Political Ideas

Feb
12

Is This An Uprising?

Tag: Political Ideas

The new book This Is An Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century by Mark Engler and Paul Engler is a terrific survey of direct action strategies, bringing out many of the strengths and weaknesses of activist efforts to effect major change in the United States and around the world since well before the twenty-first century. It should be taught in every level of our schools.

This book makes the case that disruptive mass movements are responsible for more positive social change than is the ordinary legislative "endgame" that follows. The authors examine the problem of well-meaning activist institutions becoming too well established and shying away from the most effective tools available. Picking apart an ideological dispute between institution-building campaigns of slow progress and unpredictable, immeasurable mass protest, the Englers find value in both and advocate for a hybrid approach exemplified by Otpor, the movement that overthrew Milosevic.

When I worked for ACORN, I saw our members achieve numerous substantive victories, but I also saw the tide moving against them. City legislation was overturned at the state level. Federal legislation was blocked by war madness, financial corruption, and a broken communications system. Leaving ACORN, as I did, to work for the doomed presidential campaign of Dennis Kucinich might look like a reckless, non-strategic choice -- and maybe it was. But bringing prominence to one of the very few voices in Congress saying what was needed on numerous issues has a value that may be impossible to measure with precision, yet some have been able to quantify.

This Is An Uprising looks at a number of activist efforts that may at first have appeared defeats and were not. I've listed previously some examples of efforts that people thought were failures for many years. The Englers' examples involve more rapid revelation of success, for those willing and able to see it. Gandhi's salt march produced little in the way of solid commitments from the British. Martin Luther King's campaign in Birmingham failed to win its demands from the city. But the salt march had an international impact, and the Birmingham campaign a national impact far greater than the immediate results. Both inspired widespread activism, changed many minds, and won concrete policy changes well beyond the immediate demands. The Occupy movement didn't last in the spaces occupied, but it altered public discourse, inspired huge amounts of activism, and won many concrete changes. Dramatic mass action has a power that legislation or one-on-one communication does not. I made a similar case recently in arguing against the idea that peace rallies fail where counter-recruitment succeeds.

The authors point to disruption, sacrifice, and escalation as key components of a successful momentum-building action, while readily admitting that not everything can be predicted. A plan of escalated disruption that involves sympathetic sacrifice by nonviolent actors, if adjusted as circumstances call for, has a chance. Occupy could have been Athens, instead of Birmingham or Selma, if the New York police had known how to control themselves. Or perhaps it was the skill of the Occupy organizers that provoked the police. In any case, it was the brutality of the police, and the willingness of the media to cover it, that produced Occupy. The authors note Occupy's many ongoing victories but also that it shrank when its public places were taken away. In fact, even as Occupiers continued to hold public space in numerous towns, its announced death in the media was accepted by those still engaged in it, and they gave up their occupations quite obediently. The momentum was gone.

An action that gains momentum, as Occupy did, taps into the energy of many people who, as the Englers write, are newly outraged by what they learn about injustice. It also, I think, taps into the energy of many people long outraged and waiting for a chance to act. When I helped organize "Camp Democracy" in Washington, D.C., in 2006, we were a bunch of radicals ready to occupy D.C. for peace and justice, but we were thinking like organizations with major resources. We were thinking about rallies with crowds bussed in by labor unions. So, we planned a wonderful lineup of speakers, arranged permits and tents, and brought together a tiny crowd of those already in agreement. We did a few disruptive actions, but that wasn't the focus. It should have been. We should have disrupted business as usual in a way carefully designed to make the cause sympathetic rather than resented or feared.

When many of us planned an occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., in 2011 we had somewhat bigger plans for disruption, sacrifice, and escalation, but in the days just before we set up camp, those New York police put Occupy in the news at a 1,000-year flood level. An occupy camp appeared nearby us in D.C., and when we marched through the streets, people joined us, because of what they'd seen from New York on their televisions. I'd never witnessed that before. A lot of the actions we engaged in were disruptive, but we may have had too much of a focus on the occupation. We celebrated the police backing down on efforts to remove us. But we needed a way to escalate.

We also, I think, refused to accept that where the public sympathy had been created was for victims of Wall Street. Our original plan had involved what we saw as an appropriately large focus on war, in fact on the interlocking evils that King identified as militarism, racism, and extreme materialism. The dumbest action I was part of was probably our attempt to protest a pro-war exhibit at the Air and Space Museum. It was dumb because I sent people straight into pepper spray and should have scouted ahead to avoid that. But it was also dumb because even relatively progressive people were, in that moment, unable to hear the idea of opposing war, much less opposing the glorification of militarism by museums. They couldn't even hear the idea of opposing the "puppets" in Congress. One had to take on the puppet masters to be understood at all, and the puppet masters were the banks. "You switched from banks to the Smithsonian!?" In fact, we'd never focused on banks, but explanations weren't going to work. What was needed was to accept the moment.

What made that moment still looks, in large part, like luck. But unless smart strategic efforts are made to create such moments, they don't happen on their own. I'm not sure we can announce on day 1 of anything "This is an uprising!" but we can at least continually ask ourselves "Is this an uprising?" and keep ourselves aimed toward that goal.

This book's subtitle is "How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century." But nonviolent revolt as opposed to what? Virtually nobody is proposing violent revolt in the United States. Mostly this book is proposing nonviolent revolt rather than nonviolent compliance with the existing system, nonviolent tweaking of it within its own rules. But cases are also examined of nonviolent overthrows of dictators in various countries. The principles of success seem to be identical regardless of the type of government a group is up against.

But there is, of course, advocacy for violence in the United States -- advocacy so enormous that no one can see it. I've been teaching a course on war abolition, and the most intractable argument for the massive U.S. investment in violence is "What if we have to defend ourselves from a genocidal invasion?"

So it would have been nice had the authors of This Is An Uprising addressed the question of violent invasions. If we were to remove from our culture the fear of the "genocidal invasion," we could remove from our society trillion-dollar-a-year militarism, and with it the primary promotion of the idea that violence can succeed. The Englers note the damage that straying into violence does to nonviolent movements. Such straying would end in a culture that ceased believing violence can succeed.

I have a hard time getting students to go into much detail about their feared "genocidal invasion," or to name examples of such invasions. In part this may be because I preemptively go into great length about how World War II might have been avoided, what a radically different world from today's it occurred in, and how successful nonviolent actions were against the Nazis when attempted. Because, of course, "genocidal invasion" is mostly just a fancy phrase for "Hitler." I asked one student to name some genocidal invasions not engaged in or contributed to by either the U.S. military or Hitler. I reasoned that genocidal invasions produced by the U.S. military couldn't fairly be used to justify the U.S. military's existence.

I tried to produce my own list. Erica Chenoweth cites the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, where armed resistance failed for years but nonviolent resistance succeeded. A Syrian invasion of Lebanon was ended by nonviolence in 2005. Israel's genocidal invasions of Palestinian lands, while fueled by U.S. weapons, have been resisted more successfully thus far by nonviolence than violence. Going back in time, we could look at the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia 1968 or the German invasion of the Ruhr in 1923. But most of these, I was told, are not proper genocidal invasions. Well, what are?

My student gave me this list: "The Great Sioux War of 1868, The Holocaust, Israel's genocidal invasions of Palestinian lands." I objected that one was U.S.-armed in recent years, one was Hitler, and one was many many years ago. He then produced the alleged example of Bosnia. Why not the even more common case of Rwanda, I don't know. But neither was an invasion exactly. Both were completely avoidable horrors, one used as an excuse for war, one allowed to continue for the purpose of a desired regime change.

This is the book that I think we still need, the book that asks what works best when your nation is invaded. How can the people of Okinawa remove the U.S. bases? Why couldn't the people of the Philippines keep them out after they did remove them? What would it take for the people of the United States to remove from their minds the fear of "genocidal invasion" that dumps their resources into war preparations that produce war after war, risking nuclear apocalypse?

Do we dare tell the Iraqis they must not fight back while our bombs are falling? Well, no, because we ought to be engaged 24-7 in trying to stop the bombing. But the supposed impossibility of advising Iraqis of a more strategic response than fighting back, oddly enough, constitutes a central defense of the policy of building more and more bombs with which to bomb the Iraqis. That has to be ended.

For that we'll need a This Is An Uprising that objects to U.S. empire.

Jan
27

Did Oregon Militants At Least Save the Constitution?

Tag: Political Ideas

The Oregon tragi-comedy has left one dead, one injured, six arrested, some guys in Michigan trying to fix a water system with their guns, and millions of Americans deprived of intelligent television content for weeks.

I know that people outside the Occupy movement, in particular those employed by CNN, had a hard time telling what we wanted, but I myself have had a hard time telling what the Nevadans and others in Oregon wanted.

They demanded justice on behalf of people who said they'd never wanted the help. They demanded a small government willing to do them big favors. They wanted a fight to the death but didn't want to hurt anyone.

Really, the clearest answer was that they wanted to save the Constitution.

But how? Which bit? From whom? When we in Occupy demanded taxation of billionaires and cuts to the military, the CNN employees grabbed their heads and moaned in pain, insisting that we must settle on One Single Demand or their brains would explode.

Well, the Constitution has seven articles and twenty-seven amendments. That's way too many for an effective peaceful gun battle.

And the Constitution creates a big, distant, tax-raising government. Why wouldn't these guys get into shoot-outs for the Articles of Confederation? Weren't those more to their taste and only slightly more ancient and irrelevant than the Constitution?

No, they insisted that it was always the Constitution for which they were suffering along on donated snacks and anger. But which part? Surely not the First Amendment and its silly right to peaceably assemble.

The Second Amendment? But if you've been permitted to own piles of guns, can you really propose to get into a fight with those guns over your demand to be allowed to have those guns -- much less to have them for a well-regulated militia? Well-regulated militias remember to bring snacks.

The Third Amendment? No. It's a bit too awkward to take over buildings without the consent of the owner in order to Youtube to the death for the right never to have fighters move into anywhere without the consent of the owner.

And they didn't name any of these amendments. They named the Constitution.

Why? Here's an ancient and anti-democratic document produced by an elitist federal government that had redirected popular anger toward a foreign country. It condoned slavery and facilitated genocide and conquest through expansion to the west. As a contemporary document in 2016 it's an embarrassing vestige from a long-gone epoch. It provides no environmental protections, and no human protections -- no rights to any basic necessities of life.

But maybe that's part of the attraction. The Constitution may have been a step toward bigger government, but it was created in an age of much smaller government, of great resistance to any standing army, of no income taxes, of no draft, of no department of education, of no social safety net even on the miserable level of the 21st century United States.

The Constitution created a rather unrepresentative legislature, with a weak executive. It's been made almost completely unrepresentative, while its executive has been made virtually a king, and its Supreme Court has been given the power to rewrite the Constitution as it sees fit. 

The U.S. government and the U.S. nation bear little similarity to the U.S. Constitution or the land in which it was written. And the U.S. government of today is Kafkan in its frustrating coldness, incompetence, and almost complete corruption. Isn't that what it comes down to? The government taxes you, gives you almost nothing in return, and then spends all your money teaching you by example that the way to solve problems is to act tough, take a stand, move into a new territory and declare "mission accomplished" -- no need to really have a thought-out plan, just have lots and lots of weaponry and everything will be fine. The locals will welcome you as liberators.

Maybe the late militia should have called itself the Unknown Unknowns.

Jan
26

Talk Nation Radio: Bill Fletcher Jr. on Justice for the People of Western Sahara

  https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-bill-fletcher-jr-on-justice-for-the-people-of-western-sahara

Bill Fletcher Jr. has worked for several labor unions in addition to serving as a senior staffperson in the national AFL-CIO. Fletcher is the former president of TransAfrica Forum; a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies; an editorial board member of BlackCommentator.com; and in the leadership of several other projects. Fletcher is the co-author (with Peter Agard) of “The Indispensable Ally: Black Workers and the Formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, 1934-1941”; the co-author (with Dr. Fernando Gapasin) of “Solidarity Divided: The crisis in organized labor and a new path toward social justice“; and the author of “‘They’re Bankrupting Us’ – And Twenty other myths about unions.” Fletcher is a syndicated columnist and a regular media commentator on television, radio and the Web. You can find him at billfletcherjr.com

He wrote the article Obama Morocco and Saharawi Self-Determination.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.Producer: David Swanson.Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Jan
25

How the Supreme Court Could Legalize Direct Bribery: An Innocent Behind Bars, A Guilty Man Free

Tag: Political Ideas

By David Swanson, Telesur

A recent bribery conviction may lead to the U.S. Supreme Court further corrupting the U.S. political system.

How does one even get convicted of bribery in a system that has legalized it to the extent that ours has? Look at Congress members' and other federal office holders' actions and their sources of funding. There is debate only over whether they are bribed to act or rewarded for having acted, but the correlation between action and funding is undisputed, and the sources of funding unrestricted. A headline like "Clinton Foundation Donors Got Weapons Deals From Hillary Clinton's State Department" raises a few eyebrows but no indictments.

The correlation is even more strongly documented between funding and gaining access to Congress members, and the general trend so clear that an academic study has identified the U.S. form of government as an oligarchy. Many political observers now think of elections as a corrupting influence, which no doubt fuels a taste for pseudo-solutions like term limits and billionaire politicians who don't have to sell out.

And yet, two U.S. state governors have recently been convicted of taking bribes: Alabama's Don Siegelman and Virginia's Bob McDonnell. Siegelman has been in prison for over four years though he was targeted by politically motivated prosecutors and was never accused of any personal gain. McDonnell was bribed with a Rolex watch, plane tickets, dinners, trips, loans, catering, golf bags, and i-phones, and, according to his successful prosecutors took official actions in his capacity as governor to benefit the person bribing him within minutes of receiving various loot. The U.S. Supreme Court has kept McDonnell and his wife (also convicted) out of prison as it considers his case. A bipartisan collection of 113 current and former state Attorneys General urged the Supreme Court to correct the injustice to Siegelman, and it declined to consider it.

The U.S. Supreme Court was uninterested in a bribery case like Siegelman's that involved no bribery. What's frightening is its interest in a case like McDonnell's. His lawyers will argue that while he and his wife clearly benefitted, he didn't know everything his wife had promised in return for the bribes, nor did he agree to it, nor did he deliver on it. There is clearly the potential that the new standard in U.S. politics going forward will be that you can give luxury toys and personal bribes directly to an office holder, as long as he or she fails to deliver the public policy you asked for, or as long as he or she doesn't try very hard to deliver it.

Such a standard would open the door to direct bribery of politicians in a new way not achieved by Citizens United and related rulings that facilitate bribery through campaigns and PACs and foundations. As long as the two parties are discreet, who will be able to prove that the favor your politician did your corporation was actually in response to the Mercedes you gave him?

If you imagine the Supreme Court's interest is in correcting injustice, as opposed to expanding the legalization of bribery, have another look at the Don Siegelman case. Siegelman was by far the most successful Democratic politician in an overwhelmingly Republican government in Alabama. When he won reelection as governor in 2002, the election result was reversed after Republican officials in a single county waited until the Democratic officials had gone home, then recounted the votes and determined that there had been an error. Despite Democrats' objections of impropriety and pointing out that the voters whose votes were switched away from Siegelman didn't -- as one would have expected -- have their votes similarly "corrected" in other races, the Republican Attorney General of Alabama upheld the result and forbid any manual recount to verify it.

Republican lawyer Jill Simpson describes "a five-year secret campaign to ruin the governor," during which Karl Rove, President George W. Bush's senior political advisor, asked her to "try to catch Siegelman cheating on his wife." Rove associate Bill Canary, she says, told her that his wife Leura and friend Alice Martin, both federal prosecutors, would "take care of" Siegelman. When Siegelman began running to win his office back two years after losing it, the U.S. Justice Department took him to trial alleging a Medicaid scam, but the judge listened to the opening argument and then threw out the case as worthless.

The "Justice" Department kept trying, and finally got Siegelman on bribery. His offense? He was not alleged to have pocketed a dime or to have received any support through any foundation or committee. Rather, he re-appointed a man to a board who had been appointed to the same position by the previous three governors, a man who made contributions to a state lottery to pay for college scholarships for poor kids. Yes, Siegelman's idea to help poor people with a lottery seems to have missed the fact that lotteries are taxes on poor people. But does that make him guilty of bribery or justify prosecutors targeting him?

The star witness in the Siegelman case claimed that Siegelman met with this man and emerged from the meeting with a check in hand talking openly about the quid pro quo. In reality, the check was written days after that meeting, and the star witness was facing 10 years in prison and had cut a deal with the prosecutors to reduce his sentence.

A U.S. House Committee investigated the Siegelman case and asked Karl Rove to testify. He declined. And the committee declined to hold him in contempt or to use inherent contempt. He was simply allowed to refuse. Now Siegelman's son, attorney Joseph Siegelman, has filed suit seeking documents from the U.S. government. I asked him what he hopes to find.

"Every stone that gets overturned ends up showing something negative," he said. As an example he pointed to the Justice Department's description of an email from a prosecutor of Siegelman to the campaign manager of his main Republican opponent, a description of an email that didn't become public until years after Siegelman's trial. "We don't know what else they have to hide," said Joseph Siegelman.

I asked Joseph Siegelman about the Supreme Court's decision to hear McDonnell's case and not his father's, and he exclaimed, "How can our system of justice be so skewed?"

The worst of it may be that a ruling in favor of McDonnell and the inherent right to accept Rolexes from lobbyists could leave Siegelman sitting in prison. He never accepted any Rolex. And he did re-appoint that healthcare professional to that healthcare board.

Should the Supreme Court further legalize bribery, the people of the United States should send Benjamin Franklin a note informing him that we were not able to keep a republic after all. Or they should rise up and compel the Congress, or compel the states to go around the Congress in amending the Constitution, to end all forms of bribery, ban all private election spending, create free and equal media air time on our air waves for all qualified candidates, provide public financing for campaigns, and for godsake free Don Siegelman.

Jan
14

The Actual State of the Union, or FDR's Four Freedoms Become Obama's Four Questions

Tag: Political Ideas

Originally published by Telesur

President Barack Obama used his final State of the Union speech to claim that "America is leading the fight against climate change," while in reality the United States is far and away the worst offender, per capita, in the ongoing mad race to render the earth's climate uninhabitable. We "cut our imports of foreign oil," Obama brags, as if earth cares what flag its pollution belches into the air under. "Gas under two bucks a gallon ain't bad," said the President, wildly missing the mark. Yes, it is bad, if you're trying to preserve a livable planet, not just win cheap applause.

"I'm going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources," said the president. He made no mention of changing the way the U.S. government hands out subsidies to those industries.

The state of U.S. militarism also took a leap into an alternate reality. The President openly (if understatedly) bragged: "We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined." He was open about the global chess board he's playing on: "Russia is pouring resources to prop up Ukraine and Syria — states they see slipping away from their orbit." And, somehow, "surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead — they call us." They do? All people of the world? It's just two years since a Gallup poll found the United States widely viewed around the world as the greatest threat to peace. When Russia and China vetoed war on Syria, much of the world wondered why they couldn't have tried to save Libya.

The President claimed that U.S.-created Middle Eastern disasters he helped to exacerbate are "conflicts that date back millennia." He also proposed -- no joke -- "winning" in "destroying" ISIS this year. Hmm. About closing that prison in Guantanamo and ending those wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ... ? After years of taking credit for "ending" the war on Afghanistan, Obama has switched to not mentioning it.

Also gone missing: the U.S. Constitution. "With or without Congressional action, ISIL will learn the same lessons," said this former "Constitutional law professor," promising presidential war regardless of Congressional action. On Syria, Obama euphemized, "we’re partnering with local forces." Is that what you call them now? He also opposed "calls to carpet bomb civilians" after he led the dropping of over 20,000 bombs on mostly Muslim countries just in the past year.

The supreme value in this speech, as in the presidential debates it mocked, was revenge: "When you come after Americans, we go after you. ... [W]e have long memories, and our reach has no limit."

Remember Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Four Freedoms? Speech, worship, want, and fear? Obama has now proposed Four Questions. I'm paraphrasing:

1. How do you make a fair economy? (well not by bailing out the bankers and then coming out against them in a speech 7 years too late).

2. How do you make technology work, including on climate change? (what if the solution to climate change involves less technology? what if blaming technology and globalism for a bad economy overlooks the long-forgotten promises of the Employee Free Choice Act and the prize-winning marketing campaign of Obama 2008?)

3. How do you keep America safe and lead the world but not be the world's policeman? (Has the world asked for a leader? Why isn't cooperation an option?)

4. Can our politics reflect what's best in us? (Whatever.)

After seven years of worsening climate, ocean, plutocracy, wars, blowback, surveillance, retribution for whistleblowers, secrecy, presidential power abuses, and drone murders, this is what you've got for us, Mr. President?

The lesson I take away is this: Pay little attention to 2016 campaign promises. Pay great attention to mobilizing the public pressure that has been missing for seven years.

Jan
12

A Homeland Is a Country That Allows Domestic Use of Military

Tag: Peace and War, Political Ideas

Have you seen Dahr Jamail's report on U.S. military plans for war games in Washington state? I'm sure some observers imagine that the military is simply looking for a place to engage in safe and responsible and needed practice in hand-to-hand combat against incoming North Korean nuclear missiles, or perhaps to rehearse a humanitarian invasion of Russia to uphold the fundamental international law against Vladimir Putin's existence.

But if you look over the history of domestic use of the U.S. military -- such as by reading the new book Soldiers on the Home Front: The Domestic Role of the American Military -- it's hard not to wonder whether, from the U.S. military's point of view, at least a side benefit of the coming war game isn't rehearsing for the next time citizens in kayaks interfere with a corporation intent on poisoning the earth's climate with fossil fuels.

Soldiers on the Home Front is almost rah-rah enthusiastic in its support for the U.S. military: "Our task here is to celebrate the U.S. military's profound historical and continuing contribution to domestic tranquility, while at the same time ... ." Yet it tells a story of two centuries of the U.S. military and state militias and the National Guard being used to suppress dissent, eliminate labor rights, deny civil liberties, attack Native Americans, and abuse African Americans. Even the well-known restrictions on military use put into law and often ignored -- such as the Posse Comitatus Act -- were aimed at allowing, not preventing, the abuse of African Americans. The story is one of gradually expanding presidential power, both in written law and in practice, with the latter far outpacing the former.

Some of us are grateful to see restraint in the approach to the men occupying a federal facility in Oregon. But we are horrified by the lack of similar restraint in using the military or militarized police against peaceful protesters in U.S. cities. Police departments as we know them simply did not exist when the U.S. Constitution -- virtually unaltered since -- was cobbled together in an age of muskets, slavery, and genocide. Among the developments that concern me far more than the authors of Soldiers on the Home Front:

Numerous drills and practices, and the locking down of Boston, desensitizing people to the presence of the U.S. military on our streets.

Congress members threatened with martial law if they vote against their oligarchs.

The legalization of lawless military imprisonment without charge or trial for U.S. citizens or anyone else.

The legalization of murder by drone or any other technology of U.S. citizens or anyone else, with arguments that apply within the Homeland just as anywhere else, though we've been told all the murders have been abroad.

Nuclear weapons illegally flown across the country and left unguarded.

Mercenaries on the streets of New Orleans after a hurricane.

Northcom given legal power to illegally act within the United States against the people of the United States.

Fusion centers blurring all lines between military and domestic government violence.

Secret and not-so-secret continuity of government plans that could put martial law in place at the decision of a president or in the absence of a president.

The militarization of the Mexican border.

The gruesome history and future of the attack on the Bonus Army, the bombing of West Virginia, Operation Northwoods, tin soldiers and Nixon coming, and Franklin Roosevelt's actual and Donald Trump's possible internment camps.

The authors of Soldiers on the Home Front claim that we must balance all such dangers with the supposed need for a military to address "storms, earthquakes, cyber attacks ..., bioterrorism." Why must we? None of these threats can be best addressed by people trained and armed to kill and destroy. When only such people have funding and numbers and equipment, they can look preferable to nothing. But what if we had an unarmed, nonviolent green energy brigade taking on the protection of the climate, and non-military police ready to enforce laws in crises, a major new Civilian Conservation Corps trained and equipped and funded to provide emergency services, a computer whiz team dedicated to fending off cyber attacks and preventing their ongoing provocation by U.S. government cyber attackers, a publicly funded healthcare system prepared for health emergencies, and a State Department redirected away from weapons marketing and into a new project of building respectful and cooperative relations with the world?

If the United States were to move from militarism to all of the above, the main problem would be what to do with all of the remaining money.

Jan
11

Talk Nation Radio: Cynthia McKinney's Real State of the Union

Tag: Peace and War, Political Ideas, Talk Nation Radio

  https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-cynthia-mckinneys-real-state-of-the-union

Cynthia McKinney has served in the Georgia State Legislature and the United States Congress where she voted against NAFTA, opposed the war on Iraq, and introduced the first resolution for the impeachment of George W. Bush.

She didn't leave Congress until Diebold voting machines flipped votes away from her right in front of voters' eyes.

She has been a Green Party candidate for U.S. President.

She recently completed a PhD in Leadership and Change.

Read her dissertation: “El No Murio, El Se Multiplico!” Hugo Chávez : The Leadership and the Legacy on Race

And her books:

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.Producer: David Swanson.Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Jan
06

Iniquity, the 0.000006%, and Who Pays $300k to Hear Hillary

The United States' 20 wealthiest people (The 0.000006 Percent) now own more wealth than the bottom half of the U.S. population combined, a total of 152 million people in 57 million households. The Forbes 400 now own about as much wealth as the nation's entire African-American population — plus more than a third of the Latino population — combined; more wealth combined than the bottom 61 percent of the U.S. population, an estimated 194 million people or 70 million households.

These stats are from the Middle Ages and also from the Institute for Policy Studies which acknowledges that much wealth is hidden offshore and the reality is likely even worse.

What did those 20 wealthiest, most meritorious people do to deserve such disgusting riches? The group includes four Wal-Mart heirs, three Mars candy heirs, and two Koch brother heirs. They earned their wealth by being born to wealthy parents, just like some who want to work for them, such as Donald Trump. One politician is actually one of them: Michael Bloomberg.

These individuals could fund a total shift to clean energy or end starvation on earth or eradicate diseases. That they choose not to is murderous and shameful. It's not their sacred right. It's not cute. And it's not funny when one of them pretends to give his money away by giving it to himself.

The 0.000006 Percent has a tight grip on the media as well, with Jeff Bezos owning the Washington Post and Amazon, Sheldon Adelson buying newspapers, Mark Zuckerberg owning Facebook, Larry Page and Sergey Brin with Google, Warren Buffet owning whole chains of newspapers, and again Bloomberg with Bloomberg News.

In the first phase of the 2016 Presidential election cycle, according to the New York Times, 158 wealthy donors provided half of all campaign contributions, 138 of them backing Republicans, 20 backing Democrats. No candidate can easily compete without huge amounts of money. And if you get it from small donors, as Bernie Sanders has done the most of, you'll be largely shut out of free media coverage, and belittled in the bit of coverage you're granted. The media coverage, the debate questions, and the topics discussed are determined by the interests of the wealthy in this national oligarchy.

Then there's the corrupt foundation money and speaking fees flowing into the Clinton family from wealthy sources in the U.S. and abroad. While most Americans are unable to sit through a full presidential debate, Wall Street, Big Pharma, and corporate technology interests have shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars supposedly just to hear Hillary or Bill Clinton speak.

According to a new report by Consortium News, Hillary Clinton took in $11.8 million in 51 speaking fees between January 2014 to May 2015. Bill Clinton delivered 53 paid speeches to bring in $13.3 million during that same period. That's over $25 million total, largely if not entirely from wealthy parties with a strong interest in influencing U.S. government policy.

This system of rewarding former politicians is one of the great corrupting forces in Washington, DC, but the revolving door that brings such politicians back into power makes it many times worse.

According to the Washington Post, since 1974 the Clintons have raised at least $3 billion, including at least $69 million just from the employees and PACs of banks, insurance companies, and securities and investment firms.

According to the International Business Times, the Clintons' foundation took in money from foreign nations while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, nations such as Saudi Arabia for which she then waived restrictions on U.S. weapons sales. (Also on that list: Algeria, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar.) I brought this up on a recent television program, and one of the other guests protested that I was not, at that moment, criticizing Donald Trump. But, even if we assume Trump is the worst person on earth, what has he done that is worse than taking a bribe to supply Saudi Arabia with the weapons that have since been used to slaughter children in Yemen? And what does Trump have to do with bribery? He's self-corrupted. He's in the race because of the financial barrier keeping decent people out. But he hasn't been bribed to act like a fascist.

The Wall Street Journal reports that during the same period, Bill Clinton was bringing in big speaking fees from companies, groups, and a foreign government with interests in influencing the U.S. State Department. Eight-digit donors to the Clintons' foundations include Saudi Arabia and Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk. Seven digit donors include: Kuwait, Exxon Mobil, Friends of Saudi Arabia, James Murdoch (son of Rupert), Qatar, Boeing, Dow, Goldman Sachs, Wal-Mart and the United Arab Emirates. Those chipping in at least half a million include Bank of America, Chevron, Monsanto, Citigroup, and the Soros Foundation. And they don't even get a speech!

Sign this petition:We urge the Clintons to clear their corrupted image by donating their $25 million in recent lecture fees to organizations legitimately working for campaign finance reform, Wall Street reform, environmental protection, and peace.

Watch this video.

Dec
15

Talk Nation Radio: Jon Schwarz on Secret Unaccountable Government

Tag: Media, Peace and War, Political Ideas, Talk Nation Radio

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-jon-schwarz-on-secret-unaccountable-government 

Jon Schwarz's new job is with The Intercept. He previously worked for Michael Moore's Dog Eat Dog Films and was Research Producer for Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story. He's contributed to many publications, including The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, Mother Jones and Slate, as well as NPR and “Saturday Night Live.” In 2003 he collected on a $1,000 bet that Iraq would have no weapons of mass destruction. See:https://theintercept.com/staff/jonschwarz

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.Producer: David Swanson.Music by Duke Ellington.

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