and the siege that has left the 1.8 million residents of Gaza living lives of intense poverty and misery.

4. AIPAC’s call for unconditional support for the Israeli government threatens our national security. The United States’ one-sided support of Israel, demanded by AIPAC, has significantly increased anti-American sentiment throughout the Middle East, sowing the seeds of more possible terrorist attacks against us. Now disgraced Gen. David Petraeus admitted that the US/Palestine conflict “foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of US favoritism for Israel.” Iran, for example, could be a vital ally for the US in the Middle East in the fight to control ISIL. But because of Israel’s hatred toward Iran and its strong influence (read: money) on our politicians, our foreign policies reflect Israel’s perceived interests more than ours.

5. AIPAC makes the US a pariah at the UN. AIPAC describes the UN as a body hostile to the State of Israel and has pressured the US government to oppose resolutions calling Israel to account. Since 1972, the US has vetoed at least 45 UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israel’s actions against the Palestinians. In 2011, AIPAC helped persuade 446 members of Congress to co-sponsor resolutions opposing Palestine petitioning to obtain statehood in the UN. Overriding US (and AIPAC) objections, in 2012 the UN General Assembly passed a motion granting Palestine "non-member observer state" by a vote of 138 to 9. More recently, in response to Palestine seeking membership at the International Criminal Court (ICC), AIPAC pushed the Obama administration to pull funding from the Palestinian Authority. Despite US opposition, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon assured that Palestine will become a member of the ICC on April 1, 2015, a highly controversial move that will allow Palestine to press charges against Israel for war crimes.

6. AIPAC feeds US government officials a distorted view of the Israel/Palestine conflict. AIPAC takes US representatives on sugar-coated trips to Israel, trips considered almost obligatory for every new member of Congress. AIPAC hosts members of Congress—and many of their spouses—on a free junket to Israel to see precisely what the Israeli government wants them to see. It is illegal for lobby groups to take Congresspeople on trips, but AIPAC gets around the law with a bogus educational group, AIEF (American Israel Education Foundation), to “organize” the trips for them. AIEF has the same office address as AIPAC and the same staff. These trips help cement the ties between AIPAC and Congress, furthering their undue influence.

To prove most of Congress is in the pocket of AIPAC, look no further than what AIPAC boats about its policy conference, which is that it will “be attended by more members of Congress than almost any other event, except for a joint session of Congress or a State of the Union address.”

7. AIPAC attacks politicians who question unconditional support of Israel. AIPAC demands that Congress rubber stamp legislation drafted by AIPAC staff. It keeps a record of how members of Congress vote and this record is used by donors to make contributions to the politicians who score well. Members of Congress who fail to support AIPAC legislation have been targeted for defeat in re-election bids. These include Senators Adlai Stevenson III and Charles H. Percy, and Representatives Paul Findley, Pete McCloskey, Cynthia McKinney, and Earl F. Hilliard. More recently, many Democrats who have publicly refused to attend Netanyahu’s speech in March have been directly targeted by AIPAC’s largest supporters. Representative of billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson said that "If these Democrats would rather put partisan politics ahead of principle and walk out on the prime minister of Israel, then we have an obligation to make that known." Adelson and Netanyahu’s other powerful, right-wing supporters vow to use their wealth and extensive resources to punish Democrats who skip the speech.

8.  AIPAC attempts to silence all criticism of Israel by labeling critics as “anti-Semitic,” “de-legitimizers” or “self-hating Jews.” Journalists, think tanks, students and professors have been accused of anti-Semitism for merely taking stands critical of Israeli government policies. These attacks stifle the critical discussions and debates that are at the heart of democratic policy-making.

9. AIPAC lobbies for billions of US taxdollars to go to Israel instead of rebuilding America. With communities across the nation slashing budgets for teachers, firefighters and police, AIPAC pushes for over $3 billion a year to Israel. This money goes to the Israeli military to maintain, in high-tech fashion, the apartheid system of oppressing Palestinians.

10. Money to Israel takes funds from world’s poor. Israel has the 24th largest economy in the world, but thanks to AIPAC, it gets more US taxdollars than any other country. At a time when the foreign aid budget is being slashed, keeping the lion’s share of foreign assistance for Israel meaning taking funds from critical programs to feed, provide shelter and offer emergency assistance to the world’s poorest people.

The bottom line is that AIPAC, which is a de facto agent for a foreign government, has influence on US policy out of all proportion to the number of Americans who support its policies. When a small group like this has disproportionate power, it hurts everyone—including Israelis and American Jews.

From topping a catastrophic war with Iran to finally solving the Israel/Palestine conflict, an essential starting point is breaking AIPAC’s grip on U.S. policy. That’s why I’m praying that this time, by snubbing President Obama and offending Democratic members of Congress, AIPAC is careening towards its own demise.

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human rights organization Global Exchange. She is one of the organizers of #ShutDownAIPAC, which will take place February 28-March 3 in Washington DC.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


We did it!!!!

It's been a week to remember.

Just today, February 26, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to preserve Net Neutrality!! It reclassified Internet access under Title II, essentially retaining oversight of the Net rather than let it be devoured and disfigured by the predatory telecommunications companies. And those vultures will pump even more money into Congressional pockets to get Net Neutrality overturned.


If you want to read more about today's events and what the future may hold, check out this Truthout article.

The good news doesn't end there: On Tuesday, Obama did something right and vetoed Congress' bill that approved the environmental Frankenstein known as the Keystone XL pipeline. Again, this isn't something that happened in a vacuum: It's because millions of people like us stood up to be counted. And you know, when we do that, we'll always win the count by a mile. 

But again, that doesn't mean the pipeline issue is just going to go away. There's powerful people/corporations lining pockets as I write this. We must keep fighting! We must be sure to be heard -- constantly.

Check out 350.org to get behind the anti-pipeline movement.

The most important issues ebb and flow, swing and sway. What's reality today, can be changed tomorrow -- for good or ill. But what this week shows is that we do hold the real power. And that's the key to a better future.



Friday, February 20, 2015


This guy knows more about Climate Change than the ratbag deniers

I don't know if someone's messing with me but I seem to be on the email list of a lot of right-wing, batshit publications.

Actually, it's a perverse form of education: It's always good to know what the enemy is saying. In this case, they're saying stuff that should just about have them in the cuckoo's nest with an electronic ankle bracelet welded on.

It's more climate change-denial crap. This time a big tiz about Obama's emissions-reduction plan -- which will probably die on life-support anyway. Furthermore, while these knuckle-draggers are saying the plan should be wound back, my take is that the mooted measures don't go nearly far enough, soon enough... IF the measures were ever actually enacted, of course.

The climate thing is like a square dance where lawmakers and other morons in authority do-si-do around and go nowhere. You know the template: "It is agreed we will meet again in two years to decide if we will vote to reduce carbon emissions by up to 5% in the year 2050." Meaningless. Extinction. Dial tone...

Anyway, HERE is the article in question.

And if you want to get a better sense of where the scientific community is at with climate change, and our role in it, Google "climate change consensus" or some such thing and you'll soon see, despite the usual scientific reservations, that things are grim.

Speak up, speak out, make change.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015


"And the award for tidiest desk in a mid-size branch in the Pacific Northwest last Wednesday goes to..."

Is there any adult, white-collar American who hasn't won at least three work awards of some kind?

This culture seems to be addicted to awards. In the work I do, I see a lot of evidence of this. It's like that Woody Allen line from Annie Hall: "All they do here is give out awards. Greatest Fascist Dictator, Adolph Hitler." 

It really has become ridiculous. But it's not hard to see the capitalism behind all these meaningless merits. 

If you decide to give out an award (or awards), it can be good advertising. Let's consider awards at a level that is, say, industry wide. First you stir up some hubbub, try and build prestige for your meaningless award. Then you solicit entries -- it doesn't matter if you only get a handful because nobody has to know that your industry barely gave a shit about your new award.

Then you can have an awards night. That means sponsors and more advertising and lots of promotion of this very "special" award. It also means you can tie it to a two-day conference and charge a shitload for that. Keep drumming up business, baby. Next you select a winner or winners, very possibly using some bogus criteria behind closed doors: "Who will it benefit us most to suck up to?" Advertisers are always special pets.

The awards are given out, everyone networks at the event and gets drunk and tries to hit on some other CEO's wife. The results are published and the "winning" companies take out ads in the award-giver's magazine/website, if applicable, congratulating their stellar, award-winning employee.

In the end, the awards mean nothing. They're good PR for a lot of people. But they just perpetuate another capitalist rort. And don't give me the argument that they stir up business etc. etc. Anybody who takes five minutes to look at poverty figures, unemployment numbers, wages and salaries, the income gap, and so on, knows we're jammed into the wrong socio-economic model anyway.

And you can throw in the Oscars (subjective, political, elitist) and the Nobel Peace Prize (so many tyrants have "won" it -- including Obama -- that it is simply a disgrace).

Of course, awards are also used to motivate workers -- the underlings. Have to throw them a bone now and then. Maybe a crappy citation fresh off the printer and a gift certificate to Denny's. That should fire everyone up to really put in those extra unpaid hours with a smile on their face. Much cheaper than profit sharing!

Sure, there are some awards that have merit. But so often awards are about commerce and celebrity and promotion, not about the people who really contribute to society and help others. 

So if you have a bunch of awards hanging on the wall of your office to impress visitors, don't feel too awesome about it. Everybody's got 'em.

Awards are bullshit.

Take care,