Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Please note I have a new phone number...


Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

Let's talk...

Let's talk...

Friday, February 28, 2014

Don't like what I write? Don't read it.

People have written me suggesting I stop using words like "imperialism," "Dumb Donkey," "Democratic Party hack," "foundation funded outfit," "company mole," "greedy bastards," "warmonger," "millionaire labor leader," "racist white mobsters," "goddamn," "the Israeli killing machine," and so on and so forth.

I never really know how to respond to these "concerns."

My position, quite frankly, and what I tell those complaining, is that they aren't being forced to read anything I write and if they disagree with what I write to simply respond instead of taking these cheap shots.

Usually, I think, although I can't explain the motives of others, is that this is being used as a way to try to try silence and censor me because there is disagreement with my ideas--- and instead of expressing their disagreement with me, it is just simpler for them to try to pressure me not to state my views.

I bring this up because Ken Martin, the Chair of the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, recently told a group of people they should "monitor" my FaceBook posts and my blog posts and file complaints with my Internet Service Provider, Blogger.com and FaceBook anytime they found anything that might be considered "offensive" and in violation of their established standards.

What a morally, ethically and intellectually bankrupt way to participate in the political process.

Why doesn't this piece of donkey dung just come out and post his own responses to me? Goddamn chicken shit... Bakkk, Bak, Bak, Bak, Bak, Baaakkkk.

Calls for U.S. Military Intervention in Syria Re-surfacing

Calls for U.S. Military Intervention in Syria Re-surfacing

Homs. Image Wikimedia Commons
Homs. Image Wikimedia Commons

On February 15 at FPIF Focal Points, Rob Prince wrote, “At a moment when the only viable path open to resolving the Syrian conflict lies in a negotiated settlement between the Assad government and the legitimate opposition, two colleagues at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies, Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel of the Center for Middle East Studies, have put forth an emotional and poorly conceived call for military intervention to resolve the escalating humanitarian crisis there” in a New York Times op-ed. Now Coleen Rowley, who you may remember for the service she performed for the nation as a post-9/11 FBI whistleblower, weighs in.

Cross-posted from the March newsletter of Veterans for Peace, Chapter 27.

The propaganda that continues to flourish for war on Syria shows many Americans fail to understand the problems posed by ”US Empire-building” believing it to be an altruistic force, toppling other governments and starting wars for the good of all mankind. Two recent articles in the New York Times (NYT): “Use Force To Save Starving Syrians” and “U.S. Scolds Russia as It Weighs Options on Syrian War“ are typical of the concerted efforts underway to ramp up US military intervention despite overwhelming opposition voiced by Congress and the American public thwarting Obama’s plan to bomb Syria announced in late August last year.

The “U.S. Weighs Options” news piece is easier to expose since it employs an obviously twisted and one-sided reporting lens that puts the primary blame on Russia for the violent conflict in Syria. It was apparently fed to Michael R. Gordon and his NYT colleagues by anonymous Administration officials as well as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the neo-con think tank nefariously founded by the Israeli American Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to deceptively appear to be independent of its parent, the foreign-based lobby group.  (AIPAC has been revealed by scholars as the most powerful force in recent decades on US foreign policy, repeatedly pushing the U.S. into wars for Israel.) It should be recalled that Gordon himself is the same NYT reporter who gave a big assist back in 2002 to Judith Miller, notoriously collaborating with Scooter Libby and other neoconservatives to gin up war on Iraq by writing false front page stories about Saddam’s WMD. Unfortunately Gordon never was held accountable (in contrast to Miller who was eventually forced out of the NYT and also did jail time, for covering for Libby’s other illegal leaks).  It’s therefore not surprising that Gordon and others continue to carry water and blatantly skew the facts for AIPAC and the neocons.

The other push for increased military intervention in Syria, however, could be categorized as “neo-lib.” The “Use Force…” op-ed by long-time advocates of “Right to Protect (R2P)” and Syrian regime change, Danny Postel and Nader Hashemi, current heads of the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies, is even more insidious. As their colleague, Professor Rob Prince, explains in his insightful counterpoint, “Military Humanitarian Intervention: the Shock Doctrine Applied to Syria:”

In calling for military intervention in Syria — something not even the U.S. military itself is particularly enthusiastic about — Hashemi and Postel cozy up, as they have before on Iran in 2009 and Libya in 2011, with the likes of AIPAC, along with this country’s band of intrepid and misdirected neoconservatives. These are the same elements that pushed this country into invading Iraq and continue to push the Obama Administration to intervene militarily in Syria.
Close examination of the facts–rather than shock doctrine emotion–is indeed required because R2P is based on a form of ends-justify-the means, concocted utilitarianism, i.e. Orwellian-type propositions that killing can save lives, that war can bring human rights, democracy and peace. It’s not different from the prevalent argument that torture can be justified as saving lives or “we must bomb the village to save it,” designed to prey on people’s emotions instead of facilitating critical thinking based on actual facts or research.

These two writers urging U.S. military force admit “political interests” typically lie behind R2P interventions.  But they fail to recognize how their own long-standing political interest in toppling the current Syrian government undercuts their own claimed morality mantel. It also casts doubt on their suggestion that such force and aerial bombardment would be used evenhandedly against both Syrian regime forces and/or rebel militias, upon whichever side blocks the delivery of food and humanitarian supplies. Any “humanitarian” proposal emanating from Obama and Kerry who similarly announced “Assad must go” from early on would naturally face equal skepticism.  Russia and China certainly remember how they were deliberately misled in UN Security Council discussions to not veto what then U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice sold as a limited “no fly zone” humanitarian mission to protect Libyans in Benghazi but which morphed within days of that vote into thousands of NATO bombing sorties over six months to take out Qaddafi and force regime change upon Libya.  In the case of Libya, a right to “protect” turned out to mean the right to destroy. That probably explains why Postel-Hashemi do not point to Libya as their precedent for R2P success but, rather bizarrely, to Somalia and “Black Hawk Down.”

It’s long been observed that “truth is the first casualty of war.” So fact checking is needed when these R2P-regime change proponents point to the “humanitarian nightmare in Syria — replete with refugee flows, sarin gas, barrel bombs, and “industrial-scale” killings and torture, (which have) horrified the world.” Facts are inherently scarce in the fog of war enveloping Syrian atrocities. Eventually truth will emerge.  But for starters, very little solid evidence exists as to who was responsible for the sarin attack on Ghouta on August 21. Despite John Kerry’s initially bold claims that the U.S. possessed “undeniable” evidence that Assad’s forces were responsible “beyond any reasonable doubt,” Seymour Hersh and other investigative journalists have reported that US intelligence was never conclusive. Evidence does exist of a few hundred Syrians dying in the August chemical attack but the (overly precise) figure the U.S. cited of 1429 victims is now widely viewed as exaggerated since it stemmed from a sloppy, rushed counting of shrouded images in various videos by US intelligence agencies.

The U.N. too has already backtracked on several of its original key findings about this sarin attack. Whatever bits of intelligence the U.S. does possess remain classified and secret to this day so it’s hard to assess but, at very least, the trajectory “vector  analysis”–referred to by our United Nations Ambassador Samantha Powers and relied upon by the NYT and Human Rights Watch (HRW)–has been significantly discredited. The NYT had to print a retraction of its initial map showing trajectories of sarin-loaded missiles traveling 9 kilometers after it was determined the range of the actual missiles used was no more than 2.5 kilometers.

The NYT’s and HRW’s concocted maps were further undercut by the fact that no sarin was found at the site of the supposed missile landing in Moadamiya, south of Damascus. The only rocket tested and found to be carrying Sarin was the one that landed in Zalmalka/Ein Tarma, east of Damascus.  (HRW’s errors and, even worse, their failure to admit these errors when they knew their map was being relied upon to justify US bombing of Syria, also calls their agenda into question.  HRW’s hypocrisy using human rights as a pretext for military intervention and its directors’ conflicts of interests is documented elsewhere.)

In late January, 2014, two weapons experts challenged the ballistic data, concluding ”that under no circumstances can Syria be held accountable for the massacre” (see Flawed US intelligence on Ghouta massacre based on MIT report: “Possible Implications of Faulty US Technical Intelligence in the Damascus Nerve Agent Attack of August 21, 2013″)

War crimes should of course always be brought to light and prosecuted.  But the recent “smoking gun” report accusing Assad and conveniently made public just when the Geneva II peace negotiations were getting underway is suspicious on many levels. Reportedly commissioned and funded by Qatar, a country arming and funding Syria’s rebels, the report lacks independent, unbiased sources and omits evidence of war crimes being committed by rebel factions in Syria. (Also see “Is Syrian peace conference laying the foundation for war?“)

It’s no secret that the U.S. has a long history of toppling governments that it doesn’t like, even democratically elected ones. And Syria is not the only place right now where the official goal is regime change! The coup orchestration department is working overtime these days with reports of U.S. attempts to topple governments in Venezuela and the Ukraine. (U.S. meddling in the latter, despite the complexity of the situation—see here and here, was recently confirmed through interceptions of Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, formerly Dick Cheney’s principal deputy foreign policy advisor and married to neocon Robert Kagan, co-founder of the Project for the New American Century.)

The use (abuse) of human rights law as justification for orchestrating such “regime changes” in Syria and around the world exemplifies a dangerous form of hypocrisy as it serves to deprive these international principles of legitimacy.

As retired CIA analyst Paul Pillar recently wrote, it is a mistake to see “the United States as an omnipotent global savior or policeman. We ought to bear this principle in mind in contemplating policy about problems anywhere on the globe. It certainly should be borne in mind with the Middle East, where there is a still fairly recent history of forceful U.S. action doing more harm than good…”

In May of 2002, Coleen Rowley brought some of the FBI’s pre 9/11 lapses to light and testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee about some of the endemic problems facing the FBI and the intelligence community. Rowley’s memo to FBI Director Robert Mueller in connection with the Joint Intelligence Committee’s Inquiry led to a two-year long Department of Justice Inspector General investigation. She was one of three whistleblowers chosen as persons of the year by TIME magazine. She currently works with the Veterans for Peace chapter in Minneapolis, Minnesota.



This chant repeated again and again by tens of thousands in Raleigh on Feb. 8, 2014 energized and inspired all who rallied and marched up Fayetteville Street toward the North Carolina capitol. We were young and old, black, brown and white, gay and straight, men, women and children steadfast in our belief in justice and equality and committed to peaceful, non-violent action. We were members of unions, churches, mosques, and synagogues, civil rights, women's rights, workers' rights, and environmental organizations. We came from all walks of life and all political persuasions, all participating in the Moral Monday March and Rally to restore voting rights, women's reproductive health rights, marriage equality, worker and environmental protections.

We were marching against repressive legislation that has robbed us of necessary rights and protections that we have come to expect as basic human rights, and hope to expand. Signs displayed messages such as "Stop the War on Women," "Healthcare is a Human Right," "Welcome to North Carolina. Turn Your Watch Back 50 Years." This was not the first Moral Monday march nor will it be the last. But it was the largest so far in this growing movement that has spread beyond the borders of North Carolina. It was also the largest march for civil rights and voting rights since the 1965 march in Selma, Alabama. More than 80,000 strong we marched to say, "We are united and together we are powerful."

The march and rally was both to protest the right-wing policies of the North Carolina government and to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the HKonJ (Historic Thousands on Jones Street, where the NC legislature sits) coalition. Since taking over the legislature in 2010 and the governorship in 2012, controlling the state government for the first time in over a century, North Carolina Republicans eliminated the earned-income tax credit for 900,000 North Carolinians; refused Medicaid coverage for 500,000; ended federal unemployment benefits for 170,000; cut pre-K for 30,000 children while shifting $90 million from public education to voucher schools; slashed taxes for the top 5% while raising taxes on the bottom 95%; axed public financing of judicial races; prohibited death row inmates from challenging racially discriminatory verdicts; passed one of the country's most Draconian anti-choice laws; and enacted the country's worst voter suppression laws, which mandates strict voter ID, cuts early voting and eliminates same-day registration, among other things.

The Forward Together Moral Movement has put together a long-term strategy which includes litigation to challenge the voter suppression bill, voter registration, outreach, non-violent direct action, and a watchdog group, which ensures that any legislation put forth in the state has the interest of the people at heart. "Freedom Summer 2014" is also planned to energize the youth vote. Five demands have been put forth by the coalition:

1) Secure pro-labor, anti-poverty policies that insure economic sustainability;

2) Provide well-funded, quality public education for all;

3) Stand up for the health of every North Carolinian by promoting health care access and environmental justice across all the state's communities;

4) Address the continuing inequalities in the criminal justice system and ensure equality under the law for every person, regardless of race, class, creed, documentation or sexual preference;

5) Protect and expand voting rights for people of color, women, immigrants, the elderly and students to safeguard fair democratic representation.

Members of the Labor Fightback Network were participants in the day's activities along with the Southern Workers' Assembly, Black Workers for Justice, South Carolina AFL-CIO, Savannah Central Labor Council, Raise Up, UE Local 150, Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), NJ State Industrial Union Council, SEIU, and numerous other unions and community groups. The Southern Workers Assembly's call to join the Moral Monday March and Rally included: Union Rights highlighting the right to Collective Bargaining; Living Wages for all Workers; Protect Voting Rights; Stop Attack on Unemployment Coverage; Expand Medicaid; Fully Fund all Public Services; End Systematic Racism, Sexism and Homophobia; and more.

The Southern Workers Assembly meeting held after the march emphasized grassroots empowerment and included a panel of workers from FLOC, UE Local 150, Raise Up fast food workers, and a teaching assistant. They discussed their campaigns for higher wages, health and safety, environmental justice, and a workers' bill of rights, http://southernworker.org at the state and municipal level. In the discussion following the panel others brought up the importance of independent politics, the need to repeal Taft-Hartley, and the recent resolution to Organize the South passed unanimously at the national AFL-CIO convention in September of last year, with slight modifications.

That resolution was approved by members of the Savannah Regional Central Labor Council based on a resolution drafted by a committee chaired by Brett Hulme, President of the Council, and supported by Black Workers for Justice, Southern Workers Assembly and many other groups.  This followed the Labor Fightback Network's founding conference held in NJ last year in which the need to pour resources into organizing the South was the subject of speeches and workshops. Those present were encouraged to support the petition for those arrested and facing charges in the Moral Monday actions. These charges must be dropped. Sign the petition to Stop the Criminalization of the Right to Protest at http://southernworker.org/email-and-petitions/dropmoralmondayscharges/

It is important to note that in North Carolina, and in many other states, the roots of this wave of repressive legislation can be traced to ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, known by many as the author of the infamous "Stand Your Ground" laws. ALEC was founded in 1973 as a clearinghouse to promote legislation at the state level and has since developed into a highly prominent corporate funded lobbying vehicle for advancing corporate interests, despite the fact that it is a tax deductible 501 (c) (3) public charity that has never reported any lobbying expenditures to the IRS.

ALEC develops model legislation which it promotes to state legislators at posh resorts throughout the U.S. A 2009 ALEC model is behind restrictive "Voter ID" legislation which limits the democratic influence of average Americans by disenfranchising disabled, low-income, elderly, people of color, and student voters. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, the Voter ID Act may have disenfranchised 5 million Americans during the 2012 elections, even though voter fraud is a virtually non-existent problem. "ALEC and its sponsors have an enduring mission to pass voter suppression laws that would impose barriers on direct democracy" veteran journalist John Nichols wrote in The Nation. At least ten Stand Your Ground laws were introduced in 2013 and two passed. Fifty two bills were introduced to enact or tighten Voter ID restrictions of which five passed. So much more could be said about ALEC's destructive agenda to undermine rights of workers and unions, reduce and/or deny medical benefits, enact Stand Your Ground laws, etc. To get more info, go to www.ALECExposed.org, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy.

North Carolina's Moral Monday Coalition gives us a blueprint to be followed and duplicated as widely as possible. Its strength is in its diversity and its broad appeal to social and economic justice. On the heels of the devastating UAW loss at the Chattanooga VW plant, it is evident that labor/community coalitions are needed more than ever. As we saw in the UAW election, right-wing anti-union money was funneled through local residents for opposition messages on billboards and other anti-union publicity. Perhaps a strong, united labor/community coalition voice could have countered the third-party political threats and intimidation factor more effectively. The broadest possible coalitions are needed to mount the necessary push-back against such right-wing attacks whether such assaults are targeted at labor, people of color, voters, women, students, seniors, immigrants, or the environment.

According to Saladin Muhammad from Black Workers for Justice and the Southern Workers Assembly, Moral Mondays have mobilized thousands and undercut the claim to moral high ground of the religious right, whose so-called moral agenda is racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and divisive, and tries to appeal mainly to the white working class. In contrast, the Forward Together Moral Movement seeks to unify, not divide. Rev. William Barber, President of the North Carolina NAACP, calls it an agenda-based coalition: anti-racism, anti-poverty, pro-justice. At the Feb 8 rally he said, "We must see ourselves as existing in society not as isolated selves but as part of the whole." And at the conclusion of the exuberant rally after a gray, cloudy morning, the sun burst forth affirming the hopeful, positive, forward thinking, and high spirited atmosphere of the event.

Issued by the Labor Fightback Network. For more information, please call 973-944-8975 or email conference@laborfightback.org or write Labor Fightback Network, P.O. Box 187, Flanders, NJ  07836 or visit our website at laborfightback.org. Facebook link : https://www.facebook.com/laborfightback