Missile Contagion

October 18, 2011

Only the US, Israel, and Great Britain (of course) have used unarmed drones to strike targets in foreign lands. But 50 countries have now built drones, and China unveiled 25 different models at a recent air show. Independent actors–cults, sects, terrorist cells, fundamentalists of every stripe, random guys with grievances–are not far behind. The US has an arsenal of 7000 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which it calls Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAs). They are (relatively!) cheap and safe to use, especially from the perspective of the aggressor.

The first bombs were dropped on civilian populations in 1912, and soon all of Europe was engulfed. It’s now become a fully normalized part of modern warfare. Drones are next.

The US assassinated Anwar al-Awlaki, the US-born propagandist for Al Qaeda hiding in Yemen, with a drone strike in September despite an executive order banning assassinations, a US law against murder, protections in the Bill of Rights, and various strictures in the international laws of war. This was a US citizen killed on orders from the executive without a trial or any semblance of due process of law. No one in government will admit to the facts, even though it’s common knowledge, because to do so would be an admission of guilt to a criminal act. Whatever else he was Anwar al-Awlaki is now a murder victim as well. His murderers are the entire line of march from the commander-in-chief to the game-boy operator who, following orders, pulled the trigger.

The rule of law has no meaning here, and if you accept this precedent then the government can kill anyone it deems guilty without evidence or trial. Where are the strict Constitutional constructionists now? Where is the outcry? Were the Founders waffling on this point?

It’s a new day: Nazi war criminals faced their accusers and answered the evidence; Cambodian, Yugoslavians, and Rwandas suspected of crimes have all been pursued in criminal courts. No more; only might makes right. If Russia or Iran sees an enemy on US soil, following this precedent they will send a drone. The gate is wide open.


“I’m an Accountant” from Fred Klonsky’s Blog 10-11-11

October 18, 2011

It happened again Saturday night.

Anne and I were at a social event with people I didn’t know. We were seated at a table along with two other couples, both much younger than we are.

“What do you do?”

“I’m a K-5 art teacher.”

As I often point out, in the old days this answer would have produced a smile and a response like, “Oh, that must be fun.” There would be nowhere to go after that and we would move on to other topics of small talk.

Not now.

They always want to talk about tenure, seniority, firing teachers, contracts and test scores.

“You really want to talk to me about tenure,” I will ask?

And they really do.

In this case she worked at a non-teaching job at a charter school in a city I won’t name. She was young and obviously liked what she was doing. Her date smiled and sat back.

She challenged me on tenure.

I explained that tenure was not a lifetime guarantee of a job, but simply meant that a tenured teacher could be fired for cause. She didn’t know that.

She challenged me on linking teacher performance evaluation to test scores. Her school does it. Even she is evaluated on students’ test scores.

“That’s crazy,” I said. “You don’t even work with the kids. They might as well evaluate you based on the price of ham.”

She didn’t think that was funny.

She challenged me on tenure.

“We have teachers who have taught for only two years, and they’re great teachers.”

“No you don’t,” I said.

“What?”

“No you don’t. Nobody is great at anything they have only done for two years. You can’t be a great painter in two years. You can’t be a great basketball player, a plumber, or a writer. You certainly can’t be a great teacher in two years.”

I finally gave up and Anne and I went to the dance floor even though the DJ was playing Why Don’t You Build me Up, Buttercup.

As we were leaving, her boyfriend came up, shook my hand and said, “Thanks. She gets mad when I tell her all that.”

“You set me up?”

He smiled.

Next time I’m at a party and someone asks me what I do, I’m telling them I’m an accountant. They will leave me alone for sure.


Troy Davis

October 13, 2011

I was in Europe when the state of Georgia murdered Troy Davis. From there the barbarity of this act is evident and universally condemned. My friend Alice Kim captured my reaction to this horrific legal lynching.

From Alice Kim, Dancing the Dialectic, September 22, 2011. For Troy

I feel numb. I feel defeated. I don’t want to read any more stories or news reports or even any more calls to action. Then I feel ashamed. I want to be strong. I want to know what the right thing to say is at this moment for this moment.

“There is nothing to say,” Ronnie Kitchen said when we talked on the phone this morning. Ronnie was the twentieth death row prisoner to be exonerated from Illinois’ death row. We’ve known each other for fourteen years. We hung on the phone for a few moments in silence. Then we remembered our visit to Savannah. In the summer of 2009, when Ronnie walked out of Cook County Courthouse a free man, we went down to Georgia to see his mom. Since we were near Savannah, we decided to visit Martina Correia, Troy Davis’ sister.

I remember sitting in Martina’s living room with her mom and sister. They were so pleased to meet Ronnie. I think they saw Troy in him. Ronnie was living proof that Troy could be free one day. This past spring, Virginia Davis passed away just days after the Supreme Court denied Troy’s appeal. With this decision, we knew that an execution date would soon be set. Martina said she thought her mom died of a broken heart.

That day, Martina took us to the scene of the crime, the Burger King parking lot where Officer Mark MacPhail was killed. She took us to the balcony of the motel where one of the eyewitnesses had supposedly seen Troy shoot the officer. We stayed on the balcony while Martina went across the street to the parking lot. In broad daylight, we couldn’t identify Martina from where we were standing, let alone a stranger in the middle of the night.

Then Martina, a gracious host, took us to downtown Savannah where Ronnie got to taste his first pralines. They were smooth and sweet and melted in your mouth. We sampled pralines from every candy store that we walked by. Amidst the beauty of Savannah, the harbor and the cobble-stone lined streets, Martina pointed out the spot where slaves were once auctioned off.

I think fondly of that day we spent with Martina. It was a hopeful time.

Now, I hear how weak Martina’s voice sounds in an interview she gave on the day of Troy’s execution. Photographs taken of her in the protest area outside the prison show tears in her eyes. She insists that her brother’s death will not be in vein. I want to honor Troy, Martina, and their family.

I wish I had deep, profound words of wisdom to offer. What I can offer is my love. In the face of this overwhelming injustice, I ask us all to love fiercely, to refuse to look away even when it’s hard, and to never forget. In Troy’s memory, in solidarity, in struggle, and in sorrow.


A note from my partner-in-life

October 13, 2011

Bernardine Dohrn

Up from the musty subways, two blocks down Broadway, the controlled chaos of Occupy Wall Street leaps into view, part happening (musicians drumming, piles of clothing, an efficient and tasty food service, a library, the medical unit) part street fair (homemade postering, people browsing, the brilliant Beehive Collective art posters, bustling tables of conversation) and part BugHouse Square/Union Square (debates, engaging passers-by, speakers, daily democratic meetings). Liberty Plaza, formerly Zuccotti Park, is long (going East/West) and narrow (up and downtown).

Occupy Wall Street is entering its 4th week. It’s fresh, a break, visceral bolts of lightning. Pointing fingers at the fat cats, it challenges the gouging 1%. It unites the 99. It (so far) has no program, no demands. It occupies the park at the foot of the stone and glass citadels. Located just two blocks East of the World Trade Center abyss, and blocks West from the Tombs (the massive gulag that cages the poor and people of color, Occupy Wall Street is multiplying, replicable. The titans roost high above all of our cities. This occupation is decentralizing itself. Sparked by the young who have no jobs, but have crushing student loans that will keep them indebted to the banks and banking universities for decades (Cancel the Debt!), witnessing their parents’ homes foreclosed, they see the gross financial/corporate money grab for what it is and in contrast, they illuminate another way of being.

Two inventions are stunning to experience: the General Assembly, the daily horizontal, consensus-seeking, rebellious, anarchist meeting; and the peoples’ microphone. Since the police prohibit amplification, the occupying forces invented a living mike, repeating every 6-8 words from the speaker. When Naomi Klein spoke, she kept turning on the stage as in a theatre in the round, and as the crowd swelled, she had to wait until 3 echoes of her thought were repeated out from the center before continuing. It was funny and hard to catch the rhythm but it also involved all of us in restating her words, making them our own, amplifying out. We were all both speaking and listening, and the exuberance is contagious.

I approach two women holding Grannies for Peace signs, but all is not juicy here. I’m a granny for peace, I begin, looking for somewhere to join in. A torrent of complains flow forth: “This is just a Be-In!” (I remember my first Be-In at the lakefront in Chicago, 1966, I liked it.) “No politics! No demands.” They aren’t wrong, but not right, missing the flame. I move on.

OWS is the inheritor of the 1999 Seattle challenges to the World Trade Organization. It openly acknowledges the inspiration of Tunisia, Egypt, Wisconsin and Greece. Flanked by (some) important union support, multiracial (to some extent), revolted by endless US invasions abroad and national security wars against immigrants and the poor at home, and zealously passionate about climate change and protecting the earth, OWS is nurturing a beginning, a seed, a spark.

The police presence is massive, ominous and ugly, despite the extended and firm non-violent civil disobedience stance of the occupiers. Wall Street itself is blocked off by police barricades, making visible what is implicit. OWS says in response, “Occupy Public Space” and “Generate Solutions Accessible to Everyone,” living differently so everyone can live. Join us. Quickly.


OCCUPY CHICAGO: October 10, 4 pm

October 8, 2011

Meet at the Board of Trade (LaSalle and Jackson) at 4 P.M. The Occupy Wall Street protests are coming full-blast to Chicago where Mayor Emanuel and the Civic Committee continue where Mayor Daley left off, with the city as their personal cash cow. On Monday education activists will play a key role in the flowering Occupy Chicago Movement.
I saw a great shirt in the New York demo: Property is Theft! Go to dialectical materials online to see more.


Occupy Wall Street! Collective statement of the protesters…

October 5, 2011

What follows is the first official, collective statement of the protesters in Zuccotti Park:

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.
They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.
They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.
They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.
They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government ontracts.*

To the people of the world, We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!


Chris Hedges: Occupy Wall Street!

October 1, 2011

The Best Among Us
Friday 30 September 2011
by: Chris Hedges, Truthdig | Op-Ed

There are no excuses left. Either you join the revolt taking place on Wall Street and in the financial districts of other cities across the country or you stand on the wrong side of history. Either you obstruct, in the only form left to us, which is civil disobedience, the plundering by the criminal class on Wall Street and accelerated destruction of the ecosystem that sustains the human species, or become the passive enabler of a monstrous evil. Either you taste, feel and smell the intoxication of freedom and revolt or sink into the miasma of despair and apathy. Either you are a rebel or a slave.

To be declared innocent in a country where the rule of law means nothing, where we have undergone a corporate coup, where the poor and working men and women are reduced to joblessness and hunger, where war, financial speculation and internal surveillance are the only real business of the state, where even habeas corpus no longer exists, where you, as a citizen, are nothing more than a commodity to corporate systems of power, one to be used and discarded, is to be complicit in this radical evil. To stand on the sidelines and say “I am innocent” is to bear the mark of Cain; it is to do nothing to reach out and help the weak, the oppressed and the suffering, to save the planet. To be innocent in times like these is to be a criminal. Ask Tim DeChristopher.

Choose. But choose fast. The state and corporate forces are determined to crush this. They are not going to wait for you. They are terrified this will spread. They have their long phalanxes of police on motorcycles, their rows of white paddy wagons, their foot soldiers hunting for you on the streets with pepper spray and orange plastic nets. They have their metal barricades set up on every single street leading into the New York financial district, where the mandarins in Brooks Brothers suits use your money, money they stole from you, to gamble and speculate and gorge themselves while one in four children outside those barricades depend on food stamps to eat. Speculation in the 17th century was a crime. Speculators were hanged. Today they run the state and the financial markets. They disseminate the lies that pollute our airwaves. They know, even better than you, how pervasive the corruption and theft have become, how gamed the system is against you, how corporations have cemented into place a thin oligarchic class and an obsequious cadre of politicians, judges and journalists who live in their little gated Versailles while 6 million Americans are thrown out of their homes, a number soon to rise to 10 million, where a million people a year go bankrupt because they cannot pay their medical bills and 45,000 die from lack of proper care, where real joblessness is spiraling to over 20 percent, where the citizens, including students, spend lives toiling in debt peonage, working dead-end jobs, when they have jobs, a world devoid of hope, a world of masters and serfs.

The only word these corporations know is more. They are disemboweling every last social service program funded by the taxpayers, from education to Social Security, because they want that money themselves. Let the sick die. Let the poor go hungry. Let families be tossed in the street. Let the unemployed rot. Let children in the inner city or rural wastelands learn nothing and live in misery and fear. Let the students finish school with no jobs and no prospects of jobs. Let the prison system, the largest in the industrial world, expand to swallow up all potential dissenters. Let torture continue. Let teachers, police, firefighters, postal employees and social workers join the ranks of the unemployed. Let the roads, bridges, dams, levees, power grids, rail lines, subways, bus services, schools and libraries crumble or close. Let the rising temperatures of the planet, the freak weather patterns, the hurricanes, the droughts, the flooding, the tornadoes, the melting polar ice caps, the poisoned water systems, the polluted air increase until the species dies.

Who the hell cares? If the stocks of ExxonMobil or the coal industry or Goldman Sachs are high, life is good. Profit. Profit. Profit. That is what they chant behind those metal barricades. They have their fangs deep into your necks. If you do not shake them off very, very soon they will kill you. And they will kill the ecosystem, dooming your children and your children’s children. They are too stupid and too blind to see that they will perish with the rest of us. So either you rise up and supplant them, either you dismantle the corporate state, for a world of sanity, a world where we no longer kneel before the absurd idea that the demands of financial markets should govern human behavior, or we are frog-marched toward self-annihilation.

Those on the streets around Wall Street are the physical embodiment of hope. They know that hope has a cost, that it is not easy or comfortable, that it requires self-sacrifice and discomfort and finally faith. They sleep on concrete every night. Their clothes are soiled. They have eaten more bagels and peanut butter than they ever thought possible. They have tasted fear, been beaten, gone to jail, been blinded by pepper spray, cried, hugged each other, laughed, sung, talked too long in general assemblies, seen their chants drift upward to the office towers above them, wondered if it is worth it, if anyone cares, if they will win. But as long as they remain steadfast they point the way out of the corporate labyrinth. This is what it means to be alive. They are the best among us.