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January 2015

Newsletter: What Would Zinn Do?

This week marks the fifth anniversary of the death of Howard Zinn who is best known for his “People’s History of the United States” which looks at history from the bottom up, through the lenses of classism, racism and sexism. We remember Zinn for the advice he gave activists a year before his death. When he was asked what should people be doing, he gave advice that is good no matter what the era: Go where you are not supposed to go; Say what you are not supposed to say; and Stay when they tell you to leave. We are pleased to see people around the world instinctively following the advice that Howard Zinn gave to US activists. The world over we are facing governments corrupted by money and not representing the people. Zinn’s recipe for change – Go, Say and Stay – one we should be consciously following.

Who’s The ‘Low Life Scum:’ Kissinger or CODEPINK?

Sen. McCain denounced CODEPINK activists as “low-life scum” for holding up signs reading “Arrest Kissinger for War Crimes” and dangling handcuffs next to Henry Kissinger’s head during a Senate hearing. McCain called the demonstration “disgraceful, outrageous and despicable,” accused the protesters of “physically intimidating” Kissinger. If Senator McCain was really concerned about physical intimidation, perhaps he should have conjured up the memory of the gentle Chilean singer/songwriter Victor Jara. After Kissinger facilitated the September 11, 1973 coup against Salvador Allende that brought the ruthless Augusto Pinochet to power, Victor Jara and 5,000 others were rounded up in Chile’s National Stadium. Jara’s hands were smashed and his nails torn off; the sadistic guards then ordered him to play his guitar. Jara was later found dumped on the street, his dead body riddled with gunshot wounds and signs of torture. Or, Kissinger’s role in the brutal 1975 Indonesian invasion of East Timor, which took place just hours after Kissinger and President Ford visited Indonesia. They had given the Indonesian strongman the US green light—and the weapons—for an invasion that led to a 25-year occupation in which over 100,000 soldiers and civilians were killed or starved to death.

Tipping Point In Ukraine?

Pretty much everything about Ukraine is murky and unreliable these days, and that’s before you take into consideration any of the meddling by outside powers playing carelessly with their Slavic pawns. Viewed in their darkest light, the events of the past 20 months (and the past 20 years) reflect an East-West death spiral that is now accelerating, and from which none of the engaged parties show any desire to disengage. The civil war in eastern Ukraine has continued fitfully since September, when the parties signed a ceasefire known as the Minsk Agreement. The ceasefire has often been more honored in the breach than the observance, but overall it has led to considerably less bloodshed, especially among civilians, than the previous six months’ fighting.

Activist: From A Calling To A Career

The Mountain Valley Natural Gas Pipeline that’s being proposed to run through South Western Virginia made a U-Turn when it came to Floyd County. Last fall, the gas companies changed the original route, bypassing the rural county. Company officials have said the protest movement that sprang up in Floyd had nothing to do with their decision, but others believe it made a difference. One of them is Mara Robbins, who founded the Preserve Floyd Movement last summer to fight the pipeline. Now, she’s been hired by an Environmental group to continue that work throughout the region. Robbins talked with WVTF/Radio IQ’s Robbie Harris about what motivates her to keep going.

Asking What Kissinger Thinks– But Not What He Did

Kissinger's tenure including support for the military coup that overthrew the Allende government in Chile and support for the murderous Indonesian dictator Suharto's policies in East Timor (FAIR Action Alert, 9/1/99). One could go on, and in much greater detail, but you see the point. Kissinger's record haunts him; every so often there are reports about how it interrupts his international travel plans, like in 2001 when a French magistrate sent Kissinger a summons at a Paris hotel, inquiring about Kissinger's role in the notorious Operation Condor programs of the 1970s. Kissinger promptly left town–and did a series of high-profile media interviews, none of which mentioned the French attempt to question him about human rights abuses (Extra!, 8/01).

KXL Vote Brings Out Fissures On Future Energy Policy

The moment the gavel hammered through Thursday's vote in Congress to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, some in the Senate were predicting that a bipartisan consensus on energy policy was just around the corner. The Republican and Democratic senators who stage-managed the pipeline bill—Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Maria Cantwell of Washington—both surmised after the 62-36 vote that before long they might be working in tandem. "Maybe it bodes well for a bigger, bipartisan energy bill," said Cantwell, the ranking minority member on the Energy Committee chaired by Murkowski. Cantwell opposes Keystone and is a climate hawk, but saw glimmers of hope in the way a pair of energy-conservation amendments were waved through on voice votes.

Lessons From Vermont

Has the tide of health care justice turned — in the wrong direction? Last month, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin announced that he could no longer “responsibly support” a funding plan for his long-awaited “single-payer” plan for the state. It wasn’t long before some on the Right claimed a historic victory. “As crises of faith go,” the Wall Street Journal editorial board gloated, “this is Mikhail Gorbachev circa 1991 territory.” After all, single-payer health care, according to the Journal, is not merely “the polite term for socialized medicine,” but nothing less than “the ultimate goal of the political left.” Now, inapt historical analogies aside, it is fair to concede theJournal’s point that universal health care has long been on the left and progressive agenda, from the “[f]ree medical care, including midwifery and medicines” called for by the 1891 Erfurt Programonward.

Police Arrest African American Vet For Using Golf Club As Cane

A Seattle cop arrested a 70-year-old military veteran, claiming the golf club he used as a cane was a weapon — a move that prompted the arrestee to sue the city and force a review of its officer. Newly released dashcam video showed Officer Cynthia Whitlatch arrest retired bus driver William Wingate in downtown Seattle in July. Whitlatch, who is white, claimed Wingate, who is black, swung his club at her. The footage of the incident showed no such maneuver. Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole ordered a conduct review into Whitlatch after the July 9 arrest, where Wingate was charged with obstruction and unlawful use of a weapon.

Protestors Swamp LNG Meeting

Local activists opposed to a project that would ship liquefied natural gas from the Skipanon Peninsula near the mouth of Columbia River crammed into the Warrenton Community Center Tuesday night for a public meeting, hosted by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. The activists, dressed in red T-shirts that said “I am not an LNG acceptable risk,” were mostly part of Columbia Riverkeepers, an advocacy group against the proposed Oregon LNG project. The controversial project, which the activists protested before the public meeting, relies on multiple permit approvals being considered by the Oregon DEQ, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development

The One Loophole To Rule Them All

At this point, you may be wondering, “Where are we now?” Here’s the status update: We are one month from the Federal Communications Commission issuing a final decision. But it will be a month that matters because it’s not yet clear who will triumph. For the next month, the giant phone and cable companies will be lobbying to put a loophole in the FCC’s rule. Any significant loophole will do. They will ask for many loopholes, but all they need is one. So they can “compromise” by letting go of several outrageous loopholes because with one alone they can create an entirely new business ecosystem of slow and fast lanes that undermines the open Internet. It would be the one loophole they need to rule all the websites and users.

Groups Sue To Stop Secret Toxic Crude Oil Operation

Community and environmental groups filed suit today over the expansion—orchestrated mostly in secret—of a crude oil operation in Kern County that could lead to a 1,000 percent increase in the amount of crude imported by rail into California each year. The newly opened Bakersfield Crude Terminal in Taft, Calif., has the capacity to receive two 100-car unit trains a day of volatile crude oil from the Bakken shale formation as well as heavier, highly toxic tar sands. Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 8.35.46 AM Today’s lawsuit was filed against the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District for the piecemeal permitting process that allowed one of the largest crude oil operations in California to expand largely in secret, without environmental review of the risks posed by importing millions of gallons a day of toxic, explosive oil from North Dakota and Canada.

Students Save Palestine

In proposing that Congress Members boycott or walk out on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned speech to Congress, expected to push for sanctions if not war on Iran, activists are drawing on actions engaged in by college students in recent years, as they have boycotted or walked out on or disrupted speeches by Israeli soldiers and officials on U.S. campuses. Netanyahu’s noodle-headed move — oblivious, apparently, to the U.S. government’s effective evolution into a term-limited monarchy — may provide a boost to both the movement to free Palestine and the movement to prevent a war on Iran. Peace activists sometimes marvel at how young people have taken up environmentalist activism (with very little emphasis on the environmental destruction caused by militarism). Why, antiwar activists ask, don’t young people get active opposing wars?

First Anti-Islam March By Pegida Movement Fizzles In Denmark

On the evening of January 19, 2015, approximately 150 people gathered to support the Pegida movement's first rally in Copenhagen. Conservative political activist and leader of the grassroots organization Pegidadk ("dk" is for Denmark), Nicolai Sennels drew inspiration from the growing anti-Islamic movement by the same name that arose in October 2014 in Dresden and attracted escalating crowds in response to the recent violent attacks on Charlie Hebdo staff in France. The acronym Pegida is derived from the German: Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes; in English: Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West. Nativism and a pervasive fear of "Islamization" are at the heart of the Pegida movement. Sennels (an unsuccessful Danish People's Party candidate for election to the Danish Parliament in 2011, born in 1976) is a harsh critic of Islam in general and of Muslims' immigration to Denmark and Europe, in particular.

FOIA Shows US Plans For Martial Law In 1950s

Starting on April 19, 1956, the federal government practiced and planned for a near-doomsday scenario known as Plan C. When activated, Plan C would have brought the United States under martial law, rounded up over ten thousand individuals connected to "subversive" organizations, implemented a censorship board, and prepared the country for life after nuclear attack. There was no Plan A or B. The first known mention of this strategy was a memo released by the FBI to MuckRock under a Freedom of Information Act request. It is an invitation to the Bureau to attend an afternoon meeting on April 19, 1956, organized by the Office of Defense Mobilization.

Mobilized & Winning, Now It’s Time to Escalate

Since the President’s State of the Union message where he announced his plan to push corporate trade agreements and seek Fast Track trade promotion authority, the movement against Fast Track, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and globalized trade has grown. Instead of the bump in support that Obama expected after the State of the Union, opposition has increased inside Congress and in the grass roots. This week Senator Grassley saidthat currently they don’t have 60 votes in support of Fast Track and therefore it could not pass a filibuster. If Wyden demands that Congress sees the text of the TPP and has true involvement in the negotiations before they are finalized, then he and Hatch will not reach agreement and the Republicans will have to go it alone. In the House there are even more challenges for Fast Track. Chuck Porcari of the Communication Workers (CWA) writes: “House Speaker John Boehner has said that the White House needs to deliver at least 50 House Democrats if Fast Track has any hopes of passing, especially now that the White House is trying to whip together 80 Democrats in the House and New Democrat Coalition is trying to cobble together at most 40 votes. . . . According to a story by Inside U.S. Trade, ‘one informed source questioned whether the New Democrats actually have an idea of which lawmakers will provide the 40 ‘yes’ votes they are seeking.’”
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