Tuesday, June 22, 2010

85% of Public Disagree with the Supreme Court

From People for the American Way- pfaw.org

An important new poll commissioned by People For the American Way shows that Americans of every political stripe resoundingly reject the Roberts Court's dangerous decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which opened the floodgates of unlimited corporate cash in our elections.

We should have a government of, by and for the people. The polling results show increasing concern among Americans that, in part because of the Court's decision, which equates corporations with people, we are becoming a government of, by and for the corporations. The poll also shows broad awareness that when corporations spend unlimited amounts to influence the outcome of elections, it infringes on the rights of the rest of us by drowning out the voices of the average citizen.

The Court's decision in Citizens United was so disastrous that voters overwhelmingly support a constitutional amendment to correct it.

Three-quarters of voters said that they support a constitutional amendment to limit the amount that corporations can spend in elections. A similar majority are more inclined to support a candidate who has spoken out in favor of an amendment. This support cuts across party and ideology, with majorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independents in support of the measure.

Leading up to Election Day, People For the American Way, along with Public Citizen and other allies, will be asking congressional candidates to pledge to support a constitutional amendment, and sharing that information with voters.

Here are some of the polling specifics:
  • 85% of voters say that corporations have too much influence over the political system today while 93% say that average citizens have too little influence.
  • 95% agree that "Corporations spend money on politics mainly to buy influence in government and elect people who are favorable to their financial interests." (74% strongly agree)
  • 85% disagree that "Corporations should be able to spend as much as they want to influence the outcome of elections because the Constitution protects freedom of speech." (63% strongly disagree)
  • 93% agree that "There should be clear limits on how much money corporations can spend to influence the outcome of an election." (74% strongly agree)
  • 77% think Congress should support an amendment to limit the amount U.S. corporations can spend to influence elections.
  • 74% say that they would be more likely to vote for a candidate for Congress who pledged to support a constitutional amendment limiting corporate spending in elections.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Some Good News

From People for the American Way- pfaw.org

Florida Special Election Shows Strength of Opposition to Citizens United
Deutch made a Constitutional Amendment to fix Citizens United a centerpiece of his campaign

Democrat Ted Deutch decisively won a special election yesterday to fill the open seat in Florida's 19th congressional district. Deutch made his supprt for a constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC a centerpiece of his campaign.

Michael B. Keegan, President of People For the American Way, issued the following statement:

"I congratulate Senator Deutch on his decisive win, and wish him well as he continues his work on behalf of the people of Florida. Senator Deutch's vocal support of efforts to fight back against corporate influence in elections, and his advocacy for a Constitutional Amendment to undo the Supreme Court's devastating decision in Citizens United, earned him overwhelming support from Florida voters. He'll be a strong leader in the fight to preserve the power of everyday Americans in our democracy.

"Deutch's opponent attempted to paint the election as a referendum against the President and Democratic congressional leadership. Instead, he was roundly defeated by an electorate fed up with the growing corporate influence in elections and determined to take back the democratic process. This election sends a strong signal that the public won't stand for the Supreme Court handing outsized influence to wealthy corporations, and that voters are ready to take powerful steps to reclaim their power over the electoral process."

What We Can Do to Oppose Corporate Domination of Our Elections!

Sunday, April 18 was a great day for democracy in New Paltz, NY. Approximately 200 people came to "We, the People: A Forum to Defend Democracy at SUNY New Paltz. Congressman Hinchey and our presenters did an excellent job of outlining the challenges before us and how we can meet them. Here is our "What You Can Do" flier so you can get started with action steps to defend our democracy! Thanks to all who attended and hope to see even more at future events!

What We Can Do to Fight against Corporate Domination of Our Elections!

Congress must once and for all put to rest the idea that corporations are people and reassert Congressional power to regulate campaign finance. This can only be accomplished through a Constitutional amendment.

Pass a Constitutional amendment

Progress to date:
Congressman Hinchey, Co-sponsor of H.J. Res. 74
Senator Gillibrand, Call and ask her to support S. JR. 28
Senator Schumer, Call and ask him to support S. JR. 28
(See below for other requests for Senator Schumer)
Capitol Switchboard- 202 224-3121

Sign petitions for a Constitutional amendment
People for the American Way- pfaw.org

Tell your elected officials to pass legislation to immediately mitigate this ruling’s effects
Senator Schumer and Representative Van Hollen are proposing legislation that would:
Exempt corporations 20% or more foreign owned from electioneering.
Exempt corporations receiving federal contracts.
Require disclosure. It needs to be strong (ie I’m John Dough, president of Halliburton and I approve this ad.)
Require shareholder approval. The New York Times reported that this has been dropped. Let Senator Schumer know that wording of HR 4790 to protect shareholders must be in any final bill.

Tell your elected official to pass the Fair Elections Now Act

Progress to date:
Congressman Hinchey, Co-sponsor of H.R. 1826
Senator Gillibrand, Co-sponsor of S. 752
Senator Schumer, ask him to Co-sponsor S.752

Pass State and Local Resolutions

Urge your state legislators to pass a resolution calling on Congress to pass a Constitutional amendment and to send to states for ratification. This is already happening in Massachusetts and Maine. Pass a similar resolution at a local level.

Work for clean elections in New York State
Support Democracy Matters.org and Citizen Action.org, which are working to pass NY S. 7506.
Establish Democracy Matters chapters in your high school or university and apply for an organizing internship with Democracy Matters.

Join FaceBook Pages
Amend the Constitution so Corporations Can Not Buy Elections
We, the People, NOT We, the Corporations
Abolish Corporate Personhood Now!
Free Speech for People, People for the American Way and Democracy Matters

Personal Actions:
Write Letters to the Editor
Call in to Talk Radio (WVKR, WKNY, WAMC)
Host a house party
Engage people
Blog about it
Sign up here or at HudsonValleyProgressives.org to stay informed and involved!


For more information:
FreeSpeechforPeople.org, People for the American Way-pfaw.org,
DemocracyMatters.org and stay tuned to this blog.

In a Democracy the People Rule!
We Can Do This!

We, the People: A Forum to Defend Democracy

Video of "Defending Democracy Street Rally" April 10, 2010

This Sunday, April 18, something good is happening in New Paltz,NY. Citizens are fighting back against the Supreme Court decision that will allow corporations with their mega-wealth to spend unlimited amounts of money to overwhelm our elections.

"We, the People: A Forum to Defend Democracy" will feature Congressman Maurice Hinchey (NYCD 22) who will talk on the growing dominance of corporations and the need to restore voters at the center of the electoral process.

A panel of national experts will talk about the consequences of this ruling and what we can do to mitigate its effects and eventually overturn it. Let's put out a red carpet Hudson valley welcome to: Margery F. Baker, executive vice-president of People for the American Way; John Bonifaz, legal director of Voter Action and director of Free Speech for People and Joan Mandle, PhD, executive director of Democracy Matters.

If you are on Facebook- please sign up here
and click on "invite other people" in the upper right corner to invite your friends to this important event.

This forum appears to be one of the first in the country to take on the Supreme Court ruling and how we can challenge and overturn it. The question is simple- Should Congress represent and be accountable to the people or the big corporate, special interests?

People from across the political spectrum are upset with this ruling and all are welcome Sunday. Let's start a grassroots movement to rein in the abuses of big corporations with their bail-outs, multi-million dollar bonuses, lobbyists and disregard for workers, public safety or the environment.

In a democracy- the people rule!

See you Sunday.

85% of Democrats, 81% of Independents and 76% of Republicans Agree!

Polarized America just came into alignment in their opposition to the Robert's Court decision Citizens United v FEC.  With a one person majority, the Supreme Court overturned a century of law and precedent to give corporations the right to overwhelm our elections with their massive wealth.

Approximately, eight out of ten people across the political spectrum (85% of Democrats, 81% of Independents and 76% of Republicans-Washington Post/ABC poll) see this as a threat to our democracy. President Obama called it an "assault on our democracy" and that he could "think of nothing more devastating to the public interest." Justice Stevens in a blistering dissent said the ruling  "threatens to undermine the integrity of elected  institutions across this Nation."

We are facing a Constitutional crisis, yet mainstream media (MSM) moved on almost immediately (it was only Justice Alito's injudicious reaction to being called out on the ruling by Obama that kept it there a little longer).  It shouldn't be a surprise that corporate owned media are not reporting the disastrous consequences of this decision. Allowing corporations to spend whatever they want on political ads will send TV advertising revenue into the stratosphere. So you cannot depend on CNN to inform you on this issue (or much else for that matter). A sterling exception to MSM ignoring this is Bill Moyers Journal that has done five segments on this ruling and plans one more. http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/02052010/watch.html

The good news is there is a massive grassroots movement growing to counter the threat of this decision. FreeSpeechfor People.org, MovetoAmend.org, People for the American Way (pfaw.org) Public Citizen (citizen.org) and many more are leading the way. People are getting steamed up, organized and mobilized to say no to this democracy-killing ruling.

Think your elected officials are too remote now? Ha! Wait until they begin raking in the megabucks of ExxonMobile (bye-bye green energy) Halliburton (can you say "endless war"?) Aetna (don't get sick!) and Citibank (hello next economic meltdown).

In a democracy we, the people are supposed to be the center of the electoral process. We are guaranteed one person- one vote, a sacred right for which people have died. It ensures the poor and the middle class that they have a voice and that they will be protected against corporate tyranny. The Supreme Court just took a sledge hammer to that bedrock principle of democracy.

We will be organizing a forum in New Paltz, NY on April 18 to educate and mobilize people to fight this ruling. We hope it will empower, activate, connect and organize us to defend our democracy. Details to follow, but save the date now!

And remember- 85-81-76! Together we can stop this.

The January Supreme Court Ruling in Pictures

  Here is an accurate representation of what the latest ruling by the Supreme Court Five will do democracy in America! It is from Public Citizen. Visit their website dontgetrolled.org and sign the petition.

From Aaron Helton from the Facebook group One Million Strong for the Separation of Corporation and State- become a fan.

My two cents on the activist judges.

Daniel Kurtzman 
We, the people must rise up against this! 

Alito's Milder "You Lie!"

Most of us have seen Justice Alito shaking his head, grimacing and mouthing the words, "Not true" in response to Obama calling out the Court in his State of the Union  for their recent decision that will radically upend democracy in America.

Our President said, "With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that, I believe, will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections.

"I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests or, worse, by foreign entities.They should be decided by the American people."

Everything Obama said was true. Looks like Alito doesn't want to own up to what he and four others have done. His face registered disgust and I find disgust the appropriate reaction to this ruling- but in Alito's case it should be self-directed!

Glen Greenwald in Salon said, "Alito is now a political (rather than judicial) hero to Republicans and a political enemy of Democrats which is exactly the role a Supreme Court Justice should not occupy."

Greenwald went on to say, Alito has been "unmasked as a politicized and intemperate Republican."

I'd say the ruling itself unmasked five of them.

The Silver Lining in the SCOTUS Decision

I've decided to look at last Thursday's Supreme Court ruling in a new light, one that strengthens rather than depresses me!

It is true- our most cherished American values and our very democracy are under assault. A radical, one person majority of the Court has ruled that corporations (including foreign ones) can spend their billions to buy Congress and the Presidency, removing the American people from the center of the electoral process. If left unchallenged, our country would be ruled by an unchecked corporate oligarchy- not what our Founders or the thousands who have died for American freedom had in mind.

So although this threat is very real, so is this; corporations already wield democracy-killing power in our political system. All you have to do is look at the past year. Those who engaged in criminal behavior on Wall Street have used taxpayer money to award themselves billions in bonuses, and to block consumer protection and reform, profiteering insurance companies have largely written health care "reform" that will not provide the universal and affordable coverage we need  and clean energy and energy independence seem doomed to failure by the fossil fuel industry.

The average legislator is spending more time dialing for dollars than in understanding the issues, meeting with constituents or even reading the bills they are voting on. The system is already corrupt, ineffectual and antithetical to the American peoples' interests. The new ruling will remove the last shreds of democracy we have left. (The problem is so bad that even the CEO's of Delta Airlines, MetLife and about 38 other companies came out against the SCOTUS ruling. Their reasoning? They already get hit by Congress members too often for money!)

But here is the hope. I agree with Ezra Klein of the Washington Post , who said this Supreme Court decision is "so deeply objectionable" and so clearly shows how sick and broken our current system is, that it has the power to arouse everyday Americans to rise up and demand it be fixed! The five activist, extremist judges who threw out 100 years of established law and precedent may have finally pushed too far and done us all a favor. A mass mobilization of millions has the power to take our country back. People from the left and right need to come together to face the real enemy of democracy- corporate tyranny. As Thomas Jefferson said in 1816, “I hope we shall… crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and to bid defiance to the laws of our country.” 

It is clear to me that a Constitutional Amendment is necessary to return government to "We, the People" and there are many petitions you can sign and movements to join to push for this (see below). But that is long-range and we need to also work today to get big money out of politics through fair election reform. Let's get a massive grassroots movement going to pass The Fair Elections Now Act (S.752, H.R.1826). Legislation is also in the works to blunt the impact of the Supreme Court ruling, like; requiring shareholders to sign off on corporate spending on elections, requiring companies to identify themselves in paid campaign ads and restricting the ability of corporations that receive big government contracts to run ads.

Citizens also can have a great impact by writing Letters to the Editor, gathering people together to talk about the implications of this abominable ruling and taking to the streets to demand change.  Go to movetoamend.org/takeaction for letter samples and other ideas for action.

Last year the top 100 companies had profits of $600 billion. If they used just a measly 1% of it, they would have six thousand million dollars to elect political sellouts and to oppose those who stand for the people (freespeechforpeople.org). Free speech is no longer free when only the corporations are heard. Make a stand for democracy today!

Support bold action to ensure fair elections- In response to the ruling, President Obama has promised to work with leaders in Congress to "craft a forceful response that protects the voices of ordinary citizens." Show him we have his back-


Affirm that money is not speech and corporations are not people! movetoamend.org (42,000 signatures and growing!
Petition Stop the Corporate Takeover of Our Democracy!

Sign the Free Speech for People Amendment at Public Citizen

Powerful Video Response to SCOTUS Inc.

Jamin Raskin, professor of constitutional law and the First Amendment at American University, has spoken out powerfully on behalf of a new campaign at FreeSpeechForPeople.org that aims to undo the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to remove limitations on corporations' election spending.
Here's a short video made together with Congresswoman Donna Edwards.
Here's Raskin on Democracy Now!
And here's Raskin debating a corporatist chump on C-Span.

Sign petition for public financing of elections

40,000 signatures and counting. Rep Alan Grayson's SaveDemocarcy.net
Amend the Constitution 

The "Disastrous," and "Devastating" SCOTUS Decision


"I can't think of anything more devastating to the public interest." President Obama 
referring to the Jan 21 Supreme Court decision that will replace government of, by and for the people to one ruled be a corporate plutocracy.

The Court’s Blow to Democracy  NY Times Published: January 21, 2010
With a single, disastrous 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court has thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century. Disingenuously waving the flag of the First Amendment, the court’s conservative majority has paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding.    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/opinion/22fri1.html

Citizens ruling: an intellectually dishonest power grab  Washington Post  
In opening the floodgates for corporate money in election campaigns, the Supreme Court did not simply engage in a brazen power grab. It did so in an opinion stunning in its intellectual dishonesty.

Corporate Personhood Should Be Banned, Once and For All  By Ralph Nader
This corporatist, anti-voter decision is so extreme that it should galvanize a grassroots effort to enact a Constitutional Amendment to once and for all end corporate personhood and curtail the corrosive impact of big money on politics.    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article24478.htm
Grayson: Court's Campaign Finance Decision "Worst Since Dred Scott"     In citizens United v. FEC, decided Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled "that only huge corporations have any constitutional rights," Grayson said. "They have the right to bribe, the right to buy elections, the right to reward their elected toadies, and the right to punish the elected representatives who take a stab at doing what's right."http://motherjones.com/mojo/2010/01/grayson-courts-campaign-finance-decision-worst-dredd-scott

Bob Kerrey: the Supreme Court Election Funding Decision Is Wrong      http://www.care2.com/causes/politics/blog/bob-kerrey-on-the-supreme-court-election-funding-decision/

From MovetoAmend.org
From the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling:
Majority Opinion (Justice Kennedy, joined by Thomas, Roberts, Scalia and Alito)
Dissenting Opinion (Justice Stevens, joined by Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Breyer)
Other Justices' Dissents or Concurrences

Justice Stevens, in dissent, was compelled to state the obvious:
. . . . corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their “personhood” often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of “We the People” by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.

More tomorrow on what we can do. We cannot let this stand!



For Sale- The US Government

These five activist Supreme Court justices; Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas, overruled a century of standing law and precedent today to begin the dismantling of our democracy. They have ruled that there can be no checks to a corporation's ability to spend all they want to buy candidates who will do their bidding; the people be screwed.

It is a "major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and other powerful interests that marshal their power everyday in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans, " said President Obama. Justice Stevens called it a "grave error" and a "radical change in the law".

As special money swamps the political landscape- our little donations will mean nothing, our voices will be drowned out, our interests and needs will be buried. There is already too much money corrupting our system. This tsunami of corporate billions will buy legislators and presidents who will only do the bidding of their corporate masters- like reducing taxes even more for corporations and the rich, keeping defense contractors swimming in money from endless war, destroying the safety net, allowing defective and unsafe products on the market with no accountability, making it harder (or impossible) for workers to organize for fair pay and safe conditions, allowing more pollution and the degradation of our environment... the list is depressingly and dramatically long.

Obama is asking Congress to fight back and Rep. Alan Grayson from FL (who called the ruling "the most irresponsible decision of the Supreme Court since the Dred Scott decision over a century ago")  got right on it. He has introduced six bills to counter the "corporate coup". In a short time 25,000 signed his petition "to save our democracy" Sign it here- SaveDemocracy.net.

This is a revolutionary decision with ominous implications for generations to come. As Rep. Barney Frank said tonight on the Rachel Maddow show- "No functioning democracy allows this unlimited corporate spending in campaigns." Senator Schumer called it "poisonous" for democracy. I'm not sure exactly what we need to do- (start with the petition and let everyone you know know about it) but I know we have to speak with one voice to oppose this terrible ruling. Stay tuned.

Time to Be Bold- 51 Votes for a Public Option!

Why is it that with an 18 vote majority in the Senate (even with Brown winning) Democrats cannot get any of their legislation passed? Bush, who had a much slimmer majority, passed whatever he wanted; but for Democrats it appears that 60 is the new 50.

Republicans are setting a historic high in their abuse of the filibuster and for some strange reason the Democrats don't seem to think this is worth noting. In all of the 19th century it was used just 24 times, during Eisenhower's 8 years, it was used twice, during the sixties it was used 8% of the time, but with the current 110th Congress, Republicans have used it an unprecedented 112 times. A majority of Americans voted for change, but a minority of 41 Senators are denying it.

Some are calling for Democrats to call the opposition party's bluff. For example, do Republicans really want to talk for days on end to prevent insurance companies from being subject to antitrust laws like every other industry, or to block a consumer financial protection agency that would stop Big Banks from gouging us with hidden fees and usurious interest rates, or to prevent legislation that would ensure we will not suffer a second and worse economic meltdown. I think it would be great- it would give us plenty of time to focus on the issues and expose those who are blocking progress on behalf of the profiteering corporations.

Republicans are trying to make the Brown win be a referendum on health care, but the people in Mass. already have reform and poll after poll shows that the American people want it too! They are fed up with the greedy insurance companies raising our premiums and denying us care- they want competition, choice and reduced costs- they want a strong Public Option.

What is most telling is that those who stayed home in the Mass election said by 6 to 1 that the current health care legislation does not go far enough! Eighteen percent of people who voted for Obama voted for Brown and 82% of them support a strong public option (one could debate why they would pick such an anti reform candidate such as Brown to show their frustration) and 86% of those who stayed home want a Public Option. (boldprogressives.org)

The Senate could deliver by going to reconciliation that requires just 51 votes. Please note- this is not the same thing as the nuclear option. The Bush administration used reconciliation to pass tax cuts for the richest Americans in 01 and 03 and for other measures. Let your Senators know what we expect! Tell them- this is the time to live up to your promise and to stand for the people (if you expect the people to stand by you!) 202 224-3121.

Help for Haiti

All our hearts are breaking as we watch the suffering unfold in Haiti.  This earthquake is being called "The Western Hemisphere's Tsunami" and as the president there said, the impact is "unimaginable".
There was a report earlier of a woman who had lost her foot, sitting in the street still waiting for help. I know we all want to help in some way. Here are some organizations you may want to consider:

Doctors without Borders- All three of their primary medical centers have collapsed, but they have already set up tents and are delivering emergency care.


Oxfam- Has four offices in Haiti and 200 workers on the ground.  

The UN Foundation- Responsible for delivering medical care, food and water to the victims.

Habitat for Humanity-  Has been in Haiti for 26 years

And thanks to Shirley Warren for adding the following:
Partners in Health- Has been delivering health care in Haiti for over 20 years.
Madre- Has activated an emergency response through a partner organization that is expert in reaching those in crisis.
Grassroots International- Working with its partners for years for a sustainable and and socially just future in Haiti

As Habitat said, Help us in praying for the best, but in preparing for the worst.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Winter Waking Planet Chronicles- Looking forward Realistically and with Hope

Winter Issue 2010
Looking Forward, Realistically and with Hope

I’ve been writing a newsletter called Waking Planet Chronicles for over 7 years. I began with a short “Don’t Invade Iraq” Special Edition in October of 2002. I did it to keep my sanity when I saw our corporate media censoring stories and viewpoints the rest of the world saw and heard and to hopefully, in some small way, contribute a little more truth, light and love to the planet.

I realize I have been very short on love in writing about Bush and Cheney for these long years (they made it hard)! But this is the beginning of a new decade and I feel I must really challenge myself to write from a more optimistic perspective, one more aligned with my true nature (I will soon be launching WakingPlanet.com- a hub for global and local good news; a place to remember that although the problems we face are great, they are not as great as what is inside us!).

But once again, sadly, some would say predictably, we are not being given the whole story. Only 118 people make up the Boards of the top ten media giants in our country. They also sit on the boards of 288 corporations representing the moneyed elite- those who profit from war, monopolies, deregulation, and keeping Americans ignorant and divided. The corruption and dysfunction of Congress, especially the Senate, has reached a new low. The needs and will of the people continue to be ignored and the mega-transfer of wealth from hard working Americans to the very richest continues unchecked. Bankruptcies, foreclosures and unemployment climb while CEO’s rake in obscene amounts (Aetna’s CEO in 08 make over $467,000 a week) and thousands of millions of our tax dollars go for death and destruction. We really have our work cut out for us! Our strength is in our numbers, our passion, our ability to seek the truth, speak up for the underdog and transcend differences for the common good of liberty, peace and human rights.

We can start with our president. My friends are about evenly divided between those who believe we must stand by President Obama and “give him time” and those who have been disappointed one time too many and have given up on him. I find both positions potentially a little scary. I think blind faith and a lack of constructive criticism is a death knell to a president, or at the very least, it confines him or her to mediocrity. I don’t think we have the “luxury” of giving up- there is too much at stake. I think that just as Lincoln had his abolitionists pushing him to end slavery, FDR had the labor movement helping him to pass the New Deal (he once told an activist- “Make me do it!”) and Johnson had the civil rights movement to fight for the passage of that landmark legislation- Obama needs us to push him to live up to his campaign promise of hope and change we can believe in. He needs us bad.

Let’s start with the comparatively easy stuff- health care reform. Right now our president is backing the Senate bill that has no public option, no expansion of Medicare and no checks on the stranglehold the profiteering insurance industry has over us. He also favors paying for “reform” (please note the Senate bill is NOT reform) by taxing “Cadillac plans” that will end up effecting the middle class. Please, will you call the White House? 202 456-1111. They need to hear from millions of us. Say you want a Public Option or expansion of Medicare, the protection of women’s reproductive rights and a small surtax on the wealthiest to pay for real reform. Remind your elected representatives 202 224-3121 too. Many of us have rallied in the streets for months for reform that would provide competition, choice and lowered costs. Don’t give up now!

OK, so now the tough stuff- the war being waged against five (one by proxy) Muslim countries. We still have 142,000 troops in Iraq, and Obama plans a residual force of 50,000; Obama already sent two surges of 21,000 and 13,000 to Afghanistan and now another 30,000 are being deployed; we are striking Pakistan and Yemen with Hellfire missiles from pilotless drones controlled from half a world away and the Palestinian people continue to suffer a siege that has lasted for over 2 ½ years. The attack on Gaza last December killed over 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, while 13 Israelis died, mostly soldiers. To get a sense of the wanton destruction and lack of respect for human life in that assault read the testimonies from Israeli veterans at Breaking the Silence. The doctor who recently killed our seven CIA agents had vowed to take up arms “to avenge the killing of children and women in Gaza.” Obviously that is not justification- there can never be justification for killing any civilians, ever, by anyone. It is just a fact and so is this- The US annually gives Israel at least $3 billion, mostly for military aid and most of their weapons say “made in the USA”.

Informing ourselves of what is being done everyday in our names is critical. I wonder how many are aware that two days before those CIA agents were killed, Afghanis took to the streets shouting “Death to America”, burning an effigy of Obama, carrying photos of dead children and holding signs asking, “Enduring Freedom or Unending Massacre?”. They were reacting to news that in “a Western operation” (BBC) men helicoptered to a village in Kundar province in the dead of night, rounded up 10 civilians, including 8 school children, 12 to 14 and shot them. Although this story was in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, I have yet to see any mention of it on CNN or any other broadcast media. We are also not hearing much about the drone attacks (more under Obama than Bush) that are killing hundreds of civilians and that the Pakistan prime minister said are “boosting anti-American resentment throughout the country” nor the fact that private contractors (aka mercenaries) now outnumber our troops, and the negative impact they are having on our ability to win hearts and minds. “What You May Not Have Heard” continued below.

My goal is to try to strike a balance of providing information, (even if it is disturbing) and inspiration (recounting stories of “people power” changing the world). I hope with time, with all of us working together, I can emphasize the latter.

What You May Not Have Heard

One US commander in the Army Times recently said, “Everybody knows somebody who has been shot by contractors.”

In Maynard district alone in Afghanistan, mercenaries are responsible for killing and wounding over 30 innocent civilians in the past 4 years. Locals see them as part of the coalition. The district chief there described them as “heroin addicts armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles”.

A Pentagon report in June of 2009 said the US had 242,657 private contractors in action; 119,706 in Iraq, 73,968 in Afghanistan and 50,061 in other US CENTcom locations. The second quarter of 2009 saw a 23% increase in security contractors in Iraq and 29% in Afghanistan.

I really think when historians study the military debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan they will see how the use of private contractors sabotaged our efforts to win over the people, decreased the morale of our troops (contractors get paid much more for often doing the same work) and put too much control in the hands of those who profit from endless war.

In addition to this major problem, Major General Michael Flynn recently blasted US Intelligence in Afghanistan as “ignorant and flawed”. He said the intelligence gathering focused on the enemy and was “disengaged” from the people, their economy and their needs.

This past Christmas, was the 3,000th day of war in Afghanistan. Almost 1,000 young Americans have lost their lives there and almost 5,000 have been wounded. 2009 was the bloodiest year yet with casualties doubling over ’08. It was also the 30th anniversary of the Soviet invasion. They were there for 10 years with troop levels of a half million. Former Soviet commanders said they won nearly every battle, but that it did not matter- the next day there were more insurgents as though nothing had ever happened.


Just the Facts

Senior US officials are pushing to expand CIA drone strikes beyond Pakistan’s tribal area and into a major city of 850,000. Pakistani officials have warned the fall out would be severe. LA Times 12/14

The US government plans to develop “new generations of tiny ‘nano’ drones that can fly after prey like a killer bee through a window.” guardian.co.uk 8/22

The US is alone among NATO allies in refusing to sign a 10 year treaty to ban landmines. Last year, landmines killed or injured over 5,000. The vast majority were civilians. Inter Press Service 11/26

The EPA and USDA are encouraging farmers to put coal ash that contains mercury and arsenic on their crops. Huffington Post 12/21

The CDC has pushed hard for swine flu vaccines. The doctor who headed the CDC from 2002- 09 has landed a lucrative job as president of the vaccine division of Merck. npr.org 12/21

On 9/10/01, Rumsfeld announced that Pentagon could not account for 25% of its funds, $2.3 trillion. CBS News 12/28

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula behind the thwarted Christmas attack said it was in retaliation for US/Yemen missile attacks on 12/17 and 12/24. Philadelphia Inquirer 12/29

99% who have a problem eating gluten (protein in wheat and other grains) don’t know it. 30% of people of European descent carry the gene for gluten sensitivity that increases susceptibility for cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, migraines and more. Huffington Post 1/2

Sprint fed GPS data on its wireless customers to local police departments 8 million times without them having to demonstrate probable cause to a judge. buzzflash 12/1

In the past two years, the number of American households living on food stamps alone went up 50%. NY Times 1/2

Wall Street is expected to pay employees $140 billion in 2009- a record high. Wall St Journal 12/14. Goldman Sachs is paying $23 billion in bonuses, double 2008. The company pays a tax rate of about 1%. Rawstroy.com 12/13

From 98-08, the finance industry made $1.7 billion in contributions to DC politicians (55% to Republicans, 45% to Democrats) spent $3.4 billion on lobbyists and won deregulatory victories that led to the meltdown. Wallstreetwatch.org

To Do-
March 20- mark your calendar to Protest the War in Afghanistan in DC! Call your elected officials- 202-224-3121. Demand more humanitarian aid and development for Muslim countries, not bombs.

Join the eight year long running Women in Black Peace Vigil any Saturday from 12:30-1:30 PM in front of the Elting Library, New Paltz, NY. All are welcome!

Good News!
Fourteen local residents were part of the Gaza Freedom March- joining with 1,300 other international participants to break the siege of Gaza by bringing humanitarian aid. Hudsontogaza.blogspot.com

Brazil has made greenhouse gas emission targets legally binding. They will reduce emissions 36-39% from projected 2020 levels. Deforestation will be reduced in the Amazon by 80% and 70% overall.

For the first time, the US EPA said greenhouse gas pollution imperils the health and well-being of present and future generations.

Check out people from 156 countries singing All You Need Is Love at the same time on youtube. Uplifting! It is part of a Starbuck’s program to bring help to AIDS patients in Africa.

The Hudson Valley Progressive Coalition will mark its first anniversary in February- become a member! hudsonvalleyprogressives.org

There is a bi-partisan effort to resurrect the Glass- Steagall Act that would prevent Wall Street from using your deposits in a commercial bank for risky investment schemes.

MoveYourMoney.info encourages Americans to take money out of the rapacious Wall Street Banks and invest in community banks. Watch their great 4 minute video.

Winslow T Wheeler who worked on Capitol Hill for 31 years says to call the Republicans bluff on filibustering. He said it used to take skill to pull off (the other party could end it if rules were not followed exactly) so they were rare. The filibuster was never meant to be threatened for every piece of meaningful legislation.

For the first time in 47 years of polling, the number of Americans who said they had a mystical experience (a moment of sudden awakening) was greater than the number who had not. Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life 12/9

Waking Planet Chronicles is published quarterly by Barbara Upton. Check out Wakingplanet.com- a place to connect, be energized and inspired. Keep the faith!