Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Thermonuclear Energy Bomb in Christmas Wrappings

Published on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 by

A Thermonuclear Energy Bomb in Christmas Wrappings

World Energy Report 2012: The Good, the Bad, and the Really, Truly Ugly

by Michael T. Klare

Rarely does the release of a data-driven report on energy trends trigger front-page headlines around the world. That, however, is exactly what happened on November 12th when the prestigious Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) released this year’s edition of its World Energy Outlook. In the process, just about everyone missed its real news, which should have set off alarm bells across the planet.

Claiming that advances in drilling technology were producing an upsurge in North American energy output, World Energy Outlook predicted that the United States would overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the planet’s leading oil producer by 2020. “North America is at the forefront of a sweeping transformation in oil and gas production that will affect all regions of the world,” declared IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven in a widely quoted statement.

In the U.S., the prediction of imminent supremacy in the oil-output sweepstakes was generally greeted with unabashed jubilation. “This is a remarkable change,” said John Larson of IHS, a corporate research firm. “It’s truly transformative. It’s fundamentally changing the energy outlook for this country.” Not only will this result in a diminished reliance on imported oil, he indicated, but also generate vast numbers of new jobs. “This is about jobs. You know, it's about blue-collar jobs. These are good jobs.”

The editors of the Wall Street Journal were no less ecstatic. In an editorial with the eye-catching headline “Saudi America,” they lauded U.S. energy companies for bringing about a technological revolution, largely based on the utilization of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to extract oil and gas from shale rock. That, they claimed, was what made a new mega-energy boom possible. “This is a real energy revolution,” the Journal noted, “even if it's far from the renewable energy dreamland of so many government subsidies and mandates.”

Other commentaries were similarly focused on the U.S. outpacing Saudi Arabia and Russia, even if some questioned whether the benefits would be as great as advertised or obtainable at an acceptable cost to the environment.

While agreeing that the expected spurt in U.S. production is mostly “good news,” Michael A. Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations warned that gas prices will not drop significantly because oil is a global commodity and those prices are largely set by international market forces. “[T]he U.S. may be slightly more protected, but it doesn’t give you the energy independence some people claim,” he told the New York Times.

Some observers focused on whether increased output and job creation could possibly outweigh the harm that the exploitation of extreme energy resources like fracked oil or Canadian tar sands was sure to do to the environment. Daniel J. Weiss of the Center for American Progress, for example, warned of a growing threat to America’s water supply from poorly regulated fracking operations. “In addition, oil companies want to open up areas off the northern coast of Alaska in the Arctic Ocean, where they are not prepared to address a major oil blowout or spill like we had in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Such a focus certainly offered a timely reminder of how important oil remains to the American economy (and political culture), but it stole attention away from other aspects of the World Energy Report that were, in some cases, downright scary. Its portrait of our global energy future should have dampened enthusiasm everywhere, focusing as it did on an uncertain future energy supply, excessive reliance on fossil fuels, inadequate investment in renewables, and an increasingly hot, erratic, and dangerous climate. Here are some of the most worrisome takeaways from the report.

Shrinking World Oil Supply

Given the hullabaloo about rising energy production in the U.S., you would think that the IEA report was loaded with good news about the world’s future oil supply. No such luck. In fact, on a close reading anyone who has the slightest familiarity with world oil dynamics should shudder, as its overall emphasis is on decline and uncertainty.

Take U.S. oil production surpassing Saudi Arabia’s and Russia’s. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Here’s the catch: previous editions of the IEA report and the International Energy Outlook, its equivalent from the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), rested their claims about a growing future global oil supply on the assumption that those two countries would far surpass U.S. output. Yet the U.S. will pull ahead of them in the 2020s only because, the IEA now asserts, their output is going to fall, not rise as previously assumed.

This is one hidden surprise in the report that’s gone unnoticed. According to the DoE’s 2011 projections, Saudi production was expected to rise to 13.9 million barrels per day in 2025, and Russian output to 12.2 million barrels, jointly providing much of the world’s added petroleum supply; the United States, in this calculation, would reach the 11.7 million barrel mark.

The IEA’s latest revision of those figures suggests that U.S. production will indeed rise, as expected, to about 11 million barrels per day in 2025, but that Saudi output will unexpectedly fall to about 10.6 million barrels and Russian to 9.7 million barrels. The U.S., that is, will essentially become number one by default. At best, then, the global oil supply is not going to grow appreciably -- despite the IEA’s projection of a significant upswing in international demand.

But wait, suggests the IEA, there’s still one wild card hope out there: Iraq. Yes, Iraq. In the belief that the Iraqis will somehow overcome their sectarian differences, attain a high level of internal stability, establish a legal framework for oil production, and secure the necessary investment and technical support, the IEA predicts that its output will jump from 3.4 million barrels per day this year to 8 million barrels in 2035, adding an extra 4.6 million barrels to the global supply. In fact, claims the IEA, this gain would represent half the total increase in world oil production over the next 25 years. Certainly, stranger things have happened, but for the obvious reasons, it remains an implausible scenario.

Add all this together -- declining output from Russia and Saudi Arabia, continuing strife in Iraq, uncertain results elsewhere -- and you get insufficient oil in the 2020s and 2030s to meet anticipated world demand. From a global warming perspective that may be good news, but economically, without a massive increase in investment in alternate energy sources, the outlook is grim. You don’t know what bad times are until you don’t have enough energy to run the machinery of civilization. As suggested by the IEA, “Much is riding on Iraq’s success... Without this supply growth from Iraq, oil markets would be set for difficult times.”

Continuing Reliance on Fossil Fuels

For all the talk of the need to increase reliance on renewable sources of energy, fossil fuels -- coal, oil, and natural gas -- will continue to provide most of the additional energy supplies needed to satisfy soaring world demand. “Taking all new developments and policies into account,” the IEA reported, “the world is still failing to put the global energy system onto a more sustainable path.” In fact, recent developments seem to favor greater fossil-fuel reliance.

In the United States, for instance, the increased extraction of oil and gas from shale formations has largely silenced calls for government investment in renewable technology. In its editorial on the IEA report, for example, the Wall Street Journal ridiculed such investment. It had, the Journal’swriters suggested, now become unnecessary due to the Saudi Arabian-style oil and gas boom to come. “Historians will one day marvel that so much political and financial capital was invested in a [failed] green-energy revolution at the very moment a fossil fuel revolution was aborning,” they declared.

One aspect of this energy “revolution” deserves special attention. The growing availability of cheap natural gas, thanks to hydro-fracking, has already reduced the use of coal as a fuel for electrical power plants in the United States. This would seem to be an obvious environmental plus, since gas produces less climate-altering carbon dioxide than does coal. Unfortunately, coal output and its use haven’t diminished: American producers have simply increased their coal exports to Asia and Europe. In fact, U.S. coal exports are expected to reach as high as 133 million tons in 2012, overtaking an export record set in 1981.

Despite its deleterious effects on the environment, coal remains popular in countries seeking to increase their electricity output and promote economic development. Shockingly, according to the IEA, it supplied nearly half of the increase in global energy consumption over the last decade, growing faster than renewables. And the agency predicts that coal will continue its rise in the decades ahead. The world’s top coal consumer, China, will burn ever more of it until 2020, when demand is finally expected to level off. India’s usage will rise without cessation, with that country overtaking the U.S. as the number two consumer around 2025.

In many regions, notes the IEA report, the continued dominance of fossil fuels is sustained by government policies. In the developing world, countries commonly subsidize energy consumption, selling transportation, cooking, and heating fuels at below-market rates. In this way, they hope to buffer their populations from rising commodity costs, and so protect their regimes from popular unrest. Cutting back on such subsidies can prove dangerous, as in Jordan where a recent government decision to raise fuel prices led to widespread riots and calls for the monarchy’s abolition. In 2011, such subsidies amounted to $523 billion globally, says the IEA, up almost 30% from 2010 and six times greater than subsidies for renewable energy.

No Hope for Averting Catastrophic Climate Change

Of all the findings in the 2012 edition of the World Energy Outlook, the one that merits the greatest international attention is the one that received the least. Even if governments take vigorous steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the report concluded, the continuing increase in fossil fuel consumption will result in “a long-term average global temperature increase of 3.6 degrees C.”

This should stop everyone in their tracks. Most scientists believe that an increase of 2 degrees Celsius is about all the planet can accommodate without unimaginably catastrophic consequences: sea-level increases that will wipe out many coastal cities, persistent droughts that will destroy farmland on which hundreds of millions of people depend for their survival, the collapse of vital ecosystems, and far more. An increase of 3.6 degrees C essentially suggests the end of human civilization as we know it.

To put this in context, human activity has already warmed the planet by about 0.8 degrees C -- enough to produce severe droughts around the world, trigger or intensify intense storms like Hurricane Sandy, and drastically reduce the Arctic ice cap. “Given those impacts,” writes noted environmental author and activist Bill McKibben, “many scientists have come to think that two degrees is far too lenient a target.” Among those cited by McKibben is Kerry Emanuel of MIT, a leading authority on hurricanes. “Any number much above one degree involves a gamble,” Emanuel writes, “and the odds become less and less favorable as the temperature goes up.” Thomas Lovejoy, once the World Bank's chief biodiversity adviser, puts it this way: “If we’re seeing what we're seeing today at 0.8 degrees Celsius, two degrees is simply too much.”

At this point, it’s hard even to imagine what a planet that's 3.6 degrees C hotter would be like, though some climate-change scholars and prophets -- like former Vice President Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth -- have tried. In all likelihood, the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets would melt entirely, raising sea levels by several dozen feet and completely inundating coastal cities like New York and Shanghai. Large parts of Africa, Central Asia, the Middle East, and the American Southwest would be rendered uninhabitable thanks to lack of water and desertification, while wildfires of a sort that we can’t imagine today would consume the parched forests of the temperate latitudes.

In a report that leads with the “good news” of impending U.S. oil supremacy, to calmly suggest that the world is headed for that 3.6 degree C mark is like placing a thermonuclear bomb in a gaudily-wrapped Christmas present. In fact, the “good news” is really the bad news: the energy industry’s ability to boost production of oil, coal, and natural gas in North America is feeding a global surge in demand for these commodities, ensuring ever higher levels of carbon emissions. As long as these trends persist -- and the IEA report provides no evidence that they will be reversed in the coming years -- we are all in a race to see who gets to the Apocalypse first.

© 2012 Michael T. Klare

Michael T. Klare is the Five College Professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. His newest book, The Race for What's Left: The Global Scramble for the World's Last Resources, has just recently been published. His other books include: Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy and Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependence on Imported Petroleum. A documentary version of that book is available from the Media Education Foundation.

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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

Costliest Jet, Years in Making, Sees the Enemy: Budget Cuts

November 28, 2012

Costliest Jet, Years in Making, Sees the Enemy: Budget Cuts


LEXINGTON PARK, Md. — The Marine version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, already more than a decade in the making, was facing a crucial question: Could the jet, which can soar well past the speed of sound, land at sea like a helicopter?

On an October day last year, with Lt. Col. Fred Schenk at the controls, the plane glided toward a ship off the Atlantic coast and then, its engine rotating straight down, descended gently to the deck at seven feet a second.

There were cheers from the ship’s crew members, who “were all shaking my hands and smiling,” Colonel Schenk recalled.

The smooth landing helped save that model and breathed new life into the huge F-35 program, the most expensive weapons system in military history. But while Pentagon officials now say that the program is making progress, it begins its 12th year in development years behind schedule, troubled with technological flaws and facing concerns about its relatively short flight range as possible threats grow from Asia.

With a record price tag — potentially in the hundreds of billions of dollars — the jet is likely to become a target for budget cutters. Reining in military spending is on the table as President Obama and Republican leaders in Congress look for ways to avert a fiscal crisis. But no matter what kind of deal is reached in the next few weeks, military analysts expect the Pentagon budget to decline in the next decade as the war in Afghanistan ends and the military is required to do its part to reduce the federal debt.

Behind the scenes, the Pentagon and the F-35’s main contractor, Lockheed Martin, are engaged in a conflict of their own over the costs. The relationship “is the worst I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been in some bad ones,” Maj. Gen. Christopher Bogdan of the Air Force, a top program official, said in September. “I guarantee you: we will not succeed on this if we do not get past that.”

In a battle that is being fought on other military programs as well, the Pentagon has been pushing Lockheed to cut costs much faster while the company is fighting to hold onto a profit. “Lockheed has seemed to be focused on short-term business goals,” Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, said this month. “And we’d like to see them focus more on execution of the program and successful delivery of the product.”

The F-35 was conceived as the Pentagon’s silver bullet in the sky — a state-of-the art aircraft that could be adapted to three branches of the military, with advances that would easily overcome the defenses of most foes. The radar-evading jets would not only dodge sophisticated antiaircraft missiles, but they would also give pilots a better picture of enemy threats while enabling allies, who want the planes, too, to fight more closely with American forces.

But the ambitious aircraft instead illustrates how the Pentagon can let huge and complex programs veer out of control and then have a hard time reining them in. The program nearly doubled in cost as Lockheed and the military’s own bureaucracy failed to deliver on the most basic promise of a three-in-one jet that would save taxpayers money and be served up speedily.

Lockheed has delivered 41 planes so far for testing and initial training, and Pentagon leaders are slowing purchases of the F-35 to fix the latest technical problems and reduce the immediate costs. A helmet for pilots that projects targeting data onto its visor is too jittery to count on. The tail-hook on the Navy jet has had trouble catching the arresting cable, meaning that version cannot yet land on carriers. And writing and testing the millions of lines of software needed by the jets is so daunting that General Bogdan said, “It scares the heck out of me.”

With all the delays — full production is not expected until 2019 — the military has spent billions to extend the lives of older fighters and buy more of them to fill the gap. At the same time, the cost to build each F-35 has risen to an average of $137 million from $69 million in 2001.

The jets would cost taxpayers $396 billion, including research and development, if the Pentagon sticks to its plan to build 2,443 by the late 2030s. That would be nearly four times as much as any other weapons system and two-thirds of the $589 billion the United States has spent on the war in Afghanistan. The military is also desperately trying to figure out how to reduce the long-term costs of operating the planes, now projected at $1.1 trillion.

“The plane is unaffordable,” said Winslow T. Wheeler, an analyst at the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit group in Washington.

Todd Harrison, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a research group in Washington, said Pentagon officials had little choice but to push ahead, especially after already spending $65 billion on the fighter. “It is simultaneously too big to fail and too big to succeed,” he said. “The bottom line here is that they’ve crammed too much into the program. They were asking one fighter to do three different jobs, and they basically ended up with three different fighters.”

While weapons cost overruns have long been a problem, the F-35 is also running into the changing budget realities, and a new focus on rivalry with China, that will probably require shifting money to a broader mix of planes.

Yet, for years, the problems with the F-35 raised few red flags, as money flowed freely after the 2001 terror attacks and enthusiasm for a three-in-one jet blinded officials in the Clinton and Bush administrations and in Congress to its overly ambitious design. Now, unless the Pentagon can substantially reduce the price of each plane, analysts say, it may be lucky to buy 1,200 to 1,800.

Robert J. Stevens, the chief executive of Lockheed Martin, said company officials were “working as aggressively as we can” to fix the problems and cut costs. Vice Adm. David Venlet, who now runs the program at the Pentagon, said he was confident that “good old-fashioned engineering is going to lick” the flaws. But he declined to predict how many planes would be bought.

“It’s a very fair conversation that ought to be had for the country,” he said.

‘Acquisition Malpractice’

Right from the start, Pentagon officials were warned of the dangers of beginning to produce an aircraft before it was tested. And right from the start, Pentagon officials did not listen.

The roots of the problems go back to the mid-1990s, when military officials pitched the F-35 as simple and affordable, like a Chevrolet of the skies, with the three versions sharing 70 to 80 percent of their parts. The planes would also be versatile, capable of fighting other planes but focused mainly on attacking ground targets.

Pentagon officials thought advances in computer modeling would simulate so precisely the way the F-35 would fly that only minor problems would be discovered in the flight tests.

And given a ban on exporting the F-22, the top stealth fighter, moving quickly on the F-35 would lock up foreign buyers and keep Europe from creating its own stealth planes.

“There was this big desire to kill the competition,” said Richard L. Aboulafia, an analyst at the Teal Group in Fairfax, Va.

Lockheed beat out Boeing for the F-35 contract in October 2001.

Pentagon testing experts and Congressional auditors warned as the program got under way that it would be wiser to “fly before you buy.” They cautioned that some of the new technologies were not ready and that years of flight tests would find flaws that the simulations had not anticipated.

Lockheed and the joint Air Force and Navy office that runs the program countered that the sooner they started building a sizable number of planes, the sooner they could realize economies of scale that would lower the price of each plane, even if some needed updating.

But almost immediately, the project proved to be incredibly complicated. Lockheed’s initial designs were late and had to be redone, delaying the manufacture of parts for the test models. While most military programs start building before all the testing is done, the Pentagon took that to an extreme, starting production of the F-35s in 2007, before flight tests had even begun.

Mr. Kendall, who became the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer in May, has said that diving into production so soon amounted to “acquisition malpractice.”

Mr. Harrison, the analyst at the budget center, said the willingness to “roll the dice” reflected the peculiar incentives at the Pentagon, where rushing into production creates jobs and locks in political support, even if it allows programs to drift into trouble. Lockheed and its suppliers on the F-35 employ 35,000 workers, with some in nearly every Congressional district.

“The military services want to get the planes as quickly as possible,” Mr. Harrison said. “The defense industry wants to start producing as quickly as possible. But it’s not in the best interest of taxpayers, and it ends up catching up with you.”

Asked who protects the taxpayer, he said, “That’s what the Pentagon’s civilian leadership is supposed to bring.”

But with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars raging, Robert M. Gates, who was then the defense secretary, did not deal with the problems with the F-35 until late 2009 and early 2010, when he fired the general in charge and brought in Admiral Venlet, a former fighter pilot who had overseen testing of Navy aircraft. According to the admiral, Mr. Gates said, “Dave, the program has made small adjustments over the years and persistently disappointed people.”

Then, sweeping his finger in a wide arc, Mr. Gates added, “If you evaluate that we need a big adjustment, tell me, and I’ll make it, so we don’t disappoint any more.”

Contractor in the Hot Seat

Admiral Venlet’s first move was to bring in technical experts from the services who had been shut out of the program. He said his predecessors had given Lockheed too much leeway earlier, when government oversight was considered “a hindrance more than a help.”

Another method that he chose to assert control is decidedly low-tech: printouts of charts, hung from whiteboards on all four walls of a “war room” in the F-35 offices near the Pentagon.

“It looks maybe a little dinosaurlike,” he acknowledged, standing near cutout plane shapes tracking the flow of parts into Lockheed’s mile-long plant in Fort Worth. “But you know what? It works.”

Military officials said the testing had picked up substantially at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station here and other bases, where the planes have already flown near their top speeds of Mach 1.6. Still, the overlap between testing and production remains a serious problem, and the extra cost of refitting planes built while the flight tests are under way could reach $2.4 billion to $3.8 billion, Admiral Venlet said.

Lockheed has already lost profits, earning only $28 million of a possible $87.5 million in award fees for meeting development goals in 2010 and 2011. In tense negotiations over the latest batch, the Pentagon has been demanding that the company shoulder some of the costs of fixing the problems found in the tests.

“It should not take 10, 11, 12 months to negotiate a contract with someone we’ve been doing business with for 11 years,” General Bogdan said.

The general started as Admiral Venlet’s deputy in August, and he will succeed him next week. His criticism startled Lockheed officials, because in his last job, overseeing the award of a $35 billion contract for aerial refueling tankers, Boeing gave the Air Force such a good price that analysts think Boeing is subsidizing the early work.

Lockheed argues that the government’s estimates of what the F-35s should cost now are too low and that the program was far riskier than the military said it would be. Only 20 to 30 percent of the structural parts ended up in common, though the models will share engines and software. Lockheed officials also noted that commercial plane makers had run into delays with their most innovative planes, Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and Airbus’s A350.

Mr. Stevens, the Lockheed chief executive, said military programs bog down in many layers of auditing, a process he described as “sclerosis in the system.” In World War II, he said, “We managed to either invent or refine jet propulsion, nuclear weapons, radar, radio communication, electronics in three years and eight months.” In that time today, he said, the Pentagon cannot even finish the initial design of a system.

Lockheed is fixing the most glaring problems. A support wall in the fuselage of the Marine version — the only one that can land like a helicopter — was strengthened after it cracked in a test in 2010. The tail-hook on the Navy model was just seven feet behind the landing gear, much closer than on other Navy planes. After the wheels flattened the arresting cable, the cable did not bounce up quickly enough for the hook to grab it. Lockheed is reshaping the hook to try to scoop up the cable.

But the “gorilla in the room,” General Bogdan said, is testing and securing the 24 million lines of software code for the plane and its support systems, a mountain of instructions that goes far beyond what has been tried in any plane.

Under the latest plan, Lockheed will be held to about 30 planes in each of the next two years. But the Pentagon will still have bought 365 planes before the flight tests end in 2017.

Two years ago, General Bogdan said, the F-35 program was like an aircraft carrier that “was going to run aground.” But if the military and Lockheed can “hold each other accountable,” he said, “we’ve got a shot at getting this done.”

Rough Skies Ahead

With the budget problems at home, Pentagon and Lockheed officials are looking to allies to help pay for the F-35. They have stepped up phone calls and visits, trying to reassure the eight countries that have invested in the program, as well as persuading two others, Israel and Japan, to sign up.

Lockheed needs more foreign orders to realize volume savings and get closer to the Pentagon’s targets of $79 million to $106 million a plane, depending on the model. But to get those orders, said Mr. Aboulafia, the Teal Group analyst, Lockheed must be more aggressive in cutting its prices, especially since the allies have their own economic difficulties.

This year, Italy cut its planned order 30 percent. Britain and Australia have delayed decisions on how many F-35s to buy. Lawmakers in Canada and the Netherlands are questioning the costs.

And while Congress continues to support the F-35, the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee are concerned that production is now set to ramp up later in this decade just as two other major projects — the refueling tankers and a $55 billion stealth bomber program — will seek financing.

On top of that, the F-35 could be too sophisticated for minor conflicts, and its relatively short flight range could be a problem as the Pentagon changes its view of possible threats. Mark Gunzinger, a retired Air Force colonel who is now an analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the Pentagon would need to shift money to longer-range planes as China and other countries expanded the reach of missiles capable of destroying American ships and bases.

The Navy is developing a stealthy unmanned fighter that could fly from carriers and go two or three times as far as the F-35. The Air Force is studying concepts for the bomber, which could fly much farther and carry more firepower than the F-35.

Representative Norm Dicks of Washington, the top Democrat on the House defense appropriations subcommittee, said support for the F-35 could also dwindle if lawmakers faced tougher choices between military and domestic programs. “Anything where there are still issues hanging out is going to be vulnerable to some extent,” he said.

© 2012 The New York Times Company

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 - Part 4

46] Middle East Nuclear Free Zone – Nov. 29

47] Doomsday Clock Symposium – Nov. 29

48] Nuclear Statecraft – Nov. 29

49] Jobs With Justice – Nov. 29

50] Healthy Food – Nov. 29

51] Egypt’s Road to Revolt – Nov. 29

52] Book “The Rich Don't Always Win” – Nov. 29

53] Colombian Unionists Report Back – Nov. 29

54] Film “Back to Vietnam” – Nov. 29

55] Bill of Rights party – Nov. 29

56] Conference on HIV/AIDS Stigma – Nov. 30

57] Maryland Communities United job opening

58] SOA job opening

59] MUPJ Conference – Apr. 12 & 13, 2013


60] Do you possess any Tom Lewis artwork?

61] Sign up with Washington Peace Center

62] Did You Vote?

63] Join Fund Our Communities

64] Submit articles to Indypendent Reader

65] Donate books, videos, DVDs and records

66] Do you need any book shelves?

67] Join Global Zero campaign

68] Digital Information and the Criminal Justice System

69] War Is Not the Answer signs for sale

70] Click on The Hunger Site

71] Fire & Faith

72] Join Peace Park Antinuclear Vigil


46] – On Thurs., Nov. 29 from 8 to 9:30 AM, Douglas Shaw, George Washington University, and Emily Landau, Tel Aviv University, will give their perception on "Challenges to Creating a Middle East WMD-Free Zone." The event, sponsored by the Nonproliferation Review, will take place at George Washington Univ., Lindner Family Commons, 1957 E St. NW, Sixth Floor, WDC. RSVP at

47] – On Thurs., Nov. 29 from 9 AM to 7:30 PM, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is hosting “Doomsday Clock Symposium” at American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1200 New York Ave. NW, WDC 20004. RSVP at

48] – On Thurs., Nov. 29 from 3:30 to 5 PM, Francis Gavin, Wilson Center, will analyze "Nuclear Statecraft: History and Strategy in America’s Atomic Age" at the Wilson Center, Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. RSVP at

49] – The Jobs with Justice: 25th Anniversary Event is happening on Thurs., Nov. 29 from 5:30 to 8 PM at the Capitol Hilton, 1001 16th St. NW. Its celebration will recognize the campaigns, institutions, and individuals that helped build Jobs with Justice into the organization it is today. The reception begins at 5:30pm and the program will start at 6:00 p.m. Tickets are $150 per person and can be purchased by contacting Akosua at 202.822.2127 ext. 109 or

50] – There is a Healthy and Affordable Food for All (HAFA) Cook-Off and Fundraiser on Thurs., Nov. 29 from 5:30 to 7:30 PM at Bread for the City, 525 7th St., NW. Learn about (HAFA, sample and vote on dishes by community chefs, and raise money to keep the upcoming event, DC Food Future, free and accessible to ALL! Admission is on a sliding scale, suggested $5-50 but no one turned away. Go to

51] – Egypt's Road to Revolt: A Roundtable Discussion with Hazem Kandil, Elliott Colla, and Chris Toensing will take place at Thurs., Nov. 29 at 6 PM at George Washington Univ., Lindner Family Commons, 1957 E St., Room 602. The panelists will take a look at what is really happening from the 1925 coup to Tahrir Square. Go to.

52] – There’s an opportunity to hear labor journalist and Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow Sam Pizzigati discuss and sign his new book, “The Rich Don't Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class, 1900-1970” on Thurs., Nov. 29 from 6:30 to 8 PM at Busboys & Poets, 5331 Baltimore Ave., Hyattsville.

This is a lively popular history that speaks directly to the political hopelessness so many Americans feel. By tracing how average Americans took down plutocracy over the first half of the 20th Century--and how plutocracy came back. Call 202-234-9382 or email

53] – Threatened Colombian Unionists Report Back is happening on Thurs., Nov. 29 from 7 to 9 PM at La Casa, 3166 Mt. Pleasant St. NW. Join La Casa for an inspiring evening of solidarity with Colombian union activists as they launch and fundraise for PASO International (the Project for Accompaniment and Solidarity), to put volunteers on the ground in Colombia and build an international support network, in collaboration with and at the request of Colombian unions. Colombia suffers from the highest level of economic inequality in Latin America, with 2/3 of all workers employed in the informal economy. Email

54] – “Back to Vietnam,” a short film by Mike Marceau, will be shown on Thurs., Nov. 29 at 7:30 PM at the Twinbrook Library, 202 Meadow Hall Dr., Rockville, MD 20851. A group of U.S. military veterans returned to Vietnam in April 2012 for a "Peace And Reconciliation Tour" to see the country and connect with Vietnamese people. One goal of the trip was to learn about the aftermath of extensive Agent Orange spraying and meet some of the Vietnamese groups who are helping the victims. Marceau, a Purple Heart recipient, was critically injured in Vietnam 1970. He is a Rockville resident and Vice President of the local chapter of Veterans for Peace. He will talk about the experience and show a 45 minute film he made during the trip. Call 240-777-0240.

55] – Join the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and Human Rights First at a "party for your rights" on Thurs., Nov. 29 at 10 PM at The Mellow Mushroom, 2436 18th St. NW, WDC 20009. There is a $5 cover with all proceeds supporting BORDC's mission. Get the details at RSVP and bring any friends who might like pizza, house music, or a good time. Call 202-316-9229 or go to

56] – The 3rd Annual International Conference on HIV/AIDS Stigma is happening on Fri., Nov. 30 from 8 AM to 4 PM at Howard University Blackburn Center, 2400 Sixth St. NW. It is free to attend, and it will feature notable HIV/AIDS scientists and clinicians. There are many speakers, including Jeanne White Ginder, AIDS activist and mother of Ryan White, a Kokomo, Ind., teenager who was expelled from middle school in the 1980’s after he became infected with HIV from a blood transfusion.

Despite significant advances in treatment, HIV continues to spread unabated in the US and globally with little, if any, change in the rate of new infections. Stigma, a degrading attitude towards those with HIV/ AIDS, is a major barrier to HIV prevention and treatment that has not been addressed. Each year, the conference focuses on ways to combat the stigma associated with HIV. Email

57] – Maryland Communities United is a progressive, grassroots, community-based organization engaged in and committed to building power throughout communities in Maryland. MCU has a position available for a Community Organizer. Include "Community Organizer" in the subject heading of your email, and send resume, cover letter & salary requirements to

58] – SOA Watch is hiring a part-time Advocacy Coordinator. The position is part-time (24 hours/ week) with health benefits, paid vacation and holiday time, and there are opportunities for skills development. Some evening and weekends required. The salary is $21,000/year. Candidates must have a strong commitment to the grassroots movement to close the SOA/WHINSEC. For a complete job description and information on how to apply, visit

59] – The 28th Annual Maryland Peace, Justice and the Environment Conference [] will take place Fri., Apr. 12 and Sat., Apr. 13 at the Turner Memorial AME Church, 7201 16th Place, Hyattsville. Save these dates. Email

60] – Stephen Kobasa is hoping to do an exhibit of the work of Tom Lewis opening in May 2013 in New Haven, CT. It would include a variety of his paintings, drawings, silkscreen prints, book illustrations, posters, banners and sketchbooks. This would not only be a display of objects on a gallery wall, but would also involve events which would return Tom's art to the streets where it was originally meant to make conscience visible.

Contact Stephen if you are in possession of original work and would consider loaning it for a month long display. You can reach him at stephen.kobasa at or 203-500-0268.

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

62] – See an infographic which highlights and illustrates how voter turnout could have easily changed the outcome of the election. The title is Did You Vote? Go to This comes from Contact Chloe at chloecarter180 at

63] – 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

64] – MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD. Baltimore's Indypendent Reader is looking for individuals interested in creating media - written, photo, audio, or video - that relates to issues like...economic justice, race, prisons & policing, environment, gender & sexuality, war & peace and more! If you would like to create social justice media, then email Visit

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

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

67] – 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.

68] – Visit the Digital Information and the Criminal Justice System at This link presents a wide range of insightful articles for criminal justice and legal professionals, both current and future. The project aims to be an objective, authoritative resource in the ever-changing court system.

69] – 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.

70] – The Hunger Site was initiated by Mercy Corps and Second Harvest, and is funded entirely by advertisers. You can go there every day and click the big yellow "Give Food for Free" button near the top of the page; you do not have to look at the ads. Each click generates funding for about 1.1 cups of food. So consider clicking.

71] – Go online for FIRE AND FAITH: The Catonsville Nine File. On May 17, 1968, nine people entered the Selective Service Offices in Catonsville, Maryland, and burned draft records in protest against the war in Vietnam. View

72] – 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

How Walmart and Other Huge Companies Support Horrific Conditions That Kill Workers

Published on Alternet (

AlterNet [1] / By Adele M. Stan [2]

How Walmart and Other Huge Companies Support Horrific Conditions That Kill Workers

November 27, 2012

A day after Walmart workers and their allies staged protests and rallies [3] outside the company’s stores across the U.S., a fire erupted in a factory across the globe in Bangladesh, killing 112 workers who were trapped inside, where they sewed jeans and other apparel for the retail giant’s Faded Glory brand. Another 200 were injured in the fire. On Monday, the streets of Dhaka, the capital city, were filled with thousands [4] of garment workers, who demanded justice.

The main doors of the factory were reportedly padlocked [5], according to the Christian Science Monitor, and many workers jumped to their deaths rather than be burned alive, according to [6] the Associated Press, which also reported survivors saying that they were sent back to their sewing machines after the fire alarm went off. Others said the fire extinguishers didn’t work. A retired fire official told [7] theNew York Times that fire trucks were slow to arrive on the scene because there wasn’t a proper road for approaching the factory.

Your Job or Your Life

What do Walmart store “associates,” as the company likes to call its retail clerks, and Bangladeshi garment workers have in common? Both work in environments so hostile to labor unions that to undertake the work of organizing is a danger to one’s livelihood -- or in Bangladesh, one’s life.

As AlterNet reported [8] last week, Walmart employees who got involved with OUR Walmart, a union-allied group that advocates for fair pay and working conditions, reportedly suffered retaliation [8]. And for his groundbreaking documentary, Walmart: The High Price of Low Cost [9], filmmaker Robert Greenwald talked to a former Walmart manager [10] (video) who told of how the company rigged a union election in an Annapolis, Md., store by temporarily transferring in workers from Arkansas who would vote against allowing the union to represent them.

In the apparel factories that supply Walmart and other U.S. retailers, an attempt to organize workers can land an employee in jail -- or evencost an organizer his life [11].

Responding to the Bangladesh fire, Walmart executives claimed [12] that the supplier of its Faded Glory products, Tazreen Fashions, was not authorized to manufacture for Walmart, but that a contractor that enjoyed the Walmart seal of approval subcontracted with Tazreen. But for labor activists, that’s hardly an excuse. A statement issued this week by the International Labor Rights Federation and Workers Rights Consortium reads, in part:

Regardless of whether Walmart acknowledges Tazreen as an approved supplier, Walmart is responsible for the safety of the workers making its clothing and should not abandon Tazreen and its employees following this disaster.

Elsewhere in the statement, leaders of the two groups blame Walmart’s “constant downward price pressure” for inciting factory owners to cut corners in worker safety. But that’s not quite the whole story.

The Factory Police State

In truth, Walmart is just the biggest, most obvious player in a bad lot, which includes many U.S. and European retailers and clothing brands. In the case of Bangladesh, for which apparel exports is an $18 billion business, the Western companies essentially sponsor a factory police state that exists to satisfy the insatiable appetite of Western consumers for new stuff at a low price. And with the U.S. economy now wholly dependent on consumer spending, a vicious cycle has emerged to trap the workers of the developing world in the same sort of exploitive, deadly conditions that characterized American factories at the turn of the 20th century.

A hundred and one years ago, when the bodies of the 146 women killed in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Manhattan -- under similar conditions to those killed last weekend in Bangladesh -- were laid on the sidewalk, hundreds of New Yorkers filed solemnly past to take in the horror. The tragedy helped spur the growth of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. But in Bangladesh, union organizing brings the scrutiny of the security state, and can land an organizer in jail -- or worse.

In April, the body of Aminul Islam, a labor organizer who endured all manner of state surveillance, was found on the side of a road [11]outside Dhakar, showing signs of torture. He had bled to death, apparently from a beating after he mysteriously disappeared. Associates believe that he was lured into captivity by a couple who came to him seeking his help to get married. (Islam was known as a devoutly religious man.)

At the Rosita Knitwear factory in the Ishwardi Export Processing Zone just outside Dhaka, workers last March were beaten and even shot by paramilitary forces for calling “an impromptu sit-down strike,” according to [13] the New York Times’ Jim Yardley. Rosita makes sweaters for H&M, the fashion-conscious, low-price European chain that has taken the U.S. market by storm.

Bangladeshi garment workers typically earn around $50 per month on average; the minimum wage is $37 per month. Most are women, who comprise 80 percent of the garment-sector workforce. Apparel exports accounted for 80 percent of Bangladesh’s exports in 2009, the latest figures available, and it is now the second-largest exporter of clothing in the world, just behind China.

Factories such as Rosita are located in special enterprise zones, which, according to [13] the Times’ Yardley, have laws and police forces that are separate from those of the rest of the country. He tells of one worker, Mohammad Helal Uddin, who, after being elected to lead a committee formed by workers seeking redress for a sexual demand made of a woman worker by her boss, was jailed when workers staged a protest. After his release, when he tried to return to work, Yardley reports [13], Uddin was abducted by members of a special police force, the Rapid Action Batallion, jailed, beaten and made to sign a statement of resignation.

Labor Organizer Murdered

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly raised the issue [14] of the unsolved murder of labor activist Aminul Islam during her visit to Bangladesh in May, but the secretary’s stated concerns appear to have done nothing to change conditions for the country’s garment workers, despite the fact that Bangladesh is a U.S. ally.

According to Yardley, whose New York Times report [13] was published in August, the nation’s political power structure is dominated by factory owners:

[Primer Minister Shiekh] Hasina’s government has resisted expanding labor rights in a country where the owners of about 5,000 garment factories wield enormous influence. Factory owners are major political donors and have moved into news media, buying newspapers and television stations. In Parliament, roughly two-thirds of the members belong to the country’s three biggest business associations. At least 30 factory owners or their family members hold seats in Parliament, about 10 percent of the total.

“Politics and business is so enmeshed that one is kin to the other,” said Iftekharuzzaman, director of Transparency International Bangladesh.“There is a coalition between the sector and people in positions of power. The negotiating position of the workers is very, very limited.”

In fact, when representatives from 12 Western retailers formally expressed concern last July about growing labor unrest, the government brushed off requests from the companies to address the workers’ wage demands, according to [13] Yardley:

“No reason to be worried,” Khandker Mosharraf Hossain, the minister, told reporters, noting that brands were not canceling orders.

With the system so rigged against workers, there’s no reason to believe the retailers and apparel brands who subcontract their manufacturing to factories in developing countries will adequately police themselves. That sort of self-policing scheme resulted in an even worse factory fire in Karachi [15], Pakistan, two months ago, when 300 workers at Ali Enterprises, another denim apparel manufacturer, died.

According to [16] the International News, a Pakistani paper, the owners of Ali Enterprises “obtained a fake certificate from an audit company to satisfy the companies abroad that his factory met the required safety standards.”

The statement from the International Labor Rights Forum calls on Walmart to “join the comprehensive fire and building safety program with unions and labor rights groups that PVH (owner of Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein) and German retailer Tchibo have already signed onto.” It continues:

The program includes independent inspections, public reporting, mandatory repairs and renovations, a central role for workers and unions in both oversight and implementation, supplier contracts with sufficient financing and adequate pricing, and a binding contract to make these commitments enforceable.

Given the current structure of the global economy, it’s difficult to see where that would be enough. To make this sort of compliance voluntary may be preferable to no compliance at all, but it’s hard to see how, without an international enforcement mechanism, greedy companies will find an incentive to stop exploiting the peoples of an oligarchic state such as Bangladesh.

Already, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Hasini is blaming the Tazreen fire on arsonists, calling it an act of sabotage [17], but declining to name a suspect or a motive. Bangladesh’s garment workers are already rightly fearful of false accusations, and this latest development does not bode well.

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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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Nobel Peace Laureates Call For Military Boycott Of Israel

Published on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 by Common Dreams

Nobel Peace Laureates Call For Military Boycott Of Israel

53 authors 'horrified at the latest round of Israeli aggression'

- Common Dreams staff

Fifty-two Nobel peace prize-winners, activists and others today called for an international military boycott of Israel after its latest deadly assault against Palestine earlier this month.

Issued on the eve of the International Day of Solidarity with the People of Palestine, according to the Middle East Monitor, the statement is signed by US academic Noam Chomsky; Nobel peace laureates Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel; former French diplomat and Holocaust survivor Stéphane Hessel; and film directors, authors and musicians, among others. It denounces the US, European Union and several developing countries for complicity through weapons sales and other military support in the attacks that killed 160 Palestinians, including civilians and 35 children, The Guardian reports.

It calls for "urgent ... and international action towards a mandatory, comprehensive military embargo against Israel," the Middle East Monitor reports.

The Middle East Monitor continues:

Though directly motivated by Israel's latest war of aggression against the 1.6 million Palestinians in the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip, the statement is also a reaction to Israel's decades-old military occupation and persistent denial of the UN-sanctioned rights of the Palestinian people. Expressing horror at Israel's latest bloodbath in Gaza which claimed 160 Palestinian lives, including 34 children, the statement argues that this recurring brutality has been allowed to continue due to the impunity Israel enjoys.

The statement, published in full in the Middle East Monitor, charges, in part:

Horrified at the latest round of Israeli aggression against the 1.5 million Palestinians in the besieged and occupied Gaza Strip and conscious of the impunity that has enabled this new chapter in Israel's decades-old violations of international law and Palestinian rights, we believe there is an urgent need for international action towards a mandatory, comprehensive military embargo against Israel.

Such a measure has been subject to several UN resolutions and is similar to the arms embargo imposed against apartheid South Africa in the past.

The authors charge that the US has supplied billions of dollars of "advanced military hardware every year" to Israel, and the EU has provided subsidies through its research programs.

The authors of the statement also include John Dugard, a South African jurist and former UN special rapporteur in the occupied territories; Luisa Morgantini, former president of the European parliament; Cynthia McKinney, a former member of the US Congress; Ronnie Kasrils, a South African former cabinet minister; and the dramatist Caryl Churchill.

"Similarly, the growing military ties between Israel and the emerging economies of Brazil, India and South Korea are unconscionable given their nominal support for Palestinian freedom," the statement notes.

It continues:

Military ties with Israel have fueled relentless acts of aggression. Israel continues to entrench its subjugation of Palestinians while provoking or initiating armed conflict with its neighbors in the region. [...]

We therefore support the call from Palestinian civil society for an urgent and comprehensive military embargo on Israel as an effective, non-violent measure to stop Israel's wars and repression and to bring about Israel's compliance with its obligations under international law. This is now a moral and legal imperative to achieve a just and comprehensive peace.

According to the Middle East Monitor, the initial list of signatories of the statement includes:

Udi Aloni, filmmaker, Israel

Anthony Arnove, editor and writer, US

Etienne Balibar, academic, France

Robert Ballagh, artist and president of the Ireland Institute for Historical and Cultural Studies, Ireland

Walden Bello, academic, author and member of Senate, Philippines

Shyam Benegal, director and screenwriter, India

John Berger, author, critic, UK

Howard Brenton, playwright and screenwriter, UK

Judith Butler, academic, United States

Clayborne Carson, Director, Martin Luther King, Jr. Research & Education Institute, Stanford University, USA

Noam Chomsky, academic, USA

Caryl Churchill, dramatist, UK

Angela Davis, scholar and author, US

Raymond Deane, composer, Ireland

Danilo Dolci, sociologist, Italy

John Dugard, professor of international law, South Africa

Felim Egan, artist, Ireland

Adolfo Perez Esquível, Nobel Peace Laureate 1980, Argentina

Dror Feiler, musician and artist, Sweden

Don Andrea Gallo, presbyter, Italy

Charles Glass, journalist, US

Margherita Hack, astrophysicist, Italy

Denis J. Halliday, former UN Assistant Secretary-General (1994-98), Ireland

Stéphane Hessel, diplomat, Holocaust survivor and co-author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, France

Tor B Jørgensen, Bishop, Norway

Christian Juhl, member of Parliament, Denmark

Ronnie Kasrils, politician, South Africa

Aki Kaurismäki, screenwriter and film director, Finland

Marcel Khalife, musician, Lebanon

Naomi Klein, writer and activist, Canada

Paul Laverty, filmmaker, UK

Taeho Lee, Secretary General, People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, South Korea

Ken Loach, filmmaker, UK

Vibeke Løkkeberg, actress and director, Norway

Mike Leigh OBE, Director, UK (Palm D'Or 1996)

Jean-Marc Levy-Leblond, academic, France

Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate 1976, Ireland

Michael Mansfield, lawyer, UK

Miriam Margolyes, actress, UK

Cynthia McKinney, politician, United States

Saeed Mirza, filmmaker, India

Luisa Morgantini, former president of the European Parliament

Bjørnar Moxnes, member of Oslo city council

Suzanne Osten, writer and director, Sweden

Nurit Peled, professor of language, Israel

John Pilger, journalist, author, filmmaker, Australia

Ahdaf Soueif, writer, Egypt/UK

Alice Walker, author, US

Roger Waters, musician, UK

John Williams, musician, UK

Vincenzo Vita, senator, Italy

Slavoj Zizek, philosopher, Slovenia


Source URL:

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

Bltimore Activist Alert - Part 3

36] Protest General Motors – Nov. 28

37] Syrian Civil War – Nov. 28

38] Cognitive Science – Nov. 28

39] Tell Sarbanes Support Prosperity – Nov. 28

40] Philadelphia peace vigil – Nov. 28

41] CPHA Annual Meeting – Nov. 28

42] Gaza Symbol of Resistance– Nov. 28

43] Chestnut Hill, PA peace vigil – Nov. 28

44] Green Currency Meeting – Nov. 28

45] Music for Peace – Nov. 28

36] – LABOR ABUSE DOES NOT EQUAL CORPORATE EXCELLENCE! On Wed., Nov. 28, let the State Department know that General Motors Doesn't Deserve the "Corporate Excellence" Award! The State Department, 399 23rd St. NW, WDC 20520 (due South of Foggy Bottom Metro on 23rd St.) will confer its Award for Corporate Excellence to one of 11 nominees. One of these is General Motors, who has, in fact, treated the workers of its Colombian division Colmotores as disposable, firing them after they received various on-the-job injuries. After offering an insulting amount to the injured workers and ex-workers' association (ASOTRECOL) in mediation--which ASOTRECOL naturally declined--the company has since refused to re-engage in dialogue with ASOTRECOL.

Witness for Peace and others will stand in front of the State Department at 10 AM as the award is conferred. Email or call 202-547-6112.

37] – There is a Table Talk Lunch Series: Diagnostic of the Syrian Civil War on Wed., Nov. 28 at noon at the Kay Spiritual Life Center, American Univ., 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Lunch will be served at noon, followed by a discussion at 12:20 PM with Robert Kemp, special assistant, Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, Department of State, and Randa Bassem Serhan, assistant professor, Department of Sociology and Director of Arab Studies, American University. RSVP to

38] – On Wed., Nov. 28 at 4 PM, the noted philosopher and cognitive scientist Prof. Daniel Dennett will deliver a lecture titled "What does cognitive science have to tell us about free will and responsibility?" The lecture is in Hodson Hall 110 on the Hopkins Homewood Campus. Go to

39] – On Wed., Nov. 28 at 4:30 PM, the Pledge of Resistance will go to Rep. John Sarbanes’ office, 600 Baltimore Ave., Suite 303, Baltimore, MD 21204. While inside, we will deliver a letter to urge the representative to support the following: 1. Invest in jobs, education and infrastructure to promote prosperity by enacting H.R. 870 / 4277, the "21st Century Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act;" as well as S. 1549 / H.R. 12 the "American Jobs Act;" and H.R. 2914, the "Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act." 2. Let the Bush tax cuts and payroll tax cuts expire, and replace them with H.R. 6411, the "Inclusive Prosperity Act" and fair income tax cuts, limited to the first $250,000 of income. 3. Prevent any cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid including benefits, COLAs, or eligibility--as well as pass bills to expand and improve Medicare including H.R. 676, the "Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act" and H.R. 1200 the "American Health Security Act." 4. Cut weapons funding by 25%, and pass H.R. 780, the "Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan Act" to immediately end the war and provide for the safe and orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan of all members of the Armed Forces and Department of War contractor personnel. Finally, we are seeking an end to the use of killer drone strikes, which we believe to be illegal and unconstitutional. Would you be willing to speak out in Congress against the use of drones which are killing civilians in at least five countries—Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen? Let Max know if you can go to Sarbanes’ office--410-366-1637 or mobuszewski at

40] – Each Wednesday from 4:30 - 5:30 PM, the House of Grace Catholic Worker holds a weekly vigil for peace in Iraq outside the Phila. Federal Building, 6th & Market Sts. The next vigil is Nov. 28. Call 215-426-0364.

41] – Citizens Planning and Housing Association, Inc. is holding its 71st Annual Meeting on Wed., Nov. 28 from 5:30 to 8 PM at the University of Maryland BioPark, 801 W. Baltimore St., Baltimore, MD 21201. Email or call 410-539-1369 x101. There will be a presentation on the topic of transit oriented development at the West Baltimore MARC stop, as well as the presentation of the annual Ferebee and Froelicher awards, and updates on the organization’s accomplishments and projects from the past year.

Tickets are $40. Go to

42] – There is a Workers World Forum on Gaza on Wed., Nov. 28 at 7 PM at 2011 N. Charles St., 1st Floor, with a report from Abayomi Azikiwe, the editor of Pan African Newswire and contributor to Workers World Newspaper on why Workers World Party stands in full solidarity with the people of Gaza and Palestine. The report will be skyped from Detroit.

Copies of the book “Gaza Symbol of Resistance” by Joyce Chediac will be available for sale. There will also be an update on the struggle to organize Wal-Mart. Call 443-221-3775.

43] – Each Wednesday, the Northwest Greens hold a peace vigil from 7 to 8 PM outside the Borders Book Store, Germantown Ave. at Bethlehem Pike in Chestnut Hill, PA. The next vigil is Nov. 28. Call 215-843-4256 or email

44] – The Baltimore Green Currency Association meets every Wednesday at 7 PM at Breathe Books, 810 W 36th St. # A, Baltimore, MD 21211-2554. Call 410-235-7323.

45] – Discover music as a means to communicate and connect across cultures. Listen, play, or learn. The event will feature an open mic forum, guitar lessons, and the chance to meet and connect with other musicians in the city. Music for Peace takes place at 7:30 PM on the last Wednesday of the month at the HI Baltimore Hostel, 17 W. Mulberry St. Call 410-576-8880 or go to

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Gaza Redux Analysis:

Gaza Redux Analysis: In wars, everybody loses but to variable degrees. But

certain parties can claim achieving certain goals they set for themselves.

Taking stock of the attack on Gaza, the players in this game come out

differently ….. by Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh

NOV 25, 2012

Gaza redux analysis

Analysis of conflicts and destruction should not be done in the heat of the moment when emotions are high. In wars, everybody loses but to variable degrees. But certain parties can claim achieving certain goals they set for themselves. Taking stock of the attack on Gaza, the players in this game come out differently (Civilians, Hamas, Fatah, the Israeli government, the U.S. etc) and it is worth reflecting.

-The civilian population: As in all modern wars, most of the casualties are civilians. 162 Palestinians and 5 Israelis were killed during the Israeli attack and one Palestinian killed after the ceasefire was declared. This includes 30 Palestinian children. Over 1000 Palestinians were injured and many will have to live with life-long injuries. The damage in Gaza to infrastructure and homes is tremendous. Gaza has not even recovered from the last attack 4 years ago. Donors promised to rebuild but never did. In the West Bank, several Palestinians demonstrating in solidarity with Gaza were killed and many injured and hundreds imprisoned by the Israeli occupation forces. And Gaza remains the largest prison on earth. The last election war in Israel in 2008-2009 cost 1400 Palestinian lives (13 Israelis). The number of injured is ten times more and is also skewed 100 to 1 (Palestinian to Israeli injuries). The damaged structures including infrastructure is not even comparable. Israeli occupation forces bombed Mosques, residential buildings, electricity grids, media offices, and government offices in Gaza while damage in reprisal attacks in Israel was minimal. Depleted Uranium and other weapons also continue to increase cancers among civilians.

-Hamas: The recent conflict started when Israel assassinated a moderate military leader who was holding other factions to previous ceasefire understandings. The goal was electoral and for internal preparedness against a possible conflict with Iran. Israel's own estimates is that the stockpile of rockets was 12-14,000 and that Hamas used only10% which they will replenish. Most analysis predict more money and weapons coming to Hamas since it gained much politically among Palestinians and among others. The philosophy of Hamas includes things like "what was taken by force can only be reclaimed by force" and that "resistance works." The ideology was certainly bolstered in the minds of many people. But Hamas needs to show evidence of a coherent strategy to achieve its own goals beyond slogans and celebration of withstanding and resisting Israeli terror.

-Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian authority in Ramallah (PA) used to describe rockets fired from Gaza as stupid and ineffective. Hillary Clinton visited to bolster the PA but the US position backing Israeli massacres meant further weakening. The Oslo accords became a distant memory and the PA largely irrelevant. The long touted Palestinian reconciliation was talked about but few believe leaderships of Hamas or Fatah are genuinely seeking reconciliation. The increased emphasis on the bid for admission to the UN as a "non-member State" is done without explanations about the exact language that is already being negotiated with the US/Israel to emasculate it from any real meaning. There are also side agreements being worked out to have a PA promise not to bring Israel before International courts. Losing face is not something that men, including Arab men, take easily. Abbas and his colleagues in Fatah who benefited in the past from Oslo find it harder to climb down. But Gaza formed a joint operation room with all resistance fighters. Perhaps the decent people in Fatah who joined the resistance will provide the needed bridge. Perhaps also people like jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi can help (he called for ending the useless negotiations and security coordination with Israel). Perhaps with help of Dr. Nabil Shaath, Barghouthi can play a role in allowing for a face-saving exit strategy from the muddy sink hole of Oslo.

- Egypt after the revolution put itself squarely as a major player in Middle East politics and began to shed its Mubarak era image (if not substance) of being a puppet of the US government. The Egyptian government led by President Morsy brokered the cease fire deal and managed to show diplomatic and maneuvering skills that gained it respect. But the main audience was the Egyptian street and the anouncement right after the ceasefire deal was of consolidating power for Morsy. Demonstrations were held in Egypt complaining about the dictatorial powers. Using Palestine to strengthen internal control is a very old strategy used by many Arab leaders. What Egypt does about the gas fields off of Gaza shore or about allowing arming of the resistance is a more practical barometer of any real change in Egypt.

-The three architects of this war (Barak, Netanyahu, Lieberman) held a press conference and were grim and unsmiling as they announced that they “achieved their goals” and they will not hesitate to hit Gaza again “if rockets resumed”. It seems even Israelis did not buy this. But I think it is too simplistic to describe Israel as having “lost this war” (as some pundits are saying). The publicly declared goals from this attack on Gaza are actually different from privately held goals. The public goal to end the “threat to the south” (hence the name pillar of defense) is actually not the real goal. In any case that goal failed since Hamas came out stronger from this. But there are other undeclared goals: 1) bolstering election chances, 2) testing the weakest chain of the forces of resistance (Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iran), and 3) testing the Israeli defense/preparedness mechanisms (a massive and real drill) including the iron dome missile defense system to prepare for wider conflicts to come (with Hizballah and Iran). In the first, polls will soon show if the three benefited politically for the upcoming election. To the second goal, the tested subject proved stronger than expected by Israel (the use of longer range Fajr-5 shocked many Israelis especially when these rockets reached Tel Aviv and Jerusalem). The third goal had mixed results but now Israel will spend a few weeks acquiring more iron dome batteries and organizing their warning system in a better way. It augurs poorly for Israel since they spent $750 million for a conflict with imprisoned Gaza Palestinians! A fourth goal may have been to test what the Obama administration does in its second term in office. Some analysts predicted that Obama will be free in his second term in office to fulfill some of what he said in his Cairo speech nearly four years ago. But the evidence showed he is still subservient to AIPAC and the Israel lobby in Washington. Both in Israel and the US, there is a hope that toppling the Syrian regime if done soon may help in the war on the remaining axis (Hizballah and Iran). Others believe the issue of Iran can’t wait. In fact, before the ink was dry on ceasefire agreement, Israeli papers were reporting that Iran is moving dirt in one location in ways that suggest they are hiding nuclear activity.

-Turkey had a hand in moving towards a Gaza settlement. If the siege on Gaza is indeed reduced as stipulated in the ceasefire deal in significant ways, this will remove one of the three conditions laid down by Ankara on resumption of normal friendly relations with Israel. Overall, Turkey is interested in getting NATO support for its defense capability (including Patriot missiles) and cares more about its own interests than about the interests of people in Gaza. Turkey would be satisfied with new calmer arrangements in Gaza even if it end-up profiting Israel.

-Iran: Hamas did acknowledge Iranian help in developing its defense capabilities. Iran said that Arab and Islamic countries should now see the value of helping the Palestinians and Lebanese defend themselves against US/Israeli aggression and hegemony. If the ceasefire holds and if Israel improved its iron dome abilities with US support, and if Netanyahu/Lieberman succeed in being elected to form the next government, then it is very likely that Israel will be freer to attack Iran. The Israeli right wing politicians are trying to get their house in order and to ensure US support to proceed to create more wars (they already started 6 wars in the Middle East with similar patterns). Iran is obviously studying developments and lessons to deal with the contingencies.

-The USA: US foreign policy is simply domestic policy as Henry Kissinger once said. Absent Muslim-American and Arab-American effective lobbies, the Zionist lobby dictate US policy. This may be changing as US elites realize that unconditional support of Israel has persistently weakened the US economically, politically, and morally. More and more US citizens are connecting the dots between the frail and unsustainable economy of the US and its domestically generated (anti-American) foreign policy in support of apartheid and repression. People increasingly see that the Israeli push to get the US into a war on Iraq cost thousands of American lives and nearly three trillion dollars. Hopefully they will see the repercussions of the Israeli push for conflict with Iran before it is too late.

-Perhaps the biggest loser was the truth. Israel massive propaganda effort paid off as western media showed Israel “defending itself” and failed to report reality. There was no organized counter efforts to tell the real story or to pressure western media which dominate world media to move to balanced reporting. Social media and electronic transfer of information helped a little by showing the extent of suffering and damage in Gaza but even here the effort could have been far better from the millions who sympathized with Gaza but did little to help get the truth out. We as people of conscience need to do much better at challenging journalism that is biased, shoddy, and in some cases criminally complicit.

The impact of the latest attack also needs to be analyzed in terms of Israeli plans to cut-off Gaza from the Palestinian equation and dump it southward minus its rich gas fields offshore (which Israel still controls hence preventing fisherman from going to fish lest they disturb the lucrative potential $1 trillion in development). Joing impoverished Gaza with Egypt while keeping the natural resources would relieve a huge demographic problem for colonial Israel (1.6 million Palestinians live in Gaza including 1 million refugees). This danger of “segregating” Gaza and making some long-term arrangement for it with the help of Egypt would free Israel to focus on building settlements in the West Bank, developing gas fields off Gaza shore line, Judaicizing Jerusalem, and tightening control of the West Bank Palestinians living in shrinking ghettos/people warehouses. These ghettos can be either declared a state (archipelago state that would be transportationally contiguous via tunnels) or annexed to Jordan (which already has 3.5+ million Palestinians).

Both Hamas and Israel propagated the myth that there are two sides to the issue in occupied Palestine and that it is a religious conflict. But you cannot equate occupier with occupied, colonizer with colonized. Israel is an advanced country with the fifth or sixth strongest army on earth (or as one Israeli academic put it an army which has a country). Palestinians are occupied colonized people, two third of us are refugees or displaced people. Further, the struggle here is not between Israelis and Palestinians (or worst between Jews and Muslims) but a struggle between those who support apartheid (of all religions and backgrounds) and those who oppose it (of all religions and backgrounds).

Many of us believe this is the time to push forward our human and humane vision of one democratic state in historic Palestine. This pluralistic state would solve once and for all the historic injustice that afflicted the Palestinian people with the advent of Zionism. It would lead to a durable peace. The only available alternative is now seen to be a balance of terror for years to come and this is not appealing to anyone except those who mistakenly think it could allow them to form or retain their religious state. But history shows that Palestine was always multiethnic and multireligious and always rejected becoming a monolithic society.

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD


Bethlehem University

Baltimore Activist Alert - Part 2

23] Death Penalty Vigil – Nov. 26

24] Marc Steiner on WEAA – Nov. 26

25] Correcting Marable – Nov. 26

26] Film IN MY LIFETIME – Nov. 26

27] Pledge of Resistance/Fund Our Communities meeting – Nov. 26

28] Film “Back to Vietnam” – Nov. 26

29] Support Bradley Manning – Nov. 27

30] Educating for Peace – Nov. 27

31] Nuclear Restraint – Nov. 27

32] War Is Not the Answer vigil – Nov. 27

33] Film UNEQUAL JUSTICE – Nov. 27

34] Cuban Missile Crisis --Nov. 27

35] Repeal Death Penalty Benefit – Nov. 27


23] – There is usually a vigil to abolish the death penalty every Monday from 5 to 6 PM, outside the prison complex and across the street from Maryland’s Super Max Prison, at the corner of Madison Ave. and Fallsway in Baltimore. Maryland’s death row was moved out of Baltimore, but it was decided to continue the vigil. The next one is scheduled for Mon., Nov. 26. Call 410-366-1637.

24] – The Marc Steiner Show airs Monday through Thursday from 5 to 7 PM 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

25] – Come to a discussion of the book “A Lie of Reinvention; Correcting Manning Marable's Malcolm X” on Mon., Nov. 26 from 6:30 to 8 PM at Busboys & Poets, 1025 5th St. NW. This will be a provocative multimedia presentation and what will certainly be a lively dialogue led by editors, Dr. Ball and Dr. Burroughs, about this book that includes essays by Mumia Abu-Jamal, veteran journalist A. Peter Bailey, who worked with Malcolm X’s Organization for Afro-American Unity, and Bill Strickland, who also knew Malcolm X. RSVP to Nefta Freeman at

26] – See a Beyond the Classroom Documentary: "In My Lifetime" on Mon., Nov. 26 from 7 to 9 PM at 1104 South Campus Commons, Building 1, College Park, Maryland 20742. In one lifetime a nuclear-armed world emerged, and with it, the potential for global destruction on a scale never before possible. Is it also possible that in a single lifetime nuclear weapons could be abolished? The film provides a comprehensive look at the full scope and impact of the nuclear age from its beginnings to the present day, including the international efforts by citizens, scientists and political leaders to reduce or eliminate the nuclear threat. Go to

27] – The Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore usually meets on Mondays at 7:30 PM, and the meetings now take place at Max’s residence. The next meeting takes place on Nov. 26. Call 410-366-1637 or email mobuszewski at for directions. The agenda includes the Bradley Manning support activities, the ongoing drone protests, going to the office of Rep. Sarbanes and other items.

28] – “Back to Vietnam,” a short film by Mike Marceau, will be shown on Mon., Nov. 26 at 7:30 PM at the Rockville Memorial Library, 21 Maryland Ave., Rockville 20850. A group of U.S. military veterans returned to Vietnam in April 2012 for a "Peace And Reconciliation Tour" to see the country and connect with Vietnamese people. One goal of the trip was to learn about the aftermath of extensive Agent Orange spraying and meet some of the Vietnamese groups who are helping the victims. Marceau, a Purple Heart recipient, was critically injured in Vietnam 1970. He is a Rockville resident and Vice President of the local chapter of Veterans for Peace. He will talk about the experience and show a 45 minute film he made during the trip. Call 240-777-0959.

29] – Rally and Protest against Injustice in the Military Court vs. Bradley Manning on Tues., Nov. 27 at 10 AM at Fort George G. Meade, Odenton, Maryland. Bradley Manning's defense will be arguing that all charges be dismissed because of "unlawful pretrial punishment." Manning is scheduled to be court-martialed on Feb. 4.

At Tuesday’s rally, speakers will include leading members of the Bradley Manning Support Network and partner organizations. Inside the courtroom, Bradley's lawyer David Coombs will focus on the abuse the defendant endured in Quantico, VA. It is now well-known that Bradley was held for nine months in solitary confinement, in conditions that were declared by UN Chief Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez to be "cruel, inhuman and degrading." David Coombs will present evidence that brig psychiatrists opposed the decision to hold Bradley in solitary, and that brig commanders misled the public when they said that Bradley's treatment was for "Prevention of Injury.” Email

30] – Get over to the launch of Education for Peace DC's research report, Educating for Change: A Survey of Programs for Peace, Justice, and Diversity in the Washington, DC area, on Tues., Nov. 27 from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM at the Capitol Visitor's Center, Room SVC-201 (Senate side)--U.S. Capitol, WDC 20510. Come share your thoughts on the report's findings and help shape the way forward for this important initiative. Lunch will be served. This is a project of the Center for Peacebuilding and Development and the Localizing Peace Initiative, School of International Service, American University. RSVP at or 202-885-2014.

31] – On Tues., Nov. 27 from 3:30 to 6 PM, Malcolm Chalmers, Royal United Services Institute, and Joan Rohlfing, Nuclear Threat Initiative, will examine "Less Is Better: Nuclear Restraint at Low Numbers" at Carnegie Endowment, 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, WDC. RSVP at

32] – There is a vigil to say "War Is Not the Answer" each Tuesday since September 11, 2001 at 4806 York Road. Join this ongoing vigil. The next vigil is Nov. 27 from 5:30 to 6:30 PM. Call Max at 410-366-1637.

33] – “Unequal Justice: The Relentless Rise of the 1% Court” will be shown on Tues., Nov. 27 at 6 PM at Service Employees International Union, 1800 Massachusetts Ave. Narrated by renowned journalist Katrina vanden Huevel, editor of The Nation, Alliance for Justice's new documentary examines the pro-big-business agenda of the Supreme Court and the consequences for ordinary Americans. Through interviews with experts and people affected by recent Supreme Court decisions, the film shows how the Court’s pro-corporate bias weakens the core concept of fairness at the heart. RSVP

34] – On Tues., Nov. 27 from 6 to 8 PM, Rose Gottemoeller, Acting Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, and Sergey Kislyak, Russian Ambassador to the United States, will discuss "The Cuban Missile Crisis: 50 Years Later" at George Washington Univ., Harding Auditorium, Room 213, 1957 E St. NW, WDC. RSVP at

35] – LET'S CLOSE THIS CASE! The host committee includes Senator Lisa Gladden, Delegate Sandy Rosenberg, Delegate Mary Washington, Elsbeth Bothe, former associate judge Circuit Court, Baltimore City and Kirk Bloodsworth. The Maryland Citizens Against State Executions FOURTH ANNUAL BALTIMORE BENEFIT RECEPTION takes place on Tues., Nov. 27 from 6 to 8 PM at the Lord Baltimore Hotel (Radisson Inn), 20 West Baltimore St. Maryland is ready, not only to end the death penalty but, to simultaneously make a difference in the lives of families most impacted by violence. The death penalty repeal bill redirects immediate savings from repeal to the Maryland Victims of Crime Fund. These new funds are earmarked to help survivors of homicide victims, among the most invisible and under-served of all crime victims. Email MD CASE at or call at 301-779-5230 to reserve a ticket.

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

Can you join us at Sarbanes' office?

Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore/Fund Our Communities, 325 East 25th Street, Baltimore, MD 21218

Rep. John Sarbanes

600 Baltimore Ave.

Suite 303

Baltimore, MD 21204

Re: Prosperity Not Austerity

November 28, 2012

Dear Congressperson Sarbanes:

The Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore joined a broad, national coalition which has worked to educate members of Congress nation-wide each month since January 2010. We're writing to inform you of our support for the following policies and legislation:

1. Invest in jobs, education and infrastructure to promote prosperity by enacting H.R. 870 / 4277, the "21st Century Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act;" as well as S. 1549 / H.R. 12 the "American Jobs Act;" and H.R. 2914, the "Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act."

2. Let the Bush tax cuts and payroll tax cuts expire, and replace them with H.R. 6411, the "Inclusive Prosperity Act" and fair income tax cuts, limited to the first $250,000 of income.

3. Prevent any cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid including benefits, COLAs, or eligibility--as well as pass bills to expand and improve Medicare including H.R. 676, the "Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act" and H.R. 1200 the "American Health Security Act."

4. Cut weapons funding by 25%, and pass H.R. 780, the "Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan Act" to immediately end the war and provide for the safe and orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan of all members of the Armed Forces and Department of War contractor personnel.

Finally, we are seeking an end to the use of killer drone strikes, which we believe to be illegal and unconstitutional. Would you be willing to speak out in Congress against the use of drones which are killing civilians in at least five countries—Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen?

We look forward to your response. And when you are ready, we would like to meet with you, preferably in Baltimore. But if necessary, we will travel to your D.C. office. Thank you for your time and attention.


Max Obuszewski, on behalf of Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore/Fund Our Communities

325 East 25th Street, Baltimore, MD 21218 410-366-1637

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

When Right-Wing Blather Killed

Published on Alternet (

Salon [1] / By Joan Walsh [2]

When Right-Wing Blather Killed

November 26, 2012

Taking a break from 24/7 politics after the election, I finally read John Kelly’s troubling “The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People.” [3] Our problems feel small. Ireland lost one in three people in the late 1840s. At least a million died in the famine and its related illnesses; another two million fled for England, Canada, the United States or other ports of refuge.

But I kept coming back to U.S. politics anyway. Hauntingly, Kelly repeats the phrase that drove British famine relief (or lack of it): they were so determined to end Irish “dependence on government” that they stalled or blocked provision of food, public works projects and other proposals that might have kept more Irish alive and fed. The phrase appears at least seven times, by my count, in the book. “Dependence on government:” Haven’t we heard that somewhere?

In fact, the day after finishing Kelly’s book, I found Salon’s Michael Lind writing about the Heritage Foundation brief [4], “The Index of Dependence on Government.” It could have been the title of a report by famine villain Charles Trevelyan, the British Treasury assistant secretary whose anti-Irish moralism thwarted relief, but of course it was written by well-paid conservative Beltway think tankers. The very same day PBS aired a Frontline documentary revealing that our fabulously wealthy country has the fourth highest child-poverty rate in the developed world, just behind Mexico, Chile and Turkey. And I couldn’t help thinking: we haven’t come far at all.

I don’t believe in appropriating epochal tragedies and singular cruelties for modern political use. Genocide, slavery, famine, the Holocaust; rape, incest, lynching – those terms mean something specific. A recession, or even a depression, can’t be equated with famine, let alone genocide. Nor can rampant child poverty: we fend off starvation pretty successfully with food stamps, government help and charity today. We still have poverty programs, even though we slashed them in an anti-dependency backlash Trevelyan might have approved. A Democratic president, Bill Clinton, acting at least partly on Ronald Reagan’s insight that “we fought a war on poverty, and poverty won,” eliminated Aid to Families with Dependent Children in 1996 and replaced it with a time-limited, work-incentive program that cut its rolls by 58 percent in the last 15 years. One in five children was poor in 1996; the exact same percent are poor today. (Among black children, the rate is almost 2 in 5.) Whether we’re fighting a war on poverty or a war on the poor, what we are doing isn’t working.

But instead of digging in to find solutions to growing poverty in the midst of plenty, and increased suffering even among people who aren’t technically poor, Republicans spent the last year recycling theories from the Irish famine era. They’re best expressed in Mitt Romney’s remarks about the “47 percent,” [5] the people who see themselves as “victims” and are “dependent upon government.” Romney’s job, he told us, “is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Of course, now conservatives are very worried about “those people:” Supposedly, they re-elected President Obama. An increasingly crazed Bill O’Reilly [6] says Obama and Democrats have created “a social free-fire zone that drives dependency and poverty.” Obama voters “want stuff,” he continued,” big spending on government programs,” and they’ve rejected “robust capitalism and self reliance.” Sean Hannity says Obama’s strategy was “to encourage Americans to be dependent on the government.” Of course, it’s not just the Irish: Charles Krauthammer agrees. “The more you make more people dependent, the more you have your constituencies, the more they re-elect you,” the eternally sneering righty said on election night.

God bless them every one.

At least once a generation, we have to fight the idea that the poor and struggling are to blame for their own hardship. But it’s harder to fight it if we can’t see it. I’m grateful to the modern GOP for making its prejudice plain. While that prejudice hits black people and Latinos hardest, it stunts opportunities for all Americans, particularly the poor, whatever their color. A lot of people who aren’t “dependent” on government voted for Obama; sadly, a lot of people who are dependent voted for Romney. Mitt’s “47 percent” is by far majority-white and at least a quarter are senior citizens, but Romney won the white vote, and the senior vote, overwhelmingly.

I find myself particularly puzzled by my people, the Irish Catholics in that group. I hope they all get John Kelly’s book for Christmas.


I’m not reviewing “The Graves Are Walking;” Laura Miller did that here [7]. A brief overview is necessary: Kelly fights the notion that the British famine response was “genocide,” or even, as I put it in my book [8], “ethnic cleansing.” It was more benign and commonplace, he argues, though still cruel and deadly: An effort to use a tragedy to advance a political agenda, and to imagine God’s hand at work advancing that agenda, in matters that are well within the realm of human action to prevent or correct.

Famine Ireland combined the worst of feudalism and capitalism. Anglo-Irish landlords, given their land in “plantations” after decades of war in the 16th and 17th centuries to displace conquered Irish Catholics, were a big part of the problem. At least a quarter were absentee and only wanted the highest rents they could gouge; resident landlords preferred “conspicuous consumption” – Ireland enjoyed a million acres of deer parks and gardens – to building the infrastructure of modern agriculture.

So British leaders wanted to use the famine “to modernize the Irish agricultural economy, which was widely viewed as the principal source of Ireland’s poverty and chronic violence, and to improve the Irish character, which exhibited an alarming ‘dependence on government’ and was utterly lacking in the virtues of the new industrial age, such as self-discipline and initiative,” Kelly writes. Trevelyan told a colleague: God “sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson…[and it] must not be too mitigated.”

It was particularly easy to see the hand of God in the potato blight, because the potato was at the root of the lazy culture of the “aboriginal Irish,” according to Victorian moralists. “Why did the Irish have ‘domestic habits of the lowest and most degrading kind…more akin to the South Seas…than to the great civilized communities of the ancient world?” Potato dependency!” writes Kelly. “The little industry called for to rear the potato, and its prolific growth, leave the people to indolence and vice,” wrote one man in charge of Irish relief. “Food for the contented slave, not the hardy and the brave,” the Economist rhymed about the Irish staple.

Thus the failure of the potato crop was God’s way of getting lazy landlords, and more importantly, the “aboriginal Irish,” into the modern age, where they’d either work harder for better crops, or preferably, leave the farm, enter the emerging industrial society and earn wages to buy food, rather grow their own. It didn’t work that way: relief efforts and public works projects were opened, and then closed, because of worries about “dependency,” that those starving, rag-wearing slackers might prefer the dole to working. Anglo-Irish landlords evicted tenants rather than pay a higher poor rate for them; there was no one to plant the next season. Finally they opened the poor houses more widely, and they became teeming vectors for spreading disease, most notably “famine fever” and typhus, killing people more quickly (and even killing those who weren’t starving, a reminder of why public health is, or should be, a national responsibility.)

Sometimes I felt like quibbling with Kelly over his effort to refute charges that the famine response was a deliberate form of ethnic cleansing, given the way it was driven by centuries of crippling prejudice against Irish Catholics. But he’s right: It isn’t genocide when we don’t act to stop the deaths of people we don’t care about in the first place. Certainly some Irish leaders veered into crazy anti-British conspiracy theories. The famine even had its version of Jeremiah Wright: Irish revolutionary John Mitchel, who claimed the British government created typhus in laboratories and deliberately infected the Irish, much as Wright accused the U.S. government of spreading AIDS in poor black communities. I guess centuries of oppression can lead to some crazy, intemperate ideas.

Ironically, in one of his half-cocked soliloquies, Wright brought this whole story full-circle, talking about the way the Irish had once been denigrated and despised, just like black people: “People thought that the Irish had a disease, when the Irish came here.” Then he referenced Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, and added, “Well, they might have been right.”

It troubles me beyond reason that the face of the white GOP backlash is so frequently Irish Catholic: O’Reilly, Hannity, Pat Buchanan. Reading Kelly’s book again reminded me that everything racists say about African Americans was once said about my own people, and in the famine at least, with a deadly outcome.

To justify shutting down aid mid-famine, the London Times editorialized that it was to help the poor Irish themselves. “Alas, the Irish peasant has tasted of famine and found it good…the deity of his faith was the government…it was a religion that holds ‘Man shall not labor by the sweat of his brow.” Sounds like Bill O’Reilly, only more clever. “There are times when harshness is the greatest humanity.” The Times’ “chief proprietor,” John Walter, put it more crudely. The Irish were no more ready for self-government than “the blacks,” he said in Parliament (he was also a Tory MP). ”The blacks have a proverb,” he explained. “‘If a nigger were not a nigger, the Irishman would be a nigger.’”

I suppose expecting Irish Catholics to therefore be appalled by efforts to blame the poor for their poverty is unfair. It’s like expecting African Americans, given their history, to unanimously be liberal do-gooders, and reading Herman Cain, Allen West or even Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell out of the race. We’re all entitled to draw our own conclusions about how we got here. Pain can harden hearts as well as open them. And it’s possible to raise questions about the role of government, or even to resist “big government,” without being racist or anti-poor people.

Still, it’s striking the extent to which so many American Irish Catholics have historical amnesia, not just about the famine, but about the way we rose in this country: By fiercely building our own parallel society, with our own churches, non-profits and schools, while grabbing the reins of government and making sure no Trevelyan would ever hold our fate in his indifferent hands again. “Two institutions reached out and offered refuge to [Irish] immigrants,” Kelly writes: “The Catholic church…and the Democratic party, in the form of Tammany Hall, which provided jobs in return for political favors.” Government built the Irish Catholic middle class, whether by protecting unionization or by outright public sector employment, and helped other white immigrant groups in similar ways.

But now the O’Reillys and the Hannitys and the Buchanans demonize those who rely on government, in terms remarkably like those used to malign their own people. Our 40-year GOP-led grudge against government isn’t abetting a famine, but it is absolutely preventing action that would ease the slow-motion tragedy of persistent poverty and chronic unemployment, which ensnares Americans of every race but disproportionately hits African-Americans. People who relied on government to climb out of poverty and into the working and middle class suddenly decided that “harshness is the greatest humanity” when it came time to help a new generation rise.

Even today, a key obstacle to a public works jobs program in this long recession is the Republican delusion that such measures coddle slackers; that only job creators, not government, can help the poor. Unfortunately, some Democrats, including at times the president, have been unwilling to identify such arguments as the ancient defense of privilege that when unchallenged has led to tragedies like famine Ireland. Maybe Romney’s defeat, and the subsequent right-wing freak out over “dependence,” can awaken more people to the contempt and cruelty behind their politics.

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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