Fascism is the union of government with private business against the People.
"To The States, or any one of them, or to any city of The States: Resist much, Obey little; Once unquestioning obedience, at once fully enslaved; Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city, ever afterward resumes its liberty." from "Caution" by Walt Whitman

Monday, October 29, 2012

10 Filthy-Rich, Tax-Dodging Hypocrites Pushing Disastrous Austerity on America

2012-10-29 "10 Filthy-Rich, Tax-Dodging Hypocrites Pushing Disastrous Austerity on America; The Fix the Debt coalition is using the so-called "fiscal cliff" to push the same old corporate agenda of more tax breaks while shifting the burden on to the rest of us" by Sarah Anderson and Scott Klinger from "Institute for Policy Studies"
Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project of the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive multi-issue think tank, in Washington DC. She’s also the co-author of the IPS report, America’s Bailout Barons: Taxpayers, High Finance, and the CEO Pay Bubble.
more Sarah Anderson
Scott Klinger is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies
Brace yourself for one of the most aggressive corporate lobbying campaigns of all time. And one of the most hypocritical.

“Fix the Debt ” is a coalition of more than 80 CEOs who claim they know best how to deal with our nation’s fiscal challenges [http://www.fixthedebt.org/].
The group boasts a $60 million  budget just for the initial phase of a massive media and lobbying campaign [http://www.fixthedebt.org/uploads/files/CEO-Talking-Points-10.2.12.doc].
The irony is that CEOs in the coalition’s leadership have been major contributors to the national debt they now claim to know how to fix. These are guys who’ve mastered every tax-dodging trick in the book. And now that they’ve boosted their corporate profits by draining the public treasury, how do they propose we put our fiscal house back in order? By squeezing programs for the poor and elderly, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
Fix the Debt claims their agenda is not just about spending cuts. But when it comes to their tax proposals, they use the slippery term “pro-growth reform” to push for cuts in deductions that are likely to include credits for working families and — you guessed it — more corporate tax breaks. Chief among these is a proposal to switch to a territorial system  under which corporate foreign earnings would be permanently exempted (instead of being taxed when they are returned to America).
This idea, also supported by the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission, would make it even more profitable for big corporations to use accounting tricks to disguise U.S. profits as income earned in tax havens. Citizens for Tax Justice estimates that such tax haven abuse will cost the Treasury more than $1 trillion over the next decade [http://www.ctj.org/taxjusticedigest/archive/2012/10/tax_policy_invades_the_foreign.php].
So who are the CEOs who are telling the rest of us to be responsible and tighten our belts after they’ve spent decades stiffing the U.S. Treasury? Of the 80 members of Fix the Debt’s CEO Fiscal Leadership Council, here are 10 that stand out as the biggest hypocrites:

1. Jeffrey Immelt, General Electric -
Perhaps no tax-dodging U.S. corporation has done more to drain the U.S. Treasury than General Electric. Over the last 10 years GE reported more than $80 billion in U.S. pre-tax profits and yet paid a federal corporate income tax rate of just 2.3% [http://ctj.org/taxjusticedigest/archive/2012/02/press_release_general_electric.php].
One of GE’s favorite tricks is the “Active Financing Exception.” U.S. corporations are supposed to pay U.S. taxes on interest income earned anywhere in the world. But GE enjoys this special exception for companies that have “captive” foreign finance subsidiaries, such as their credit card arm. The measure was repealed as part of fair taxation reforms in 1986, but GE led a successful lobbying effort to bring it back in 1997. Although the exception was supposed to be temporary, Congress has renewed it six times. And, despite all the public hand-wringing over the deficit, lawmakers are seriously considering extending this and other corporate loopholes before the end of the year.

2. Jim McNerney, Boeing -
Last year, Boeing was one of 25 major U.S. firms that paid their CEO more than they paid Uncle Sam in corporate income taxes, according to an Institute for Policy Studies report [http://www.ips-dc.org/reports/executive_excess_2012]. The aerospace giant enjoyed a $605 million tax refund in 2011, despite reporting more than $5 billion in U.S. pre-tax profits. CEO Jim McNerney made $18.4 million in personal compensation. In fact, Boeing is a serial tax dodger , having paid federal corporate income taxes in only two of the last 10 years [http://www.ctj.org/pdf/boeing2012.pdf].
One of the ways Boeing avoids paying taxes is by taking advantage of the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit, which saved the $137 million last year alone. Government investment in basic research is not a bad idea, but current R&D credits are structured in a way that primarily benefits large, well-resourced high-tech firms like Boeing that would probably do the research anyway. CEO McNerney also chairs the Business Roundtable, which aggressively lobbies for more corporate tax breaks.

3. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs -
Few corporations have been as dependent on U.S. taxpayers for their very existence as Goldman Sachs. The 2008 bailout of American International Group [http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/24/business/economy/24goldman.html?_r=0] and the steady stream of low- and non-interest loans for the financial sector have kept the company alive.
CEO Blankfein says he’d accept a small increase in individual taxes for the wealthy in exchange for a comprehensive budget deal. But his corporate tax proposals would wipe out the revenue gains from rolling back the Bush tax cuts for top earners. Blankfein is a big supporter of the territorial tax system explained above. This is hardly a surprise, since Goldman Sachs already operates 37 subsidiaries in tax havens [http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/886982/000095012311020067/y88213exv21w1.htm].
Blankfein has also used his position at the helm of the Financial Services Forum, a club for the CEOs of 20 top banks, to oppose financial transaction taxes  -- small levies on trades of stock, derivatives, and other financial instruments [http://businessroundtable.org/news-center/joint-association-letter-to-secretary-geithner-on-continuing-oppositio/]. Goldman Sachs has made as much as $300 million per year from the volatile high-frequency trading strategies that would be hardest hit by such a transaction tax [http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/03/18/ex-goldman-programmer-sentenced-to-8-years-for-theft-of-trading-code/]. In early October, 11 European governments  announced a plan to implement such taxes, with expected revenues in the neighborhood of $ 75 billion per year [http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/23/eu-tax-idUSB5E8KQ02D20121023]. But Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms have blocked U.S. progress on this major revenue-raiser.

4. Brian T. Moynihan, Bank of America -
After a decade of risky and reckless mortgage lending, Bank of America survived the 2008 financial crash with the help of a  $45 billion bailout [http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2009/12/02/bank-of-america-to-repay-45-billion-from-tarp/].  Today, Bank of America sits on $128 billion in cash — $18 billion of it is overseas —and much of that is sitting in the company’s 115 tax haven subsidiaries [http://www.gao.gov/assets/290/284522.pdf].
Last year, after investors saw their stock price decline 58 percent and 30,000 Bank of America employees lost their jobs to layoffs, CEO Brian Moynihan  saw his compensation quadruple to more than $8 million [http://articles.latimes.com/2012/mar/28/business/la-fi-mo-bank-of-america-moynihan-pay-20120328]. His predecessor, Ken Lewis, raked in more than $50 million in the two years before the housing bubble that Bank of America had help inflate burst in 2008.

5. David Cote, Honeywell Corporation -
Over the last three years, Honeywell received more than $2.7 billion in federal defense contracts and reported more than $2.5 billion in U.S. pre-tax profits. And yet thanks to corporate deductions, tax subsidies, and loopholes, Honeywell has claimed $377 million in federal tax refunds during this period.
Honeywell CEO David Cote has been a fixture at Congressional hearings calling for a territorial tax system for corporations. He is also Vice-Chair of the Business Roundtable, a club for big business CEOs that has called for an extension of all the Bush tax cuts, including those for millionaires and billionaires, as well as the tax cuts on unearned income from capital gains and dividends. These combined measures would add $1.5 trillion to the debt over the next ten years.

6. Randall Stephenson, AT&T -
AT&T is another firm that paid its CEO more last year than they paid in federal corporate income taxes. CEO Randall Stephenson made $18.7 million [http://www.ips-dc.org/reports/executive_excess_2012], while the firm enjoyed a $420 million refund from Uncle Sam.
AT&T is a major beneficiary of “accelerated depreciation” rules that allow companies to turbo-charge tax deductions in the early years of the life of an asset. A 2009 accelerated depreciation rule saved the company $5.2 billion on their 2011 taxes, according to the firm’s 10-K report. Although touted as a way to jumpstart spending in a downturn, such tax breaks often result in taxpayers bearing a substantial portion of the cost of investments firms would’ve made anyway.

7. Arne Sorenson, Marriott International -
In 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice prosecuted Marriott International for using an illegal tax shelter swindle dubbed “Son of Boss.” [http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/08/opinion/canellos-kleinbard-romney-taxes/index.html]
The scam involved setting up a series of complex paper transactions between company subsidiaries to create $70 million in fake losses that could be offset against Marriott’s real profits. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a long-time friend of the Marriott family and named after Marriott’s patriarch J. Willard Marriott, was the head of the hotel giant’s audit committee in 1994 at the time the board first approved the Son of Boss transaction. According to Bloomberg [http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-22/romney-as-auditing-chairman-saw-marriott-son-of-boss-tax-shelter-defy-irs.html], Marriott has also shifted profits to a Luxembourg shell company and avoided hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes through one federal tax credit for so-called synthetic fuel that Senator John McCain dubbed an “expensive hoax.”

8. Alexander Cutler, Eaton Corporation -
Less than two years after accepting $90 million in taxpayer-financed subsidies to locate a new world headquarters in the suburbs of Cleveland [http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2010/06/eaton_breaks_ground_for_170_mi.html], Eaton Corporation announced that it would be moving its headquarters and reincorporating as an Irish company. The move is part of a merger deal with Cooper Industries, another Fix the Debt coalition member. The two companies boast that Eaton’s departure after 100 years in Cleveland will cut their tax bill by $160 million [http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-21/eaton-expects-160-million-tax-savings-from-ireland-move.html]. Meanwhile, Eaton is fighting a $75 million bill  from the IRS for back taxes and penalties related to alleged violations of transfer pricing agreements [http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-21/eaton-expects-160-million-tax-savings-from-ireland-move.html].

9. Lowell McAdam, Verizon -
Verizon is one of 30 companies identified by Citizens for Tax Justice as having paid “less than nothing” in federal income taxes over the entire 2008-10 period [http://www.ctj.org/corporatetaxdodgers/CorporateTaxDodgersReport.pdf]. Despite earning $32.5 billion in profits during these three years, the firm got so much in tax subsidies that they wound up with a net tax refund of $951 million. That works out to a tax rate of negative 2.9%. In effect, every Verizon phone customer paid more in federal telephone excise taxes than Verizon paid in federal income taxes.

10. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft -
A recent Senate investigation  exposed how Microsoft has used Olympic class accounting acrobatics to avoid paying taxes [http://www.hsgac.senate.gov/subcommittees/investigations/hearings/offshore-profit-shifting-and-the-us-tax-code]. Specifically, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations charged that the software giant had devised a complicated transfer pricing agreement with a subsidiary in Puerto Rico to lower its tax bill on goods sold in the U.S. market by as much as $4.5 billion from 2009 to 2011. The investigation also accused Microsoft of avoiding billions in U.S. corporate income taxes by shifting royalty revenue to low-tax jurisdictions. Subcommittee Chair Carl Levin described Microsoft’s strategies as “tax alchemy, featuring structures and transactions that require a suspension of disbelief to be accepted.” Such alchemy, while not illegal, is a major contributor to the national debt.

Sanders to CEOs: Look in the Mirror -
When Fix the Debt launched their 80 CEO-strong coalition on October 25, Senator Bernie Sanders  responded by stating [http://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/news/?id=9D15C4D6-189A-41D6-848B-F07B523C2EEE], “Before telling us why we should cut Social Security, Medicare and other vitally important programs, these CEOs might want to take a hard look at their responsibility for causing the deficit and this terrible recession.”
Instead, the Fix the Debt coalition members are portraying themselves as the honorable ones who are brave enough to push the tough austerity medicine that is the only remedy for our fiscal ills. Nonsense. We are the richest nation in the history of the world. Our problem is that too much of our wealth is going into the coffers of rich individuals and corporations and to pay for misguided wars.
There are numerous budget plans by Senator Sanders, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and others that would get us on the right track. At the Institute for Policy Studies [http://www.ips-dc.org/reports/america_is_not_broke], we’ve identified a dozen policies that would collectively raise trillions of dollars to in ways that would not only address the fiscal challenge but help make our economy more equitable, green, and secure. The report also points out that until we recover from the current unemployment crisis, we should not be contemplating any spending cuts that could deepen the crisis.
The Fix the Debt coalition is using the so-called “fiscal cliff” as an opportunity to push the same old corporate agenda of more tax breaks while shifting the burden on to the middle class and the poor. If America’s CEOs really want to Fix the Debt, they should first commit to eliminating the loopholes that have allowed them to avoid paying their fair share of the cost of government, including investments necessary to keep our families and our communities strong and secure.

Friday, October 26, 2012

2012-10-26 "Dept of Justice Sues State of Mississippi over 'School to Prison' Pipeline"

"Alleges African-American and disabled students systematically targeted, rights violated" from "Common Dreams"
The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday sued the state of Mississippi, the city of Meridien, the county and several state agencies, alleging they "help[ed] to operate a school to prison pipeline" that routinely violated the rights of African-American children and children with disabilities in the city of Meridien.
"As a result," the court filing states [http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/October/12-crt-1281.html], "children in Meridien have been systematically incarcerated for allegedly committing minor offenses, including school disciplinary infractions, and are punished disproportionately without due process of law. The students most affected by this system are African-American children ann children with disabilities."
Specific allegations include handcuffing, arresting and "incarcerat(ing) for days at a time without a probable cause hearing, regardless of the severity—or lack thereof— of the alleged offense or probation violation; not providing "meaningful representation" to the juveniles during the justice process; making the children "regularly wait more than 48 hours" for a probable cause hearing; and not advising children of their Miranda rights before the children admit to formal charges.
Students can be incarcerated for “dress code infractions such as wearing the wrong color socks or undershirt, or for having shirts untucked; tardies; flatulence in class; using vulgar language; yelling at teachers; and going to the bathroom or leaving the classroom without permission," the Associated Press reports [http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/justice-department-lawsuit-charges-arrests-in-meridian-schools-violate-students-rights/2012/10/24/89460950-1dfd-11e2-8817-41b9a7aaabc7_story.html].
In an August letter to the city, county, court judges, and state, the Department of Justice wrote, among other charges, that police are wrong to "automatically arrest children referred by schools instead of investigating and determining probable cause, the Center for Public Integrity reported.
The Department of Justice issued findings in August following a comprehensive investigation by the Civil Rights Division's Special Litigation Service and the Department of Justice that began in December 2011. They found "reasonable cause" that the defendants "were violating … the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which prohibits a pattern or practice of deprivation of civil rights in the administration of juvenile justice.
The school district has about 6,000 students—86 percent of them African-American and 12 percent white. From 2006 to the first semester of the 2009-2010 school year, all the students referred to law enforcement or expelled were African-American and 96 percent of those suspended were African-American, the lawsuit said, according to the Associated Press.
In a September report by the Center for Public Integrity [http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/09/16/10926/mississippi-town-struggles-school-prison-pipeline-charges], Lionel Townsend, 13 at the time, admitted to fighting in middle school, but objected to the punishment: expulsion from school and, after fighting again, sentenced to probation and home confinement with an ankle monitor, the Center for Public Integrity reported.
Lionel's mother, Ella Townsend, said that while some punishment was in order, "That was harsh punishment. I feel like they were out of order." When the monitor went off as Lionel went in the back yard, he "gouged" the speaker, and was charged $1,500 in damage.
His mother worried that if he made "another mistake," he would be sentenced to prison.
That month, Randle Jennings, now education chairman for the county NAACP, told the Center, said "We smelled smoke," but did not know what was going on. "We have a concern for our children, especially the next generation because we have seen two generations be destroyed … [we] systematically need a plan so our children aren't shoved in that pipeline."
Gregory Davis, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, said it is disappointing that the local and state government agencies have not worked with the Department of Justice to resolve the violations.
Roy Austin Jr., deputy assistant attorney general, told the Associated Press that other areas around the country have “school-to-prison pipelines,” but this is the first time the civil rights division has filed a lawsuit based on these allegations. He said Shelby County, Tenn., is another example of a problematic area, but he said officials there are working with the Justice Department to fix the problems.
“The department is bringing this lawsuit to ensure that all children are treated fairly and receive the fullest protection of the law,” Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, said in Thursday's statement.
According to the release, the Department of Justice has a longstanding desegregation case against the Meridian Public School District, and the two entities are "currently working cooperatively" to resolve that.

2012-10-26 "Athens Anarchist Anti-Fascist Motorcycle Club"

As of June 2012 the far right/neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn is officially represented in the Greek Parliament with support from the local media. As we have seen throughout history, in times of “economic” crisis, far-right ideologies tend to increase their influence dramatically.
 The number of attacks on immigrants is rising every week, fuelled by the police’s complicitly apathetic stance and refusal to do anything to stop the perpetrators. This has led to a need for anti-racist patrols, as it is the only way of protecting immigrants from racist violence.
 On the nights of the 15th and 22nd of September, the first two antifascist motorcycle patrols took place, with fly-posting and protest chants against neo-Nazi attacks. A third motorcycle demo passed through down-town locations on the evening of Sunday, September 30th, where it encountered a group of neo-Nazis smashing up immigrants’ shops. The antifa successfully attacked and stopped them, and were themselves attacked in retaliation by several motorcycle police units.
The antifascists are not allowed to exit the country and they are obliged to attend the police department every 15 days.
 There is a need to raise the amount of 45.000 € for legal costs and bails.
 For all those that want to contribute in collecting these amounts, there is a box at the K*VOX squat, in Exarchia Square in Athens. Since it is not possible for many people to go there, we have set up a separate PayPal account under the email address SupportAntifa@OmniaTV.com. The whole amount collected there will be handed over to K*VOX.
The fascist joke must end, no comment will be allowed from monsters for our own mental health. Please do not reply to any kind of silly comments or else your comment will be deleted as well.
Article in english and greek
AntifAlice in Monsterland: [http://eagainst.com/?p=43979]
Αντιφασίστες στη χώρα των τεράτων: [http://eagainst.com/?p=43971]


Thursday, October 25, 2012

2012-10-25 "Missouri Labor Takes on the Poverty Business, Cements Alliances"

by Judy Ancel [http://labornotes.org/2012/10/missouri-labor-takes-poverty-business-cements-alliances]:
Judy Ancel is a labor educator at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a leader in Kansas City Jobs with Justice.
W.T. Edmonson, president of Jefferson City Congregations United, speaks at a “We Will Not Be Silenced” rally in Missouri's capital. A cynical corporate legal gambit forced two anti-poverty measures off this year’s ballot. Photo: Fired Up Missouri.

At a rally to raise the minimum wage in Kansas City, Missouri, Ibn Frazer, a young African American, told the crowd that for the last six years, he’s awakened every day and gone to work twice.
Since he was 16, Frazer said, “I’ve juggled two minimum wage jobs at places like Panera, Applebee’s, gas stations, and Comfort Inn.” Like nearly all his co-workers, he “either can’t get enough hours or the hours we get don’t add up to making a living.”
He now works at Pizza Hut 45 hours a week and at Burlington Coat Factory another 30. He works seven days a week. “Five days I work two jobs,” Frazer said, “and I haven’t had a day off in nearly two months. I feel like I’m wasting my life.”
Four years ago, after Elliot Clark’s wife broke her ankle and couldn’t work, he turned to a payday loan. “Eventually one payday loan turned into another and then another,” he says. In a short time, he had five loans totaling $2,500—and wound up paying $30,000 in interest over three years. Clark lost his home to foreclosure while paying off the loans.
Frazer and Clark have something in common: they are workers whose low wages are neither enough to pay the bills nor enough to qualify them for reasonable credit. The minimum wages paid by billion-dollar corporations like Bain, which owns Burlington Coat Factory, or Yum Brands, which owns Pizza Hut, push them into the jaws of predatory lenders granting “payday loans.”
These are small, short-term loans often used by families living paycheck to paycheck to plug an emergency hole in the budget like a car repair or a child’s medical bill. Missouri allows their interest rates to rise as high as 1,950 percent per year.
A year ago, the labor-community coalition Missouri Jobs with Justice got together with two faith-based grassroots organizations in Kansas City and St. Louis, composed of dozens of congregations. They bridged the urban/rural divide by bringing in three more organizations, including smaller town congregations, family farmers, and low-income people (the direct action group Grassroots Organizing).
Together they decided to make common cause against low-wage employers, headed by the Missouri Restaurant Association and the payday loan industry, and place two initiatives on this fall’s ballot.
One would raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 and the hourly rate for tipped employees from 50 to 60 percent of the Missouri minimum. The other would cap payday lending interest at 36 percent per year. Polling told them both initiatives would pass easily.

Jobs with Justice had raised the minimum wage before, by $1.35. In 2006 a coalition of economic justice organizations including the Service Employees and other unions had easily passed an initiative.
That campaign was led by labor but had support from many progressive churches as well. At the same time, the faith-based groups had been working in vain for years to get the legislature to regulate the payday lending industry. Many were grounded in their traditions’ strong teaching around the sin of usury—and also in the experience of having to bail families in their congregations out of these loans time after time.
For some unions in Jobs with Justice, the alliance was a stretch. Some wondered why they needed the faith groups, when raising the minimum wage was polling so well on its own.
Some feared taking on the payday lending industry, the second highest spender in the legislature. To block a slew of anti-labor bills, Missouri labor had been following a defensive strategy of lobbying moderate Republicans.
But some leaders of unions and the state and local AFL-CIO became convinced that going on offense with demands that benefit low-wage workers could make a long-term change in the political and organizing climate. Missouri leaders see the full frontal attack on collective bargaining in other Midwestern states. They know that to fend it off here we will need not just unions but also working people organized in their neighborhoods, at their congregations, and on campuses.
The idea was to organize among the vast majority who are not union members, for gains that would affect everyone. Thus Missouri became one of the only states this year where working people and their allies went on offense to demand a transfer of wealth from the 1 percent to the 99 percent.

By working together and carrying one another’s petitions, each group expanded its reach. Faith volunteers, students, and union members all learned on street corners that voters understood the issues better together.
The petition to cap the interest rate was a great hook to start a conversation. The average rate of 445 percent got folks’ attention and usually their signature, creating the opportunity to say, “You know, low-wage workers wouldn’t have to use these loans if they earned more.” That usually overcame an all-too-common belief that raising the minimum wage would cost jobs.
Rev. David Gerth of St. Louis’s Metropolitan Congregations United said, “Our members were invigorated by going out into the streets with labor and student petitioners from Jobs with Justice. Had we known this, we would have done it sooner.”
Each initiative needed about 95,000 signatures. From March through August coalition members threw all their staff—about 42 full-time equivalents—into training and signature gathering. They recruited 1,300 volunteers.
Lara Granich, executive director of Missouri JwJ, said volunteers fanned across the state, learning to make the pitch in districts represented by Republicans. In the end, they turned in 350,000 signatures on the two petitions combined.

Payday lending has grown rapidly since state legislatures began permitting it in the early 1990s. By 2009 there were 22,000 payday shops in the 35 states that permit them, with Missouri in the top five in density. Payday lenders in Missouri outnumber McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Walmarts combined.
The wealthy payday lenders led the dirty tricks and opposition to the initiative, along with the Missouri Restaurant Association. Granich estimates that they spent at least $5 million.
Advance America, the nation’s largest installment loan company (installment loans are a longer-term payday loan), tried to fracture the alliance by a combination of threats and incentives to pastors and elected officials in poor, often African American communities. A law firm threatened churches with criminal penalties and loss of their tax-exempt status. A barrage of court challenges lost at the state Supreme Court.
The lenders ran TV ads warning that bringing the interest rate down would bankrupt them and leave poor neighborhoods with no credit. They sent thugs who threatened petitioners and offered them bribes to go home.
Ten days before the signature deadline, 5,000 signatures were stolen from a staffer’s car. The next day dozens of grassroots leaders from all over Missouri swept into the Ozark region and gathered 7,000 signatures in a five-day marathon.

Anti-initiative forces knew they would lose if the petitions were qualified for the ballot, so they found a loophole in the poorly written initiative law. Ten days before the September 21 deadline, their lawyers filed multiple motions that could force Missouri’s 116 local election boards to produce the voter registration cards for each signature. Faced with too few court days before the ballot-printing deadline, the coalition was forced to withdraw. It was a kick in the gut.
This new form of voter suppression, which threatens to remove the only remaining means for working people to affect legislation, caused tremendous outrage. Todd Appleby, a Communications Workers officer, said, “This is a radicalizing moment for my members. They are learning just what corporations are capable of doing.”
Even the press was fuming. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch announced that “robbery with a pen will continue to be legal in Missouri.”
Missouri labor suspects it will face a right-to-work initiative in 2014. Now, with allies, it is in a much better position to fight. Granich said, “We know that in the long run, the kind of alignment progressive forces are building is what it will take to disrupt corporate power.”

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

2012-10-24 "Exposed 'Kill Matrix' Gives Permanence to US 'War on Terror'"

"The Washington Post reports on the codifying of Obama's 'kill list'" from "Common Dreams"
An in-depth Washington Post story reveals [http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/plan-for-hunting-terrorists-signals-us-intends-to-keep-adding-names-to-kill-lists/2012/10/23/4789b2ae-18b3-11e2-a55c-39408fbe6a4b_story_4.html] that the drone warfare and bottomless "kill list" that have become signature features of the Obama administration's foreign policy have evolved. At the center of these policies is a "next-generation" 'kill-list' rebranded as a 'disposition matrix' meant to serve as a guide for "future administrations through the counterterrorism processes that Obama has embraced."
Greg Miller's exposé for the Post reveals that as "U.S.'s conventional wars are winding down," the Obama administration has secretly been ramping up on long-term counterterrorism policies that will essentially institutionalize the tracking, targeting, and killing of individuals—at will—for years and years.
The 'disposition matrix' contains the names and biographical information of terrorism suspects—including "locations, known associates and affiliated organizations"—against an array of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including "extradition requests, capture operations and drone patrols".
“Anyone who thought U.S. targeted killing outside of armed conflict was a narrow, emergency-based exception to the requirement of due process before a death sentence is being proven conclusively wrong,” said Hina Shamsi [https://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2012/10/24-0], director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, in response to Miller's report. “The danger of dispensing with due process is obvious because without it, we cannot be assured that the people in the government’s death database truly present a concrete, imminent threat to the country. What we do know is that tragic mistakes have been made, hundreds of civilian bystanders have died, and our government has even killed a 16-year-old U.S. citizen without acknowledging let alone explaining his death. A bureaucratized paramilitary killing program that targets people far from any battlefield is not just unlawful, it will create more enemies than it kills.”
Security officials and intelligence analysts interviewed by Miller call the matrix a "work in progress". Developed by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) under former director Michael Leiter, they scrapped a system in which the Pentagon and the National Security Council had overlapping target lists and roles in scrutinizing the names being added. "Now," Miller writes, "the system functions like a funnel, starting with input from half a dozen agencies and narrowing through layers of review until proposed revisions are laid on [Chief Counterterrorism Advisor, John] Brennan’s desk, and subsequently presented to the president".
Civil libertarian and Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald reacted with derision to the "extremist powers" being exercised "in the name of the war on terror," calling the so-called "matrix" a  "centralized clearinghouse for determining who will be executed without due process" based solely upon determinations made exclusively by the executive branch.
Greenwald continues [http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/24/obama-terrorism-kill-list]:
[begin excerpt]
What has been created here - permanently institutionalized - is a highly secretive executive branch agency that simultaneously engages in two functions: (1) it collects and analyzes massive amounts of surveillance data about all Americans without any judicial review let alone search warrants, and (2) creates and implements a "matrix" that determines the "disposition" of suspects, up to and including execution, without a whiff of due process or oversight. It is simultaneously a surveillance state and a secretive, unaccountable judicial body that analyzes who you are and then decrees what should be done with you, how you should be "disposed" of, beyond the reach of any minimal accountability or transparency.
[end excerpt]
Beyond the "Orwellian" euphemism employed, another difference between this 'disposition matrix' and the 'kill list' is the seemingly infinite nature of the program. Miller writes that the targeting lists—which were initially conceived as emergency measures after 9/11—"are now fixtures of the national security apparatus. The rosters expand and contract with the pace of drone strikes but never go to zero."
This painful accounting drove Pakistani military chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to ask Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff: "After hundreds of drone strikes, how could the United States possibly still be working its way through a 'top 20” list?"
Greenwald argues that the "disposition matrix" itself was "motivated by Obama's refusal to arrest or detain terrorist suspects, and his resulting commitment simply to killing them at will (his will)."
Recent actions, such as CIA Director David Petraeus requesting more drones for his targeted killing fleet, the encroachment of the U.S.'s spy network into Africa and a new, secret targeting center run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) "a 15-minute commute from the White House so it could be more directly involved in deliberations about al-Qaeda lists," point to the pervasiveness and long-term commitment to this target strategy.
In response to the Post's story, Kate Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts, writes [http://privacysos.org/node/857] that "despite their nominal focus on terrorism," the real purpose of the NCTC is "massive, secretive data collection and mining of trillions of points of data about most people in the United States." Greenwald adds that, "the NCTC—now vested with the power to determine the proper 'disposition' of terrorist suspects—is the same agency that is at the center of the ubiquitous, unaccountable surveillance state aimed at American citizens".
Miller reports that officials have acknowledged, in private, "that the development of the matrix is part of a series of moves, in Washington and overseas, to embed counterterrorism tools into U.S. policy for the long haul." He adds that Brennan intends to "codify the administration’s approach," streamlining the method for future administrations.
The consequences are cumulative, as Greenwald points out: "The more the US kills and kills and kills, the more people there are who 'want to harm us'. That's the logic that has resulted in a permanent war on terror."
By certain estimates, the number of militants and civilians killed in the drone campaign over the past 10 years will soon exceed 3,000—exceeding the number of people killed in the 9/11 attacks. “We can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us,” a senior administration official told the Post. But, he conceded, “it’s a necessary part of what we do."
Perhaps most disturbing is the blind acceptance, among the ranks, of this radical departure from our core principles. Greenwald writes:
[begin excerpt]
The core guarantee of western justice since the Magna Carta was codified in the US by the fifth amendment to the constitution: "No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." You simply cannot have a free society, a worthwhile political system, without that guarantee, that constraint on the ultimate abusive state power, being honored.
It is literally impossible to imagine a more violent repudiation of the basic blueprint of the republic than the development of a secretive, totally unaccountable executive branch agency that simultaneously collects information about all citizens and then applies a "disposition matrix" to determine what punishment should be meted out. This is classic political dystopia brought to reality.
[end excerpt]

2012-10-24 "Plutocrats Want to Own Your Vote"

 by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, Moyers & Company  [http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/12290-plutocrats-want-to-own-your-vote]:
The new Gilded Age is roaring down on us – an uncaged tiger on a rampage. Walk out to the street in front of our office here in Manhattan, look to the right and you can see the symbol of it: a fancy new skyscraper going up two blocks away.  When finished, this high rise among high rises will tower a thousand feet, the tallest residential building in the city.
The New York Times has dubbed it “the global billionaires’ club” [http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/realestate/rising-tower-in-manhattan-takes-on-sheen-as-billionaires-haven.html] — and for good reason. At least of two of the apartments are under contract for more than 90 million dollars each. Others, more modest, range in price from 45 million dollars to more than 50 million dollars. The mega-rich have been buying these places “looking for a place to stash their cash,” a realtor from Sotheby’s explained to the Times. “A lot of what is happening,” she said, “… is about wealth preservation.”
Simultaneously, the powers-that-be have just awarded Donald Trump the right to run a golf course in the Bronx [http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-01-09/news/30609510_1_donald-trump-golf-mayor-bloomberg], which taxpayers are spending at least $97 million to build — what “amounts to a public subsidy,” says the indignant city comptroller, “for a luxury golf course.”  Good grief — a handout to the plutocrat’s plutocrat.
This, in a city where economic inequality rivals that of a third-world country. Of America’s 25 largest cities, New York is now the most unequal. The median income for the bottom 20% last year was less than $9,000, while the top one percent of New Yorkers has an average annual income of $2.2 million.
Across America, this divide between the super-rich and everyone else has become a yawning chasm that studies indicate may stifle jobs and growth for years to come. At no time in modern history has the top one hundredth of one percent owned more of our wealth or paid so low a tax rate. But in neither of the two presidential debates so far has the vastness of this astounding inequality gap been discussed. Not by Mitt Romney, who is the embodiment of the predatory world of financial capitalism. And not even by Barack Obama, whose party once fought for working men and women against the economic royalists.
But as appalling as all this may be, here’s a new revelation of which you may not be aware. The plutocrats know it and love it — and the rest of us should be forewarned: When the Supreme Court made its infamous Citizens United decision, liberating plutocrats to buy our elections fair and square, the justices may have effectively overturned rules that kept bosses from ordering employees to do political work on company time. Election law expert Trevor Potter told us [http://billmoyers.com/segment/trevor-potter-on-fighting-big-money-in-the-2012-election/] that now “corporations argue that it is a constitutionally protected use of corporate ‘resources’ to order employees to do political work or attend campaign events — even if the employee opposes the candidate, or is threatened with being fired for failure to do what the corporation asks!”
Reporter Mike Elk at In These Times magazine came across a recording of Governor Mitt Romney on a conference call in June with some businessmen [http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/14046/romney_instructed_employers_to_tell_employees_how_to_vote_in_conference_cal/]. Romney told them there is “nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe is best for the business — because I think that will figure into their election decision, their voting decision — and of course doing that with your family and your kids as well.”
Two months later, Governor Romney was campaigning at an Ohio coal mine. In photographs and on video you can see miners arrayed around him, steadfastly standing in support, right?  They work for a company called Murray Energy and attendance at the rally — without pay — was mandatory. Murray Energy is notorious for violating safety regulations, sometimes resulting in injuries and deaths. The company has paid millions in fines – and in the last two years also donated more than $900,000 to politicians, all of them Republicans. The CEO, Bob Murray, a well-known climate change denier and cutthroat businessman, insists that his employees contribute to his favorite anti-regulatory candidates – or else. In one letter uncovered by The New Republic magazine [http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/108140/coal-miners-donor-mitt-romney-benefactor], Murray wrote, “We have been insulted by every salaried employee who does not support our efforts.” So much for voting rights and the secret ballot at Murray Energy!
Mike Elk also discovered that the Koch Brothers, David and Charles – who have pledged to spend multimillions defeating President Obama – have sent a voter information packet to the employees of Georgia Pacific, one of their subsidiaries. It includes a list of recommended candidates, pro-Romney and anti-Obama editorials written by the Kochs and a cover letter from the company president. If we elect the wrong people, Dave Robertson writes, “Many of our more than 50,000 US employees and contractors may suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation, and other ills.” Other ills? Like losing your job?
It’s snowballing. Timeshare king David Siegel of Westgate Resorts reportedly has threatened to fire employees if Barack Obama is re-elected and Arthur Allen, who runs ASG Software Solutions, e-mailed his employees, “If we fail as a nation to make the right choice on November 6th, and we lose our independence as a company, I don’t want to hear any complaints regarding the fallout that will most likely come.”
Back in the first the Gilded Age, in the 19th century, bosses in company towns lined up their workers and marched them to vote as a bloc. Now, the Gilded Age is back , with a vengeance. Welcome to the plutocracy – the remains of the ol’ USA.

Gender Equality means Equal Pay for Equal Work

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

2012-10-23 "Disabled veteran kicked out of store, told to go occupy Wall Street"

A disabled war veteran faced verbal abuse when he entered a mattress store in San Antonio. The vet was told to “go occupy Wall Street” and subsequently kicked out of the store because he brought his leashed service dog with him.
The 70 percent disabled veteran, Adan Gallegos, is now suing Billy Bob’s Beds in the San Antonio Federal Court. He claims civil rights violations and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Texas Human Resources Code, Courthouse News reports.
The complaint states that Gallegos entered the mattress store with a family member and his dog Bootz, who was leashed and well behaved. The dog was wearing an identifying service-dog vest and did not jump on any furniture.
 The store president, William Gholson, allegedly kicked the man and his dog out of the store, claiming, “no one could make him do anything in his own building.”
Gallegos described the need for his service animal, but Gholson made him leave anyway.
“Store employees continued the harassment and ridicule after Mr. Gallegos left the building,” the complaint states. The store president called the police on the veteran, while employees followed him outside and told him to remove his Wounded Warrior clothing and “go occupy Wall Street.”
Under the law, US service dogs are allowed to be in “placed of public accommodation”, which includes retail establishments like stores or restaurants.
Service dogs are specially trained to aid a person with a disability other than sight or hearing. Gallegos is rated 70 percent disabled and suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He fought for the US Army in Iraq, aiding in the capture of Saddam Hussain.
His severe case of PTSD comes as a result of “intense combat” and “the explosion of an IED,” the complaint states.
“The tasks performed by Bootz are directly related to Mr. Gallegos’ disability and include monitoring Mr. Gallegos’ behavior and alerting if Mr. Gallegos appears to be highly stressed or shows signs of a panic attack,” the lawsuit says.
Other tasks the dog is responsible for include waking the vet up when he has nightmares, reminding him to take his medication and warn him if someone is approaching him from behind.
Recently, another disabled veteran and his service dog were allegedly abused by United Airlines staff. Jim Stanek, who suffers from PTSD and traumatic brain injury, says his dog was kicked in the ribs and he was called “retarded” by airline staff.
Gallegos’ case will be argued in the San Antonio Federal Court, with Denette Vaughn from Disability Rights Texas as his attorney.

2012-10-23 "Report Details Massive Chemical Investments in Lobbying and Campaigns"

by Mary Boyle from "Common Cause" [http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2012/10/23-6]:
WASHINGTON - October 23 - Determined to block efforts to strengthen the 36-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act, chemical interests have invested $375 million since 2005 to elect and influence industry-friendly political leaders, Common Cause said in a report released today.
“The dimensions of chemical industry spending documented in this study, 'Toxic Spending,' are staggering,” said James Browning, Common Cause’s regional director for state operations and a principal author of the report. “By following the money, we see how and why the industry has been so successful in blocking attempts to strengthen the Toxic Substances Control Act.”
In the current campaign, the industry has capitalized on the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision by putting $23 million into “Super PACs,” supporting its favored candidates or opposing its adversaries, according to the study. Chemical interests have spent an additional $2.8 million on their own political advertising, the report adds.
In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, decided in 2010, the Supreme Court cleared the way for corporations and unions to invest unlimited sums on political advertising. Corporate and union contributions to candidates remain illegal, but the ruling has triggered a flood of ads produced and paid for by corporate, union and individual donations to Super PACs that are aligned with candidates but operate independently.
The study details how chemical firms and their executives direct much of their political spending and lobbying toward members of Congress who are positioned to look out for industry interests. The industry has spent $333 million on lobbying since 2005; in the current campaign alone, for example, individuals and political action groups tied to chemical firms have given House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, nearly $128,000 and invested an additional $78,800 in House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.
Other major recipients of industry support include Rep. Fred Upton, R-MI., the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who has collected $80,100 in campaign contributions and benefitted from just over $200,000 in industry advertising; and Rep. Gene Green, D-TX., the senior Democrat on the House subcommittee that handles legislation dealing with chemical policy. Green’s campaign has collected $50,100 from chemical interests this year and benefitted from nearly $331,000 in industry advertising.
Browning said the report likely understates the industry’s spending totals on political advertising. Disclosure requirements put in place by the Federal Communications Commission cover only television stations serving the nation’s 50 largest markets, he noted, and do not cover ads purchased on cable channels. Donors also can bypass disclosure requirements by funneling their money into tax-exempt “social welfare” organizations that are able to buy political ads but are not required to disclose their donors.
The report recommends strengthening disclosure requirements on industry political spending and says that spending should be permitted only if approved by shareholder. It also calls on the FCC to create a national database of ad expenditures that covers all stations and allows searches by geographic region, ads run for or against particular candidates, and by entities purchasing ads. The agency’s current records are organized station-by-station, so a researcher looking to document industry activity must sort through hundreds of records one by one.

2012-10-23 "Banks spend millions on ads to silence media on foreclosure crisis"

2012-10-23 "Banks spend millions on ads to silence media on foreclosure crisis: Vote Yes on C" by Jacquie Taliaferro [http://sfbayview.com/2012/banks-spend-millions-on-ads-to-silence-media-on-foreclosure-crisis-vote-yes-on-c/]:
San Francisco – The next time you are watching TV or are on your computer and see a lot of ads for banks and financial companies – Wells Fargo, Bank of America, CitiBank, Charles Schwab, E-Trade etc. – think about the fact that they are spending millions of dollars with corporate media.
On the front lines of covering the attempted land grab by “predatory lenders” and now “predatory buyers” out for a quick buck while flipping homes, I see little action being taken to help the homeowners flipped out of their homes. The added insult to injury of this foreclosure crisis is that families put out of their homes have little choice in affordable housing, especially in San Francisco.
Action is being taken to give some relief to those seeking some place safe to recreate “Home Sweet Home.” Amid The America’s Cup, Fleet Weekend, music festivals and more, over 100 dedicated workers, volunteers and concerned citizens gathered at the Crocker Amazon Senior Apartments on “Affordable Housing Day” in San Francisco.
Although media advisories went out to all corporate media, there were none present. More and more, little by little, “freedom of the press” seems to mean corporate media is free to turn a blind eye to what is happening in local communities. The advocates for Prop C are not forestalled. Prop C reads:
“Shall the City amend its Charter to: create a Housing Trust Fund that supports affordable housing for low-income and moderate-income households; and change the affordable housing requirements imposed on some private residential developments?”
Here’s a link to the League of Women’s Voters that gives both sides of the coin on Prop C: http://www.smartvoter.org/2012/11/06/ca/sf/prop/C/.
Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor John Avalos were on hand for the community action and news conference. Organizations represented at the event included AACE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment), Occupy Bernal, Council on Community Housing Organizations, PODER (People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights), ECS (Episcopal Community Services), TNDC (Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation), HRC (Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco), AND (Asian Neighborhood Design), ALRP, BHNC (Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center), Hospitality House, Dolores Street Community Services, and Senior and Disability Action.
Community leaders Espanola Jackson, Chris Jackson, Ed Donaldson, Vivian Richardson and Buck Bagot were among those present and advocating for community issues.
Ed Donaldson, although no longer with SFHDC (San Francisco Housing and Development Corp.), is still working for the rights of people being foreclosed. “Prop C is about building needed affordable housing. But let’s keep our eye on the fact that we can’t just sit on our hands as people’s homes are being auctioned off on the City Hall steps,” said Donaldson. “We’re working on putting together private financing to buy homes at auction and lease them back to the homeowners until they get their financial footing again,” he added.
As you look at the financial ads left and right, consider what would happen if financial institutions used their billions of dollars and their foundations to rework mortgages to give homeowners another chance at the American dream.

Monday, October 22, 2012

2012-10-22 "Louisiana woman set on fire, ‘KKK’ painted on her car"

by David Edwards [http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/10/22/louisiana-woman-set-on-fire-kkk-painted-on-her-car/]:
Police in Winnsboro, Louisiana confirmed on Monday that a woman had been set on fire over the weekend and racial slurs were found scrawled on her car.
Sharmeka Moffitt told police that she was attacked and burned by three men wearing white hoodies at a park in Franklin Parish on Sunday, according to KNOE [http://www.knoe.com/story/19880137/winnsboro-authorities-investigating-alleges-burn-victim].
At a press conference on Monday, police said that the letters “KKK” were spray-painted on the hood of her car.
Winnsboro Police Chief Kevin Cobb said that the FBI was investigating whether the incident was a hate crime [http://www.shreveporttimes.com/article/20121022/NEWS01/121022003/UPDATED-Authorities-confirm-KKK-drawn-on-burn-victim-s-vehicle-], but authorities declined to classify the attack as racially motivated on Monday [http://www.thetowntalk.com/article/20121022/NEWS01/121022023/Winnsboro-woman-attacked-park-KKK-scrawled-car]. The Franklin Parish Sheriff, Louisiana State Police and the state fire Marshall’s office were also participating in the investigation.
A friend of the Moffitt family told KNOE that the victim had burns on 90 percent of her body and was currently in stable condition at the LSU-Shreveport hospital.
The Facebook page “Prayers for Sharmeka Moffitt” was created on Sunday night to support the victim and encourage the media to cover the story. By Monday afternoon, that page had received over 8,000 “likes.” [https://www.facebook.com/PrayersForSharmekaMoffitt]

2012-10-22 "Backcountry resisters infiltrate Vandenberg Air Force Base"

from "The Nuclear Resister" [http://www.nukeresister.org/2012/10/22/backcountry-resisters-infiltrate-vandenberg-air-force-base/]:
from tierralinda@live.com
For the first time in nearly a decade, nonviolent civil resisters caused a disruptive breach of the backcountry security zones at Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) on October 20 and 21, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. VAFB enforces a sweeping global pattern of violent high-tech military abuse.
Three participants were arrested for federal trespass and others eluded base security patrols. One participant, Theo Kayser, was hand-cuffed face down on the ground with an M-16 automatic rifle trained on his back during his 2 a.m. arrest, while search lights swept the surrounding hills. He was then held under armed guard for nine hours at a special security command post which VAFB had set up to deal with the backcountry occupation. Vandenberg security stated that they believed at least 15 individuals were spotted in base security zones between 0ctober 20th and 21st.
Action participants hope that others will follow their example in the months ahead. They entered the huge US Strategic Command facility at widely dispersed points and hiked miles into the base, crossing fences and rough terrain under cover of night, hanging banners on nuclear first-strike missile silos deep inside Vandenberg. They also conducted an unauthorized Christian prayer liturgy and exorcism of evil inside VAFB boundaries. Multiple sources, including contacts within VAFB, confirmed that the announced plans and the backcountry security zone occupation caused days of disruptive base alerts, interrupting Vandenberg’s business as usual to prepare for and deal with the security zone breaches.
Backcountry action participants and their supporters say that “Vandenberg, built on land stolen from the Chumash nation, launches and controls key satellites which run worldwide drone strikes that kill civilians, and are positioning US forces for a catastrophic peak-oil war with Iran. VAFB is making nuclear world war more likely by its first-strike Minuteman III flight tests, which seriously contaminate stolen indigenous territory at the Earth’s largest coral atoll, Kwajalein.”
Arrested action participants include Franciscan Priest Louie Vitale and Los Angeles Catholic Worker community members Theo Kayser and Rebecca Casas.
David Omondi, Theo Kayser, Fr. Louis Vitale

David Omondi and Rebecca Casas

Exactly 50 years ago, this planet was brought to the brink of complete destruction during what is referred to as the Cuban Missile Crisis. We believe that all missiles are a crisis (whether located in Cuba or elsewhere) as they are contrary to the laws of the Creator whose names are many, but whom we call (as did the evangelist John) LOVE.
Vandenberg AFB has continued since the near catastrophe of October 1962 with its preparations for both nuclear and “conventional” war through continued missile tests, launches of military satellites and other preparations for killing in violation of the commandment, “love one another.” Acknowledging that love is an active rather than passive state of being, we cannot sit by while the evils of Vandenberg AFB are allowed to continue unchecked.
We acknowledge that the land on which Vandenberg AFB is located was stolen from its true owners, the Chumash people. We understand that the missile tests conducted here pollute both the coast of California, with exhaust from rocket fuels, and Kwajalein Atoll of the Marshall Islands, with depleted uranium. It is our belief that the millions of dollars spent on war-making and preparations for war could be used to feed those who are hungry, house those who are homeless, and provide health care to those who are sick and we consider it a sin that schools are closed and homes foreclosed upon while military spending goes unchecked.
Because of these sins and innumerable others, we have come to this place to pray for peace, in the form of nonviolent direct action, with the belief that “wherever two are more are gathered” there is God. Without question, Vandenberg AFB is a place in need of God, whose gospel is peace and whose message is reconciliation between all peoples. Our hope is both that our action will somehow hasten the kingdom of brother and sisterhood and that others will heed our example and nonviolently “occupy” this base in the weeks and months ahead for the purpose of transforming this land from a place dedicated to death into one of hope and love.
* Fr. Louie Vitale, OFM
* David Omondi, Los Angeles Catholic Worker
* Theo Kayser, Los Angeles Catholic Worker

2012-10-22 "The Shadowy Figures Trying to Permanently Steal our Elections"

by DeAnn McEwen, California Nurses Association [http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/10/22/1148485/-The-shadowy-figures-trying-to-permanently-steal-our-elections]:
 I am a nurse and I know how wealth is valued over the health of my patients with today’s recreation of an aristocracy born of speculation and no sense of community values.
 The San Francisco Chronicle today [http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/matier-ross/article/Business-outspending-labor-on-campaigns-3969840.php] disclosed that corporations outspend unions by at least 3-1 to dominate elections and public policy in California, according to a nonpartisan group called California Common Sense.
 Since 2000, business interests alone have poured an obscene $1.7 billion into California campaigns to sway candidate and initiative campaigns. Imagine a world in which that money might have gone to our schools, or healthcare, or creating jobs, and you get a sense how wildly corrupted our political system has become, aided by disgraceful court rulings that big money equals free speech.
 That substantial current advantage is apparently not enough for the giant corporations, billionaires, and clandestine super political action committees that are funneling tens of millions of dollars into a campaign to pass the deceptive and dishonest Proposition 32 which would effectively end the ability of unions to compete at all in the electoral arena.
 California nurses urging a "No on 32" vote during Hayward picket Saturday.
 And, while unions have also been forced to spend a lot of money to protect the rights of California workers to have a collective voice in Sacramento, it is the heavy spending campaign of those who already have such pervasive influence on our elections who believe no one should be allowed to stand in their way.
 The high rollers have already unleashed at least $44 million into the campaign for Prop. 32 to further tile the playing field in elections in their favor. 
 Here’s the prime sources of that tidal wave of cash:
* Charles Munger, Jr., $23 million. Munger, a Stanford physicist who aspires to be the kingmaker of Republican politics in California, presumably derives most of his overflowing war chest from his father, Charles Munger, Sr., vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Corporation, and one of the richest men in the world. Insurance, including Geico, is a primary source of Berkshire’s activity, and thus the Munger wealth [http://prospect.org/article/will-munger-kids-kill-californias-schools]. 
* Wall Street bankers, venture capitalists, and other speculators, $6.7 million [http://www.stopspecialexemptions.org/whos-behind-the-scenes].
* American Future Fund, $4.08 million. AFF is a far right political action committee backed primarily by oil and energy interests is linked to the notorious Koch brothers.
* Arizona-based Americans for Responsible Leadership, $11 million [http://blog.sfgate.com/nov05election/2012/10/17/where-did-that-11-million-dropped-on-props-3032-come-from/].
 Despite their profligate spending in trying to bludgeon voters with their ample wealth, none of these major donors has been willing to come out of the shadows to talk publicly to Californians about why they think only corporations, super PACS, and billionaires should have a voice in politics.
 The most recent in this rogues gallery, Americans for Responsible Leadership, has been attracting some, for them, unwelcome notice in recent days with California reporters digging to uncover any information about why an Arizona group would spend $11 million to further stain California’s already corrupted political process.
 Like the other clandestine super PACS, ARL hides its donors, prompting California Common Cause to ask the state Fair Political Practices Commission to investigate if ARL, and the so-called Small Business Action Committee PAC, the direct recipient of the cash, are violating state campaign disclosure laws. Common Cause lobbyist Phillip Ung [http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2012/10/group-demands-investigation-into-anti-prop-32-pro-prop-30-money.html]: "Voters, the media and watchdog organizations are sick of seeing out-of-state donors drop lots of last-minute money... We think they should stay out of California's business."

 Who exactly is this shadowy group?
Two recent reports provide a few clues.
California Watch [http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/gop-activist-leads-ariz-group-pouring-millions-calif-ballot-fight-18471] discloses that ARL is led by Robert Graham, who calls labor unions "the parasite that is killing our jobs." Such anti-union rhetoric probably will help his campaign to become chairman of the Arizona GOP.
 Graham also ran an unsuccessful campaign in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary, as a relative unknown, notes California Watch. He has a company called Freak Show Racing. And he is the author of "Job Killers," a book about "How Labor Unions are Destroying American Jobs and the Economy."
 Graham said in a video promoting the book: "Striking labor unions out of the business model is imperative to the economic success of today’s ever-changing marketplace, then, and only then, will we truly be able to free ourselves of the parasite that is killing our jobs."
 Arizona political analyst Michael O'Neil told California Watch: "It sounds like they are a front organization, and the real question is where do they get their money from."
 The Arizona media is just as perplexed, as noted in this column by Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts [http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/2012/10/19/20121019roberts1020-consider-campaign-ad-source-you-can.html]: "...who, you might ask, are the Americans for Responsible Leadership? I can't tell you. Americans for Responsible Leadership are also Americans Who Believe That You Don't Need To Know Who They Are, You Just Need To Vote How They Want. And so, they have thus far funneled $450,000 into the campaign to kill the "top two" primary initiative, according to documents on file with the Arizona Secretary of State's Office. And an additional $500,000 into defeating Proposition 204, the sales-tax hike for education and roads."

 The only other clue on hand is from an October 2011 video produced by ARL gushing over anti-union heart throb New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and pleading with him to run for President.

 The presence of ARL in this election, along with the Koch brothers, and other well heeled national donors to Prop. 32,  illustrates the national stakes of the Prop. 32 campaign.  If they can win in California, they believe, the suppression of workers' rights, perhaps best illustrated in the Koch-funded attack on workers in Wisconsin, will get a major national boost.

 It’s up to all of us to make sure they don’t succeed.

2012-10-22 "Puerto Rico Voters Who Didn’t Vote in 2008, and Who Didn’t Re-register in Time, Lose Ability to Vote in 2012"

from "Ballot Access News" [http://www.ballot-access.org/2012/10/22/puerto-rico-voters-who-didnt-vote-in-2008-and-who-didnt-re-register-in-time-lose-ability-to-vote-in-2012/]:
Puerto Rico has elections for important office only every four years, not every two years. The Puerto Rico Delegate to the U.S. House, and the Governor, have four-year terms, up in presidential election years.
The federal National Voter Registration Act of 1993 requires that states (as well as Puerto Rico) not remove voters from the registration rolls unless or until they miss two elections. But Puerto Rico law says voters should be removed from the rolls if they miss voting in one election.
On October 17, a U.S. District Court in Puerto Rico ruled that the federal law has precedence over Puerto Rico law, and ordered that the 330,902 voters who had been removed from the registration rolls because they didn’t vote in 2008 be restored to the rolls. But late on October 18, the First Circuit reversed that, saying it isn’t practical to put the voters back on the rolls. They cannot now vote, because it is too late for them to re-register. The First Circuit vote was 2-1. The majority include Judges Kermit Lipez, a Clinton appointee; and Jeffrey Howard, a Bush Jr. appointee. The dissenter is Judge Juan Torruella. On October 19, one of the voters who had filed the case asked for a rehearing en banc.
Puerto Rico is voting in November not only for Governor, and for Delegate to the U.S. House, but on a ballot measure about the future status of the island. Voters are first asked if they favor the status quo or not. Then, they are asked which of these three options they prefer, should the status quo change: (1) independence; (2) statehood; (3) a recognition that Puerto Rico is a sovereign nation but one which would continue to be linked to the U.S. government in many ways. The intense interest in this ballot question makes the decision to exclude 330,902 voters especially contentious.
The First Circuit has decided two other Puerto Rico election law cases this month as well. On October 19 the First Circuit enjoined a Puerto Rico law that makes it illegal for labor unions to make independent expenditures about candidates. That case is Sindicato Puertorriqueno de Trabajadores v Fortuno, 12-2171. Also, on October 2, the First Circuit declined to offer any relief to a candidate for Governor who had been kept off his party’s primary ballot on the grounds that he had been charged with sexual harassment. The First Circuit said that is a case for the Puerto Rico courts. That case is Gonzalez-Cancel v Partido Nuevo Progressista, 12-1243.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Anti-Fascism: Witnesses against Drone attacks in Pakistan

2012-08-20 "Upstate Drone Action Reports" by Charley Bowman from [http://upstatedroneaction.org/wordpress/2012/08/20/drone-starvation/]:
Yet more evidence — this time in Yemen — that drones create massive problems for those living near the receiving end of the Hellfiremissiles, but who are not targeted for execution.
In an article just published in The Lancet, UNICEF’s representative in Yemen reports on the status of hunger in that country. Buried in the article on hunger is the following drone tidbit:
“The issue of access for UNICEF is the least of our concerns”, adds [UNICEF Representative] Cappelaere. Indeed, some of the estimated 300000 who fled American drone attacks and Al Qaeda separatists in the south may even have moved to areas in which health care and aid was easier to access than it had been previously.”
So UNICEF is saying 300,000 Yemenis have been forcibly displaced as a result of two things: drone attacks and Al Qaeda separatists.
We now have at least 300,000 new enemies in Yemen. No doubt many of the displaced have joined Al Qaeda, especially if they offer food.
Also, the UN is looking for $450 million to alleviate Yemen’s food crisis: can the U.S. afford to forgo 12 MQ-9 Reaper drones to feed 10 million human beings?
If we simply fed them and gave them access to clean water, Al Qaeda wouldn’t have a leg to stand on…all for the price of a few drones.

2012-10-21 "Report on the CodePink delegation to Pakistan" by Joe Lombardo, UNAC co-coordinator

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I arrived in Islamabad at 2:30 am on October 3 with about 7 other members of our delegation after a grueling fight from New York.  We were part of the Code Pink anti-drone delegation to Pakistan.  On arrival in Islamabad, we were amazed to see a large group of people welcoming us from the Aafia Siddiqui movement.  This is a movement in support of Aafia Siddiqui who is in solitary confinement in a Texas prison serving an 86 year sentence.  Aafia, like other Muslims in prison in the U.S. as part of the phony “War on Terror,” is guilty of nothing.  I will explain more about her case later in this report.
After arriving at our guest house where the entire delegation was staying, I had about 1/2 hours sleep before meeting the rest of the delegation at our orientation.  Others on the delegation include Col. Ann Wright, who quit the military and her diplomatic post over the invasion of Iraq, Medea Benjamin, the dynamic leader of Code Pink, Leah Bolger, president of Veterans for Peace and UNAC administrative committee member, Judy Bello of the Upstate NY Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars  and UNAC administrative committee member and a host of other wonderful activists and individuals, including 3 other members of the Upstate New York Coalition.  We were 31 people in all.

On our first day in Pakistan, we met with the acting U.S. ambassador, Richard E. Hoagland, who made the fantastic statement that no civilians have been killed by the drones since 2008 (the year Obama became president).  At another time he said the civilian casualties were in the 2 figures (< 99). 

We also held a meeting with a leading human rights fighter and with Fowzia Siddiqui,  Aafia Siddiqui’s sister.

Aafia Siddiqui is a young Pakistani woman who was educated in the U.S. She did undergraduate work at MIT and got doctorate from Brandeis. She eventually returned to Karachi, Pakistan where her family lives. She had 3 children, 2 born in the U.S., making them U.S. citizens. In 2003, Aafia took her 3 children, ages 6 months to 6 years, on a trip to Islamabad and disappeared.  The U.S. and Pakistani government both denied having her in custody.  Five years passed and her family feared she and her children were dead when they got word from a reporter that she was alive and at Bagram Air base in Afghanistan.  NBC news also confirmed this and the U.S. government finally admitted they had her in custody.  She was taken to the U.S. and tried for assaulting a U.S. soldier in Ghazni, Afghanistan while she was in custody waiting to be interrogated. She was convicted and is now serving 86 year in solitary confinement at the notorious Carswell prison in Texas. Her family has had almost no contact with her and have been denied the right to visit. Her son Ahmed, a U.S. citizen, was found in 2008 in Ghazni, Afghjanistan. He was then reunited with Aafia’s sister, who heads her defense campaign in Pakistan.  Aafia’s daughter, Maryum, also a U.S. citizen, was mysteriously dropped off in April 2010 near her aunt’s house in Karachi after being missing for 7 years. When dropped off, the only language she knew was English, which she spoke with a perfect American accent.  Aafia’s youngest child, a boy, remains missing and is feared dead.
At night, some of us met with members of the newly formed Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) chapter of Pakistan. 

We had a good discussion.  One of the themes that came out and that I have heard from others progressive people in Pakistan was that maybe the drones are not that bad.  They only hit the "militants" who are violent themselves, and if they were not used, the Pakistani military would have to attack the "militants" and many more would be killed.  We explained our view that the so called "militants" were there because of the war in Afghanistan.  If you want to end the "militant" actions, you need to stop the war.  This theme of the drones not being so bad is one that we heard a number of times in Pakistan from the secular progressive movement who is against the U.S. wars.  People we met from the left, such as the Labour Party of Pakistan (LPP), were clear that they were totally against the drones and the wars but they also held a position against the “militants.”  I had long discussions with them on this.  The secular left and the conservative Islamic movement, while agreeing on the need to fight U.S. imperialism, have been mortal enemies and, at times, have physically battled each other.  Our delegation got a hint of this at a meeting that the LPP set up for our delegation with the Bar Association of Islamabad, which I will report on later in this article.  The people from the LPP whom I spoke with understood why, in the U.S., our focus is totally on U.S. imperialism.
On our second day in Pakistan, I spent a lot of time apart from our delegation.  In the morning, Judy Bello and I spoke at a press conference with Fowzia Siddiqui and people from the Committee of the Disappeared. 

As in Latin American under various dictatorships, people in Pakistan were disappeared as happened to Aafia Saddiqui. Judy and I spoke at the press conference along with Aafia’s sister, the woman who heads the Committee of the Disappeared and a couple of other people.  There were a lot of media, and they asked a lot of good questions. Outside the press conference, about 100 people, mostly women and children who are family members of the disappeared were waiting for us. We met with them. They wanted to be with us, many were crying.  They carried pictures of their loved ones in the hope that it would help them find them. It was one of those situations where you just feel helpless, and there is nothing that you can say.

After the press conference and our meeting with the disappeared, we met up with the rest of our group and attended a press conference with Imran Khan.  The press conference was huge and had media from all across Pakistan, from the U.S. and around the world.  Medea spoke for our group.  It was clear to me at this press conference how important our tour to Pakistan was and how glad I was that Code Pink had the ability and political clarity to organize it. 

Our tour raised the profile of the drone issue in Pakistan, the U.S. and other places.  It was a big blow to U.S. war policy and put the U.S. on the defensive on this issue.  It happened at the very time that a study from Stanford and NYU and another study from Columbia on the use of drone warfare came out condemning drone warfare.  Since then, there have been a number of articles in the corporate media questioning the use of drones.
That night I went to the home of one of the people from the Labour Party of Pakistan (LPP) and met with about 10 people.  We had a long informal exchange of ideas.  They wanted to know everything about the antiwar movement and the left in the U.S.  They told me about their merger plans with two other secular left parties in Pakistan, the Workers Party and the People’s Party.  This merger is big news in progressive circles in Pakistan, and we heard about it in several places.
On April 9, 2011, when UNAC held demonstrations against the wars in New York and San Francisco, the Labour Party of Pakistan organized solidarity actions in several cities in Pakistan
After our discussion, I was taken to the office of the Tribune newspaper, where I met the staff and editors and had a long interview.
On our third day in Pakistan, we met with a number of men who had had family members killed in drone attacks.  They all were from North Waziristan.  Before they came, our hosts told us that they may be uncomfortable in a room with both men and women and may not make eye contact with the women out of respect.  Most of the talking was done by one man who lost his son and a brother in a drone attack.  He was a Malik, a tribal leader.  (On the way back from Waziristan I was able to spend over an hour talking to this man one-on-one.) 

According to the introduction to the Federal Administrative Tribal Areas (FATA) given by our hosts, these are areas that are part of Pakistan but are autonomous.  They have their own governing bodies.  The highest governing entity is the jirga, which is a meeting of tribal officials.  The main language in Pakistan is Urdu, but in this area the main language is Pashto.  The FATA areas of North and South Waziristan are where the drone strikes have taken place, two-thirds of them in North Waziristan.
We learned that drones fly overhead 24 hours a day.  People are afraid to congregate, fearing they we be seen as a gathering of “militants” and will be attacked.  Children no longer go to school because of fear that they will be attacked.  This has caused a lot of psychological disorders in this area, and for the first time in their communities they are seeing instances of suicide.  At one point, the regional jirga was targeted and 54 people were killed.  Typically, the U.S. and Pakistan don’t give compensation when someone is killed by the drones, but in this case they offered $6,000 for each family.  This is a lot of money for these people, but it was refused by everyone.  They said they want justice, not money. 
Also at the meeting was a journalist from North Waziristan who has been documenting the drone strikes.  When there is a strike, he gets notified and goes to the site and records who is killed and takes pictures.  Some of these pictures were blown up and put on our busses as we rode towards Waziristan the following day.  Because of their customs, he is unable to take pictures of women or even record their names, but he has recorded the time and place where 670 women have been killed by the drones.  This is far different than what we heard from the ambassador.  I tend to believe the journalist from North Waziristan rather than our government who lied to us about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
After this meeting, we went with these men from North Waziristan to a rally against drones organized at a close-by shopping area by the youth group of Imran Khan’s Justice Party.

We then went back to our hotel to get ready for our journey north to Waziristan the following morning.  Before leaving for Waziristan, the U.S. government made one last attempt to stop us.  The ambassador called and told us that they had received “creditable reports” that if we were to go to Waziristan, we would be attacked.  To me, this indicated the power of our march to Waziristan.  All three tribal leaders in South Waziristan wanted us to come.  They said we were their guests and would be protected.  This march included Americans and Pakistanis and was supported by those in the tribal areas.  It indicated that we all want peace, so it raised the question, why do we have war?
On Saturday morning we boarded our busses to meet up with Imran Khan’s convoy to head north. 

Almost immediately, everything fell apart.  We were supposed to by right behind Imran Khan, but never quite got into that position. At times on the way north, we seemed to lose the caravan and then would meet up with it again later.  The caravan went through poorer rural areas and beautiful landscapes. 

At times when we were separated, our hosts got concerned and asked us to close the curtains on the busses and make sure that the women had their heads covered.
As we passed through towns on the way north, we were met by crowds of members of Imran Khans party.  The convoy stopped at several of these towns and held anti-drone rallies.  Because we were not up front near Imran Khan in the convoy, we did not hear or participate in these rallies, but the crowds remained, knowing that our busses would pass by them.  When we did pass them, they cheered and flashed peace signs.

We reached our destination for the night very late, around midnight.  We stayed in the compound of a big farm about 10 km (around 6 miles) from the border with Waziristan.  Outside and inside the compound were crowds of people spending the night, getting ready for the trip across the border.  As we walked from our busses into the compound, we were treated like heroes.  People shouted welcome and peace.  Everyone wanted to take a picture with us.  We were fed a meal at midnight and held a meeting.  Some were concerned that the security that we were supposed to have on our ride north never materialized and wanted to make sure that it was rectified in the morning.

That night we learned that the military had blocked the roads into Waziristan with big storage containers and would not let us cross the border.  They said that this was for our own safety.  Imran Khan was determined to make an effort to cross the border despite the containers.  In the morning he met with our group and leaders of his party, and our hosts encouraged us not to go with him the extra 6 miles to the border.  If we were stopped by the containers, they understood that it would be difficult to turn all the cars in the large caravan around, and there would be a massive traffic jam. 
In this situation our safety might be of concern.  Instead, before leaving they organized a big rally at the compound where Imran and Medea spoke to cheering crowds shouting “Welcome,” “Peace,” and “Stop, stop, stop drones attacks.”  This rally was held on October 7, the 11th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan as demonstrations were taking place in the U. S. and other parts of the world.

It was understood that the political power of this trip with our delegation had already been achieved, and therefore, the risk was not worth it at this point.  So after the caravan cleared out of the compound heading north, we left and headed south accompanied by a police escort all the way back to Islamabad.

On the way back to Islamabad, we stopped at a rural college that was built by Imran Khan.  This was a college of engineering and computer science he established primarily for those who might otherwise not have access to higher education.  Ninety percent of those attending are there on scholarship.    It was meant to be the first of many schools accessible to everyone within a “city of knowledge” envisioned by Imran Khan.  We also were told about a cancer hospital he’d built at which anyone could obtain treatment, whether they could afford it or not. 
After returning to Islamabad, we rested. The next day, Monday, was a slow one.  We did have a follow-up meeting with the Ambassador.  Only six of us, including me, attended this meeting.  We asked him to hear the evidence we had of Pakistani civilian deaths from U.S. drone attacks.  He said he would.  Some people in our group felt the Ambassador opened up to us more on this occasion than is usual.  At times, he asked us to turn off the recording devices so he could say something off the record.  However, he stuck to the line that there were almost no civilian deaths and that if there were, they were anomalies.  I did not have much hope that our talk with the Ambassador would advance our cause at all.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Judy Bello and I separated from the group to spend a day in Karachi with the Aafia folks and another in Lahore with the LPP folks.  When we got off of the plane in Karachi, we were met by a group of people holding a big banner stating, “Welcome to our distinguished guests, Joe Lombardo and Judy Bello.” 

We were taken by car to Aafia’s home to meet her mother and children.  All along the road, we saw banners and wall writing in honor of Aafia Siddiqui.  My favorite sign said, “86 years – bullshit.” 

At one point, there was a truck in the middle of the road surrounded by people and cars.  The truck had speakers on it that were playing a song sung in Urdu.  It was a popular folk song written about Aafia.  Our car fell in behind the sound truck and started a caravan to Aafia’s house.  
As we got closer, the road became packed with people welcoming us, waving, chanting, giving peace signs, and throwing flowers. The major road we were on was taken over by this crowd, and our car went along with them at a slow pace. 

At one point I got out and walked with the crowd.  The police escorted us and smiled and waved at us.  As we got closer to Aafia’s home, her entire street had been plastered with huge pictures of demonstrations held across Pakistan and in other countries demanding her release.  There was one picture of a demonstration in Pakistan that we were told was attended by over a million people.

We held a well-attended press conference at Aafia’s house and met her mother and her son and daughter.  As always, they fed us till we could not look at food anymore.

After meeting the family, we were taken to the University of Karachi, where Judy and I spoke to a lecture hall full of students and answered questions. It was a very good exchange, and they were friendly and happy to see us, but the questions brought home once again how much people hate the U.S. government and don’t understand why it does such terrible things.

After the University meeting, we were taken to meet the Pakistani 1%.  We were brought to an exclusive club on the ocean and sat at a table with the big owners of the textile mills and other industries in the industrial city of Karachi. 
Aafia’s sister, Fowzia, explained that they hoped to get money from these people for their campaign.  These people knew about our delegation and the trip to Waziristan with Imran Khan.  They were very interested in what we had to say, and they too expressed confusion and anger towards the policies of the U.S. government.
On the way back from this meeting, we were taken to a commercial area near the docks.  There we found the sound truck again playing Aafia’s song and a crowd of young men demonstrating for her freedom.  Once again, we were greeted like heroes.  We all got out of the car and marched with the protesters.  We carried lit torches through the streets.

On the last day of our trip, October 10th, we flew to the city of Lahore, near the border with India.  Members of the LPP met us and took us to a hotel, where we rested for a few minutes before we were picked up by Farooq Tariq, one of the LPP leaders.  
We were taken to the Lahore headquarters of the LPP, where we had an informal discussion with a group of members, and then went to a meeting with the Punjab Union of Journalists. 

We were also interviewed by some journalists from U.S. media.  But the meeting had to be cut short because, as the world knows, on this last day of our trip, which had gotten daily headlines in the Pakistani media, a 14 year old girl, Malala Yousufzai, was shot by the Taliban.  Demonstrations against the shooting were quickly organized.  Judy and I attended two of them organized by the LPP and other groups in Lahore.  At the same time, the rest of our group attended a similar demonstration back in Islamabad.

One other incident occurred with our group back in Islamabad while Judy and I were in Lahore.  Lawyers who are members of the LPP organized a meeting for the group at the Bar Association in Islamabad.  There had been some tension among members of the Bar Association, some of it centered around a case that some of the lawyers were defending.  A while ago, the governor of Punjab province came out publically for getting rid of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.  After this, he was shot and killed by a police officer.  The police officer was caught and is now on trial.  Some of the conservative lawyers supported the action of the police officer and are defending him.  These lawyers decided that Americans should not come to the Bar Association and tried to block the group.  There was a verbal confrontation but the backed down and the meeting went on over their objection. 
While we were on our way to Waziristan on October 6th and 7the, there was a meeting held in Lahore with 100 representatives of progressive secular groups from Pakistan and Afghanistan.  There were around 80 people from Pakistan and 20 from Afghanistan at this meeting.  The people from the LPP saw this as a very important meeting, as did I.  They told me that they want to work closely with the U.S. antiwar movement.
The trip to Pakistan was very important, in my opinion, in building the U.S. and Pakistani movement against the drones and the wars.  It showed people in Pakistan that not all Americans are bad.  We got tremendous publicity throughout Pakistan and were even able to break into the U.S. corporate media as well as media around the world.  Drones are now on people’s radar (no pun intended) as never before inside the U.S. and Pakistan.  Our 31 activists can now bring this message of peace and no-drones back to our communities and build a stronger movement.  Code Pink is to be applauded for organizing this trip, and we all need to read Madea Benjamin’s book about drones to further arm ourselves for the struggle ahead.

2012-10-07 "Life in Waziristan, 2012 AD” by Leah Bolger from "Warisacrime.org"
Leah Bolger is President of Veterans For Peace.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)…increased use of anti-anxiety, and anti-depressant drugs…suicide. These are all issues that are plaguing American combat soldiers, and which the American media has reported on widely.
Yesterday the CODEPINK delegation to Pakistan heard directly from the victims of U.S. combat drones. We listened intently to the stories of these men who describe their lives in terms of “Before Drones” and “After Drones,” in much the same way that Americans refer to their lives “since 9/11.”
Imagine having up to 6 drones circling overhead 24 hours a day, making an incessant, constant buzzing sound that never ceases. The sound the drones make creates a deep-seated psychological fear—a sort of emotional torture. The lives of these people have changed completely, their culture and way of life destroyed.
This is a communal society, whose families of 60 to 70 people live in the same compound. The women cook together, the families eat and sleep together. Weddings and funerals are huge gatherings of friends and family—or at least they used to be. Now, “After Drones (AD)” everything has changed. Children aged 5 to 10 no longer go to school. Men are afraid to gather in groups of more than 2 or 3. Weddings, which used to be joyous affairs with music, dancing, and drumming, are now subdued events with only close family members present. And most sadly, since funerals have been the target of drone attacks, they are now small gatherings as well.
Because of cultural norms, the deaths of women are not reported. It is considered offensive to discuss the names, or take photographs of women, yet one stalwart journalist, Noor Beharam, has risked his life repeatedly to try to document the deaths of women and especially children. He believes that 670 women have been killed by drone strikes, and has taken photos of more than 100 children. Their bodies are often unrecognizable as human after the strikes. He showed us one photo of a man holding torn pieces of a woman’s dress that he found in the trees, in an attempt to document his wife’s death.
The Waziris are now raising a generation of children with psychological and emotional scars without an education. The use of Xanax is startling high, and suicide, which is a societal and religious taboo, is shocking. Seventeen Waziris have killed themselves due to the emotional terror of the U.S. drone program. This is something that is unheard of in this culture. Families are becoming displaced and moving to more urban areas in an attempt to avoid popular “strike areas.” The Pakistani Army has moved in and won’t allow them to cross into Afghanistan to visit their relatives there, though the entire region is Pashtun, and part of their cultural and historical heritage.
The U.S. government has created enemies where there were none. We have been told repeatedly about the concept of revenge, which is a dominant social force in Waziristan. The children of this region will remember what we have done to them, and their children, and their children. We have also been told repeatedly that the only way to possibly stop this spiral is to stop the drones. Just stop. These people will not accept monetary compensation even if it were offered, which it isn’t. They don’t want an apology, which they view as insincere. They just want us to stop the drones, so they can return to their “Before Drones” lives.

2012-10-05 "Marching to Waziristan" by Judy Bello from "Upstate Drone Action Reports"
Resistance to Automated Warfare, beginning in our own back yard!

First thing in the morning I’ll board the bus heading for South Waziristan. Thirty five westerners will be heading for Dehr Ismail Khan and on to the border town of Kotkai, including Clive Stafford Smith of the London based organization Reprieve, who started our defending prisoners in Guantanamo, and is now focused on mounting lawsuits for the survivors of drone attacks and the families of those who did not survive and other members of Reprieve; including about 30 members of the colorful American antiwar group, CodePink and their intrepid leader, Medea Benjamin, who organized this mission; including representatives of the Christian Peacekeepers, Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars and the United National Antiwar Coalition in the United States and many others.
Our hosts for this mission are Shahzad Akhbar and the three lovely Maryams (all lawyers) on his staff at the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, a sister organization to Reprieve, conveniently  based in Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan which happens to be located in the north of the country, not for from the rural home of the Pakhtuns.   Besides hosting us, the Foundation for Fundamental Rights invites the injured parties to come to Islamabad and tell their stories, then prepares lawsuits to bring before the high court of Pakistan for them against the Pakistani government and American authorities in Pakistan.   It was the Foundation for Fundamental Rights that sued the American CIA chief in Pakistan some time last year, thereby causing him to make a quick exit from the country.  
Our sponsor or the Delegation is Imran Khan, leader of PTI, the Pakistan Tehreekh-e-Inshaf party, a rightist, leftist, populist party that has a surprising number of women and young people among it’s supporters.  Khan has adopted the anti Drone campaign, and supports ending American military presence in Pakistan and ending American abuses of Pakistani sovereignty as a prelude to true friendship between our countries.   Earlier this evening we went to a rally with PTI Youth.  We gathered with them in a large ‘Super Market’, which is something like a cross between a traditional bazaar and a modern mall, and marched through the streets chanting and singing.   We were shouting “Stop! Stop! Drone Attacks! and singing “We are Maaaarching to Waziristan; Marching to Waziristan”.  Then, “Bandkro! Bandkro! Drone Humlah Bandkro!” and “Jarub, Jarub Waziristan.  Jarub!” (My sincere apologies to Urdu speakers for abusing your language) Nice symmetry in the messages, I thought.
I opened the newspaper when I got home and saw a little back page article saying that the Taliban had denied ever giving permission to Khan for a march into their territory.    It’s a push pull.   Yesterday, Imran Khan gave a big press conference and we got lots of coverage.  Today a little nip of a backlash.  When I first arrived, PTI had a press conference for us to talk about our intention to go to Waziristan with Imran, and the next day there was a front page article stating that the Taliban were determined to block us.  Shahzad said the information was a week old.  Khan’s stance is that we are free people and have a right to travel where we will.   Furthermore, the tribesmen whose land we will travel through have invited us and will treat us as guests.
Wow!  We will be guests of of the Mehsud tribe.   I think a couple of generations of their leadership have been primary targets of Drone strikes.  Yesterday Richard Hoagland, the Charges d’ Affairs of the US Consulate in Islamabad, came to call at our hotel.  He was preceded by a contingent of Pakistani military men bearing weapons, who checked the place out and stationed guards at strategic points before he arrived.  He gave a little talk, inviting us to avail ourselves of embassy services, and then had his security liaison  say a (surprisingly) few words about the dangers of going into the Tribal Areas.   Then we had some Q&A.     I felt that we asked some good questions, but got little in the way of answers.  Others were satisfied with tidbits and hints.
This afternoon, some members of the victims of Drone strikes families came to meet with us, along with one of their tribal leaders Malik Jalal Khan, who spoke for them, and a translator and Noor Behram, the photographer who has taken most of the photos we have of the victims and post attack wreckage in the villages of North Waziristan in Pakistan.    Noor says that he has photographed the bodies of 100 children, and has seen more.  Whenever he hears of an attack he goes to the location immediately, but even so he sometimes arrives too late and the child has already been buried.  Sometimes there is nothing left to photograph.
Malik Jalal Khan is a handsome man with a big turban, a big beard and a twinkle in his eye.  He’s a guy whose cellphone rings during the meeting and his business has precedence.  According to Jalal Khan, women killed in the strikes are often not reported as missing or dead.   Women are part of the private space and their lives and deaths are not appropriate subjects for public discourse.    It’s a cultural context that seems very alien to us, but it is their way of life.  He said that in many cases, the missiles strike while the women are working in a kitchen, just off the main room where men may be meeting and drinking their tea.  He seems to find this detail particularly disturbing;  women murdered while doing housework; women killed while caring for their families.  Is that worse then women killed while sleeping; women killed while having a conversation among themselves?
I always remind people that the compounds we hear about in the news, the compounds that are the most likely targets of drone strikes are actually people’s homes.  Shahzad explains to us that these homes which are compounds, house extended families with as many as 50 or 60 people.   It told him it appears to me that the strikes are in a very small area.   The translator, at this point, became very agitated, and after a lively discussion in Pashto, he asserted that the strike were not confined to a small area, but rather they are everywhere.   Shahzad followed up by pointing out that one person’s small area may not seem so small to another.
In any case, the vision is that the drone strikes are everywhere in their world, and anyone who reads a newspaper anywhere in the world knows that they occur pretty regularly 1 or 2 a week, or perhaps every other week.  Someone asked if the strikes caused people to leave the region.   Jalal Khan said that some do leave, and others just retreat into the mountains when they are feeling unsafe, then return to their lands.   He said that he himself does this at times.  When asked how the constant threat affects their lives, he said that their culture is being undermined because people no longer congregate in large numbers for public functions, weddings, funerals.  Children don’t go to school.  Jirgas are threatened so leaders don’t meet in large groups.
When asked whether he supports terrorists, Jalal Khan said that they don’t go to fight in Afghanistan because the border is no longer open the way it was before the war on terror. He said they lived open and dignified lives then, before they became the target of our wars.   But now they can’t even visit their relatives in towns a few miles away on the other side of the Afghan border.  People have become isolated, anxious and depressed.  According to Shahzad, there are increasing numbers of people taking Zantac and other anti-anxiety drugs to get through the day.
Yesterday we met with Acting Ambassador Richard Hoagland, Charge d’Affairs at the American Embassy in Islamabad.  Ambassador Hoagland came to our hotel to welcome us to Pakistan, and to warn us of the dangers of pushing the boundaries there.  Here are some samples of the following Q&A with Ambassador Hoagland (Based on CodePink Twitters during the meeting, along with some clarifications).
CodePink: Can you provide an estimate of civilian casualties?
A Hoagland: Since July 2008, “in the two figures”.
CodePink: 10-99?
A Hoagland: Can’t answer. There are hardly any, if any at all.
The Ambassador first gives an estimate of civilian casualties due to drones that may be up to 100, a number considerably less than the number that emerged from actual research in the region, and through the work of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights.   He then dismisses even that figure as ‘hardly any, if any at all’.  Since we have seen the photos of 100 dead children and heard the stories of family members of other victims, this response seems not only inaccurate, but calloused.
CodePink:  Is there compensation for drone victims in Pakistan?
A Hoagland: it has to be set up, but it’s not impossible.
CodePink: Is the Pakistani government at highest level complicit in drone strikes?
A Hoagland:  I can’t answer that, ask the Pakistani Government.
The latter is an open question discussed at great length on the street in both Pakistan and the US.  My take is that the drone strikes were far less prevalent during the Musharraf period when the ISI was directly involved in selecting targets.   Since the Obama administration began, the Pakistani military has been excluded from decision making and any official complicity is superficial.  Given the massive rejection of the strikes within large segments of the civilian population of Pakistan, recent public protests against the drone strikes by their government would appear to be sincere, if inexcusably weak.
CodePink: What can we do to stop the drone attacks?
A Hoagland: Maybe bring the issue of drones to the International criminal courts.
Shahzad Akhbar: Unfortunately it’s the Pakistani Government that has to do that.
Shahzad Akhbar: What does Pakistan have to do to get the US to pay attention to how bad the drone program is?
A Hoagland: Address the issue through legal mechanisms.
CodePink: How does the violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty affect diplomacy?
A Hoagland: The government of Pakistan has lodged official protests against US Drone Program.
CodePink:  Is it true the US ambassador signs off on every drone strike.
A Hoagland: Can’t comment
It’s tough to sort this out, but it looks like it is the Pakistani Government’s responsibility to file a complaint, and they have done so.  However, no one is interested.   And drone victims are only the tip of the iceberg in this context.   Hundreds, maybe thousands of Pakistani nationals have been detained by or at the request of US officials during the War on Terror.   There are men sold to the Americans or picked up by accident along the border, who have been incarcerated without charges at Bagram for as many as 10 years. We met their relatives last night.   Apparently they have a process, but the process doesn’t  necessarily lead to any resolution of their status.   Worse, they have been deliberately silenced.  If they talk about the details of their treatment during incarceration, or how they came to be there, they are threatened and punished.
And then there are the men in Guantanamo, and those in Pakistani prisons.  I met with the relatives of some of the latter a couple of days ago.   And there are the ones like Aafia Siddiqui who somehow ended up with more than a life sentence in the US.  An American citizen with a PhD in cognitive neurology and 3 small children, Aafia was snatched from the streets of Islamabad and spent 5 years in Bagram before being extradited to the US.  We’ll never know why this bright, passionate woman was picked up in the first place because, by the time she was accused of an actual crime she had already been in detention under the worst of conditions for 5 years.
And it would be  worth remembering that just as Aafia Siddiqui is an American Citizen, Pakistan is an American ally.  Aafia Siddiqui’s family has been threatened for speaking out just as the families of the Bagram detainees have.   And it appears that the government of Pakistan dare not defy the US hegemon either.  This is how we treat our friends and those who freely choose to join our society.   Jalal Khan said, “Once we were Mujahedin.  Now we are Terrorists.”
CodePink: "Will there be Drone strikes during march?",
Hoagland: “I can assure you with 100% certainty; the march will not be targeted."
Well, that’s a relief.  Too bad all the citizens of Waziristan won’t be under our umbrella.
Today, a busload of CodePinkers went to visit the American Embassy in Islamabad.  They were denied entry.  But tomorrow we are going to Waziristan, to stand under a pristine sky that has been darkened by drones, with a people whose lives have been dismissed in the name of our freedom.   Pakistanis are saying, if we will go, then they have to go.   We all have to go to Waziristan or none of us can be free.

"Fragments of Hellfire Missiles retrieved from the sites of Drone attacks" from "Upstate Drone Action Reports"

(blood is within the circle)