Tag Archives: Peace

End the Crisis in Gaza

By David Gibson and Dr. Janet Amighi,
7/20/14

While Israel claims it is under threat, its own actions and policies are actually the driving force of Palestinian resistance.  It is most extreme in Gaza.

Gaza is kept shut off by land, sea and air from the rest of the world and even from their relatives in the West Bank. They cannot export their products or import needed supplies to rebuild after each Israeli incursion or bombing. They are locked in an overcrowded prison with undrinkable water and worse and then condemned as terrorists if they protest.  Gaza is permanently under siege- who can live like that?

Now as Israel attacks, Gazans run terrorized in the streets or cower in their homes with nowhere to flee. (Warning leaflets dropped from the air have no use when there is no place to evacuate to.) They have no shelters, they cannot become refugees. They can’t even get ambulances through to collect the wounded and the many dead. Even on the beach a group of boys are not safe.  They are trapped victims of an unbelievable horror. No one comes to their aid.

What is the cause of this brutal attack?  Israel says it is self-defense, against rockets, against kidnappers, against tunnels.  Palestinian leaders in Gaza say they will not accept a ceasefire until the blockade is lifted, that they will not stop resisting until they can lead tolerable lives.

According to Nathan Thrall writing in the New York Times, the trigger of this most recent Israeli attack against Gaza was the Reconciliation Agreement under which Hamas agreed to turn over leadership of Gaza to President Abbas and his Fattah party and create a unity government.  The West at first supported this move, but Israel resisted and her allies fell into line. Thrall calls it, “Gaza and Israel: The Road to War, Paved by the West, (July 17, 2014).  He claims that Israel is trying to preserve the status quo- keeping control over Palestinian land, water, and lives.

The US is Israeli’s willing ally to the tune of 3 billion dollars a year in military aid, not because it is in our national interest, but because our politicians are afraid to confront right wing actions by the Israeli government.

The United States can help save both Israeli and Palestinian lives by demanding a lasting ceasefire, lifting the blockade on Gaza, ending U.S. military aid to Israel (or at least withholding such aid until a ceasefire begins and lasts for, say six months), hold all sides accountable for human rights violations, and engage with all Palestinian factions (including Hamas).

Peace, Shalom, and Salam to all

Please take action for peace in Palestine and Israel.

Call the White House comment line:

202.456.1111

Demand a ceasefire and suspension of U.S.  weapons and military aid to Israel.

To call your Member of Congress:

US Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121

To locate your Member on-line:
U.S. House of Representatives: www.house.gov
U.S. Senate: www.senate.gov

White House: http://www.whitehouse.gov/

Demand a ceasefire and suspension of U.S. weapons and military aid to Israel.

The Criminalization of Survival

What do we all need to survive? Think about it for a minute… what would YOU need? Food, Water, shelter, transportation, the internet?

Seriously, I was looking for jobs a while back because, as a paid activist, and a single dad, it was getting hard to make the so called ends meet… because paid activism is a poorly paid sector. So I was looking. I was doing my very best to find a job and live up to my responsibilities to take care of my daughter and pay the bills and meet the legal arrangements, rent, utilities, insurance, and that sort of thing, that I had signed on to in less lean times. In times of two paychecks. (A thing of the past for me now. A thing of the past for many.) There never seemed to be enough money to get everything paid. I still made sure my daughter had what she needed to not only survive, but to prosper in today’s world, a basic, working computer, books, clothes, food, some toys, most were second hand or discount or hand-me downs, and the rest were simply cheap. She was in Soccer in her home town, and I was a soccer dad.

I worked over 50 hours or more, most weeks, and spent little on myself for “entertainment”… All my clothes were thrift store purchases. I also would buy used dvd’s at the thrift store, or accept used ones from friends. I took a lot of books out of the local library and went to the movies maybe once every other month. When I had a particularly good week at work, (much of my income was percentage) I might be able to treat myself to a half hour of horseback riding for about $25. But this was a rare luxury.

And I still stressed on a regular basis and tried not to feel guilty every time I read something, or talked with a medical professional, (which was rare as it was the early 2000’s and I could not afford health care, so I went to the free clinic, which often meant waiting to be seen) and I was informed that the kind of food I was eating was not very good for me. I often felt like I was not doing the right things, but it was all I could do with the limited income I had… It was too expensive to shop at the Co-Op, so the Super Market, and at times, the Dollar Store would have to do… Eww!

I most probably could have gotten a job pumping gas, or working for some large retail outlet… but then I would not be able to sleep at night knowing I was contributing to a system that exploits poor people across the planet or does direct damage to the planet’s eco-systems… and they do so thanks to any number of wars we have fought to ensure our “national interests” which is code for business interests which is really all about access to resources in other places where we do not live and have no sovereignty in order to supply the consumer needs that help people live in the aforementioned world of today… at a profit .. but that profit was not for me or any of my friends or family… the few family I had left anyway.

I was skilled enough to run most development departments for your average hospital or university, but lacking a degree, I could never even get my application answered. I had done professional development and direct marketing, in essence, for non-profit activist groups for about 25 years up to that point, so I had the skills.

Oh yeah, and so I was looking for a better paying job and I could not even find a gas station job in the local papers because the classified section was shrinking and had so very little to offer that I was qualified to do.

Most of the jobs were now listed on the internet so, if I did not have time to go to the local library, or did not have a decent internet connection, which cost a bunch more money each month, then I was simply screwed.

As I wrote earlier, I worked over 50 hours most weeks, and spent little on myself for “entertainment” and I often had to depend on public transit, unless my car happened to be working when I could afford the repair bills … so to survive, and to look for a better deal, I needed the internet. Since I was divorced from my kid’s mother, and she was registered in the City and I lived in the immediate suburbs, I did not get report cards. I had to log onto my kid’s school web site or email her teachers, unless I could take time off work, to schlep down to the city to meet her teachers… which I did whenever I could afford to … So yes, the internet, in today’s world, is a survival tool.

I was, as you have no doubt read somewhere before, a paycheck away from homelessness… But I prefer George Carlin’s perspective instead. He would say that the problem was not one of homelessness. It was one of “Houselessness”. Here’s what he meant:

I worked as a grant writer for a short time at a non-profit organization whose mission was to end homelessness, at least in Philadelphia. (It was one of my better payng jobs and during that brief time, I was not so financially desperate. They soon laid me off mainly due to lack of funds. Despite my rather decent rate of 20% positive grant acceptance. Not bad for a beginner in the grant world. But not enough to pay my way… so it goes in non-profit activist-land.)

It was a great experience just the same giving me a fuller understanding of the bigger picture and I did do some significant good while I was there…

What I learned there was that the majority of homeless people, (and they ARE people, each with their own stories like you and I) ACTUALLY WORKED AND HAD JOBS. So why were they homeless? Well let’s put all the behavior issues aside for the moment because the idea that it was somehow the fault of most of these people because of some form of moral turpitude that they may have engaged in (Like rich or middle class people don’t engage in these behaviors too) is not and never has been the reason why most people are homeless in the first place. Most people are homeless in the first place for a very simple reason which I have already alluded to twice.

They cannot afford rent.

In the publication “In Focus” put out by The National Healthcare for the Homeless Council, it is revealed that incarceration and homelessness are MUTUAL risk factors, meaning that one can lead to the other. But why would it be illegal to be homeless? In a caring and compassionate society one would think that people who have fallen on hard times would not be punished right?  (It could easily have been me in the past as my story above illustrates.) If they have some kind of condition that helps lead to their plight, why are we not providing some kind of treatment? Besides, the vast majority of homeless individuals are homeless for economic reasons. (Substance abuse, though high in the homeless population, is as often a result of the reality of homelessness as it is its cause.)

The fastest rising population in prison these days are single mothers. Why is that? Are people who are single moms more inclined to be bad people? Of course not! My Mom was a single mom for a while. And she raised me with a strong sense of right and wrong and how to treat people with care and respect. But she raised me in the early 50’s and the 60’s… a time when the economy was still artificially inflated from our countries success after World War Two. So I lucked out… not so much for single moms these days. Because there was enough money around, and the U.S. had such an economic advantage that one wage earned could support a family. My Mom was pretty independent, had skills and was the only person in her family with a high school diploma, but in those days, still could not find a job to support us as easily as a man could, so after leaving my birth father, she felt compelled to remarry, I am sure that love played a role in her decision but economics had to as well… But compared to single Moms today, we had it easy when it came to our economic options. My mother’s second husband was working class, but was able to support us as a warehouse manager for the US Air Force. (Yes, my adopted dad was a military contractor. But instead of dealing with weapons, he dealt with household items that service men – in those days – bought at the base exchange, a sort of department store for military families who lived on base… all the better to keep our troops out of the local economy and mixing with the citizens of whichever country we found ourselves in.. In our case it was Canada.)

So single moms in my day had economic supports that are harder to find if not gone today. Which means that options for survival are limited compared to the days when we all dreamed the “American Dream”.  A dream that for many has become an American Nightmare.

Worse still, according to the Correctional Association of New York, 75% of women in prison are domestic abuse survivors. Why are survivors of another crime landing in prison? What’s wrong with this picture? 9 out of 10 convicted of killing an intimate partner, in the words of Justice Debra James, Supreme Court, Civil Branch, New York County, Chair, New York Women in Prison Committee, National Association of Women Judges in her forward to the Association’s report, “From Protection to Punishment”, published by the Cornell University Law School, Avon Global Center for Women and Justice, and the Women in Prison Project, of the Correctional Association of New York.

The report shows how these cases are often convictions for illegal acts that happen as a result of actions these women take to protect themselves from “… extreme physical and mental abuse.” The vast majority of these women are women of color.  She also concludes that, “As this report illustrates, these punishments represent not only failures of policy and practice but also violations of survivor-defendants’ fundamental human rights.”

Then there is the War ON Drugs.

According to the ACLU, marijuana arrests account for over half of all drug arrests—and 88% of those charges are for simple possession. Because of decades-old grant programs, local police precincts are showered with money from the federal government if they keep their arrest numbers high. Police have a built-in financial incentive to focus their arrests on low-level drug offenders to fatten their statistics, especially because these are some of the easiest arrests to make. This is a major reason why marijuana arrest rates have gone up in recent years, and why they make up the majority of all drug detentions nationally.

But for many, this was, and is, an underground economy that actually helped families make those aforementioned ends meet. I knew a young man on Long Island in the eighties who sold low effect drugs from the basement of his parents home and actually paid off their mortgage for them at a time when the economy was experiencing one of a repeated number of “corrections” making those damn ends hard to meet again.  This was one case I was personally aware of, but there were many other examples of so called victim-less crimes,  like pot selling that was often a families only way to keep from going under. But it gets worse…

Contracts with private prison management companies exhibit the same incentive. Cash strapped states contract with these private corporations to run their jails. As a stipulation of the contract, the state must “keep the beds full” or be in breach of contract. This is an incentive to criminalize all kinds of behavior to create a large enough population to round up, (like suspects on the streets of Baghdad, now languishing at GITMO) AND FILL THE BEDS. So single moms who cannot find work with sufficient wages to make those aforementioned ends meet, turn to… Crime? Prostitution, drugs, or maybe just leaving their kids in the car as they queue up for an interview for some dismally paying service sector job in order that their kids eat. And so now, single mothers facing or living in poverty are considered criminals… and they are incarcerated and the beds are full…

This is what we mean by “The Criminalization of Survival”.

On October 9, 2013, Solvej Schou, who writes regularly for TakePart, and has also contributed to the Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, BBC.com, and Entertainment Weekly, tells us this: “… lower income Americans increasingly unable to find steady work and housing, post-recession homelessness and panhandling is on the rise in the U.S., and increasingly being ignored or punished.

“Case in point, peaceful begging—the act of non-aggressively asking for money or food—is increasingly being banned in various cities and states across the country. The criminalization of homelessness in U.S. cities, anti-panhandling and anti-solicitation laws in 188 cities had increased by seven percent from 2009 to 2011, according to a National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty report.”

Examples abound. Check out these extracts…

“According to dailykos.com, the Houston city council passed a law in 2012 making it against the law for anyone to give food to a homeless person, whether that homeless person was in a park or in a food kitchen set up specifically to feed the homeless people of Houston.”

“The same law made it illegal for homeless people to feed themselves with found food (usually from the trash). Dailykos reported that a homeless man was ticketed a week before they published their story on this subject and fined $500 for taking a partially eaten donut out of a dumpster. Five hundred dollars is the amount of the fine for persons who feed the homeless, or for the homeless who feed themselves inside the Houston city limits – the City Council lowered the fine down from $2,000 because of public outcry.”

“Noah’s Kitchen Executive Director Amber Rodriguez told The Christian Post that there are 13 and a half thousand homeless people in Houston and that the $500 fine would feed at least 750 people (Christianpost.com).”

“It was necessary for Noah’s Kitchen (as well as other charity groups that help the poor) to move outside the Houston city limits or pay the $500 fine every single time they offered a homeless person a cup of soup or a piece of toast. Yes, $500 for each and every offense. A second piece of toast to the same person would mean another $500 fine in addition to the first one! Yes, a hungry homeless person could quickly put Noah’s Kitchen out of business completely by simply eating 4-5 pieces of toast from that soup kitchen.”

“Several news agencies, including ABC News, Huffington Post, NY Daily News, Daily Mail, and the New York Times, to name a few, reported on March 19, 2014 that 56-year old homeless Marine veteran Jerome Murdough was jailed for trespassing in Harlem, and was then allowed to literally bake to death in his prison cell where he was jailed. Yes, the cell where Jerome Murdough was confined was allowed to heat to well over 100 degrees and Mr. Murdough died. He was allowed to swelter to death while being neglected by jail officials and employees.”

“Jerome Murdough was just looking for a warm place to sleep on a chilly night last month when he curled up in an enclosed stairwell on the roof of a Harlem public housing project where he was arrested for trespassing,” (Huffington Post).”

Oh, that’s right, there is even  more…

According to the ACLU Debtors prison is making an illegal comeback. There is the story of Stephan Papa.  According to the ACLU:

“After he returned from Iraq both homeless and out of work, Stephan Papa spent one night in a drunken misadventure. Convicted of destruction of property and resisting arrest, Mr. Papa was sentenced to pay $2600 in fines and court fees.” Of course he was not able to pay those fees, and, though illegal to sentence people to jail for inability to pay, he was jailed anyway. Now it may not be the most laudable behavior, but many of us have had a drunken misadventure before and though the particular action may or may not have been criminal, taking a person’s circumstances into account seems prudent. And being drunk hardly seems to require the extreme reaction that Mr. Papa dealt with… His life is disrupted and possible ruined for a long time. Does this seem fair to you? Survival often includes basic coping with one’s situation.. When survival is on the line, we all may resort to “regressive behavior” that we may not be proud of, but that is part of being human isn’t it? So maybe it’s the criminalization of being human is what is at issue? Why not invest in the kind of support to help down-on-their-luck individuals like Mr. Papa a chance to learn new coping skills? Investing in any number of community mental and emotional health programs with just a sliver of what we now spend on war and intervention across the globe would go a long way to building security at home by lifting up people like Mr. Papa while creating jobs and stimulating the local economy in the first place. But how many of you have read that these kinds of community base support programs are attacked because they are “jobs programs”?

Well, what’s wrong with that? We need jobs programs and we need them where there is a real need. Why not reinvest in our communities and stimulate the economy by paying to help people in need rather than helping already obscenely profitable industries with more US tax dollars, (yours and mine) that benefit a few at the so called top at the expense of all of us let alone those most in need?

Criminalization of survival. Who does it benefit? Who profits? And why?

It is time for a change. There are legislative efforts afoot that can help begin to change these things. Simply enforcing current law against debtor’s prison is one solution. Several states have begun issuing simple cards for judges to assist in legal sentencing practices so that they are aware that jailing people for inability to pay for court costs and fines is illegal in the first place… Something one would think a judge should know?

There is a bill in Congress that I have mentioned before to help Mothers and other care givers stay out of poverty by, in essence, providing a wage for home care and what we used to call “housework” affording people of modest means the ability to be good care givers without forcing them to have to make choices like leaving their kids in a hot car to attend a job interview, or stealing the proverbial loaf of bread or its equivalent to feed their families or themselves… This bill is the RISE Out of Poverty Act, and its companion piece, the WORK Act… bills that deserve your support. You should call your Congress Person, both Bills are in the House, (The WORK act is in search of a prime sponsor) and you should demand they co-sponsor and vote for these two important pieces of legislation that would help de-criminalize the very act of survival, like taking care of ones family for example. You can call your Congress Person at the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. You can also support the campaign to pass these bills by going to the following web site and signing the petition. http://www.everymothernetwork.net/support-the-rise-and-work-acts/  A growing number of organizations have been signing on as endorsing organizations and maybe your church or synagogue or Temple may do their part, or if you belong to a secular group or labor union ask them to endorse as well.

I once faced poverty and, with things as unstable in this world as they are becoming could face it again. So could you or someone you know. The current systems are shaken, and crumbling at their edges, if not at their very core. If nothing else, our economy is uncertain and it is far easier to be facing such a plight these days in a moment by any number of chance circumstances. An unexpected illness in your family, a sudden job loss, or a loss of your home possibly brought about by some extreme weather event thanks to rapidly advancing global climate change.  Most of us are all “one paycheck from homelessness” these days.

Once again, when we look closely we can see that we are all in this together and we must break down the walls that divide us if we are all to be more secure.

History Shows, People Power Makes the Difference.

By D. E. Gibson ©

Power comes down to two things. Money and People. When they have the money, we need the people!

It was dusty, hot, and the air and the ground around us, seemed yellow. It was sandy, rocky, sage brush with a few stunted trees all around. On one side of US 95, was a steel chain link fence some 10 feet high or more, which stretched for miles in both directions, topped with concertina razor wire. On the other, about 3,000 individuals from all over the country were lining up to support hundreds who were illegally entering the gates on this side of the fence. Beyond this throng, just a mile north, organized in a sand pit past some small hills on Bureau of Land Management property were a collection of tents, small and large, pitched as I recall, about 100 yards from the road. White ones. Bright yellow and orange ones, blue ones. Olive… There were a number of vehicles as well. Support vehicles, generators, water trucks, and personal transportation of a wide variety. Some of the tents were individual one and two person affairs. Some were much larger canopies, and house size structures used for kitchens, dining halls and communal meeting spaces. I remember flags on poles. Peace flags. Rainbow flags, even American Flags. (I will have plenty more to say about the American Flag in later posts)

I have been told that you could hear the sound of the drums in the back ground. I do not remember this myself but do remember drums and other musical instruments there, so … why not? Sounds like something we would have been doing then. Playing drums and clanging cymbals and making noise in celebration of life and resistance to oppression. And if we were not, we should have been. Like the Canadian activists who have come out recently banging their pots and their pans during their protest marches! How cool.
Here was the layout:

Top

In 1988, in the Nevada desert, I was part of an event involving civil disobedience where about 3,000 people were arrested over the course of 10 days. I have read that this was the largest civil disobedience action in US history with a record of arrests.

We were protesting underground nuclear weapons explosions to test and develop new and more dangerous bombs and missiles about 1,000 of which, could destroy most life on Earth. (There were about 70,000 in the world then, ready to launch) The demonstration was named “Reclaim the Test Site.” I had trained and prepared for this event for months. I had flown out here all the way from Montclair NJ to meet my crew. They had driven out earlier, caravan style, meeting up with other caravans and rolling into “Peace Camp” within hours of many others that I had spontaneously coordinated by phone and fax back in our office in Montclair before driving to Newark Airport and boarding a plane to join the fun. (This was all before cell phones… Members of other caravans from the South and the North East and the East, and the North West called in to their headquarters by pay phone… Does anyone reading this remember those?) I spoke with their home offices. They, in turn, would let their folks — who would call in from time to time – know how far in miles they were from some other group of fellow travelers and on what particular route some other caravan from some other part of the country might be. Some joined up en-route thanks to this. Some joined up outside of Peace Camp. Others aimed to roll into peace camp as close to a common arrival time that we organized in an impromptu fashion over the phone. Me with my map spread out on my cluttered desk with my speaker phone in front of me… No google maps in them days … Most of the travelers arrived on the same day within hours of each other… an intermittent procession of caravans arriving from all over the country. I imagined cheering campers greeting them, which indeed is what I was told later actually happened. This helped build solidarity and gain us some local media attention too.

I was up most of the night alternately on the phone and at our brand spanking new copy machine, my back pack and travel gear stored on the floor by the door, as I was running off materials for a professional door-to-door canvass we had organized as one of our contributions to this effort. While the protest was set for Nye County, the canvass was in Las Vegas, which was the next county over. Since none of the money we collected was for the protest, but to set up a group in Vegas of locals who would call for conversion of the test site to peaceful purposes, we were completely legal,– much to the chagrin of Las Vegas police who wanted to arrest us, like their Nye County Compadres, but were unable to. So… Ha!

My crew, all experienced professional canvassers, had caravanned out to meet some other canvassers from other canvass offices — most from SANE/FREEZE, (The Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy merged with the Nuclear Weapons FREEZE Campaign.) Some were committed to the canvass, and others were committed to the action and planning arrest. We were well represented.

When I arrived just hours after most of the caravans got there, I disembarked at Las Vegas Airport. As I got off the plane the very first thing I saw drove home what we were really resisting. I saw a line of Slot Machines. “Yes” I thought to myself with a wry smile. “Makes sense”.

I was up and animated when I got to Vegas thanks to the excitement of the occasion and adrenaline in my system, despite my tired state due to a night of little sleep. (Exacerbated by the little plastic bottles of bourbon I drank on the plane.) I made my way to the temporary office for the American Peace Test in Las Vegas. The American Peace test was, in a way, a splinter group of sorts, breaking off of the larger FREEZE Campaign to mount increasingly militant, disciplined, civil disobedience against the US nuclear weapons program, and the US’s overall policy of militarism. They coordinated with groups protesting in Greenham Common in England and at the test sites in, what then was still, the Soviet Union as well… making this a truly global organizing campaign. Most Americans would have been shocked and in denial of the fact that there was a robust peace movement in the USSR in those days.

The office certainly felt temporary. It was located in the rear of, some sort of commercial, newly and cheaply constructed mini-mall sort of thing, though it didn’t appear to have any retail outlets. It had small offices of the kind where you might find a moving company, a machine shop, or a fly-by-night furniture warehouse. Lots of white and silver and aluminum, and no trees to mention in the parking lot except for the small, spindly newly planted variety. The kind held in place by some cable tied to the ground and supported by fresh pine one by twos. Even the doors seemed to be made of a hollow aluminum frame. The office was located across from the rear parking lot of one of the smaller casinos… (Casinos were everywhere. So were more slot machines. They seemed to be in every commercial location one entered, including super markets.)

Some of the canvassers took what they made canvassing and leveraged it at the gaming tables. One guy won enough money to buy an airplane ticket back to Los Angeles, which was fortunate as he did not have a return plan when he got there. All of us took advantage of the very cheap food, steak dinners and the like, and cheap booze that the Casinos made available to attract out-of-towners to come in and lose their savings. What a racket! But it was, after all, Vegas! Back at the office there was a kitchenette kind of deal, with a sink a very small refrigerator, and a microwave.

We lived on peanut butter, bagels and bread, and some whole wheat pasta which I would cover with tahini sauce. At Peace Camp there was a communal kitchen with lots of … well… chili and salad I imagine… I never ate there myself. We ate pretty well off of the money we canvassed. Which was also OK because the contract called for paying us from revenues that we raised while signing people up. Not a bad system.

The whole operation was run on consensus, which immediately ended my role in the canvass as a leader as soon as we had our first meeting. It stung my ego but enriched my soul. I was suddenly no longer the architect of this unique first ever organizing model, but simply the driver and another canvasser. It was kind of liberating in a way and immensely satisfying seeing everyone step up and take responsibility. My ego healed quickly.

Upon arrival I met with an organizer or two. The details are a bit hazy, but we arranged, from previous contact, to have access to either one of the two rental vans that were around to bring people to and from the office to Peace Camp and back.

We also arranged whose couch I would sleep on as I did not have a tent at Peace Camp. I don’t remember getting much sleep anyway. As I remember I moved around a lot, staying on the weekend with other canvassers and activists at some out of town lawyer’s home for a night and a day. I was charged with going to the grocery to pick up food for a large group meal, and since I had not yet gotten my paycheck, I was to do most of the labor for my part of the meal. When I got to the super market, I dropped a few quarters (all I had left) into one of the slot machines up front and won enough to cover my share of the groceries and a little extra, saving me from a night of indentured servitude at the whim of my fellow activists… WHAT a relief. Capitalism came through for me that time.

We would have access to the van at around 2:00 PM each day to bring people to the City and then, after meeting and preparing for the field at about 3:00, we would drive canvassers to their neighborhood and drop them off. Then I would drive back to the office, and pick up whoever needed a ride back to Peace Camp. Then I would turn around, and head back into the city giving anyone who needed it, a ride and drop them off. If I had time, I would go out and canvass. If not I would just go and pick up the crew. Then drive back to Peace Camp. To get around during the day or on the weekend, I used the little red Mazda owned by one of my crew, a young man with blond dread locks.

I found myself going back and forth to the city for various reasons during the day while some members of my crew joined hundreds of others crossing the line and being abducted by Wackenhut Security on the test site grounds and put in a large metal “pen” in the desert until they could be loaded on buses and driven to the town of Tonopah, some 65 miles from the vicinity. We called it “The Cage”. It was a 28,800 square foot chain link fence built in the shape of a square near the South Entrance not too far from the road. As activists crossed the cattle guard at the gate’s entrance, or scaled the fence, they were picked up by security guards, some on foot, some driving souped up dune buggies. Once herded into the “cage” they were taken, as a group, to the buses.

On March 13, 1988, the Los Angeles times had this to say about it: “Orchestrating the arrests were about 100 sheriff’s deputies, 50 Nevada Highway Patrol officers and an unknown number of Department of Energy security officials, who used helicopters, motorcycles and camouflaged dune buggies to track down the hundreds of trespassers who managed to evade a wall of guards manning the area near the entrance.”

The first time this happened, on the first day of the action, it was not expected… Organizers scrambled to find all manner of vehicles and gave chase. After about a day or two, we got really good at following the buses and retrieving our folks and getting them back to the scene of the demonstration pretty quickly thereby effectively thwarting the Nye County Sheriff’s office in their plan to break the civil disobedience.

The reasons they cited for this strategy, to bus our people far away, showed our evident effectiveness at gumming up the system, which, at its root, is one of the reasons for civil disobedience to begin with.
Also in the LA Times was this:

“Activist Jessie Cox was one of many who chastised authorities for using “the cage.” “This cage that has been built in the desert appears to be a detainment camp for nonviolent protesters,” Cox said. “We are not only concerned about its use, but about the historic precedent that the image of a stalag-like structure conjures up.”

But Chris West, a spokesman for the Department of Energy, which manages the test site, said the enclosure, which cost $35,000, was needed to control ever-increasing numbers of protesters here.
There have been 3,610 people arrested here since the first demonstration was held in 1957, authorities said. But 3,217 of those arrests were made in 1986 and 1987.

“We are sorry this is happening,” West said, “but we can’t just let people go haphazardly anywhere they want on the test site.”

Still, Nye County prosecutors stopped filing charges against most trespassers here a year ago in an effort to ease the county’s mounting court load.
“They are trying to use the Nye County criminal system as a forum and we are not going to waste taxpayers’ money by giving them that recognition,” said Nye County Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeff Morrison. Instead, he said, “the complaint is routinely dismissed and they go on their merry way.”

So it was obvious that all of that work, demonstration after demonstration, was paying off from a tactical point of view at least.

But was it paying off strategically? A most important question. While the department of energy denied any effect on operations, which was true at the time, the effect on political policy was another matter.

Representative Pat Schroeder, a Congressional ally from Colorado introduced HR 3442, mandating the cessation of US nuclear testing (and thereby British tests, since they used our test site for their own nuclear tests… stopping the US would stop the Brits… A twofer) so long as the USSR maintained their moratorium on testing. The bill eventually gained over 100 co-sponsors, but was never voted on. Schroeder claimed its support was influenced by the civil disobedience at the test site.

The Soviets ended their unilateral moratorium on February 5, 1987, but the last US test explosion was 4 years after Reclaim “The Test Site”, in 1992, though the amount of tests were vastly reduced before that time.

However, later in 1988 the US and the USSR began the Joint Verification Experiment, where technical personnel from both countries traveled to each other’s testing facility to begin the actual monitoring program that would allow each to verify that the other side was not testing. So this, then, was the beginning of the end of nuclear test explosions by all countries to this day with the exception of North Korea, and it looks like possibly Pakistan (and then maybe India?) again soon. We have to organize to stop this if we can!

In 1992 the US Congress passed the Hatfield-Exon amendment, cutting funds to achieve a nine month nuclear testing moratorium. This cancelled the last three scheduled tests for 1993. The ban has held ever since despite our Senate’s refusal to verify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty signed by Bill Clinton in ‘96.

My own belief is that what finally ended nuclear explosions was civil disobedience, like this action and the threat of continued demonstrations, along with millions of petitions, tons of letters and phone calls, and simply ongoing unrelenting pressure of ALL kinds from many, many regular folks from all over the place.

There was also the largest single demonstration in US history to end the nuclear arms race, earlier in Central Park in 1982, which can be seen as the start of the final grass-roots push to end all nuclear testing. Protests had been going on since the beginning of nuclear testing.

The nuclear weapons freeze referendum passed in many states across the country before being defeated in Congress… which helped change tactics to a more militant variety culminating in the mass arrests at the test site.

Who knows? The increasing acts of civil disobedience (CD) HAD to worry policy makers. As the protests and CDs grew in frequency and numbers I am sure, it is only common sense, that despite official denials, it had to worry those in power that this kind of thing might continue to grow until it got unmanageable.

Back in the late 80’s a one judge, Judge Sullivan, after listening to an emotional appeal from a family member who was in court on his trespass charge (which they received at the Test Site) stopped the proceedings and told the court and everyone there that “I just want you to know I think you are making progress through your efforts.” according to a personal account in a book entitled “A Family Says No to Violence: Personal Empowerment through Nonviolent Civil Disobedience.” by Sally A. Mack.

We must never underestimate our own power… It is, after all, all we can count on in the end… and when united with others, we can multiply that power to make real, and often lasting change.

But our power is not like the power we resist. The power of greed, suicidal greed, when one thinks of the polices that give us realities like 70,000 nuclear weapons, “Shock and Awe”, addictive use of fossil fuels resulting in increasing average global temperatures, and the very real and staggering threat of a possible runaway greenhouse effect.

Their power is massive, it seems to be everywhere, but it isn’t. It is pervasive, and it is coercive. Ours is different and, when planning to resist and work for change it is always, in my opinion and that of many experienced organizers, best to organize from a place of your own power. As a matter of fact, Saul Alinsky, one of my early organizing role models, had set down some principles for us to use when developing strategy. He said, we need three things to give an organizing campaign a decent chance of success.

1 – Give your people a sense of their own power. You do this by organizing from your own experience and outside your opponent’s experience. Mass CD is often a good case of this, but not always. It is good to assess the degree to which your target understands and knows how to respond to CD.
2 – Alter the relations of Power. Doing things outside their experience can win you a seat at the table.
3 – Win concrete improvements in your people’s lives…
The Anti-Nuclear Arms Movement has succeeded at all of these…

What’s next?

There are still dangers to be sure, and nuclear weapons still need to be abolished because they still pose a very real threat to each of us and all life on the planet, though we ARE in an undoubtedly safer position than we were in 1988.

But in terms of the goal of the campaign for the Anti-Nuclear Arms movement, I would say that if we can succeed in achieving a ratification of the Test Ban Treaty in the Senate, then we have won and we should have one hell of a very public and audacious party to celebrate because we need to, for our own psyches, reward ourselves for a hard-fought campaign that many of us sacrificed much for. But as importantly, we need to organize that celebration as a national event. We need to put some resources into it to give notice to those in power that – yes — we DID win. We went up against the most powerful death machine in history and we pushed it back from the brink and saved us all from annihilation.

ANNIHALATION!

That IS something to celebrate. And we want them to know that we will not take whatever else they have in store for us without a fight. We need not be violent. That is their way of playing the game. We will NOT let them reduce us to their level. We WILL overcome… That is the message a large victory celebration would send. Stand by, next chapter in the saga is coming up and we are prepared to win again…

We have no choice if we want to live. Because as soon as the hangover wears off, we will be planning our strategy for our next campaign to make this world we live in a better place to live the kinds of lives we want to live and that we all deserve.  So, to spell it out, what I am proposing is a national celebration as a campaign strategy.

The powers we resist threaten to do us all in, globally and in our own neighborhoods. All to serve a system which more and more people have witnessed serves a very few at the expense of an increasing number of people at the bottom. A growing, and REQUIRED underclass that must exist for this system to operate.

This is what we resist: A war around the planet, and one in communities of poor and African-American people and other people of color and people who are divergent from the main stream life style.

We resist a system which pits us each against each other to purposely keep us divided so that we never learn our power. The power of our numbers. The power of the many, the power of people, the power that has been seen throughout history to eventually overthrow the tyrants that have oppressed them time and time again. The Power of unity. The power of love!

A power we can realize when we break down the barriers and differences that divide us and when we learn that everything IS connected.

Like the power of 3,000 people from all walks of life and an amalgam of backgrounds that came together in the hot Nevada Sun to stand up to the nuclear nightmare that had been created to threaten us all just to profit a few.

It is the same power that we use when we reclaim our streets by building community and sharing the burden to make the streets safe to walk again. The power to change how we raise our children so that they suffer less trauma than we have, and can grow with understanding of, and compassion for others. Nothing else will do… There is no other way for us to survive, otherwise, as things progress and resources dwindle and new ways of organizing society are called for, we won’t be competing and killing each other to eat, but feeding each other to prosper.

We ARE all in this together. So far, there is no other planet we can go to and the world as we know it keeps getting smaller. We must choose to run our own lives, personally and as a community. Power structures HAVE to change. Patriarchy, and yes, Capitalism, at least in its current form, must become a thing of the past. We must evolve or perish.
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Why Poverty is a Peace Issue and Why We Should Embrace it as one Now.

Why Poverty is a Peace Issue and Why We Should Embrace it as one Now.

We all know this… Eisenhower said it.   “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

We all believe it. We have all been advocating this for as long as any of us can remember. But now things are different. The current economic crisis which persists for way too many in this country (And around the planet) brings it all home as we all knew it would be brought home sooner or later.

We have all done our work advocating redirecting military spending to social needs for a very long time. We watched as we were sometimes turned down by groups working on other social issues when we WANTED to work together because to be seen with us risked, for these organizations, backlashes from a public addicted to military security that threatened their work. So we waited.

With the global economic decline and, more directly, with the current decline of the U.S. empire, the time is ripe for coming together and building real alliances… Nothing anyone reading this does not already know. But we are called to from history to take a stronger stand.

Dr. Martin Luther King, as usual, was ahead of the curve on this. On April 15, 1967, he spoke at an anti-war rally in NYC saying “…And I believe everyone has a duty to be in both the civil-rights and peace movements. But for those who presently choose but one, I would hope they will finally come to see the moral roots common to both.

The following year He began organizing the “Poor People’s March” because he felt that Congress had shown “hostility to the poor” by spending “military funds with alacrity and generosity”. He contrasted this with the situation faced by poor Americans, claiming that Congress had merely provided “poverty funds with miserliness”.[139] His vision was for change that was more revolutionary than mere reform: he cited systematic flaws of “racism, poverty, militarism and materialism”, and argued that “reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced”.[140]

Lesser known was his call for compensation. King stated that black Americans, as well as other disadvantaged Americans, should be compensated for historical wrongs.

King said that he did not seek a full restitution of wages lost to slavery, which he believed impossible, but proposed a government compensatory program of $50 billion over ten years to all disadvantaged groups.[36]

He posited that “the money spent would be more than amply justified by the benefits that would accrue to the nation through a spectacular decline in school dropouts, family breakups, crime rates, illegitimacy, swollen relief rolls, rioting and other social evils”.[37] He presented this idea as an application of the common law regarding settlement of unpaid labor, but clarified that he felt that the money should not be spent exclusively on blacks. He stated, “It should benefit the disadvantaged of all races”.[38]

I mention all of this to underline the notion that “Welfare” which carries an unfair stigma as a “handout” should really be seen as compensation for work done that benefits all of society. Parents and care givers play a vital social role in raising healthy, well adjusted children, Public investment in this sector is for the greater good and, as we all know, is a much better investment in the nation’s real security than any number of over blown over funded unneeded weapons systems. The legislation that I am proposing we endorse and the campaign that I propose we participate in, to the degree possible, The RISE out of Poverty Act and its companion piece the WORK Act, come in at a price tag of around $2.5 Billion. (Though the final cost is likely to be much higher, and we have asked National Priorities Project to help us determine both more accurate costs and appropriate trade-offs from the military side of the budget. But for now we will be using this lower figure.) Compare this to the F-35 which comes in at $12.6 Billion, Terminating the V-22 Osprey, a system with little real need, would save $2 billion. Another $2.9 Billion for operations in Iraq. What can I possibly write to put this in perspective?

It is therefore that I propose that peace and justice organizations endorse the following two pieces of legislation realizing the dream of King and positioning ourselves for the future while developing new allies among social needs organizations who increasingly are calling for cuts in military spending now that real reductions on are the table. (See either of the web sites below)

The time has come for us to get on board and by adding our name to this effort, and mobilizing our networks and members and activists, each according to our abilities, clearly demonstrating that we are ready to work alongside groups that are now taking up our call to reorder national spending priorities.

Specifically we should:

  • Sign the endorsement form. (Also on one of the web sites.)
  • Put a link for the endorsement form for our groups and allies up on our web sites and display prominently.
  • Do at least one e-mail “blast” to our activists when ACTION ALERTS are generated for this upcoming legislation.
  • Reach out to congressional allies to seek co-sponsors. Help us find a new sponsor for the WORK Act
  • Put up educational materials on RISE and WORK on web sites.
  • Distribute petitions and return to  www.globalwomenstrike.net or www.everymothernetwork.net

Space Invaders

Or should I say, “space thieves”.  That exactly what Israel has been doing since 1967, invading and stealing land from the Palestinians and Syrians.  Israeli settlers just keep taking more and more and more land away from the native inhabitants and we let it happen.  As a matter of fact, we turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed by Israel against the Palestinians.  This is the middle east version of the holocaust with Israel taking on the role of Hitler and the Palestinians taking on the role of the European Jews.

Barack Obama needs to make a clear statement on day 1 that this land grab and conflict can no longer continue with the support of the United States because it is against our own best interests.

From The Nation (This article originally appeared on Uri Avnery’s website.):

The following humble suggestions are based on my seventy years of experience as an underground fighter, special forces soldier in the 1948 war, editor-in-chief of a newsmagazine, member of the Knesset and founding member of a peace movement:

1. As far as Israeli-Arab peace is concerned, you should act from Day One.

2. Israeli elections are due to take place in February 2009. You can have an indirect but important and constructive impact on the outcome, by announcing your unequivocal determination to achieve Israeli-Palestinian, Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-all-Arab peace in 2009.

3. Unfortunately, all your predecessors since 1967 have played a double game. While paying lip service to peace, and sometimes going through the motions of making some effort for peace, they have in practice supported our governments in moving in the very opposite direction. In particular, they have given tacit approval to the building and enlargement of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories, each of which is a land mine on the road to peace.

4. All the settlements are illegal in international law. The distinction sometimes made between “illegal” outposts and the other settlements is a propaganda ploy designed to obscure this simple truth.

5. All the settlements since 1967 have been built with the express purpose of making a Palestinian state–and hence peace–impossible, by cutting the territory of the prospective State of Palestine into ribbons. Practically all our government departments and the army have openly or secretly helped to build, consolidate and enlarge the settlements–as confirmed by the 2005 report prepared for the government by lawyer Talia Sasson.

6. By now, the number of settlers in the West Bank has reached some 250,000 (apart from the 200,000 settlers in the Greater Jerusalem area, whose status is somewhat different). They are politically isolated, and sometimes detested by the majority of the Israel public, but enjoy significant support in the army and government ministries.

7. No Israeli government would dare to confront the concentrated political and material might of the settlers. Such a confrontation would need very strong leadership and the unstinting support of the President of the United States to have any chance of success.

8. Lacking these, all “peace negotiations” are a sham. The Israeli government and its US backers have done everything possible to prevent the negotiations with both the Palestinians and the Syrians from reaching any conclusion, for fear of provoking a confrontation with the settlers and their supporters. The present “Annapolis” negotiations are as hollow as all the preceding ones, each side keeping up the pretense for its own political interests.

9. The Clinton administration, and even more so the Bush administration, allowed the Israeli government to keep up this pretense. It is therefore imperative to prevent members of these administrations from diverting your Middle Eastern policy into the old channels.

10. It is important for you to make a complete new start, and to state this publicly. Discredited ideas and failed initiatives–such as the Bush “vision,” the Road Map, Annapolis and the like–should be thrown into the junkyard of history.

11. To make a new start, the aim of American policy should be stated clearly and succinctly. This should be: to achieve a peace based on the two-state solution within a defined time span (say, by the end of 2009).

12. It should be pointed out that this aim is based on a reassessment of the American national interest, in order to extract the poison from American-Arab and American-Muslim relations, strengthen peace-oriented regimes, defeat Al Qaeda-type terrorism, end the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and achieve a viable accommodation with Iran.

13. The terms of Israeli-Palestinian peace are clear. They have been crystallized in thousands of hours of negotiations, conferences, meetings and conversations. They are:

Read the following bullets points at The Nation:

Further comment:

What the Israelis have done to the Palestinians is not unlike what the US has done to the Native Americans.  They moved into a territory, used terrorist techniques to kick out the native populations and then seized territory from the native populations.

The Israelis out arm and out power the Palestinians.  It’s like the guns and cannons vs the bows, arrows and spears.   This conflict needs to stop.