Sunday, October 26, 2014


A lot happening around the world, so here are some Bits & Bites...


I've been saddened, but not surprised, that since the first case of ebola showed up in the U.S., the entire country is suddenly very focused on this terrible disease but wasn't nearly as concerned when it was "only" affecting thousands in a faraway land. If America truly wants to be a great country, it needs to be a much more caring one.


I was lucky enough to catch up with CODEPINK dynamos Medea Benjamin and Alli McCracken for their presentation "Emergency Forum: Medea Benjamin on our New Wars in Syria and Iraq" at Harvard University last week. These people are tireless in their efforts for peace and, what I particularly like about them, is that they not only work hard at educating us, but they take the fight right to the frontline, be it a committee on Capitol Hill, the Gaza Strip, or Ferguson, Mississippi. Please visit the CODEPINK site and consider how you might add your help. (Alli is working hard on motivating young people. Read the CODEPINK Youth Manifesto HERE and add your name. Or email her at alli[at] to learn how you can get involved.)


A wonderful thing happened on October 14: Noam Chomsky spoke at the U.N. The topic was the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict. As usual, Professor Chomsky pulled no punches and laid out solid facts and concrete measures that should be taken. You can view the whole thing on YouTube.


Have you seen the Exxon-Mobil "young engineers" commercial? The brainchild of some sick advertising guru, the "inspiring" ad shows a series of young kids saying that they want to become engineers to make the world a better place, you know, in the whole Exxon-Mobil spirit. It's possibly the most transparent and pathetic example of greenwashing that I've seen. If you know of one to top it, shoot me a message.


A high school shooting, this time in Washington State, and another in the Canadian parliament in Ottawa, were the "highest profile" examples of recent North American gun violence. Since Friday night on the West and South sides of Chicago alone, three people have been killed and 21 wounded in shootings. Are we at the point where we just shake our heads and move on? People's children, loved ones, neighbors, and friends are being killed. Do we have to wait until a gun tragedy touches us personally before we act?

We have the choice to make our voices heard or to do nothing on any of these issues -- and many others. Do you have five minutes to send off a few emails (Obama, members of Congress...)? Yes? No? What are your priorities like? If we don't ask ourselves hard questions, if we don't hold ourselves accountable, then we will get the results we deserve: a society that continues its decline and a world teetering on the edge of peril.

Please, take action.


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.