Sunday, August 10, 2008

Let the Clinton Delegates Vote

Ever since Obama reached the magic number to secure the nomination, I have envisioned the floor vote. In the first round, state by state, the proud delegate who is chosen to have their 10 seconds of fame, bellows out what makes their state great and then passionately announces the numbers of votes cast by the delegates sent to Denver by the voters of their state -- "Madam Chair, the great state of Oregon, known for the beautiful Cascade Mountain, the High Desert plains, and the most dramatic coast on this side of the Pacific, casts 21 votes for Hillary Clinton and 44 votes for Barack Obama."

Each state has this opportunity in the first round of votes, to accurately represent how the people of their state voted in this historic election. Then, as once again Obama reaches the magic number, the convention bursts into a frenzie of activity as each state motions to the chair that they would like to change their votes.

As the Chairs respectfully calls again on each state, the energy in the room builds as each makes the historic and unifying announcement. "Madam Chair, the great state of Oregon wishes to change its vote. Oregon now casts all 65 votes for the next President of the United States -- Barack Obama.

As the convention floor becomes a sea of Obama signs, and the chanting of "Obama" grows to its final crescendo as each state delegation backs the convention's choice, the Democratic Party has secured the support it needs to win in November.

This is the way I see it. This is the way we win!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Gitmo Detainee Found Not Guilty? Don't Hold Your Breath!

As the "trials" start at Guantanamo Bay, do you think for one moment that any of the Gitmo detainees will be found not guilty? Imagine the outcry if the military tribunal admits we kept and tortured innocent people for five years. Our military and the Bush outlaws have a vested interest in guaranteeing all those who come to trial will be found guilty of something. The ones they know are not guilty will probably never come to trial and will be released, quietly and under the radar of the press, at the end of the Bush reign of terror.

It was uncovered this week that Secretary Gates and Secretary Rice have both urged the closing of this torture center. But Cheney and Gonzales, the man who created the lies for the war in Iraq and the man who wrote that the Geneva Convention was quaint, insisted it stay open. There will be a very special place in hell reserved for those two men.

Watch closely as the tribunals unfold. Listen for the outragous confessions -- admitting to anything just to have the nightmare come to an end. I hope that those who are innocent, caught up in family rivalries, turned over to us by someone who held a grudge and knew they would receive quite a nice sum of money for any names, bring charges against us in the Hague. I'd like to see Cheney, Gonzales, Rumsfeld and Bush sitting in front of the world court facing charges of crimes against humanity.

Do I think this will ever happen? It's just as likely as a Gitmo detainee being found not guilty.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Power of the Purse is Not Just for Congress

The United States Government is pouring $2 billion a week into the war in Iraq. It is in the process of sending more troops and requesting still more funding. Increasingly, the public is fed up, angry, bewildered, and discouraged. More people are turning up for rallies, vigils and marches. The “Iraq Body Count” – the sea of flags that is traveling from one university to another brings tears to our eyes.

A number of years ago, Father Daniel Berringan wrote a short statement that comes as a deep challenge to the nonviolent peace movement. In it he points out that we yearn for peace, but we are unwilling to make any significant sacrifices to obtain it. The United States public takes for granted that, for a war effort, families will be torn apart, young men and women’s careers and education disrupted, and young soldiers will die. But we in the peace movement want to set our own schedules, fit our peace activities safely into the rest of our lives.

As the horrors of this war and the disastrous policies of this administration reach deeper into our hearts, more and more people have been calling on congress to exercise its constitutional powers of oversight. Many have been calling on Congress to exercise its power of the purse to stop the bull-headed direction this administration is taking our nation and the world. Some in Congress seem to have the courage and willingness to make the sacrifice – to risk their security and careers to take a stand. Others seem to be waiting for a politically more convenient time.

For some of us in the peace movement, it is not only Congress who holds the power of the purse. We believe it is each individual’s right to say, “Not in my name, and not with my money!” Some of us are willing to sacrifice security and comfort by refusing to pay for the war through our federal income tax. We are war tax resisters and here are some of our stories.

Carol has been a war tax resister since the invasion of Iraq. She does not consider herself a pacifist, but believes this war is illegal and a violation of international law. In an attempt to reduce the amount of taxes owed, Carol has been giving away one third of her income to charities -- putting her money toward services where Federal and State budgets have been cut. The first time the IRS came after her with threatening letters she got frightened and sent the money. The following year she forced the IRS to garnish her wages. After the 2006 elections, Carol paid her 2005 taxes as an act of faith that the new Congress would fulfill its Constitutional responsibility of oversight.

Ben and Janine, the young parents of an infant boy, have been war tax resisters since returning from Colombia, South America, in 2003, where they witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of US military intervention. As conscientious objectors to war raised in the historically pacifist Mennonite tradition, they are practitioners of nonviolence and oppose all military spending. They would gladly pay taxes if their money supported only peaceful endeavors such as education, health care, and social services. Instead of paying for war, they attempt to reduce or eliminate the amount of taxes they owe by living close to the poverty line. In the years they do owe taxes, they withhold the funds and donate them to organizations that they believe give life rather than take it, including the local school district and international aid organizations. Last December, they received a notice from the IRS informing them that they would be levied. As of this writing, however, they are still waiting for the IRS to act.

Back in the late 1070s, Peg learned about the War Tax Resistance Movement, and since 1980 she has refused to pay all or part of her Federal income taxes, as well as the telephone Federal Excise tax. Over the past 27 years, she has paid the taxes once, had her salary garnished, bonds and bank accounts levied, and currently her Social Security checks are being levied. She has place the “refused” tax money into escrow accounts where the interest can be used for peace-building purposes, or has redirected her tax dollars to causes she believes in. She will not voluntarily pay her taxes to a government with policies that lead to war, fear and corporate greed.

These stories are a sample of what some people have chosen to do to help stop this war. Former Secretary of State Alexander Haig said during the Vietnam War, “Let them protest all they want, as long as they pay their taxes.” Having our tax dollars used in this war is a level of complicity we simply cannot accept.

(this post was written by members of the Taxes for Peace, Not War Group in Eugene, Or., in which this blogger is a member)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Failure in Iraq

We continually hear from the Bush/Cheney administration that if we fail in Iraq the results would be catastrophic. In this analysis they are telling the truth, but it isn’t a prediction, it is pure hindsight. We have failed in Iraq and the results are catastrophic.

3008 (and counting) US soldiers killed, tens of thousands of them suffering life changing injuries, countless Iraqi’s (countless because we chose not to count them) killed, kidnapped, disfigured and maimed, the destruction of Iraq’s infrastructure, the abandonment of Afghanistan to the warlords and poppy growers and the return of the Taliban, the destruction of our nation’s position in the world and our credibility as an honest broker, our national debt at historic highs and an impotent Congress caught up in the fear mongering of our leaders. Patriotic Americans who have questioned the prosecution of this war have been called traitors, thousands of foreign nationals have been detained, hundreds of them have disappeared into the dark hole of CIA and NSA renderings. Thousands of us have been spied on and our civil liberties threatened. All this in the name of promoting Democracy.

The catastrophe is already upon us and its reach is worldwide. I hate to use a sports analogy for fear of sounding like I’m trivializing this horrible situation but if this were a football team, the owners would have thrown the bums out long ago. Well, we are the owners and the 2006 elections were a good start at tossing the bums out on the asses. Now we have to insist that the new Congress do its part.

George Bush was right in his speech to the nation when he said the solution in Iraq would take sacrifice. Those of us who are fortunate enough not to have been called to serve or who don’t have a family member in this war must be prepared to sacrifice time, money and security. Write letters, make phone calls, take time off from work to go see your elected officials, march, protest, withhold your federal income tax. If you don’t feel somehow affected by this war then you might not be doing enough to stop it.

It is also time for our elected officials to sacrifice by risking a bit of their lives as well. Damn the political ramifications to each individual congressional member. They must stand and fight against this reckless and self-serving gang of political thugs in the White House no matter how it might play out in the press or what it might do to their chances of re-election.

It is time to make a very loud noise. Let the soldiers in Iraq hear us. Let them know they have not been abandoned or forgotten or turned into so much fodder. Let the world see that we will not sit quietly by as our young are sent to the slaughter and kings consume excesses and sleep well at night.

No one should sleep well until we have enabled the Iraqi people to re-build their lives. As Collin Powell said in the beginning of all this, “If we break it, we own it.” We are responsible for fixing it, all of us -- those who supported the war and those who opposed it. We, as a nation made this blunder, we as a nation will pay for it. But we do not have to pay in the form of more American soldiers lost or wounded.

After the first gulf war, the Iraqi people rebuilt their nation – bridges and power stations, roads and communications. They are a nation of engineers and architects, they have the capacity to build and fix and support their own people without the help or interference of Halliburton and the other war profiteers who have benefited from the chaos. I’m not so naive as to think that this will be easy. The horror that we created there by our lack of planning for the time after the fall of Saddam and our subsequent pride or ignorance in continuing the blunders have left the country in a civil war. Yet most Iraqi’s want peace and the region needs stability. It’s time for us to ask for help and take advice. The Iraq Study Group developed a strategy that focuses on rebuilding and diplomacy and engaging the neighboring countries.

Bush, Rice, Gates and Casey have all said that their plan for a surge of 21,500 troops may not work but is worth a try. The Iraq Study Group has also said their plan may not work but is worth a try. The latter puts fewer troops at risk and has a better chance to deescalate the violence by removing the “occupier.” If we have to roll the dice, let’s take a chance on the roll where fewer people (US and Iraqi) might die.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Money Talks

We used to live in a Democratic society supported by a Capitalist economy. People knew that one system protected our rights and created our quality of life, and the other protected our wealth and created our standard of living. People used to know the difference and understood that each filled a different need in our culture. Now we live in a Capitalist society where Democracy is tolerated as long as it doesn't interfere with each citizen's right to become a millionaire, either by working up the corporate ladder, trading and investing, or winning the lottery. In such a society where standard of living trumps quality of life, money has become the foundation of every decision we make, it is the touchstone by which we measure our progress, it is the currency we use to express our beliefs.

Since the war began in Iraq, I have withheld my federal income tax as a protest against an illegal and immoral war. It was not good enough for me to say, "Not in my name," without also saying, "Not with my money." In this new society, money is more than just free speech, it is how we vote and I could no more have voluntarily helped pay for this war than I could have voted for George Bush in the last election. In each of the past three years I have given away approximately 30 percent of my gross income (which is not very large to begin with) to organizations that work to assist struggling families, send protective gear to military personel, and support our injured troops when they come home. Even though the IRS eventually catches up with me, I have felt as if I have been consistent in my cause and speaking in the language of our time -- money.

When I first noticed the shift in our societal structure back in the Reagan 1980s, I became disillusioned, frustrated with the change, fighting desperately to change it back, to save our Democracy. Now I see that money has become my vote and I can vote every day. I practice Democracy every time I choose to buy something -- or not buy something. I cast a vote for my beliefs by choosing where I shop and how my money is used. Every day, I am a vocal, voting, active citizen of this great nation just by being deliberate about where my money goes. There is such power in this, if we will only take it.

As the holidays draw near, it might be time to ask just what message you want to send with the money you spend. Every day is election day. How will you vote?

Friday, November 10, 2006

After the Rise

It was an interesting moment. I was elated at the election results, when I saw a photo of the crowd at George Allen's concession speech. There was a young woman in the crowd, young enough that this may have been her first time voting, and she was heartbroken. She looked the way I felt as I stayed up too late and too long two years earlier, watching what felt like the bottom falling away from everything I thought I knew about faith, compassion and our democracy. I felt so sorry for her, knowing the pain, the disbelief -- pondering the question, "How could the rest of America be so wrong?"

The divide we have been living with for the last six years rushed back into what had quickly become my idealized impression of what had happened at the polls this time. Americans have not suddenly snapped to their senses, finally seeing things my way, and now everything I've always dreamed we could be is just over the horizon. We are still a divided nation, only now many of those folks I so vehemently disagreed with on so many important issues are now disillusioned, sad, and lost. I know that feeling and I don't wish it on anyone.

I have always been of the belief that our democracy, though far from perfect, has cared for the needs of most of our people by gently swinging from right to left and back again -- teasing the fringes of total compassion with FDR's New Deal, and the fringes of bootstrap individualism with Reagan's trickle-down economics. I wonder now if these swings have become too extreme, destroying too much hope in the people who live on the side the swing does not favor.

Or maybe it's a good thing that more of us feel disenfranchised. As I wonder if my phone is being tapped or see the suspicious eyes of the police as I leave a free speech zone, maybe I have felt a small piece of what people of color or immigrants feel in our country every day. Is this what it will take for those of us who are privileged to understand what it's like to wonder if we will be caught up in a net of stereotypes and distrust? Will this bring us more compassion, or will it drive us away from each other, each to our own corners, ready to come out fighting for what we think is right?

In the social circles most familiar to me, compromise has become synonymous with surrender, and any talk of finding common ground, a betrayal of our cause, yet I'm seeing a middle ground -- a path that can't be spoken of for fear of losing my standing, my place at the table. Am I moving to the center the way many old friends did back in the 80s, as business and profit replaced the idealism we grew up with in the 60s? Or is it just that I am in my sixth decade of life and have seen too much conflict? There has to be a way to get this huge, dysfunctional, and disparate family that is called our nation to sit down and talk and find their common ground, and agree to disagree.

I am reminded of a story used to describe the difference between heaven and hell. A person dies and sees an angel who first shows them a picture of hell in which there is a great banquet table filled with the most glorious food. All the people there have three-foot long spoons and forks attached to their arms so that their arms cannot bend. Each person is desperately trying to feed themselves. Then the angel reveals the picture of heaven, and surprisingly it is exactly the same -- a great banquet table filled with the most glorious food and all the people there have three-foot long spoons and forks attached to their arms so that their arms cannot bend. Only in heaven, each person is reaching across the table, feeding someone else.