Friday, December 31, 2010

Fox News: Execute forgiveness

Tucker Carlson is a Fox News commentator, self-proclaimed Christian, and a believer in the death penalty for those convicted of cruelty to dogs. If they're black. OK, I made up the second sentence. I'm trained in recognizing Fox Code. Michael Vick is black. He was convicted of killing dogs and he served two years in prison for that crime. He is now speaking cross country on behalf of the Humane Society and apologizing, though his 'debt to society' is paid. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals say they are glad Obama called the Philadelphia Eagles coach to thank him for giving Vick a second chance.

Did I mention that the president had made that call? That is what prompted the kerfuffle. The black president, trying to cover up his Kenyan Muslim birth certificate, we presume, is going deep-end sports and military in an effort to wow and woo Republicans, his new wannabe base. But Tucker Carlson noticed that Obama is maybe spending his time on things that don't merit presidential opinion, which is a fair point. Obama should maybe keep his administration on task. We have Afghan civilians to slaughter.

Speaking of Christian behavior, here are Carlson's very words:
I’m Christian. I’ve made mistakes. I believe fervently in second chances. Michael Vick killed dogs in a heartless and cruel way. I think, firstly, he should have been executed for that.
Dick Cheney killed Iraqis and Afghans in a heartless and cruel way, as did George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and the entire US military. That's a lot of executions to contemplate. Is Fox News now suggesting that killing dogs is the same as killing children? I'm a vegetarian and I believe in live and let live, but when I hear that misanthropic and capital punishment retributive confluence it I admit I am nonplussed. Vick was never facing capital punishment and, duh, in fact there is no state in the US that makes dog killing a capital offense. Dogs are routinely euthanized in the US, animals are slaughtered all day and night for food, Sarah Palin is out there shooting caribou and whatever else wanders into her gunsights (excuse me whilst I fantasize a Palin-Cheney hunting trip), and suddenly Fox News is going to fix animal cruelty by executing a black football player who committed and was convicted for and served sentence for his crime. So! Tell us, Tucker, what other new categories of crimes should be upgraded to the death penalty? Spanking your child while Black? Being Black? Being Green? Wearing bow ties? (OK, I see the case for that, but still...)

Of course what is really happening here is the latest Leap-On in the HateObama campaign from the right. I probably disagree with Obama as much as does Rush Limbic or Pinhead Patriot Bill O'Reilly or Tucker "Dogs-Are-Only-Human" Carlson--but for the opposite reasons that all of them do--and yet I still like Obama as a person. They never did, not even for a nanosecond. Tucker Carlson looks like a trope for white male privilege and Obama's background was so tough no one can quite nail it down. He is the offspring of a black man and a white woman, which is unbelievably threatening to some white guys, though they would never in a million years admit it. That is part of what I mean by the Fox Code. This entire Michael Vick imbroglio reeks of it.

Violence will never solve violence. Michael Vick and Tucker Carlson should both be on parole for a while, forced to eat vegan together and their combined salaries could help fund a no-kill animal shelter. I'd love to watch them promote it as a team. For a minute.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Trouble overseas? Send in the Mennonites!

As I'm in Hawaii attending and presenting at an international education conference (that's my excuse, in any case), I grabbed a book on impulse at Powell's at the Portland airport. Mennonite in a little black dress, by Rhoda Janzen. An airplane read.

I rarely make such impulsive purchases and even more rarely am so glad I did. I had the first section finished by the time the delayed flight took off and I finished the book late last night in my room in Honolulu. It was brain candy with organic scholarly vitamins and nonviolent conflict management trace minerals embedded in the delightfully tasty prose. If Janzen taught Nonviolence 101 it would be an outstandingly popular class.

She is flat out funny. She is barenaked honest, whether that redounds on her, on her family, or on teachers or society in general. Those two qualities in a memoir--this is possibly the best memoir I've read--are what pulls the reader through page after page, looking for new bits and for the new ways the lietmotifs will reappear.

I want to meet her mother, an old-school Mennonite whose outlook on life is so sunny it turns lemonades into lemony snickets-of-the-gods, and who, we learn, will reliably gross out all and sundry with graphic medical descriptions of ghastly pus and blood, rot and scat, at the dining room table. It has to be the best weight-loss program ever; even after, the images of decomposing flesh would ruin any sudden urge for some Menno Kartoffelsalat or raisiny Persimmon cookies. Hey, it's working for me here in Hawaii. Food looks grotesque and I'm a fairly simplistic vegetarian. What this would do to a bevy of Menno kids facing a lard sandwich lunch sack is beyond my capacity to image, or at least I'd like it to be.

The entire book goes down so easily and yet we get powerful insights into Mennonite pacifism conflated with patriarchy, a sort of nonviolent Talibanic world in which a girl can emerge into womanhood capable of both societal challenging and quiet victimhood. Rhoda is liberated from some of the Mennonite anti-intellectualism at a young age, rising to her various graduate degrees and even her status as Poet Laureate for the University of California two years, but she suffers tremendous verbal abuse and catastrophic physical intimidation from her bipolar, bisexual husband, who destroys furniture and other household objects in rages and calls her every nasty misogynist term imaginable, even in public. She reflects on her tendency to Just Take It and ascribes at least part of that to the Mennonite problem of failing to teach any meaningful assertiveness to their daughters.

Still, as Janzen describes in those embedded bits, the Mennonites abhor war and will all resist it. They proselytize, but not like Jehovah's Witnesses. They are about deeds, not theological argumentation. They serve without as much doctrine. She says they beat Gandhi to the punch, so to speak, in resisting war by refusing to cooperate and suffer consequences instead (e.g. the pogroms in Europe that were only relieved by Catherine the Great inviting Mennonites to colonize part of Ukraine, which they did quite successfully). However! She doubts many Mennonites would join him in fasting, as the Menno family and culture and society is so utterly food-centric. No skinny vegan ascetics otherwise living very simply indeed in Mennonite enclaves. Sausage-fed pacifists all, ready to help humanity.

Indeed, far beyond the brief of her thoroughly enjoyable book, Mennonites established the Mennonite Central Committee, which offers volunteer service to Mennonites and non-Mennonites, and I have friends from the world of nonviolence who have done just that. They have globalized this service and do more on the ground around the world to establish structural nonviolence than all the Human Terrain components of DoD and State combined, which not surprising at all but I thought I'd stick in a little jab. After all, I just got a request from a grad student in the Beltway power schools to refer him to the literature of nonviolence in Afghanistan, which set me off, I can tell you.

Meanwhile! Toss yourself a favor. Buy, borrow or check out this little book and end the Old Year or start the New Year with something that will renew your love of reading. Grad students and academics nota bene: it's not too late. Some academics can still write palatable prose and Janzen rehabilitates the entire genre in one easy read.

References
Janzen, Rhoda (2009). Mennonite in a little black dress. NY: Henry Holt.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Loss is just a stone's throw away

I was lucky enough to be invited to the Fletcher Summer Institute at Tufts this June, where we met the leader of the pretty much nonviolent movement to save the small Palestinian town of Budrus from bifurcation by the Separation Wall, an Israeli project futilely designed to gain security for stolen lands by walling off sections of the Palestinian portion of the West Bank. Earlier this month, the Christian Science Monitor asked in an article if the Budrus model was still viable.

They looked at various Palestinian villages and pointed out that the Israeli Defense Force was more active than ever and that other villages had not managed to replicate the Budrus success in rerouting the Wall. But the idea that this model will prove replicable is not credible when one looks at the film Budrus and notes that the "nonviolent" resistance included rock throwing by young men. This means the Budrus model is doomed.

One Israeli soldier was hospitalized in Bilin, another village that many leftwingers are touting as a purely nonviolent struggle. Getting hit in the head by a rock is violence. Period. The standard response that, well, those IDF soldiers have all the weapons and really are the violent ones is hogwash now and was hogwash when it was first claimed, as it so often is. To make the claim that relatively minor violence committed by the overmatched violent force in an asymmetric conflict equates to nonviolence is ignorant or disingenuous--false in either case.

To understand why and how a conflict method might work requires honesty, not partisanship. Believing that one side is entirely just and the other side is entirely unjust is a person's prerogative, but to allow that to color interpretations of what nonviolence might be is incorrect analysis.

In the end, we are still waiting for "The Palestinian Gandhi." Or the Palestinian MLK, or the Palestinian Cesar Chavez, or the Palestinian Dorothy Day. We are waiting for that person to emerge as a publicized leader of a disciplined nonviolent movement, something we haven't seen in Palestine and which guarantees that Israel will continue to justify what most of the world recognizes as unjust occupation of land that doesn't belong to them. If the strict nonviolence of Ali Abu Awwad or Mazin Qumsiyeh is adapted by actual movement of Palestinians, they have a chance for success.

Is this fair? Of course not; conflict forensics is not about who is on the side of justice more than another party. It is about deconstructing the dynamics of conflict and making professional observations, which is what I am doing in this case. Yes, making long-distance judgments about what might work and what might not are not brave, nor are they always accurate. Conflict science is not about being a radical; it is about trying to be accurate, which, one hopes, is helpful to some.

Here's hoping Mazin and other Palestinians who eschew stone throwing, not to mention bombing and sniping, are listened to and emulated so we can see movements that succeed more often in Palestine. You cannot reach hearts and minds by hitting people in the head with rocks any more than Israel can gain any friends by such massive criminal enterprises as Operation Cast Lead two years ago, which killed some 1,400 Palestinians, far out of proportion to the violence of Hamas then and now.

Israel v Palestine: First one to adhere to absolute nonviolence wins. This is completely counterintuitive in both societies and it's closer to the truth than what the leadership of either society demonstrates.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

We are all Bradley Manning

Our top-down strategies can’t fix our problems, whether they be homelessness, joblessness, environmental devastation, faltering health care, failing schools, AIDS, or discrimination. They can’t be solved simply by giving orders or by applying new technologies. They’re complex and interrelated; they touch us all. Solutions therefore depend on widening the circle of problem solvers (Lappé, 2006, p. 9).

I've been writing Bradley Manning lately, the young man imprisoned in the Marine Corps brig at Quantico in Virginia, charged with leaking files to Wikileaks.There are now stories that he is being mistreated, even possibly tortured. Yesterday I got a letter with the return address of the "COMMANDING OFFICER [all caps in the original]. The three-page document, the first two pages of which are a copy of what was given to "Detainee Manning, Bradley," explains in detail that my postcard was being rejected because I'm not on his "mail and visitation list." It finishes with his decision not to appeal this rejection, and Manning's signature below a checked statement:

Furthermore, I choose not to add this person to my mail and visitation list, thereby refusing all incoming correspondence from this individual.

If the stories and allegations about Manning are true, and they appear to be in the instance of his release to Wikileaks of many files, including the ones of filmed war crimes, he has blown the whistle on the military and should be afforded all protection, not imprisonment. There are laws about protecting whistleblowers, right?

Ironically, those laws seem to only cover those whistleblowers who use inside channels, official forms, and this protects the offending federal agency from the public oversight it hates so much. Woe to whistleblowers who shine the light of the "free press" on the wrongdoing. Now the military is seen by the world for what it is: a violent occupying force that guns down civilians in cold blood, literally laughing at its bloody deeds and blaming the victims.

The way that decisionmaking works in a democracy is that we choose who can make the top-down decisions, we elect our representatives. If we don't like a policy we have options:

  • elect a different official
  • lobby the elected official
  • sue
  • work to change the policy by bringing civil society pressure to bear
  • expose the policy to the public, inviting discourse
  • ask for negotiations to amend the policy

So, there are layers of authority involved in the question of Bradley Manning's treatment. There is the GySgt William Fuller, who seems to handle his mail. There is the unnamed "COMMANDING OFFICER" and there are ascending officers in the chain of command, all the way through the military to the Joint Chiefs and then to the civilian Commander-in-Chief, President Obama. With regard to torture, all these layers are also superceded, by law, by the international laws to which the US has signed and ratified, including basic Geneva, Hague, and Nuremberg Conventions, Accords, and Treaties. All apply, all are the Supreme Law of the land, and all are enshrined in the actual rules of the various branches of the armed forces. Viewing just a tiny fraction of what Manning is alleged to have done reveals a prima facie case that he is uncovering serious violations of these rules and laws.

The threats and actions against Bradley Manning are also against our democracy. Civil society is beginning to respond. I can report that, as a former inmate, getting lots of mail that was rejected for one arbitrary reason or another was a very positive thing. My experience was also for directly confronting the military but I was never a member of any military organization and never held in a military prison, so perhaps Manning is having a different experience in all ways, but until I learn better, I am going to regard the Amnesty International principles as valid, which they certainly were in my case. The nature and amount of my abuse and arbitrary mistreatment by the prison system lessened as the volume of supportive mail grew. I was certainly out of my cell much more often, and even when I was in solitary confinement the respect with which I was treated slowly grew as the mail volume increased. When guards and wardens know that the outside world cares about an inmate they seem to adhere to a bit better standard of treatment and they understand that they might be themselves held a bit accountable.

Turns out that the unnamed brig commander is:
Quantico Brig Commanding Officer
CWO4 James Averhart
3247 Elrod Avenue, Quantico VA 22134
+1-703-784-4242 (fax)

So, now I have someone to whom I can write to press for better treatment for Manning and I hope Averhart is deluged with mail.

I also have my next postcard addressed to Manning:

Bradley Manning

USMC Base

Quantico Brig

3247 Elrod Av

Quantico VA 22134

and I hope you will consider writing him too. He just turned 23, he's been in Quantico since July, and needs to know that more of us believe he did the right thing. More mail, even when it's rejected, is a real back-straightener for those who are apparently powerless, shackled and ordered around. We are the threads to freedom for Manning and if all of us are involved in some way, his time of freedom is that much closer. As Lappé notes, we are all stakeholders and problem-solvers in a strong democracy. The guns and steel doors and concrete walls of military brigs are not the strength, we are, if we act.

References

Lappé, Frances Moore (2006), Democracy’s edge: Choosing to save our country by bringing democracy to life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Democracy is not for sissies

Frances Moore Lappé has written books that have arguably changed as many people as did Rachel Carson, though Carson's Silent Spring had a more immediate effect on national legislation and Lappé's Diet for a Small Planet had a more immediate effect on the personal behavior of millions. Writers who come to their craft hoping to make a difference in the world hold Carson up as a paradigmatic exemplar of the possible. I'd include Lappé in that grouping.


When Lappé (2006) writes about the problems facing us, she frames the underlying problem as far more basic, as sine qua non to addressing all our other problems:

“The crisis is our feeling of powerlessness to address them” (p. 5).

This is exactly the basic idea behind both real democracy and strategic nonviolence. Powerlessness is a perception problem first because it perpetuates a positive feedback loop of negative result. If I fail to act because I perceive myself as powerless, I ensure that I remain powerless. How can we overcome this mutually reinforcing dynamic that cedes power to those who arrogate it unto themselves?

Activating ourselves is always easier when we can also activate others. There are two reasons to involve as many others as possible.

One is biological. It is the selfish herd instinct. The same internalized behavior modification mechanism that keeps prey animals in large herds to increase the chances that the predator will choose some other individual is the reason we like to sign a petition that thousands of others have signed rather than be the only one to write a letter to the editor. We would rather come out for peace in the company of a few thousand others on the street than as a lone resister at the military base. We don't want to be the one who gets picked off and terminated.

The second reason is chance of success. When Mazin Qumsiyeh stands alone at the Separation Wall near his ancestral home of Beit Sahour in Palestine, he can get arrested alone and tossed into a cell alone and he can hope for very little change in the public policy that keeps him a third-class citizen in his own homeland. When he is arrested with others, and when he writes op-eds about it, and when he speaks at schools and churches across the US about it, and when he writes books about Palestinian nonviolence, his arrest begins to take on a power that feeds another result, a potential change in public policy.

This is why the arsenal of democracy has nothing to do with guns and everything to do with the empowerment of people. This is why guns and bombs erode, not enhance, democracy, if by democracy we do not mean the notion of might makes right but rather that public discourse and civic engagement can produce wiser decisions than public distraction and technocratic rule.

Mazin stayed in our Whitefeather Peace House for two stretches while he and Mike Miles were conducting their Wheels of Justice speaking tour in the US a few years ago. I will never forget his first few minutes in the house, as he asked fervently if we had wireless internet or wired where he could plug in. He set up his laptop in the dining room and quickly connected and brought up images of cancer cells and sent back instructions for treatment. He lives to serve, he lives to heal, and he lives for justice, which he defines as requiring nonviolence. He is profoundly sincere and has a Palestinian dark humor full of irony and almost a Serenity Prayer orientation, gracefully accepting what he cannot change and moving the mountains he believes he can move.

If Mazin Qumsiyeh can show such faith in democracy, who are we to sit on the sidelines? He is living his faith and we live ours. If we have faith in consumerism and entertaining television, we will get ruled by others and we will pay the prices. If we join Mazin in a faith in people of good heart we strengthen our own power and the power of democracy. The choice is ours. Dr. Qumsiyeh has made his choice. He is a far more powerful member of the democracy we still have left in the US, where he cannot vote, than are many US citizens who can. The power of civil discourse is on the table for all of us. If we don't engage, we leave our power on the table and the war system profiteers pick it up for themselves every time. We can do better.

2011: We still have choices. Every day we delay we narrow our range of choice. It's work, it's sacrifice, and it's a small price for our children, our grandchildren, and the future of our herd of humankind.

References
Lappé, Frances Moore (2006), Democracy’s edge: Choosing to save our country by bringing democracy to life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Zimbabwe, nonviolence and sacrifice

The Ph.D. student, a small man with a huge problem and a beseeching, sincere attitude, asked us, "But what about my country?"

Until the dictator is gone, I will respect this man's anonymity, but his country is Zimbabwe and he was asking us, collectively at a symposium of nonviolence scholars, what could be done with nonviolence to depose Robert Mugabe, the thug who jails journalists, tortures dissidents, and uses colonial history to smear anyone in his way with labels that excuse his brutality.

Zimbabwe is a traumatized land with a warlord-for-life, and enough of his people accept that to prevent his downfall. He led the violent victory that terminated racist white minority rule in the armed struggle ending with independence in April 1980. This means the revolutionaries who were with him are also still around, elderly like him, and are often in power locally. This points to many problems of using violence to gain independence, not the least of which is the continuation of that violent method to keep the power gained by violence.

Mugabe thus has his loyalists who can be counted upon to respond to his predictable pattern of naming all opposition tools of the West, instruments of colonialists. He has used this successfully for decades and is quite elderly, determined to stay in power for life by the means he has always used.

So, how can nonviolence hope to unseat him?

Ultimately, like the hope of nonviolence everywhere, the base of success or failure is the populace of the nation. No external actor can make this determination, even for an overmatched military. Externals can influence events, but the indigenous population will show its mettle or reveal its inability to rise to the occasion.

So Zim will be free from the oppressor who calls himself the commander of the liberation forces when the people of that nation decide that it is time. Many have, and of course they suffer the consequences. Brave women of Women of Zimbabwe Arise Magodonga Mahlangu and Jenni Williams have led nonviolent efforts and have been imprisoned numerous times for their efforts.

If the people of Zim simply went on general strike until Mugabe stepped down, that would end his rule. This would mean sacrifice, but Zimbabweans know sacrifice already. What it really requires is for the people of Zimbabwe to understand that their founder has presumed power much like a king, not a liberation leader. Imagine George Washington deciding that he would rule America for the remainder of his life after leading the violent revolution against Britain. That level of corruption and personal power grab should be unacceptable to the citizens of Zimbabwe, but until it really is, Mugabe will hold power.

Africa itself is experimenting with in a number of directions, under enormous pressures from within and outside. The power sharing that Mugabe was convinced to try two years ago is very likely coming to an end as his political machine prepares to steal another election by violence.

So, how can a hypothetical nonviolent revolution succeed in Zimbabwe?

First, the citizenry needs to assume complete responsibility for its leadership and it needs to commit to not accepting anything less than democratic rule. No power sharing with dictators. No partial democracy. No more business as usual.

Second, the people of Zimbabwe need to negotiate with Mugabe, publicly. They need to assure him that there is life after presidency. He may be investigated but he will never be tortured or executed. They need to guarantee that.

Third, they need to convince the rest of the world to stay out of it except to use nonviolent sanctions to enforce human rights laws. The unfolding disaster in Cote d'Ivoire, with the spectacle of the African Union and the UN blustering about using "legitimate force" to depose the Mugabe wannabe, Laurent Gbagbo, will likely only strengthen Mugabe's hand as he points to threats from the outside, using that case to further smear his domestic opponents as agents of outsiders. When the African Union, the UN, the US and the EU can unite to shut down the flow of money and arms to Mugabe, and deny all his people access to international finance and travel, the externals can be of some value. Of course, the influence of the major power player on the rise in Africa, China, has no interest in human rights or democracy, so that is a confounding factor that the outside world must grapple with or fail in its basic obligations.

Fourth, civil society outside of Zimbabwe can support WOZA and other nonviolent civil society organizations inside Zimbabwe (such as Amnesty International giving them their 2008 award) and take their lead. When WOZA calls on us to act, to write, to call, to publicize, and to support them, that is our chance to help. This is a tough struggle and we can do our part, small though it may be, toward another victory for nonviolence, one in a place so hurt by violence for so long.


This is my very tough answer for that Zimbabwean Ph.D. student. It requires so much from so many Zimbabweans who have already suffered so much, and yet, short of another violent process that results in yet more violence, this is one nonviolent path that would work. Ultimately, the general strike is painful and, if done with complete nonviolent discipline long enough, will emerge victorious. Mugabe's shreds of legitimacy only relate to the external threats he can whip up because the only ones left who support him are the ones dependent on his ZANU-PF for their bit of power. Only the people of Zimbabwe can end this political patronage that allows for so much murder, torture, abduction, and oppression. That is reality and we can do our small part to help.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas and the Prince of Peace

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
--Mohandas Gandhi


Time to get militant.

No more war by Christians.

If you use violence, stop calling yourself Christian.

If you carry a gun, stop calling yourself Christian.

The real Christians are the ones who only use nonviolence, and the best Christians are the Anne Montgomery-types, who head out with a hammer to begin to fashion swords into plowshares--or stand with others in Bethlehem, as in this photo of them trying to protect Palestinian homes from Israel bulldozers (Anne is the little woman on the left).

Christians were nonviolent for the first three hundred years, persecuted, tossed in to the lions, and lived as much like Jesus as they could. It was illegal for a Christian to be in the army in the Roman Empire.

Then emperor Constantine, desperately trying to propitiate any god who would listen and make a deal, promised the day before a great battle over the Milvian bridge, which crossed the Tiber River, that he would convert to Christianity if granted victory. He won, establishing himself as the sole ruler in the western Roman Empire, and kept his promise. He converted and Christianity thus became more like The Mummy Returns than like Jesus founded it. Quid pro quo--promise Aribus your soul and he'll grant you battlefield victory. Your warriors will spread across the world like an evil plague.

Well? The US may no longer officially call itself a Christian nation, but if there is any strain of crypto-religion dominant in the US military it is a Constantinian Christianity, born again into heavily armed warriors who are raining death on all who resist. They do so from space, from the seas, and from more than 1,000 military bases around the planet. They do it in the name of fighting terror and they kill civilians, which is the classical definition of state terrorism. Indeed, within a century or so after Constantine's bargain with the devil he called God, it was illegal for anyone but a so-called Christian to be a member of the Holy Roman imperial army. From that day the imperial peace of the grave became the peace of Christ and the lie was complete.

Christianity cannot do this and honor Jesus. Christians cannot kill and call themselves Christians.

Perhaps Christmas, 2010, is a moment to convert, away from the Christianity that makes deals to attain victory and power. Maybe this is a moment to start small, start humble, get back to the manger and put away the tools of empire.

May your Christmas be one of the Prince of Peace--the one who leads by nonviolent example, seeking peace and justice by peaceable means and who shares and serves with humility and nonviolence.

One might pray for this on Christmas. What would Jesus think?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Wikileaks protected?


With Sarah "Shoot Him on Sight" Palin and Joe "Single Bullet" Lieberman ranting publicly about Julian Assange and his dangerous activities, many Americans have been convinced that Assange is guilty of something, so arrest him if you can't actually assassinate him, get him to Guantanamo or Egypt or Diego Garcia and at least torture him for a bit.

The Organization of American States, on the other hand, has soberly examined this question and is offering a rapporteurs' write-up of the approach that civilized people and nations should ethically take. They did the research into human rights law, journalistic ethics, and freedom of expression and specifically condemned the US and Canadian elected officials who have been illegally, immorally, and irresponsibly calling for extrajudicial harm to Julian Assange. The OAS language is clear:
"Calls by public officials for illegitimate retributive action are not acceptable."
In the end, we all live in democracies if we understand the latent power of civil society, and we have agency to vote. We can vote these killers out of power whether we live in Ludefiskistan or the Talib caves. We vote with our purchases, we vote with our submission or our resistance, we vote with our voices and we vote with our lives. It is vastly easier when we live in a political democracy, but it is possible even the most oppressive Taliban-controlled villages. We risk far less in the US, and so our excuses for not using our far greater human agency are flimsy. Julian Assange used his powers for the common good and knew he would likely be a target. What is amazing is that the American public is so easily convinced that exposing bad conduct, criminal conduct, by our military and by our elected officials, is the problem, not the conduct itself. Sarah Palin shoots to kill; when will we notice?

We are in a fight for our democracy and we will help or hurt all other democracies as well, depending upon the way we wage this fight and upon the outcome.

Frances Moore Lappé (2006) begins her book, Democracy’s edge: Choosing to save our country by bringing democracy to life, this way:

“Contemporary social critics see America divided—left versus right, conservative versus liberal, religious versus secular. I disagree and even find these framings destructive. They deflect us from the most critical and perhaps the only division we have to worry about. It is that between those who believe in democracy—honest dialogue, basic fairness, mutual respect, inclusivity, and reciprocal responsibilities—and those who do not. In the latter category are those willing to put ends over means, violating these core principles in pursuit of an ultimate goal” (p. 3).


Assange is not a perfect person, but unlike Palin, Lieberman, Huckabee and other degenerates, he does not call for people to die. Instead, he releases evidence that shows murders done by our military, terrorist acts that are done in our names because our military represents each of us in a democracy.

Footage of a civilian just walking by an abandoned building on 12 July 2007 that has been targeted by the US military, and that military choosing to shoot a rocket into the building at that second, rather that humanely wait for a minute or two until the man was safely down the street, this is footage of a war crime, a crime against humanity, a crime done in the name of every US voter and taxpayer. It is part of the longer wikileaks video. The US killing civilians is nothing new at all, sadly, but callously and intentionally choosing to kill a man who just happened to be walking by when they could have waited to engage in a military strike instead of a war crime is just so blatant, so lawless, and yet Assange is the problem, right?

If we allow Assange to be the bad guy--and he never had a role in planning any of the crimes, as did Ellsberg in the Pentagon Papers release, after all--we are seeing the serious erosion of our democracy. Is this our fate, our future? This is all in our hands. Each of us makes our voices heard or we are silent and give our tacit consent. Each of us pays our taxes quietly or we resist, even if only a protest publicly as we pay, since they collect it one way or another at virtual gunpoint.

While Assange is no pacifist, neither has he committed any violent act. He has stolen nothing--all Wikileaks came to him, all the whistleblowing was done by people who sought a way to blow the cover off these misdeeds. If we allow the imprisonment of them, from Manning to Assange, we lose more vitality from our disintegrating democracy. Where are we when the chips are down? It's up to us.

References
Lappé, Frances Moore (2006). Democracy’s edge: Choosing to save our country by bringing democracy to life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Two modest fixes for 2011


New Years is coming. As a believer in nonviolence and preserving the environment, I'd like to propose just two modest ways to fix the entire planet in 2011.
One, stop using, preparing to use, and threatening to use violence.

Two, start internalizing most costs into all manufactured items.

In order to accomplish the first one, we need to get much better at practicing and promoting nonviolence. After all, violence is used to solve problems, not usually just gratuitously. Nonviolent problem-solving methods are cheaper and more effective (unless someone is seeking domination, theft or other injustice, at which time violence is the only really possible method).
In order to accomplish the second goal of internalizing costs of manufactured items, we need better global governance over trade, which is part of what the global justice movement was trying to accomplish, before it succumbed to the rage and stupidity of using quasi-violent methods itself, which relegated it to the ineffectual margins.

As currently organized, the corporation doesn’t have to pay many of its bills. I know this sounds strange, but it doesn’t have to pay for much of what it uses in, for example, clear air or water; and it doesn’t have to clean up after itself. Economists call “externalities” these massive costs passed on from corporations to all of us” (Lappé, 2006, p. 82-83).


Lappé was writing about the US corporation but the same is true for the unique Chinese commiecapitalistcorporations too. Slave labor--or virtual slave labor in China--is a big part of the equation, but so is environmental unaccountability. Chinese standards are getting better about putting toxic and hazardous materials into consumer items, primarily due to our own EPA and other consumer protection agencies, as well as their analogs in other countries. They are still lousy at internalizing the costs of manufacturing that involve polluting their own workers and environment.

There are only a few European countries that worry about the carbon footprint of manufactured goods, which is just another externalized cost, especially when the US military is the primary security force for the world's oil. Is that ironic? We US taxpayers are making Exxon far more profitable by allowing them to externalize most of their security costs while at the same time making the oil more secure for corporations based in all other countries.

Gosh, that brings us back to the question of violence, doesn't it?

So this is yet another reason to reduce the carbon footprint, and thus the externalized costs, of the goods we trade. There are huge areas in which all of us can improve, all nations, all consumers, all corporations, all regulators. These might include (but are not limited to):
  • transport
  • refrigeration or heating
  • packaging
  • manufacturing
  • disposal
Of course each of these categories comprise many subcategories, and each one is logically divided between sales points--so, for example, the transport in a cellphone would only include the transportation costs of the components as they came from their own sources and the transport of the finished phones to stores. The transportation costs of the components of those cellphones would be incorporated into the prices of those components to the manufacturer of the finished phone. All these would work backward to the oil suppliers, who would themselves be paying all costs and in turn charging them on. Oil would rapidly become more expensive and the Adam Smith (1723-1790)/Milton Friedman (1912-2006) invisible hand of the market would work to make us all carbon-frugal instead of carbon-wastrel. This would lower our environmental impact greatly, make oil wars and oil spills a vastly reduced problem, and this mutually reinforcing dynamic (recycling swords into plowshares on a mass scale) would go a long way toward making our Global Humankindness Index increase.

Impossible? No, improbable. We will either make these changes or humankind will cease to exist, out with a nuclear bang or an environmental whimper. This is literally do or die. If that makes humanity an improbable species, then our evolutionary experiment will end. It is up to us. Do we think about the future of the children for the next decade or the next hundred years and the long evolutionary road ahead?
Do we have vision or are we so near-sighted we kick the can down the road, making it more likely our species will not be able to kick the can because we kick the bucket instead?
2011 is a great year to make some great changes.

References

Lappé, Frances Moore (2006), Democracy’s edge: Choosing to save our country by bringing democracy to life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How to defeat the Taliban with nonviolence

Militaristic types with zero connection to the human emotional content in conflict scoff at the notion that anything except violence can keep us safe from the Taliban. A derisive snort would be the best one might hope for from those folks. Their attitudes are best summed in the old movie, Crimson Tide, when Gene Hackman's character equates all conflict to how to train a horse using an electric prod. It's all just voltage, he says.

But humans have memories, suffer collective humiliation, and feel collective pride. Unless we want to commit genocide, they cannot be crushed in their own homes and be expected to put up with it.

Nor will religious zealotry be stamped out by violence, much as we might wish it could be. All that does, demonstrably, historically, repeatedly, in various religions, is produce more extreme, warped versions of the faith.

But violence worked to end the Nazi militaristic takeover of Europe. It stopped the Japanese imperial wars and the Germans and Japanese people were ultimately grateful for that. How can we rule out the efficacy of violence?

Indeed, could a wise humankind have handled German and Japanese aggression in a wiser way without violence at a far lower cost? That is always a question that goes to timing and intention.

To apply a generous set of conditions to the end of World War I would have almost certainly meant that Hitler would not have been radicalized, or, if he were the same old bloodthirsty nutcase, he would never have found a public so eager to listen. Germans were punished mercilessly by the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles, they were impoverished while the US was enjoying the hedonistic Roaring 20s, and they were disarmed while the rest of Europe rearmed. Like any pecking order process, the powerless Germans went after their weakest, their Jews and gays and Romany and communists and others.

So, this process took 21 years, a deepening disaster ignored. Served those Hun right for being the enemy in World War I. Of course the secret alliances, Balkan wars, pent-up and unresolved bitterness between European colonial powers, and arms races that led to the outbreak in 1914 could have been avoided too. The peace following the war of 1870 contributed to the irredentism and vengeance that led to the 1914-1918 slaughter.

And of course, before that was the Concert of Vienna, itself a peace agreement in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, and a precursor to the eventual League of Nations and our modern UN. The rise, fall and rise of Germany was cyclical and, while militaristic, avoided the inhuman atrocities the world saw under Hitler. Indeed, in the 1870-71 Siege of Paris the German military commanders rebuffed calls to bombard the city, preferring to blockade and win the war by causing shortages until France capitulated, which they did, the Germans left, and took Alsace Lorraine back from France, the historical resource-rich territory disputed and snatched by one and then the other. The French took it back after WWI, lost it, and got it back again.

All this history pours itself into the creation of the Nazis and when the context of militarism, wars, territorial and colonial power battles are understood, coupled with the retributive nature of the Treaty of Versailles, we get why Hitler happened and we can see how a nonviolent alternative would have removed his base and ended his power before he had any chance to get elected in 1933.

In a vastly different way, we could have eliminated the Taliban threat using nonviolence. The Taliban, after all, were zero threat to the US and in fact were in part created by us during the 1980s, when "Charlie Wilson's War" ramped up and we provided $billions in armaments to them and the other mujahedeen fighting the Soviets. We poured arms into that war and helped create, or at least exacerbate, the extremism and militarism that came from the armed resistance to the Soviets. Had we undertaken a different form of helping Afghans that entire history would have been quite different.

So now we see our position as a result of all sides failing to use nonviolence again and again, and the Taliban are on the rise after we knocked them out of overt ruling power following their failure to turn over bin Laden after September 11, 2001. We could have prevented the Taliban from offering sanctuary to bin Laden by massive aid and development, making the paltry and bitter 'help' from bin Laden unwelcome and impossible. The world failed the Afghan people and now we are paying for it.

So we are back to voltage. We resurrect the old Curtis LeMay notion of making the rubble bounce, whether we target Somalia or Afghanistan, and wonder why we cannot defeat these jihadis. We've been in Afghanistan longer than the Soviets were and we wonder why they consider us foreign occupiers. Most Afghans have no clue about bin Laden but they know who is running around with military convoys controlling their land, land that has been theirs forever, even if under temporary control by outsiders. At this point, nonviolence is the only hope for our success in making America more secure against terrorism. Giving aid to the people, not at gunpoint but unconditionally, and using the UN sanctions to target the bad behavior of corrupt and violent elites, is how nonviolence can win at far less cost.

Instead we send barrels, bales, bags and baskets of cash to Karzai and display our weapons on the roads of Afghanistan. We have it all backwards and we will not win this way. We will not win unless the people of Afghanistan win. Victory over terrorism will come for all or for none, and not with our violence.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Keep fear alive! Keep fear alive!

Corporations have taken not just the right to influence lawmaking—with fifty-six paid lobbyists now in Washington for every elected officeholder—but even the right to initiate and organize lawmaking to benefit them.

--Frances Moore Lappé, Democracy’s edge (p. 90).



The most egregious lobbying sector is the so-called defense industry, from high-tech death devices to milspec MREs. I'd call them the Fear Profiteers and I know there is a hip-hop song there for someone with different talents than I.

No US administration is immune--indeed, none ever strays far from the golden triangle of DoD, Congress and corporate war profiteer lobbyists. Obama started early with the appointment of a senior vice-president of huge war profiteering Raytheon as the one who would guard the taxpayer. The henhouse has a revolving door and the foxes just keep slipping through. The politicians use complex bait-and-switch to add Pentagon pork to any legislative menu. Watch what happens, for instance, with New Start. The Rs have their undies in a bunch because of the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, so they say that's it for New Start. If it does pass, watch how much missile defense money is inserted. In the inimitable words of Reagan's Director of OMB, David Stockman, "The hogs are really feeding now." Oink.


Since I write about the Pentagon, I signed up for their news releases. This is the daily list of contracts from a couple of days ago. These people are simply massive, and bear in mind this is just one day. This is the flow daily--I include all of one day's so you can get the heft of this, from actual weapons to the massive amount of everything it takes to run a war machine:

Contracts for December 17, 2010
Fri, 17 Dec 2010 16:00:00 -0600

FOR RELEASE AT
5 p.m. ET No. 1159-10
December 17, 2010

CONTRACTS

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY

Chevron Global Aviation, Houston, Texas, is being awarded a maximum $395,880,657 fixed-price with economic price adjustment, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for aviation fuel. Other locations of performance are Utah and California. Using service is Defense Logistics Agency Energy. The original proposal was Web-solicited with 20 responses. The date of performance completion is Oct. 30, 2011. The Defense Logistics Agency Energy, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity (SP0600-11-D-0452).

Valero Marketing and Supply Co., San Antonio, Texas, is being awarded a maximum $249,772,596 fixed-price with economic price adjustment, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for aviation fuel. Other location of performance is California. Using service is Defense Logistics Agency Energy. The original proposal was Web-solicited with 20 responses. The date of performance completion is Oct. 30, 2011. The Defense Logistics Agency Energy, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity (SP0600-11-D-0464).

Equilon Enterprises, dba, Houston, Texas, is being awarded a maximum $239,513,274 fixed-price with economic price adjustment, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for aviation fuel. Other location of performance is California. Using service is Defense Logistics Agency Energy. The original proposal was Web-solicited with 20 responses. The date of performance completion is Oct. 30, 2011. The Defense Logistics Agency Energy, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity (SP0600-11-D-0458).

Tesoro Hawaii Corp., Kapolei, Hawaii, is being awarded a maximum $234,539,106 fixed-price with economic price adjustment, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for aviation fuel. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Defense Logistics Agency Energy. The original proposal was Web-solicited with 20 responses. The date of performance completion is Oct. 30, 2011. The Defense Logistics Agency Energy, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity (SP0600-11-D-0454).

Western Refining Co., El Paso, Texas, is being awarded a maximum $111,863,194 fixed-price with economic price adjustment, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for aviation fuel. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Defense Logistics Agency Energy. The original proposal was Web-solicited with 20 responses. The date of performance completion is Oct. 30, 2011. The Defense Logistics Agency Energy, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity (SP0600-11-D-0461).

Petro Star, Inc.*, Anchorage, Alaska, is being awarded a maximum $104,438,609 fixed-price with economic price adjustment, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for aviation fuel. Other locations of performance are in Valdez, Alaska, and North Pole, Alaska. Using service is Defense Logistics Agency Energy. The original proposal was Web-solicited with 20 responses. The date of performance completion is Jan. 30, 2011. The Defense Logistics Agency Energy, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity (SP0600-11-D-0453).

BP West Coast Products, LLC, La Palma, Calif., is being awarded a maximum $78,630,310 fixed-price with economic price adjustment, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for Naval distillate fuel. Other location of performance is in Washington. Using service is Defense Logistics Agency Energy. The original proposal was Web-solicited with 20 responses. The date of performance completion is Oct. 30, 2011. The Defense Logistics Agency Energy, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity (SP0600-11-D-0462).

U.S. Oil Trading, LLC, Tacoma, Wash., is being awarded a maximum $72,957,924 fixed-price with economic price adjustment, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for aviation fuel. Other location of performance is Washington. Using service is Defense Logistics Agency Energy. The original proposal was Web-solicited with 20 responses. The date of performance completion is Oct. 30, 2011. The Defense Logistics Agency Energy, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity (SP0600-11-D-0463).

ExxonMobil Fuels Marketing Co., Fairfax, Va., is being awarded a maximum $50,663,932 fixed-price with economic price adjustment, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for Naval distillate fuel. Other location of performance is California. Using service is Defense Logistics Agency Energy. The original proposal was Web-solicited with 20 responses. The date of performance completion is Oct. 30, 2011. The Defense Logistics Agency Energy, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity (SP0600-11-D-0465).

Sinclair Oil Corp., Salt Lake City, Utah, is being awarded a maximum $38,603,925 fixed-price with economic price adjustment, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for aviation fuel. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Defense Logistics Agency Energy. The original proposal was Web-solicited with 20 responses. The date of performance completion is Oct. 30, 2011. The Defense Logistics Agency Energy, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity (SP0600-11-D-0457).

Navajo Refining Co., LLC, Artesia, N.M., is being awarded a maximum $25,758,380 fixed-price with economic price adjustment, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for aviation fuel. Other location of performance is Moriarty, N.M. Using service is Defense Logistics Agency Energy. The original proposal was Web-solicited with 20 responses. The date of performance completion is Oct. 30, 2011. The Defense Logistics Agency Energy, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity (SP0600-11-D-0459).

Paramount Refining Corp.*, Paramount, Calif., is being awarded a maximum $12,318,424 fixed-price with economic price adjustment, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for aviation fuel. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Defense Logistics Agency Energy. The original proposal was Web-solicited with 20 responses. The date of performance completion is Oct. 30, 2011. The Defense Logistics Agency Energy, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity (SP0600-11-D-0455).

Montana Refining Co.*, Great Falls, Mont., is being awarded a maximum $10,686,928 fixed-price with economic price adjustment, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for aviation fuel. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Defense Logistics Agency Energy. The original proposal was Web-solicited with 20 responses. The date of performance completion is Oct. 30, 2011. The Defense Logistics Agency Energy, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity (SP0600-11-D-0456).

ARMY

AM General, LLC, South Bend, Ind., was awarded on Dec. 15 a $211,474,506 firm-fixed-price contract. This award will provide for 1,263 High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles of various models. Work is to be performed in South Bend, Ind., with an estimated completion date of June 30, 2011. One bid was solicited with one bid received. The U.S. Army TACOM Contracting Center, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (W56HZV-10-C-0405).

GM GDLS Defense Group LKC, JV, Sterling Heights, Mich., was awarded on Dec. 15 a $72,840,590 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract. This award will provide battle damage-assessment and repair services and materials required to support Strykers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Work is to be completed in Sterling Heights, Mich.; Shelby Center, Mich.; Auburn Warehouse, Wash.; Anniston, Ala.; Germany; Iraq; Kuwait; Qatar; and London, Canada, with an estimated completion date of Dec. 31, 2011. One bid was solicited with one bid received. The U.S. Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (W56HZV-07-D-M112).

Lockheed Martin Corp., Orlando, Fla., was awarded on Dec. 15 a $48,766,679 firm-fixed-price contract. This award will provide logistical support for the AH-64 Apache modernized and legacy target acquisition designation sight assembly and pilot night vision sensor assembly system. This includes repair and maintenance of line replaceable units and line replaceable modules to support the Apache's sensors flying hours program. Work is to be completed in Orlando, Fla., with an estimated completion date of June 30, 2011. One bid was solicited with one bid received. The Aviation & Missile Command Contracting Center, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-07-C-0058).

Conti Federal Services, Inc., Edison, N.J., was awarded on Dec. 15 a $21,727,500 firm-fixed-price contract. This award will provide for development of the hurricane protection project at the east and west of Algiers Canal in Plaquemines Parish, La. Work is to be performed in Plaquemines Parish, La., with an estimated completion date of Nov. 9, 2011. The bid was solicited on the World Wide Web with four bids received. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District, New Orleans, La., is the contracting activity (W912P8-11-C-0016).

Mahaffey Fabric Structures, Memphis, Tenn., was awarded on Dec. 15 a $16,528,634 firm-fixed-price contract. This award will provide for rotational logistical life support training for leaders and the establishment of life-support structures and services at sites located throughout the Fort Polk training areas. Work is to be performed in Fort Polk, La., with an estimated completion date of Dec. 14, 2010. The bid was solicited over the Internet with nine bids received. The U.S. Army Mission and Installation Contracting Command, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, is the contracting activity (W9124J-11-D-0006).

Woolpert, Inc., Dayton, Ohio, was awarded on Dec. 15 a $14,847,015 firm-fixed-price contract. This award will provide for the investigation of capability enhancements, including higher-flying platforms, improved imagery resolution and accuracy, improved processing and sensor payloads for improved collection rates. Work is to be performed in Arlington, Va.; Alexandria, Va.; and Afghanistan, with an estimated completion date of Dec. 14, 2011. The bid was solicited on the World Wide Web with one bid received. The U.S. Army Geospatial Center, Contracting Office, Alexandria, Va., is the contracting activity (W5J9CQ-11-C-0007).

BAE Systems, Ordnance Systems, Inc., Kingsport, Tenn., was awarded on Dec. 15 a $9,127,949 firm-fixed-price contract. This award provides funding for 90 percent engineering design on the Area A to Area B Acid Facility Relocation Project at the Holston Army Ammunition Plant. Work is to be performed in Kingsport, Tenn., with an estimated completion date of Feb. 1, 2012. One bid was solicited with one bid received. The U.S. Army Contracting Command, RICC, Rock Island, Ill., is the contracting activity (DAAA09-98-E-00006).

NAVY

DZSP 21, LLC, Philadelphia, Pa., is being awarded a $93,156,864 modification P00022 under a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (N40192-10-C-3000) to exercise the second award option period for base operation support services for the Joint Region Marianas. The work to be performed provides for general management and administration services; command and staff (public affairs office); public safety (safety and contingency); port operations; ordnance; material management; galley; facilities management & engineering services; sustainment, restoration and modernization; facilities services; utilities (potable water, waste water, electrical and steam and demineralized water); base support vehicles and equipment; and environmental. After award of this option, the total cumulative contract value will be $494,204,389. Work will be performed at various installations in the United States territory of Guam, and is expected to be completed December 2011. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Marianas, Guam, is the contracting activity.

AT&T Mobility, LLC, Hanover, Md. (N00244-11-D-0002); Sprint-Nextel, Reston, Va. (N00244-11-D-0003); T-Mobile USA, Inc., Bellevue, Wash. (N00244-11-D-0004); and Verizon Wireless, Laurel, Md. (N00244-11-D-0005), are each being awarded an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity multiple award task order contract to provide wireless service and devices to the Navy. The maximum dollar value, including the base period and one six-month option period, for all four contracts combined is $96,000,000. These four contractors may compete for task orders under the terms and conditions of the awarded contract. No task orders are being issued at this time. Work will be performed in various continental United States locations, and is expected to be complete June 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This requirement was awarded through full and open competition via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online and Federal Business Opportunities websites, with five offers received. The Fleet and Industrial Supply Center, San Diego, Calif., is the contracting activity.

Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office, Amarillo, Texas, is being awarded a $31,609,158 firm-fixed-price delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-07-G-0008) to exercise an option for on-site flight test management, flight test engineering, design engineering, and related efforts to support Naval Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Squadron flight and ground testing of the MV-22 tilt rotor aircraft. Work will be performed in Patuxent River, Md. (43 percent); Philadelphia, Pa. (36 percent); and Fort Worth, Texas (21 percent), and is expected to be completed in December 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Straub-Martin, JV, Bonsall, Calif., is being awarded a $16,359,978 modification under a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N62473-09-C-1228) for the design and construction of bachelor enlisted men quarters at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms. The work to be performed provides for the design and construction of additional solar energy photovoltaic (PV) systems, solar PV lamps, and advanced metering to include energy improvements and other ancillary items required to have the complete usable facility complying with acceptable codes, criteria, laws and regulations including federal, state and local environmental requirements. The total contract amount after exercise of this modification will be $118,768,252. Work will be performed in Twentynine Palms, Calif., and is expected to be completed by August 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest, San Diego, Calif., is the contracting activity.

3 Phoenix, Inc.*, Fairfax, Va., is being awarded a $14,492,631 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-07-C-6274) to provide engineering services to support software development, procurement of commercial off-the-shelf products, and hardware/software integration in support of Navy submarine and surface ship systems. This effort is for Phase III of a Small Business Innovative Research topic number N04-138, "Real-time Data Fusion and Visualization Interface for Environmental Research Data." These services will be rendered as needed to support the Navy's initiative to maintain the pace of performance improvement through judicious use of lower power electronics, advanced algorithm design, and innovative applications of open software and hardware. This requirement includes system engineering, architecture design, software engineering, prototyping, integration, and test activities. Work will be performed in Fairfax, Va. (35 percent), Wake Forest, N.C. (35 percent), and Hanover, Md. (30 percent). Work is expected to be completed by December 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Harper Construction Co., Inc., San Diego, Calif., is being awarded a $12,222,122 modification under a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N62473-09-C-1205) for the design and construction of recruit barracks at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. The work to be performed provides for the design and construction of induction lighting and additional solar energy photovoltaic panels, to include energy improvements and other ancillary items required to have the complete usable facility complying with acceptable codes, criteria, laws and regulations including federal, state and local environmental requirements. The total contract amount after exercise of this modification will be $72,556,608. Work will be performed in San Diego, Calif., and is expected to be completed by November 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest, San Diego, Calif., is the contracting activity.

Applied Research Associates, Inc., Albuquerque, N.M., was awarded on Dec. 14 an $8,019,992 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for requirements analysis for human injury and treatment modeling tools. The contractor will determine the requirements and identify scenarios for use in demonstrating, a computer modeling tool for predicting human injury incapacitation, and medical response requirements associated with blast attacks in shipboard environments. This contract contains options which, if exercised, will bring the cumulative value of the contract to $11,678,148. Work will be performed in Albuquerque, N.M., and is expected to be completed December 2011. With options exercised the completion date is December 2014. Funds in the amount of $5,000 will expire at end of current fiscal year. The contract was procured under Office of Naval Research Broad Agency Announcement 10-001. Because the announcement was issued electronically via the internet, the number of potential offerors who received the solicitation is not available. The Office of Naval Research, Arlington, Va., is the contracting activity (N00014-11-C-0061).

Osage of Virginia, Inc.*, Norfolk, Va., is being awarded a maximum $7,488,000 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for wastewater treatment at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. The work to be performed provides for management, supervision, tools, materials, supplies, labor, and transportation necessary to perform processing (both mechanically and chemically) dry dock industrial wastewater and ship's bilge water at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, for discharge to the Virginia pollution discharge elimination system. Task order #0001 is being awarded at $117,500 for wastewater treatment at Norfolk Naval Shipyard at the time of award. Work for this task order is expected to be completed by September 2011. All work on this contract will be performed in Portsmouth, Va., and is expected to be completed by September 2015. Contract funds for task order #0001 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website, with two proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Mid-Atlantic, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity (N40085-11-D-0009).

AIR FORCE

Boeing Co., Seattle, Wash., was awarded an $87,952,000 contract which will acquire the radar system improvement program/mission navigation system upgrade installation and checkout for the Japan Air Self Defense Force AWACS fleet of four aircraft. At this time, $47,000,000 has been obligated. ESC/HBSKI, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., is the contracting activity (F19628-01-D-0016; Delivery Order 0072).

*Small business

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)

On the Web: http://www.defense.gov/Contracts/

Media Contact: +1 (703) 697-5131/697-5132
Public Contact: http://www.defense.gov/landing/questions.aspx or +1 (703) 428-0711 +1

Who can keep track of this sloshing $billions? No one. Not the administration, not Congress, not the Pentagon itself and certainly not the ones who pay for it all--the American workers. It will take the American voters to change this. Nothing wrong with the government spending money, but fewer jobs are created with Pentagon spending than in any other sector of the economy or the federal budget. If we want some actual, real, economic security we will start to stop this.


References

Lappé, Frances Moore (2006). Democracy’s edge: Choosing to save our country by bringing democracy to life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

This is what democracy looks like

People power v money power
What happens when representatives from grassroots movements actually impress their opponents enough to do what Dr. King named as the purpose of direct action, that is, to get to the negotiating table? Do they then play hardball and really teach those corporado government oppressors a thing or two?

In her book Democracy's Edge, Frances Moore Lappé includes a chapter about the Rainforest Action Network. One of RAN's organizers, Michael Brune, talks about his approach to that moment, to that negotiation on behalf of the people and forests of the world.

"I have to forget that I didn't have decades of corporate training or know a lot about the industry.
"All that we really carry into the room is our pure sense--and scientific knowledge--that this is what the world needs.
"We like to go hard on the issues and soft on the people," he added. "We don't approach these negotiations with a desire to win so much as a desire to find a way for [the companies] to win by addressing the earth's needs.
"To most of these executives, it's like, oh, yeah, the environment. Like it's the opera or UNICEF. The environment is just another cause. Most want to be good people, but they're not ready to roll up their sleeves and turn their company around. So our goal is to get the change started. And then keep it going.
"We're not finished with Boise or Home Depot. As good as the new policies are, neither company has yet achieved sustainability."
I explained to Mike my notion that any of us can learn the arts of democracy, such as negotiation, if we put our minds to it. So I was curious about whether he'd trained for these high-stakes encounters.
"Oh, yes, for meetings, I do a fair bit of preparation. There's one guy, Bill Ury, who is a personal hero. He does trainings with us, based on his book Getting to Yes. He teaches us how to use conflict, how to use agitation to get to a point of resolution, even collaboration.
"The biggest challenge, with Boise Cascade or anyone, is really trying to get inside the skin of people on the other side of the table, to deeply understand their perspective. Then we can couch our issues in ways they'll understand; it's what I do with my wife. It's basic human stuff"
(pp. 74-75).


Indeed, why would any movement go to all the laborious trouble of organizing a mass movement, engage in enough mass actions--from petitions to demonstrations to boycotts to letter-writing to civil disobedience--and then make it much less productive by not treating their opponents like human beings?

The oxymoronic imperative of installing democracy at gunpoint is precisely the wrong way to approach it, just as is earning a seat at the table and then engaging in actions and words that undercut good faith negotiation. For a deeper conversation about this, listen and watch one of the Getting to Yes authors, Bill Ury, in an October 2010 Ted Talk. Ury is an anthropologist and in that context studies conflict all over Earth in many cultures, and tries to find those moments when he can act as a mediator or facilitator. He writes about it academically and in the popular press, and is generally acknowledged by the most accomplished practitioners as a wise and dedicated conflict transformer. I like very much that a grassroots leader like Michael Brune of the Rainforest Action Network would use Ury's theories and I think all who practice nonviolent civil society activism might consider that model as one very effective tool in the kit.

References
Lappé, Frances Moore (2006), Democracy’s edge: Choosing to save our country by bringing democracy to life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The new sexual surrealpolitik

While the Swedes, Brits and US actually move onstage and behind the scenes to extradite a man for possibly failing to use a condom in consensual sex, some US Republicans are threatening to vote against the STrategic Arms Reduction Treaty--the "New Start treaty"--because Obama is still trying to do away with Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

You can't make up this sort of madness.

Getting Interpol involved in extraditing someone from a foreign country to answer for the most minor sexual crimes is surreal. While "corrective rape" is rampant against lesbians and their daughters in South Africa, with approximately 96 percent of the alleged rapists walking free, including young teen girls with lesbian mothers the victims of this egregious conduct, apparently none of that rises to the level of Interpol involvement. But report evidence of US war crimes to the press and suddenly Interpol is just one tool in the box.

Meanwhile, we have the further spectacle of a surreal Senate holding a nuclear bomb to the head of humanity in a Mel Brooks-like moment of bizarre conflation of WMD and homophobia. Bob Corker, a Republican Senator from Tennessee, is "just saying" that repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell might "poison the well" and make the stunningly unrelated New Start Treaty fail.

Our Oregon Senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, may not make each and every decision exactly the way some of us might prefer, but I have to admit I'm so grateful not to be constantly embarrassed by my Senators (since Merkley mercifully replaced Gordon Smith, that is). I mean, New Start only limits Russia and the US from the previously obscene Start treaty levels negotiated in 2002, and each side will still get to kill the vast majority of the other nation's people and ruin the environment of planet Earth with some 1,550 nuclear bombs each. Lindsey Graham, yet another Republican Senator from yet another Southern state--South Carolina--has joined in holding humankind hostage to this homophobia.

I mean, as a pacifist, I oppose all classes and constituencies of citizens serving in a violent organization such as the US military, and I'm very happy to see more classes and categories of citizens barred from such objectionable activities. Women and gays should consider themselves invited without reservation or question into the ranks of anti-militarists. We want everyone. I hope the military revisits all these questions and the Southern-led Senate Republicans decide to really really roll it back to only allow white heterosexual men in the military. Go for it! If you will agree to dismantle all the nukes I'll sign on to both initiatives today.

Tell me our elected representatives aren't loony. Tell me they are only kidding, and they are happy to stop seeking to destroy Wikileaks and stop standing in the way of New Start, which is only an overdue baby step, after all.

For the most cogent public policy deliberations I've seen in a while, watch this. I'm totally with the kid. I want to pipe Bob Marley straight into Interpol and the US Senate. I think we might see them transform from their demonic behavior to mellowness. Hey, compared to the reality show called contemporary politics, this is sensible. Jah.