"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Call on Congress: Support Diplomacy with Iran!!!

Feb 15, 2012
Reps. Keith Ellison (MN) and Walter Jones (NC) have introduced the following bi-partisan sign-on letter, urging the Obama administration to "utilize all available tools of diplomacy to resolve the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program and prevent another costly war in the Middle East." 

Click here to get contact information for your senators and representative and then ask them to add their names to this critical sign-on letter.


Dear Colleague,

Now that the international community has enacted the strongest sanctions against Iran to date, we must redouble our diplomatic efforts to achieve the transparency measures that will ensure Iran’s nuclear program remains a civilian one.

Without a corresponding diplomatic undertaking, pressure alone could lead to unintended and potentially devastating consequences, including war. Top U.S. national security officials have said that a military strike against Iran could lead to a regional war in the Middle East and attacks against U.S. interests.

While we acknowledge that progress will be difficult, we believe that keeping diplomatic channels open is the best way to avoid a new war and ensure that Iran does not gain a nuclear weapon. Please join us in sending this message to President Obama.


Keith Ellison and Walter Jones

Dear President Obama:

As tension with Iran continues to escalate, we urge your Administration to utilize all available tools of diplomacy to resolve the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program and prevent another costly war in the Middle East.

We have supported your Administration's efforts to unite the international community to bring about the strongest sanctions on Iran to date. Now, we must redouble our diplomatic efforts to achieve robust transparency measures that can verify Iran’s nuclear program is strictly a civilian one. Without a corresponding diplomatic undertaking, we are concerned that a lack of communication with Iran could lead to a dangerous escalation with potentially devastating consequences.

We hold no illusions about the abuses of the Iranian regime and are well aware that it rejected your previous diplomatic overtures. At the same time, we agree with most Americans that the United States should not enter a new war, just as we are finally ending two others. A military strike against Iran could lead to a regional war in the Middle East and attacks against U.S. interests. Even worse, such a strike would likely compel Iran to abandon the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, eject international inspectors, and rapidly pursue a nuclear deterrent.

Top military and civilian leaders have repeatedly issued warnings about the consequences of a military strike on Iran. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta cautioned that the United States “could possibly be the target of retaliation from Iran, sinking our ships, striking our military bases,” and that “would not only involve many lives, but I think could consume the Middle East in a confrontation and a conflict that we would regret.”

Former Israeli Mossad chief Meir Dagan made a similar prediction when he said that attacking Iran “would mean regional war, and in that case you would have given Iran the best possible reason to continue the nuclear program.”

Retired General Anthony Zinni said, “If you follow this all the way down, eventually I’m putting boots on the ground somewhere. And, like I tell my friends, if you like Iraq and Afghanistan, you’ll love Iran.”

To avoid war, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, called for the United States to utilize “any channel that’s open” for engagement with Iran, noting, “Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, we had links to the Soviet Union.”

We strongly encourage your Administration to pursue bilateral and multilateral engagement with Iran. While we acknowledge that progress will be difficult, we believe that robust, sustained diplomacy is the best option to resolve our serious concerns about Iran's nuclear program, and to prevent a costly war that would be devastating for the United States and our allies in the region.


Members of Congress

[Source: http://fcnl.org/issues/iran/ellison-jones_letter_to_support_iran_diplomacy/]

Editor's Note:  How to prevent war with Iran, by Joshua Pollack, published by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on January 27th, focuses on the need for DIPLOMACY and PATIENCE>

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

OCCUPY: Leading with our Bodies

Dear Friends, Longtime peace activist and founder of the Des Moines, Iowa Catholic Worker is, once again, behind bars.  He has writtent a powerful reflection (which I share with you here) that provides a unique - and I would expect nothing less from Frank - perspective on taking the Occupy movement (and indeed every movement for peace and justice) into every nook and cranny of our society, including the jails and prisons.  In Peace, Leonard



by Frank Cordaro, February 2, 2012

It was bound to happen sooner or later. A person can't keep collecting trespassing convictions, get fined plus court costs and refuse to pay any fines before a judge will eventually send you to jail. My arrest at the state capitol Sunday night was my fifth arrest with Occupy Des Moines. I already plead guilty to two of those charges and was fined (which I will not pay in solidarity with the poor, who cannot). So after a long night in the Polk County Jail "fish bowl", Des Moines Catholic Worker and fellow Occupy Des Moines member Eddie Bloomer and I decided to take our chances when the jail court judge, who offered to roll all of our 3 outstanding trespass charges into one guilty plea. After reviewing our past records, the judge sentenced Ed to 15 days and me to 30 days in jail.

Just before sentencing, I told the judge it was a great honor and a privilege to be arrested at the state capitol standing up for free speech and everyday she gave me in jail only helped to enhance that honor and privilege...and I meant it.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is a social movement. And like all social movements, our ideas follow our bodies, whether we are occupying public space to exercise our free speech rights, or protesting in the streets at the G8/NATO, or risking arrest at presidential candidate offices. We lead with our bodies, willing to put a little human equity and personal sacrifice on the line for what we believe. We are what democracy looks like in a political system completely bought, owned, and scripted by the corporate elites - the 1 percent.

Not everyone who occupies or protests need risk arrest. And not everyone who risks arrest need go to jail. However, some of us do need to take our Occupy Wall Street movement into our jails and prisons.

Why? Because some of us need to embrace going to jail willingly to show we are not deterred by the state's treat of imprisonment. Because some of us need to stand in solidarity with the 2 million Americans caught up in our criminal justice system, the vast majority of whom are poor and people of color. Because some of us need to resist the criminal justice system that not only locks people up but also makes them pay for it too! The jail fee here at Polk County jail is $60 a day! Most criminal court cases never go to trial. They are little more than collection agencies for the state.

And we need to bring our spirit of occupation into the jails not as victims of the system, but as the able organizers that we are, leading with our bodies for the cause we believe in, the concerns of the 99 percent over the ill-got gails of the 1 percent.


P.S.. 5 days into this 30 day sentence and I'm in a jail pod with 64 other inmates, most of them Hispanics awaiting deportation. By my lights, I'm serving easy time with good and decent souls. I'm here more or less by choice, and the system is far more severe to the very poor, blacks, and immigrants than it is to me...

P.S.S. Eddie and I could both use more commissary funds. If you'd like to contribute to our inmate accounts, here are a few options: http://www.polkcountyiowa.gov/media/161/deposits-directions-english.pdf

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Do the (Military) Math: It doesn't add up!!!


Most of us semi-old folks remember "new" math back in the good old days. Well now, thanks to that madcap cartoonist Mark Fiore, there's Military Math. If you're wondering how the Pentagon budget got to be so huge, Mark's got it all figured out. So, do the math (the Military Math that is)!!!



Thursday, February 2, 2012

Answers to the 2012 Social Justice Quiz

Here are the answers to the 2012 Social Justice Quiz (posted here on Monday).  Don't worry about how many answers you got right as much as working to understand the deeper implications of the issue(s) surrounding each question and what they mean for our society and the world.

Thanks again to Bill Quigley and Sam Schmitt for creating the Quiz.  Bill teaches law at Loyola University New Orleans and works with the Center for Constitutional Rights.  Sam is a law student at University of Montana School of Law.  A version of this with full sources is available. You can reach Bill at quigley77@gmmail.com


One.  The combined pay of the top 299 CEOs is enough to support 102,325 average jobs.  Source: Corporate Paywatch.

Two.  The median net worth of white households in the US is $97,900.  Source: Economic Policy Institute.

Three.  Except for eleven counties in Illinois and another eight in Puerto Rico, there is no county in the US where a one bedroom fair market rate apartment is available to a person working full-time at the minimum wage. Source: The National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Four.  The typical worker must earn $18.46 an hour to rent a two bedroom apartment.  Source: National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Five.  In the last numbers reported, the top 1 percent had net worth 225 times greater than the median or typical household’s net worth, the highest ever recorded.   Source: Economic Policy Institute.

Six.  The rate of incarceration per 100,000 people is: USA 730, Russian 534, Iran 334, China 122, Iraq 101, and Germany 86.  Source: International Centre for Prison Studies, University of Essex. 
Seven.  $836 billion.  Over $713 billion on military programs and another $123 for veterans affairs.  Source: US Office of Management and Budget, Fiscal Year 2012. 

Eight.  The US spends $100 billion more on our military than the next highest 15 countries combined.  More than China, UK, France, Russia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Germany, India, Italy, Brazil, South Korea, Australia, Canada and Turkey combined.  Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2011 Yearbook.

Nine.  1.4 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day.  Source: United National Development Program, Human Development Report 2010.

Ten.  One and half billion people, more than one of every five people in the world, live without electricity.  Source:  United Nations Development Program, Human Development Report 2011.

Eleven.  US government ranks 19th out of 23 countries in assistance to poor nations, giving about two-tenths of one percent of US gross national income to poor countries.  Source: Global Issues: Foreign Aid for Development Assistance.

Twelve.  US consumers spend $67 billion each year on pets, pet products and services.  Source:  US Census Bureau 2012 Statistical Abstract.

Thirteen.  The US poverty rate among children ranks the US 26th among 30 nations in the rate of poverty among children.  Source: Poverty among children.  OECD.