Energy Independence and the Real Cost of Oil
Analysis: U.S. Spends Billions to Defend Access to Energy Reserves
According to a new report from National Priorities Project (NPP), the United States is spending between $97 and $215 billion dollars annually on military action to defend access to oil and natural gas reserves around the globe. The Military Cost of Securing Energy provides a critical analysis of the military cost of defending U.S. energy concerns overseas. The report estimates that the military spends up to 30 percent of its annual budget to secure access to energy resources internationally.
Along with the report, NPP has released corollary fact sheets on energy consumption and renewable alternatives (nationally and by state) and published a web-based quiz to help translate and disseminate these complex findings. These materials contain information about the various options for taking action and moving forward with more sustainable energy planning. The report, facts sheets and quiz can be accessed online here.
Starting a National Discussion
The report is authored by Dr. Anita Dancs, Asst. Professor of Economics at WesternNew England College, with Suzanne Smith, Research Director at NPP, and Mary Orisich, Research Associate at NPP. They have spent the past several months analyzing – using two different processes – the global pursuit of energy by the federal government and the U.S. military to estimate the amount of money being spent.
“The military budget isn’t broken down by mission or region of the world, so it isn’t obvious at all how many resources are devoted to securing access to and the transport of energy,” says Dr. Dancs. “Because of this, we developed different sets of assumptions and created two methodologies to answer the question.” Dancs adds that after looking carefully at the numbers, it became clear that even without considering the Iraq war, approximately $100 billion of the Department of Defense budget will be used to secure energy resources in 2009. “We hope that by publishing these preliminary results, we can start a national discussion,” she says. “Not only about how to calculate these numbers more precisely, but about the implications of this spending when the federal government only spends a few billion on renewable energy and conservation.”
“These are ground-breaking findings, which are particularly relevant in light of what is happening right now with our economic crisis, climate change, and the volatile cost of oil,” says Jo Comerford, Executive Director of NPP. “Clearly, the road to energy independence must take into account the military cost of securing energy. The U.S.military spends billions of tax dollars to secure global fossil fuels, dollars that could be used to develop renewable energy sources that won’t ever run out or cause wars and global conflict. This is news for most people. We’re hoping this information will have a profound impact on public engagement with the policy-makers of the next administration.” Comerford goes on to say, “the release of this information is also quite timely, considering the fact that AFRICOM, the U.S. military’s latest in a series of global commands, ‘stood up’ on October 1st and was implemented in part because of the profound energy reserves now known to be on the African continent.”
Energy expert and author Michael Klare (who is also a member of NPP’s board of directors), says this research shows the clear connection between the U.S. military, national security, and U.S. access to global energy supplies. “One of the main reasons that our troops are deployed around the globe is to secure access to energy resources,” Klare says. “This paper shows that, without a doubt, energy security is tied in with national security and military action. The question that follows then is, is this a sustainable strategy – both in terms of the threat of foreign wars and the inevitable cost of human life, and also in terms of the rapid depletion of resources and concurrent destruction of the environment and changing climate – and if not, what do we need to do to change it?” Klare praised the authors for “their original and probing methodology that illuminates the ties between U.S. dependence on foreign oil and U.S.military policy more thoroughly than ever before.”
These newly released findings fall within the larger context of NPP’s Energy Priorities Project. This work has two distinct goals: to gain significant funding increases for renewable energy and conservation measures; and to reduce U.S. dependence on fossil fuels and resulting concomitant military strategies aimed at securing access to global energy supplies. [
The National Priorities Project (NPP) analyzes and clarifies federal data so that people can understand and influence how their tax dollars are spent. Located in Northampton,MA, since 1983, NPP focuses on the impact of federal spending and other policies at the national, state, congressional district and local levels. For more information, go to:http://nationalpriorities.org. Jo Comerford, Executive Director, can be reached at 413.584.9556.
Addressing the Economic Crisis Below Its Surface
By Peter Bergel
The crisis on Wall Street is big news everywhere right now. As working people watch their painfully acquired wealth drain away like blood from a torn artery, anger, helplessness and fear descend on the American people. Yet this disaster offers an enormous opportunity as well.
Why We Need BIG Changes
As Glen Gersmehl points out in his article on page *****, “Three decades ago, people in Eastern Europe, South Africa and the Philippines faced times as confusing and scary as our own. By 1990 they’d won victories that would shake the world.” What a vision! Dare we imagine that today’s evidence that the system is not serving us well might just provide the stimulus we need to get off our tails and, as Antonio says in Shakespeare’sMuch Ado About Nothing “take the present time by the top” to do something about it?
We’re talking about BIG changes because we’re talking about a system that isn’t working in BIG ways.
Just a few of the problems with our economic system are:
· It constantly increases the income gap between the rich and the poor,
· It allows the wealthy to consume most of the world’s resources and does almost nothing to protect them, or everyone else, from the consequences of that consumption,
· It leads us to war after war in search of the resources to maintain the status quo,
· It has killed our industrial prowess by converting us to a nation of weaponeers,
· It permits the undermining of democracy by those with great wealth, and
· It enshrines profit as the highest value ¾ necessarily consigning other values, such as the environment, human rights and fairness, to lower priorities.
How Will This Play Out?
As our focus topic package (beginning on page ****) shows, progressive experts disagree on whether the recent bailout was necessary or wise, but what we do know is that it is not a sufficient response to the problem. At this point, I see two initial possibilities:
1. The economy will bounce back and progressives and others will go back to sleep, permitting the system to stagger on until its next crisis.
2. An aroused public will force a reluctant president and Congress to take more extensive action to address the problems, including, but not limited to, those listed above.
Let us assume the second possibility is what happens. Then I again see two possibilities:
1. Congress and the president evolve the modern equivalent of the New Deal. It deals with the short-term problems through policies that create many new jobs, address the worst aspects of the wealth gap, “fix” Social Security and Medicare and reign in the most egregious corporate practices. The public is mollified and goes back to sleep.
2. A critical mass of Americans comes to realize that the system is irreparably corrupted and a mood of nonviolent revolution sweeps the nation. The public forcefully demands reform in many more areas than the power-holders had any intention of addressing: environment, judiciary, media ownership, energy, military, civil liberties and others. A violent strain develops in this movement, but is quashed by those who wish to see it succeed.
My guess is that the first option 2 will come to pass. At that point, we will hold in our hands the power to push for the second option 2. Will we seize it, as brave people in other parts of the world have done, or will we ¾ through a combination of cowardice and inertia ¾ allow our moment to pass?
Remember, the Bard also said, “There is a tide in the affairs of [wo]men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.” [
How the Media Thwarted the Woman Who Tried to Stop the War
Of course Katharine Gun was free to have a conscience, as long as it didn’t interfere with her work at a British intelligence agency. To the authorities, practically speaking, a conscience was apt to be less tangible than a pixel on a computer screen. But suddenly ¾ one routine morning, while she was scrolling through e-mail at her desk ¾ conscience struck. It changed Katharine Gun’s life, and it changed history.
Heroic Personal Risk
Despite the nationality of this young Englishwoman, her story is profoundly American — all the more so because it has remained largely hidden from the public in the United States. When Katharine Gun chose, at great personal risk, to reveal an illicit spying operation at the United Nations in which the U.S. government was the senior partner, she brought out of the transatlantic shadows a special relationship that could not stand the light of day.
By then, in early 2003, the president of the United States — with dogged assists from the British prime minister following close behind — had long since become transparently determined to launch an invasion of Iraq. Gun’s moral concerns were not unusual; she shared, with countless other Brits and Americans, strong opposition to the impending launch of war. Yet, thanks to a simple and intricate twist of fate, she abruptly found herself in a rare position to throw a roadblock in the way of the political march to war from Washington and London. Far more extraordinary, though, was her decision to put herself in serious jeopardy on behalf of revealing salient truths to the world.
We might envy such an opportunity, and admire such courage on behalf of principle. But there are good, or at least understandable, reasons why so few whistleblowers emerge from institutions that need conformity and silence to lay flagstones on the path to war. Those reasons have to do with matters of personal safety, financial security, legal jeopardy, social cohesion and default positions of obedience. They help to explain why and how people go along to get along with the warfare state even when it flagrantly rests on foundations of falsehoods.
The e-mailed memorandum from the U.S. National Security Agency that jarred Katharine Gun that fateful morning was dated less than two months before the invasion of Iraq that was to result in thousands of deaths among the occupying troops and hundreds of thousands more among Iraqi people. We’re told that this is a cynical era, but there was nothing cynical about Katharine Gun’s response to the memo that appeared without warning on her desktop. Reasons to shrug it off were plentiful, in keeping with bottomless rationales for prudent inaction. The basis for moral engagement and commensurate action was singular.
Media: Ho Hum
The import of the NSA memo was such that it shook the government of Tony Blair and caused uproars on several continents. But for the media in the United States, it was a minor story. For the New York Times, it was no story at all.
At last, a new book tells this story. The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War packs a powerful wallop. To understand in personal, political and historic terms — what Katharine Gun did, how the British and American governments responded, and what the U.S. news media did and did not report — is to gain a clear-eyed picture of a military-industrial-media complex that plunged ahead with the invasion of Iraq shortly after her brave action of conscience. That complex continues to promote what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism.”
In a time when political players and widely esteemed journalists are pleased to posture with affects of great sophistication, Katharine Gun’s response was disarmingly simple. She activated her conscience when clear evidence came into her hands that war — not diplomacy seeking to prevent it — headed the priorities list of top leaders at both 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and 10 Downing Street. “At the time,” she has recalled, “all I could think about was that I knew they were trying really hard to legitimize an invasion, and they were willing to use this new intelligence to twist arms, perhaps blackmail delegates, so they could tell the world they had achieved a consensus for war.”
No to Violation of International Law
She and her colleagues at the Government Communications Headquarters were, as she later put it, “being asked to participate in an illegal process with the ultimate aim of achieving an invasion in violation of international law.”
The authors of The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War, Marcia and Thomas Mitchell, describe the scenario this way: “Twisting the arms of the recalcitrant [U.N. Security Council] representatives in order to win approval for a new resolution could supply the universally acceptable rationale.” After Katharine Gun discovered what was afoot, “she attempted to stop a war by destroying its potential trigger mechanism, the required second resolution that would make war legal.”
Instead of mere accusation, the NSA memo provided substantiation. That fact explains why U.S. intelligence agencies firmly stonewalled in response to media inquiries — and it may also help to explain why the U.S. news media gave the story notably short shrift. To a significant degree, the scoop did not reverberate inside the American media echo chamber because it was too sharply telling to blend into the dominant orchestrated themes.
While supplying the ostensible first draft of history, U.S. media filtered out vital information that could refute the claims of Washington’s exalted war planners. “Journalists, too many of them — some quite explicitly — have said that they see their mission as helping the war effort,” an American media critic warned during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. “If you define your mission that way, you’ll end up suppressing news that might be important, accurate, but maybe isn’t helpful to the war effort.”
Jeff Cohen (a friend and colleague of mine) spoke those words before the story uncorked by Katharine Gun’s leak splashed across British front pages and then scarcely dribbled into American media. He uttered them on the MSNBC television program hosted by Phil Donahue, where he worked as a producer and occasional on-air analyst. Donahue’s prime-time show was cancelled by NBC management three weeks before the invasion — as it happened, on almost the same day that the revelation of the NSA memo became such a big media story in the United Kingdom and such a carefully bypassed one in the United States.
Soon a leaked NBC memo confirmed suspicions that the network had pulled the plug on Donahue’s show in order to obstruct views and information that would go against the rush to war. The network memo said that the Donahue program would present a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war.” It also said: “He seems to delight in presenting guests who are antiwar, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration’s motives.” Cancellation of the show averted the danger that it could become “a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.”
Overall, to the editors of American mass media, the actions and revelations of Katharine Gun merited little or no reporting — especially when they mattered most. My search of the comprehensive LexisNexis database found that for nearly three months after her name was first reported in the British media, U.S. news stories mentioning her scarcely existed.
When the prosecution of Katharine Gun finally concluded its journey through the British court system, the authors note, a surge of American news reports on the closing case “had people wondering why they hadn’t heard about the NSA spy operation at the beginning.” This book includes an account of journalistic evasion that is a grim counterpoint to the story of conscience and courage that just might inspire us to activate more of our own. [
This article was adapted from Norman Solomon’s foreword to the new book by Marcia and Thomas Mitchell, The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War: Katharine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion.
Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images
Sarah Palin is right to criticize Barak Obama for ‘palling around with terrorists,’ as she puts it. A smart politician would not hang around with people who have been connected to bombs that might have hurt civilians, even though the Weather Underground that Obama’s buddy Bill Ayres helped found never targeted civilians. The only person they ever killed was one of their own in a fatal bomb-making blunder in aGreenwich Village townhouse.
McCain Was a Terrorist
Of course, those bombs of the Weather Underground back in the late 1960s and early 1970s were a stupid but understandable response to the infinitely larger numbers of bombs that were dropped on purpose by John McCain and others into civilian neighborhoods and workplaces in Vietnam.
Indeed, McCain was shot down as he was bombing Hanoi, a city, not a military base nor a military supply line such as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. This was patently illegal then and it’s illegal now. It’s a war crime. It was a war crime when it was done by Japanese to Chinese and Mongolians, when it was done by Germans to the British, and in turn when we targeted civilians in Dresden, Hamburg, Cologne, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. At least, however, there was a justification for being at war with Germany and Japan. There was none for our war on Vietnam just as there is none now in Iraq.
We pretend that the rest of the world cannot tell that our bombs are just as terroristic as anyone else’s. We pretend that they misinterpret any civilian deaths as somehowAmerica’s intent to kill people who are not armed. We pretend that John McCain wasn’t a terrorist.
Murdering Innocent Civilians = Terrorism
There was absolutely nothing noble about what McCain did to the Vietnamese. He was one of the least likely to pay any price for his actions, bombing them into fireball oblivion from thousands of feet in the air. Were they not in possession of antiaircraft rockets they would have had no chance to defend themselves against the bombings of hospitals, civilian neighborhoods, and the infrastructure that kept their people alive.
Were the Vietnamese a threat to the U.S.? No. Were they a threat to a neighboring country? No. Did the U.N. decide that a military invasion was necessary to stop a genocide or other major human rights violation? No. The U.S. unilaterally decided to step in to seize a colony the French lost in 1954. The Vietnamese had every right in the world to defend their nation by any means at their command. The U.S., on the other hand, had neither the right to attack anyone in Vietnam, nor the right to attack civilians anywhere. The Vietnamese didn’t always conduct themselves by the international rules of war, but the U.S. and John McCain clearly did not.
So let’s not be quite so fast, Sarah. Check out the character and history of your pals. Your running mate murdered Vietnamese civilians. Neither Barak Obama, nor even Bill Ayres, his pathetic ‘pal,’ did. [
Tom H. Hastings, :
, teaches in the MA/MS Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University. He is a former Associate Editor of The PeaceWorker.
The Eugene Tasering Incident Must Be Investigated
We are disturbed to read and hear the eyewitness reports of the May 30 incident in Eugene which resulted in the tasering of one young man and a concussion in an older man. We are disturbed that at least 2 people who were not threatening anyone were treated by police as if they were mortal threats.
We are disturbed that people who were conscious of the need to stay calm and refrain from using force, and were careful to maintain a physical distance from the police officers, were still treated as if they posed a physical threat to the police. That two people, whom by all eyewitness reports were innocent of any offense, received notable injuries from the police, is disturbing to our sense of protections guaranteed under the Bill of Rights.
What can cause police to act in this way? Were they genuinely afraid that the individuals they injured might have caused harm? Had they been instructed to act with a higher than necessary level of brutality, to incite violence themselves to discredit the students at the rally? The event was not an angry event; it was a celebration, organized by University of Oregon students, of a decision by the Lane County Commissioners. It seems irrational for the officers to have acted defensively, or to have anticipated violence from any of the participants. What had the officers been told before they arrived on the scene, as the rally was disbanding and the video journalists had left?
Expectations Create Outcomes
It is well-known that expectations create outcomes.
When police expect peaceful demonstrations they are more likely to get them. Basic courtesy and respect must be employed by the police in all situations. That takes courage of a different kind than violent control responses.
The reverse is also true: people must be courteous and respectful of police, and not give them any reason to fear physical harm. This is a mainstay of all training in non-violence. The Fellowship of Reconciliation is devoted to this principle.
It is notable, from the eyewitness reports and the press releases of two of the men arrested, that the recipients of brutal force had consciously and carefully made a point of not interfering physically, keeping a respectful and safe (they thought) distance from the police while they were tasering the first young man. Like many other witnesses, they used only their voices to ask the police why they were tasering him, and to state that they observed the force to be excessive and unnecessary.
Taser Use Spreading
We are disturbed to perceive a pattern with the spreading use of tasers among police in this country. The incident in Eugene is a prime example, as are eyewitness reports from protests last month in St. Paul, Minnesota. A small handful of deaths have occurred from tasers, as police apparently incorrectly believe that the effect of the fairly new technology is short-lived and harmless. The electric shock can cause great stress on the heart, and even fatal heart attacks. We understand the desire, even the need, to immobilize a person who poses a threat, and we appreciate the preference to use the less-lethal tasers rather than guns. One can imagine defending against assault, armed robbery, or cases where a suspect has a violent weapon, or is suspected of having one, or is running away, that a taser might provide the most protection and the least harm. You would be most unlikely to receive a letter from us had a taser been used in such circumstances. We value police protection as fundamental to civil society.
What appears to be a pattern of brutal and unnecessary force by police during events of peaceful assembly is disturbing. It is as if there is an intent to discredit the people who are gathering and speaking publicly. Is there a fear of people speaking their voices in public or an intent to frighten the American people from speaking and gathering publicly? Freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are vital to the country that was founded so consciously in 1779. We must not let those distinguished rights vanish.
We on the Board of the Oregon Fellowship of Reconciliation state our support for the participants of the rally who all behaved in a non-violent manner. We state our emphatic support for David Parziale and David Owen who, in their public statements, consciously refrained from any possibility of being perceived as a threat, yet remained as witnesses and emotional support to the young man (Ian Van Ornum) who was twice tasered after he had been dragged across the street by his hair, thrown to the ground, and held there by a police officer’s knee in his back. From the eyewitness reports we have read, we cannot see any reason to prosecute the arrestees. We state our support for a truly impartial inquiry into the events of May 30th: in Eugene. We state our support for the right to non-violent public speech and assembly as a basic human right guaranteed by the First Amendment and urge the media, the courts and public review processes to be attentive to what is at stake here.
The Fellowship of Reconciliation is a national organization started by conscientious objectors during World War I. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of our better-known members. We have all taken an oath of non-violence. We believe that for humanity to be at our best, we must speak our conscience on matters of great import, and we must re-learn ways of preventing or resolving conflicts, without the use of violence. [
Co-Chairs Renee Stringham and Mark Babson, along with the other officers and board of the Oregon Fellowship of Reconciliation, signed this statement. Contact: OFOR,P.O. Box 222, Salem, OR 97308.
What the World Needs Now
We have all heard the expression, “it must get worse before it gets better.” I have always asked “how much?” We are just now having a sample serving of “how much.” Don’t hold your breath, the answer is,
“much more.” Debts the size of our national debt and now contemplating adding another trillion to it, can never be paid off in conventional terms. They are simply “neutralized” over time by devaluing the currency
in which they are written (inflation). Inflation under capitalism can never be stopped, but a continuous effort is exerted to slow the rate. Inflation is the way that the rest of us, 98% of us, will pay for this incredible crime that is being perpetrated against us.
I have some suggestions. Freeze all the assets of the suspected perpetrators. Seize the “Golden Parachutes.” Freeze all foreclosures, pending realistic solutions. Nationalize the entire U.S. financial
business world. Banking, insurance, savings and loans, and Wall Street, if we must buy them out, let’s own them. They should be run as a public service.
Manufacturing companies make things. Finance does not. It only manipulates our money. Like all casinos. Only they know the odds, we always pay, sooner or later.
Then if we care about the survival of our species, we must abandon imperialism, stop the waste of war and other nonsensical uses of resources and work towards world cooperation, instead of world competition. Leave superstition and paranoia behind. Do you really care about your grandchildren? [
PUC to Let PGE Keep $200 Million in Unlawful Trojan Profits
Last month the Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) issued an order in three combined rate cases that refuses to return to ratepayers more than a small fraction of the money they have paid Portland General Electric Co. (PGE) to enable the company to earn huge profits on the Trojan nuclear power plant for more than a decade after it permanently closed in 1992.
Such profits are banned by ORS 757.355, enacted by voters as Measure 9 in 1978. This ban was reaffirmed by voters in 2000, who ¾ by referendum ¾ rejected the Legislature’s attempt to repeal this statute by a vote of over 88% on Measure 90. The cases were back before the OPUC because of numerous successful appeals of OPUC rate orders since 1995 to the courts by the Utility Reform Project and class action plaintiffs.
PUC Defies Supreme Court Ruling
“The $33.1 million refund ordered by the Commission is only a small fraction of what ratepayers are owed by PGE for its unlawful charges for Trojan profits after the plant broke down and permanently ceased to function,” said Dan Meek, co-counsel for the ratepayer-plaintiffs in numerous cases involving the Trojan profits.
“The Commission’s order is based on legal theories that were never presented or advocated by any party in the proceeding, including PGE, and are contrary to Oregon statutes,” added ratepayer-plaintiffs’ co-counsel Linda Williams. “The Order consumes many pages stating the Commission’s disagreement on legal issues with the Oregon Supreme Court, which has acknowledged ratepayers’ rights to class action remedies. The Commission appears not to understand that rulings of the Oregon Supreme Court are binding on the Commission.”
Attorneys for the ratepayer-plaintiffs said they fully expect to appeal this decision to the courts, where they have succeeded in overturning the Commission’s earlier decisions involving the Trojan profits. Those decisions were issued in 1995 and 2002.
The Commission’s press release misstates the history of the cases in several ways. It fails to note that the Commission expressly allowed PGE to charge ratepayers over $33 million per year in profit on Trojan during a 5.5-year period starting in 1995, more than 2 years after the plant permanently closed. The press release incorrectly characterizes a “settlement” among only some of the parties to the case in 2000 as “entirely removing the Trojan investment from rates,” which the Commission’s approval of the rump settlement most certainly did not do. [
Daniel Meek and Linda Williams are attorneys for the Utility Reform Project,:www.utilityreform.org. You can contact them at 503.293.9021, :
and 503.293.9099, :
Army Unit Deploys for Domestic Operations
On October 1st, the Army deployed an active unit inside the United States for the first time since 1807 to serve as an on-call federal response in times of emergency. The 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team (3000-4000 soldiers) has spent thirty-five of the last sixty months in Iraq, but now the unit is training for domestic operations. The unit is under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command. The Army Times reports this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to Northern Command. The paper says the Army unit may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control. The soldiers are learning to use so-called nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals and crowds. (From:Democracynow.org). According to Rep. Brad Sherman, George Bush then, almost immediately, threatened Members of Congress with imposition of marshal law if they did not pass the $700 billion bailout bill.
For more info::http://www.armytimes.com/news/2008/09/army_homeland_090708w/
Historical note: :http://www.armytimes.com/legacy/new/1-292925-2274936.php.
Judge Frees, Protects Guant?namo Detainees
In a courtroom packed with anti-torture activists and members of the Uigher community, U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina struck a landmark blow against the Bush administration and its policy of indefinite detention at Guant?namo in Washington, DC in September.
It Was for Their Own Good, You Understand…
The case involved seventeen Uighers, ethnic Chinese Muslim detainees held at Guant?namo despite having been deemed unthreatening and cleared for released. The United States has continued to hold them, arguing they would face persecution if repatriated to China. Judge Urbina called their continued detention “illegal,” and ruled that the government has to “release them here” in the United States.
When the government argued that bringing the men to the United States might result in their apprehension by the Department of Homeland Security, Judge Urbina grew angry and frustrated, saying “these Uighers will not be touched until I see them in this court… The petitioners must be brought to me on October 10th and nothing will happen to these people before then.” The government is expected to appeal the ruling, postponing what would be the first time in nearly seven years that prisoners at Guant?namo would appear before a U.S. court of law.
The Uighers, who are members of a repressed minority within China, have been held without judicial oversight for nearly seven years. Fleeing a Chinese crackdown, they were arrested by security personnel in Pakistan soon after September 11, 2001 and were transferred to U.S. military custody in exchange for bounties of $5,000 a piece. After being subjected to torture in Pakistan, the men have languished in legal limbo at Guant?namo. A smaller group of Uighers was released from Guant?namo in 2006 and granted entry into Albania.
Members of Witness Against Torture, a grassroots movement to shut down Guant?namo, were present at the hearing and heartened by Urbina’s ruling. “Once again the courts are ruling in favor of justice,” said Matthew W. Daloisio, of New York City, one of the group’s organizers. “Judge Urbina is opening the doors of the United States to these innocent victims of the White House’s war on terror.”
“This is a good step,” comments Helen Schietinger, a Washington, DC resident and another organizer with Witness Against Torture. “In the context of a presidential race in which both major candidates have called for the closure of Guant?namo,” she continues, “this ruling could be the beginning of freedom for many of the more than 200 men who remain imprisoned at the U.S. Naval Base there, but we have to make it happen. In the coming weeks and months, we have a historic opportunity to reverse the disastrous policies of the last seven years.”
Witness Against Torture has launched a campaign to close the U.S. detention facilities at Guant?namo Bay, Cuba and end torture by the United States within the first 100 days of the new president’s administration. Joined by the Center for Constitutional Rights, United for Peace and Justice, the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International, War Resisters League, the School of the Americas Watch and other groups, Witness Against Torture will begin a nine-day fast on January 11, 2009, which marks seven years since the opening of the prison at Guant?namo.
The campaign to Shut Down Guant?namo will begin formally on January 20, the inauguration of the next president. The campaign brings together a coalition of groups and individuals who will take part in demonstrations, educate Congress and the public, and engage in nonviolent direct action. Witness Against Torture will maintain a physical presence at the White House and organize activities — from film screenings to lectures and community meetings — in Washington, D.C., and across the country.
To learn more about the campaign, visit :http://www.witnesstorture.org/100days. [
Frida Berrigan is Senior Program Associate at the Arms and Security Initiative of the New America Foundation, 1630 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20009; Phone: 202.986.2700; Fax: 202.986.3696; Email: :
For up-to date reports on many progressive issues, see the Center for American Progress at:www.americanprogressaction.org/ and the Gristmill at:http://www.grist.org/news/. For justice issues, see the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) at :www.aclu.org/. For the issues of national defense and the Iraq war, see the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) at:www.fcnl.org/. For the issues of energy and global warming, see the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) at:http://www.ucsusa.org/ and the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) at :www.nrdc.org.
Sarah Palin Tax Evasion
As if further evidence was needed about Sarah Palin’s character, it is now clear she failed to declare $17,000 in income on her federal tax forms. For more stories on her tax evasion issues, see: :http://unbossed.com/index.php?query=Palin+per+diem&amount=0&blogid=1 and:http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/06/questions-linger-about-palin-taxes/.
The key story is that Palin was paid $60 per day by the state for meals and expenses while living at her home in Wasilla, AK. Whether this violated Alaska law or rules, it is income under IRS rules. There are no counterbalancing expenses when you are living in your normal residence. If this were legal, every company would pay part of an employee’s wages as per diem, so the employee could avoid taxes. Whether Alaskaprovides her with another free home in the capital, Juneau, does not matter. She spent most of her nights in Wasilla. Whatever Alaska calls the $60 a day payment, not declaring it as income is tax fraud. Regardless of the election outcome, this will be an interesting story to watch.
Energy Provisions of Bailout Bill
After the House defeated the Wall Street bailout bill, H.R. 1424, the Senate added several tax cuts to encourage the House to pass the bill. The tactic worked and the bill passed. One of the added provisions was the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008. This extends the federal wind production tax credit (PTC) and investment tax credit (ITC) sunset dates.
The PTC for wind turbine and some other renewable developers is extended one year through 2010. The bill also expands the PTC to include certain marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy facilities that generate by Dec. 31, 2011.
The bill extends the ITC for solar, fuel cell and micro turbine property until December 31, 2016. It expands the ITC to include combined heat and power system systems, qualified small wind turbines and geothermal heat pumps. Most importantly, it takes off the ITC cost cap on residential solar and removes the alternative minimum tax limits. This is a huge tax break for the solar industry.
The bill increases biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel credits and extends the sunset dates until December 31, 2009. It authorizes renewable energy bonds and energy conservation bonds. It also extends tax deductions for insulation and energy efficient equipment for commercial and residential buildings.
Along with the Energy Security and Independence Act of 2007, passed last December, this is the second major renewable and energy efficiency bill to become law in the last year.
For more info on this bill see:http://www.globest.com/news/1258_1258/insider/174376-1.html.
New Climate Change Bill
It seems increasingly likely the next Congress will pass a bill to cap emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). As with other cap-and-trade bills, the federal government would issue or sell allowances to emit carbon dioxide and other GHGs. Polluters would have to turn in one allowance for each ton of CO2 emissions (or its equivalent of other GHGs). The cap is the sum of the allowances issued or sold. The allowances would be tradable. Polluters with more emissions than allowances would have to buy allowances from the government or other polluters who had extra. Polluters who do not turn in sufficient allowances will face steep fines.
An alternative method to put a price on CO2 emissions is a carbon tax. Polluters would have to pay the government a fixed fee for every ton emitted. Other GHG emissions would pay an equivalent fee. There are two reasons that Congress is likely to favor cap and trade over a carbon tax.
First, a cap on greenhouse emissions is necessary. There is no scientific way to set the tax on emitting a single ton of CO2. We don’t know what tax would keep CO2concentrations below 500 parts per million in the atmosphere. If we don’t abide by this cap, catastrophic climate change is likely. Emissions have risen from 280 ppm to 380 over the last 200 years. Because of exponential growth in the use of fossil fuels, we would reach 500 ppm before 2030 unless strong action is taken.
The other, more important, reason is political. A cap and trade approach requires the distribution and sale of allowances. This allows Congress to hand out goodies. If allowances are given to households or to regulated and consumer-owned utilities, it will not redistribute wealth to corporate shareholders. If allowances are given to corporations, it will enrich shareholders. Allowances that are sold at auction can provide funds for research and development of emission reducing technologies and for energy efficiency and renewable incentives. This looks a lot more fun than imposing a new tax.
If history is a guide, a cap and trade bill will likely pass as the next election approaches in late 2010. The new House bill would have to be reconciled with several Senate bills. No bill has passed the Senate yet.
On Oct. 7 the House Commerce Committee released its discussion draft of its Climate Change Legislation (see :http://energycommerce.house.gov/). The web site has the full draft bill and summarizes its major provisions. The draft has several placeholder numbers and alternative provisions, but is a complete and comprehensive bill. It has many improvements over previous climate change bills, including a minimum auction price for allowances. This will provide a clear incentive to energy producers to reduce emissions.
This bill is important because Committee Chair Rep. John Dingle (D-MI) has often opposed regulating vehicle emissions yet he fully supports this bill. The memo from Dingell and Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), Chair of the subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, :http://energycommerce.house.gov/Climate_Change/Memo-Climate-Change-100708.pdf states: “Politically, scientifically, legally, and morally, the question has been settled: regulation of greenhouse gases in the United States is coming.” They note that this committee drafted and took the lead in passing clean air legislation in 1970, 1977 and 1990. This would be a bill of equal historic note.
The bill emphasizes carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) from new coal plants. A climate change bill won’t pass without this nod to the coal industry, as there are too many senators from coal states. CCS is so popular that Dingell and Boucher “…expect to quickly pass the bipartisan Carbon Capture and Storage Early Deployment Act” with or without a climate change bill. Keeping the two bills together would likely help the climate bill to pass.
Some of the new provisions raise concerns. For example, the bill emphasizes international reforestation and afforestation projects for offsetting U.S. emissions. International offsets will be controversial as these would not create U.S. jobs. More importantly, it’s hard to assure any forestry offsets are real. Because the bill would allow offsets for 34 percent of the emission cap after 2024, this a big potential loophole.
Coverage and stringency: The bill would cover 88 percent of U.S. emissions. Hydro-fluorocarbons would be covered by regulations, rather than face the market-based incentives. For 2020, the bill has a relatively weak cap of 94 percent of 2005 emissions from covered sectors. For 2050 the cap is strong, emissions would be capped at 20 percent of the 2005 level. The limit for 2030 would 66 percent of the 2005 level. Overall, if tightly crafted, this would send a clear signal to businesses and households that the carbon era is over.
The value of the emission allowances: Who gets the allowances is one of the most challenging issues in any bill. The market value of the allowances will be hundreds of billions of dollars each year. There are four options discussed. There is a table on the committee web site that shows how much value would go to each economic sector or activity under each option (:http://energycommerce.house.gov/Climate_Change/Discussion-Draft-Allocation-Tables-100708.pdf ).
The sector or activities eligible for allocation are the industrial sector, the electricity sector (local distribution utilities), independent coal generators, energy efficiency programs, clean technology deployment, early action recognition, low-income consumers, other consumers, a federal deficit reduction fund, green jobs, supplemental GHG reductions, a national climate change adaptation program, international obligations, and management of the program.
The first option would allocate much of the allowance value to regulated and consumer-owned utilities. This would be okay, as the value of these allowances will go to consumers. Unfortunately, it would also allocate huge numbers of allowances to corporations. This would be one of the largest federal giveaways in history.
The second option would, over time, move more of the value of the allowances into complementary programs to reduce emissions. Industrial efficiency programs would be guaranteed the most funds under this option.
The third option would give less allowance value to polluters and spend more for consumer rebates, climate adaptation and international efforts. The fourth option would rebate the majority of the allowance value directly to households.
All allocation options would provide huge direct funding for energy efficiency investments and research and development of energy technologies. Most of the allowance value given to utilities would likely go towards energy efficiency, renewable resource or CCS programs, rather than consumer rebates. The bill would also tighten building efficiency regulations.
For an up to date summary of climate change activity see::http://climatechange.foreignpolicyblogs.com/. [
Phil Carver, a former OPW Board Chair, writes this column exclusively for each issue of The PeaceWorker.
Featured: The Financial Crisis: Opportunity for Change
Economic Crisis: More Than Meets the Eye
It was triggered by the tottering of banks holding dubious sub-prime mortgages, and a serious tightening of credit in the wake of the housing bubble collapse. Ripples of the financial crisis are spreading, most recently, fears of major corporate bankruptcies.
Chance to Address Basic Problems
Commentators are connecting the dots to related weaknesses in our economy: our declining savings rates, the relentless outflow of jobs to lower-wage countries, shadowy decision-making processes that benefit the few, unsustainable federal budget deficits, erosion of healthcare and other benefits, and monthly trade deficits the size of annual ones fifteen years ago.
Confidence in our economic institutions and leadership has taken a hit. For most of us, the cram session on credit-default swaps and derivatives hasn’t been exactly reassuring. The public outcry has made it harder for politicians to just bail out the culprits and expect praise. Yes, this is a wake-up call -- and an opportunity for serious change.
Indeed, a discussion of more basic concerns is long overdue, with vulnerable citizens in the focus not just financial institutions, and a timeframe of decades not months. This crisis offers an opening for people working on a range of problems to come together around lasting change. Here are a few of these underlying concerns, each with reminders of their place in our attention:
1. Economic Inequality ¾ In 1960 the average CEO of a major U.S corporation made 20 times as much as the average worker in his company; twenty years ago it was 40 times; today it is 500 times as much. In recent years the top 1% received three quarters of the country’s income gains while the bottom 60% lost ground. The richest 1% of Americans owns twice the wealth of the poorest 80%. The global picture is even starker: the world’s 400 billionaires by themselves own as much as the bottom half of the world’s people.
2. Unions, work ¾ Thirty years ago, equal proportions of the U.S. and Canadian workforce were unionized, about 25%; Canada’s is the same today, our nation’s has fallen to half as much. Economic insecurity is common even in traditionally secure jobs. Corporations freely downsize or shift operations to low-wage countries, undermining unions and weakening safety and environmental standards. Salaries and “golden parachutes” of top executives have increased while crucial jobs like child care are underpaid. Many more families have two wage-earners, not by choice but to make ends meet.
3. Women, minorities, children, the poor, the elderly, and the vulnerable are the big losers in our economy. In the 80s and early 90s, an average of 40,000 apparel workers in the U.S. lost their jobs annually; three quarters of U.S. apparel workers are women, a third of them minorities. In recent years the number of American children living in poverty has grown 50 percent. While less than a fifth of federal entitlements and tax breaks go to the poor, the rhetoric and the budget cuts disproportionately target programs serving them. Retirement accounts of Americans lost $2 trillion in value in the past fifteen months.
4. Environment, development ¾ Just 20% of the world’s population consumes 80% of its resources. Current policies foster high levels of consumption by the well-to-do and neglect the environment and the needs of the hungry, refugees, the poorest of the poor. In the last forty years, in large part due to policies of industrialized nations, the average per capita gain in real income was 22 times larger in industrialized than in developing countries.
5. War ¾ In addition to untold human suffering, the Iraq War is projected to cost $2 trillion and has damaged our ability to work with other countries on development, climate change, etc. Just 5% of wars since 1945 were “state attacks state” conflicts; most were economic and ethnic disputes. Yet U.S. military spending (mostly focused on traditional war) is 17 times greater than the combined military spending of the Pentagon’s own list of all our potential military adversaries. It is a hundred times greater than U.S. development aid. U.S. arms sales to warring states have greatly increased since the end of the cold war.
6. Guns, Crime ¾ One in four deaths among U.S. 15 to 24-year-olds are caused by firearms; 270,000 guns go to school every day. A larger percentage of U.S.citizens are behind bars, more than in any other country. Spending to build new prisons is expanding even as training and job programs are cut. Thirty five years ago there were half as many security guards hired to protect property as there were police officers, today there are twice as many.
7. Media ¾ National and regional media are increasingly owned by large corporations while news programming has declined in length, budget, and seriousness in recent decades. Add conflicts of interest, trivializing of news, and encouraging a spectator mentality and it is no surprise that growing numbers of people are left ill-equipped to participate in civic life. For example, on average, Americans believe that 80 times as much of federal spending goes to foreign aid than actually does.
8. Values ¾ All those preachers, mystics, and mothers were right: we spend too much time in front of screens and not enough being with one another. The deepest human yearnings are not fulfilled by new products but by relationships. Giving is more rewarding than getting. Simple living will not only help save our planet, it can also help save our souls. Life is doing not just watching. Cooperation and community have advantages over competition.
9. Democracy ¾ Big money has all but overwhelmed the democratic process in theU.S. The number of lobbyists in Washington, DC has doubled in just six years. Campaigns must raise millions to pay for television advertising, too much of it comes from corporate sources. At a time that corporate allegiance to any community or nation is weakening, our democratic process increasingly looks like “one dollar, one vote.” Too much global economic policy is shaped by unrepresentative bodies like the World Trade Organization.
Everyone Has a Role to Play
We have work to do. Our advocacy should include fair recovery policies, tougher regulations, stimulus programs reaching down to the grassroots, cooperative not just competitive practices, an end to corporate abuse, and linking public money to a public place at the table.
We are only as powerless as we think. We each can play a part in helping advance solutions, through the many effective citizen groups working for change; and as individuals. The tasks are varied: educational forums, writing letters, passing on email alerts, meeting with elected officials, talking with friends, nourishing simple living, and supporting one another.
Three decades ago, people in Eastern Europe, South Africa and the Philippines faced times as confusing and scary as our own. By 1990 they’d won victories that would shake the world. Each found the unity and vision to persevere. Each learned that organizing people for concrete change, using a wide range of tactics, building their numbers and skill, and embracing the full creativity and power of disciplined nonviolence can overcome the greatest odds.
People mobilized and united by compassion and a vision is the most powerful force on earth. Many varied groups have important contributions: women’s groups, faith communities, minority groups, rural folk used to helping one another, unions, community organizers, activists, etc.
We face serious problems. Can we let this challenge move us to develop creative strategies, sustained outreach efforts, and links among various social change movements? Who could want to ignore – who would want to miss out on – being part of meeting this challenge?
Useful information appears daily on websites like :www.commondreams.org,:www.thenation.org, :www.fpif.org, :www.truthout.org, and :www.sojo.net to name a few. Insightful authors to look for include David Korten, William Greider, Paul Krugman, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Walden Bello, Robert Kuttner, Naomi Klein, Jim Wallis and Holly Sklar. For more on the issues, inspiration and lessons from nonviolent movements, to comment on this draft, or see revised versions, contact the Peace & Justice Resource Center, 1710 11th Ave., Seattle, WA 98122, :
, 206.720.0313 ext. 3, :www.pjrcbooks.org. [
Glen Gersmehl is the Director of the Lutheran Peace Fellowship. He presents this analysis through the auspices of the Seattle Peace & Justice Resource Center.
A Few More Things We Need to Think About…
· Today the average American sees more ads every 2 weeks than would have been seen 100 years ago in a lifetime.
· On average, college seniors have 6 credit cards and nearly triple the serious delinquency rate as older adults.
· One billion people in the world do not get enough to eat. Yet half of American adults are overweight.
· The average child graduates from high school having spent more time in front of the television set than in the classroom.
· In developing countries, six million children die each year, mostly from hunger-related causes.
· Fourteen million children in the U.S. experience hunger or the risk of hunger.
· Over one quarter of the largest corporations in the country have terminated or frozen their defined benefit pension plans since 2001.
· Serious problems in the new Medicare prescription drug plan, have prompted two dozen states to take over major parts of the plan. Drug companies had spent over 1 billion dollars lobbying for a program favorable to their interests. [
We Had Alternatives
The following statement was presented on the floor of The House of Representatives after Congressman Dennis Kucinich voted against the Wall Street bail out plan, H.R. 1424, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.
Same Bailout, New Wrapper
The public is being led to believe that Congress has reconsidered its position because we have before us a better bill than we had a few days ago. It is the same bill plus hundreds of new pages for hundreds of millions of tax breaks. What does this have to do with the troubles of Wall Street?
Driven by fear, we are moving quickly to pass a bill, which may produce a temporary uptick for the market, but nothing for millions of homeowners whose misfortunes are at the center of our economic woes. People do not have money to pay their mortgages. After this passes, they will still not have money to pay their mortgages. People will still lose their homes while Wall Street is bailed out.
The central flaw of this bill is that there are no stronger protections for homeowners and no changes in the language to ensure that the secretary has the authority to compel mortgage servicers to modify the terms of mortgages. There are no stronger regulatory changes to fix the circumstances that allowed this to happen.
We should have created a mechanism for our government to take a controlling interest in mortgage-backed securities and use our power to work out a new deal for the homeowners. We could have done this. We should have done this. But we didn’t.
Now millions of Americans will face the threat of foreclosure without any help. The numbers will soon rise for a number of reasons. Not only because of the Alt-A, jumbo mortgages which will soon be reset at higher interest rates, but because the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) is pushing up rates on adjustable mortgages and more than half of the U.S. adjustable mortgage rates are tied to LIBOR. Homeowner defaults will grow in significant numbers. Let’s see if Congress will be as quick to help homeowners on Main Street as they were to help speculators on Wall Street.
Now the government will have to borrow $700 billion from banks, with interest, to give banks a $700 billion bailout, and in return the taxpayers get $700 billion in toxic debt. The Senate “improved” the bailout by giving tax breaks to people in foreclosure. People in foreclosure need help paying their mortgage, they do not seek tax breaks.
Across our nation, foreclosures continue to devastate our communities, people are losing their jobs, and the prices of necessities are skyrocketing. This legislation, just like the one we defeated last week, will do nothing to solve the problems plaguing American families or help them to get out from underneath the oppressive debt they have been forced to take on.
Unfortunately, there has been no discussion of the underlying debt-based economy and the role of our monetary system in facilitating the redistribution of wealth upwards.
It is not as though we had no choice but to pass the bill before us. We could have done this differently. We could have demanded language in the legislation that would have empowered the Treasury to compel mortgage servicers to rework the terms of mortgage loans so homeowners could avoid foreclosure. We could have put regulatory structures in place to protect investors. We could have stopped the speculators.
This bill represents an utter failure of the democratic process. It represents the triumph of special interest over the triumph of the public interest. It represents the inability of government to defend the public interest in the face of great pressure from financial interests. We could have recognized the power of government to prime the pump of the economy to get money flowing throughout society by creating jobs, health care, and major investments in green energy. What a lost opportunity! What a moment of transition away from democracy and towards domination of America by global economic interests.
Years ago, in a Cleveland neighborhood, I saw a hand-scrawled sign above a cash register in a delicatessen. The sign said: “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.” The sign above the Speaker’s rostrum reads “In God We Trust,” but we are paying the cash to Wall Street.
It is not as if we had no other choice but to pass this bill. [
Dennis Kucinich is a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives fromOhio and a former presidential candidate. This statement was published on Friday, October 3: by :CommonDreams.org.
Top Economist Analyzes the Crisis
“This is an amazing and scary time. The economy…will be different,” said former Office of Management and Budget Director Alice Rivlin at Willamette University on October 16. She emphasized that the current financial crisis offers an opportunity to fix what’s wrong with the system, but that this opportunity will not necessarily be seized. If the economy is pointed in a more positive direction, it will be because the new direction is more sustainable.
Abandon Your Ideology
Calling herself an optimist, Rivlin characterized the crisis as a “wakeup call” to borrow less and save more and to accept that U.S. influence in the world economy will decline. In order to productively address the situation – which she acknowledged will be “hard,” – she urged people to “check their slogans and ideologies at the door.” We will need careful thinking and analysis, not “I told you so”s based on a systemic view of economics. In fact, she urged skepticism regarding what any economists say about the crisis. Specifically she warned against either the rightist “regulation is always bad” or the leftist “regulation is always good.” She said we need not more, but smarter regulations, and she urged us to acknowledge that deficits do matter: we can’t always borrow more money.
Sins of the past must be confronted, she declared. We did borrow too much and save too little. We did buy bigger and bigger houses, borrow for consumption under lax lending standards, and offer rewards to those who provided risky loans. We were the victims of a “collective delusion” that housing prices would always continue to rise. In fact, the financial superstructure was based on this delusion. Derivatives, credit defaults and other products were not sensibly connected to the real economy. There was a good deal of malfeasance, but the main problem was that almost everyone bought into the delusion. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also helped build the delusion.
What To Do
A good start has been made, Rivlin believes, with the Troubled Asset Recovery Plan (bailout). It was good that the first version was rejected (which, she said, revealed the depth of public anger), capital injection was a positive innovation by Congress, and more oversight is also essential. In addition, we need to “modernize financial regulation and keep doing it” because those who try to get rich on the system develop new ways to circumvent the regulations constantly and rapidly. Other useful ideas include:
· Regulate mortgage procedures more strictly,
· Ban “teaser” rates,
· Set up a mechanism to address borrowers’ complaints, possibly bankruptcy judges,
· Reduce the complexity of the lending marketplace,
· Rate products on the basis of borrowers’ needs, not just lenders’,
· Regulate the risk practices of institutions that are “too big to fail.”
The government has an important role because it currently sets a poor example of over-borrowing and not investing in infrastructure. The last annual deficit was $455 billion, which Rivlin described as “not off the charts” but “heavy” because it represents 3.2% of the Gross Domestic Product. However, she thinks it is likely to go to 5% next year.
She is more concerned, however, with the long-range budget effects of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, especially the first two. Health care costs are rising 2.5% faster than the economy is growing, which is unsustainable because there is no way to finance borrowing that much money.
In addition, deficits always tend to increase during recessions, but providing the economic stimulus to get out of a recession also requires borrowing to help states and low-income individuals cope with hard times. She also thinks we need to shift some spending to education to stoke the engine of economic prosperity. That would mean cutting somewhere, perhaps the military budget. She also thinks Social Security might be a good place to do some tinkering.
To this writer’s amazement, she does not think we need to reduce our national debt, although she does believe we must keep it from growing faster than the economy. This despite her assertion that “we’ve had a culture of too much borrowing.” The real question, she concluded, is how do we control consumption and borrowing at all levels from consumers to the government’s assumption of higher and higher national debt.
Rivlin’s “inside the beltway” analysis, while instructive and extraordinarily well-informed, exhibited the typical well-off governmental insider’s lack of deep understanding of the personal effect the financial crisis has on middle class and lower middle class citizens. [
Peter Bergel is the Executive Director of Oregon PeaceWorks.
Nature Loss ‘Dwarfs Bank Crisis’
The global economy is losing more money from the disappearance of forests than through the current banking crisis, according to an EU-commissioned study. It puts the annual cost of forest loss at between $2 trillion and $5 trillion.
The figure comes from adding the value of the various services that forests perform, such as providing clean water and absorbing carbon dioxide.
The study, headed by a Deutsche Bank economist, parallels the Stern Review into the economics of climate change.
It has been discussed during many sessions here at the World Conservation Congress.
Some conservationists see it as a new way of persuading policymakers to fund nature protection rather than allowing the decline in ecosystems and species, highlighted in the release of the Red List of Threatened Species, to continue.
Speaking to BBC News on the fringes of the congress, study leader Pavan Sukhdev emphasized that the cost of natural decline dwarfs losses on the financial markets.
“It’s not only greater but it’s also continuous, it’s been happening every year, year after year,” he told BBC News.
“So whereas Wall Street by various calculations has to date lost, within the financial sector, $1-$1.5 trillion, the reality is that at today’s rate we are losing natural capital at least between $2-$5 trillion every year.”
The review that Mr. Sukhdev leads, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (Teeb), was initiated by Germany under its recent EU presidency, with the European Commission providing funding.
The first phase concluded in May when the team released its finding that forest decline could be costing about 7% of global GDP. The second phase will expand the scope to other natural systems.
Key to understanding his conclusions is that as forests decline, nature stops providing services which it used to provide essentially for free.
So the human economy either has to provide them instead, perhaps through building reservoirs, building facilities to sequester carbon dioxide, or farming foods that were once naturally available.
Or we have to do without them; either way, there is a financial cost.
The Teeb calculations show that the cost falls disproportionately on the poor, because a greater part of their livelihood depends directly on the forest, especially in tropical regions.
The greatest cost to western nations would initially come through losing a natural absorber of the most important greenhouse gas.
Just as the Stern Review brought the economics of climate change into the political arena and helped politicians see the consequences of their policy choices, many in the conservation community believe the Teeb review will lay open the economic consequences of halting or not halting the slide in biodiversity.
“The numbers in the Stern Review enabled politicians to wake up to reality,” said Andrew Mitchell, director of the Global Canopy Programme, an organization concerned with directing financial resources into forest preservation.
“Teeb will do the same for the value of nature, and show the risks we run by not valuing it adequately.”
A number of nations, businesses and global organizations are beginning to direct funds into forest conservation, and there are signs of a trade in natural ecosystems developing, analogous to the carbon trade, although it is clearly very early days.
Some have ethical concerns over the valuing of nature purely in terms of the services it provides humanity; but the counter-argument is that decades of trying to halt biodiversity decline by arguing for the intrinsic worth of nature have not worked, so something different must be tried.
Whether Mr Sukhdev’s arguments will find political traction in an era of financial constraint is an open question, even though many of the governments that would presumably be called on to fund forest protection are the ones directly or indirectly paying for the review.
But, he said, governments and businesses are getting the point.
“Times have changed. Almost three years ago, even two years ago, their eyes would glaze over.
“Today, when I say this, they listen. In fact I get questions asked ¾ so how do you calculate this, how can we monetize it, what can we do about it, why don’t you speak with so and so politician or such and such business.”
The aim is to complete the Teeb review by the middle of 2010, the date by which governments are committed under the Convention of Biological Diversity to have begun slowing the rate of biodiversity loss.
Richard Black is an environment correspondent for the BBC News website, reporting from Barcelona, Spain. You can contact him at :
. This story is archived at:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7662565.stm.
Iraq Vets Arrested at Presidential Debate
One hour before the final presidential debate of the 2008 campaign, fourteen members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) marched in formation to Hofstra Universityto present questions for the candidates. IVAW had requested permission from debate moderator Bob Schieffer to ask their questions during the debate but got no response.
The contingent of veterans, in dress and combat uniforms, attempted to enter the debate venue to ask their questions, but were turned back by police. The IVAW members at the front of the formation were immediately arrested, and others were pushed back into the crowd by police on horseback. Several members were injured, including former Army Sergeant Nick Morgan, who suffered a broken cheekbone when he was trampled by police horses before being arrested.
“Neither of the candidates have shown real support for soldiers and veterans. We came here to try and get serious questions answered, questions that we as veterans of the Iraqwar, have a right to ask, but instead we were arrested. We will continue to ask these questions no matter who is elected. We believe that the time has come to end this war and bring our troops home, and we will be pushing for that no matter what happens in this election.” said Jason Lemieux, a former Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps and member of IVAW who served three tours in Iraq.
A total of 10 veterans were arrested during the action. [
Source: Betsy Reznicek, Veterans for Peace Outreach and Communications Specialist, 314.725.6005 ext. 102, :www.veteransforpeace.org.
Key McCain Team Member Lobbied for Saddam
According to Murray Wass, reporting for The Huffington Post (:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/10/14/mccain-transition-chief-a_n_134595.html), William Timmons, a Washington lobbyist whom John McCain has named to head his presidential transition team, aided an influence effort on behalf of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to ease international sanctions against his regime.
Two lobbyists whom Timmons worked closely with over a five-year period on the lobbying campaign ¾ beginning in 1992 ¾ later either pleaded guilty to, or were convicted of, federal criminal charges that they had acted as unregistered agents of Saddam Hussein’s government. Timmons worked closely with the two lobbyists, Samir Vincent and Tongsun Park, on a previously unreported prospective deal with the Iraqis in which they hoped to be awarded a contract to purchase and resell Iraqi oil. Timmons, Vincent, and Park stood to share at least $45 million if the business deal went through. [
Bush Defends Right to Control Iraqi Oil
Before signing a military funding bill last month, the president issued a “signing statement,” nullifying a provision that bars any expenditure of funds “To exerciseUnited States control of the oil resources of Iraq.”
The Friends Committee on National Legislation, a 65-year-old Quaker lobbying group, has worked with Congress for three years to pass legislation that bars the United States from building permanent military bases in Iraq or exercising control of Iraq’s oil resources. “We are dismayed that the president would deny the Iraqi people and its government the basic sovereign right to control their own natural resources. President Bush apparently believes that as Commander in Chief he is entitled to seize Iraq’s oil fields and control Iraqi oil if he should deem it necessary to protect U.S. national security,” said Jim Fine, a lobbyist for the Friends Committee on National Legislation. “It’s hard to see any other logic behind his signing statement. He has, in effect, declared himself ¾ and any future U.S. presidents who fail to repudiate his outlandish claims ¾ emperors of Iraq.”
President Bush has signed the restriction against controlling Iraqi oil into law five times since 2006, but has issued two signing statements this year asserting that banning U.S.control over Iraqi oil would violate the constitutional powers of the executive. He argues that his administration is not legally bound to abide by those provisions. [
Source: Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), Jim Fine, 267.733.2224; :
Plans Being Made to Try Bushies for War Crimes
Writing in the Village Voice, Nat Hentoff reports, “Over the weekend of September 13 and 14, a historic gathering in Andover, Massachusetts took place and garnered little media attention. But at that two-day conference, serious plans were laid for a war-crimes trial of the Bush administration.”
Convened by Lawrence Velvel, Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, the conference set about planning trials to determine the guilt of key actors in the Bush administration (and their authorizing lawyers) for having committed war crimes under both American and international law, and to determine the appropriate punishments. Among the items on the conference’s agenda: “Creating an umbrella coordinating committee with representatives from an increasing number of organizations involved in war crimes cases; creating a center to keep track of and organize . . . relevant briefs and facts on war crimes and prosecutions of war criminals; establishing a chief prosecutor’s office such as Nuremberg’s.”
You can read more at :http://prorev.com/2008/10/getting-ready-for-war-crimes-trials-of.html. A comment added to the article says, “A viable candidate for attorney general of Vermont has committed to appointing [Vincent ] Bugliosi as special prosecutor to immediately indict Bush, Cheney, Rice, Tenet, et alia, if she is elected. Her name is Charlotte Dennett” and her campaign website is:http://charlottedennettforattorneygeneral.com. Vincent Bugliosi is the author the best-selling book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder. [
Is a Vegan Diet the Best Defense Against Global Heating?
The group EarthSave’s (:http://earthsave.org/) study “A New Global Warming Strategy: How Environmentalists are Overlooking Vegetarianism as the Most Effective Tool Against Climate Change in Our Lifetimes” by Noam Mohr argues that CO2, since it is not as potent a global warming gas as others, particularly methane ¾ more than half of which is produced by animals grown for meat and dairy production, should not be our main focus in addressing climate change.
Mohr writes in the study’s introduction: “Global warming poses one of the most serious threats to the global environment ever faced in human history. Yet by focusing entirely on carbon dioxide emissions, major environmental organizations have failed to account for published data showing that other gases are the main culprits behind the global warming we see today. As a result, they are neglecting what might be the most effective strategy for reducing global warming in our lifetimes: advocating a vegetarian diet.”
Quoting renowned atmospheric scientist James Hansen, Mohr says “Methane is responsible for nearly as much global warming as all other non-CO2 greenhouse gases put together.” He also notes that methane cycles out of the atmosphere within 8 years, while CO2 can take more than a century. Thus, global reduction of methane production may be a more effective means of addressing global heating than the much more arduous task of reducing production of CO2.
To read the relatively short study, visit::http://www.earthsave.org/globalwarming.htm. [
Darfur Supporters Have Much to Learn from Tibet Activists
Each vowed to have an unyielding presence at the 2008 Olympics ¾ exacting a price from the Chinese government for its flagrant support of a genocidal regime in Africa, as well as its decades-long occupation of Tibet. Yet, by mirroring the international community’s timid response to the ongoing violence in western Sudan, Darfur supporters failed to hold a candle to Tibet protesters at this year’s Summer Games.
Courage is the Difference
Save for former Sudanese “Lost Boy” Lopez Lomong’s selection as flag bearer for theU.S. team, Darfur activism was virtually nonexistent at the XXIX Olympiad. This, despite a highly publicized eighteen-month campaign that threatened to rain on President Hu Jintao’s spectacular propaganda party if he did not change his ways.
In contrast, dozens of members of Students for a Free Tibet risked arrest ¾ and the distinct possibility of severe physical and/or psychological distress from Chinese authorities ¾ while successfully implementing a daring series of nonviolent direct actions at some of Beijing’s highest-profile locales, including the headquarters of China’s state run (and censor-happy) television network and Tiananmen square.
No Urgency, No Outrage
None of this, however, will raise the eyebrows of anyone who has followed the arc of either campaign. During the past four years, the vast majority of Darfur supporters have consistently displayed a stunning lack of urgency, alternating between “raising awareness” of the crisis (think green wristbands, lawn signs and the occasional rally or concert); pushing for Congressional measures that do nothing to change the circumstances on the ground for Darfuris still at-risk and deluding themselves in the belief that 26,000 highly-trained peacekeepers will soon be coming to the rescue. Equally disconcerting is the list of strategies universally frowned upon by the leaders of the movement, including (but not limited to) pointed criticism of the CIA’s intelligence-sharing arrangement with their Sudanese counterparts for President Bush’s “war on terror” ¾ an arrangement that many experts believe has severely compromised the administration’s response to the genocide, as well as any mention of the insidious “gentleman’s agreement” between Sudan President Omar al-Bashir and the heads of many African nations (Translation: I won’t make a fuss over your Crimes against Humanity, if you ignore mine).
High Profile vs. Low Profile
The discrepancy in fortitude between these two disparate campaigns can be traced back to April 2007. As China prepared to announce its plan to run the Olympic Torch through Tibet, en route to the summit of Mt. Everest, five activists unfurled a Free Tibet banner at the mountain’s base camp and broadcast the event worldwide, via satellite. Four months later, as the one-year countdown to the Games was about to begin, SFT members rappelled The Great Wall of China, unveiling an enormous “One World, One Dream Free Tibet” banner, accompanied by similar video footage. Finally, in April 2008, while Darfur supporters finalized plans to don t-shirts and carry placards to protest the Torch Run through the streets of San Francisco, SFT activists scaled the Golden Gate Bridge ¾ signature banners in hand ¾ resulting in a New York Times cover photo. Intellectual and technological expertise notwithstanding, these landmark protests, along with the recent nonviolent, direct actions in Beijing, owe their success to the fact that the participants were willing to endure certain arrest, as well as any additional consequences that came their way.
Truth be told, there is little reason to believe that Tibet and Darfur will be free from violence and oppression any time soon. Faced with this stark reality, the primary goal of both campaigns ¾ beyond shaming the international community into taking action to protect citizens being brutalized by their own governments ¾ must be to impart a genuine sense of solidarity and hope to the people they serve. By courageously putting their lives on the line, time and time again, members of Students for a Free Tibet have powerfully conveyed that message to Tibetans around the world.
The people of Darfur deserve the same. [
John Morlino, Jr is the former director of The ETHIC’s Darfur Pledge campaign and has written extensively about the crisis in western Sudan (:http://www.the-ethic.org). This summer, he worked behind the scenes supporting the nonviolent direct actions of SFT activists in Beijing.
Citizen Diplomats Visit Iran
For nearly three years, Peace Action has been a leader in preventing the Bush administration from conducting a war onIran. In 2006, we coordinated a meeting of key nonprofit leaders and founded the Iran Policy Working Group – a group of over 100 leaders that share information and strategy. For years Peace Action led meetings with nonprofits and our congressional allies to form inside-outside strategies. Additionally, three Peace Action staff, including myself, traveled with delegations to Iran to practice citizen to citizen diplomacy.
N-Weapons Violate Islamic Law
Because of this work, the Fellowship of Reconciliation invited Peace Action to join over 100 leaders to meet with the President of Iran on September 24, 2008. Here are some thoughts about the exchange.
When I went to Iran I got to meet with one of the eleven Vice Presidents. It was then I learned that Iranian politicians like to talk in religious platitudes. President Ahmadinejad is no different. He spent the first half of his response to twelve questions posed by the group discussing the promotion of ethics, morality and religion.
Once he started answering questions, he reiterated many things I’ve heard before. On the question of nuclear weapons he said, “we think that the time for the atomic bomb has come to an end.” It is under-reported that Iran has a religious fatwa against nuclear weapons. In other words, it is against Islamic law to possess nuclear weapons.
On the issue of war, he stated, “Iran will not seek war with anyone.” This is not surprising as Iran has not attacked another country in hundreds years. The President also duplicated our call to bring on the troops home from Iraq.
Good News and Bad News
Ahmadinejad promised to push for more talks and exchanges between our two countries as well as making it easier for Americans to get visas in hopes that the U.S.will make it easier for Iranians.
The Presidents words were not all rosy. He pushed his very pro nuclear power stance. While Ahmadinejad boasted of 70% of university students being women and that women enjoyed more rights than many other Arab countries, Iranian women still face discrimination and harsh behavioral and dress codes. Also, the Iranian government continues to quash dissent by closing newspapers, banning and censoring books and websites and beating and arresting peaceful protesters. When I was in Iran, I was unable to meet with any peace groups.
If you ask our Student Peace Action Network coordinator, Jonathan Williams, how the police mistreated him at the Republican National Convention, one could level many of the above criticisms at the U.S. government.
Overall, the meeting felt productive and I commend Ahmadinejad for spending two hours with us. I doubt President Bush would do the same. We have until January of next year to thwart the Bush administration’s desire for military intervention in Iran. We must keep vigilant for peace. [
Paul Kawika Martin is the Organizing, Political and PAC Director for Peace Action and the Peace Action Education Fund, 1100 Wayne Ave., Suite 1020, Silver Spring, MD 20910-5643.
Mark Your Calendar!
Bradbury to Highlight OPW Annual Gathering, Raffle Drawing
By Peter Bergel
Secretary of State Bill Bradbury will present his popular slide show about climate change and how we can address it at OPW’s Annual Gathering.
Bradbury has been an outspoken environmentalist since his days in the State Legislature as a representative from the south coast. A couple of years ago he was one of the first 50 trained by former Vice President Al Gore to give his “Inconvenient Truth” presentation. He has given it well over 100 times during the past year and a half, always to rapt audiences.
Bradbury has also endorsed OPW’s 5% Solution and has been alerting those who sign up at his presentations to it.
Bradbury is completing his second term as Oregon’s Secretary of State, after extensive experience in the Oregon House and Senate and having served as President of the Senate when John Kitzhaber was Governor. He is currently considering a run for Governor himself in 2010.
Bradbury will be the keynoter at the 2008 OPW Gathering, beginning at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, December 7th at Venti’s Bentos, 325 Court Street in downtown Salem. He will speak for about an hour, followed by discussion, mingling, hors d’oeuvres, live music, a no-host bar and the drawing for the Great Getaway Raffle.
Music will be provided by Cassandra Robertson, Peter Bergel, members of Dr. Atomic’s Medicine Show and others.
Be sure to attend. Mark your calendar today.
You Can Win One of These Great Getaways
MOUNTAIN HOT SPRINGS PACKAGE -- Breitenbush Hot Springs/Detroit Lake, OR
One night for two with three meals at Breitenbush Hot Springs resort, 15-ft. boat rental from Detroit Lake Marina in Detroit and meals for two at Giovanni’s Mountain Pizza and specialty beverages from Rosie’s Mountain Coffee House, both in Mill City.
BEACH GETAWAY PACKAGE #1 -- Lincoln City/Gleneden Beach, OR
Two nights for up to six people at a Horizon Rental vacation home, dinner for two at Side Door Cafe, groceries from Trillium Natural Foods and shopping at Crystal Wizard.
URBAN SIGHTSEEING GETAWAY PACKAGE -- Portland, OR
One night for two at The Lion & Rose Historic Victorian Bed & Breakfast (:www.lionrose.com), dinner for two at Iron Horse Restaurant, gifts from Mirador Community Store and two “Portland Attractions Passes” to visit 10 different attractions including OMSI, The Japanese Garden, Oregon Zoo, Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, and the Portland Art Museum, courtesy of Portland Oregon Visitors Association.
BEACH GETAWAY PACKAGE #2 -- Yachats, OR
One night for two at Dublin House Motel, lunch to-go from Grand Occasions Deli, dinner for two at The Drift Inn, shopping at Oregon Coast Garden Center, plus two passes and gift shopping at Sea Lion Caves, south of Yachats.
NURTURE BY NATURE RIVER PACKAGE -- Hood River, OR / White Salmon, WA
Retreat for three nights at the 90-acre Riversong Forest Sanctuary in a 12’ x 12’ spacious cabin-like platform tent with Queen bed & deck overlooking beautiful Hood River, including hot-tubbing, clothing-optional river beaches, hiking, u-pick organic produce & community kitchen, plus hospitality at Full Sail Pub & Tasting Room, shopping at Small Planet Trading and The Wine Sellers, astrology readings, and two half-day rafting trips on the White Salmon River with All Adventures Rafting.
Just fill out the form below and send it, along with your check, to Oregon PeaceWorks,104 Commercial St. NE, Salem, OR 97301.
Gail: Please insert Raffle Entry Form here.
For more information, call 503.585.2767. [
Collect Signatures for the Guard Home Campaign
The peace movement’s newest approach to ending the occupation of Iraq is called the “Bring the Guard Home Campaign.” The concept is to appeal to each state government for legislation allowing the state to refuse to send National Guard troops to Iraq or Afghanistan if it does not believe that those troops are being used in a manner consistent with the requirements of the Constitution. The movement asserts that a legal basis no longer exists to send National Guard troops toIraq or Afghanistan.
In a letter to Governor Kulongoski dated August 11, 2008, a coalition of Oregon organizations, which now includes Oregon PeaceWorks, wrote, “Legislation has been introduced in Vermont, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania to give Governors the authority to challenge federalization. We have been working with members of the Oregon Legislature to create similar legislation here. We have attached a copy of the proposed resolution/legislation. “
A few paragraphs later the letter says, “Assuming for the sake of argument that the war was lawful when commenced, the presence of the Guard members in Iraq is not now lawful. Congress has not declared war or passed updated authorizations. “
The immediate concern, as the letter goes on to specify, is that “in addition to the 3,500 troops being called up next May, all 12 of Oregon’s Blackhawk helicopters are slated to be shipped to Iraq in January, 2009. This will leave Oregon with limited ability to fight fires, conduct search and rescue, and be prepared for floods and other natural disasters. “
As we have noted before in these pages, Oregon’s peace movement must now put pressure on Gov. Kulongoski and the Oregon Legislature to take advantage of this opportunity to act directly from Oregon to end the war.
The campaign is circulating a petition, which is available at:http://oregonpeaceworks.web.aplus.net/site/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=3152&Itemid=265; a draft piece of legislation has been prepared for the Legislature and is now being processed by the lawyers at Legislative Counsel; and a strategy for passing this legislation in the 2009 Legislative Session is under development. A major rally at the State Capitol in support of the legislation is being planned for the weekend of March 15, just prior to the 6thanniversary of the war in 2009.
What You Can Do
· Please visit the OPW website, by following the link above, to download a copy of the petition, get it filled out and mail it to the address given.
· Also, please contact your state legislators, ask them whether they would support a measure similar to the petition ¾ or better yet, co-sponsor it ¾ and be sure to let OPW know what you learn. If you don’t know who you state legislators are, visit :http://www.leg.state.or.us/findlegsltr/ to find out. [
Nonviolence in Action
Eyes Wide Open Exhibit Expands Antiwar Debate
In an Eastern Oregon town, one man witnesses another man’s epiphany. An angry veteran accuses Jeff Hunter of not respecting U.S. soldiers and their sacrifice to protect American freedom. He says the only reason people can blather on about being anti-war is because of guys like himself. Hunter listens. When the man has gotten everything off his chest, Hunter looks him in the eyes and asks how he is doing.
Realizing Hunter is sincere, he begins to tell his story — how hard it has been, how he just got a construction job after almost a year of unemployment, and how he can’t settle down.
“You don’t have a clue about what we have to do there — what they make us do,” he said.
“I Hate This War”
Hunter listens as he tells about his experiences in ground combat during the taking of Falluja in 2004. He pursued insurgents down winding, booby trapped alleys, shooting and avoiding fire while buddies fell beside him. With air strikes obliterating buildings right next to them, he and six of his men rounded a corner. They faced a wide street crowded with insurgents pushing forward and firing at them between women, children and old men. He heard himself give the command and in seconds he and his men had killed every man, woman, child and insurgent.
He has lived with that moment alive in his mind ever since. Looking Hunter in the eyes he says, “I hate this war.” He says America shouldn’t be in Iraq. Hunter can feel the deep pain of this veteran.
Hunter is coordinator of the Eyes Wide Open Oregon Tour, a traveling exhibit intended to show the real costs, both human and financial, of the Iraq War. He loves his country and wanted to change it one heart at a time, he said. He is proud, “when we as a country can represent our best ideals of liberty, justice and equality through our government both at home and abroad.”
Finding Common Ground
Eyes Wide Open began in 2004 as a national initiative from a leader with American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia, Penn. Hunter became the Oregoncoordinator in 2007 after reading an Oregonian article about the project in Pendleton. The coordinator described moving beyond argument to find common ground with an angry young veteran.
Hunter realized the importance of bringing the nation’s focus back to what Americans do have in common. His Quaker faith directs him to work for humankind’s highest ideals, he says, and not to ignore evil especially when done in his name.
His job is to partner with peace-and-justice groups as well as churches and colleges, with help from the Rural Organization Project, who want to host Eyes Wide Open in their community.
The exhibit features a pair of combat boots for each of the 90 soldiers from Oregonkilled in Iraq. Tags identify each pair by name, rank, age and hometown. The boots steadily accumulate photos and other memorabilia. A huge two-sided frame of flags names each American killed in the war.
More than 300 pairs of civilian shoes represent Iraqis killed since the U.S. attack. “They are the hardest working shoes you’ll ever see as each pair is to represent over 3,000 casualties,” Hunter said. Big easels with photos of Iraqi civilians before and after the invasion remind visitors that Iraqis are no different than Americans in their desire for peace.
Posters show the financial costs of the war felt by citizens in the form of $3.7 billion added to the national debt from Oregon. A graph of the U.S. federal budget shows that about 42 cents of every dollar goes to the military — the highest ratio of military spending to domestic programs in the world. Hunter wants people to understand the connection between the war and our economy.
Laying Out the Ugliness of War
He has crisscrossed the state to accommodate the best event times in each community. Turnout varies greatly. In Astoria, a town of 5,000, 400 people visited in one day. AtPortland Community College’s Sylvannia campus, a record 1,200 were counted in one day. In Lincoln City more than 1,500 people visited over three days. In Lincoln City, Coastal Peace Works prepared Middle Eastern food for the opening ceremony. The hosts picked their new community arts center on the main coastal highway, during a belly dancing conference and a Farmers’ Market. In spite of a cold summer wind, 42 people come to the ceremony. People choke back tears when a young soldier, back only six months, can’t get past his tears to describe the unspeakable things he witnessed in Iraq.
The exhibit is guarded after hours and when someone fails to show up for a six to midnight shift, Hunter fills in. He relies on his Quaker pacifist bag to cope with the strong emotions the exhibit provokes in people. “A few angry people spew harsh words,” he says. “A veteran father filled with pain and grief lashes out at me, demanding his son’s boots be removed from the exhibit.” The Vietnamese Buddhist’s book, “Be Peace” is ready in his mind.
“Much of what the exhibit says and shows, many already know or sense,” Hunter said. “Some work pretty hard to avoid seeing or thinking about what we show.” Grieving relatives want to see how the memorial is treated. “They don’t want their loved one used for some political purpose they don’t agree with,” he said, but most people “are thankful that someone dares to lay out the ugliness of war and its wake of damaged lives, death and destruction.”
Hunter’s hope is that people’s discomfort about the exhibit leads them to some action somewhere, sometime. Just voting for candidates who support an alternative to the present course of military victory is an important action, he said. His plan was always to end his run with Eyes Wide Open on Election Day 2008.
For him Eyes Wide Open has been a contribution toward a future where national policy centers on fostering peace, health, opportunity and sustainable communities. As a Quaker, he believes God is in all people and “where we can connect with that spark of the divine in those who disagree with us most,” he said, “we are better able to set aside those things that divide us and build common ground to work together toward a better future.” [
Keeley Harding is a senior at the University of Oregon majoring in journalism. She grew up in Jeff Hunter’s hometown, Hood River.
Nov. 1: Salem, 7:30 p.m. True North Performs with special guests Molly Adkins & Martin Stevens
Historic Grand Theater, 187 High Street NE, Salem, OR 97301.
Nov. 2: Sisters, OR, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Peace Visualization Ritual. Location: Cascade Fitness, 172 Main Ave. on the corner of Main and Fir Streets - enter via side door on Fir. Please come with personal sacred object to represent healing and a pot luck item that doesn't require stove top heating. RSVP: 541.549.4004 suggested donation: $10.
Nov. 4: Portland, 9 a.m. to Noon. Sustainability Indicators and Assessment for Government Leadership. This series of workshops is designed for government leaderships and the vendors who serve government. The workshops are designed to teach you the essential elements of sustainability to inform future decision-making and leadership efforts. Workshops will be limited to 16 participants to encourage questions and foster frank discussion. Workshop offering beyond our fall series will be based on you requests and information needs. For more info try http://sustain.uoregon.edu or call 800.824.2714.
Nov. 7: Portland, 7 p.m. Evil Doers Ltd: A laughter Roundup from the Middle East sponsored by the American Iranian Friendship Council, Andisheh Center, and Arab American Cultural Center of Oregon. Comedians from the Middle East will present a show that we will not forget. Come and see Ahmed Ahmed, Tissa Hami, Dan Ahdoot, Negin Farsad, and Jimmy Dore. Get your tickets at PCPA Box Office. For more info call Goudarz Eghtedari, 503.381.3696 or Hala Gores, 503.295.1940.
Nov. 12: Salem, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Rain Garden Class. Straub EnvironmentalLearning Center, 1320 A St. NE, next to Olinger Pool, near North Salem High. Learn how to make rain gardens work for your yard at the Rain Garden Amateur Naturalist Class offered on Wednesday, Nov. 12. Deborah Topp from the City of Salem will show participants how rain gardens work, as well as how to incorporate them into residential landscapes. The class is sponsored by the Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center, a Salem-based, non-profit organization dedicated to environmental education. The class costs $5 and is open to the public. Registration is required. To register, call 503.391.4145, or email Lisa at :
Nov. 13: Salem, 7 p.m. Salem Progressive Film Series Presents “Consuming Kids.” This documentary exposes the multi-billion dollar youth marketing industry and how it targets American children, followed by expert guest speakers and discussions. Please join us at the Historic Grand Theater, 191 High Street NE. For more info call 503.588.8713 or 503.779.5288.
Nov. 14: Eugene, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. “The Imperial Presidency: Citizens and the Growth of Executive Power”. 175 Knight Law Center. Organized by the 2008-9 Wayne Morse Center Fellows, featuring speakers from the National Lawyers Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights. All events are free and open to the public. For more info go to :www.waynemorsecenter.uoregon.edu or call the Wayne MorseCenter at 541.346.3700.
Nov. 19: Salem, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Bird and bat box building class. Learn how to build inexpensive boxes for birds, bees, squirrels and bats. Conservationist Tom Brewster will demonstrate how to build how to build boxes to attract a wide variety of species. Straub Environmental Learning Center, 1320 A St. NE, next to Olinger Pool. The class is free open to the public and is sponsored by the Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center, a Salem-based, non-profit organization dedicated to environmental education. Contact: John Savage, 503.399.8615, or Lisa Olivares, 503.391.4145,
or email Lisa Olvares :
Nov. 20: Salem, 7 p.m. Lecture to Examine Claims About Alternative Fuel Vehicles.
Dr. Jan Kreider will examine the conflicting claims about the various alternatives to gasoline to power our cars such as electricity, ethanol, and natural gas as the Straub Environmental Lecture Series continues. At Loucks Auditorium in the Salem Public Library, 585 Liberty St. The presentation is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center, a Salem-based, non-profit organization dedicated to environmental education, at 503.391.4145 or visit :www.fselc.org. Contact John Savage, 503.399.8615, or Lisa Olivares, 503.391.4145.
Nov. 22: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sustainable Holiday Market.
The Sustainable Market will provide a selection of biodegradable, energy-saving, locally and regionally produced goods for purchase. The Market will also feature a Children’s Holiday Market, where local school children will sell their crafts and artwork as local artisans. Children can also make their own gifts for friends and relatives at the Children’s Market. Location: Bush Elementary School, 410 14th Street SE, Salem, OR 97301. All proceeds from the Sustainable Holiday Market benefit the Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center, a Salem-based, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to environmental education. For more information, contact Lisa Olivares at 503.391.4145, or email Lisa at :
Dec. 2: Portland, 9 a.m. to Noon. “Public/Private Partnerships for Sustainability.”This series of workshops is designed for government leaderships and the vendors who serve government. The workshops are designed to teach you the essential elements of sustainability to inform future decision-making and leadership efforts. Workshops will be limited to 16 participants to encourage questions and foster frank discussion. Workshop offering beyond our fall series will be based on you requests and information needs.
For more info try :http://sustain.uoregon.edu, or call 800.824.2714.
Dec. 11: Salem, 7 p.m. Salem Progressive Film Series Presents “Food Matters.”This documentary will tell how nutritionally-depleted foods, chemical additives, and our tendency to rely on pharmaceutical drugs have affected our health and wellbeing. It will be followed by expert guest speakers and discussions. Please join us at the Historic Grand Theater, 191 High Street NE. For more info call 503.588.8713 or 503.779.5288.
February 5, 2009: Eugene, 7 p.m. “Freedom and Security: Civil Liberties and the New Administration.” Public address by Sanford Levinson, Professor of Law and Government, University of Texas at Austin and Daniel Tichenor, Wayne Morse Center Senior Faculty Fellow. All events are free and open to the public. 174 Knight Law Center For more info go to :www.waynemorsecenter.uoregon.edu or call the WayneMorse Center at 541.346.3700.
February 2009: Eugene. “Mobilizing New Constituencies,” a symposium on new forms of political activism featuring Daniel Tichenor, Wayne Morse Senor Faculty Fellow and Daniel Hosang, 2008-09 Wayne Morse Resident Scholar. All events are free and open to the public. For more info go to:www.waynemorsecenter.uoregon.edu or call the Wayne Morse Center at 541.346.3700.
April 17-18, 2009: Eugene. “Racial Formation in the Twenty-first Century, ” a symposium organized by Dan Hosang, 2008-09 Wayne Morse Resident Scholar. Presentations by Michael Omi, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley, Howard Winant, Professor of Sociology, UC Santa Barbara, 175 Knight Law Center. All events are free and open to the public. For more info go to:www.waynemorsecenter.uoregon.edu or call the Wayne Morse Center at 541.346.3700.
May 7, 2009: Eugene, 4 p.m. “Contested Citizenship,” a symposium organized by 2008-9 Wayne Morse Center Resident Scholar Michelle McKinley. Keynote presentations by Leti Volpp, Professor of Law at UC Berkeley. Comments from Linda Bosniak, Rutgers University Knight Law Center. All events are free and open to the public. For more info go to :www.waynemorsecenter.uoregon.edu or call the WayneMorse Center at 541.346.3700.