10 Good Things About a Bad Year
And 10 Not-So-Good
"Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth?"
— Willie Nelson
The title of his new song, from article #4 below
In Today's Socio-Political Report
1) 10 Good Things About a Bad Year
2) 10 Threats to Democracy at Code-Red Level
3) Kucinich Releasing World Peace Initiative
4) Willie Nelson, Taking Bush to Task
1) 10 Good Things About a Bad Year
By Medea Benjamin
Wednesday 31 December 2003
No two ways about it, 2003 was a demoralizing year for those of us working for peace and justice. With George Bush in the White House, Arnold Schwarzenegger in the California State House, and Paul Bremer ruling Iraq, it was a chore just to get out of bed each morning. But get out of bed we did, and we spent our days educating, strategizing, organizing and mobilizing. As we greet the new year, let's remember and celebrate some of our hard-fought victories in a time of adversity.
1. We organized the most massive, global protests against war the world has ever seen. On February 15 alone, over 12 million people came out on the streets in over 700 cities in 60 countries and on every continent. So impressive was this outpouring of anti-war sentiment that the New York Times, not known for hyperbole, claimed there were now two superpowers: the US and global public opinion.
2. Over the last few months, mainstream Americans have been buying progressive books by the millions. Authors such as Michael Moore, Al Franken, Molly Ivins, Paul Krugman and David Corn have seen their books soar to the New York Times bestsellers list. With humor and biting exposes of the Bush administration, these authors helped our movement gain legions of new converts. No more preaching to the choir this year!
3. When the World Trade Organization met in Cancun in September to promote global rules that give even greater power to transnational corporations, they were met by well coordinated opposition from countries in the global south, hundreds of non-governmental organizations and thousands of activists. When our movement's sophisticated inside-outside strategy forced the talks to collapse, there was "gloom in the suites and dancing in the streets." And as a counter to these corporate-dominated global institutions, the fair trade movement had a stellar year.
4. The poorest country in South America, Bolivia, proved that people power is alive and well. Sparked by the Bolivian president's plan to privatize and export the nation's natural gas, an astounding grassroots movement of peasants, miners, workers, and indigenous people poured into the streets to demand his resignation. After five weeks of intense protests and a government crackdown that left 70 dead, Sanchez de Lozada was forced to resign. Now that's regime change!
5. The silver lining in the budget crisis affecting the states throughout this nation is that from Louisiana to Texas to Michigan — and even in Arnold Schwarzenegger's California — state governments are cutting prison budgets by releasing non-violent drug offenders. The year has been marked by a steady move toward treatment instead of incarceration and a greater understanding that drug abuse should be handled in the doctors' office, not the prison cell.
6. For so long, celebrities have put their careers above their beliefs. This year witnessed a "coming out" of all types of celebrities on all manner of progressive issues. Jay-Z and Mariah Carey railed against the racist Rockefeller drug laws, Bono and Beyonce Knowles called for the world to fight AIDS, and a host of celebs such as Sean Penn, Susan Saradon and Laurence Fishbourne courageously took a stand against the invasion of Iraq.
7. Progressives now have a powerful new tool for organizing: the Internet. E-activism through venues such as MoveOn, Working Assets and Meetup.com have allowed ordinary people to challenge big money and powerful institutions. We raised millions of dollars to run ads, we've confronted corporate-dominated institutions like the Federal Communications Commission, and e-activism has allowed an anti-war candidate, Howard Dean, to become a frontrunner in the 2004 elections [and Dennis Kucinich as well].
8. In an unprecedented outpouring of local opposition to the assault on our civil liberties, over 200 cities, towns, counties and states across the country have passed resolutions against the Patriot Act. In fact, the outcry has been so profound that plans for a successor act, dubbed Patriot Act II, that would further broaden federal investigatory powers, have been scuttled [Patriot Act ll has been cut up, renamed, and pasted surreptitiously into other bills].
9. While eclipsed by the war in Iraq, the corporate scandals that topped the headlines in 2002 continued in 2003, with indefatigable New York State Attorney-General Eliot Spitzer exposing the trading abuses in the mutual funds industry. The Enron, WorldCom and accounting scandals produced some positive legislation against corporate crime and forced institutional investors like pension funds to become more active. And anti-corporate crusaders joined with peace activists to expose the obscene war profiteering of Halliburton and Bechtel, with more exposes to come in 2004!
10. Despite the conservative takeover of the courts, this year produced several landmark rulings we can be proud of. The Supreme Court upheld affirmative action, giving a sweeping victory to the University of Michigan and colleges all over the country. It struck down sodomy laws criminalizing gay sex, affirming the constitutional right to privacy. The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that gays should be able to marry. The Appeals Court ruled that the US military could not detain American citizen Jose Padilla as an "enemy combatant", and in an even more significant decision, found that all 600 detainees at Guantanamo Bay should be granted access to lawyers.
There are many more — the immigrants' freedom march that crisscrossed the nation to counter the anti-immigrant backlash, the amazing youth movement that is bringing new culture and vibrancy to organizing, the renewed women's activism through groups like Code Pink, the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to an Iranian woman, Shirin Ebadi. And each one of us could add to the list.
So while we lament the present state of the world and the present occupant in the White House, just remember that even in the gloomiest days of 2003, we kept slugging away-and sometimes even winning. Now let's move on to score the big victory in 2004 by sending George Bush back to Crawford.
2) Threats to Democracy at Code-Red Level
By Edward Wenk Jr.
Wednesday 31 December 2003
The shock and awe of 9/11 has not faded. Americans remain in jeopardy of terrorists willing to die simply to lull and frighten innocent civilians. Taking precautions to preserve our security is essential, but in that process, have we self-inflicted a second class of danger that threatens our cherished freedom, justice and democracy, a condition grim enough to deserve code red?
Consider the USA Patriot Act titled "Uniting and strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Funds to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism." Noble as that objective is, the act's provisions are scary. Government can now collect data on library withdrawals, charge card records, medical and financial histories. Surveillance can be ratcheted to monitor your e-mail, wiretap you under a generic warrant, search your home without a warrant and label you a "terrorist" if you are among activists exercising rights to dissent. In a swoon of hysteria, Congress passed this statute in 45 days with only two hours of hearings
Pending is Patriot Act II, the Domestic Security Enhancement Act, to legalize indefinite detention without charges, to end court-imposed limits to spying on religious and political organizations and to withdraw citizenship for civil disobedience.
Constitutional lawyers claim the First Amendment is violated by letting the FBI investigate those engaged in free expression, free association and unfettered practice of religion. The Fourth Amendment is violated by intrusive surveillance without probable cause, infringing privacy of targeted individuals. Human rights to moral order are maimed as aliens are tried in military tribuna1s able to impose death sentences without appeal.
Ponder even more zealous implementation by Attorney General John Ashcroft should the United States be attacked by terrorists with a nuclear weapon.
If these acts stir alarms, connect the dots of other risks to democracy: The Electoral College created by the Constitution has proven obsolete. It led to George W. Bush's presidency even though Al Gore had a popular majority of 540,000. The election turned on electoral votes in Florida where three counties were in dispute. Voting machines left hanging chads and butterfly ballots that warranted a recount. With the nation paralyzed by uncertainty, a country judge in Tallahassee, the Florida Supreme Court and its Legislature ignited a saga of recounts and deadlines. The U.S. Supreme Court abruptly stopped proceedings that would likely have shown Gore the victor. Citizens didn't elect Bush; the Supreme Court appointed him illegally.
To block a replay requires a constitutional amendment. Since that process takes years, improvements for the 2004 election have been mandated in voting machinery.
Machines now being acquired are highly vulnerable to fraud. Corporate owners will only rent and not sell their equipment, keeping inner workings secret from election officials and providing no paper trail for recounts.
The concentration of media also threatens democracy because citizens can be swamped with biased news or blocked from any. Democracy requires that those who govern do so at the informed consent of the governed. By allowing a few network operators to own a majority of stations in a given area, and by abandoning principles of "equal time," the Federal Communications Commission lets stations broadcast political propaganda of authorities in power — entertaining but not enlightening.
Reforms in campaign funding do not diminish the imperative to raise funds for TV ads. Time and energy thus required of candidates dilutes their primary role as policy-makers.
The military-industrial-congressional complex controls half the national budget and subverts priorities preferred by the electorate.
The White House blocks freedom of information and keeps secret names of campaign contributors seeking access to power as major policies are drafted. Vice President Dick Cheney hides his cadre of advisers on energy policy. The administration's rationale for war with Iraq wanders while the public wonders about military intelligence and true presidential goals.
The White House lacks tolerance for healthy dissent. The most influential advisers have the same biases as the president, nurturing error, blunder and folly.
Redistricting anticipated by the Constitution to reflect population shifts has been pathologically distorted by gerrymandering so that incumbent Republicans are virtually guaranteed re-election.
Education of children neglects the beauty of democracy with its civic responsibilities, so few young people vote.
Democracy is not born in the genes. It takes continuing diligence. While our government tries earnestly to seed democracy abroad in the Middle East, at home it, ironically, shrinks democracy and even the appetite for freedom.
Vigilance is essential about physical threats from abroad, but we must also guard against erosion of our liberties and invasion of our privacy. The electorate should insist that Congress serve as a balance wheel, not a rubber stamp, that elected officials be held accountable, that public interest advocacy be nourished and that the media be free to practice journalism's highest standards.
With dots connected, these 10 threats to democracy are at a level of Code Red.
3) Kucinich Releasing World Peace Initiative
December 24, 2003
Democratic Presidential Candidate Dennis Kucinich will be releasing a multi-part World Peace Initiative. The first piece, being released today, addresses the elimination of nuclear weapons through a 12-point
Today Kucinich released this statement:
"The holiday season is a time of common aspiration for peace on Earth, but this holiday season the Bush Administration is taking us in the opposite direction, undermining international efforts to stop the spread of nuclear arms. Our government is now developing new nuclear weapons. The Administration is putting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in jeopardy, thereby increasing the likelihood of the use of nuclear weapons.
"According to an article published yesterday in the Los Angeles Times, diplomats and non-proliferation experts are saying that the Bush Administration's efforts to develop new nuclear weapons while simultaneously condemning such development by other countries creates a double standard which will undermine efforts to curb nuclear arms.
"In this season of peace, the Administration is conjuring nuclear war. This is why I feel it's imperative to announce the first part of a World Peace Initiative, one dealing with the threat of nuclear weapons to world peace."
World Peace Initiative
Part 1: Nuclear Weapons
As President, Dennis Kucinich will work to achieve the following steps to promote world peace:
1. Leading the way toward the complete elimination of nuclear weapons from the earth. Kucinich's goal as president will be a steady movement toward complete nuclear disarmament.
2. Renouncing first-strike policy. Kucinich will set aside the Bush Administration's Nuclear Posture Review, which is a strategy for nuclear proliferation. He will assure the world community that the United States will not be the first to use nuclear weapons.
3. Cancellation of all U.S. nuclear weapons programs. Kucinich will work to put an end to the development of any new nuclear weapons, to the manufacture of any nuclear weapons, and to any plans to test nuclear weapons.
4. Stopping the use of all depleted uranium munitions. Kucinich will order an end to the United States' use of depleted uranium munitions. He will lead an international effort to recover depleted uranium. He will promote environmental remediation. He will develop a program to provide care and restitution for people suffering as a result of the United States' use of depleted uranium munitions, nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons production, nuclear testing, and uranium mining.
5. Banning all nuclear weapons testing by the United States. Kucinich will enact a new policy banning nuclear testing and will work to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
6. Opening talks with all nuclear powers. Kucinich will begin new talks with Russia, China, Britain, France, India, Israel, and Pakistan to develop a plan aimed at the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. The first step will be to suspend all "readiness" levels of nuclear weapons systems, including those of the United States.
7. Encouraging participation in the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. Kucinich will encourage all nations to actively participate in the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, and will meet personally with the leaders of India, Israel, and Pakistan to request that they sign as non-nuclear weapons states. He will also meet personally with Kim Jong Il to encourage North Korea to re-join the community of nations through reaffirming its participation as a non-nuclear weapons state.
8. Discouraging nations from acquiring nuclear weapons. Kucinich will work with the nations of North Korea, Iran, Algeria, Sudan, Syria, and others to discourage the acquisition of nuclear weapons capability.
9. Reinstating the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and Canceling the Ballistic Missile Defense. Kucinich will work with Russian President Vladimir Putin to reinstate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The treaty prevents both the United States and Russia from developing nationwide ABM defense systems and limits employment of new ABM technologies. Consequently, the ballistic missile defense program will be cancelled.
10. Meeting all requirements of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. Kucinich will work to ensure that the United States leads the world again in fulfilling all requirements of the treaty. This means the United States must negotiate the complete elimination of its nuclear arsenal.
11. Committing to greatly expanding inspections. Kucinich will work with the 188 signatories of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and the International Atomic Energy Agency to greatly expand the use of inspections in all nations.
12. Leading an international effort to bring terrorists to justice. Kucinich will cause the United States to participate in a cooperative world effort to track down terrorists who are seeking to acquire nuclear weapons capability.
4) Willie Nelson, Taking Bush to Task
Thursday, January 1, 2004
DALLAS — Country music icon Willie Nelson has written a Christmas song with an edge — a protest against the war in Iraq that he hopes will stir passions. Nelson, 70, told Reuters yesterday he wrote "Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth" after watching the news on Christmas Day. He [played] it in Austin on Saturday at a concert to benefit Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.
His rare foray into protest music — he said it was only the second such song he had written, after the Vietnam-era "Jimmy's Road" — follows recent political controversies stirred by the Dixie Chicks and Steve Earle.
The Dixie Chicks, one of the biggest acts in country music, had their music boycotted by some country stations after lead singer Natalie Mains said at a concert in London just before the invasion of Iraq that she was embarrassed to be from the same state as President Bush.
Last year, Earle sparked the ire of conservatives with his song "John Walker's Blues" about John Walker Lindh, the young American who converted to Islam and was captured while fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Nelson said his new song criticized the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq and those who thought it unpatriotic to speak out against the war.
The song opens with the line "How much oil is one human life worth?" and swings into the chorus: "Hell they won't lie to me / Not on my own damn TV / But how much is a liar's word worth / And whatever happened to peace on Earth?"
"I hope that there is some controversy," said the country singer, who has five nominations in the upcoming Grammy Awards." If you write something like this and nobody says anything, then you probably haven't struck a nerve.
"I got it out of my system. I was able to say what I was thinking," Nelson said.
David Swanson, a spokesman for the Kucinich campaign, said the candidate was a Willie Nelson fan and the song resonated with themes raised by Kucinich on the stump.
"This is a patriotic song," Swanson said.
Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq in March, saying that Saddam Hussein threatened U.S. security by possessing weapons of mass destruction, but no such weapons have been found.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Courtesy of Shepherd
To read the lyrics of Willie's new song, go to:
Read Willie's endorsement of Kucinich:
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