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There are now articles about the predictable fluff BS horserace personality lifestyle crap coverage by the corporate media of the Bernie Sanders for president campaign (and articles about the predictable non-coverage of the Jill Stein for president campaign).
I wish it would all go away, as I think having no election would be preferable to holding such a broken one, and I'd limit even an open, free, credible, functioning, publicly-funded, fairly reported election to something under 6 months in duration.
But the Sanders coverage is actually far better, not worse, than I would have predicted. And its awfulness is par for the course, as is perhaps pointed out by this exchange I had recently with a reporter from Politico, who addressed me as Congressman Kucinich's former campaign manager, even though I never was that:
"My name is --------------- and I’m a reporter at Politico. I'm working on a story about the presidential candidates and how they can stay fit and stay on their diets on the campaign trail. I know that Rep. Kucinich was a vegan when he ran for office and I was hoping you could share your experiences on what it was like on the trail for him. As the Iowa fair heats up candidates will be offered lots of fried food and I just wanted to know how candidates are able to stay on diets, and keep fit. I would really appreciate your insight on this. Please feel free to call my cell phone ----------------. My deadline is tomorrow at noon EST."
I wrote back:
"Supporters were more than happy to prepare and provide vegan food, and I think I understand why they were. If Congressman Kucinich had been elected president in 2005, there's a decent chance that this past decade of wars and environmental destruction and advancing plutocracy and increasing violence and hatred would have moved us, instead, in a far better direction, a direction unimaginable to media consumers who -- the day after Kucinich won the most applause in a debate -- were typically told little more than that he was also there and, of course, what he fucking had for dinner. Do you have a serious question? I would be more than happy to answer one.
The reporter replied:
"The story is about how candidates balance using food on campaign stops to portray a certain image while maintains lifestyle and health restrictions. I was looking for someone who had experience managing it, if you're not interested in an interview, no problem, thanks for your time."
I replied again:
"I was press secretary, not campaign manager, and yet I can assure you that Congressman Kucinich -- in what you may find an interesting twist -- didn't use food to create an image of any sort ever. He used food to fuel his health and his energy, and to ethically relate to a world being ravaged by industrial carnivorism. You can imagine that I'm not interested in an interview if it helps you feel better about the fluff you've been assigned to produce, but please understand my sincere interest in any meaningful, non-'lifestyle' discussion of the U.S. presidency, its candidates, and what we so grandiosely mischaracterize as our democratic elections."
I don't mean an infiltrator planted in a nefarious plot to throw an election. I mean a green, soil-rooted, leafy plant.
I've been reading Brilliant Green: The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence by Stefano Mancuso and Alessandra Viola. It is at the very least a suggestive treatise.
Imagine that astronauts discover life on another planet, and that the life discovered there is very different from humans. It doesn't use our sort of language or engage in our sort of thought. Yet it senses the world with many more senses than our pathetic little five. It communicates with others of its type and other types of life on the planet. Its individuals learn quickly through experience and adjust their behavior accordingly, strategizing and planning based on experience. It lives sustainably, adapts, and thrives for periods of time that make the existence of humanity seem momentary.
We might not choose to call that newly discovered life "intelligent" or "thinking." We might puff our chests out proudly, realizing that while we have arrived from afar to study it, it will never study us, at least not in a way we can recognize. But wouldn't much of our pride and excitement come from recognizing the impressive accomplishments and abilities of the novel life forms? Like a prophet outside his hometown, wouldn't those alien life forms become the focus of admiring academic disciplines?
Let's come back to earth for a minute. On the earth, 99.7% of the mass of living beings is plants. All animals and insects are negligible in those terms, and also in terms of survival. If plants vanished, the rest of us would be gone in a week or two. If we vanished, plants would carry on just fine thank you. When I say "we," you can imagine I mean "mammals" or "animals" because during the past several decades Western people have begun to return to believing that animals can feel and think and in other ways be like humans. A century ago non-human animals were thought to have no more awareness than plants or rocks.
If life forms on another planet were mysterious to us because they moved very quickly or very slowly, we would laugh at the Hollywood movies that had always imagined that aliens must move at more or less our speed. Yet, we film plants' movements, make them recognizable by speeding up the film, and go right on supposing that plants don't move.
Plants detect light above the ground and move toward it, and below the ground and move away from it. Plants detect nutrients below the ground and move toward them. Plants detect other plants closely related to themselves and leave them room, or detect unrelated competitors and crowd them out. Plants persuade insects to do their bidding. Plants hunt and dine on insects, mice, and lizards above ground, and worms below. Plants warn other plants of danger by releasing chemical messages.
A plant that closes its leaves up when touched by a hand, though not by wind or rain, if rolled on a cart along a bumpy road, will at first close up with each bump, but quickly learn not to bother, while still continuing to close up if touched by a person or animal.
Plants see light without having eyes. Plants hear sounds as snakes and worms do, by feeling the vibrations -- there's no need for ears. Plants that are played music between 100 and 500 Hz grow larger and produce more and better seeds. Plant roots themselves produce sounds, which conceivably may help explain coordinated movements of numerous roots. Plants sense and produce smells. Plants detect the most minute presence of countless substances in soil, putting any human gourmet chef to shame. And plants reach out and touch rocks they must grow around or fence posts they must climb.
Plants have at least 15 additional senses. They detect gravity, electromagnetic fields, temperature, electric field, pressure, and humidity. They can determine the direction of water and its quantity. They can identify numerous chemicals in soil or air, even at a distance of several meters. Plants can identify insect threats and release substances to attract particular insects that will prey on the undesired ones.
Plants can manipulate insects into assisting them in numerous ways. And if we weren't humans, we could describe the relationship between certain food crops and flowers and other plants, on the one hand, and the humans who care for them on the other, in similar terms of plants manipulating people.
In 2008, the Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology recognized plants as possessing dignity and rights. Also in 2008, the Constitution of Ecuador recognized nature as a whole as possessing "the right to integral respect for its existence and for the maintenance and regeneration of its life cycles, structure, functions and evolutionary processes."
In 2008, the United States endured what at that point amounted to a truly outrageous presidential election circus. That was then. This is now. Imagine that scientists discovered the Fox News Presidential Primary debate. Here, they might observe, are life forms that wish to destroy life, detest the females of their own species, seek out violence for its own sake, reject learned experience through the bestowing of value on ignorance and error in their own right, and generate ill will in an apparent attempt to shorten and worsen their existence. Tell me honestly, would you be more impressed and pleased to stumble upon such a thing or to walk into a garden?
I'm trying to avoid getting sucked into the endless election season, but I'll just note that this is on Jill Stein's website: "Establish a foreign policy based on diplomacy, international law, and human rights. End the wars and drone attacks, cut military spending by at least 50% and close the 700+ foreign military bases that are turning our republic into a bankrupt empire. Stop U.S. support and arms sales to human rights abusers, and lead on global nuclear disarmament."
Yes, I think the election season is a disastrously overlong distraction. If people's interest in it can be used to get them to ask their heroes to lead on important matters -- such as asking Bernie Sanders to rally the Senate for the Iran agreement or against the TPP -- then that's a nice silver lining. If people want to get drunk watching Republicans debate rather than some other poorly conceived tragicomedy on TV, what do I care?
But there's usually little of moving the beloved leader forward on anything, because supporters take on the role of servants, not masters. Criticism equals endorsement of some other leader. Advice equals endorsement of some other leader. And facts are seen through glasses tinted the shade of one's preferred public commander.
RootsAction's petition asking Sanders to talk about the military has nearly 14,000 signatures. It's produced a number of claims that Bernie in fact does talk about the military, and has a great record on it, etc. Following up on each of these claims thus far has led to virtually nothing new. If you go to Bernie's website and click on ISSUES and search for foreign policy or war or peace or overall budget priorities (militarism now actually gets 54% now), you'll be searching forever -- unless he adds something. His "issues" page acts as if 199 nations and 54% of the budget just don't exist.
If Senator Sanders were to add anything about war to his website, judging by his standard response when asked, it would be this:
The military wastes money and its contractors routinely engage in fraud. The Department of Defense should be audited. Some weapons that I won't name should be eliminated. Some cuts that I won't even vaguely estimate should be made. All the wars in the Middle East should continue, but Saudi Arabia should lead the way with the U.S. assisting, because Saudi Arabia has plenty of weapons -- and if Saudi Arabia has murdered lots of its own citizens and countless little babies in Yemen and has the goal of overthrowing a number of governments and slaughtering people of the wrong sect and dominating the area for the ideology of its fanatical dictatorial regime, who cares, better that than the U.S. funding all the wars, and the idea of actually ending any wars should be effectively brushed aside by changing the subject to how unfair it is for Saudi Arabia not to carry more of the militarized man's burden. Oh, and veterans, U.S. veterans, are owed the deepest gratitude imaginable for the generous and beneficial service they have performed by killing so many people in the wars I've voted against and the ones I've voted for alike.
A brilliant and talented friend of mine named Jonathan Tasini is about to publish a book on Sanders' platform on numerous issues. I asked to read an early copy because I had a huge hope that perhaps Sanders had addressed what he's silent on in an interview with Tasini. He's silent on how much he'd cut the military, even within a range of $100 billion. He's silent on alternatives to war. He's usually silent on U.S. subservience to Israel. He's silent on drone murders. He's silent on militarism and military spending driving the wars, the civil liberties losses, the militarization of local police, the militarization of the borders, the nasty attitudes toward immigrants and minorities, etc. He's silent on the public support for two, not one, great sources of revenue: taxing the rich (which he's all over) and cutting the military (which he avoids). I admit that I also had a secret fear that Tasini's book would not mention foreign policy at all.
Well, the book turns out not to include new interviews but just to collect past speeches and remarks and interviews and legislative records, carefully selected to paint the most progressive picture. So, wars Sanders opposed are mentioned. Wars he supported are not. Critiques of wasteful spending are included. Support for wasteful spending when it's in Vermont is not. Etc. I do recommend getting the book as soon as it comes out. No similar book could be produced about any other candidate in the two mega parties. But take it all with a grain of salt. You'll still have no grasp of Sander's basic budgetary platform or approach to diplomacy or foreign aid or international law or demilitarization or transition to peaceful industries -- assuming he develops any approach to some of those things.
And to those who are already telling me that Sanders has to censor his actually wonderful secret desires to move the world from war to peace (and presumably a 12-dimensional chess move by which Saudi Arabia check mates all the warmongers and fossil fuel consumers) -- that he has to keep quiet or he'll have powerful forces against him or he'll be assassinated or he'll lose the election -- I'm going to say what I said when people told me this about Obama: IT'S NEVER WORKED THAT WAY IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD! WHAT ARE YOU SMOKING? We're lucky if candidates keep half the promises they make. Getting them to keep promises they never made but we fantasized has never been done.
I also had hopes for the wonderful and admirable Nicole Sandler's radio show on Thursday. She'd said that Sanders had no reluctance at all to discuss militarism. But of course I didn't expect him to refuse to talk. I expected him to just muddle through the same old same old. And so he did. He talked about cost overruns and waste, fraud, a DoD audit. He said he'd eliminate some weapons (but didn't name a single one). He said he'd make cuts but "I can't tell you exactly how many." Can you tell us roughly how many? He said he wanted "Muslim countries" to help with fighting the wars. Sandler prompted him with his Saudi Arabia thing, and he went off on that, and the host agreed with him.
So the Socialist wants to turn foreign affairs over to a royal theocratic dictatorship, won't say what he'd do to the largest item in the budget even though it's WAR, and he's bravely come out against fraud and waste without naming any instances of it.
And now I have a choice of being satisfied or an ungrateful perfectionist secretly supporting Hillary, even though her record on militarism is worse than that of almost any human alive and her website lists Iran, ISIS, Russia, and China as enemies to be stood up strong against. Oh, forget it. What time do the Republicans come on? Pass the whiskey.
If your local city or town government spent 54% of its funds on an immoral, disastrous, and unpopular project, and your brave, populist, socialist candidate for mayor virtually never acknowledged its existence, would you think something was wrong? Would his admirable positions on numerous smaller projects, and on sources of revenue, ring a little hollow?
Bernie Sanders was asked a while back about the military budget and was essentially accused of wanting to cut it by 50%. Oh no, he replied, I wouldn't do that. He ought to have replied that doing that would leave the United States far and away the world's biggest military spender, and that doing that would take U.S. military spending back to roughly 2001 levels. He ought to have mentioned that the savings of hundreds of billions of dollars could transform the United States and the world for the better, that tens of billions could end starvation and provide clean water worldwide, and end poverty at home, and fund projects like free college, and invest in green energy beyond the wildest dreams of its advocates. He ought to have quoted Eisenhower and pointed out the record of the past 14 years of military spending generating wars rather than preventing them. In other words, he ought to have given the sort of smart response he gives to the questions he's usually asked on the topics he prefers to deal with.
But this was militarism, and militarism is different. Sanders' record is better than that of most presidential candidates, but very mixed. He's gotten into shouting matches with his constituents over his support for Israeli wars fought with billions of dollars of free U.S. weapons. He's supported incredibly wasteful military spending in his state. He opposes some wars, backs others, and glorifies militarism and the "service" that veterans have supposedly provided. While the public would like to fund useful projects and tax cuts for working people by both taxing the rich and slashing the military, Sanders only ever mentions taxing the rich. If he doesn't want to cut the largest item in the budget by 50%, how much does he want to cut it by? Or does he want to increase it? Who knows. His speeches -- at least most of them -- and certainly his campaign website, never acknowledge that wars and militarism exist at all. When people have pressed him during Q&A sections of events, he's proposed auditing the Department of so-called Defense. But what about cutting it? He's proposed addressing veteran suicides. What about creating no more veterans?
At RootsAction.org we've just launched a petition urging Sanders to speak on war and militarism. Thousands have already signed it here. The vote on the Iran deal could come down to 13 Democratic senators, and I haven't heard Sanders whipping his colleagues at all. His eloquence and energy are needed now. Having voted the right way will not look like enough when another war has started.
Thousands of eloquent comments can be read at the petition site. Here are a handful:
"The president is the nation's chief foreign policy architect and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. A presidential candidate, to be credible, must enunciate her or his approach to foreign policy and the use of military power with as much clarity and specificity as she or he devotes to domestic policy. A bird with only one wing cannot soar. Neither can a presidential candidate without a foreign policy." —Michael Eisenscher, Oakland, CA
"Bernie, Militarism is driven by both the American Empire and the military/industrial complex, the huge corporations you correctly speak against. Include militarism in your critique of capitalism. The U.S. is responsible for up to 78% of foreign arms sales; you must denounce this as you denounce banks, and other corporate power." — Joseph Gainza, VT
"Bernie, please speak out for peace. If you do, I'll send you $$." —Carol Wolman, CA
"I loved your speech and enthusiasm in Madison, and was disappointed you said nothing about foreign policy." — Dick Russo, WI
"I am thrilled you are running. I agree with you on most things, but I would like to hear something about the necessity of ending all these endless wars with oversized military budgets, which are part of the economic problem!" — Dorothy Rocklin, MA
"You will have to say something eventually. Do it sooner." — Michael Japack, OH
"He must comment upon the war on Gaza by Israel, which is connected to not only 'the madness of militarism' but also to the racism that the Palestinians and African-Americans face from these two nuclear powers." — Robert Bonazzi, TX
"This needs to be made a major issue in the coming campaign, especially given the situation re: the deal with Iran and efforts by warmongers (especially the Israeli lobby) to scuttle it. That's not the only example that comes to mind, but it's a hot-button issue and it needs to be addressed, not ignored." — James Kenny, NY
"Bernie, You know better, start talking about our endless wars and our ballooning military budget, also take a stand on the Iran deal! Domestic policy and foreign policy go hand in hand." —Eva Havas, RI
"Two wars have been economically disastrous for America. A third war (Iran) could shred the nation's social fabric, as well. Foreign aid, esp. military aid, to countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel, further destabilizes the region and ensures that liberal reforms will never take hold. So, yes, it's important that you speak up, and in no uncertain terms." —Richard Hovey, MI
"The US military is the largest single user of fossil fuels ... so continued WAR endangers the planet in more ways than one! Speak UP!" — Frank Lahorgue, CA
"Please include a denunciation of Israel's continued land grab for settlements and unconscionable treatment of Palestinians in Gaza." —Louise Chegwidden, CA
"Keep pressing Senator Sanders on these vital issues!" —James Bradford, MD
I know you like the elephants and the acrobats, but we really do not have time for this.
The U.S. presidential election is very far away. There's a measurable rise in the ocean, the construction of numerous new military bases, a decision on peace or war with Iran, a push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, intense antagonization of Russia, and more than likely another month-long bombing of Gaza between now and then.
We should be engaged in intense, all-out, creative, nonviolent resistance. We should be reforming or revolutionizing the election process, among much else. Even when elections have not been financed and reported on primarily by a wealthy elite with debates run by two parties, they haven't tended to be the means by which important social change has come.
We need radical change, and the election process isn't even advertising it. One of the chief sources of U.S. election funding, Sheldon Adelson, dismisses the idea of democracy because it's not in the Bible. And of course Adelson is up-to-date compared with some of the people he funds. At least 32 Republicans are running, apparently with a collective IQ that hardly reaches three figures. For them I'd be willing to revive the Confederacy, give it lots of flags, and locate it in the portions of the Southeast expected to fall below the rising ocean (as long as Donald Trump is charged extra for beach properties!).
Of course Jill Stein has great positions, but let's face it, the Democrats are not up to the task. Hillary Clinton has replaced FDR's four freedoms with "the four fights." It turns out she's in favor of families, America, democracy, and economics (who knew?), or at least she wants to fight with them. Oh, and she also wants to fight with Iran, ISIS, China, and Russia -- each of which is apparently somehow harming our "values." Then there's Bernie Sanders who pretends that the 54% of federal discretionary spending that goes to militarism just doesn't exist. Military? What military? Martin O'Malley has the same approach. Lincoln Chafee claims very briefly and vaguely to oppose wars. Jim Webb adds a bit more to his claim to oppose wars, but makes clear that he wants to fund militarism while expecting doing so not to produce more wars. Chafee and Webb are the worst on non-war issues, unless you compare Clinton's and O'Malley's actual records to their stated desires. Sanders is the best on non-war issues but might do little to slow the rush toward bigger and more frequent wars.
A decent candidate with a basic grasp of the problem of war addiction would say something like this, and no Democrat or Republican is anywhere close to saying it:
As president I will work to change U.S. relations with the rest of the world to relations of respect, cooperation, and demilitarization. A Gallup poll at the end of 2013 found the United States widely believed to be the top threat to peace in the world. One reason for that could be that the United States spends far more on militarism than any other nation, engages in more military actions abroad than any other nation, and maintains many times as many foreign military bases as all other nations combined -- all at great human, financial, and environmental cost.
Preparing for wars does not need to be the primary thing we do. In the analysis of the National Priorities Project military spending is 54% of U.S. federal discretionary spending. In 2001, U.S. military spending was $397 billion, from which it soared to a peak of $720 billion in 2010, and is now at $610 billion in 2015. These figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (in constant 2011 dollars) exclude debt payments, veterans costs, and civil defense, which raise the figure to over $1 trillion a year now. We need to return to 2001 levels and reduce from there.
The attacks of September 11, 2001, did not happen because military spending was too low. Thousands of nuclear weapons were of no value against an attack that used box cutters. In fact, the increased spending has been increasing dangers rather than reducing them, as former President Dwight Eisenhower warned it might, and as our experts say it has. Former Directors of National Intelligence Michael Flynn and Dennis Blair have called the drone wars counterproductive, as has an internal CIA report. Michael Boyle, Former Counter-Terrorism Adviser, agrees, as does General James Cartwright, former Vice-Chair, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal. Flynn has said the same of the war on ISIS and the war begun in Iraq in 2003. Former CIA Bin Laden Unit Chief Michael Scheuer says the more the United States fights terrorism, the more it creates terrorism. Statistics seem to bear that out. Numerous other former top officials agree.
The United States is spending at least $100 billion a year on over 800 bases in 70 nations, not counting permanent ongoing trainings and exercises, even though airplanes now allow the U.S. to get troops anywhere in the world without keeping them permanently stationed abroad. We need to close these foreign bases, beginning with the large ones in Germany, Italy, Japan, and South Korea.
As president I will put a stop to the practice of giving free weaponry to Egypt, Israel, and other nations -- which are not benefitted by increased militarism. And I will put a stop to the sale of weaponry to foreign nations, beginning with those guilty of serious human rights abuses.
As president I will abolish the presidential kill list, propose a global treaty banning weaponized drones, cease the practice of launching wars not authorized by Congress or the United Nations, maintain peace with Iran, remove the missile defense systems from Europe that were justified by the idea of a threat from Iran, propose a global treaty banning nuclear weapons, remove the United States from NATO, and initiate a process of democratizing the United Nations.
As president I will propose dramatic increases in investment, using funds withdrawn from military spending, including new investment in foreign aid, green energy, infrastructure, education, housing, tax cuts for the lowest incomes, and payment of debts. I will introduce a program of transition to assist communities and workers deprived of military industry jobs.
As president I will reward whistleblowers, end unconstitutional mass surveillance, forbid the transfer of war weaponry to local police departments, and appoint a Secretary of Peace to advise me and my cabinet on alternatives to war in resolving conflicts.
See if you can spot the mistake in this activist email I received recently:
"In 2001, the Clinton Administration handed George Bush peace, prosperity, and record budget surpluses. Eight years later, Bush handed Barack Obama two disastrous wars and a global economic crash that destroyed over 8 million American jobs. Now that President Obama has finally brought those jobs back - in the face of vicious GOP opposition - Bush's brother Jeb is now blaming American workers for not working hard enough. If you're as outraged as we are, please click here to sign Hillary Clinton's petition telling Jeb Bush that Americans need a raise, not a lecture."
OK, it was a trick; there's more than one mistake. Let's list a few:
Here are things Bill Clinton is now apologizing for: mass incarceration, Wall Street deregulation, the drug war, and corporate trade agreements. Here are a few of the things he should also be apologizing for: destroying welfare, creating media monopolies, expanding NATO toward Russia, creating a precedent for illegal NATO wars without Congressional or UN authorizations, and 500,000 children killed by sanctions in Iraq.
Here are a few little-known facts about President Barack Obama: the war on Afghanistan is more his than Bush's by any measure, he had regularly voted to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a senator, he broke his promised schedule for ending the war on Iraq and never fully ended it and soon revived it, he's supported coups in Honduras and Egypt and Ukraine, he's claimed the power to murder anyone anywhere by drone, he's expanded the military into numerous nations laying the groundwork for future hostilities, and his war on Libya followed the Clinton model of blatant illegality rather than the Bush Jr. approach of at least bothering to lie to Congress and the United Nations.
Another activist group sent me an email this week reading, in part: "The truth is, Republicans don't want diplomacy to work. They want another costly war like the one they started in Iraq in 2003." In reality, a Republican House and a Democratic Senate voted for the war on Iraq in 2002. The same parties hold the same branches now. There's a wise saying that goes something like this: those who convince themselves of a bullshit version of history may be condemned to repeat what actually happened.
Those who study what actually happened may be less shocked to discover how grotesquely corrupt Hillary Clinton is, how murderous, how fervently she promoted that war on Iraq, how very long she has been so disastrous, how she out-hawks almost any hawk, how awful she is for feminism, how brutal she can be, how close she is to Wall Street Republicans and oil barons and Henry Kissinger, how hard it would be to actually elect her, how she used the State Department to market weapons and fracking and pushed weapons on governments she called soft on terrorism while waiving restrictions on sales to brutal governments that donated to her foundation, how she backs mass surveillance, how she believes in representing banks, and how greedy she is.
So long sad times, go long bad times
We are rid of you at last
Howdy gay times, cloudy gray times
You are now a thing of the past
Clinton days are here again
The skies above are clear again
So lets sing a song of cheer again
Clinton days are here again
A reporter asked me what to ask candidates re military. I suggested:
In the analysis of National Priorities Project military spending is 54% of U.S. federal discretionary spending. In 2001, U.S. military spending was $397 billion, from which it soared to a peak of $720 billion in 2010, and is now at $610 billion in 2015. These figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (in constant 2011 dollars) exclude debt payments, veterans costs, and civil defense, which raise the figure to over $1 trillion a year now. Is that too high, too low, or just right?
If it's too high, how much money would you move away from it and where would you move that money to?
Eisenhower said military spending would create pressure for more wars, not fewer. Does he not seem to have been right?
In the analysis of a new book by American University professor David Vine, the United States is spending at least $100 billion a year on over 800 bases in 70 nations, not counting permanent ongoing trainings and exercises, even though airplanes now allow the U.S. to get troops anywhere in the world without keeping them permanently stationed abroad. Does the United States have too many, too few, or just the right number of troops and bases abroad?
Should the United States continue to give billions of dollars in free weapons to Israel, Egypt, and other nations?
Candidate Obama said a president could not launch a war without Congress. President Obama has launched a war in Libya, a war in Iraq/Syria, and a number of drone wars without Congress. Who was right, the candidate or the president?
Does a president have the right to murder people with missiles from drones?
There has been little coverage of U.S. aggression in Ukraine: Bush's withdrawl from the ABM treaty, the past decades of NATO expansion, the $5 billion invested in the coup, and unproven accusations against Russia. What in your view has the United States done wrong? Should the United States propose the global elimination of nuclear weapons? Should NATO be disbanded?
Will your administration continue to defend Israel at the United Nations from any legal consequences for its crimes against Palestinians?
June 28 will mark 6 years since the U.S.-backed military coup in Honduras took the people's government away from them. Thousands of people are still in the streets every week demanding that the wrongful president step down.
"Whoever's not jumping supports the coup!" is the shout as a sea of people leaps repeatedly into the air. The makers of an amazing new film called Resistencia: The Fight for the Aguan Valley, will be allowing anyone to view it online for free for two weeks. I recommend you do so.
Honduras has not simply turned into the worst home of violent crime. And the people have not simply fled to the U.S. border (much compassion they'd receive there!) -- No, thousands and thousands of people in this little nation have taken back their land, occupied it, created communities, and built a future, with or without the coup.
President Manuel Zelaya had said he would help. Oligarchs had seized land, or bought land and then devalued the currency. Miguel Facussé took over palm oil plantations, evicted people from their land, got richer than rich, and allowed cocaine flights from Colombia to land on his plantations with U.S. knowledge.
The U.S. for years had been funding, training, and arming soldiers for the oligarchs of Honduras. The leaders of the 2009 coup that overthrew Zelaya had all trained at the School of the Americas in the United States. The U.S. assisted in the coup and in recognition of the coup government. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were part of and are part of this ongoing crime, and U.S. military supply shipments to Honduras are at record levels now as the military has merged with the police and turned its weaponry against the people.
The coup was followed by phony elections. The people knew to look elsewhere for answers. They looked to themselves. In the Aguan Valley in the north, thousands of families took over thousands of hectares by squatting, building, and farming. And they created communities of such camaraderie that they found themselves saying thanks for the coup.
They faced, and still face, regular attacks by killers on motorcycles, but they have nowhere else to go, and they have made the most of it, creating self-sustaining centers of life in the countryside, replacing palm oil monoculture with farming that cares for the land. The dead in the film are of such a different type from the dead in Hollywood movies, that I wonder if people can really see these dead. I hope so. There is never any police investigation, never any charges brought. The people have lost a lawyer and a journalist as well as numerous of their own; the oligarchs have lost a few guards.
The people have also organized local and national assemblies. The men have learned to include women in positions of power. This popular resistance movement always backed the return of Zelaya, who finally negotiated his return to Honduras in 2011. He returned to a people demanding more democratic participation. He joined their movement and encouraged them to participate in the 2013 elections that they had determined to boycott.
During the meeting in the city at which the decision to participate in the election was made, the police in Aguan burned and bulldozed 90 houses, plus churches, and schools. The tears and the eloquence of the people affected must be watched; I cannot tell them to you.
You should watch the scenes of the people meeting with their ousted president, Zelaya, the rightful president of Honduras, and then watch the scene of President Obama meeting with his usurper in the White House. As Facussé threatens to evict everyone from their land, we see a U.S. State Department official meet with some of the campesinos. They tell him that they are offered land at 14% interest, while the World Bank offers it to the big corporations for 1%. He replies that his only area of work is human rights. So they tell him they have been gassed, imprisoned, tortured, and shot. He replies that he just wants to talk about peace. Or maybe he said "piece" of the action, I don't know.
The people see the United States as working on behalf of Dole, formerly the Standard Fruit Company, the same people for whom the U.S. military has been overthrowing governments since that of Hawaii in 1893. Is there any good reason anyone should ever buy Dole products?
The struggle, and the movie, goes on -- filmed over a period of years. Leaders are forced into exile after murder attempts. The burned and bulldozed buildings are rebuilt. And the November 2013 elections arrive, and are blatantly stolen. Zelaya's wife runs on the people's platform against the "law and order" candidate of the military. Observers from the EU and the OAS declare the election legitimate, but individual members of those commissions denounce that conclusion as corrupt and fraudulent. Students lead the protests, and the protests continue to grow.
And the people in the country go right on taking back more of their land and reclaiming it as a source of life rather than death. These people need no aid. They need simply to be allowed to live. All immigrants should be welcomed everywhere by everyone, with no hesitation. Obama should immediately cease deporting children back to a nation he's helped to ruin. But I think most people would be shocked by how little immigration there would be in the world if the corporations and the killers stopped migrating, and people were allowed to live peacefully and equally in the place they love: their land.
Presidential elections should be limited to as short a time period as possible and are generally the biggest drain and distraction going. I have two excuses for looking into Jeb Bush. One is that I've been collecting the evidence that Hillary cannot be a lesser evil than any living human, and campaigning for No More Bushes or Clintons. The other is that I only read Jeb Bush: Outed because I've long liked the author, Stephen Goldstein.
People such as Molly Ivins and James Moore gave the U.S. lots of warning, from the wisdom of Texans, before the Supreme Court falsified the 2000 election results in what will always be falsely remembered as the American public electing George W. Bush president. Here comes Goldstein from Florida to warn us about Jeb. I don't see any reason why knowing about Jeb should make us take any interest in the election, as Hillary is just as bad. But I still see a problem with not knowing -- when it's all so easily known.
I'm also not sure Jeb won't end up making it all clear on his own. At the moment he's running around praising the U.S. war on Iraq (the last one, not the new one), antagonizing the president of Russia, and proposing public shaming for unwed mothers.
Yet the corporate press is complicit in the baseless idea that Jeb Bush is someone worth paying any attention to at all. It knows it was complicit in George's stolen election in which Jeb was complicit. It knows of the efforts it has gone to over the decades to uphold the acceptability of all the crimes of the brother, the father, the grandfather, and the great grandfather (Walker). The press has a lot invested in the pretense that Jeb Bush matters.
In case it matters to anyone, Goldstein lays out the record from Florida: giant giveaways to corporations and cronies, a pension fund invested in Enron, average wages plummeting, services for the elderly slashed, a drug plan that failed to reach 97.5% of the population, a high-school graduation rate that fell to the worst in the United States, anti-environmentalists appointed to boards, commissions, and judgeships, a mad power-grab rewriting of the state constitution to allow public funding of religion, welfare for Arthur Anderson while it evaded taxes, the opening of religion-run prisons ("I can't think of a better place to reflect on the awesome love of our Lord Jesus," quoth he), a crazed power grab to allow the governor to appoint all judges and the whole state university board of regents, and the repeated, undemocratic, blocking of public decisions expressed through referenda -- including killing public preschool by underfunding it.
One might think the Florida record was of limited value, as the number one thing the federal government does is make war, and Florida merely harbors terrorists who kill Cubans. But in fact Jeb Bush is not just a proven crony-crapitalist which pretty well guarantees wars (just like Hillary), but he was also a signer of the June 1997 Statement of Principles of the Project for the New American Century, along with Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Libby, Cheney, and the rest of the same crowd he still keeps with him. Jeb is not clinging to Dubya's warmongering record out of family loyalty. Jeb was pushing for those policies some 20 years ago and was only not part of his brother's disastrous regime because of the Florida gig and perhaps a bit of family disloyalty or political calculation.
But is anyone really ignorant of this? We're dealing with a Bush, and a Jeb for that matter. We're dealing with a system in which the most servile sycophants before corporate power are praised in the press as the most skilled money raisers, but nobody is entirely fooled and a majority of people ignore the single largest ad campaign of the year (and more) and refuse to vote at all.
Goldstein clearly leans Democratic Party, and his lesser-evil argument against Jeb rests primarily on speculation as to the sort of person he would appoint to the U.S. Supreme Court, combined with speculation about the sort of person a Democrat might appoint. It's a guessing game that cannot alter the fact that either Jeb or Hillary would run the war machine into apocalyptic crises and the natural environment into collapse. Still, as far as deck-chair rearranging goes it's as good a game as any.