December 31, 2007

The Farmer's Market Paradigm

Bill McKibben sees Farmers’ Markets as the wave of the future. In his new book, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, he lays out a vision of a world that is at once radically different and comfortingly familiar. He sees local communities as the antidote to modern industrial society. Not that everything about our society is bad, but we have gone about as far down the road to growth as we are going to get.

He points out that when you are struggling just to get by, more is better. People who don’t have these things will work hard to get enough food, clean water, and education. However, when you already have enough to get along comfortably, more stuff doesn’t really do much for you. On the other hand, as we have accumulated bigger houses and private cars and televisions, we have lost contact with the people around us. We are rich in things but poor in community. In fact, America is the center of what McKibben calls hyper-individualism. The American Dream is to make it by your own efforts. Our mythology is awash in rags to riches stories of people who have pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps. On the other hand, unlike other industrialized countries, many of us, with insurance or not, struggle to get decent healthcare, just to take one example.

Its not that he is against individualism, its just that he thinks that the ways that economists measure progress miss the point. GNP keeps going up but not everything that goes into that measurement is good for us and not everything that is good for us is measured.

When neighbors get together for a harvest feast from their community garden, it doesn’t contribute much to the GNP because they are not spending money. It may contribute a lot to their quality of life, though, as they enjoy the benefits of friendship and good health from working in the garden and eating healthy food together.

GNP doesn’t distinguish between useful growth and growth in pollution and wastefulness. A cancer patient contributes a lot to the economy as expensive medical treatments eat away their savings and the cancer eats away their life. We don’t have a commonly accepted measure for health and happiness, although some people are working on it.

People need both enough wealth to be comfortable and enough community to be happy. If the balance tips too much one way or the other we feel the effects of the imbalance. Not to romanticize poverty, those who are both poor and alone are the worst off. Nor is this book about America alone. He travels to China, India and Europe to see how these scenarios play out there.

At the same time, the Cult of More is leading us down the road to ecological disaster, oil will run out and global warming is a reality that will force us into new paths whether we like it or not. If the undeveloped world were to follow our lead, and they are doing exactly that, with China leading the way, the collapse will come all the sooner.

This is where Farmers’ Markets come in. We can’t afford to continue to waste precious fossil fuels trucking our food thousands of miles. Luckily, we don’t need too. Local food supplies have fed humanity throughout most of our history. We can do it again. The local food movement is centered in Farmer’s Markets everywhere. People are discovering that not only can they support their local economy and get delicious healthy food but they are finding the process ever so much more enjoyable. People are ten times as likely to talk to their neighbors at a Farmers’ Market than at the supermarket. And the money they spend will stay in the area to contribute to the local economy.

People are coming to realize that there are more important things than getting the lowest price. The best price may be the one that supports the local economy. Furthermore, modern small scale organic farming turns out to be more productive per acre than agri-business. Agri-business achieves its economies of scale by getting rid of the farmers, making money for distant owners in the process. If you are serious about feeding hungry people, teach them to farm their own land. Or make community gardens. Wherever we are, we can find land, and even small plots can grow food that can help make us more independent in our own communities and can strengthen the human connections that make our communities strong at the same time.

In my own community, on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, The Farmers’ Market has teamed up with the local Food Co-op, the Land Trust and the State University Extension to encourage local organic farming. The university teaches classes on farming and entrepreneurship. The land trust protects farmland with conservation easements. And the farmers’ market and the co-op provide a market for the produce. The co-op prominently labels local products and highlights the farmers who grow the food.

Of course there is more to life than food. Deep Economy also talks about renewable power, community radio and lots more. Get on down to your local independent bookstore for a copy. Or do like I did and get it from the library. And when you are done, pass it on.

December 22, 2007

Democrats – Use your Power

Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership say that impeachment is “off the table”. They say that it would distract them from passing all this great new legislation. Despite almost a year in the majority, they have not gotten much done. They blame Bush for vetoes and Republican Senators for filibustering. Guess what? The Republicans are still in charge of the agenda.

Everybody talks about this mysterious 60 votes needed to pass anything in the Senate “for procedural reasons”. What they mean is that the Democrats allow the Republicans to obstruct any bill they want without a fight. The significance of the 60 votes is that they need that many to force an end to debate.

The filibuster is a proud Senate tradition that allows a determined minority to continue debating an issue endlessly to prevent it from coming to a vote. Jimmy Stewart played a Senator in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” who uses a filibuster to break the power of the political bosses. But he paid a price for it. In order to keep his filibuster going, he had to keep talking day and night. It was tough work.

Democrats don’t explain why they didn’t use the filibuster when they were in the minority and they don’t explain why they give in so easily to filibusters now. After all, they could force the Republicans to actually debate around the clock until they give up in exhaustion. Even if they do win some, this strategy would put Republicans on the defensive and show them up for the obstructionists they are. That doesn’t go over well at the polls. At the very least it would make them pay a price for their behavior. The Republicans didn’t hesitate when the balance of power tipped the other way.

As it is the Bush Administration is bragging about how they are still moving their agenda, while Democrats in Congress get the blame for doing nothing. The press is still buying his spin ( See this AP Story: 2007 is ending on a high note for the president.)
“…What began as a troubling year for Bush, facing a new, energetic Democratic Congress, ended in triumph for the president as frustrated Democrats nursed their losses. Democrats failed in their No. 1 objective to stop the war in Iraq and bowed to Bush and his veto threats on tax policies, energy legislation, children's health insurance and general spending.”
Triumph? You have got to be kidding. Bush is still in disgrace with the voters. Just look at the polls. But the AP is right up there peddling his line. Just take a look at the next paragraph in the same story to see their source for this so called triumph.
“After months of bitter fights, Bush said the year was ending on a high note.”
You have to watch out when the Administration, echoed by Republicans and right wing pundits, spins this hard. The press amplifies the spin so much that it can make you dizzy.

To hear them talk we are winning the (expletive deleted) war in Iraq. We are even starting to bring the troops home, they say. No matter that troop levels are going down a little for now because they were pushed up to a level that the military simply can’t sustain for long. The “surge” was always explained as a temporary increase. Well, its getting to be time for the levels to go back to where they were before the surge. Personally, I’ll be surprised if they get all the way back to the pre-surge level but in any case, nobody is talking about getting out. Don’t worry, we’ll be there for years.

The infamous Move-On “Petraeus Betray Us” ad may have been an easy target for the pro-war crowd but if anybody got past the headline, it did talk about how the Petraeus Report on the war seriously misrepresented the situation. It is this misrepresentation that the Republicans are depending on when they say how great things are in Iraq.

The Republican spin machine has been crowing that the polls show even less support for Congress than for the President. However, what they don’t tell us is that the reason people are mad at Congress is that Congress is not standing up to the President strongly enough. Democratic support has eroded among anti-war voters as it has become clear that Congress is not going to do anything to end the war. And if Congressional Democrats get low marks, Republicans poll even lower.

The Democrats are suffering politically because they are refusing to confront the issues that the voters care about most, the war and impeachment. People don’t just disapprove of the President’s policies, they are hopping mad. With a large majority against the war, Americans just don’t understand why nobody in power will do anything to end it. After all, that is the mandate the voters gave Democrats with their 2006 victory. And they are furious that the Constitution is being shredded in front of their eyes with Congress just sitting there, or even worse, collaborating.

Pelosi’s strategy of ignoring the elephant in the room isn’t working. The Republicans with their mini-filibusters and Bush with his veto have so demoralized the Democrats that they just give in on issue after issue with a whimper.

I truly fear for the Democrats in next year’s election. With Bush dragging down the Republicans it should be a slam dunk. But the Democrats seem to be on the verge of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Left wing voters may just stay home in disgust and the middle of the roaders may decide that at least the Republicans stand for something.

With that prospect, Speaker Pelosi, why not try standing up to Bush for a change? Impeachment hearings could go a long way towards mobilizing the country and putting the President on the defensive.

Give it a try.

December 07, 2007

Impeach ‘em Both!

It does no good to impeach Bush; that just leaves us with Dick Cheney as President (scary thought!). And it does no good to impeach Cheney; that still leaves Bush. Our only hope is to impeach them both together.

I recently participated in a Port Townsend TV show about impeachment. If you’re on cable in Port Townsend look for it on Channel 97. The show is called Future Tense, hosted by Pat Perreault. The beginning of this article is what I said on the show.

According to the Constitution Congress can impeach the “President, Vice President and other Civil officers” (including judges) for “Treason, Bribery and High Crimes and Misdemeanors”.

It is designed to be a mechanism for Congress to restrain the power of the President and remove them from office if they abuse that power. They wanted to distinguish our President from a king, who was not restrained by anything.

Impeachment is the equivalent of an indictment and requires a majority vote in the House of Representatives. Then the Senate holds a trial with conviction requiring a 2/3 majority.

Andrew Johnson was the first President to be impeached, in 1868. At that point he had less than a year left in his term. When Congress passed a law restraining his power, he defied it, and within 8 days was impeached by the House of Representatives. 2 ½ months later the trial was over, with the Senate 1 vote short of the 2/3 needed for conviction.

The only other President to actually be impeached was Bill Clinton, for the Monica Lewinski affair. He was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice. Although he was impeached in the House, there were not nearly enough votes in the Senate to convict him. However the impeachment did weaken his presidency.

President Nixon wasn’t actually impeached because he resigned after the House Judiciary Committee sent Articles of Impeachment to the House floor. However his case is closest to the situation we have today.
He was charged with Obstruction of Justice, Abuse of Power and Contempt of Congress. Sound familiar?

When I first started carrying an impeachment petition on my college campus, nobody thought that there was a chance that Nixon would be impeached, let alone convicted. But the further the process went, the more information came out about what he had done, and the more he resisted Congress, the more public opinion, and more importantly, Congressional opinion turned against him. He finally resigned after Senate Republicans told him that he was sure to be impeached and convicted.

The charges against Nixon included making false statements to investigators, withholding evidence, abuse of power, using federal agencies, to harass and spy on anti-war activists and others on his “enemies list”. (This surveillance led to the passage of the FISA law that Bush violated with his warrantless wiretapping program.)

Nixon was charged with Contempt of Congress for refusing to provide information requested during the impeachment hearings and refusing to comply with Congressional subpoenas.

He also corrupted the political process with a forerunner of Karl Rove’s tactics in what came to be known as “dirty tricks”. Among other things, he instituted a smear campaign against Edmund Muskie, who he thought would be the strongest Democratic Candidate for President in 1972, and ended up knocking him out of the race.

Additional charges related to the “secret war” in Cambodia were discussed in the Judiciary Committee but did not end up being included in the Articles of Impeachment.

And that brings us to George W Bush and Dick Cheney.

The Kucinich impeachment resolution in the House Judiciary Committee only applies to Cheney. As I explained above, that just won’t work. Cheney doesn’t really have power based on being Vice President. The duties of the VP are almost non-existent…breaking the occasional tie vote in the Senate and waiting for the President to die, or get impeached, in which case he becomes President. No, his crimes are in devising policies that break the law and violate the Constitution. He could go right on doing that from behind the scenes even if he did get impeached. Nothing would change.

However, there is nothing to stop the Judiciary Committee from adding Bush to the Impeachment Articles once their hearings show how both of them worked together. They head up the conspiracy that has been systematically shredding the Constitution. Bush has the power of the Presidency and Cheney has been the leader in defining their policies from the war in Iraq to secret surveillance to torturing prisoners to torturing the language to avoid calling it torture. They are an effective team, I’ll give you that.

The Kucinich resolution accuses them of lying about the reasons to go to war in Iraq and the reasons they want to go to war in Iran but that only scratches the surface. Both Nixon and Clinton were accused of lying to cover up their misdeeds in their Articles of Impeachment. Bush and Cheney’s lies, on the other hand, are responsible for a war that has killed and injured thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. They have also endangered our own security and done serious damage to the US military. Of course, Congress went along, when they should have known better, but that does not lessen the guilt of the President and VP.

The war itself is a violation on international laws against wars of aggression, targeting of civilians, torture and the mistreatment of prisoners.

They also violated specific US laws against domestic surveillance and against torture. As I mentioned above, the FISA law was passed to prevent exactly the kind of warrantless wiretapping that Bush ordered. He violated that law and used secrecy as a cover to prevent Congress and the American people from finding out about it. US law also prohibits torture. Bush and Cheney ordered prisoners to be tortured and then denied that that’s what they were doing. As if saying that it wasn’t torture made it any less tortuous.

They violated the Constitution in more ways than I can count. By calling prisoners “enemy combatants” and hiding them in secret prisons on US military bases outside of the US and in third countries, they pretend that they are not regular prisoners and not prisoners of war. They seek to dehumanize them and deny them any rights at all. The Constitution does not make these distinctions. It does not guarantee rights contingent on the whim of the President. It does guarantee Due Process of Law, Habeas Corpus and prohibits Cruel and Unusual Punishment, Period.

They assert powers for the President that don’t exist in the Constitution, or are granted to other branches of government. Signing statements openly declare that portions of laws will not be obeyed. Remember, that is what got Andrew Johnson impeached. Nixon was accused of Contempt of Congress. Bush and Cheney are certainly guilty of that. You would think that Congress would be upset about this, and about their refusal to provide information to Congress. Harriet Miers and other in the administration ignored Congressional subpoenas regarding the US Attorney firings. The Justice Department then declared that they would not enforce Contempt of Congress actions.

Of course, there is the corruption involved in giving huge no bid contracts to their cronies at Halliburton, Bechtel, oil companies and other close associates of the President and Vice President. Worse, there has been little oversight of these contracts. Billions of dollars have been misspent or have simply disappeared. Billions more went missing when they shipped planeloads of cash to Iraq and handed out bundles without any apparent accounting of where it went. How much of that went to buy weapons to use against American troops? Of course the weapons they are buying with that money could be those American weapons given to the Iraqi government that have also disappeared.

Failure to impeach can have serious consequences. Bush and Cheney are establishing all sorts of precedents for giving the President expanded power. If this power grab is left unchallenged, then future Presidents, Democratic and Republican, will be all too happy to hold on to that power. If Congress won’t challenge it now, there is no chance that they ever will.

This is how we lose our freedom, not with a bang but a whimper.

November 23, 2007

Dick Cheney’s Bookshelf: 1984

George Orwell wrote 1984 as a cautionary tale about the dangers of totalitarianism. Dick Cheney seems to think it is a How To manual.

Last year I wrote about Karl Rove’s bookshelf, how he might have used Machiavelli to advantage in managing the political landscape. I also wrote about how the administration might have learned something from Machiavelli when they were contemplating invading Iraq.

Cheney violated most of Machiavelli’s rules, and has not done well, if his objective was a stable and friendly Iraq. It is not clear to me that that is his objective, especially since he warned of the dangers of occupation way back in 1994. If his purpose was the enrichment of his friends at Haliburton and the Oil Companies, he is succeeding very well. Perhaps that is why he is always so upbeat about it all. But I digress.

Dick may have found 1984 more appealing. In any case, he has been working at remaking our society along the principles that Orwell set out. In fact, Cheney may be concerned because the project is, at this point, 23 years behind schedule and far from finished.

First of all, you may be wondering why I am picking on Dick Cheney. After all, he is just the Vice President. Isn’t George Bush the one with power? Well, Bush may have the power in theory but all the evidence is that it is Cheney that drives the ideological buggy in this administration. After all, Cheney has long been a leader of the Neo-Cons. He took a major part in writing The Project for a New American Century that laid the foundation for Bush Administration policies. The evidence is that Cheney and the Neo-Cons picked Bush as their front man and put him in power. Besides, I just can’t see Bush sitting up nights studying Orwell for clues on how to take over the world. That’s more up Cheney’s line. But, as I said, I digress.

Big Brother is Watching You

The most striking feature of the society portrayed in 1984 is the unrelenting surveillance by the government. People understand that their every move and utterance may be monitored. This is no secret. Telescreens are everywhere and it is impossible to escape the posters that proclaim “Big Brother is Watching You”. People have learned to accept it, even to take comfort that the government will protect them from, well, terrorists, if you will.

Cheney has taken that to heart with the warrantless wiretapping and datamining program that has finally succeeded in being able to monitor every phone conversation and every email with far more efficiency than Orwell ever imagined, thanks to modern computer technology ( Furthermore, there are persistent rumors that the government has the technology to listen in on phones (landlines and cellphones), even when they are turned off. It is true if you believe Fox News. ( If such wiretapping is done with a secret warrant it is perfectly legal, but Cheney does not seem to believe that a warrant is necessary in terrorism cases.

Endless War

Orwell understood that there is nothing like war to increase support for the government. And the best kind of war is far away, so you can show it on TV in a heroic sort of way and you don’t have to suffer the consequences of war at home. Any dissent can be branded as unpatriotic, even treasonous. This administration jumped to tell people to “Watch what you say”. “Support the Troops” comes to mean “Support the War” and “Support the Government”. The enemy is portrayed as pure evil, therefore the government must be pure good and above any criticism.

And if war is good, then a war without end is ideal. Cheney knows this and has not been shy to talk about “The Long War” against terrorism. Today the war is in Iraq and Afghanistan but it could just as well be anywhere. That is why Cheney keeps tensions high with Iran, North Korea, and Syria. He is ready to spring into action against any foe. In 1984 and today, there is no danger of peace breaking out.

There has to be an enemy to channel anger and cement support for the government that is going to protect us from that enemy. In 1984, the evil enemy was represented by Emmanuel Goldstein (no relation) and anonymous hordes of enemy soldiers. Today Cheney started with Osama Bin Laden, moved on to Saddam Hussein and now seems to have settled on anonymous hordes of terrorists. The arbitrary nature of these enemies is highlighted by the question in 1984 of whether Goldstein was a real person or was simply invented by the government in order to have an enemy to hate, which is never resolved. I don’t doubt that Bin Laden exists but it is possible that he hasn’t been captured because it is better to have him at large, and more threatening, in order to maintain a state of fear in our own population.

Indefinite Detention

The Thought Police could show up at any moment to haul you away and hold you incommunicado for as long as they like, in 1984. If Dick Cheney thinks you are a terrorist, he can do the same to you. Guantanamo is the poster child for these prisons but there are secret prisons around the world that operate under the same principle. Furthermore, the CIA has been known to kidnap people, in a process known as rendition, and fly them to prison and torture in other countries. If they make a mistake, they won’t admit it. Innocent people will toe the line better if they are afraid of arbitrary arrests.


In 1984, torture is employed to break down the prisoner’s individuality and will to resist. Techniques are primarily psychological, including sensory deprivation, and prey on the prisoner’s fears to make them betray their humanity. The primary purpose is to take away any possibility of hope.

Dick Cheney has adopted this model and implemented it wholesale. The main difference is that he has to deny that it is torture. This semantic difference shows that the public is not yet sufficiently indoctrinated. However, the confirmation of Michael Mukasey as Attorney General, despite his refusal to admit that torture is torture, shows that we are making "progress" in this area.


The ability to say one thing and mean the exact opposite. The No Child Left Behind Act systematically leaves poor children behind by withholding funds from schools that are failing through lack of funds. The Blue Skies initiative rewrites regulations to allow more air pollution. The PATRIOT Act eviscerates the Constitution. Need I go on?

We are at war with Eurasia … We have always been at war with Eastasia

Of course, this administration is an expert at rewriting history to meet the needs of the moment. Bush puts these changes across really well. The prime example is the justification for war in Iraq. They went seamlessly from WMDs to establishing democracy to fighting terrorists. It doesn’t matter that there were no WMDs, there is no democracy there and Al Queda wasn’t there at all until we opened up a space for them. Just like in 1984 the media doesn’t seem to notice the changes and reports the latest justification with a straight face. Unfortunately for Cheney, he doesn’t yet have anybody in the Ministry of Truth who can send inconvenient history down the memory hole to oblivion.

The Proles

The proles were the underclass, who exist below the notice of the government. But they do serve a purpose. It is necessary to have a lower class to do the unpaid work of society. Somebody has to do the unskilled, low paying jobs that keep things going. However, since these jobs don’t require much intellectual capacity, the government consciously kept this class uneducated, so they won’t realize how they are being exploited. As Orwell put it, “Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”

Poor people are similarly ignored today. Additionally in today’s world, people are reluctant to rebel because they are afraid of falling out of the middle class into the lower class. Cheney doesn’t want the government involved in helping out the poor. He would prefer to let them fend for themselves. Hurricane Katrina demonstrated this with a vengeance. FEMA no longer saw its purpose as helping disaster victims, especially if they were poor. Poor communities were damaged by the hurricane but wiped out by a government that placed obstacles in the way of rebuilding because they clearly hoped that those poor people would just go away.

The Neo-Cons believe that rich people deserve to be rich and poor people deserve to be poor. That is why their policies overwhelmingly favor the rich and hurt the poor. The hope is that people will come to believe that the way things are is the only way they could be. That is why Cheney cries about “class warfare” every time somebody criticizes his pro-rich people policies. “Class Warfare” is actually a throwback to Cold War era red-baiting and seems somewhat out of date today. He is just trying to shut down any opposition with a scary sounding label. He doesn’t actually oppose class warfare; he just wants his side (the rich) to win.

I could go on but you get the idea. It is actually kind of spooky how closely the Administration is mirroring techniques outlined in Orwell’s masterpiece.

Hmm… maybe Cheney really does think it is a How To Book.

November 15, 2007

Port Militarization Resistance: Stopping the War by Stopping the Shipments

Washington State’s quiet little capitol city of Olympia has become the center of a new movement to oppose the war by taking real, not symbolic action against it. The Port Militarization Resistance (PMR) movement is explicitly non-violent but anything but passive.

For the last 10 days, protestors have tried to stop the passage of military equipment through the Port of Olympia. They have succeeded in stopping the shipments for over 12 hours twice. ( They realize that actions like this in Olympia alone will not end the war, but they hope to inspire others across the country to take similar actions. The cost to Olympia both to its image and to its pocketbook may prevent that port from being used again by the military. And because PMR has also protested at other ports, it does make it more difficult for the US government to prosecute this illegal and immoral war.

The demonstrators have persisted despite vicious police attacks. Police have repeatedly attacked nonviolent demonstrators with clubs and pepper spray. Many people report police spraying pepper spray directly into people’s eyes at short range. ( I don’t know what the police motivation it, but it seems to be to discourage people from exercising their first amendment rights by inflicting gratuitous pain. It is now not just a story about the war in Iraq but also about the loss of democratic rights here at home.

In these videos, protestors talk about the police brutality at a meeting organized by City Council Member TJ Johnson.

The PMR movement has grown out of efforts of a community coalition composed of students from The Evergreen State College and other community activists opposed to the use of The Port of Olympia, at the southern end of Puget Sound, to fight an immoral war that violates international law. In their own words, “Locally, since the military shipments through Olympia's port began in 2004, the community has fully employed a broad spectrum of democracy's tools - including letter-writing and petitioning public officials in open forums - to oppose the occupation of Iraq and the Port of Olympia profiting from it in any way. In large numbers, we have asked the Port Commissioners to withdraw support for the war and stop shipments to Iraq. Yet, just as the war, the killing, and corporate war-profiteering continue, so do the military shipments through Olympia .” (

As their statement of purpose says, “Port Militarization Resistance is organized to end our community’s complicity in the illegal occupation of Iraq by stopping the U.S. Military’s use of the Port of Olympia.“

In the spring of 2006, the Army decided to use the Port of Olympia to ship equipment to support the deployment of a Stryker Brigade to Iraq from Fort Lewis. When the shipment occurred in May 2006, it was met with demonstrations continuing for days as the Stryker vehicles and other equipment were driven through Olympia and loaded onto the ship. 37 people were arrested but after a year of efforts to convict them, the case against them was shown to be so weak that the remaining charges were dismissed in June 2007. See the Olympia paper, Works in Progress for all the details (

In a related action, in September 2006, 400 people marched peacefully on Indian Island, near Port Townsend, WA, the major West Coast base shipping munitions to Iraq. 37 were arrested there in a peaceful act of civil disobedience. These charges were also dismissed after the defendants spent months in court. This action was partly inspired by the PMR actions in Olympia but it was organized by different people. What it had in common was to focus on the fact that our communities are directly linked to the war by the shipments of war equipment, munitions and supplies.

In March 2007, the Army had another Stryker Brigade ready to ship out of Fort Lewis. Perhaps in an effort to avoid another round of demonstrations, they chose to use the Port of Tacoma this time. If that was indeed their intention, it didn’t work. This time the Olympia activists joined Tacoma activists and others from throughout Western Washington in another round of demonstrations. For over a week, the protests continued on a daily basis. The Army brought in the shipment in the middle of the night and Tacoma brought in a huge contingent of riot police, outnumbering the demonstrators and at times resorting to what appeared to be random violence and arrests. They used teargas and rubber bullets repeatedly against the spirited but non-violent crowds. You Tube videos of the police violence actually helped bring out more protesters. In this video, police tear gassed nonviolent demonstrators without warning ( At one point police even started arresting people just for carrying a backpack or water bottles. The only reason for this that I can think of is that some people had started to bring water and vinegar to wash out the eyes of people who had been gassed.

By now the story wasn’t just about protesting the war, it was about riot cops running riot. Now I know that this is nothing new. At the Port Townsend Film Festival, I got a chance to see the new movie “Chicago 10”, which shows graphically the police attacks on anti-war demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic Convention. (It is scheduled for theatrical release in 2008.) And need I mention the police overreaction to the WTO protests in Seattle? Seattle was sued by mistreated demonstrators and it is costing them plenty. Olympia and Tacoma protestors certainly have grounds for similar suits.

Some people have critized PMRs tactics. Activist Phan Nguyen replies, “I have never stopped a war. I don’t know how it is done… If someone has a better idea, don’t just tell us what to do. Show us how it’s done. ” (

September 26, 2007

Have Taser, will torture....

I have been thinking about Tasers and the way they are being misused. Now somebody has taken the words out of my mouth. Check out this artilcle.

Have Taser, will torture - and call it a 'safe alternative'

by Pierre Tristam | Sep 25 2007 - 9:40am |

It's a morbid game. I Google "Taser," click on the tab that brings up the latest news articles featuring the word, and scroll through the insanity. It never fails. Every search produces case after case of sadism posing as policing.

Here's Friday's crop. In California, cops Tasered a 15-year-old autistic child who left his treatment center and was supposedly going to hurt himself by running into traffic (after walking 15 miles without a hitch). "If that were your son, would you want him Tasered or hit by a car?" a sheriff's spokesman said. If that were my son, I'd want you to stop traffic. Isn't that what cops can do with one hand raised and the other behind their back? Also in California on Friday, a cop Tasered a high school student to break up a fight.

In Warren, Ohio, an officer Tasered a woman because she was being unruly in his cruiser after an arrest. She slipped out of the cruiser to escape the shocks. He Tasered her again until he knocked her unconscious. She was in handcuffs the whole time. In Ocala, four officers are being investigated for Tasering a man who refused to drop his Quran. And, of course, nine days ago at the University of Florida, Andrew Meyer, a 21-year-old student who got long-winded with his questions to Sen. John Kerry during a public forum, was shoved away from the mike by campus police, pushed to the ground, pinned there by six officers (every cop wants a piece of the action) and Tasered. Then he was told he was inciting a riot. If ever there was a case of cops inciting a riot, and deserving one, this was it. Still, they call this a "safe alternative."

But the stun gun, the single most savage addition to police arsenals since the back-alley interrogation, has done the opposite of its intended purpose. Rather than lowering the level of violence necessary to subdue dangerous individuals, the stun-gun has lowered the threshold of excusable police violence by making the use of brutal force seem protective. Briefly shocking someone, the story goes, is better than shooting him. But before that choice between two brutalities, there was a choice between brutality and reason -- between Rambo with a shield and good policing. A cop who'd never dream of unholstering a firearm against a lout or a big-mouthed student isn't hesitating to unholster the stun gun and use it repeatedly under the guise of restoring control.

What a convenient perversion of reality: A 5-second torture session, often repeated many times, often unnecessary, overwhelmingly directed at nonviolent individuals, is called "improving safety." For whom? Earlier this year the Houston Chronicle analyzed the Houston Police Department's use of Tasers since they were introduced two years ago to that same crock fanfare -- "to reduce deadly police shootings." Since then, the paper found, "officers have shot, wounded and killed as many people as before the widespread use of the stun guns." Houston officers used their Tasers more than 1,000 times in the past two years, "but in 95 percent of those cases they were not used to defuse situations in which suspects wielded weapons and deadly force clearly would have been justified."

Tasers, in other words, are instruments of punishment, not safety. They're enabling cops to be executioners rather than law enforcers, not just metaphorically. (By CBS News' count, 70 people have died after being Tasered, including 10 in August. An Amnesty International report had tallied up 70 deaths between 2001 and 2004 alone.)

I was reading a story the other day about Nalini Ghuman, the Welsh music professor who, after teaching 10 years at a university in California, was suddenly barred from re-entering the country 13 months ago and offered a choice: jail or a plane back to Britain. She went back. What struck me about her time in an isolation cell at San Francisco airport is her immediate transformation into an assumed criminal. When this 34-year-old academic was groped, body-searched and interrogated, she was "warned that if she moved," as The New York Times described it, "she would be considered to be attacking her armed female searcher."

How familiar the warning. It's what police agencies down to their school contingents call protocol. The moment a cop appears on the scene and metes out orders, not following them can mean an immediate charge of resisting or battery if you so much as graze the cop's ego. Judging from public comments responding to incidents like the one at the University of Florida, that's what people want from their cops -- uncompromising control. In a cop's presence, your job is to conform, submit, accept that you're guilty until proven otherwise. It's not brutality. It's protocol.

April 21, 2007

Fact Sheet on USS Ohio

The USS Ohio was originally commissioned in 1981, as the first of the Ohio class nuclear submarines, carrying the Trident nuclear missile system. Both the missiles and the submarines are commonly known as Tridents.

When the Ohio was deployed in 1982 to the then new Trident base in Bangor, Washington, on the Hood Canal, it was greeted by protests. Among other actions, a flotilla of boats met the Ohio at Port Townsend as it entered Admiralty Inlet on its way in to Bangor. The Bangor base has been the subject of anti-nuclear protests for 30 years, from the construction of the base to the present. For the past several years demonstrators have nonviolently attempted to block the main gate three times each year: on the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Martin Luther King’s birthday and on Mother’s Day. The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action ( has more information.

The Ohio and three other Trident submarines were scheduled to be retired in 2002. However, they were converted from the SSBN (Submersible Ship Ballistic missile Nuclear powered) configuration into SSGN (Submersible Ship Guided missile Nuclear powered). The Ohio has been on active duty as a SSGN since 2006. As a nuclear powered submarine it is capable of continuous operations for unlimited periods.

The Trident SSGNs, including the Ohio are capable of carrying 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles ( The Tomahawks have a range of 1500 miles and are capable of carrying either nuclear or conventional warheads, although the Navy says that they are not currently deploying the nuclear warheads. The submarines are also able to launch a mini-sub and Navy SEALS commando squads through a modified launch tube. These capabilities make the Trident SSGN submarines ideal vehicles for launching a surprise attack or secret commando raids. They can lie hidden just offshore of whatever country they choose to target and launch their attacks without warning. If the Administration wanted to launch a surprise nuclear attack, they might well choose to use a submarine launched cruise missile that could fly under the radar from an undetected source and hit their target without warning. Such an attack would be extremely dangerous because it could provoke a response either against the US or against another country mistakenly suspected of launching the attack. Futhermore, since it is impossible to tell if a cruise missile is armed with a nuclear or conventional warhead while it is in flight there are endless possibilities for a conventional missile to be mistaken for a nuclear one.
Submarines are used for this kind of mission, because, unlike other kinds of forces, they are largely invisible. Covert missions are used to carry out policies without the knowledge or consent of the American people.

From Wikipedia (
The Ohio class submarines were specifically designed for extended deterrence patrols. Each submarine is complemented by two crews, Blue and Gold, with each crew operating on a 100-day interval. To decrease the time in port for crew turnover and replenishment, three large logistics hatches are fitted to provide large diameter resupply and repair openings. These hatches allow sailors to rapidly transfer supply pallets, equipment replacement modules and machinery components, significantly reducing the time required for replenishment and maintenance. The class design allows the vessel to operate for 15+ years between overhauls. The ships are purported to be as stealthy at 20 knots (their cruising speed) as previous subs were at a dead crawl of 6 knots, although exact information remains classified.

The Ohio has just returned from Hawaii, where they practiced a “forward crew swap” in which they complete the transfer from one crew to the other without returning to their home base in Bangor. This is the first forward crew swap in 20 years. The plan is to make these crew swaps in Guam, so the Ohio can remain at sea longer, only returning to Bangor about once a year.

According to the Navy: (
While the gold crew is in Hawaii for this crew swap, they will be going through a qualification process, testing the crew’s and the submarines ability to conduct different types of special operations forces (SOF) operations.

The cruise missiles will be loaded at Naval Magazine Indian Island, near Port Townsend.
Indian Island is the largest munitions depot on the West Coast, supplying weapons for Iraq and operations in the Pacific Ocean.

Recent protests at Indian Island include a weekly vigil outside the gates and a demonstration on September 23, 2006, when 500 people marched on the base and 37 were arrested. Their charges were reduced from a misdemeanor Disorderly Conduct, carrying a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail, to an infraction Pedestrian on Roadway, carrying a penalty of $76. The case has not yet been decided with a hearing scheduled May 29 in Jefferson County District Court on a motion to dismiss the charges.

For more information: Liz Rivera Goldstein 360-379-9094

January 21, 2007

The Protest That Never Shows Up?

I confess, I am baffled by Danny Westneat’s Sunday column in the Seattle Times, “The Protest That Never Shows Up”. The column claims that the antiwar movement has petered out. This is based on dwindling attendance at the Green Lake vigil, which continued every week for over 4 years. However, he cites, and then ignores several signs of a very active and successful peace movement.

As he says, nearly 70% of the American people now oppose this war. This opposition is generally credited with the Democratic victory in November, based on opinion polls asking voters the reasons behind their votes. Congress is now in the middle of a vigorous debate, not on whether to oppose the Bush policy, but how best to oppose it. And, as Mr. Westneat mentions, there will be a massive protest in Washington, DC next weekend.

If this isn’t a peace movement, what is? Maybe he needs more evidence. Westneat’s article is on the front of the Local News section. On page B2, opposite the obituaries, there is an article about the Citizen’s Hearing on the Legality of the Iraq War, attended by hundreds of people in Tacoma this weekend. Two days of testimony laid out the legal case against the war. Lt. Ehren Watada won’t be able to present the reasons he believes the war is illegal, and thus the order he disobeyed to deploy to Iraq was unlawful, at his Court Martial. Lt. Watada is far from the only military resister, although the consequences for actions such as his in the military can be severe. He faces 6 years in prison for his stand. It is notable that a majority of the military now believe that the troops should come home.

Part of the reason for Westneat’s attitude may be the lack of coverage of antiwar activity. He quotes one person saying, “the press wouldn’t report it even if its the biggest protest in the history of the world.” That is one reason more people are looking to alternative sources for news. Past demonstrations have received very little coverage. What coverage there has been in the mainstream media, including the Seattle Times, tends to bury the coverage, dismiss them as marginal and understate the numbers of people involved.

The Times didn’t mention it, so far as I can tell, but there will also be a march in Seattle, and lots of other communities on January 27. And in DC, they will follow up with constituent visits to every Congressional office to continue the lobbying against the war. The Voters Pledge for Peace committed voters to vote only for antiwar candidates. The Declaration of Peace campaign lobbied Congress to end the war leading up to civil disobedience in September in communities across the country. Here in Western Washington, Bellingham activists were arrested in Representative Rick Larsen’s office. This was part of the pressure that caused Larsen to change his position. He now advocates, “unconditional partial withdrawal of U.S. military from Iraq.” Near Port Townsend, 500 people marched on the Indian Island Naval Base, which ships many of the munitions used in Iraq, and 37 were arrested. They hope to put the war on trial at their trial. On Saturday, at Town Hall in Seattle international law expert, John Burroughs spoke in support of defendants charged with civil disobedience at the Bangor Trident nuclear submarine base. Those demonstrations by the Ground Zero Center have continued on a regular basis since the base construction began 30 years ago.

Organizations such as United for Peace and Justice, Code Pink, Move On, Democracy for America, Working Assets, and many others are mounting sophisticated E-mail campaigns against the war. That is another part of the reason Congress is now considering taking action. As Mr. Westneat says, “On paper, this war’s a mistake and the troops should start coming home.” They should. Unfortunately, those in power have yet to be convinced. The President is obstinate and even Democrats in Congress are still reluctant to take real action. The antiwar movement is now working hard to convince them that we need to bring the troops home, now.