Monday, September 26, 2011

Freedom Plaza Occupation: Oct 6, Washington D.C. Oct 6, 2011

DC Occupation Marks the 11th Year of Afghan War, Austerity Budgets and Builds on
Arab Spring, European Summer, Madison and Occupation of Wall Street

Kevin Zeese, 301-996-6582
Margaret Flowers, 443-759-4635
Maria Allwine, 443-762-0892
The People’s Uprisings seen around the world and in the United States come to Washington, DC’s Freedom Plaza beginning on Thursday, October 6 whenthousands will converge to begin a prolonged people's occupation of Freedom Plaza.  The October2011 Movement involves thousands of people and 150 organizations who have already signed. The DC occupation comes at a pivotal time: the beginning of the 11th year of war in Afghanistan and a new federal fiscal year that promises austerity of everything except weapons and war.
The Freedom Plaza occupation occurs as activists in New York are occupying Wall Street and follows major protests across the Midwest against austerity budgets, the environmental protest of thTar Sands Pipeline where more than 1,200 were arrested and protests throughout the United States on a wide range of issues.
The October2011 Movement demands that the government represent the people, not just the top 1%. The pledge signed on by thousands calls for using our resources on human needs and environmental protection, not for war and exploitation. stands with super majorities of Americans on seven key issues:
  • Tax the rich and corporations
  • End the wars, bring the troops home, cut military spending
  • Protect the social safety net, strengthen Social Security and improved Medicare for all
  • End corporate welfare for oil companies and other big business interests
  • Transition to a clean energy economy, reverse environmental degradation
  • Protect worker rights including collective bargaining, create jobs and raise wages
  • Get money out of politics
The Freedom Plaza occupation builds on the experiences of Egypt, Tunisia, Greece and Spain.  October2011 has joined with the Egyptian revolutionary movement in a solidarity statement based on four common principles:  seeking real democracy, an end to U.S. interventionist military policy, protection of human rights through the rule of law and developing a sustainable economy that meets human needs.  The Indignados of Spain have described our commonRoad to Dignity that includes the occupation of Wall Street and Freedom Plaza.
For more information visit FAQ  on

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Reflections on the 10th Anniversary of the War in Afghanistan, and the Continuing War in Iraq

Ten Years and Counting in Afghanistan...

Ten Years and counting in Afghanistan, U.S. troops still bogged down in Iraq after eight years, and a country deeply divided politically, ideologically, and now, even religiously, as a result. What a cluster fuck!

How did we get here?  Well, it wasn't easy; we had to work at it in order to position ourselves to be right back where we were following the Gingrich Revolution in Congress in the early 80s; it isn't just happenstance that we here we are again, caught up in mix of a retro Gilded Age, and a painful re-emergence of Nixonian forces and money creeping back into the halls and back rooms of our government. Forces who still threaten our Bill of Rights and our Constitution. 

I suggest that we are here, back from the future, because we as political and social activists have became complacent and self indulgent following our major victories of the 60s and 70s, to name a just a few; the end of the Vietnam War, the breaking down of racial barriers to voting, and the other civil rights victories of the day, including the end of the Draft, the end of domestic spying and political disruption by the FBI COINTEL Program, the downfall of Nixon, and the imprisoning of some, but not all, of his thugs. We in fact, recovered our Constitution, and re-instated the proper application of the Bill of Rights to our society. For reflection on what I think happened, I make the case for how the left actually became complacent and politically self indulgent in a piece that I wrote in 2005 entitled "The Cracker Swamp Manifesto". 

But this discussion has more to do with the future, than with the past. We can't know where we're going, if we don't know where we've been;  so, a quick look back for reference at what has worked and what  has not is called for whenever doing any kind of strategical planning for the future, whether it is personal or political. None of what I describe above regarding our foreign policy, and the retaking of congress by the Repugs and NEOCONs could have happened, to my way of thinking, if the left hadn't of become a Babylon of minority interest groups fighting among themselves over political power and money....the spoils of victory.  They sold the power of their all important UNITY in exchange for organizational, political, and cause oriented agendas and political careers that ultimately positioned them into being as ineffective as they were prior to the American social and political revolution of the 60s and 70s, as the "whole" morphed into minority special interest groups of society.  The big losers? The American people.

To my way of thinking these groupings as a whole became so distracted and fragmented with politically correct self indulgence, that they lost the hearts and minds of the American people. The very hearts and minds (and votes) that that these groups, as a grand and unified coalition of ant-war and social and political justice activists, had fought so hard for so many years to win, back in the 60s and 70s. These fragmented groups, not unlike the Repugs and Neocons, and most recently the Teabaggers, ultimately came to turn their backs on all who disagreed with their particular doctrine, whether it be a racial, political, or religious platform, beginning in the 80s.  But most importantly, they turned their backs on the American people in favor of their particular constituencies and careers. This dynamic was the birth of political correctness as we have came know it in our country. Prior to this rebirth, here; political correctness had been a strategy of Mao's Red Guard in the Great Leap Forward in China. Here, it's re-birth ultimately became the death knell for all of our efforts and successes of the 60s and 70s.

In face of all of the above, it is my considered conclusion that this Administration's current strategies aren't going to change until we as a "movement" change our's. Collective GASP!!!  I know, I know, this is politically incorrect thinking.  But, it is my critical thinking assessment that the current, and now decades old, strategies of the left must take on a new profile. This has to happen if we are to have any hope of success in saving our nation from it's second post modern  political Dark Age and the continued decline of the age of free thinking, free speech, and Constitutional democracy. 

Here in the 21st century, we need to develop our own strategies that are more pragmatic in their direction and application. The 60s and 70s are now relegated to history.  We need to refresh and re-energize our approach to social and political revolution if we are to be effective in a 21st century social and political environment. In today's environment politics vs reality on the ground as a strategy, is a failed policy.  This was true for Vietnam, and it most certainly true for Iraq and Afghanistan. That dynamics won't change until our strategy is changed.

That is not to say that militancy, fiery rhetoric, and occasionally manning of the barricades, is not critical to this process; it is to say that our militancy has to be more pragmatic than symbolic, our rhetoric based in empirical thinking and objective truth, as well as documentable evidence of that truth. It needs to incorporate clearly defined and realistically achievable demands and goals. Most importantly, it must appeal to more than those of one's particular organization, race, religion, ideology, and/or political party affiliation. And, it must be designed to democratically find the core issues that are common to all of us and rally around them in unity, and leave the ideological, racial, organizational, religious, and personal differences at the door. The keys to success in my paradigm are Mutual Respect, Unity of Purpose, and Mission Focus.

We are after all, all in this together; and we cannot succeed without mutual support, and the support and votes of the American people, who (as evidenced by history) we are potentially able to educate to the truth of our anti-war social justice agenda, and how it applies to them as individuals, and as citizens. To my way of thinking; in today's world, this is best achieved by speaking with them, rather that at them.  They must be given a reason to want to join with us and take action, not be verbally bludgeoned or shamed into it. So it is our responsibility to educate them to the issues,sort out what they agree with us on and what they disagree with us on, and act accordingly in incorporating their energy and votes into our struggle. 

Another major consideration is the diminished impact of "mass" demonstrations where-ever they are called for to be held, or by whom. I can only conclude that the government actually welcomes this kind of activity anymore, since they are much more equipped to deal with then they were, forty years ago, when they worked, i.e. VVAW's 1971 Dewey Canyon III. These days they send everyone in the police approved and fenced off demonstration free speech areas home for the day, so that they can't be accessed or confronted by the revolutionary forces in the street. They reinforce the police ranks with crowd control trained riot police and ariel surveillance, and everyone gets overtime.  Then they work closely with civil disobedience organizers to arrange for the orchestrated "civil disobedience arrests", for which demonstration organizers have made prior arrangements to let ourselves be arrested, celebrities and authors first, in hope that someone out there in the hinterland will see how truly oppressive our government is to those who dare to speak truth to power, in spite of the fact that the buildings we are confronting are empty, and the mainstream media is in conspicuous absence, and as a result rise up in rage against the state.

Of course participants in these national confrontations are expected to be able to provide the 100 dollar bail that goes into the city coffers...let's see 130 demonstrators X 100 = a quick 13,000 dollars into the city coffers. So, the cops are getting overtime, and the city is profiting from the demonstrations at our expense. All very surreal to this old school anti-war and peace and justice activist and journalist. It's Kabuki Theater rather than Guerrilla Theater to me.  In spite of it's repetitiveness, nothing ever seems to come out of it all, except some great photos and action reports on  the underground internet activist blogs and in the foreign press. In addition, these events require a lot of personal expense and energy that could otherwise be better used in furthering our cause out in the grassroots, where our true constituency lives. Too often the issues and the demands become polluted with conflicted ideologies and messaging by participants, reflecting to the public more divisions than unity. And, of course, the mainstream media, whether under duress or lack of interest, ignores us. The most recent blatant example of this mainstream press black-out is the on-going Occupy Wall Street protests.

We need to recognize that there is not one among us who has all of the answers, whether it be as an individual, a celebrity, or as a representative of an organizational or ideological agenda. Each have specific resources and tactics to bring to the campaign, but that is only becomes  politically effective when rallied around in unity on mutually agreed upon specific demands; ones that are realistically attainable through pragmatic and unified message application.  I believe that this process best takes place out where we all started, at the grassroots. Not on the steps of monolithic institutions, where we now all occasionally gather to voice our displeasure with our government's failed policies, both foreign and domestic. They're on to that one these days, folks, and know how to deal with it effectively; containment and media black-out. Now, just as back in the day, the power lies with the people. Remember our rally cry back then; "Power To The People!"?  We meant ALL the people, not just a few politically correct ideologues and "radical fringe" dissenters from a particular group or class, as outlined in Marx's Dictatorship of The Proletariat.

There are, of course, many other opinions and choices of action, but here is what I have concluded to be essential ingredients as a result of my personal experiences and a studied review of our history, and of our current outdated paradigm for social and political action.  Here is a suggested  minimal guideline model that we as a "movement" can easily mobilize around and together and implement with our existing resources, in order to make a seamless paradigm shift into the 21st century world of effective social and political activism:

     I. Personal Contact

  • First, and most important, make personal contact (no not on FB) by phone, or personal visits.  Get to know one another; what we believe in, where we've been, who do we know mutually, what do we have strong disagreement on, and what do we strongly agree on. We should be friends (real ones) as well as political compatriots.
  • We must then agree to share resources and work together (personally and organizationally) to further the issues that we believe in, and agree to personally respectfully disagree on things that we disagree on, but keep those disagreements out of how we together, in unity, support the issue in question, publicly.
 II.  Prioritization of Issues

  • When considering issues, we can all I am sure, agree to an anti-war/social peace & justice agenda, in general terms.  But we have all arrived at that agreement from diverse experiences. Those experiences all began somewhere locally, so it makes sense to consider the demographics of a locality when outreaching for recruits or volunteers, and begin by using our experience in rallying local folks around local issues that we can directly relate to the prior mentioned general agenda. 
  • From these personal connections, build a 21st century style electronic national network of individuals, chapters, and organizations (much as we did back in the day with land-lines, and Rolodexes) that are all on the same page, and are ready and able to mobilize quickly around our agreed upon national campaign priority issues, right  there in Your City, USA. Grassroots coalition building vs organizational or cause chauvinism. That's how Joe Hill would do it.

     III. Modern Media Communications

  • Just as IVAW is currently doing, we also need to educate ourselves to 21st century social and journalistic digital media. I attended two such workshops that IVAW presented at the VFP National Convention in Portland, OR, in August. The main theme of both of these workshops was messaging methodologies. They are ahead of the curve on this one.  We can learn from them.
  • As we have seen with the Arab Spring up-risings, social media can have a profound impact on the ability to mobilize people quickly, and it can allow for a running account of events first hand.  From a journalistic point of view, the mainstream media, who never covers our events as we would like, are being sidelines, due to the ability of social media to get our message out quickly, and to be in instant communications with one another if need be. 
  • We should all, individuals and organizations alike, learn how to use this powerful medium in a coordinated fashion to coordinate our activities in unison, at the grassroots, as well as in Washington D.C., when appropriate.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Action Alert; Concert For IVAW Operation Recovery

Hoodstock III. 6-9 p.m., Sunday, October 2.
Jovita's, 1619 South First, St. Austin, Tx

Featuring: The Austin Lounge Lizards, Barbara K & Richard Bowden, The Possum Posse,a silent auction and information about Under the Hood/Operation Recovery.

$10 donation is suggested at the door.
Visit our FaceBook page to let us know you're coming and invite your friends!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Congressional Public Law 95-26: Denying Benefits to Veterans

Ed Note: I met Rick Staggenborg at the Veterans For Peace National Convention in Portland, Oregon this past August. He was a panel member on a VA Benefits workshop being put on by Coffee Strong, a Veteran Owned, Pro G.I., Anti-war Veterans' advocacy and outreach  project located in Lakewood, Washington. Jan Ruhman had keyed me up on Rick, and asked me to get in touch with him. Rick had recently made a unsuccessful  run at the US Senate. He had also been a VA Psychiatrist and is well versed in the elusive diagnosis called by the medical community, PTSD. Here he addresses one of it's more debilitting manifestations; Bad Discharges. WH


In 1995, Congress codified as Public Law 95-126 the VA policy denying benefits to veterans who receive less than honorable discharges, including those who served in combat in Vietnam and subsequent wars of choice. These veterans can only receive services by going through a difficult, painful and often unsuccessful process requiring them to debase themselves by begging their former military Service to upgrade their discharge status. 
In the process, they have to relive their combat trauma and in some cases have to contact those with whom they served. This drags up horrific memories that they have struggled to suppress, often through drugs, alcohol and promiscuity. This is the reason they acted out through drunkenness, disobedience or desertion of their posts stateside after return from combat. I know this because it has been the case in every veteran I have met who falls under the provisions of this Catch-22 implemented by a group of chicken hawks who were too busy setting the country up for economic destruction to consider the consequences of their actions on our veterans.

The men and women affected by PL 95-126 volunteered or were compelled by our own government to serve the interests of the corporations who our elected representatives feel they need to serve to maintain their positions of power. After all, they reason, someone has to pay for the propaganda campaigns that confuse the general public, justifying unnecessary wars and the real reasons for them, as well as lining the pockets of the rich by subverting democracy worldwide in the name of America. Many of the members of Congress responsible for this outrage shamelessly lied to the young, patriotic men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as their parents about the reasons they were sent to kill and die. 

Now that these service members have done their duty, many of those most in need of help from the VA have been casually discarded, as were the Vietnam veterans before them. The ordeal of seeking help causes flare-ups of PTSD symptoms and reminds these veterans of the fact that their government chose to dishonor them rather than treat the wounds of war and the economic devastation that these politicians themselves inflicted on these combat veterans. The same is true when any of the estimated 30% of female OEF vets are erroneously told that they are not entitled to VA services to treat the psychological damage from the devastating psychological trauma of being raped in the service.
These women are often among the worst affected by symptoms of PTSD. A high proportion of them were sexually abused in childhood but were functioning well enough to serve until being re-traumatized during their terms of service by the very men who were supposed to guard their backs. Almost to a woman, they were then ostracized by their peers, often even if they chose not to report the crime. This has led to a gross underestimate of the actual incidence of this form of trauma, which is magnified by the abuse and neglect that followed from their command, in the name of “maintaining unit cohesion.”

I suspect that most veterans falling under PL 95-126 choose not to engage in this fight, knowing that even if they succeed in obtaining an upgrade of their discharge, they then have to argue that they suffer “mental illness” as a result of their service. PTSD is not a mental illness, leaving the VA to decide whether or not to resort to semantic gymnastics in order to provide the services that most of us in the VA dedicate our professional lives to providing. What they do not know if they choose to engage in this long battle is that they only stand a 50% chance of success at each step, according to unofficial sources with whom I have consulted.

What is worse, the law does not even have a provision to allow the VA to conduct evaluations of those who win the lottery in the first step. They are required to somehow obtain independent psychiatric evaluations in order to make their case. Fortunately or unfortunately, those who need the help most are generally impoverished by their circumstances, so they could get these exams through programs set up for the poor, if they are lucky enough to realize that such services are often available in the community. Because these individuals most often have divorced themselves from society in their shame, anger and despair, I suspect that few even try to navigate the labyrinth of steps required to obtain services, if they are lucky enough to succeed.

This crime against the youth of our nation, many now having grown up and producing a new generation of alienated and disaffected youth, is unacceptable. The VA may play a role because of the communication problems endemic in such a large organization, but the real fault lies with our complacent Congress. All of us who want to truly honor our veterans must demand that the members of the Veterans Committee in the Senate act at once to atone for this sin against our nation. Please call Senator Webb, Senator Tester or other members of the Veteran Affairs Committee at 866-220-0044 and demand action. I do not believe that either of these diligent and hardworking senators is aware of the problem, despite my attempts at asking for help through their aides.

When I spoke to Phillip Brady, Veteran Affairs aide to Senator Webb, he made inquiries, speaking to the DOD and VA about the problem. As the only office in either organization authorized to speak to Congress is presumably the office of public affairs, both predictably denied that it was a problem. If you are as outraged at this whitewash, please let these Senator Webb in particular know.  As a decorated Vietnam veteran and father of an Iraq war veteran, he may be willing to dig deeper and speak to someone more appropriate at the VA Central Office.  I suggested to Phillip that he start with the then-VA director of Mental Health Services, Dr Ira Katz. Dr Katz was a dedicated public servant who has been unfairly maligned by the media in the past but who has privately expressed his concern about this law as well.

Please contact every veteran group and veteran advocacy group that you can locate.   Let them know that you share my anger at this continuing mistreatment of combat veterans and sexually abused female veterans who only wanted to serve their country while in fact being used as tools by a cynical, cowardly Congress to serve the interests of their corporate Puppetmasters. While you are at it, Let them know that the men and women who joined the military  from other countries are our brothers and sisters and that we will not stand by while they are deported because of problems stemming from PTSD.

Captain, USA (Ret)
Former VA Psychiatrist, North Bend, OR

Some Additional Research, Information, and Resources:

"Does it Hurt on the Inside? Post Vietnam Syndrome". The First Casualty Vol 2, Number 1. VVAW. Chicago (1972)

Seiberling, John. "Secret Discharge Codes". Winter Soldier, Vol 4 Number 4. VVAW. Chicago (1974)

Ford, Diane. "Are We Still missing The Point". The Veteran, Vol 37, Number 1. VVAW. Chicago (2007)

Overview of Discharge Upgrading re DOD 

What You should Know About How to Upgrade Your Military Discharge re US Army Trial Defense Service

Swords To Plowshares Veterans Advocacy

Vietnam Veterans Against The War: Veteran Resources and Military Counseling Service

Thursday, September 01, 2011

6 October 2011, Washington, D.C.: Human Needs, Not Corporate Greed...

Ed Note: will be in D.C. October 6 -9, covering the End the Occupations Occupation of Freedom Plaza.  We will be there seeking some of the same answers to the questions that my cyber-journalist friend Rafe Pilgrim asks in his original Op-Ed piece, published on August 26, 2011...questions we should all be asking ourselves, as our Constitution and Bill of Rights are being co-opted and reinterpreted right before our eyes by the multi-national Corporatists who are profiting from our mid-eastern losses of blood and treasure.  This corporate profit sharing is at the root of our economic stress here on the home-front. Greed is an ugly word, but it is a far uglier thing to see in action. WH

Going to the October Event in the District of Corruption?

by Rafe Pilgrim

The word is out on the big protest against everlasting war and indecent governance in D.C. in October. An impressive number of activist luminaries are committed. But the nagging question remains: Will this make any substantial difference in the treacherous course our government is set upon, or will this be -- however noble and moral -- just another message to find its way into the Capitol's refuse bin?

I do feel a strong urge to get off the complaining and actually do something that makes the difference -- after 10 years!  (Some would have it 30 years.)

But I am far from certain this October program is it. I want to be part of the last battle, not another sacrificial skirmish, but the battle that counts, the tough one, the honest one, the one that makes the change -- not just another display of morality.

We went up to Sodom-on-the-Potomac six years ago with 350,000 compadres. It was a good show, despite the lying press reports that our numbers were much lower, such that we got any press at all.  But it did not cause a ripple -- despite rating perhaps a laugh or sneer in the corridors of power.  We displayed, went home -- they returned, they won.

This left me acidly furious and emotionally crippled. And nothing has changed, despite the rise of President "Hope and Change" and -- for a brief trashed opportunity -- a Democrat (of the people?) majority in both houses of Congress -- and all of this maintained the treachery and exploitation.

Bang! Down went the gavel -- "Impeachment is off the table!" -- but WAR was still at the table! -- foreclosures and evictions were still at the table! -- trillions to the banksters were at the table! -- while such as Medicare and Social Security were on the chopping block!  

Everything moral is still on the block, while the Banksters, Big Oil, WeaponsRus, Securititis, JobsExport Inc, Big Agri, Big Pharma, Tax Cuts for Billionaires, ad nauseam -- are all at the table. And when their feed runs out, who picks up the check? We do! Then Government Inc. loads up the table again at the expense of education, roads and bridges, public transportation, flood control, climate change, medical care, Social Security and everything else except More War and More More for the Elite, the Crooks and their Indentured Politicos.

Trekking to the District of Corruption for a week or so, staying in a motel, eating in restaurants, and hitting the Mall from Ten till Two -- won't cut it. That's not the fabric victory is made from. Military battles can be won in days, sometimes hours. But we depend (at least thus far!) on passive means. Our passive strength lies in morality, and profits from persistence, large numbers and weaponless courage in confrontation with the opposition, very likely armed opposition.

If October is to be our defining action, it needs to be other than just one more display of the moral cause, after 10 years of such, and one more of which could exhaust our waning credibility. We need a victory -- the victory!

I don't need everyone else to do the work. I know victory can never be guaranteed. But I'll watch October for a while.  I need to feel more confident about how many compadres will be camping and eating and sleeping by me on the Mall, and how long they will persevere; how much they share my disdain for display above victory for change.

If I can bring myself to feel, not guaranteed, but good, that a decent number (a million at minimum) of stubborn (weeks, months, as long as it takes) compadres will camp together on the Mall -- then I'll be there, content to be quietly and unmovingly awaiting the Peace and the return of our Bill of Rights.

I am confident there will be discomfort. There will be sickness. There will be hunger. There will be lack of sanitation.  There will be police action and, most likely, military threats.

If I can gain sufficient confidence in our numbers and our resolve to stay the course, then I will be there.

Who else is planning to go? How many are you? How long will you stay?

Let us know!