Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Leon Panetta: With "liberals" like this, who needs monsters?

Here's a great piece by my good friend, Alli McCracken...

Bashing Obama to Make Way for Hillary
By Alli McCracken of CODEPINK

Three years ago, during the height of the Occupy movement, I was ejected from a Congressional hearing for allegedly “assaulting” Leon Panetta, then Secretary of Defense and former Director of the CIA. He was testifying to the House Armed Services Committee about “lessons learned by the Department of Defense over the preceding decade." I jumped out of my audience seat to tell him that young people were paying the price of those "lessons," and we were sick of the government funding war instead of education. The baseless assault charges against me were ultimately dropped. 

A few years and trillions of dollars later, I found myself sitting in front of Leon Panetta once again, this time for his book talk at George Washington University, where he was gunning for more war. Just when we thought the US was finally leaving Iraq alone, the world was hit with a paranoid media frenzy: showcasing ISIS beheadings ad infinitum, hysterical Congresspeople claiming that they were “coming for us all,” paving the way to more war, war, war–– no questions from the public, no Congressional debate. Bombs started falling on Iraq and Syria, innocents are dying, ISIL is gaining traction, yet the White House is declaring the whole operation so far “successful.”

Don’t be fooled: this operation has indeed been a success for some. The weapons-making company Raytheon just signed a $251 million Pentagon contract to produce the Tomahawk missiles the US is dropping on Iraq and Syria. Some media pundits speculate US involvement for a few months, some a few years, but Panetta said we better count on closer to 30 years. 

Despite Panetta’s reputation for being a relatively “liberal” Democrat, his legacy is now associated with the expansion of President Obama’s killer drone program –– covertly bombing countries that the US wasn't, and still isn’t, at war with, killing countless civilians with total impunity.

Without acknowledging America’s role in creating ISIL, or how counterproductive and economically draining over a decade of war has been, Panetta has generated national attention recently for bashing President Obama for not going hard enough on ISIL. In his new book Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace, and during an interview with Susan Page of USA Today timed to coincide with the release of his book, Panetta revealed his true feelings: that President Obama is deficient of leadership skills, indecisive, and weak when it comes to national defense and militarism.

Apparently this revelation, which Dana Milbank of the Washington Post called a “stunning disloyalty,” comes as no surprise since Panetta has been jumping the gun to criticize President Obama since his time as Secretary of Defense. While in office, Panetta wanted to leave some residual troops in Iraq after the withdrawal in 2011, a deal he says could have been negotiated with more effort. He also wanted to arm the Syrian rebels as early as 2012, and frowned upon Obama’s “failure to act” after seeking congressional authorization to bomb Assad in Syria in 2013.

So what does Panetta have to gain from attacking President Obama, a fellow Democrat, with so much time left until the next Presidential election? Some media outlets think it’s no coincidence that he's on a book tour at the same time as Hillary Clinton, touting the same hawkish foreign policies that will appeal to independent-leaning Republicans in 2016. As one right-wing outlet put it, “he's flying the same exact anti-Obama flag that the hawkish Clinton wing of the party has been flying all year trying to position themselves for the next stage in their own political careers by stepping on President Obama's neck.”

Like Panetta, Clinton has made claims that the blame for ISIS’ sudden power grab lands squarely on Obama’s failure to intervene in the Syrian civil war. In an interview with the Atlantic, Clinton said America must develop an “overarching” strategy to confront the growing threat of ISIS, and she went so far as to equate this struggle to the one the US waged against Soviet-led communism. It seems like these now-former Washington insiders are ganging up on the President to pave the way for a dangerous future foreign policy framework.

On October 14, Panetta spoke at an event at George Washington University about his new book. CODEPINK teamed up with the George Washington Progressive Student Alliance to host a protest outside of the event. We passed out hundreds of fliers about the killer drone program under Panetta, and hollered over the megaphone about war criminals not being welcome on campus.  

I made my way into the event and took a seat in the front row. The university president fawned over Panetta, who entered the room to a standing ovation.

Panetta bemoaned miniscule cuts to the massively bloated defense budget, saying that it is harmful to our national security. When he mentioned the sequester in that context, I couldn’t stay in my seat any longer. “We need more cuts to the Pentagon’s budget!” I said loudly, trying to move toward the stage so he would be able to hear me. “We don’t want money for war spending, we need that money here at home,” I continued. “Stop pushing the President to go deeper into war. Young people are sick of it, and the opinions of war criminals like yourself are not welcome here!” As I was talking, a large security guard plucked me up by my jacket and quickly yanked me out of the room.

Three years after my first disruption of Panetta, more than ever I stand by my words. I would do it again, and honestly, I probably will do it again. Whether it’s Leon Panetta, or Hillary Clinton. I'm horrified at the prospect of Clinton being the more "liberal" Presidential choice in 2016. If President Obama campaigned for hope and change, but ultimately enshrined some of Bush's most egregious foreign policies, what are we in store for next from explicitly pro-war candidates?

Many young people are sick of these war-mongers running the United States (and I know plenty of older folks who are too!). Over the summer of 2014, the youth wing of CODEPINK launched a Youth Manifesto to declare that there is No Future in War. Using that as a resource, we’ve launched a youth outreach campaign to help support student groups organize and mobilize. In a very short amount of time we’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from students who are sick of being robbed of their futures. It’s time for the old, worn-out politicians, who have dragged us into more war just to get elected and fatten their wallets, to step aside. We deserve better than the broken two-party system that routinely forces us to choose the “lesser of two evils.”

I, for one, am certainly not "ready for Hillary."

 Alli McCracken is the National Coordinator for the peace group CODEPINK, based in Washington DC. She is passionate about intersectional politics and she is fed up with neoliberal bullshit. Get involved with CODEPINK and follow her on twitter: @AlliMcCrack. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


"I have an awesome new idea: airstrikes!"

Sometimes it's like you can't blame folks for having their social priorities out of whack.

After all, consumption is shoved down our craws, the mainstream media lie to us, we're trained to be afraid and just watch out for our own, we're to be patriotic, passive, bland. Just clutch the remote with one hand, the iPhone with the other, a plate of fries beside you on the couch, and a credit card balanced on your knee as you place your latest online order for... whatever.

But then you have to think, "Well, we're all grown-ups here. Nobody is going to feed us the choo-choo of wholesome truth. But we're old enough to take responsibility for ourselves as citizens of the world." It's a matter of caring enough to do it. A matter of priorities.

Here are some examples of priorities flipped, transposed, mashed, missed, hosed down.....

I don't watch TV but I see it when I go to certain stores and restaurants. I also talk to people who do watch it. The Climate Convergence in NYC a few weeks ago was poorly previewed by the media big guns (no surprise) but if you wanted to find out what the QB for the Philly Eagles had for breakfast that morning (Sunday is game day!) just hang fire, it's coming. Talk about sports overkill! Every Sunday during football season: hours and hours of pre-game and post-game "analysis" (gawd!) sandwiching hours and hours of games. This is "manufacturing consent," and distraction. It's selling advertising, not educating people. Entertainment is great, but we are "entertaining ourselves to death.

And this kind of crap doesn't really account for the true concerns of a huge chunk of the population. The Climate Convergence saw 400,000 people show up in NYC. Many many others couldn't make it. And a great number who did represented organizations of people, unions, and other bodies, so the march, in turn, represented the voices of countless millions.

Another one:

People lined up like sheep to buy the new iPhone 6 and 6+ (I have a flip-phone but I think I got those names right). People have been given the Pavlovian pill to love their digi toys. A new phone/super device. Big wow. Some new features, blah blah blah. Do all those people really need a new handheld hypnosis device? No. And what was the cost to the climate of all that production and packaging? Industry that could have been channeled into needs rather than wants. Ugly priorities.


ISIS. An extremist organization doing ugly things. Easy to hate. But how did they come into existence? What conditions allowed them to thrive? Why are they doing what they're doing? How did they get so "big" so quickly? And why, yet again, is the "solution" U.S.-led violence? In fact, what about the U.S. government itself: an extremist organization doing much bigger, ugly things. We're taught to look the wrong way. The old magician's trick. And our priorities get shuffled like a deck of cards.

You'll hear more about some guy who jumps the White House fence than you will ever hear about peaceful solutions to regional conflicts. Because peaceful solutions tend to come from fair bargaining, open discussions, planned strategies, and measured punishments for the guilty. These are not the tactics of a geopolitical dominator. So these ideas won't make it into the New York Times, CNN reports, or the president's mouth.

And yet, slowly but very certainly, the important ideas are seeping through the rock walls of the Establishment. The collective voice of reason is being heard more and more. Free thought is all around us.

It's up to each of us to get out priorities in order and work for the greater good. To do otherwise is to put the noose around our own necks.

PS: Smartwatch? WTF? Seriously, anybody who buys one of those things should be immediately cannibalized. 


Monday, September 29, 2014



A big shout-out to all my friends in France!

Well, friends-via-Internet, at least. I was looking over the stats for "House on Fire" and I was happily surprised to see that this week, there were more visitors from France than anywhere else. Shame on me for automatically thinking that the audience is nearly all American. That's generally the biggest slice, but it's gratifying to see folks checking in from all over the globe.

And isn't that what it's all about? We're all part of the human race and all in this battle for peace and equality and kindness together.

It made me feel good when I saw those international numbers. Sure, it's nice that something I've put time into is read. But the real point is that it made me feel that I do indeed belong to an international community of activists, peace lovers, humanitarians, and altruists.

For that I thank all of you. I really do. And a very special thank you this week to my good friends in L’hexagone. And should you care to write me, I will certainly write back.

Au revoir!
PS: I tried to be clever and do the text in the colors of the French flag. I guess it's not the greatest work of digital art you'll ever see but maybe worth a croissant for trying??  :-)

Sunday, September 28, 2014


J.D. Salinger, 1919-2010

"Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around -- nobody big, I mean -- except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff -- I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be...."

     -- From The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951)

GO HERE to make a donation to UNICEF.

Take care,


Monday, September 22, 2014


People Power: Part of yesterday's Climate Convergence march in NYC

400,000 people marched through New York City's streets yesterday demanding action on climate change.

Four times bigger than organizers were expecting, the march, one of many around the world, was an unequivocal statement from the people: Stop frying our planet!

It gives you hope when you see this kind of action. Not only is the message about global warming spreading, but these folks see the urgency and are prepared to do something about it.

Every major social change has been sparked by grassroots activism. "Common" people working together. If you wait for our "leaders" to act on this, you'll be waiting a long time.

But let's not start pinning medals on ourselves yet. The UN Climate Summit in NYC tomorrow, has set a very low agenda bar -- nothing of substance is on the table. The U.S., China and India are the carbon-spewing kings and the latter two aren't even going to show up. Perhaps it's because the U.S. has shown zero interest at each annual Conference of the Parties (COP), which is a meeting of all the nations that were part of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In fact, it is common knowledge that time and again, despite the official rhetoric, the U.S. has done everything it can to actually undermine agreements being established at the COPs and protecting its money-grubbing, dirty-fuel buddies.

Interestingly,  U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marched at Climate Convergence yesterday, and when interviewed he made it clear that he wants serious action on climate change -- which sends the subtle message that in his official role with the U.N. he can't get that done, as things stand.

The answer? Keep making our voices heard. Change doesn't come in a day. But if we persist, it will come. The king always gets the message eventually if the throng is at the palace gates.

And for the record, it was just announced that this past summer (June, July, August) was the hottest on record for planet Earth. The previous hottest? 2010. Clearly we're headed on a fast ride to the final sizzle. (It was also the 38th consecutive August -- and 354th consecutive month -- that saw a global average temperature above historic averages. The last below-average August was in 1976.)

So do a Web search and read about both the Climate Convergence march and the Climate Summit. Network with online climate groups (like and check out their sites; talk to your family and friends about climate change; sign every petition you can find; and hound your politicians relentlessly.

We've got one shot at this and it has to come now.

Take care,

PS: Here's a petition to get you started. 
PPS: Go to for excellent coverage of the rally!

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.