In this issue, we have a diverse group of articles, commentaries and informative ideas that can be researched and taken to the next level, activism.
We have spotlighted three occupations that are continuing, as many are, regardless of the police crackdown and the disruption of their camps. Here is another way to get involved in your local occupation, or start your own. The object of the demonstration at the Monsanto stockholders’ meeting was the whole issue of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s). Some states are pursuing a ballot issue to have GMO’s labeled. California is one of the states, so if you reside there, go to http://organicconsumersfund.org/label/ to see how you can get involved.
We strive to publish original material, like the Drones article; the interview with a labor activist; Darvin Bentlage’s article on the dilemma of family farmers when faced with Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s), which are destroying rural life.
We were happy to receive an article by one of Kenya’s Greens on Wangari Maathai and the activism that has sprung from the Green Belt Movement. On a lighter note we have a ‘ditty’ from our resident poet to give you a chuckle.
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The Print Collective
Phil Ardery, Jr
Drones and the Wars on “Terrorism”
by Marge Van Cleef
What are drones? They are unmanned aerial vehicles, some armed with missiles and others used for surveillance. They fly very high, silently, give no warning. In fact they are flying over our skies here in the US. They are being used in at least 6 countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Israel, and for surveillance in the US. A drone arms race is well underway with more than 40 countries developing, testing, and training for their use, including China, India, and Russia.
Drones are manufactured by big military contractors, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Textron, Boeing, Honeywell, Raytheon and others. They cost $6.5 million for Patrol Predator, used at borders in Afghanistan and Arizona, and $8 million for the Reaper, which carries 14 missiles.
Both the CIA and FBI are the agencies given the responsibility of overseeing the drone program. They are being tested and flown from many bases, including Creech AFB, in Nevada, and Hancock Airfield in New York State, and other US bases and airfields. The military see drones as “cheaper and cleaner” war making -- out of sight and out of mind. No pilot or crew is at risk of being killed or captured if the drone crashes or is shot down.
In Pakistan at least 2292 people since 2004 have been killed with 32% or more being civilian deaths. This is not counting the deaths in other countries from drone attacks. The lack of recourse for the families of innocent civilians killed by drone strikes demonstrates the impunity with which the US uses this technology. They have become weapons of choice, and as Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said, “The only game in town.”
Philadelphia drone protestors at a monthly “Death Walk”
Are they legal? Not according to international law. They are indiscriminate weapons, killing most people in the area of the targeted person. Families live in fear of the bright specks that appear to hover in the sky overhead, and without any warning they drop their loaded missiles. Such killings, especially of innocent civilians, fuel revenge and more “terrorism.”
The legal justification for their use in Afghanistan and Pakistan is to destroy Al Qaeda and Taliban militants, which becomes justification for their use in other countries. While the US carries on wars and occupations, in Iraq and Afghanistan, under the guise of promoting democracy and the rule of law, the use of unmanned drones undermines the rule of law.
Organize in your community; find out what kind of drone activity is going on -- building, testing, and flying – and let the public know. In Philadelphia we have a monthly “Death Walk” with leaflets alerting downtown shoppers to the illegal and deadly use of drones.
Resources for further reading: “Wired for War” by Peter Singer 2009; Global
Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space; Human
Rights Watch; Reprieve
(legal group); ACLU;
Fellowship of Reconciliation – UK;
the Drone Campaign Network;
Upstate New York Drone Action;
United Against Drones;
Women Say NO to War;
Voices for Creative Nonviolence;
(Marge Van Cleef has been actively protesting wars and weapons of war since 1979. She was one of the organizers of the “Stop Trident Campaign” in Connecticut, where all of the 18 Trident nuclear submarines were built by General Dynamics/Electric Boat Division. She is an educator and a member of the Bryn Mawr Peace Coalition and Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom.)
Whose Future Is It?
by Darvin Bentlage
Missouri is now the home of more than 500 known Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) of 1,000 or more animal units.
CAFOs are enormous barns that hold large numbers of animals (hogs or chickens) tightly compacted together. These animals never see the light of day and must be fed great amounts of antibiotics just to keep them alive. The waste manure from these facilities is in such large quantities that it is held in lagoons near the barns. The stench from these facilities is horrible and far reaching. The waste from the lagoons gravitates toward the ground water, often poisoning wells which are used for drinking water.
Missouri farmer and activist Darvin Bentlage at work. Bulls on the Bentlage farm.
Besides the 500 known CAFOs in Missouri there are numbers of non-permitted Animal feeding Operations of 999 or less animal units. Animal Units are how livestock is defined and is related to the amount of manure each species produces. While the large CAFOs are poorly regulated due to the EPA’s inability to properly investigate or enforce existing regulations, the small and medium Animal Feeding Operations pose an added risk. The accumulative effects of smaller operations with little accountability all on the same watershed as the large facilities is a recipe for environmental disaster.
Continue reading Whose Future Is It? here.
Missouri residents: Make your voices heard to local officials: The Missouri Rural Crisis
Center tells you how.
Wangari Maathai — Her Legacy for Kenya's Young Greens
By Douglas Arege
(Editors' Note: Professor Wangari Maathai's founding of the Green Belt Movement in 1977
would lead not only to a Nobel Peace Prize for herself, but also to ever stronger
ecological and political initiatives by Kenya's young people. Professor Maathai died in
September 2011. Douglas Arege, currently secretary general of
Kenya Young Greens,
shares his remembrance and thoughts about her legacy.)
I got my lucky chance to identify with Wangari Maathai when I took an online course in 2004 from Lunds University on Introduction to Cleaner Production and Sustainable Development. As part of the course, we were supposed to name our mentors. I named Wangari Maathai, not knowing that she was in for bigger things.
Professor Wangari Maathai and Kefa Abongo, a student union leader, plant a tree for peace at the University of Nairobi hostels.
Never have I been so excited as when I heard that the Nobel Committee had chosen my heroine as the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2004. Since then, my eyes were on Wangari and I promised myself to work harder in my environmental activism. That year I led fellow students in a campus clean up and planted trees gotten from the Green Belt Movement in a small forest within our Campus hostels.
Douglas Arege, with seedlings from his nursery. Arege says these have now grown into trees ready to produce fruit.
Every time I go back to my alma mater I take a stroll and feel proud of this achievement. Once on campus I made sneering remarks against the then President Moi about how clueless he was about the impact of allocating forests to cronies and friends. State agents were always on campus, and you would not know a student apart from a state agent. Any careless remark would land you in problems. I came face to face with an agent who scared me to the bone. He threatened to deal with me unless I shut up. Shivering, I pleaded and got lost from the scene of a demonstration that was against grabbing of Karura forest. Then I knew too well there was a price to pay, and Wangari Maathai cared to pay any price to protect the environment, with her life! My personal resolve was to continue advocacy through action! I plant trees!
Continue reading Arege’s article here.
The Occupy Movement and Labor
Paul Pechter, a long time labor activist, became active in his union in San Diego in 1980 and has since participated as a rank and file activist, a chair of education committees responsible for the production and distribution of local union newsletters, an elected member of his local bargaining committee, an elected business agent, and a hired field representative. Here he is interviewed by Elizabeth Fattah from the Green Politics Print Collective.
EF: How do you think the Occupy Movement has influenced Labor Unions?
PP: The Occupy Movement has, in effect, replaced the Labor movement as the preeminent mass organization exposing and resisting class domination and placing the class struggle back at top of the agenda within the movement toward fundamental social change. Labor held that position until a degree of post world war II economic prosperity was used by Capital to tame and co-opt Labor. Class struggle unionism was transformed into business unionism worshipping at the altar of ‘peace and per capita’ and partnering with Capital to preserve a system driven by the exploitation of labor. Of course this transformation did not resolve class antagonisms caused by this exploitation, they continued unabated. Instead, it succeeded in splintering Labor between the interests of its bureaucratic leaders and its rank and file members, and within the rank and file between higher and lower paid workers and between organized and unorganized workers. These widening divisions led to downward spiral, draining Labor of its power so clearly indicated by the fact that today it represents less than 8% of private sector workers.
On the other hand the Occupy Movement probably has little chance of realizing its potential without active and massive participation from workers, both organized and unorganized. In this sense it can be said Labor and Occupy are interdependent, with each playing a significant role in determining the future of the other.
EF: Occupy Oakland called for a general strike in November for the west coast to shut down ports from Washington State to California. This was a controversial tactic by Occupy Oakland with Union leadership complaining that they were not informed by the Occupiers in advance and the occupiers saying that the rank and file union members supported the action.
PP: Mistakes were probably made but they are secondary. Primarily, Occupy was correct by boldly taking up support of ILWU union workers in Longview, Washington in their struggle against grain terminal operator EGT. [Note: A final EGT settlement acknowledged Occupy’s positive role – see http://www.occupytheegt.org ] They also vocally supported unorganized port truck drivers who have major grievances and are beginning to self-organize. The company has refused to hire ILWU members and is now in a drawn-out battle that could shape the future of the 4,000 union members who work the Pacific Northwest’s grain elevators. The ILWU leadership publically rejected closing ports in part because they are under court orders not to do so and faced stiff and damaging court fines if they disobeyed. The long term effect of this incident on the emerging bond between the two movements remains to be seen. But as of this writing there have been a series of developments which suggest the public disagreements over the recent West Coast Port closure are superficial. When EGT revealed they were sending a ship to their new Longview, CA grain elevator to be loaded by non-ILWU workers, ILWU Local 21 put out a call to Occupy to join with union workers in massive demonstrations when the ship arrived. Occupy responded by organizing caravans designed to transport large numbers of occupiers to Longview at the proper cue. At this point the Federal government publically announced the U.S. Navy would escort the EGT ship into Longview. It was clear that the 1% and their supporters took a different view of the situation once Occupy joined in active solidarity with the ILWU workers. The 1%, with just cause, greatly fears the power this solidarity has the potential to generate. Soon after the Governor of Washington state announced an agreement between the ILWU and EBT had been reached, the details of which are at this point unknown to the public. But even without knowing exactly what the ILWU won, it is reasonable to credit the threat of solidarity between Occupy and union workers as an important factor in forcing the previously intransigent EGT back to the bargaining table. This constitutes a mere fraction of the transformative power that meaningful solidarity between the occupy and worker movements promises to deliver if fully realized.
EF: What do you think is role of the Occupy movement is in relationship to unions?
PP: I wouldn’t presume to define any specific roles for Occupy. They are engaged in a complex and ever-changing process of development which only those directly involved can define. But it should be pointed out that Occupy has already defined and successfully moved on a couple of roles. One is mentioned above, that of building solidarity with workers’ struggles, the other is creating an alternative model for young workers, organized and unorganized, to learn from. I would not be at all surprised if many organized workers come to adopt Occupy’s class struggle attitude and start pressuring their unions to do the same. This could shake up the decades old union strategies and tactics which have landed the U.S. working class in its current state of confusion and powerlessness. Occupy appears to be in the process of developing a dual role in which they support militant actions of rank and file workers to shed exploitation, while challenging the peace and per capita paradigm pervasive in the top layers of union leadership.
(Green Politics published in 2011 a Paul Pechter interview that Elizabeth Fattah focused
on Wisconsin, the Fight for Unions.)
"Occupy" Acts Locally
The Occupy movements in multiple cities, while following New York's original Occupy Wall
Street, have each tended to take on a local character.
Oakland, birthplace of the Black Panthers, produced an Occupy
that grabbed headlines with its port closing, strikes, and black bloc window-smashings.
Occupy St. Louis has actively resisted corporate interests that take advantage of the
99% and continue to enrich the 1%. To this end Occupy St. Louis is supporting Annie
Quain’s refusal to leave her foreclosed home.
The sign above was placed on Annie Quain’s home December 6, 2011, and has remained
there ever since. Here is a video link to the Annie Quain foreclosure story.
St. Louis will host the Occupy
Midwest gathering in mid-March.
Occupy San Diego, like most
occupations throughout the country, has had its tents and belongings trashed and
confiscated by the police, along with many arrests. This has not deterred nor dampened
Here, Occupy San Diego protests the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) at the
recent Democratic State Convention.
Although police have crushed Occupy encampments elsewhere, Louisville's Occupy,
coming of age in a city where moderation reigns, has
employed court procedures and negotiations with Louisville's mayor to extend its stay in
downtown Founder's Square.
Photo by Curtis Morrison
Occupy Louisville also marched in protest of the National Defense Authorization Act,
which makes it legal for Americans to be indefinitely detained by the military without
access to an attorney or trial by jury, on orders of the executive branch.
After the Crash
by Paul Kesler
(sung to the tune of “Lizzie Borden” by The Chad Mitchell Trio)
Yesterday in New York City the free market choked and died,
And every major banker left a note of suicide.
Some folks said it couldn’t happen, others said, “Of course, it could!”
But they all concurred that the massacre hadn’t worked out like it should.
Oh, you can’t shop for bargains up in New York City,
Especially when all the stores have closed.
No, you can’t shop for bargains up in New York City,
That’s just the way the market ebbs and flows.
Well, the stock exchange kept plummeting all through the afternoon,
And everyone could see that something bad was coming soon,
But no one knew why people in the streets were on the run,
They could only tell at the closing bell when the coppers popped their guns.
Oh, it’s not very peaceful up in New York City,
It’s tough to dodge a bullet or a knife,
No, it’s not too peaceful up in New York City,
It’s even hard to hang on to your wife.
Well, no one’s left for pleasure and no one has left for spite,
And no one’s left because the mayor wasn’t very bright,
Go blame it on the corporations and the bums they hired,
Or save your tears for the financiers who jumped into the fire.
Oh, you can’t get a steady job in New York City,
Unless you work for 15 cents a day,
No, you can’t find a steady job in New York City,
Unless a sewer’s where you want to stay.
Take your lousy bills and trash ‘em,
Shake the plutocrats and bash ‘em!
Such a sick economy,
They screwed the poor, then came for me!
Quack like a duck, jump like a monkey -
Sing your song and make it funky!
We’re gonna go and rebuild New York City
To quarantine the Wall Street parasites.
Yes, we’re goin’ back to rebuild New York City.
And make sure the economy works right.
Margaret Kimberly, editor and senior columnist for Black Agenda report, writes, "Iran has been demonized so thoroughly that only the most ardent peace activists will come to its defense, but defend it they must."
Iranian men stand in line at a mosque in Tehran as they wait to vote in Presidential elections June 12, 2009. (Ramin Talaie, Bloomberg News)
Read Margaret Kimberly's column here.
Voices Heard at Monsanto Shareholders' Meeting
Activists protested in St. Louis outside Monsanto's annual shareholders meeting January 24, 2012.
Adam Eidinger, a member of Organic Consumers Association, got inside
the meeting to speak in favor of a shareholders' resolution which would have studied the
"material financial risks or operational impacts associated with its (Monsanto's) chemical
products and genetically modified organisms."
Eidinger told the meeting, "I am here on behalf of Harrington Investments and the Pesticide Action Network. Our resolution for consideration by fellow shareholders addresses serious risks associated with Monsanto's GMO crops, toxic chemicals applied to these crops and related civil liability. Our company's hostility to environmentalist and organic farming concerns over GMO's is fueling a major consumer backlash. The status quo of federal regulations that we successfully shaped without concern for the public's concept of fairness and environmental stewardship is politically unsustainable."
Monsanto shareholders voted down the resolution. Read OCA's account of Eidinger's
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NATO/G8 Meetings in Chicago May 19-21
NATO and the world’s oligarchy of financial capitalists will hold meetings in Chicago in May 2012 . A “legal, permitted, family-friendly march and rally” is planned for Saturday, May 19.
Rally details have been posted by the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda.
A Challenge to the U.S. Navy's Disregard for Marine Life
In January, a coalition of conservation and American Indian groups sued the National Marine Fisheries Service for failing to protect thousands of whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals and sea lions from U.S. Navy warfare training exercises along the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington.
In late 2010, the Fisheries Service gave the Navy a permit for five years of expanded naval activity that will harm, or “take,” marine mammals and other sealife. The permit allows the Navy to conduct increased training exercises that can harm marine mammals and disrupt their migration, nursing, breeding or feeding, primarily as a result of harassment through exposure to the use of sonar.
Read an announcement of the lawsuit distributed by the Center for Biological Diversity.