Friday, December 9, 2011

This bloody, bloody war

We're on a countdown to the end of the Iraq war, but almost  no one seems to notice.

Nine years of war: what has it cost us?  What have we gained?

In lives: As of today, 4801 coalition forces have been killed, 4483 of them U.S. military members.  Official estimates say 32,200 have been injured, but some estimates put that number closer to 100,000.  Many of those injuries are brain injuries and amputations that will affect those injured for the rest of their lives.

On the Iraqi side, more than 100,000 civilian deaths have been documented, but Just Foreign Policy, Lancet and other place the number at more than a million.  The number of injured is undocumented.

In money: The official tally stands at $800 billion-- that's $3000 a second—for the duration of the war.  These are direct costs, however, and don't include the cost of replacing equipment, vehicles and weapons, and the cost of providing health care and other benefits for veterans.  That could push the cost to about $4 trillion.

I won't put all the blame for the recession on the war, but, in these times, can you imagine the number of jobs that could have been created with that money? 

What have we gained?   Only the most cynical would say that the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein justifies what we have lost.  A few might claim that Iraq paved the way for the Arab Spring, but I'd be more inclined to say that the people would have overthrown Hussein  themselves by now.  

Can anyone think of even one other benefit from this bloody, bloody war?

Anti-war activists called this war before it happened.  We saw the handwriting on the wall on 9/11, we tried to stop it and when we couldn't, we tried to bring it to an early end, and we couldn't do that, either.  the last few years the energy of the anti-war movement has been sapped by a misguided faith in Barack Obama.   Maybe we're just tired.  Or maybe we're coming to believe that everything must change before there can be no more wars.   

For more than nine years, Arise has vigiled every Monday at noon in front of the Federal Building in Springfield. We've had a half dozen major demonstrations there, joined by anti-war activists from around the Valley.  On snowy or rainy days, maybe the numbers get as low as four, but usually there's a dozen or more people.   We'll mark the end of this war in some way before the end of the year.  But we will continue to vigil.

There's still Afghanistan.

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Five years in prison for being gay

From In November, two gay men in Cameroon were sentenced to five years in prison simply for being gay, the harshest penalty allowed under Cameroonian law. During the trial, according to the AFP, the judge issued some particularly homophobic comments, leading one lawyer to call the trial “a bad ruling,” and leading Amnesty International to label these men as “prisoners of conscience.”
The sentence comes on the heels of increased homophobia in Cameroon, and debates over legislation that would further criminalize homosexuality in the country. Human rights attorney Alice Nkom told that “Violence against gay people in Cameroon has skyrocketed to unprecedented levels: the situation is quickly becoming a crisis. The president of Cameroon can put a stop to this, and if he feels enough pressure he will do so.”
Help send a message to Cameroon that the world is watching, and won’t stand silent while people are sentenced to jail solely because of their sexual orientation. Demand the release of these gay men from prison. Print Friendly and PDF

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Shout Out for Out Now, Arise and NOL from prison!

Holly got the following letter at home.....these expressions of appreciation are what makes it all worthwhile.

  I’d like to begin this letter by introducing myself to you.  I’m 36 years old, Caucasian, male and I was born and raised in between Springfield and  W. Springfield and Chicopee.  Having an alcohol issue since the age of 13 has led me to a life of being in jails and institutions.  I’m not a stalker or a rapist or anything crazy like that.  I drink too much and hit people.  I’ve never been arrested sober in my life.  I’ve just remained angry at the judicial system because instead of getting me help they’ve just locked me up over and over.  But I got them this time cuz I’ve helped myself.  It’s simple, just don’t drink.  I’m a father to a 13 year old boy who has been battling cancer since 3.  He’s doing great right now.  His mother and I were together for 15 years, decided to get married, after 5 months of marriage we divorced and have decided to go our separate ways.  I apologize if I’m giving too much info I just want you to know I’m a normal person…
            So I was reading the republican and came across your name and info for getting arrested at the protests.  Shame on you (smiley face), just kidding. I’ve been in prison for 4 ½ years (I see parole in February) and I think it’s a shame what is happening with the people in our country.  People are homeless and starving but the government would rather spend money rebuilding foreign countries.  Excuse me if I’m totally off track but I have elder parents who have worked their entire lives, they’ve retired now but still have to work part time just to make ends meet.  Recently my father has fallen ill and he’s unable to work.  The bills are piling up and his insurance doesn’t cover all his medications and they cannot get assistance anywhere.
            All this brings me to the purpose for this letter.  I admire you and envy you for putting yourself out there to make a stand for yourself and those who are unable to make a stand for themselves.  Being in prison is somewhat similar because if we do not stand up for our rights we’d be abused mentally and physically on a daily basis.  And it’s good people like you who are standing up for my parents right now due to my absence.  And for that I thank you.  Honestly, I’d like to see this country protest the way some of these other countries do, minus the violence and death.  Though my family isn’t being kicked out of their home my heart goes out to all of those who are going through this struggle.
            So I hope my point has been made.  My appreciation for what you’ve done, your sacrifice.  Though I do not know you I will keep you in my prayers.  If your legal issues become problematic please contact me.  Over the years I’ve learned a bit about the law.
Your friend.
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Monday, December 5, 2011

Kids get poisoned by lead-- but funding gets cut

Nearly half the housing in Massachusetts is likely to have lead paint.  New studies have shown that lead poisoning damages children at much smaller amounts than previously documented.

But the federal government is about to eliminate the remaining funding for lead poisoning prevention, and Massachusetts is very unlikely to be able to make up the difference.  Read more at Boston Globe.

Last year Massachusetts had thirteen employees working in lead-poisoning prevention programs.  This year, we have three.  What will next year bring?

What can you do as the parent of a child who may be at risk?   If you're renting, ask the potential landlord if the apartment has a lead certificate.  And ask your pediatrician to test your child, and test regularly.  Looks like we're on our own for the indefinite future. Print Friendly and PDF

Friday, December 2, 2011

Rally for clean air tomorrow!

Local Residents Rally to Ask Governor Patrick to Stand Up For Strong Clean Air Protections

Biomass is not a clean energy solution for air quality issues in Massachusetts

Springfield – On Saturday, December 3rd, the Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign will be hosting a Clean Air Rally in front of Gov. Patrick’s offices in Springfield. Several dozen public health professionals and local activists will be calling on the Governor and the Department of Environmental Protection to protect our health and our air by retiring aging coal plants and looking at alternatives to dirty biomass incinerators in Central and Western Massachusetts. The activists will display 1,000 petitions calling on the governor for stronger pollution safeguards and announcing our 80 business coalition partners. In addition to listed speakers, local residents will be delivering testimonials, all speaking as to why we need to move beyond coal in the Pioneer Valley and how we can do it.
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We haven't forgotten about war

Yesterday I was quite giddy about this news of the Merkley amendment passing the Senate on a voice vote. The very day before the Senate -- to their great discredit -- had added dangerous new powers to the Military in the ever-escalating war on terrorism.

Where did my giddiness come from? I have found these last couple of days to be very upsetting ones in terms of U.S. war policy. Monday morning began with our local paper's front page announcement of a local National Guard contingent of engineers being sent off to Afghanistan for the next year. Their assignment? To clear roads of explosive devices. Will they come back to us? Will their bodies and their minds be whole?

Adding to my upset was knowing that every day the U.S. Senate was on the verge of passing on an obscene War Budget of nearly $ 700,000,000,000 for just one fiscal year. All dedicated to Killing -- or the Threat of killing -- to keep our top-dog position throughout the planet.

Then came the whopper. Embedded in the War Budget was a more frightening commitment to an already out-of-control escalated Anti-Terrorism policy (and what is that stipulation doing in a $$$ appropriation bill anyhow? Is there no Rules Committee in the Senate?) But it came to the floor and passed with 61 votes! The U.S. Senate moved a little closer to facism where THE U.S. MILITARY can summarily pick up a suspected terrorist & be her/his police, prosecutor, judge, and jury, putting a person away secretly and pretty much forever. The MILITARY in charge in this country. How is this different from the situation in Egypt? -- is the question I've been flinging about all week.
A lot of us were despondent.
So when I looked at the computer after dinner and saw that the Merkley Amendment had passed by a voice vote, I was astonished and delighted.
By the time I went to bed still trying to process all this, I was left with two explanations. The Senate needs a cover-up, a sop to what they will be about today (thursday) when the entire $ 600+ Blllion comes up for a vote. We citizens may well see them do what they've done before -- admonish the Pentagon and the President about the Wars one day, and then turn around the next day and vote all the money requested to execute the same wars.
I was still restless before I fell asleep. Where was this next thought coming from? Is it possible to look deeper, back into the younger days of some of these hapless Senators? Did they once glimpse what world peace, what the public good, etc. could look like? Was there an element of altruism in the voice vote yesterday afternoon?
These men and women, these Senators, so caught up in corruption on a scale never before possible in a governing body in all of history, may occasionally have a moment of collective recognition about the loss of youthful idealism. I suppose I'm thinking of the confused senior senator from my state, John Kerry, whom I often give up on, while still having a need to explain his thought processes to myself.
Is there a way to appeal to the traces of altruism in some of these Senators, instead of just denouncing them ? Still retaining the piercing insight we in the anti-war movement bring to the scene, I was wondering if I could add just a pinch of forgiveness for the human frailty of people with too much power which derives from too much money from too many unbearably ugly corporate connections in our society and the lies necessary to cover them.
What will happen today? Same old same old, most likely. How do we influence that? Drawing on the new energy of the Occupy movement and on our own inner resources and on the community we create as a movement, we can infuse our own overstressed bodies and brains and the organizations we work within to figure it out together and keep on struggling and doing what we do.
-- Sally Weiss, PDA End War and Occupations Print Friendly and PDF