Greener Times

Promoting a sustainable society…one day at a time.

GT for December 8 – 14

Posted by Trey Smith on December 7, 2008

Greener Times for the Week of December 1 – 7

Volume 3   No. 34

an e-publication for Greens anywhere and everywhere
Trey Smith – Publisher/Editor
Tom Herring, Duff Badgley & Maryrose Asher – Columnists

In This Week’s Issue
* McKinney Speech Prepared for 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
* Thoughts By the Way: Lose, Lose, Lose
* Our Climate Crisis:
* Un-Spinning the Spin: Time to Re-Think the “Protest Industry”, Part I
* This Week in History
* Letters to the Editor
* Pencil Shavings: October Surprise?
* News You May Have Missed

McKinney Speech Prepared for 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Note: McKinney planned to deliver this speech in person, but was not allowed to leave the country for non-disclosed reasons.

Thank you to our hosts for inviting me to participate in this most important and timely First Arab-International Congregation for the Right of Return. Words are an insufficient expression of my appreciation for being remembered as one willing to stand for justice in Washington, D.C., even in the face of tremendously difficult pressures.

Former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir, thank you for including me in the Malaysian Peace Organisation’s monumental effort to criminalize war, to show the horrors of the treatment of innocent individuals during the war against and occupation of Iraq by the militaries and their corporate contractors of Britain, Israel, and the United States. Thank you for standing up to huge international economic forces trying to dominate your country and showing an impressionable woman like me that it is possible to stand up to “the big boys” and win. And thank you for your efforts to bring war criminal, torturer, decimator of the United States Constitution, the George W. Bush Administration, to justice in international litigation.

Delegates and participants, I must declare that at a time when scientists agree that the climate of the earth is changing in unpredictable and possibly calamitous ways, such that the future of humankind hangs in the balance, it is unconscionable that we have to dedicate this time to and focus our energies on policies that represent a blatant and utter disregard for human rights and self-determination and that represent in many respects, a denial of human life, itself.

In the same year as Palestinians endured a series of massacres and expulsions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights became international law. And while the United Nations is proud that the Declaration was flown into Outer Space just a few days ago on the Space Shuttle, if one were to read it and then land in the Middle East, I think it would be clear that Palestine is the place that the Universal Declaration forgot.

Sadly, both the spirit of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights and the noblest ideals of the United Nations are broken. This has occurred in large measure due to policies that emanate from Washington, D.C. If we want to change those policies, and I do believe that we can, then we have to change the underlying values of those who become Washington’s policy makers. In other words, we must launch the necessary movement that puts people in office who share our values.

We need to do this now more than ever because, sadly, Palestine is not Washington’s only victim. Enshrined in the Universal Declaration is the dignity of humankind and the responsibility of states to protect that dignity. Yet, the underlying contradictions between its words and what has become standard international practice lay exposed to the world this year when then-United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour proclaimed:

“In the course of this year, unprecedented efforts must be made to ensure that every person in the world can rely on just laws for his or her protection. In advancing all human rights for all, we will move towards the greatest fulfillment of human potential, a promise which is at the heart of the Universal Declaration.”

How insulting it was to hear those words coming from her, for those of us who know, because it was she who, as Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, willfully participated in the cover-up of an act of terror that resulted in the assassination of two democratically- elected Presidents and that unleashed a torrent of murder and bloodletting in which one million souls were vanquished. That sad episode in human history has become known as the Rwanda Genocide. And shockingly, after the cover-up, Louise Arbour was rewarded with the highest position on the planet, in charge of Human Rights.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that justice delayed is justice denied. And 60 years is too long to wait for justice. The Palestinian people deserve respected self-determination, protected human rights, justice, and above all, peace.

On the night before his murder, Dr. King announced that he was happy to be living at the end of the 20th Century where, all over the world, men and women were struggling to be free.

Today, we can touch and feel the results of those cries, on the African Continent where apartheid no longer exists as a fact of law. A concerted, uncompromising domestic and international effort led to its demise.

And in Latin America, the shackles of U.S. domination have been broken. In a series of unprecedented peaceful, people-powered revolutions, voters in Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and most recently Paraguay used the power of the political process to materially change their countries’ leadership and policy orientation toward the United States. Americans, accustomed to the Monroe Doctrine which proclaimed U.S. suzerainty over all politics in the Western Hemisphere, must now think the unthinkable given what has occurred in the last decade.

Voters in Cote d’Ivoire, Haiti, Spain, and India also took matters clearly in their hands to make “a clean break” from policies that were an affront to the interests of the majority of the people in those countries.

In country after country, against tremendous odds, people stood up and took their fates in their hands. They did what Mario Savio, in the 1960s, asked people in the United States to do. These people-powered, peaceful revolutions saw individuals put their bodies against the levers and the gears and the wheels of the U.S. imperial machine and they said to the owners if you don’t stop it, we will. And I know that people of conscience inside my country can do it, too: especially now that the engines of imperial oppression are running out of gas.

Even though the Democratic Party, at the Convention that nominated Barack Obama, denied its microphone to Former President Jimmy Carter because of his views on Palestine, let me make it clear that Former President Carter is not the only person inside the United States who believes that peace with justice is possible in Palestine.

Inside the United States, millions who are not of Arab descent, disagree vehemently with the policy of our government to provide the military and civilian hardware that snuffs out innocent human life that is also Arab.

Millions of Americans do not pray to Allah, but recognize that it is an inalienable right of those who do to live and pray in peace wherever they are-including inside the United States.

Even though their opportunities are severely limited, there are millions of people inside the United States struggling to express themselves on all of these issues, but whose efforts are stymied by a political process that robs them of any opportunity to be heard.

And then there are the former elected officials who spoke out for what was right, for universal application of the Universal Declaration, and who were roundly condemned and put out of office as a result. My father is one such politician, punished-kicked out of office-because of the views of his daughter.

In my case, I dared to raise my voice in support of the World Conference Against Racism and against the sieges of Ramallah, Jenin, and the Church of the Nativity. I raised my voice against the religious profiling in my country that targets innocent Muslims and Arabs for harassment, imprisonment, financial ruin, or worse. Yes, I have felt the sting of the special interests since my entry onto the national stage when, in my very first Congressional campaign, I refused to sign a pledge committing that I would vote to maintain the military superiority of Israel over its neighbors, and that Jerusalem should be its capital city. Other commitments were on that pledge as well, like continued financial assistance to Israel at agreed upon levels.

As a result of my refusal to make such a commitment, and just like the old slave woman, Sojourner Truth, who bared her back and showed the scars from the lashes meted out to her by her slave master, I too, bear scars from the lashes of public humiliation meted out to me by the special interests in Washington, D.C. because of my refusal to toe the line on Israel policy. This “line” is the policy accepted by both the Democratic and Republican Party leadership and why they could cooperate so well to coordinate my ouster from Congress. But I have survived because I come from the strongest stock of Africans, stolen then enslaved, and yet my people survived. I know how to never give up, give in, or give out. And I also know how to learn a good political lesson. And one lesson I’ve learned is that the treatment accorded to me pales in comparison to what Palestinian victims still living in refugee camps face every day of their lives.

The treatment accorded to me pales in comparison to the fact that human life is at stake if the just-released International Atomic Energy Agency report is true when it writes that “The only explanation for the presence of these modified uranium particles is that they were contained in the missiles dropped from the Israeli planes.” What are the health effects of these weapons, what role did the U.S. military play in providing them or the technology that underlies them, why is there such silence on this, and most fundamentally, what is going on in this part of the world that international law has forgotten?

Clearly, not only the faces of U.S. politicians must change; we must change their values, too. We, in the United States, must utilize our votes to effect the same kind of people-powered change in the United States as has been done in all those other countries. And now, with more people than ever inside the United States actually paying attention to politics, this is our moment; we must seize this time. We must become the leaders we are looking for and get people who share our values elected to Congress and the White House.

Now, I hope you believe me when I say to you that this is not rocket science. I have learned politics from its best players. And I say to you that even with the fallabilities of the U.S. system, it is possible for us to do more than vote for a slogan of change, we can actually have it. But if we fail to seize this moment, we will continue to get what we’ve always been given: handpicked leaders who don’t truly represent us.

With the kind of U.S. weapons that are being used in this part of the world, from white phosphorus to depleted uranium, from cluster bombs to bunker busting bombs, nothing less than the soul of my country is at stake. But for the world, it is the fate of humankind that is at stake.

The people in my country just invested their hopes for a better world and a better government in their votes for President-elect Obama. However, during an unprecedented two year Presidential campaign, the exact kind of change we are to get was never fully defined. Therefore, we the people of the United States must act now with boldness and confidence. We can set the stage for the kind of change that reflects our values.

Now is not the time for timidity. The U.S. economy is in shambles, unemployment and health insecurity are soaring, half of our young people do not even graduate from high school; college is unaffordable. The middle class that was invested in the stock market is seeing their life savings stripped from them by the hour. What we are witnessing is the pauperization of a country, in much the same way that Russia was pauperized after the fall of the Soviet Union. There are clear winners and the losers all know who they are. The attentive public in the United States is growing because of these conditions. Now is the time for our values to rise because people in the United States are now willing to listen.

So the question really is, “Which way, America?”

Today we uplift the humanity of the Palestinian people. And what I am recommending is the creation of a political movement inside my country that will constitute a surgical strike for global justice. This gathering is the equivalent of us stepping to the microphone to be heard.

We don’t have to lose because we have commitment to the people.

And we don’t have to lose because we refuse to compromise our core values.

We don’t have to lose because we seek peace with justice and diplomacy over war.

We don’t have to lose.

By committing to do some things we’ve never done before I’m certain that we can also have some things we’ve never had before.

I return to the U.S. committed to do my part to make our dream come true.

Thank you.

Thoughts By the Way: Lose, Lose, Lose
Tom Herring is a Community Council member on Vashon Island. Catch more of Tom’s thoughts on his blog.

The culmination of one hundred years of America’s love affair with cars is a crunch that cannot be eased. Before now, the underlying weakness of an economy based so largely on consumption, and consumption of cars in particular, has been painted over by faith in that economy. It was the greatest in the world. But with the meltdown of its banks, all sorts of feeblenesses have appeared, and that of the auto industry may be the most serious. Wall Street has yanked the seat covers off, the CEO’s are iced-in wooly mammoths, and the health rip-off system has eaten profit like rust eats steel. Just desperate words there; you maybe understand better than I why bailing out the automakers will fail. But it will fail. So much for the obvious, now here is some irony: with the probable demise of the auto industry we are in the process of losing one of the two or three major causes of climate change. Small matter however, as the demise will come too late for a climate that has already passed the threshold of stability. And here is the real loss: no matter the terms of the bailout, workers will lose their jobs and retirements. It is only a matter of time.

A Dodge in every garage; see the USA in a Chevrolet; Patsy Cline loves the boy and his “little red coupe” Hanky panky in the back of the Yellow Rolls-Royce. Well, menwomen, Car Culture has shot itself in the foot. While the industry and its workers go under, the public will ponder with wounded heart the threat of losing those shiny new wheels. It’s as if we do not wish to, or would not be able to, jilt the automobile. Help in reaching this stage of inner knowledge is to be found in Mark Foster’s 2003 book, “A Nation on Wheels”. Here in lucid, vivid detail is the anatomy of a marriage to the automobile. So vivid is his portrayal of a family who had lost their savings, a job, furniture, yet clung to their car, that it makes one cringe. The flight to the suburbs – not on shank’s mare – that was in the family car. Whereas rail lines radiating from the city had left vast sectors untouched by human bulldozer, the automobile drove anywhere. And the “marriage” went beyond simple transport: the automobile was freedom.

Until now. The culture that was already turning sour on the freeway and in the parking lot will become a fatal addiction for auto consumers and a betrayal of auto workers. A wise and forceful government would step in with massive civic reorganization to reduce commutes, and massive investment in green industry for the iron belt. Ralph Nader writes in Palestine Chronicle that the bailout should include firing the incumbents and giving the public shares in the newly public-owned industry. Good shot, Ralph, a must-read. Jesse Hagopian puts the bailout in the context of schools, another must-read.

There is no time to lose. Communities yet spared have to restructure for mutual support and reduced consumption. Iron belt cities, what can one in ignorance say to them? With plenty of luck those workers will get a pittance. Perhaps the best others can do for them would be the restructure, which might generate some cushion somehow.

Our Climate Crisis:
Duff Badgley is the leader of the One Earth Climate Action Group and was a candidate for Governor as a Green in 2008. He can be reached at 206-283-0621.

Duff is taking this week off.

Un-Spinning the Spin: Time to Re-Think the “Protest Industry”, Part I
Maryrose Asher is a former Chair of the Green Party of Washington State and a tireless activist of many causes.

Having read David Sirota’s latest book, “The Uprising,” I would like to share some of his observations in the hope of starting a discussion on how to build a cohesive, long-term movement.

Sirota states that there are presently two antiwar movements in place, or at least there was before the election of Barack Obama: the Protest Industry and the Players.

Listed among the Protest Industry would be groups such as CodePink, the Backbone Campaign, United for Peace and Justice, and ANSWER, as well as Internet petitioners such as MoveOn.

Realizing the necessity to get media coverage in this age of “dumbing down and tarting up,” to use a quote from Dan Rathers, the Protest Industry has resorted to visual spectacles, such as marches, street theater, and boycotts, in the hope of getting their message across. Sirota, however, believes this has done the opposite.

While the stunts are more likely to get television coverage, they are also more likely to get precisely the kind of circus-freak-show treatment that defeats the underlying purpose of the event. If the goal is getting as many Americans as possible to join the uprising to end the war; then achieving that objective is not helped by garnering television coverage that depicts marches, and thus the cause, as totally fringe and, therefore, culturally repellent to Middle America.

Sirota goes on to claim that the antiwar movement actually helped Nixon get elected in 1968 and again in 1972 and uses this passage from the Salon.com 5/14/03 article by Michelle Goldberg, titled “The antiwar movement prepares to escalate:”

“Berman, author of the recent book “Terror and Liberalism,” is a veteran of the ’60s peace movement and an opponent of the Bush administration, but he believes no good can come of war opponents rampaging through the streets. “This is just going to create a real crisis within the country,” he says. “It’s a completely destructive thing to do.”

“He’s done it, and now believes that the days of rage he participated in during the ’60s helped prolong the Vietnam War. “At the time I did some of that myself and thought it was doing good, but now it’s apparent to me that all that stuff just fell into a trap laid by Richard Nixon,” he says. “That kind of stuff allowed Nixon to win in 1968 and again in 1972, and a Democratic president would surely have withdrawn sooner. And so in effect, although it’s painful to say so, I think that kind of stuff had the effect of prolonging the war. It played into Nixon’s hands. There were famous scenes where Nixon specifically ordered that his entourage drive through streets where he knew he’d be attacked by demonstrators because he wanted the right scenes to appear on TV. He presented it to the public: You had to choose between Richard Nixon or some long-haired marijuana-smoking lunatic communist. Guess what. The public chose Nixon.”

The other group Sirota calls the Players. He uses as an example an organization called Americans Against Escalation in Iraq (AAEI) who believe the opposite of the Protest Industry. They believe the only way to effect change is to play “inside Washington and for Washington.” They will also organize activities outside of Washington, i.e. $12 million on a nationwide “Iraq Summer” campaign, to make it appear as if there is an ongoing grassroots movement. However, in the lingo of lobbyists, these are knowns as “astroturf” activities that only give the illusion of delivering real election-threatening pressure by the antiwar movement. In a leaked planning document, the goal of AAEI was admittedly only to garner immediate and short-term media attention and not do the hard work of ongoing grassroots organizing. The Players continue to funnel money into organizations such as AAEI for PR stunts and television ads targeting the Washington, DC, television audience. As Sirota states, “They believe, in short, that if a war can be started because of Washington’s obsession with television, then it can be ended because of that same obsession, too.”

However, while the Players and the Protest Industry seem to be leading the antiwar movement, supposedly pressuring politicians in both parties, the reality is quite different. Sirota reveals that about half of AAEI’s employess and the firms two principals were staffers for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). Since the 2006 election, the Democrats have controlled both the House and the Senate and, subsequently, the “power of the purse” but did not use that power to end war by cutting off funds despite the mandate they were given by their constituents.

Instead of forcing Democrats to use their constitutional power to stop the war, both the Players and the Protest Industry focused on attacking pro-war Republicans politicians up for reelection in 2008. No money or resources went into third parties or individual campaigns in order to go after those Democrats who lacked the backbone to stop the war. In fact, I venture to say both the Players and the Protest Industry did everything possible to work against any real opposition to the Democrats running for office, even if these legislators had continued to vote to fund the war.

Cont’d in next edition of Greener Times.

This Week in History
This Week in History, published by Carl Bunin and edited by Al Frank, is a collection designed to help us appreciate the fact that we are part of a rich history advocating peace and social justice. While the entries often focus on large and dramatic events there are so many smaller things done everyday to promote peace and justice. Find more info at http://www.peacebuttons.info/E-News/thisweek.htm.

December 8, 1941: Jeanette Rankin (R-Montana), the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress in 1916, cast the only vote opposing declaration of war against Japan, despite their attack on Pearl Harbor the previous day. She had also voted against the U.S. entering the first world war, then hopefully called the war to end all wars.

December 10, 1948: The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Following this historic act the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and “to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories.” Since 1950 the anniversary of the declaration has been known as Human Rights Day.

December 13, 2001: In Belgium, 80,000 labor and anti-globalization activists began several days of protests at a European Union summit conference in Brussels. Despite a massive police presence, and unlike other similar meetings, events remained peaceful.

Letters to the Editor
Got something you want to get off your chest? Did an article in a previous edition of Greener Times make you madder than a hornet or cause you to stand up to say, “Right on!”? Well, this space is reserved each week for your comments and opinions.

No letters received.

Pencil Shavings: October Surprise?
Pencil Shavings appears in this space most weeks and solely represents the opinions of the publisher. If you’d like to read more of Trey’s ruminations, visit The Rambling Taoist.

Almost everyone on the Left — including yours truly — expected an October Surprise from Team Bush as a way to salvage the White House for the GOP. For months, I’ve been reading articles that warned an attack on Iran was imminent or a new terrorist threat would surface or Bush would declare marshal law so he could remain in power. Yet, as October came and went, no October Surprise came to the fore…or did it?

Maryrose Asher and I have discussed the possibility that the Wall Street meltdown was the surprise we never expected. Think about this for a moment. The housing bubble had already collapsed earlier this year and several big name economic players were already teetering on insolvency. We’ve been losing jobs left and right for years now and the war budget has been taking a toll on our economy for a good long time.

So, why did all of this come to a head in October 2008? Why did it come at a time when, if the McCain ticket had any hopes of catching up in the polls, this “crisis” ensured he would be unable to gain any traction? Why did all these complex variables come to a head less than 30 days before Election Day?

It could have just been kismet or karma. That’s what all the talking heads keep telling us. The other possibility is that the powers-that-be decided that Barack Obama would be a better tool than John McCain.

One must give this notion serious consideration as we watch Obama put together a Bill Clinton-like administration. Hopefully, you haven’t forgotten that Mr. Bill was no friend of the progressive community. His tenure produced the evisceration of welfare, NAFTA,”war” in the former Yugoslavia, the incessant bombing of Iraq, a miserable environmental record and a botched effort to provide universal health coverage to all Americans.

Maybe we got an October Surprise after all. It was so surprising that we simply didn’t recognize it for what it was. Surprised?

News You May Have Missed

Honeymoans From the Left
A month after he won the White House Barack Obama is drawing a chorus of approval from conservatives who spent most of this year denouncing him as a man of the extreme left. “Reassuring”, says Karl Rove, of Obama’s cabinet selections. Max Boot, a rabid right-wing commentator, confesses, “I am gobsmacked by these appointments, most of which could just as easily have come from a President McCain.” In Murdoch’s Weekly Standard, mouthpiece of the neocons, Michael Goldfarb reviewed Obama’s appointments and declared that he sees “nothing that represents a drastic change in how Washington does business. The expectation is that Obama is set to continue the course set by Bush in his second term.” But on the liberal-left end of the spectrum, where Obama kindled extraordinary levels of enthusiasm throughout his campaign, the mood is swiftly swinging to dismay and bitterness…

Mumbai, Media Manipulation, & U.S. Subterfuge
As usual the corporate news media’s coverage of the recent “terrorist” carnage in Mumbai, India was and is sorely lacking in substance, perspective, detail, and critical analysis. The corporate media and its proxies have even conveniently referred to those horrific events in Mumbai, as India’s so called “9/11,” which is absurd and grossly misleading. India experienced its corporate so-called 9/11 long before the United States, when on December 3, 1984, a pesticide plant of the U.S. chemical company Union Carbide in Bhopal, India, released the lethal methyl isocyanate gas, killing over three thousand people immediately, and more than eight thousand additional persons within the following two weeks…

Obama Doesn’t Plan to End the Iraq Occupation
The New York Times is reporting about an “apparent evolution” in president-elect Barack Obama’s thinking on Iraq, citing his recent statements about his plan to keep a “residual force” in the country and his pledge to “listen to the recommendations of my commanders” as Obama prepares to assume actual command of US forces. “At the Pentagon and the military headquarters in Iraq, the response to the statements this week from Mr. Obama and his national security team has been akin to the senior officer corps’ letting out its collective breath,” the Times reported. “[T]he words sounded to them like the new president would take a measured approach on the question of troop levels.” The reality is there is no “evolution.”…

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