Saturday, January 31, 2015

Henry Kissinger or CODEPINK: Who’s the "Low Life Scum"?

Friday, January 30, 2015

Henry Kissinger or CODEPINK: Who’s the "Low Life Scum"?

Medea Benjamin

Alli McCracken, a peace activist with CODEPINK, shows former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger a pair of handcuffs during a protest at a Senate hearing on Thursday. If there was justice in this world, argue human rights activist, Kissinger would be in prison for his role in perpetrating war crimes as opposed to sitting before the Senate Armed Services Committee to offer his assessment of world affairs. (Photo: Courtesy of CODEPINK)

A very angry Senator John McCain denounced CODEPINK activists as “low-life scum” for holding up signs reading “Arrest Kissinger for War Crimes” and dangling handcuffs next to Henry Kissinger’s head during a Senate hearing on January 29. McCain called the demonstration “disgraceful, outrageous and despicable,” accused the protesters of “physically intimidating” Kissinger and apologized profusely to his friend for this “deeply troubling incident.”

But if Senator McCain was really concerned about physical intimidation, perhaps he should have conjured up the memory of the gentle Chilean singer/songwriter Victor Jara. After Kissinger facilitated the September 11, 1973 coup against Salvador Allende that brought the ruthless Augusto Pinochet to power, Victor Jara and 5,000 others were rounded up in Chile’s National Stadium. Jara’s hands were smashed and his nails torn off; the sadistic guards then ordered him to play his guitar. Jara was later found dumped on the street, his dead body riddled with gunshot wounds and signs of torture.

Despite warnings by senior US officials that thousands of Chileans were being tortured and slaughtered, then Secretary of State Kissinger told Pinochet, "You did a great service to the West in overthrowing Allende."
Rather than calling peaceful protesters “despicable”, perhaps Senator McCain should have used that term to describe Kissinger’s role in the brutal 1975 Indonesian invasion of East Timor, which took place just hours after Kissinger and President Ford visited Indonesia. They had given the Indonesian strongman the US green light—and the weapons—for an invasion that led to a 25-year occupation in which over 100,000 soldiers and civilians were killed or starved to death. The UN's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (CAVR) stated that U.S. "political and military support were fundamental to the Indonesian invasion and occupation" of East Timor.

If McCain could stomach it, he could have read the report by the UN Commission on Human Rights describing the horrific consequences of that invasion. It includes gang rape of female detainees following periods of prolonged sexual torture; placing women in tanks of water for prolonged periods, including submerging their heads, before being raped; the use of snakes to instill terror during sexual torture; and the mutilation of women’s sexual organs, including insertion of batteries into vaginas and burning nipples and genitals with cigarettes. Talk about physical intimidation, Senator McCain!

You might think that McCain, who suffered tremendously in Vietnam, might be more sensitive to Kissinger’s role in prolonging that war. From 1969 through 1973, it was Kissinger, along with President Nixon, who oversaw the slaughter in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos—killing perhaps one million during this period. He was gave the order for the secret bombing of Cambodia. Kissinger is on tape saying, “[Nixon] wants a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. He doesn't want to hear anything about it. It's an order, to be done. Anything that flies on anything that moves.”

Senator McCain could have taken the easy route by simply reading the meticulously researched book by the late writer Christopher Hitchens, The Trial of Henry Kissinger. Writing as a prosecutor before an international court of law, Hitchens skewers Kissinger for ordering or sanctioning the destruction of civilian populations, the assassination of “unfriendly” politicians and the kidnapping and disappearance of soldiers, journalists and clerics who got in his way. He holds Kissinger responsible for war crimes that range from the deliberate mass killings of civilian populations in Indochina, to collusion in mass murder and assassination in Bangladesh, the overthrow of the democratically elected government in Chile, and the incitement and enabling of genocide in East Timor.

McCain could have also perused the warrant issued by French Judge Roger Le Loire to have Kissinger appear before his court. When the French served Kissinger with summons in 2001 at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, Kissinger fled the country. More indictments followed from Spain, Argentina, Uruguay—even a civil suit in Washington DC.

The late Christopher Hitchens was disgusted by the way Henry Kissinger was treated as a respected statesman. He would have been appalled by Senator McCain’s obsequious attitude. “Kissinger should have the door shut in his face by every decent person and should be shamed, ostracized, and excluded,” Hitchens said. “No more dinners in his honor; no more respectful audiences for his absurdly overpriced public appearances; no more smirking photographs with hostesses and celebrities; no more soliciting of his worthless opinions by sycophantic editors and producers.”

Rather than fawning on him, Hitchens suggested, “why don't you arrest him?”

Hitchens’ words were lost on Senator McCain, who preferred fawning to accountability. That’s where CODEPINK comes in. If we can’t get Kissinger before a court of law, at least we can show—with words and banners—that there are Americans who remember, Americans who empathize with the man’s many victims, Americans who have a conscience.

While McCain called us disgraceful, what is really disgraceful is the Senate calling in a tired old war criminal to testify about “Global Challenges and the U.S. National Security Strategy.” After horribly tragic failed wars, not just in Vietnam but over the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s time for the US leaders like John McCain to bring in fresh faces and fresh ideas. We owe it to the next generation that will be cleaning up the bloody legacy left behind by Kissinger for years to come.

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Medea Benjamin

Israelpolitik, the Neocons and the Long Shadow of the Iraq War

Published on Portside (

Israelpolitik, the Neocons and the Long Shadow of the Iraq War

January 30, 2015

Danny Postel

Friday, January 30, 2015

This essay first appeared in The Drouth (‘The Thirst’), a quarterly magazine published in Glasgow (Issue 50, Winter 2014/2015). Written in December 2014.

The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War

By Muhammad Idrees Ahmad

Edinburgh University Press

Reviewed by Danny Postel

I was reluctant to review this book. With all the dramatic developments in the Middle East today—the ISIS crisis, the siege of Kobanê, the deepening nightmare in Syria, the escalating repression in Egypt, the fate of Tunisia’s democratic transition, the sectarianization of regional conflicts driven by the Saudi-Iranian rivalry—delving back into the 2003 invasion of Iraq seemed rather less than urgent. It’s hard enough just to keep up with the events unfolding day-to-day in the region. Reading—let alone reviewing—a detailed study of the internal processes that led to the United States toppling Saddam Hussein over a decade ago seemed remote, if not indeed a distraction.

But I’m glad I set these reservations aside and took the assignment. This forcefully argued and meticulously researched (with no fewer than 1,152 footnotes, many of which are full-blown paragraphs) book turns out to be enormously relevant to the present moment, on at least three fronts:

• ISIS emerged from the ashes of al Qaeda in Iraq, which formed in the immediate aftermath of the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. Without the 2003 invasion, there would be no ISIS as we know it [1]—and the region’s political landscape would look very different.
• The US Senate report on CIA torture [2] has brought back into focus the rogues gallery of the Bush-Cheney administration—the same cast of characters who engineered the 2003 Iraq invasion. This book shines a heat lamp on that dark chapter and many of its protagonists.
• There is talk of a neoconservative comeback [3] in Washington. This thoroughly discredited but zombie-like group are now angling for the ear of Hillary Clinton, who might be the next US president. Ahmad’s book provides a marvelously illuminating anatomy of the neocons, which has lessons that apply directly to this movement’s potentially ominous next chapter.

The central question Ahmad attempts to answer is: Why did the 2003 Iraq War happen? In one of the book’s most valuable sections, felicitously titled ‘Black Gold and Red Herrings’, he goes through several prevalent explanations/theories and takes them apart one by one:

Oil. ‘If Iraq was invaded for oil,’ Ahmad writes, ‘then the US was remarkably negligent in securing the prize’. Iraq awarded its first major post-invasion oil concessions in 2009, and the big winners? Norway, France, China and Russia. Of the 11 contracts signed only one went to a US company (Exxon Mobil). The only sector in which US firms prevailed was oil services—but ‘in that sector the US has always enjoyed a virtual monopoly, invasions or no’, Ahmad notes. It’s true that Bush and Cheney had worked in the energy industry, but US oil companies did not push for the invasion—in fact they lobbied to lift the sanctions on Iraq, which blocked potential profits.

The oil industry has long favored agreements with governments, Ahmad notes; belligerence, in contrast, ‘has only jeopardized investments and brought uncertainty to future projects’. Did US oil companies try to cash in on the opportunity presented by the toppling of Saddam Hussein? By all means, but this is not to be confused, Ahmad argues, with why the invasion happened. Gulf energy resources have long been a vital US interest, he notes, but on ‘no other occasion has the US had to occupy a country to secure them’.

Free markets. Naomi Klein has done the most to popularize this notion with her widely-read 2007 book The Shock Doctrine [4], seeing Iraq as a paradigmatic case of disaster capitalism—of predatory market forces exploiting a society convulsed by shock and awe. But ‘[b]eyond short-term gains for a few businesses’, Ahmad writes, ‘the war proved a disaster for the world capitalist system’. The world will be paying for the Iraq war for a bloody long time, as Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Blimes have demonstrated in The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict [5]. (They later revised [6] that estimate upwards.) Market fanaticism of the Milton Friedman variety, Ahmad acknowledges, ‘was certainly ascendant in the aftermath of the invasion, but there is no evidence that it played any part in the deliberations over war’ (emphasis mine). He shows, moreover, that Klein conflates neoconservatism and neoliberalism—two distinct doctrines. His excellent discussion of the differences between them provides a salient corrective to the widespread confusion about this, especially on the Left.

Global hegemony. The idea that the war was waged to expand US global dominance is belied, for Ahmad, by two facts: that it had ‘remarkably few supporters among the traditional advocates of American primacy’ and that the results have been a geostrategic catastrophe for the United States on myriad levels. The first point might seem counter-intuitive, but as someone who wrote extensively[7] about the Iraq debate in US foreign policy circles, I can confirm that Ahmad is exactly right about this. Attacking Iraq was a minority position in US officialdom. Against it were the realists of the sort who dominated the administration of Bush’s father and were pillars in the foreign policy teams of Reagan, Carter, Ford and Nixon: think national security advisers Brent Scowcroft [8] and Zbigniew Brzezinski [9], secretary of state James Baker [10] and the late senior diplomatic adviser Lawrence Eagleburger [11]. All of them opposed the war. As did Colin Powell [12]. This has been largely obscured by the secretary of state’s infamous presentation to the UN on the eve of the invasion [13], one replete with lies and distortions. Not only Powell but virtually the entire state department, and indeed a significant swath of the military and intelligence establishments, opposed going to war.

Who, then, were the war party—and how did this minority faction get their way? The road to Iraq was paved with neoconservative intentions. Other factions of the US foreign policy establishment were eventually brought around to supporting the war, but the neocons were its architects and chief proponents. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, himself a supporter of the invasion, told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz [14] in April 2003: ‘I could give you the names of 25 people (all of whom are at this moment within a five-block radius of this office [in Washington]) who, if you had exiled them to a desert island a year and a half ago, the Iraq war would not have happened’.

The neocons were obsessed for decades with toppling Saddam’s regime. Ahmad provides a thorough and instructive genealogy of the neoconservative movement, mapping both its intellectual coordinates and its ‘long march through the institutions’ of the national security apparatus: from its roots in ex-Trotskyism, to the office of US Senator Henry ‘Scoop’ Jackson [15], a hardline Cold Warrior, ascending into the Reagan administration and the Pentagon, and a labyrinth of magazines, think tanks and ad hoc committees. There is nothing conspiratorial about Ahmad’s analysis: he sees the neocons as a network of individuals (or what the anthropologist Janine Wedel [16] calls a ‘flex-net’) with a particular ideological agenda, using the levers of the state and the media in pursuit of that agenda, in close coordination with one another. In this figure from the book he maps what he calls ‘the neoconservative core’:

Figure 1 The neoconservative core and Ahmed Chalabi. Richard Perle lies at the core of this unusually dense network with a direct, one-to-one relationship with every other member of the network. Albert Wohlstetter is the outlier mainly because he belongs to a previous generation. He is included because he played the crucial role in inserting apex neocons into government.

The neocons were the Iraq war’s sine qua non, but other stars had to align for the opportunity to present itself: the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were a godsend. The moment was ripe, and the neocons were abundantly prepared to exploit it. They ‘succeeded in using the shock and disorientation of the attacks to place Iraq…on the agenda and helped manufacture the case for invading it’, Ahmad writes. Indeed, such was their preoccupation with Iraq that many of them urged going to Baghdad immediately after 9/11, never mind Afghanistan. Deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz argued this case a mere four days after the terrorist attacks [17], at the first gathering of Bush’s national security team post-9/11, held at Camp David. Not even Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, supported Wolfowitz’s position—at least not at that point. (The ‘flipping’ of Rumsfeld and Cheney—their metamorphosis from traditional conservatives, or ‘aggressive nationalists’, into two of the war’s key champions—was pivotal in the decision to go to war. Ahmad offers a discerning if ultimately inconclusive discussion of this opaque piece of the historical puzzle.)

But why exactly was toppling Saddam an idée fixe in the neocon mind? And how did this minority faction ultimately prevail over its rivals within the administration? Much of the book is devoted to answering these two critical questions. Ahmad’s discussion of the latter—his chapters on ‘Setting the Agenda’ and ‘Selling the War’—are well crafted but cover familiar ground. There are several other books that tell that story, and Ahmad relies on them extensively in his own account. But his discussion of the former—the explanation he advances for what motivated the neoconservative crusade against Saddam Hussein—is this book’s real contribution.

The war was ‘conceived in Washington, but its inspiration came from Tel Aviv’, he writes, echoing the political scientists John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, authors of the influential (and controversial) book The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy [18](which began as an essay [19] in the London Review of Books).

Mearsheimer [20] and Walt [21], the two preeminent realist scholars in international relations theory, maintain that both Israeli leaders and the Israel lobby in the US urged the Bush administration to invade Iraq—a course of action, they contend, that was not in the geostrategic interests of the US but that Israel saw in its interests. Ahmad concurs with them. ‘Not all imperial projects are about economic predation: some simply aim to destroy political enemies’, he argues—correctly, in my view. But in taking out Saddam Hussein the US destroyed one of Israel’s political enemies. In so doing, Mearsheimer and Walt argue, it undermined American national interests.

Figure 2: The Institutional infrastructure of the Israel lobby.

Ahmad demonstrates in painstaking detail how the neocons in the Bush administration—especially in the Pentagon (Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith—think ‘Feith-based intelligence [22]‘) and the office of the vice president (Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby)—aggressively advanced the (Israeli) case for the invasion. ‘It’s a toss-up whether Libby is working for the Israelis or the Americans on any given day’, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw remarked. Joe Klein, a centrist columnist for Time magazine (and himself Jewish) wrote that the neocons pushed for the invasion ‘to make the world safe for Israel [23]’. As Ahmad notes, however, the neocons operate on the basis ‘of what they think are Israel’s best interests’ (his emphasis): whether the war, which has significantly strengthened Iran, was actually in Israel’s interests, is highly contestable. Many Israelis opposed the war. But as former New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan contends, neoconservatism ‘is about enabling the most irredentist elements in Israel [24]’. The neocons are more accurately seen as Likud-centric than Israel-centric.

Against the widely-held view that Israel does America’s bidding, Ahmad shows how Israelpolitik is at odds with both US geostrategic interests and those of global capital. Big Oil, the Business Roundtable and the US Chamber of Commerce have locked horns with the Israel lobby on multiple occasions over sanctions on Syria, Iran, Libya and other states—measures that the lobby pushed hard but the corporations opposed fiercely. ‘US support for Israel, when considered not in abstract but concrete detail, cannot be adequately explained as a result of American imperial interests’, the late anti-Zionist and leftist writer Israel Shahak [25] observed. ‘Strategically, Israel is obviously a huge burden for the US [26]’, notes Sullivan. This view is becoming increasingly clear to many observers and indeed to more and more in the US foreign policy establishment.

I find Ahmad’s arguments about the motivations behind the Iraq war—and his critiques of the dominant alternative explanations—broadly convincing. But I wish he had engaged directly with some of the criticisms of the Mearsheimer-Walt argument. I share his view that most of those criticisms are unconvincing and that the Israel lobby thesis generally stands up to scrutiny—but his defence of that thesis would have emerged stronger had he dealt with some of the more serious criticisms leveled at it. He doesn’t even mention, much less engage, the criticisms that Noam Chomsky [27], Norman Finkelstein [28], or Joseph Massad [29], for example, have advanced against Mearsheimer and Walt. Like Ahmad, I think those criticisms are wrongheaded. They take issue with Mearsheimer and Walt at the level of their ideological framework, or the conceptual arc of their argument. They argue—to make a long story short—that Mearsheimer and Walt let the US off the hook, in effect, and are insufficiently anti-imperialist. But the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis is an empirical matter—the question isn’t what one thinks of their worldview in general (a worldview Ahmad and I both find deeply flawed [30], by the way) but whether their argument about why the US invaded Iraq in 2003 is correct or not. I agree with Ahmad that the evidence is on the side of Mearsheimer and Walt rather than their critics. But it would have made Ahmad’s defence of their (and his) case more compelling had he aired those arguments.

Finally, I want to pick a bone with Ahmad’s discussion of liberals and humanitarian interventionists. In a section polemically titled ‘From humanitarian intervention to shock and awe’, he takes them to task for forging a ‘neoconservative-liberal alliance’ in support of the 2003 invasion. The liberal interventionists helped shape ‘the climate of debate’, he asserts, by ‘easing the inhibitions of some about the use of force’. There are two problems with this section.

First, he wildly overstates the extent of support for the Iraq war among liberals. In fact, the majority of liberal intellectuals and commentators opposed the invasion—but Ahmad fails to mention that any of them did.

It’s true that several high-profile liberals signed on—infamously among them, Michael Ignatieff, Paul Berman, George Packer, David Remnick and Peter Beinart. (Ahmad includes several others in this group who are/were decidedly not liberal: Jean Bethe Elshtain was explicitly anti-liberal; Kenneth Pollack is a creature of the CIA and the National Security Council; Christopher Hitchens was a Trotskyist who morphed into a ‘neo-neo-con’, in the apt phrase of Ian Williams [31], and was decidedly hostile to liberalism.) The pro-war liberals were disproportionately prominent. But in fact their support for the war was a minority position among liberal interventionists. In his important book The Left at War [32], Michael Bérubé lists just some of the liberal intellectuals and writers who opposed the Iraq war: Ian Buruma, Martha Nussbaum, Jürgen Habermas, Timothy Garton Ash, Richard Rorty, Stephen Holmes, Tzvetan Todorov, Mary Kaldor, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Ronald Dworkin, Saskia Sassen, Mark Danner, Samantha Power, Amartya Sen, Seyla Benhabib, Charles Taylor, David Held, Ian Williams, Kenneth Roth, David Corn, the editors of The Nation, Boston Review, openDemocracy, The American Prospect, and the New York Review of Books. (And this is only a very partial list.)

Ahmad takes the liberal writers Michael Tomasky and Todd Gitlin to task for ‘denounc[ing] anti-war voices’—but both Tomasky and Gitlin opposed the Iraq war. They had criticized opponents of the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, not the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Ahmad approvingly quotes Tony Judt’s brilliant London Review of Books jeremiad ‘Bush’s Useful Idiots [33]’ (21 September 2006), in which the late historian upbraided the liberal intellectuals who supported the war. I have written in praise of the piece myself [34]. It was Judt at his best. But Ahmad neglects to mention that Judt himself was a liberal who strongly supported the humanitarian interventions [35] in Bosnia, Kosovo, and East Timor. Like most of us who supported those interventions, Judt strongly opposed the Iraq war—which, as Ahmad demonstrates, was anything but a humanitarian intervention. To their eternal shame, some humanitarian interventionists supported the Iraq war—but they were in the minority within the humanitarian interventionist camp. Judt belonged to the very camp that Ahmad criticizes for, in his view, providing intellectual cover for the Iraq war. In fact, Judt was squarely in the majority among liberal interventionists in opposing the Iraq war. Indeed, liberals and humanitarian interventionists articulated some of the most forceful arguments against invading Iraq.

It isn’t just that Ahmad gets the intellectual history wrong in this admittedly brief section of his otherwise outstanding book. The much more serious issue is that the arguments he advances against the principle of humanitarian intervention flirt with the very logic deployed, for example, by the targets of Ahmad’s sharpest criticisms in his more recent writings on Syria: those on the Left who steadfastly oppose any form of intervention in Syria on the grounds of defending the ‘sovereignty’ of the murderous Assad regime. Ahmad finds those arguments as specious and pernicious as I do. And, to be sure, he concedes in passing that there are ‘crises where predatory states use the cover of sovereignty to tyrannise vulnerable populations’. But he doesn’t think through the larger implications involved here. This is not the place to open a philosophical debate on humanitarian intervention. But I’ll close by posing a question to Ahmad: has the Syrian conflict, and the ideological fault lines that have formed around it, occasioned any rethinking on his part of the debates about intervention going back to the 1990s?

These criticisms aside, let me reiterate the enormous significance and relevance of The Road to Iraq. It is a work of tremendous intellectual diligence and moral seriousness. We are all indebted to Ahmad for undertaking this major contribution to the debate on one of the central events of this century, whose aftershocks continue to unfold daily, to disastrous effect. With the neocons poised to make a comeback, this book serves as a cautionary tale of bracing urgency. It is a must-read guide to the history of the present.

Danny Postel is Associate Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver and a co-editor of PULSE. He is the author of Reading ‘Legitimation Crisis’ in Tehran and co-editor of The People Reloaded: The Green Movement and the Struggle for Iran’s Future and The Syria Dilemma. Between 2003 and 2008 he wrote a series of articles about the neoconservatives, Iraq and Iran for The American Prospect, openDemocracy, Mother Jones and other publications.

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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Baltimore Activist Alert - January 31 - February 13, 2015

43] Bhopal film at JHU – Jan. 31
44] “For Holocaust Remembrance Day: Lessons from Lithuania” – Feb. 1
45] Art-Part'heid: Bridging the Gap of Disparities in the Baltimore Art Scene – Feb. 1
46] Assata Shakur – Feb. 1
47] 2015 National Membership Meeting of Jewish Voice for Peace – Feb. 1, registration deadline
48] Pentagon Vigil – Feb. 2
49] Marc Steiner on WEAA – Feb. 2 – Feb. 6
50] HandsUpDC at DOJ – Feb. 2
51] Hear from Matt Wuerker, Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist – Feb. 2
52] Prison Industrial Complex – Feb. 2
53] Film THE NEW BLACK – Feb. 2
54] Raise your voice for marijuana reform! – Feb. 2
55] Pledge of Resistance/FOC meeting – Feb. 2
51] Job opportunity with ILRF – Feb. 2
56] From Mississippi to Ferguson – Feb. 5
57] Silent peace vigil -- Feb. 6
58] See the film AMERICAN GUN -- Feb. 6
59] Witness for Peace is leading a delegation Cuba -- Feb. 13 through Feb. 23
60] Sign up with Washington Peace Center
61] Join Fund Our Communities
62] Donate books, videos, DVDs and records
63] Do you need any book shelves?
64] Join Global Zero campaign
65] War Is Not the Answer signs for sale
66] Join Peace Park Antinuclear Vigil
43] – Catch the Baltimore premier of "Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain," which exposes the shocking events that led to the biggest man-made industrial disaster in history, when as many as 10,000 people were killed in one night. Hear from Dr. Patricia Santosham, Baltimore physician and executive producer of the film, and Sanjay Verma, Bhopal disaster survivor, activist and photographer for the Bhopal Medical Appeal and The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal.

The documentary will be screened on Sat., Jan. 31 from 2 to 5 PM at the The Arellano Theater in Levering Hall on the Johns Hopkins University Homewood Campus, 3400 N. Charles St., Baltimore 21218. Starring Martin Sheen, Mischa Barton, Kal Penn and a powerful ensemble cast, and directed by Ravi Kumar, is an epic ‘whodunit’ that exposes the shocking events that led to the biggest man made industrial disaster in history. Even for those who survived, the tragedy had just begun. A donation to the Bhopal Medical Appeal will be gratefully received. Email

44] – Usually, the Baltimore Ethical Society, 306 W. Franklin St., Suite 102, Baltimore 21201-4661, meets on Sundays, and generally there is a speaker and discussion from 10:30 AM to noon. On Feb. 1, the platform address is “For Holocaust Remembrance Day: Lessons from Lithuania” by author Ellen Cassedy. She set off into the Jewish heartland of Lithuania to connect with her Jewish forebears. But what had begun as a personal quest expanded into a larger exploration. Probing the terrain of memory and moral dilemmas, Cassedy offers a close-up view of how an Eastern European nation is encountering the complex history of the Holocaust, World War II, and the Soviet era that followed. She conveys a cautious message of hope, with implications far beyond Lithuania. The author of “We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust” is a former speechwriter in the Clinton Administration and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. Her articles, essays, and Yiddish translations have appeared in numerous publications. Her roots in Ethical Culture go back three generations. Visit her website at Call 410-581-2322 or email

45] – On Sun., Feb. 1 at 3 PM at 2640, 27th & St. Paul Sts., participate in Art-Part'heid: Bridging the Gap of Disparities in the Baltimore Art Scene, a panel discussion and community dialogue on race, power, privilege, exclusion and shared wealth. Mia Loving, curator and founder of Invisible Majority, a creative community incubator, Michelle Gomez, independent curator who works collaboratively with under-represented audiences on community-focused exhibitions in Baltimore, Sophia Mak, artist, dancer, performer, educator, and activist, and Abdu Ali, artist and musician, will lead the discussion. Contact Conscious A. Ware at Snacks and refreshments will be served.

46] – A.C.T.O.R. (A Continuing Talk on Race) presents Assata in Her Own Words - A Discussion on the Life and Legacy of Assata Shakur at Busboys & Poets, 14th & V Sts., Langston Room, WDC, on Sun., Feb. 1 from 5 to 7 PM. In light of the recent foreign policy shift with Cuba, A.C.T.O.R. takes a look at the life and legacy of Assata Shakur - one of the most famous members of the Black Liberation Army. On May 2, 1973, three Black Panther activists including Assata Olugbala Shakur, AKA Joanne Deborah Chesimard, were stopped by two members of the New Jersey State Police. In the ensuing shootout, a police officer was killed, another wounded. A Panther was killed, she was shot and another was captured. Assata spent six and a half years in prison under alleged brutal circumstances before escaping out of the maximum security wing of the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women in New Jersey in 1979 and moving to Cuba. Check out "An Open Letter to the Media" from Assata Shakur. Visit

47] – You must register by Sun., Feb. 1 for the 2015 National Membership Meeting of Jewish Voice for Peace, the pro-justice Jewish answer to the negatives of AIPAC. Go to The conference will take place in Baltimore from March 13 to the 15. Speakers include Rabbi Brant Rosen, Angela Davis, Sa'ed Atshan, Andrea Smith and reps from the Israeli fact-finding group Zochrot and the Palestinian research organization Badil.

48] -- There is a weekly Pentagon Peace Vigil from 7 to 8 AM on Mondays, since 1987, outside the Pentagon Metro stop. The next vigil is Mon., Jan. 26, and it is sponsored by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. Email or call 202-882-9649. The vigil will be outside the Pentagon's south Metro entrance and in the designated "protest zone" behind bicycle fences across from the entrance to the Metro. By Metro, take Yellow Line and get out at the "Pentagon" stop. Do not go to the Pentagon City stop! Go up south escalators and turn left and walk across to protest area. By car from D.C. area, take 395 South and get off at Exit 8A-Pentagon South Parking. Take slight right onto S. Rotary Rd. at end of ramp and right on S. Fern St. Then take left onto Army Navy Dr. You can "pay to park" on Army Navy Dr., and there is meter parking one block on right on Eads St. Payment for both of these spots begin at 8 AM. No cameras are allowed on Pentagon grounds. Restrooms are located inside Marriott Residence Inn on corner of S. Fern and Army Navy Dr.

49] – The Marc Steiner Show airs Monday through Friday from 10 AM to noon on WEAA 88.9 FM, The Voice of the Community, or online at The call-in number is 410-319-8888, and comments can also be sent by email to All shows are also available as podcasts at

50] – On Mon., Feb. 2 from 4 to 6 PM, join the weekly peaceful Department of Justice Vigil, same day, same time, same place and same demand. The Hands Up Coalition DC condemns the Ferguson Grand Jury Findings, and calls on the Justice Department to intervene and adopt six urgent demands. To see the demands, go to

51] – At the 11 Dupont Circle NW, 2nd Floor, WDC, on Mon., Feb. 2 at 5:30 PM, hear from Matt Wuerker, Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist from Politico, the 2010 Herblock Prize Winner, and winner of the 2010 Clifford K. and James T. Berryman Award for editorial cartooning. He will speak to the Alliance for Justice (AFJ), a national association of environmental, civil rights, mental health, women's, children's and consumer advocacy organizations in the USA. RSVP to Leah Salgado at or at 202-464-7390.

52] – On Mon., Feb. 2 from 7 to 10 PM, the Institute for Policy studies joins UDC David A. Clarke School of Law to bring you another look at the Prison Industrial Complex and the way it extends into our communities. The District of Columbia has approximately 660,000 residents. An estimated 60,000, nearly 10%, have a criminal history. Join IPS and the School of Law to discuss reforms that could break a cycle that prevents residents from becoming self-supporting citizens at UDC David A. Clarke School of Law, 4200 Connecticut Ave. NW, WDC. There will be a long list of speakers, including Shelley Broderick, Dean and Professor of Law, as the moderator, Andy Shallal, proprietor of Busboys and Poets and Institute for Policy Studies board member, D.C. Councilmember David Grosso, Teresa Hodges, returning citizen, and Jared Ball, professor, Communication Studies, Morgan State University. See

53] – Beyond the Classroom: U of MD, 1104 South Campus Commons, Building 1, WDC, will show a documentary on Mon., Feb. 2 at 7 PM. “The New Black” tells the story of how the African-American community in Prince George’s County, Maryland is grappling with the gay rights issue in light of the recent gay marriage movement and the fight over civil rights. The film documents activists, families, and clergy on both sides of the campaign to legalize gay marriage, and it examines homophobia in the black community’s institutional pillar—the black church. It also reveals the Christian right wing’s strategy of exploiting this phenomenon in order to pursue an anti-gay political agenda. The film takes viewers into the pews and onto the streets and provides a seat at the kitchen table as it tells the story of the historic fight to win marriage equality in Maryland and charts the evolution of this divisive issue within the black community. Go to

54] – ACLU of Maryland is urging you to raise your voice for marijuana reform! Join the organization for Lobby Night in Annapolis on Mon., Feb. 2 at 5 PM. Sign up to meet your legislators, educate them and share your story. Maryland should fully decriminalize, tax and regulate marijuana. RSVP for Lobby Night at

The Maryland General Assembly took a step forward last year when it decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, but more reform is needed. Join the Marijuana Policy Coalition in the House Office Building, Room 170, 6 Bladen St., Annapolis. The night will begin with a welcome and briefing, and then legislative meetings will be from 6 to 8 PM.

55] – The Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore usually meets on Mondays at 7:30 PM, and the meetings take place at Max’s residence. The next meeting will be on Mon., Feb. 2. The proposed agenda will include anti-drone activities, including getting a resolution passed in Baltimore’s City Council, protesting Colin Powell, lobbying in Annapolis, a march from the EPA to the Pentagon, the talk about ISIS and “From Mississippi to Ferguson.” Call 410-366-1637 or email mobuszewski at

56] – "From Mississippi to Ferguson, Lessons Learned, the Road Ahead" is happening on Thurs., Feb. 5 at 7 PM at Pleasant Hope Baptist Church, 430 E. Belvedere Ave., Baltimore 21212. Doors open at 6:30 PM, and refreshments will be available. Tie in lessons from SNCC tactics of the 1960s to today's upsurge against police violence and injustice. The speakers, Larry Rubin and Courtney Mercado, have been/are deeply involved in today's struggles and their history. The Charm City Labor Chorus will enhance our program through song. RSVP to Cindy at 443-275-1095.

57] – There is usually a silent peace vigil on Fridays, from 5 to 6 PM, sponsored by Homewood Friends and Stony Run Meetings, outside the Homewood Friends Meetinghouse, 3107 N. Charles St. The Feb. 6 vigil will remind us that War Is Not the Answer and that there is the need to stop torture, and prosecute the torturers. Following the vigil, there will be a potluck dinner and a DVD screening.

58] – The Hiroshima-Nagasaki Commemoration Committee, Baltimore Quaker Peace and Justice Committee of Homewood and Stony Run Meetings and Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility are continuing the FILM & SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS DVD SERIES. After dinner at 3107 N. Charles St., around 7:15 PM, a DVD will be shown with a discussion to follow. There is no charge, and refreshments will be available. Call 410-366-1637 or email mobuszewski at

The series theme is CAN WE SAVE THE PLANET??? See AMERICAN GUN [USA, 2005]. The film centers around three stories dealing with the results of gun use. One story is about an inner city school principal, Forest Whitaker, in Chicago, who threatens one of his most promising students with expulsion after catching him with a handgun. In Oregon, a single mother, Marcia Gay Harden, tries to protect her son, after a Columbine-like massacre. Finally, an A student at the University of Virginia, Linda Cardellini, who works at her family's gun shop gets a gun after his best friend’s near rape at a fraternity house. Also starring are Donald Sutherland, Amanda Seyfried and Tony Goldwyn. The screenplay was written by Steven Bagatourian and Aric Avelino, and directed by Avelino in his debut. The film was influenced by stories about how students brought guns to school, not necessarily to use them, but as protection because of the dangerous neighborhoods they live in or have to walk through. Contact

59] – Witness for Peace is leading a delegation Cuba: The Good Food Revolution: Strengthening Community Through Sustainable Agriculture from Feb. 13 through Feb. 23. The delegation coordinator is Kristin Stuchis, and she can be reached at 218-340-8079 or

60] -- The Washington Peace Center has a progressive calendar & activist alert! Consider signing up to receive its weekly email:

61] -- Fund Our Communities campaign is a grass roots movement to get support from local organizations and communities to work together with their local and state elected officials to pressure Congresspersons and senators to join with Congresspersons Barney Frank and Ron Paul, who have endorsed a 25% cut to the federal military budget. Bring home the savings to state and county governments to meet the local needs which are under tremendous budget pressures. Go to

62] -- If you would like to get rid of books, videos, DVDs or records, contact Max at 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski at

63] -- Can you use any book shelves? Contact Max at 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski at

64] -- Join an extraordinary global campaign for the elimination of nuclear weapons: A growing group of leaders around the world is calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons and a majority of the global public agrees. This is an historic window of opportunity. With momentum already building in favor of Zero, a major show of support from people around the world could tip the balance. When it comes to nuclear weapons, one is one too many.

65] -- WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER signs from Friends Committee on National Legislation are again for sale at $5. To purchase a sign, call Max at 410-366-1637.

66] – A Peace Park Antinuclear Vigil takes place every day in Lafayette Park, 1601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 24 hours a day, since June 3, 1981. Go to; call 202-682-4282.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"One is called to live nonviolently, even if the change one works for seems impossible. It may or may not be possible to turn the US around through nonviolent revolution. But one thing favors such an attempt: the total inability of violence to change anything for the better" - Daniel Berrigan

Friday, January 30, 2015

Snowden Says Canada Spy Agency Runs a Global Snooping Program

The Canadian surveillance agency has been analyzing data from allied nations and trading partners. (photo: Reuters)

Snowden Says Canada Spy Agency Runs a Global Snooping Program

By TeleSUR
29 January 15

Canada is the latest country to be exposed as engaging in global mass surveillance, reportedly intercepting and analyzing data on up to 15 million file downloads daily, according to leaked documents.

The documents, obtained by National Security gency whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2012, are the first to reveal the large-scale spy program conducted by Canada's Communications Security Establishment (CSE).
According to reports Wednesday by CBC News and The Intercept, the program analyzed data from allied countries and trading partners, including the United States, Britain, Brazil and Spain.

Brazil, which clashed with the U.S. in 2013 when previous leaks revealed that the NSA was snooping on President Dilma Rousseff, responded scathingly of the Canadian spying scandal.

“Brazil regrets and repudiates all unauthorized espionage on foreign officials by intelligence agencies,” the Brazil’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement emailed to Reuters Wednesday. Brazil is also pushing efforts to step up Internet privacy and security in the country.

The CSE, like the NSA, is not permitted to target its country’s citizens, though in the past it has been accused of intercepting nationals' phone conversations and emails.

Canada is part of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network, along with the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

In the past, Snowden's damning information, often passed on to U.S. journalist Glenn Greenwald, has mainly focused on spy scandals from Britain and the U.S. The latest revelations on Canada indicate the widespread reach of state-sponsored surveillance.

© 2015 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Open Letter to John McCain: Get Out of Washington, You Low-Life Scum

Arizona Senator John McCain. (photo: AP)

Open Letter to John McCain: Get Out of Washington, You Low-Life Scum

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News
30 January 15

Dear Senator McCain,

What would you call a war veteran who answers a veteran’s question about providing more jobs to veterans by saying it’s his “highest priority,” only to vote against more jobs for veterans when he’s back in Washington? What would you call a veteran who was tortured, survived miraculously, got elected to the U.S. Senate, sent more young men to die in a foreign war, voted to deny them jobs and benefits, and yet demands the arrest and full prosecution of those who exercise the constitutional rights he supposedly fought for? To borrow phrasing from you, Senator, I would call you low-life scum.

The Code PINK protesters you called “low-life scum” during a Senate hearing this week are Americans exercising their constitutional rights to freedom of speech, which you swore an oath to defend both as a naval officer and as a member of Congress. These protesters were also within their right to make a citizens’ arrest against someone who has committed a felony – in this case, war crimes. It’s critical for you to understand why these protesters are patriotic Americans and not “low-life scum,” as you called them.

When Henry Kissinger, whom you just vociferously defended from the dais, authorized the secret bombing of Laos and Cambodia in 1969 and 1970, his actions killed over 40,000 people, including civilians who had nothing to do with the Vietnam War. Kissinger has said he did so to stop North Vietnamese troops from using Cambodia as a staging ground. However, research has shown that all Kissinger’s bombing campaign did was pave the way for the brutal Khmer Rouge to take over Cambodia, then use the B-52 bombings as propaganda to justify their cause, leading to more death and destruction. Kissinger illegally bombed a sovereign nation that we never officially declared war on, destabilized its government, and allowed a violent, autocratic regime to seize power. If that isn't a felony, I don't know what is.

Washington D.C. statute allows for citizens’ arrests in the case of a felony. And in Code PINK’s case, war crimes are certainly a felony offense. When you called on the capitol police, it should’ve been to arrest Kissinger, not Code PINK activists. But your classless outburst during that hearing is indicative of the allegiances you hold, and the longstanding hypocrisy of your entire Congressional career.

Despite going through a war firsthand, and going on record saying “war is wretched beyond description,” you are one of the loudest voices consistently in favor of going to war with anyone at the drop of a hat. You bragged to a conservative radio host that nobody supported President Bush's war in Iraq more than you. You were the first member of the Senate to call for airstrikes on Syria. You’ve openly said you’d like to keep troops in Iraq for 100 years. You even made a joke about bombing Iran at a campaign rally. As a Vietnam veteran, haven't you had enough war for one lifetime?

Speaking of veterans, I would think that someone who has personally experienced the worst imaginable hell of war would be the first one to stand up for veterans when given the chance. But you, Senator McCain, have turned your back repeatedly on America’s veterans when they asked for even the most concrete necessities.

When the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) urged you to pass the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits & Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014, you voted against even bringing it to the floor for debate, despite the fact that several of your Republican colleagues supported it. You claim to support better healthcare for veterans, and that bill would’ve provided that care by, among other things, expanding the Comprehensive Caregiver Assistance Program, and advanced veterans’ retirement payments even in the event of a government shutdown. As a fellow veteran who bears permanent scars of war, how could you deny your brothers and sisters at the PVA this vote?

After you came home from Vietnam, where you endured years of cruel imprisonment, solitary confinement, and torture, where would you be if you didn’t have for a father a four-star admiral who commanded all U.S. forces in Vietnam? Unlike you, many of the veterans who are lucky enough to come back from the wars you eagerly sent them off to don’t have wealthy, highly-connected families to support them when they return stateside. Almost 50,000 veterans today are struggling to survive on the streets despite serving their country. Yet when you were given multiple opportunities to show your commitment to homeless veterans, you did nothing.

When the House of Representatives passed the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program Reauthorization Act of 2009, which would have funded the transition for veterans to go from wandering the streets to having a roof over their head, you allowed the bill to die, and said nothing. You even allowed your party to kill the Homeless Women Veterans and Homeless Veterans with Children Act of 2009, which would have provided homes for single mothers who served their countries with distinction in the military. But as bad as your inaction was on those bills, it still wasn’t your biggest slight to America’s veterans.

At the 2012 Republican National Convention, Meg Lanker-Simons, a veteran and journalist, asked you about providing more jobs to veterans, 14 percent of whom are unemployed. You responded, to her face, that you were going to “try to find more and better ways to hire veterans,” that chronic unemployment of veterans was a “national disgrace,” and that making more jobs available to veterans was your “highest priority.” But just a month later, when the Senate was voting on the Veterans Job Corps Bill, which would’ve paired veterans up with job opportunities based on their skill sets, you mocked the idea before voting it down. While your reason was that the $1 billion cost was too high, the bill would have paid for itself by $1 billion of new revenue for the office of Veterans’ Affairs. So, Mr. McCain, not only are you a hypocrite, but a liar as well. If you didn’t run for elected office to serve your fellow veterans, why did you run in the first place?

With a net worth of over $10 million, you are one of the richest members of Congress. And as everyone learned in 2008, you own 8 properties, making you one of the wealthiest 0.01 percent of Americans. During your Congressional career, you voted 19 times against increasing the minimum wage, yet in 2010, you voted to extend George W. Bush’s tax cut package. That was a complete 180 from your earlier position against it, in which you rightly called it “generous tax relief to the wealthiest individuals of our country at the expense of lower and middle-income taxpayers.” You also voted for a $700 billion bailout of the big banks that crashed our economy in 2008. Those same banks gave you almost $2 million in campaign and leadership PAC donations between 2005 and 2010, including over $50,000 from bailout king Goldman Sachs. If someone who didn’t know any better took a look at that data, they would think you’re only in office to serve yourself.

You’ve been in Washington long enough, Senator McCain, and you’ve done enough damage to veterans and working people. Either resign now with some semblance of dignity, or prepare to be thrown out of office in 2016.

Carl Gibson, 25, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary "We're Not Broke," which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. You can contact him, and follow him on twitter at @uncutCG.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

© 2015 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Cuba: So Close You Could Almost Swim There

Published on Portside (

Cuba: So Close You Could Almost Swim There

Diana Nyad

Thursday, January 29, 2015
Huffington Post

The Cuban Revolution happened when I was a nine-year-old living in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Literally overnight, thousands of exiles flooded into my town. We were suddenly eating Cuban food, dancing salsa in my new friends' living rooms. The mystique ran deep. Already a little swimmer, I was standing on the beach at that time and I asked my mother, who had danced salsa many times with my father at the fabled Hotel Nacional in Havana:

"Mom. Where is it? I know it's out there, but I can't see it."

And my mother took my arm and pointed it across the sea.

"There. Out there. It's right over that horizon. It's so close, you could almost swim there."

The story I first knew of Cuba was from the exile side. Good people forced out of their homes, given 24 hours to gather of few possessions and cash out at the bank. Their houses, their clothing, their cars, their boats, many of their friends and family never to be seen again.

Then there was the Fidel side. It reads a noble story. Fidel and his comrades in justice Che and Camilo, ride stealth one night on horseback from the mountains into Havana, to save the people from the dictator regime of Batista, where the rich were vastly rich and the poor were desperately poor, with no middle ground. The famous, defiant face of Che has been plastered to millions of young persons' bedroom walls through the years. Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Camilo Cienfuegos -- soldiers of and for the people.

I have learned the hard way not to take either side, not to speak of the politics of Cuba. Socialism, in its bare bones definition, every individual entitled to the same material necessities, can be interpreted as a just way to manage a nation. On an anecdotal level, I can say that in the dozens of times I have visited Cuba, since my first try to swim from country to country back in 1978, I have never once seen a homeless person. I have found a population of educated, polite, intelligent, fit, musical, athletic, compassionate, philosophical, seemingly happy people. So there was a time that I defended Fidel's original vision, that I joined many who touted his success in taking the majority from third world to second world.

The one thing I could never explain, understand, or defend about the Fidel regime was that Cubans weren't allowed to leave the island. If you love your country, love the life you live there, why is there such fear that a trip anywhere abroad would convince you never to return home?

Clearly, in recent years after the Soviet Union's collapse and withdrawal, Cuba has devolved toward a deeper and nearly tragic state of poverty. Goods have always been hard to come by, but it's been a long time since asthma medicine, cooking oil, and a decent loaf of bread have been on the market shelves.

A couple I have stayed with in Old Havana, both highly educated, with a daughter who has asthma, stand outside the hospital ER in the middle of the night, begging any worker leaving to go back inside and find them an inhaler. Every two weeks they stand in a line to receive one chicken, six eggs, and a few staples. They invite visitors to their "Casa Privada" for dinner, stretching those staples into creative meals so that travelers can tell the tale of eating in a private home, and then they pare back their own family meals to the bare minimum.

Again, just a layman's anecdotal evidence, but it used to be that to discuss a rapprochement with an average Cuban citizen was to encounter tears standing in his eyes, the loyalty to Fidel was so fierce. The giant painted faces of Fidel and Che and Camilo around the city, slogans such as "Viva El Socialismo!" in vivid red below, spoke volumes to the national esprit of having been freed from colonial oppression.

But we are almost six decades past Batista now. The days of the Bay of Pigs are also long-ago history. There is nothing to fear from each other. No reason to further punish each other.

My swim from Cuba to Florida, aside from the personal challenge to make endurance history across a wild, epic ocean, was always meant to also make a statement of hopeful reconnection between our two beautiful nations. Too many, on both sides, have wanted for too long to know each other, to enjoy the colorful Cuban culture, to help the Cubans restore economic stability.

Our Team was invited to Havana this past Labor Day, on the anniversary of our successful crossing from Havana to Key West, September 2, 2013. It was the first time in thirty years that the American and Cuban flags were flown together in an official government building in Havana. The first time the American National Anthem had been played at an official event in thirty years. We wept with pride. And so did the Cubans. We all wept because this Swim was a universal message of will, to Never Ever Give Up. But we wept in part because our two countries understood the magic of the endeavor and the Cubans helped us through every step. We wept because we all want a better life for these good people, our friends and neighbors.

I can tell you our Team was very emotional a few weeks ago, when both President Obama and Raul Castro announced the new era of rapprochement between us.

A personal note: This series for Huff Post carries with it a tag line: 90 miles.

To be perfectly accurate, it is 103 miles, the closest distance between Cuba and Florida. A long time ago, the nautical measurement of 90 was assigned, a measurement used by only large ships at sea. We measure distances across the sea between countries in statute miles. For instance, it is 28 miles around Manhattan Island. That's statute miles. Trust me, it's 103 miles to Cuba. I should know.

One more personal note, to my mother, no longer with us. Mom, it's so close, Cuba, that somebody has actually swum there.

In the 1970's, Diana Nyad earned her reputation as the greatest long-distance swimmer in the world. Her world records, such as circling Manhattan Island and crossing the 102.5 miles between the Bahamas and Florida, were cause for Diana's induction to many Halls of Fame, including the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame.

Through the next three decades, Diana became a prominent sports journalist and broadcaster, filing compelling reports for National Public Radio, ABC's Wide World of Sports, Fox Sports, USA Network, The New York Times, among other national media outlets.

In 2011, after more than 30 years out of the water, Diana once again captured the world's attention with her gutsy attempts to become the first person to ever swim from Cuba to Florida without aid of a shark cage. Some 1.3 million fans watched as Diana bravely swam some 40 hours (two separate times), once in August, once in September, both times foiled by Mother Nature. Her drive toward Xtreme Dreams has inspired many to live their own lives with similar passion.

This post is part of a Huffington Post blog series called "90 Miles: Rethinking the Future of U.S.-Cuba Relations [1]." The series puts the spotlight on the emerging relations between two long-standing Western Hemisphere foes and will feature pre-eminent thought leaders from the public and private sectors, academia, the NGO community, and prominent observers from both countries. Read all the other posts in the series here.
If you'd like to contribute your own blog on this topic, send a 500-850-word post to [2] (subject line: "90 Miles").

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

I am boycotting American Sniper/Why Selma Matters: A Mother's Perspective


I have seen the 1932 film “Scarface” with Paul Muni and directed by Howard Hawks and Richard Rosson. It is loosely based on the rise and fall of Al Capone, and is somewhat a morality play. The evil gangster must be punished. In 1983, Brian De Palma did a remake with Al Pacino playing the gangster. I had no interest in seeing this version, especially considering the film is suffused with ultra violence.

I am boycotting AMERICAN SNIPER, Clint Eastwood’s take on Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper. The book by Kyle is a testosterone-imbued litany of lies, including the claim that it was necessary to invade Iraq. Of course, I loved SELMA, and was impressed by Ava DuVerney’s direction and David Oyelowo’s spellbinding performance as Dr. King.

In this unfair world, Eastwood’s film got a Best Picture Oscar nod, and Cooper was nominated for Best Actor. DuVerney’s movie and her direction were not nominated, nor did the Academy recognize Oyelowo’s performance. The violence in this country continues at epidemic proportions, and our warriors are killing people in numerous countries. So maybe it is poetic justice that a killer sniper gets a nomination, but a pacifist martyr does not.

Kagiso, Max

Published on Portside (

Why Selma Matters: A Mother's Perspective

Stephanie Shonekan

Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Praxis Center

On MLK day, I took our three teenage children to watch Selma. I worried about the film's effect on them because I knew it would provide another heavy layer of heart-wrenching historical information for them to carry, which makes their walk more labored than their non-black counterparts in the USA. I hoped that the experience would be beneficial, if for no other reason, to flesh out their historical knowledge, and to show them the rare occurrence of a major feature film directed by a black woman. But most of all, I hoped it would raise their awareness and enhance their sense of identity. This was a risky endeavor because most of their friends spent the holiday watching popular action and horror films. But it was important to me that my children spend the time on this particular film at this particular time.

The tragic murders of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice set the stage for my three children to experience Selma. Within the last year, our family discussions about race in America have been more urgent because of the tangible visual evidence, thanks to smart phone cameras and footage, that racial history continues to evolve and that it impacts us in a real way right now. Our frequent conversations about race are complicated because our children's understandings of blackness are shaped by the different constructions of blackness within their family. Their mother is half Igbo and half Trinidadian. Their father is Yoruba. They have aunties from Mali and Tanzania and an uncle from Zimbabwe. They have cousins from Nigeria and England. But they themselves were born and raised in the US so they are constantly searching for a comfortable identity since they are neither completely African American nor are they completely Nigerian.

So these three black teenagers hover somewhere in between, constantly encountering situations that shake the undulating parameters of their identity as both African and American, giving a different meaning to W.E.B. DuBois' concept of double consciousness. For them, their "two-ness" is multiplied by "unreconciled strivings" between different cores of blackness and non-black, mainstream society. Their everyday interactions cause them to constantly grapple with the implications of their complicated identity, whether it is their white friends telling them they are different from those "other blacks," or African American friends who scold them for "acting white," or a teacher who assumes that they will explain Kwanzaa to the class since it's an "African thing," or another who can't resist touching my daughter's natural hair, without permission.

There have been racial episodes happening around them all their lives, but somehow the nexus of Brown, Garner, and Rice culminated in a watershed moment for my children, and I watched as they firmly gravitated towards their African American identity. They felt strongly about the verdict in Ferguson, argued with friends who supported Darren Wilson, and when a middle school teacher told the class that Michael Brown caused his own demise, my son and his black friends took it personally. They also noticed a marked difference between the responses of their black and white friends, many of the latter not seeming affected by these troubling news stories.

As a family, we brainstorm regularly on what the most appropriate reactions should be when these issues come up among their peers. My husband and I want our children to understand the anatomy of racism in the US so that they have historical context and models of activism to study and emulate. During these family summits, we often set aside our ethnic and cultural identities to occupy a straightforward black space. After all, we reason, the police officers who killed these three black males-and countless others-did not care whether their victims were from Timbuktu or Ferguson. All these police officers seemed to see, if we are to believe their testimony, were three "men" who were black and therefore threatening.

The Black Lives Matter movement and other such responses to the tragic nexus of murders last year are the twenty-first century versions of the civil rights and black power movements, so I hoped that Selma would provide critical context for my children. As we took our seats in the theater, I noticed that there were very few young black people at this screening, and I recalled all the times I had heard older black folks complain about young people not knowing or caring about the civil rights movement. As I watched my children's reactions throughout the movie, I could understand why this is the case.

The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s is extremely painful to watch. Young African Americans, including my own children, are reluctant to dig deeper into that era because it is simply too difficult. From the first terrifying church explosion, their bodies grew tense, their eyes captivated by the power of this one chapter in the story of resistance to white supremacy told masterfully in this outstanding film. At times, when hatred seems to radiate off the screen-when those four little girls are killed, when Annie Lee Cooper is turned away from voter registration, when Jimmie Lee Jackson is shot in cold blood, and when governors, sheriffs, policemen, and even, at times, the president talk about Negroes as if they are the worst kind of chattel on earth-my two daughters would look away from the screen, and my son would pull the top of his hoodie over his eyes. They cringed and squirmed and, for the first time ever, forgot to consume their popcorn and soda.

In scene after scene, Selma delivered lessons that transcend time and space. The fact that King was surrounded and supported by brilliant and brave people-both black and white-who had critical roles in the movement was a great lesson. For too long our children have been given a sanitized version of King, portraying him as nothing more than a gentle and calm pastor who preached peace and tolerance. Instead Selma offered my children a more robust picture of a man who had radical ideas, who had a sense of urgency about him, who faltered sometimes in his personal and in his professional life, but one who persevered. Also, the brief inclusion of Malcolm X and the reference to his evolving consciousness was incredibly useful.

As an ethnomusicologist, I was thrilled that Selma gave us some musical bonuses through the inclusion of Mahalia Jackson and Harry Belafonte. Although these were brief references, it was enough to provoke my children's curiosity about these luminaries and their significant roles in the movement. At the end of the film, when the credits began to roll and "Glory" by John Legend and Common came on, my three companions paid attention and listened as Common skillfully connected Selma to Ferguson, then to now.

The film weaves itself into the tangled threads of my children's identity, because both David Oyelowo, who played King, and Carmen Ejogo who played Coretta, have Nigerian heritage. Oyelowo is Yoruba like my husband and Ejogo has Igbo heritage, as I do. This interesting coincidence reminds us that the story relayed in this film is just one episode in the saga of racial oppression, which has severely impacted black folk everywhere. Selma should remind us of the Kenyan Mau Mau, the Yoruba market women, and the anti-apartheid activists, all of whom fought against colonial domination and racial oppression. We should remember heroes like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kwame Nkrumah, and Nelson Mandela, and of all the marches and movements that continue to take place in support of black folks here in the US and in places like Chibok Nigeria. This film reminds us that #AllBlackLivesMatter.
Like many others, I was outraged that Selma director Ava DuVerney was not nominated for an Oscar. But I cannot help holding my own celebration for the genius of DuVerney and acknowledging that she serves my family much better than anything else the Academy is esteeming this year. What Selma did was show my children in vivid detail the story that paved the way for them to go to any school and live anywhere; the movement that allowed their parents to migrate to the US. I won't lie, watching Selma with my children was extremely difficult, but I recognize that it helped them understand how what happened to Brown, Garner, and Rice-and the discourse around those cases-was tinged by this racial history and by continued racist attitudes and systems.

But most importantly, Selma reminded my children of what we tell them everyday: even though their history is heavy, they must stand tall and navigate the world, confident in their beautiful black skins. Whether they are African or African American, they can follow King's teaching to cross every bridge with determination and wisdom, and to always "demonstrate dignity."

Dr. Stephanie Shonekan is Praxis Center Contributing Editor for Art, Music, and Pop Culture. She is an Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology and Black Studies at the University of Missouri. In addition to writing various articles on afrobeat, Fela Kuti, and American and Nigerian hip-hop, her book The Life of Camilla Williams, African American Classical Singer and Opera Diva was published in 2011. In 2008, Shonekan also wrote and produced a short live action film titled Lioness of Lisabi, which was awarded first prize at both the Chicago International Children's Film Festival and the Girls Inc. Film Festival. Her current research is an exploration of American race, identity and culture through the lens of soul and country music. Stephanie earned her B.A. and M.A. in English Literature from the University of Jos and the University of Ibadan, respectively, and her Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from Indiana University Bloomington. Her dual heritage combining West Africa with the West Indies allows her to straddle the black world comfortably.

Marion Coleman worked in youth and family services and during the last two decades she has combined this experience with fiber, stitching and color to create work that explores portraiture, memory, social change and community. Learning to sew as a youngster was the beginning of her art making. It has now led to designing and fabricating contemporary quilts and mixed media art. Her work is a combination of narrative quilting that explores African American history and personal stories along with figurative work focusing on women and men both past and present. She uses a variety of fibers, threads, paper, paint and found objects to present ideas. She combines piecing and design techniques associated with African American quilts but may include raw edge appliqu,, fusing, extensive stitching, slashing, paper, paint, plastic, beads, buttons and recycled materials or just about anything that strikes her fancy. Her growing collection of vintage photographs and found objects provides endless inspiration for her narrative stitched fiber collages.

Coleman's work has been exhibited in the United States and internationally. She has numerous private commissions and has completed public art commissions for West County Health Center, San Pablo, CA, REACH Youth Center, San Leandro, North Berkeley Branch Library, Berkeley, CA, Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center, San Leandro, CA, Castro Valley Library, Castro Valley, CA and the Richmond, CA Civic Center. Hunters Point Public Art Project, San Francisco, CA is ready for installation. In November 2012 she was a guest artist at Quilt Week Yokohama, Japan. At the beginning of 2013 her work began exhibiting in the Art in Embassies Program at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem.

Her work has been presented in several publications including O, Oprah Magazine, Costco Connections Magazine, 500 Art Quilts, Patchwork Tsushin, Textile Forum, Art Quilting Studio, American Craft, Quilting Arts Magazine, Altered Couture, Creative Quilting, Crafted Lives, Textural Rhythms: Quilts in the Jazz Tradition and Journey of Hope: Quilts Inspired by Barack Obama. KQED, San Francisco profiled her work featured in the Textural Rhythms exhibition at the Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, CA in February 2010.
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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Do you have a projector and a screen?/US Suspends Largest Private Contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan for Massive Fraud.


I got a message today from Jim Fine asking if we have an LCD projector and screen to use for Friday’s talk on ISIS. Red Emma’s does not have the equipment, though the group is trying to find what is needed. Art Milholland has given me a projector, which I hope will work, but we still need a screen. Does anyone have access to such equipment? Is it possible to rent the equipment?



Arthur Keys of IRD meets with the Abdul Manaf, center, the District governor of Nawa, Afghanistan, in 2010. (photo: IRD/The Washington Post)

US Suspends Largest Private Contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan for Massive Fraud

By Scott Higham and Steven Rich, The Washington Post
27 January 15

The U.S. Agency for International Development announced Monday that it has suspended one of its largest nonprofit contractors from federal work after investigators found “serious misconduct” in the nonprofit’s performance and management of taxpayer money.

For years, International Relief and Development, headquartered in Arlington, Va., served as one of USAID’s key contractors, undertaking ambitious humanitarian projects in some of the most dangerous places in the world.
The suspension comes after months of internal USAID reviews of IRD’s performance in the field and reports from the agency’s inspector general that the nonprofit allegedly mischarged millions of dollars in overhead costs. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction and the FBI are also investigating the organization.

“The Agency’s review revealed serious misconduct in IRD’s performance, management, internal controls and present responsibility,” USAID said in a statement Monday. “USAID has a zero tolerance policy for mismanagement of American taxpayer funds and will take every measure at our disposal to recover these funds.”

Since 2007, USAID has awarded more than $2.4 billion in contracts and cooperative agreements to IRD, much of it to fund stabilization and community-development projects in Iraq and Afghanistan. Several of those projects have been the subjects of investigations following allegations of waste and fraud.

IRD also has been criticized for providing lavish salaries and millions in bonuses to its employees, including the husband-and-wife team who ran the organization, as well as their family members. Many of the allegations were contained in a Washington Post investigation published last May.

The suspension takes effect immediately, blocking IRD from new federal contracts. The nonprofit will be permitted to complete projects that are underway.

“It is what it is, and we have to deal with it,” said Roger Ervin, who took over IRD as president six weeks ago. “I take this as an opportunity to make some changes, and many of them are already underway. I think we can show in short order that we can demonstrate that we are a good service provider for USAID, and I think we can address this pretty quickly.”

Ervin said he and other senior managers are restructuring the organization and cooperating with USAID and federal investigators. “The only way we’re going to satisfy the government is to be as transparent as possible,” he said.

Earlier this month, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to USAID questioning why IRD and another contractor continued to receive federal work in the face of the allegations.

“It is difficult to understand why USAID continues to put U.S. tax dollars and national security objectives at risk by doing business with organizations that consistently fail to meet their obligations and engage in potentially illegal and unethical activities,” Corker wrote to USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.
A Post analysis of federal tax forms and contracting data shows that IRD has relied on USAID for much of its funding.

Between 2007 and 2013, IRD reported revenue of a little more than $3 billion — 76 percent of it coming from USAID. At the height of its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, in 2010, IRD reported $706 million in revenue, 83 percent of it from USAID.

Of the more than $2.4 billion in USAID funding that IRD has received since 2007, 82 percent has gone toward projects in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those projects were designed to rebuild war-wrecked cities and towns and construct vast networks of roads.

But the projects were difficult to execute in the field, and workers said in interviews with The Post that vast sums of money were being squandered.

IRD was founded in 1998 by Arthur B. Keys, an ordained minister, and his wife, Jasna Basaric-Keys, who is from Bosnia-Herzegovina. As the nonprofit won more federal work, salaries and bonuses at IRD began to soar.
Together, Keys and his wife earned more than $5.9 million in compensation between 2008 and 2012. Their daughter and Basaric-Keys’s brother received more than $1.3 million during that time.

In 2013, Keys was slated to receive $690,000 in compensation, plus a $900,000 contribution to his retirement account. His wife, chief of IRD’s operations, received $1.1 million in compensation, which included a $289,273 bonus.

But new managers and board members at IRD balked at the size of the payouts and demanded that the couple surrender a significant portion of the money. Aware that USAID was considering suspending IRD, the new mangers tried to reform the organization and rein in excessive compensation.

“We reviewed the totality of the compensation package, and we were not comfortable with the numbers,” said Steve Bartlett, a former congressman from Texas who joined IRD’s board last summer. “We thought it was inappropriate.”

After months of negotiations, Keys and his wife returned or forfeited $1.7 million in retirement pay and bonuses, according to the nonprofit’s 2013 tax return. Keys relinquished his claim to $590,625 in retirement money that had been set aside for him in 2012. He also forfeited $320,710 due to be deposited in his retirement account last year.

Keys’s wife returned $176,318 of a $289,273 bonus she received in 2013. She also returned $496,211 in a retirement account and $120,313 out of $121,065 in “other compensation” she collected from the nonprofit.
Keys declined to say why he and his wife agreed to forfeit the money.

“I don’t believe I can talk about that,” he said in a brief interview last week.

IRD officials declined to say how much money the nonprofit paid Keys and his wife in 2014 before they retired at the end of last summer. They said those figures will be reported to the IRS this year.
Bartlett said that the couple was “compensated for the work they did” and that “they were not provided with any bonuses.”

2015 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Baltimore Activist Alert - January 29 - 31, 2015

30] Protest Saudi Arabia – Jan. 29
31] Paid sick leave hearing – Jan. 29
32] "Purgatorio: A Journey Into The Heart Of The Border" – Jan. 29
33] Annual Annapolis Summit – Jan. 30
34] Service to Justice Conference – Jan. 30 - 31
35] Vigil for peace at White House – Jan. 30
36] Silent Peace Vigil – Jan. 30
37] Degrading ISIS?? – Jan. 30
38] Ballroom Dancing – Jan. 30
39] Ready to Roll – Jan. 31
40] West Chester, PA demo – Jan. 31
41] Teach-In on Saudi human rights abuses – Jan. 31
42] Nonviolence training – Jan. 31
30] – Be at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia, 601 New Hampshire Ave. NW, WDC 20037, on Thurs., Jan. 29 at 5 PM and join Amnesty International and other human rights advocates to call the Saudi authorities to put a stop to any further flogging of Raif Badawi and unconditionally release him. Badawi is a Prisoner of Conscience sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes solely for encouraging free speech in Saudi Arabia on his website. On January 9, Raif received the first set of 50 painful lashes in public. The second set of 50 lashes were expected to take place the following Friday, but was twice postponed on medical grounds. Visit #FreeRaif #IStandWithRaif.

31] – On Thurs., Jan. 29 meet at 6 PM at California Tortilla, 199 E. Montgomery Ave., Rockville and at 7:30 PM go over to the Montgomery County Council, 3rd Floor Hearing Room, 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville 20850, to promote sick leave. Jews for Justice says 43 million workers have no Sick Leave. See MoCo Paid Sick Days Hearing--

32] – See "Purgatorio: A Journey Into The Heart Of The Border" followed by a panel with CASA de Maryland, Esperanza Center & the Mayor's Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs on Thurs., Jan 29 at 7:30 PM at the Creative Alliance at The Patterson, 3134 Eastern Ave., Baltimore, MD 21224. Tickets are $12, but members pay $9. Director Rodrigo Reyes did this 2014 film as a joint USA/Mexico funded project. This provocative essay film re-imagines the Mexico/U.S. border as a mythical place comparable to Dante’s purgatory. Leaving politics aside, he takes a fresh look at the brutal beauty of the border and the people caught in its spell.

The panel of immigration experts are Elizabeth Alex, CASA de Maryland Lead Organizer, Helany Sinkler, Esperanza Center Client Services Manager, and Catalina Rodriguez, Mayor's Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs Director. Email or 410-276-1561 ext 210.

33] – Join Marc Steiner on Fri., Jan. 30 for breakfast at 7 AM, followed by the program from 8 to 10 AM at Governor Calvert House, 58 State Circle, Annapolis, for the 12th Annual Annapolis Summit, in partnership with The Daily Record. He will interview Maryland's top political leaders about issues in the Maryland 2015 Legislative Session, including Governor-elect Larry Hogan, Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch. For information, tickets, and sponsorship opportunities, go to or contact Clare Sheehan: 443-524-8101 at

34] – On Fri., Jan. 30 from 9 AM to 5:30 PM and Sat., Jan. 31 from 9 AM to 6:30 PM at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, 1313 New York Ave. NW, WDC 20005, attend Service to Justice Conference. There will be sessions on fundraising, self-care, creating meaningful leadership, helping clients become self-advocates, volunteering and social change, and other fascinating topics. There is a $15 registration fee, but no one will be turned away. Visit

35] – On Fri., Jan. 30 from noon to 1 PM, join the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in a vigil urging the powers that be to abolish war and torture, to disarm all weapons, to end indefinite detention, to close Guantanamo, to establish justice for all and help create the Beloved Community! The vigil takes place at the White House on Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Contact Art @ or at 202-360-6416.

36] – There is usually a silent peace vigil on Fridays, from 5 to 6 PM, sponsored by Homewood Friends and Stony Run Meetings, outside the Homewood Friends Meetinghouse, 3107 N. Charles St. The Jan. 30 vigil will remind us that War Is Not the Answer and that there is the need to stop torture, and prosecute the torturers.

37] – The Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore is hosting Jim and Deborah Fine who will address Why the U.S. will have difficulty “Degrading & Defeating ISIS” on Fri., Jan. 30 at 7:30 PM in the Free School Classroom, Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, 30 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21201. The couple recently returned from Erbil, Iraq after working there for five years with the Mennonite Central Committee. Their principal work was with refugees fleeing the various conflicts, including the Yezidis terrorized by ISIS. The Fines have also worked with the American Friends Service Committee for years in the Middle East. Call 410-366-1637 or email mobuszewski at

38] – There is an opportunity to participate in ballroom dancing, usually every Friday of the month, in the JHU ROTC Bldg. at 8 PM. Turn south on San Martin Dr. from the intersection of Univ. Parkway and 39th St. Drive on campus by taking the third left turn. The next dance will be Jan. 30. Call Dave Greene at 410-599-3725.

39] – February 15th is the last day you can sign up through the health care marketplace for coverage that starts in 2015. Come join OFA supporters in Columbia to make sure your neighbors are covered. The Ready to Enroll event is at 5610 Cedar Lane, Columbia 21044 on Sat., Jan. 31 at 10 AM. The Affordable Care Act has already helped millions of people get coverage -- more than 9.5 million Americans have already signed up for a plan so far during this enrollment period. RSVP now to help folks in Columbia get covered:

40] – Each Saturday, 11 AM – 1 PM, Chester County Peace Movement holds a peace vigil in West Chester in front of the Chester County Courthouse, High & Market Sts. Go to Email

41] – Go to the Amnesty International USA Mid-Atlantic Region, 600 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, WDC 20003, on Sat., Jan. 31 at 1 PM for a Teach-In on Raif Badawi, Waleed Abulkhair, and the crackdown on human rights activism in Saudi Arabia. Go to

42] -- On Sat., Jan. 31 from 2 to 5:30 PM, Ray Jose and Yash Mori of United We Dream are training 25 folks from the API #blacklivesmatter DMV working group and anyone else interested in the Auditorium of St. Stephens and the Incarnation Episcopal Church. 1525 Newton St. NW, WDC. RSVP at

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Ending Greece’s Nightmare

Published on Portside (

Ending Greece’s Nightmare

Paul Krugman

Monday, January 26, 2015
New York Times

This article was written immediately before Alexis Tsipras took office as the prime minister of Greece. For an account of the first actions of the Syriza-led coalition government, see this report [1]. -- moderator

Alexis Tsipras, leader of the left-wing Syriza coalition, is about to become prime minister of Greece. He will be the first European leader elected on an explicit promise to challenge the austerity policies that have prevailed since 2010. And there will, of course, be many people warning him to abandon that promise, to behave “responsibly.”

So how has that responsibility thing worked out so far?

To understand the political earthquake in Greece, it helps to look at Greece’s May 2010 “standby arrangement” with the International Monetary Fund, under which the so-called troika — the I.M.F., the European Central Bank and the European Commission — extended loans to the country in return for a combination of austerity and reform. It’s a remarkable document, in the worst way. The troika, while pretending to be hardheaded and realistic, was peddling an economic fantasy. And the Greek people have been paying the price for those elite delusions.

You see, the economic projections that accompanied the standby arrangement assumed that Greece could impose harsh austerity with little effect on growth and employment. Greece was already in recession when the deal was reached, but the projections assumed that this downturn would end soon — that there would be only a small contraction in 2011, and that by 2012 Greece would be recovering. Unemployment, the projections conceded, would rise substantially, from 9.4 percent in 2009 to almost 15 percent in 2012, but would then begin coming down fairly quickly.

What actually transpired was an economic and human nightmare. Far from ending in 2011, the Greek recession gathered momentum. Greece didn’t hit the bottom until 2014, and by that point it had experienced a full-fledged depression, with overall unemployment rising to 28 percent and youth unemployment rising to almost 60 percent. And the recovery now underway, such as it is, is barely visible, offering no prospect of returning to precrisis living standards for the foreseeable future.

What went wrong? I fairly often encounter assertions to the effect that Greece didn’t carry through on its promises, that it failed to deliver the promised spending cuts. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, Greece imposed savage cuts in public services, wages of government workers and social benefits. Thanks to repeated further waves of austerity, public spending was cut much more than the original program envisaged, and it’s currently about 20 percent lower than it was in 2010.

Yet Greek debt troubles are if anything worse than before the program started. One reason is that the economic plunge has reduced revenues: The Greek government is collecting a substantially higher share of G.D.P. in taxes than it used to, but G.D.P. has fallen so quickly that the overall tax take is down. Furthermore, the plunge in G.D.P. has caused a key fiscal indicator, the ratio of debt to G.D.P., to keep rising even though debt growth has slowed and Greece received some modest debt relief in 2012.

Why were the original projections so wildly overoptimistic? As I said, because supposedly hardheaded officials were in reality engaged in fantasy economics. Both the European Commission and the European Central Bank decided to believe in the confidence fairy — that is, to claim that the direct job-destroying effects of spending cuts would be more than made up for by a surge in private-sector optimism. The I.M.F. was more cautious, but it nonetheless grossly underestimated the damage austerity would do.

And here’s the thing: If the troika had been truly realistic, it would have acknowledged that it was demanding the impossible. Two years after the Greek program began, the I.M.F. looked for historical examples where Greek-type programs, attempts to pay down debt through austerity without major debt relief or inflation, had been successful. It didn’t find any.

So now that Mr. Tsipras has won, and won big, European officials would be well advised to skip the lectures calling on him to act responsibly and to go along with their program. The fact is they have no credibility; the program they imposed on Greece never made sense. It had no chance of working.

If anything, the problem with Syriza’s plans may be that they’re not radical enough. Debt relief and an easing of austerity would reduce the economic pain, but it’s doubtful whether they are sufficient to produce a strong recovery. On the other hand, it’s not clear what more any Greek government can do unless it’s prepared to abandon the euro, and the Greek public isn’t ready for that.

Still, in calling for a major change, Mr. Tsipras is being far more realistic than officials who want the beatings to continue until morale improves. The rest of Europe should give him a chance to end his country’s nightmare.

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs