87 year old Sam Winstead leads bicycle ride for peace from North Carolina to DC!

May 6, 2013

 

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(photo: Kevin Martin)

That’s Sam on the right, with Korean-American peace activist Jae Lee on the left, on Saturday at Lafayette Park in front of the White House. Sam, his 69 year-old cousin Joe Winstead and “youngster” Ron Scroggs (age 66) biked from Raleigh, NC to our nation’s capital on Sam’s second annual ride for peace, arriving here on a glorious spring day after seven days on their bikes. After a day of rest, Sam, a World War II veteran, will meet with NC legislators here on Capitol Hill to deliver his message of ending U.S. wars, which already got out on the local ABC station’s Saturday evening news broadcasts! Peace Action helped support the event, along with Veterans for Peace, and NC Peace Action director John Heuer, also a VFP member, was the organizer/advance man of the trek. Here’s John’s report from day three of the tour in Virginia:

Day Three, Blackstone to Gum Spring

April 30

Sam, Joe, Ron, Jim and I found the same round table as the night before at the Farmers Café in Blackstone for a hearty breakfast, before launching the Day Three Ride for Peace.  The Blackstone Library was closed early Tuesday morning, so Sam wrote a note to accompany a copy of “When the World Outlawed War” and slipped it in the ‘return box’ at the library entrance.

I drove ahead marking the route as far as Goochland, and stopped at the White Hawk Music Café.  Sam and I had stopped there last spring when we scouted the route for the 2012 Ride for Peace.  The White Hawk offers the World’s Best Coffee Cake, great coffee, friendly service and wifi internet.  Tuesday morning they hosted a couple of tables of women bridge players as well.

When I finished arranging our accommodations for Culpeper and Leesburg, I marked the remainder of the route to the Grayhaven Winery in Gum Spring, and waited by the Parrish Grocery at the corner of Hwy 250 and 522 (downtown Gum Spring).  It turned out to be a long wait, but by 6:00pm Sam and Co. hove into view.  It had been a harrowing ride north of Goochland on Hwy 522, as rush hour traffic backed up behind tail driver Jim on the narrow 2-lane road.  Jim cringed at the thought that impatient drivers were cursing “Sam’s Ride for Peace” the sign prominently displayed on the back of Jim’s Toyota pick-up.  Jim hadn’t joined this ride to piss people off. At one point a VA state trooper pulled Jim off the road and cautioned him about holding up traffic.  A strong headwind and slate start helped put us in jeopardy.  For next year’s ride, we’ll get an earlier start from Blackstone, and dodge the rush into Gum spring.

Our return to the Grayhaven Winery was greeted with a warm welcome.  Last year we missed our host Deon Abrams, who was catering a dinner at the South African Embassy in Washington DC.  The Grayhaven features South African food and wine, and Deon is the caterer of choice for South African functions at the embassy and Ambassador’s home in DC.  He is also a relative newcomer to the Grayhaven Winery.  His wife Max’s parents, Chuck and Lyn Peple established the Grayhaven during the 1970’s, when it was one of just 6 wineries in Virginia.  Now there are 240.  As Deon described it, establishing a winery in Virginia is a popular way for rich people to lose money.  Max and Deon’s son, Azra, now 8 years old, is a full head taller than last year, and sported his own new bicycle.

When we stayed with the Peples /Abrams in 2012, we donated a book to their library.  Former Chapel Hill mayor and UNC Law School Dean Ken Broun had recently published “Saving Nelson Mandela—The Rivonia Trial and the Fate of South Africa.”   Deon believes strongly that Nelson Mandela was the only person who could have led South Africa out of Apartheid and onward toward democracy.

After we sampled a wonderful variety of Grayhaven wines, Max served up a delicious dinner that included a venison pate made by a vegetarian friend.  Chuck and Lyn are both literary folks, and Chuck showed us the newly published “400 Years—The History of Henrico County” of which he is co-author.  Chuck had turned 78 just 4 days earlier, and he is determined to train for Sam’s 2014 Ride for Peace.  Seeing the 87 year-old Sam Winstead on his bicycle has that effect on people.

More photos from Saturday’s gathering at Lafayette Park:

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Believe it or not, Congress has your budget – Take Action now to support the Back to Work Budget!

March 14, 2013

That’s right the Congressional Progressive Caucus just released its alternative budget called the Back to Work Budget which cuts Pentagon bloat, makes the wealthy pay their fair share and protects Social Security and Medicare benefits for everyone.  On the other hand, Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget would dismember Medicare, slash spending on education and infant nutrition, and repeal ObamaCare.  Which one more represents your values?

These budgets could be voted on soon, so call your Representative now at (202) 224-3121 and ask them to support the “Back to Work Budget” by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

The “Back to Work” budget saves money by fully funding troop withdrawal from Afghanistan within a year, significantly reducing the Nuclear Weapons complex, cutting private contractors and wasteful weapons systems all while protecting important veterans benefits.

Additionally, the Back to Work Budget provides a roadmap to economic recovery and progress.  It will create 7 million jobs in the first year, bring in taxes by closing corporate tax loopholes and taxes on those who can afford it, preserve services our people depend on, and balance the budget.

Please call the Congressional Hotline at (202) 224-3121 between 9 AM and 6 PM EDT.  They will connect you to your Representative.  Or you may click here to find the direct line to your Rep. and possibly leave a message after hours.

Now is the time to for your voice to be heard as Rep. Ryan wants to destroy Medicare so the ultra-wealthy can have tax breaks and some Democrats are willing to make weak compromises.  Call now to support the progressive solutions in the Back to Work Budget.

For a more just budget,

Paul Kawika Martin
Political Director
Peace Action

P.S. – Votes are expected soon on the U.S. budget.  Call your Representative now to support the “Back to Work Budget” which cuts wasteful Pentagon spending and protects vital services Americans depend on.


Move the Money Op-Ed in Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

March 7, 2013

Great job by Peace Action Wisconsin Program Director Mike Helbick, who got help on this from our friends at the Coalition for Human Needs.

Cuts Threaten Milwaukee, our Economy
By Mike Helbick
March 6, 2013

This year alone, Milwaukee taxpayers will contribute $695 million to the U.S. Department of Defense. That would be enough to provide Milwaukee with 10,700 elementary school teachers, 10,500 police officers or medical care for 96,400 veterans. Instead, Milwaukee’s hard-earned tax dollars are paying for foreign military interventions and ineffective weapons systems at a time when Milwaukee desperately needs these funds here at home.

The implications of this budget choice are even worse when you consider that money spent on domestic priorities such as education, health care, housing and clean energy creates more jobs than military spending. For example, when Congress spends $1 billion on the military, it creates 11,200 jobs, but when it spends the same amount on education, it creates 26,700 jobs.

So it’s easy to see why last September, Milwaukee’s Common Council unanimously adopted a “Move the Money” resolution calling for the United States to redirect federal spending from foreign military interventions to investing in programs to address critical domestic and urban needs. What’s difficult to understand is how last week Congress could make life even harder for Milwaukee residents.

On March 1, Congress allowed indiscriminate across-the-board cuts to go into effect. These cuts are harming thousands of Wisconsin residents. We may not see the results yet, but we will soon. Because of the cuts, people in our state will go without food, lose jobs and income and get pushed toward homelessness. The cuts are dangerous. They are also unnecessary. And they come on top of $1.9 trillion in spending cuts and interest savings that have already happened. Wisconsin has lost 8.3% of its federal funds since 2010. We can’t afford to lose more.

The U.S. Senate considered, but failed to pass, legislation to replace these cuts in February. The Democratic leadership offered a proposal that would prevent cuts to education, public health, nutrition and other vital services by replacing them with more gradual cuts to the Pentagon, ending some farm subsidies, setting a minimum tax for millionaires and closing other tax loopholes. This is a balanced, sensible approach to reducing the deficit that will protect Wisconsin’s economy and residents. It is supported by most Americans.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) voted for this pragmatic approach, but Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) did not.

While the March 1 cuts affect a broad range of services touching the lives of most Americans, many reductions will hit low-income people particularly hard. For example, according to a new report by the Coalition on Human Needs, 8,100 low-income young children and mothers in Wisconsin will lose access to nutritious food. An estimated 1,377 low-income families will lose rental housing vouchers – for most, that probably means they will lose their homes. Nationally, nearly 5 million people have been out of work at least six months, but unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed will be cut 9.4%. In Wisconsin, 900 children will lose their place in Head Start and 500 will lose the help they need to pay for quality child care. These cuts will slash education, meals for low-income seniors, mental health treatment, environmental cleanup, food safety protections and much more.

The cuts also will harm our fragile economy, eliminating 700,000 jobs nationwide just when the economy is finally beginning to recover.

Milwaukee will be hit even harder than the rest of Wisconsin. Because nearly one out of three Milwaukee residents lives below the poverty line ($23,550 for a family of four), Milwaukee has more residents in need of help with basic needs such as nutrition and housing, and less local funds to help meet their needs.

Pushing more families and seniors into poverty and reducing our investment in education even further is simply not necessary. Instead of this self-inflicted wound, we should reduce bloated, wasteful Pentagon spending and move the money we save to job creation, education, health care and other priorities.

We should ask millionaires and top corporations to pay more of their share. A 5.6% surtax on income over $1 million could raise more than $450 billion over 10 years, which would replace most of the next decade’s domestic cuts. Options to tax offshore profits of corporations would raise hundreds of billions more.

When the Common Council passed the “Move the Money” resolution, it called for our nation to change its priorities and put domestic challenges first. Congress needs to give the balanced approach a second chance, in order to prevent real harm to Wisconsin’s people and economy.

Mike Helbick is program director with Peace Action-Wisconsin. Email Mike@peaceactionwi.org


The Endless War Machine’s Toll On Our Troops – Suicides Exceeded Combat Deaths Last Year

January 15, 2013

The Associated Press reported yesterday the Pentagon’s internal statistics show more U.S. troops committed suicide last year than died in combat in Afghanistan. The Pentagon noted the rate of suicides in the military is below the civilian population – is that supposed to be somehow comforting?

In addition to ending the war now, leaving no residual troops in Afghanistan, not starting any new wars against Iran or anyone else and ceasing drone strikes in countries we are not at war with, the troops need real support, not the platitudes one hears constantly on NFL telecasts. Our sisters and brothers at Iraq Veterans Against the War are providing leadership with their “Right to Heal” Operation Recovery campaign, to stop sending troops on repeated combat tours and get them the treatment and support they need and deserve. Help IVAW out, and spread the word to those you think really want to support the troops.

 


We Won’t Be “Fiscal Stiffed!” No Deal! More information and resources for letters to the editor and op-eds

December 19, 2012

You’ve called the White House (202-456-1111) and Congress (866-426-2631) and told them “No Deal!” loud and proud, yes? No get your friends, family and colleagues to call too!

 

Okay, here is more information and resources, especially for writing letters to the editor or op-eds.

 

We at Peace Action have been meeting with labor and economic justice groups daily to share information and figure out how to respond to the current status of negotiations between the White House and Congress on sequestration and/or a “fiscal cliff deal.”.

 

Of course, the back and forth is hot and heavy, but one thing is clear. We need to exert maximum grassroots pressure to say, “No deal that cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid or ends the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest. And move the money from the Pentagon to fund jobs and human needs.”

 

The  proposed $100 Billion is not nearly enough but it is a first step in the direction that is necessary to address the crisis in the economy (the real crisis of jobs and wages, not the phony fiscal crisis). While at the same time it is a missed opportunity to cut even more and change national spending priorities at a time of economic crisis.

 

And it is a mainstream idea! Check out the letter in the Green Bay Press Gazette: Cut Military Budget to Balance Budget.

 

The Duluth City Council passed a resolution on Monday night. They said military spending is hurting their economy.

 

 

Resource and background material for letters to the editor or op-eds:

 

Center for American Progress on how $100 Billion cut from the Pentagon is a “down payment” on what can and should be cut from the Pentagon budget.

 

Paul Krugman: The Deal Dilemma: how to evaluate the deal.

 

From Politica: Some Republicans OK with Defense Cuts.

 

From Alternet: 7 Shocking Ways the Military Wastes our Money


Thanks to Veterans Who Struggle for Peace – Please Add Your Favorite Veterans to This List

November 9, 2012

 

Veterans Day, also Remembrance Day and Armistice Day, is this Sunday, with the Monday holiday observance. The mainstream message we usually hear is thanks to veterans and to troops serving now for “protecting our freedoms” or something along those lines, which as a peace activist gives me pause. Of course I respect and honor the sacrifice of those who serve in the military, but “protecting our freedoms” is, and has often been, more honestly “projecting U.S. power abroad” or “overthrowing governments we don’t like in favor of corporate interests” or “killing an awful lot of people for absolutely no good reason.”

 

So, when I think of the veterans I cherish and respect, it is mostly those who have dedicated themselves to the struggle for peace and social justice because they’ve seen firsthand the horror, futility, waste and stupidity of war. Here are some of my favorite vets, please add yours to the list:

 

My Dad, Paul Martin (Air Force, radio technician, lucky for him and for me, he served in between the Korean and Vietnam Wars)

 

My Uncle, Randall Quinn, who just passed away two weeks ago. His time as a pilot in the Air Force led to his career as a commercial airline pilot and a lifelong love of flying. Neither my Dad nor my Uncle ever romanticized their time in the service, and they never tried to recruit my brothers or me to the military, for which I was and am grateful.

 

My Cousin, Ted Lyon, US Army (luckily he never saw combat)

 

Howard Zinn, WW II

 

Kurt Vonnegut, WW II

 

Lester Schlossberg, WW II, decorated in the European theater and devout opponent of war thereafter

 

Bob Cleland, WW II, decorated in Pacific theater. Bob was on a troop ship to Japan when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He didn’t take the position that “the A-Bomb saved his life,” he dedicated his life to peace and nuclear disarmament.

 

Lane Evans, former US Congress Member from Illinois and one of the most pro-peace members of Congress when he served from 1983-2007. Vietnam era vet (never saw combat, was a Marine supply sergeant in the Pacific)

 

David Cortright, Vietnam era vet and rabble rouser – his book, Soldiers in Revolt: GI Resistance in the Vietnam War is a must read regarding the anti-war movement of soldiers in the ‘60s, which he helped lead

 

Barry Romo, Vietnam vet and leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, a smart and tireless advocate for peace and for veterans, and an awfully sweet man

 

Ray Parrish, Vietnam vet who dedicated himself to “counter-recruitment” and counseling vets and prospective recruits on conscientious objection and other issues

 

Admiral Eugene Carroll, one of the nicest men one could ever hope to meet, and a terrific analyst of US military policy

 

General Robert Gard, one of the best retired military leaders we have today in terms of advocating more peaceful and sane policies

 

Eric Swanson, our Database Manager here at Peace Action since the mid-90’s

 

Gregory McDonald, Iraq vet (Marine) who volunteered at Peace Action in 2002 before the war started. He was against the war but thought he had to go, that he couldn’t let down the others in his unit. He wanted to learn Arabic, gain some experience in the region, and help bring peace to the Middle East. I and others tried to counsel him to declare conscientious objector status, but he couldn’t see his way clear to do that. He died in Iraq in a vehicle accident.

 

Michael McPhearson, first Iraq War, formerly of Veterans for Peace, now with United for Peace and Justice, a steadfast, patient, wise and gentle leader, a healer, a builder

 

Erik Gustafson, first Iraq War, tireless advocate for peace and reconciliation with and for the people of Iraq

 

Will Hopkins, Iraq vet, Director of New Hampshire Peace Action, who speaks so clearly and convincingly of the horrors he saw and participated in in Fallujah, Iraq, and how peace activism became his calling and his home

 

John Heuer of North Carolina Peace Action, a great movement builder

 

Maggie Martin, Iraq vet, a leader of Veterans for Peace and for the movement on the right to heal for returning soldiers

 

Aaron Hughes, Iraq vet, a strong leader in Iraq Veterans Against the War, one of the main organizers of the moving and powerful veterans demonstration at last May’s NATO Summit in Chicago, where dozens of veterans of the “Global War on Terror” threw away their service medals

 

Ellen Barfield, a veteran with a tireless commitment to nonviolence and alliance building

 

Matt Southworth, Iraq vet, now with the Friends Committee on National Legislation

 

Bradley Manning, in prison for trying to help tell the truth about our awful wars

 

And lastly, a non-veteran but someone who works to help heal veterans, my brother, Kris Martin, a psychologist at the VA hospital in the Bronx (meaning unfortunately he has a job for life, with all of the psychological trauma we’ve inflicted on our veterans from our endless war-making)

 

I’m sure I’ve left some folks out, for which I’m sorry.

 

Who are your favorite veterans you are thankful for? We’ll need to do another list of those who went to jail to resist war, won’t we? They deserve our thanks every bit as much.


Fighting (Nonviolently of course!) for Peace at the Local Level

October 17, 2012

By Lawrence S. Wittner, October 17, 2012

(Larry Wittner is a member of the national Peace Action national board of directors. This article was first published by our friends at Foreign Policy in Focus.)

On October 9, 2012, the legislature of Albany County, New York approved a proclamation calling upon Congress to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, cut the U.S. military budget, and use the savings to fund vital public programs at home.

This official demand for new national priorities—by a county of 304,000 people—was not entirely novel. Within the past year or so, the U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a similar resolution, as did the governments of numerous cities, including Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Hartford, and Portland. Even so, the idea of “moving the money” from war to peace had largely fallen off the political radar screen. The Albany County Peace Dividend Proclamation, as it was soon dubbed, has helped bring it back to public attention.

The Albany campaign began this past July, when—in my capacity as a national board member of Peace Action, America’s largest peace organization—I learned that the city of Philadelphia had just passed a “move the money” resolution. As Doug Bullock, a long-time friend of mine in Albany’s peace and social justice community, was a member of the Albany county legislature, I passed along this news to him, suggesting rather casually that he might want to promote a similar resolution on the Albany county level. He replied that he’d be happy to try it, but needed a public campaign to back him up. Could we put one together?

Actually, we could. I was well connected within the Albany region’s peace community, serving on the steering committee of Upper Hudson Peace Action and dealing frequently with the leaders of other local peace groups. In addition, I had strong credentials in the local labor movement, serving as executive secretary of the Albany County Central Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO), as a member of the executive committee of the Albany chapter of United University Professions, and as a long-time activist in the Solidarity Committee of the Capital District (an independent organization rooted in the local labor movement).

Moreover, in recent decades, Albany’s peace and social justice community had grown ever more intertwined, amassing a good deal of overlap in membership and a strong “movement culture” among the region’s various progressive organizations. And with national polls showing the general public fed up with the Afghanistan War and preferring military cuts to cuts in social spending, the peace movement was more in tune with popular sentiment than ever.

Yet significant factors weighed against the possibility of success. Although Albany County is heavily Democratic, much of the local Democratic Party is controlled by machine politicians who might just as well have been Republicans. Doug’s strong antiwar stance has not been the norm. Indeed, in 2008, when he tried to get the legislature to pass a resolution opposing the Iraq War, the legislators not only strongly rejected it, but banned all future resolutions!

Corralling Allies

Despite the obstacles, we decided to move forward with a Peace Dividend Proclamation campaign—one that would involve getting a majority of Albany County’s 39 legislators to sign an official statement on behalf of the county. After securing volunteers from Upper Hudson Peace Action and the Solidarity Committee, we conferred with staff members from Peace Action of New York State and national Peace Action, who helped us pull together the relevant statistics and wording for the proclamation. Once the proclamation was in final form, Doug circulated it to potentially sympathetic legislators and—to our delight—secured six additional co-sponsors.

The next step was to recruit friendly organizations to join the campaign. We divided up a list of peace, labor, religious, environmental, political, student, tenants’ rights, and other organizations among ourselves. We approached them about not only endorsing the proclamation, but also sending a speaker and turning out supporters for the September 10 meeting of the county legislature.

In Albany County, immediately preceding the official meeting of the legislature, there is a public forum during which citizens are free to speak to the assembled legislators on any issue. We used this opportunity to good effect, presenting 10 speakers from well-known labor organizations, peace groups, and constituencies. To offset possible charges that the proclamation “disrespected the troops,” we drew upon two veterans as speakers—one of whom identified himself as coming from “Vietnam – Class of 1968.” We also distributed the proclamation and a list of 19 local organizations that had endorsed it.

Even if we hadn’t secured any signatures that evening, it would have been a useful exercise, for the assembled legislators were forced to sit through 50 minutes’ worth of lectures on the costs of war—both economic and human—and the need to fund social programs.

But in fact we came away that evening with 18 signatures out of the 20 that we needed for a majority. That gave us until October 9, the next meeting of the legislature and our self-imposed deadline, to gather just two more signatures. And that wouldn’t be difficult, would it?

Unfortunately, it proved very difficult. In the following weeks, Doug brought the proclamation to legislative committee meetings for additional signatures, but no one else was willing to sign it. Among the Democratic holdouts, some said that they did not believe that issues of war and peace should be addressed by a county legislature. One Democrat angrily denounced the proclamation as “unpatriotic,” claiming that she had been told that by the county executive. Another said that it would undermine President Obama’s reelection. A few said they were thinking about it.

Among the 10 Republican legislators—none of whom had signed the proclamation—there was even stiffer resistance. Some simply dismissed the proclamation as the Democratic presidential campaign platform. Others said that they would be willing to sign it if the savings on military programs were not rechanneled to domestic social programs.

Eventually we picked up an additional Democratic signature, bringing us to 19 out of the 20 we needed, but we began to feel a bit desperate as the October 9 deadline neared. Would we ultimately fail, just one signature short of our goal?

Closing the Gap

In the final days, we mobilized some of our most powerful organizational endorsers—the AFL-CIO, the Interfaith Alliance of New York State, the Working Families Party (which, under New York law, can and does make cross-party endorsements, often of Democrats), Veterans for Peace, and United University Professions—to send letters to holdout legislators. We pored over the mailing lists of key groups, identified the constituents of targeted legislators, and called upon them to phone these legislators and urge them to sign the proclamation. We asked other groups (such as the Albany Friends Meeting and Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace) to mobilize their members for the same purpose. We drew upon other legislators and people with political connections to pressure key holdouts to sign. Finally, we scheduled a press conference and rally outside the doors of the legislature in the half hour just before the legislature was to meet.

Then, on the evening of October 8, Doug phoned to tell me that he had just spoken with a legislator who said he was going to sign on October 9. And on the afternoon of that final day, he did.

Our rally turned into a victory celebration. At the legislature’s Public Forum, we distributed a list of 29 endorsing organizations (ranging from the RFK Democratic Club to Women Against War and the Peace and Justice Commission of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany) and brought in another battery of speakers lauding the proclamation. By the end of the night, the proclamation had 22 signers (all of them Democrats), a solid majority. On October 10, in accordance with the terms of the proclamation, the Albany County Clerk mailed off copies to President Obama, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the New York congressional delegation, the New York State Legislature, and all government departments in Albany County.


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