Elections

Sep
29

Talk Nation Radio: An Actually Great Candidate

Tag: Elections, Peace and War, Talk Nation Radio

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-an-actually-great-candidate 

Mike Ferner is a candidate for mayor of Toledo, Ohio.

See http://www.mikeferner.com

Mike Ferner grew up in rural Ohio, working on farms much of his youth.  After 12 years of Catholic education and a head full of John Wayne movies, he enlisted in the Navy right out of high school in 1969.

During three years as a hospital corpsman he nursed hundreds of wounded soldiers returning from Viet Nam, an experience that radicalized him for life starting with his discharge as a conscientious objector.  

Mike has been an independent member of Toledo City Council and a candidate for mayor of his city; an organizer for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); Communications Director for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy and has served as national president of Veterans For Peace.

Just prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, he lived there for a month with a Voices in the Wilderness delegation, returning in 2004 for another two months as an independent journalist and wrote "Inside the Red Zone: A Veteran For Peace Reports from Iraq" (Prager 2006).  His activism includes several arrests for “disturbing the war,” including disrupting a session of Congress. 

His current interest is learning how the Populists organized the largest democratic, mass movement in U.S. history and how to apply that to work he’s doing with Move to Amend.

Total run time: 29:00

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

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Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

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

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

Sep
27

Bernie Sanders Gets a Foreign Policy

Tag: Elections, Peace and War, Political Ideas

After 25,000 people asked, Senator Bernie Sanders added a few words to his presidential campaign website about the 96% of humanity he'd been ignoring.

He did not, as his spoken comments heretofore might have suggested, make this statement entirely or at all about fraud and waste in the military. He did not even mention Saudi Arabia, much less declare that it should "take the lead" or "get its hands dirty" as he had been doing in interviews, even as Saudi Arabia bombs Yemeni families with U.S. cluster bombs. While he mentioned veterans and called them brave, he also did not turn the focus of his statement toward glorification of troops, as he very well might have.

All that to the good, the statement does lack some key ingredients. Should the United States be spending a trillion dollars a year and over half of discretionary spending on militarism? Should it cut that by 50%, increase it by 30%, trim it by 3%? We really can't tell from this statement insisting on the need for major military spending while admitting the harm it does:

"And while there is no question our military must be fully prepared and have the resources it needs to fight international terrorism, it is imperative that we take a hard look at the Pentagon's budget and the priorities it has established. The U.S. military must be equipped to fight today's battles, not those of the last war, much less the Cold War. Our defense budget must represent our national security interests and the needs of our military, not the reelection of members of Congress or the profits of defense contractors. The warning that President Dwight David Eisenhower gave us about the influence of the Military-Industrial Complex in 1961 is truer today than it was then."

That warning, of course, might be interpreted by some as suggesting that investing in preparation for "today's battles" is what produces today's battles.

And which of today's battles would Sanders like to end? Drones are not mentioned. Special forces are not mentioned. Foreign bases are not mentioned. The only hint he gives about future action in Iraq or Syria suggests that he would continue to use the military to make things worse while simultaneously trying other approaches to make things better:

"We live in a dangerous world full of serious threats, perhaps none more so than the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Qaeda. Senator Sanders is committed to keeping America safe, and pursuing those who would do Americans harm. But we cannot combat international terrorism alone. We must work with our allies to root out terrorist funding networks, provide logistical support in the region, disrupt online radicalization, provide humanitarian relief, and support and defend religious freedom. Moreover, we must begin to address the root causes of radicalization, instead of focusing solely on military responses to those who have already become radicalized."

Would he end the U.S. war on Afghanistan?

"Sen. Sanders called on both Presidents Bush and Obama to withdraw U.S. troops as soon as possible and for the people of Afghanistan to take full responsibility for their own security. After visiting Afghanistan, Sen. Sanders spoke-out against the rampant corruption he saw, particularly in regards to elections, security and the banking system."

From that, an American suffering under the delusion that the war had already been ended would be enlightened not at all, and one really can't tell whether Sanders would choose to take any sort of action to end it in reality. Of course, he is a U.S. Senator and is not attempting to cut off the funding.

Sanders' statement is a very mixed bag. He supports the Iran agreement while pushing false claims about "Iran developing nuclear weapons." He criticizes "both sides" in Palestine, but says not one word about cutting off free weaponry or international legal protection for Israel -- or for any other governments. The Pope's call to end the arms trade, which the United States leads, goes unmentioned. He mentions nuclear weapons, but only the nonexistent ones belonging to Iran, not those of the United States or Israel or any other nation. Disarmament is not an agenda item here. And how could it be when he declares, in violation of the U.N. Charter, in his first paragraph that "force must always be an option"?

Sanders offers no details on a shift away from serving as weapons supplier to the world, to serious investment in aid and diplomacy. But he does say this:

"However, after nearly fourteen years of ill-conceived and disastrous military engagements in the Middle East, it is time for a new approach. We must move away from policies that favor unilateral military action and preemptive war, and that make the United States the de facto policeman of the world. Senator Sanders believes that foreign policy is not just deciding how to react to conflict around the world, but also includes redefining America’s role in the increasingly global economy. Along with our allies throughout the world, we should be vigorous in attempting to prevent international conflict, not just responding to problems. For example, the international trade agreements we enter into, and our energy and climate change policies not only have enormous consequences for Americans here at home, but greatly affect our relations with countries around the world. Senator Sanders has the experience, the record and the vision not just to lead on these critically important issues, but to take our country in a very different direction."

Sanders claims, however, absurdly, that he has only supported wars that were a "last resort." He includes among those, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, despite neither having been remotely a last resort. Sanders admits as much, saying, "I supported the use of force to stop the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans." Set aside the fact that it increased the ethnic cleansing and that diplomacy was not really attempted, what he is claiming is a philanthropic mission, not a "last resort." Sanders also says, "And, in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001, I supported the use of force in Afghanistan to hunt down the terrorists who attacked us." Set aside the Taliban's offer to transfer Osama bin Laden to a third country to be tried, what Sanders is describing is hunting and murdering people in a distant land, not a "last resort" -- and also not what he voted for, and Rep. Barbara Lee voted against, which was a blank check for endless war at presidential discretion.

All of this obviously leaves open the possibility of endless global war but suggests a desire not to eagerly seek it out. Also obviously it is far better than Hillary Clinton would say, less than Jill Stein would say ("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."), and a bit different from what Lincoln Chafee would say (the latter actually admits the U.S. wars created ISIS and are making us less safe, says he'd end drone strikes, etc.). And of course the whole lot of them are a distraction from the struggle to reduce and end militarism and prevent wars in 2015, a year with no election in it. Still, it's encouraging that a leading "socialist" candidate for U.S. president finally has a foreign policy, even if it hardly resembles Jeremy Corbyn's.

Sep
12

A Peace Activist Leads the Labour Party

Tag: Elections, Peace and War

I wonder if people in the United States understand what it means that the Labour Party in London now has a peace activist in charge of it. Jeremy Corbyn does not resemble any U.S. politicians. He doesn't favor "only the smart wars" or prefer drone murders to massive invasions. Corbyn opposes wars, and he works to end militarism. He was over here in Washington recently trying to get a Brit freed from Guantanamo. He chairs the Stop the War Coalition, one of the biggest peace organizations in Britain. He meets with foreign peace activists, like me, who can't even enter the same worldview, much less the same room, with any U.S. leaders.

When Corbyn and I both spoke at a peace event in London four years ago, he was introduced by Andrew Murray as working in Parliament with "a pack of war lords." Corbyn agreed: Parliament is made up of war lords and war criminals, he remarked.

Corbyn at that point credited the Stop the War Coalition with having helped to prevent an attack on Iran in recent years, just as I believed the US peace movement deserved credit, and does so again this year.

Corbyn called the idea that more time was needed to finish a job in Afghanistan a "load of tosh." He also pointed out that the two sides fighting in Libya could exchange parts for their rifles, because they both had rifles provided by Britain.

Corbyn doesn't just call war criminals "war criminals." He intends to see them prosecuted, including Tony Blair, whom Corbyn wants to see face charges for the 2003 attack on Iraq, which Corbyn of course opposed.

Corbyn doesn't just oppose militarism rhetorically. He wants to shut it down. He opposes the Trident nuclear boondoggle and intends to withdraw the UK from NATO. What other NATO members might follow the UK's lead?

Corbyn doesn't just express nice sentiments about a distant future without nuclear weapons. He advocates unilateral disarmament by the UK, in compliance with the non-proliferation treaty.

Corbyn doesn't just muse about non-military solutions in Syria but seeks to find them and to prevent military action that makes crises worse. He plans to halt British airstrikes from planes or drones in Syria. He also mentions the uncomfortable topic of "some of our supposed allies in the region" providing weapons and funding to ISIS -- and proposes to cut that off rather than fueling the fire with more weapons and attacks.

Corbyn is even opposed to the steady buildup of hostility toward Russia, and faults NATO for expanding and the West for creating the crisis in Ukraine. He doesn't excuse actual misdeeds by Russia, but faults U.S. and European aggression and hypocrisy.

And, though this may be difficult for Americans to imagine, Corbyn opposes the mass slaughter of Palestinians by Israel.

Hours after being elected leader of the Labour Party, Corbyn spoke on Saturday at a huge pro-refugee rally in Parliament Square, and blamed the refugee crisis on its cause, declaring that he would not support the past policy of rushing about the world launching wars.

Americans have come to believe that politicians who support, promote, tolerate, or fund wars can be "war critics" by proposing various tweaks to the war machine.

Bernie Sanders focuses on money issues, taxing the rich, spending on the poor, but has thus far been permitted to engage in the general practice of speaking only about the 46% of federal discretionary spending that it not military. Nobody has asked him about the 54% that by the calculation of National Priorities Project is military. Nobody has asked him if Eisenhower was right that military spending produces wars. Here are 25,000 people who want to know whether and how much Sanders would want to cut military spending.

Sanders is 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). When he is asked about wars and says Saudi Arabia should pay for and lead them, nobody has followed up by asking whether the wars are themselves good or not or how the theocratic murderous regime in Saudi Arabia which openly seeks to overthrow other governments and is dropping US cluster bombs on Yemen will transform the wars into forces for good. Since when is THAT "socialism"?If you go to Bernie's website and click on ISSUES and search for foreign policy it's just not there. In the United States, candidates for high office are permitted to just be silent on how much they'd cut the military, even within a range of $100 billion. Does Sanders, or do any of the other candidates, favor $45 billion in more free weapons for Israel paid for by the U.S. public whom Sanders usually wants to spare lesser expenses than that? Who knows.

Jeremy Corbyn just won leadership of the Labour Party by promoting socialism at home and abroad. What are we yanks afraid of?

Sep
11

Where are we going and why are we in Hillary's hand basket?

Tag: Elections, Peace and War

Hillary Clinton's favorite "Hitler" these days is Putin, with Assad in close second. Her days of giggling triumphantly over the murder of Gadaffi may be behind her. And one of her favorite ways of demonizing Putin has been denouncing his opposition to gay rights. Yet Hillary, along with Rick Santorum, was a supporter of proposed legislation that might have legalized the recently hyped refusal of a government employee in Kentucky to allow a gay couple to marry. Hillary has long favored bombing places that lack civil liberties, and sponsored legislation to criminalize the burning of a U.S. flag.

Some contradictions in U.S. politics (President Obama allowing Arctic drilling and then visiting the Arctic to lament his own destruction of the earth's climate, for example) appear easily explained by sheer soulless corruption via the simple transfer of dollars. Other contradictions (the eagerness of Hillary and her then-president husband Bill) to launch a war over fictional atrocities in Yugoslavia but not over real ones in Rwanda) require at least a bit more analysis.

Diana Johnstone's forthcoming book, Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton, succeeds in providing an understanding of Hillary Clinton's own worldview like nothing else I've read -- and it does so despite being largely not about Hillary Clinton. Johnstone's book is culture and political criticism at its finest. It's a study of the American neo-liberal, with a particular focus here-and-there on Clinton. I strongly recommend reading it, whatever your level of interest in the "Queen of Chaos" herself, for its illumination of the ideologies underlying U.S. adventurism, exceptionalism, and "responsibility to protect" obsession with identifying believable threats of "genocide" in nations disloyal to Washington or Wall Street.

Johnstone has little interest in "proving" that a woman can be president, a point that she takes to be obvious. "Avoiding World War III is somewhat more urgent," she maintains. Why World War III? Isn't everything well with the world, other than a few evil Muslims trying to kill us all? And wouldn't a woman president help ease tensions?

Johnstone's account of Clinton's record moves from her support of a right-wing military coup in Honduras to her active engagement in facilitating a right-wing military coup in Ukraine. In between, Johnstone looks in-depth at Clinton's backing of her husband's illegal war on Yugoslavia, and the lies she's told about it, which go much deeper than her false claim to have braved sniper fire at an airport. Johnstone also examines the 2011 war on Libya for which she gives Clinton significant blame. (And lest we forget, here's video of Clinton promoting the 2002 authorization for an invasion of Iraq.)

Then there's Clinton's allegiance to the right-wing Israeli government agenda, on exhibit in her speech this week and in Queen of Chaos:

"In July 2014, billionaire Haim Saban declared in a Bloomberg TV interview that he would contribute 'as much as needed' to elect Hillary Clinton in 2016. This is significant because both Saban's fortune and his zeal seem to be inexhaustible. Saban declares proudly that his greatest concern is to protect Israel through strengthening the United States-Israel relationship. 'I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.' . . . Saban showered seven million dollars on the Democratic National Committee, donated five million dollars to Bill Clinton's Presidential Library, and above all, founded his very own think tank, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy within the Brookings Institution, previously considered the most politically neutral of major Washington think tanks. This was accomplished by a record donation to Brookings of thirteen million dollars. . . . As things look now, the 2016 presidential race could be a contest between Haim Saban and Sheldon Adelson. In either case, the winner would be Israel."

Johnstone does a good job of bringing out Clinton's belief in the rightness of all U.S. wars, past and possible. In 2012 Clinton gave a speech in which she claimed that a "small group" was preventing the U.S. from going in and saving Syria from Hitler/Assad, a small group consisting of Iran, Russia, and China:

"She went on to say that: 'we are also increasing our efforts to assist the opposition,' before adding that if we are successful, 'Assad will increase the level of violent response.' At a moment like this, one must ask whether she realizes what she is saying. She is admitting that U.S. military aid to the opposition intended to prevent violence will provoke more violence. If there is indeed a possibility of 'genocide,' which is doubtful, this possibility will be increased by that very assistance to the opposition Hillary is calling for, since it will increase the overall violence."

When asked about bombing Libya on Meet the Press, Clinton said, "Let's be fair here. They didn't attack us, but what they were doing and Gaddafi's history and the potential for the disruption and instability was very much in our interests ... and seen by our European friends and our Arab partners as very vital to their interests.' In short, bombing the hell out of a sovereign country that did us no harm is perfectly okay if we consider it to be in our 'interests,' or in the 'interests' of our 'European friends' and our 'Arab partners.' Not only that, but bombing a country, arming rebels and overthrowing its government is the way to prevent 'disruption' and 'instability.'"

Clinton is open about her view of the world, but would prefer the details remained unknown. She has condemned Edward Snowden's whistleblowing as criminal and even suggested that he should face prosecution under the Espionage Act.

One way of grasping where Clinton is coming from is to examine, in her case, what she herself admits is the major corrupting factor in U.S. elections: money. Who funds her? Here's Johnstone:

"Take a look at the list of Clinton Foundation donors who have contributed millions of dollars, supposedly for charity – the sort of charity that begins at home. These are philanthropists who give in order to get. Eight digit donors include: Saudi Arabia, the pro-Israel Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk, and the Saban family. Pinchuk has pledged millions to a branch of the Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative, for a program to train future Ukrainian leaders according to 'European values.' Seven digit donors include: Kuwait, Exxon Mobil, 'Friends of Saudi Arabia,' James Murdoch, Qatar, Boeing, Dow, Goldman Sachs, Wal-Mart and the United Arab Emirates. Cheapskates paying their dues to the Clintons with contributions above only half a million include: the Bank of America, Chevron, Monsanto, Citigroup and the inevitable Soros Foundation."

For an example of how Clinton does the bidding of her funders, look at the case of Boeing, examined by the Washington Post.

Does this help explain why Republicans on Wall Street are backing her?

Here's a list of horrible governments to which Hillary supported transferring weaponry once they had donated to her foundations.

Can you get more corrupt that that? Hillary Clinton can. Here's a collection of examples how.

For a deeper understanding of where candidates like Hillary Clinton, her husband, the three Bushes, Obama, and others come from, I also strongly recommend another forthcoming book called Wall Street's Think Tank: The Council on Foreign Relations and the Empire of Neoliberal Geopolitics, 1976-2014, by Laurence Shoup, who co-authored the 1977 book, Imperial Brain Trust: The Council on Foreign Relations and United States Foreign Policy.

The CFR, according to Shoup, is the world's most powerful private organization. It has about 5,000 individual members and 170 corporate members, a staff of 330, a budget of $60 million, and assets of $492 million. It began at the end of World War I and included both wings of the wealth-and-war party, dedicated to spreading U.S. dominance and influence around the globe for the good of the heathen.

Madeleine Albright brought Bill Clinton into the CFR in the 1980s, and the contacts he made there, in Shoup's view, brought him the media, funding, and insider advisers that made him president, not to mention his post-presidential fortune. Co-Chair of CFR Robert Rubin led Clinton's National Economic Council and his push for NAFTA before being made Secretary of the Treasury and pushing the repeal of Glass-Steagall before moving on to the board of Citigroup -- listed as a major Clinton-foundation funder above. Fifteen of Bill Clinton's top 17 foreign policy officials were, like him, CFR members, five of whom had been or would soon be directors. Daughter Chelsea Clinton became a CFR member in 2013.

What's wrong with CFR broadcasting its views on National Public Radio and holding its elitist meetings with movers and shakers? You might as well ask what's wrong with U.S. foreign policy, because the policy of the past decades has in fact been largely the policy desired, proposed, and enacted by the CFR and its members. And it is not what the U.S. public has wanted.

In 2013, a Pew-CFR effort polled CFR members and the general public. Among the public, 81% wanted protecting U.S. jobs to be a priority, but only 29% of CFR members did. Among CFR members, 93% favored corporate trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and a much higher percentage than among the general public believed that drone murders make the United States safer. These results line up with the 2014 peer-reviewed study done at Princeton and Northwestern Universities, which found that the United States is not a democracy, but an "oligarchy," that the demands of the wealthy are met by the government, whereas the desires of everyone else are ignored.

Changing that will require a nonviolent revolution, not a particular outcome from an almost completely corrupted electoral (and communications) system. But with the current corporate media behaving as if we need to know something more about Hillary Clinton before rejecting her, let me just say this to the infinitely annoying plague-like medium known as the email: My Dear emails, you little maggots eating away the minutes of my day, if your scandal rids us of the risk of installing Hillary Clinton in the White House, all shall be forgiven.

Aug
14

Corporate Media Crap Coverage of Sanders Is Norm

Tag: Elections

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:  

"Hi David,"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.David"

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."

Aug
14

Could a Plant Win a Presidential Debate?

Tag: Elections, Environment

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?

Aug
07

Finally the right position on war from a Prez candidate

Tag: Elections

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."

Aug
06

Bernie Talks Militarism But Says Nothing New

Tag: Elections, Peace and War

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.

Aug
04

Why Won't Bernie Talk About War?

Tag: Elections, Peace and War

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

We will!

Add your own comment.

Jul
22

Panem et Presidential Elections

Tag: Elections

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.

World Beyond War

RootsAction.org

War Is A Crime

Talk Nation Radio

There Is No Way To Peace

Peace is the way.

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