Move the Money, Crush the Slush Fund

May 3, 2014

Over 70 U.S. events and actions were held to mark Tax Day and the 4th Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS).  As you probably know, Peace Action was the US coordinator of GDAMS events for the 2nd year running.

With the 2014 elections just six months away, PAEF’s campaign to Move the Money from the Pentagon to our communities has never been more prominent in the national discourse.

Members of both parties in Congress are exploring military cuts as part of efforts to reduce deficits.  Predictably, vested interests are working overtime to preserve, and even increase where possible, the current, historically high, levels of military spending.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported the costs of major weapons acquisitions, like the F-35, have risen $500 billion above their orignial projected costs.  Congress loudly denounce cost overruns even as they look for ways to increase Pentagon funding.

Peace Action has renewed its fight against one of the ways the Pentagon hopes will permit it to restore funding for items left out – for the moment – to keep the Pentagon under budget control limits.  For example, Congress could allow the Pentagon to use funds from the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), meant to fund military operations in Afghanistan, to restore eight F-35′s left out of the President’s budget.  The Pentagon has used the OCO as a slush fund to reduce Pentagon cuts this year to just $3.5 billion dollars while domestic spending was slashed by $15 billion – not exactly the shared pain sequestration was supposed to deliver.

Working with our allies, Peace Action is circulating a sign-on letter to Members of Congress from a host of organizations working in our Move the Money coalitions reminding them that: “According to the Pentagon, from FY 2013 to FY 2014, approximately 39 percent fewer personnel will be deployed to Afghanistan (with none in Iraq). Yet, in the FY 2014 omnibus spending bill, Defense Subcommittee funding in the OCO account will actually increase from FY 2013 to FY 2014.”

Call your Senators and Representative and tell them the Overseas Contingency Operations should not be used as a slush fund for runaway Pentagon spending.  Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.


Facing the Dangers of 21st Century Great Power War – Conference in NYC May 3

April 7, 2014

For those of you in or near NYC, or planning to be there around the NPT PrepCom, please consider attending this conference on Saturday, May 3. Peace Action is a co-sponsor, and Field Director Judith Le Blanc and PANYS Executive Director Alicia Godsberg will be among the speakers.

km
***
Facing the Dangers of 21st Century Great Power War
A Conference on the Centenary of World War I
Saturday, May 3, 2014 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Assembly Hall, Judson Memorial Church
229 Thompson St., Manhattan
South of Washington Square Park
9:00-9:30 Registration

9:30-11:00 Looking forward, looking backward:  WWI, today’s risk of great power war, peace movements, and disarmament.

•       Dr. Erhard Crome, Rosa Luxembourg Foundation.
•       Zia Mian, Princeton University.
•       Andrew Lichterman, Western States Legal Foundation.

11:30-12:45 Risks of Great Power War:  Regional Perspectives

•       Joseph Gerson, American Friends Service Committee
•       M.V. Ramana, Princeton University
•       Irene Gendzier, Boston University.

12:45-1:45 Lunch (See registration information below)

1:45-3:00 The Risk of Great Power War:  Regional perspectives: BRICs, Sub-Imperialisms, and Post-Cold War conflicts

•       Michael Klare, Hampshire College
•       Emira Woods, Institute for Policy Studies
•       Paul Lansu, Pax Christi Europe.

3:00-4:15 Limits of the Moral Imagination: Industrialized Warfare, Moral Thresholds, and the Forgotten History of Arms Control:

John Burroughs, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy
Paul Walker, Global Green
Götz  Nuneck Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy, University of Hamburg.

4:15-5:30  Disarmament Movements, Peace Movements, and What Is To Be Done.
•       Reiner Braun, International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms
•       Akira Kawasaki, Peace Boat
•        Judith LeBlanc, Peace Action

To Register:  Write to Jennifer Sherys-Rivet at JSherysr@afsc.org. For more information, call 617-661-6130. (Lunch available with pre-registration $10)

Conference conveners and Sponsors: American Friends Service Committee, Peace and Economic Security Program; International Peace Bureau; and the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms and its U.S. affiliates, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy and the Western States Legal Foundation, Rosa Luxembourg Foundation. Endorsing Organizations:  Abolition 2000 Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons, Peace Action


April 15 Tax Day: Global Day of Action on Military Spending!

February 20, 2014
VA Organizing at teh Richmond, VA post office on April 15, 2013

VA Organizing at teh Richmond, VA post office on April 15, 2013

By Judith Le Blanc, Peace Action Field Director

The International Peace Bureau’s Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) is April 15, US Tax Day. Peace Action is convening a cross section of peace and community, faith-based national groups who are supporting local actions across the country on Tax Day. Tax Day will be a day to shine a light on the Pentagon budget and how it drains the resources needed for our communities.

Not only does our government allocate a majority of the discretionary spending every year on the Pentagon at the expense of human needs and diplomacy, it also is one of the world’s biggest arms dealers.

The Tax Day actions are a call for changing national spending priorities, it is also a day of solidarity with all those who suffer from US wars past and present and the presence of over 1,000 bases around the world. The actions will call attention to the domestic impact of continuing to pour money into the Pentagon budget while community services are cut.

The recent Congressional budget deal delayed the next round of ”sequestration” or across the board budget cuts. Federal budget cuts were made but the Pentagon came out the big winner. In fact, the Overseas Contingency Operations account got bumped up while the war in Afghanistan is winding down creating a slush fund to blunt the impact of cuts!

Initial reports are that the Pentagon will announce their budget on February 24 and will include a $26-28 billion dollar “investment fund.” Yet another maneuver to add money to the budget and relieve the pressure to cut the Pentagon budget!

The April 15 Tax Day local actions will focus on Congress. In April, the Congress will be in the midst of working on the federal budget.

We will send a clear message to our Congressional representatives: ”Move the Money” from wars and weapons to human services and convert military industries into civilian use.

We have commitments from 10 Peace Action affiliates to work with their community allies to organize Congressional lobby visits, town hall meetings, and vigils, leafleting, banner drops or other visibility actions. Please post your event here.

Soon a US website will be up with materials, information and organizing tips. Find out more about what is going on around the world at http://demilitarize.org/

For more information email: JLeBlanc@peace-action.org.


Video – Peace Action Education Fund at PDA’s Progressive Roundtable on Capitol Hill

October 30, 2013

Video of October 9th Progressive Roundtable on Capitol Hill by our friends Progressive Democrats of America (PDA). Our Field Director Judith Le Blanc speaks on our work on Syria at about 29 minutes in to the video, and on our grassroots Move the Money campaign to cut Pentagon spending in order to fund human needs at about an hour and five minutes in. The rest is all good too, with Members of Congress and peace and justice movement allies.

 


Shutdown the Shutdown Talking Points and Resources

October 4, 2013

Compiled by Peace Action’s Move the Money Working GroupID-10055209

We need to find ways to connect the current Congressional crisis with the ongoing struggle to change national spending priorities: Move the Money from wars and weapons to fund jobs, human services and diplomacy.

Two immediate actions we can take:

1. Public education: Letters to the Editor (LTE), op-eds and using social media.

2. Join in solidarity with domestic needs, labor and others taking action in our communities to pressure Congress to end the shutdown and change national spending priorities. Although the bottom line is ending the shut down it is also true that the struggle over the passage of a budget and the debt ceiling are all connected.

Talking Points & Resources for LTE, op-eds and social media: some of theses points are the biggest demand we can make, others are shorter term points suited to appeal across the political spectrum. You are the best judge of which will be appropriate for your audience. Use National Priorities Project’s handy interactive online tools to get specific data on your state, city or town and the federal budget to make your LTE or op-ed hit home.  Read a brief history of how we got to the shutdown.

Immediate impact of shutdown: 800,000 workers are furloughed and may not get a paycheck while tens of billions will be wasted to implement the shutdown and restart services when it is over. Read what the National Priorities Project estimates. For the most up-to-date information on the shutdown including the impact on the state level can be found here: Center for Effective Government

• Democracy: The shutdown and failure to pass annual budgets and resorting to Continuing Resolutions are limiting the rightful role of constituents and the grassroots to dialogue and inform Congressional decision-making on federal budget priorities. The ball keeps getting kicked down the field with Continuing Resolutions. Time for Congress to pass a budget and decide on national spending priorities!

Role of government: Speeches from the floor of the House of Representatives say better to have less government and the shutdown proves that. We need effective government with a federal budget, which reflects the needs and aspirations for a better country and world. Not a government which spends 57% annually on wars and weapons while there is high unemployment and cuts to community services.

Government is not broke. We can’t let the norm for federal budget decisions become the Budget Control Act or what is called sequestration. The problem is that a federal budget has not been passed in years. It’s been replaced by stopgap Continuing Resolutions, which now lock in cuts, set by sequestration. We need, even with limited resources, a thoughtful prioritization for annual spending. We need to Move the Money!

In fact, there is growing support for cutting the Pentagon budget if the political will exists.

What can be cut in the Pentagon budget so we can have more funding of essential community programs?  Read 27 recommendations for budget cuts in the 2015 budget drafted by 17-member defense advisory committee, which includes two former vice chairmen of the Joint Chiefs, a former Air Force chief and a former chief of naval operations. Read entire Stimson Center report issued on 9/25/13

Use Peace Action’s website to send your Letter to the Editor.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Shutdown the Shutdown

October 2, 2013

10390807-words-related-to-a-possible-government-shutdownHow is it that the Radical Right can work itself into such a lather over Obamacare but seems content to allow the free-spending Pentagon to continue dispensing hundreds of billions of dollars each and every year without ever having to meet an audit?  They don’t have the faintest clue as to where all that money has gone or where all the money they are prepared to send after it will go.

They know they can’t win.  Plain and simple – they are in the minority.  They claim the public doesn’t want the Affordable Care Act, but I don’t see it.  It’s just the Tea Party making a lot of noise.  So, unable to get their way, they would rather burn the house down than have to live in it with the rest of their family if they can’t get what they want.  Is this how they think a representative democracy conducts its business?  They must have been sleeping during civics class.

Write a Letter to the Editor and remind your neighbors that Obamacare isn’t the issue here – its budget priorities.  We need a budget that mirrors our values.  We are not lobbyists or corporations.  We are people who live in communities that have real needs, not ideological concerns or special interests.

A shut down, even for a few days, generates anxiety for people who depend on essential government services. Forced furloughs put the burden on government workers and their families.

The night before the shutdown, the Pentagon scrambled to award $5 Billion in contracts to military corporations while 800,000 government employees were locked out the next morning. Wrong priorities!

Letters to the Editor is the contemporary Town Square, the place where you can forward your opinion and invite your neighbors to stand with you.  It is one of the most read sections of the newspaper.   It’s simple, just follow the links andsee for yourself.

Now, let’s be clear. Whether the government shutdown lasts a few days, or a few weeks, running around as if your hair is on fire isn’t how the matter will be resolved.  In the end, I suspect poll numbers will speak loud and clear and this gaggle of overheated loud mouths will be forced to give way once the other members of their party see the writing on the wall.  They will not slink away meekly having been schooled in Democracy 101, but perhaps they will lose enough juice so the rest of the Congress can get down to the business of passing a budget and increasing the debt limit.

And when they finally get down to business, we need to make sure Congress passes a budget that reflects our values.

Writing a Letter to the Editor is a simple and powerful way to get our jobs not war, budget priorities message to thousands of people in your community.  And, that’s the debate we have to win.

Your letter will validate what many of your neighbors already suspect, that the Tea Party war on Obamacare is a smokescreen covering subsidies and tax forgiveness for large corporations and the super rich and all the money being wasted on endless war and gold-plated weapons.


September 26, 2013

Tuesday, Oct. 8th
National Teach-In on Syria & US Policy in the Region
6:30 to 7:30 pm EST

Live Streaming at http://www.busboysandpoets.com/videos/live-streaming

With developments unfolding rapidly, it is still uncertain how things will play out in Syria.

A few weeks ago our nation was on the brink of yet another deadly military mistake. At the last moment, a threat of a U.S. missile attack against Syria was averted as the justifiable concern about chemical weapons moved away from a military incursion into a diplomatic process. The raging civil war has not yet stopped, but the massive outpouring of anti-war sentiment from people in every corner of the country and around the world prevented this new attack, and is helping to slow the flow of arms into Syria.

Our victory was clear, but our work is far from over.
Will there be a negotiated resolution to the armed conflict inside Syria, or will the fighting escalate into an even broader regional war?
How did the peace movement in the U.S. and world-wide stop Washington from proceeding with military action in Syria, and how can we build on our success to change U.S. policy in the region?
What’s happening now, on the ground in Syria and on the diplomatic front? What is the U.S. interest in Syria and how does this connect to U.S. policy in the Middle East more generally?
These are some of the important issues that a dynamic panel of people will address in the National Teach-In on Syria. You are invited to watch the teach-in on line as we dig deeper into the issues and learn the lessons.

We are happy to join with other national groups to sponsor this live streamed panel on Tuesday, October 8th:


Phyllis Bennis – Director, New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies
Stephen Miles – Coordinator, Win Without War
Nick Berning – Communications Director, MoveOn.org
Rep. Barbara Lee (invited) – 13th Cong. District, CA
moderated by Judith LeBlanc – Field Director, Peace Action

Watch this important discussion with others! This is a moment to bring people together, to take our organizing to a new level.
- Invite people to your home to watch the teach-in together.
- If you are at a school or college get a room and organize a screening.
- Ask your local library or religious institution to set up a public viewing.
- Ask you local community cable station to run the program live or taped.
- Use this teach-in as an opportunity to talk with others about how to strengthen the work of the anti-war movement.

We realize the time of this event might make it hard for some folks on the West Coast to see the broadcast, but we’ll be sending out information about how you can access this event after October 8th.

This teach-in is organized and sponsored by the following groups that have been working together on Syria:
Peace Action
Win Without War
Institute for Policy Studies
CodePink
Just Foreign Policy
Progressive Democrats of America
American Friends Service Committee
Peace and Justice Resource Center
U.S. Labor Against the War
United for Peace and Justice
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Women’s Action for New Directions


How Do you Fix the Deficit? End the Wars, Tax the Rich! Great Move the Money Rally in Boston last Thursday!

May 20, 2013

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

One of the great benefits of my job is traveling the country and observing/supporting/learning from the outstanding work Peace Action affiliates, chapters and activists carry out every day of the year. Last week I was in Boston for a terrific rally protesting sequestration and budget cuts to human needs programs, and calling instead for cuts to the bloated Pentagon budget. Hats off to Massachusetts Peace Action and their allies in the Budget for All coalition (which organized the wonderful referendum of the same name last November that passed overwhelmingly everywhere around the state it appeared on the ballot). The rally was energetic, diverse (people of color, labor, education, housing and education advocates all spoke and turned out their members, as well as Peace Action and American Friends Service Committee) and militant yet welcoming. Also some great slogans and songs (including the one in the title of this post). Enjoy these photos and be inspired to organize for peace and justice in your community!

IMG00323-20130516-1215 (2)935799_466542026759335_1728389974_n264424_466914430055428_1624005668_n923521_466541363426068_1233990488_n[1]


Field Director Judith Le Blanc’s Letter on Pentagon Spending in the Washington Post

May 3, 2013

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/pentagon-cuts-can-work-to-our-advantage/2013/05/02/3b75f022-b11a-11e2-9fb1-62de9581c946_story.html

Letter to the editor

Pentagon cuts can work to our advantage

It’s neither a quandary nor a conundrum. It is an addiction.

The post-9/11 increase in defense contracting created an economy dependent on the Pentagon budget. Congress created the addiction. Now it’s time for it to wean the Pentagon by using the money cut from the defense budget to fund a transition to production for civilian use. It’s not a new idea. This has been done in the past.

We need the political will from liberals and conservatives alike to reduce the waste in the Pentagon budget in order to fund jobs in sectors that contribute to the economy for the long term.

The real conundrum: Will Congress move the money from weapons we no longer need to manufacturing that produces what we do need? Our military contractors, our communities and the federal budget need this transition from an addiction to military contracts to manufacturing to meet human needs.

Judith Le Blanc, New York

The writer is field director for Peace Action.


What We Learned in Congressional Hearings Last Week (“We Could Tell You, But Then We’d Have to Kill You”)

April 19, 2013

Well, the good folks at truthout changed the header on my op-ed to a less colorful “North Korea and U.S. Special Ops Forces” but still glad they published it. Copyright Truthout.org, reprinted with permission.

North Korea and US Special Ops Forces

Friday, 19 April 2013 10:56By Kevin MartinSpeakOut | ONormally I prefer it when Congress is not in session in Washington, reasoning our legislators can do us no harm, or less harm anyway, when they are back home in their districts meeting with constituents and/or pandering to and raising money from corporate special interests.

However this week, two congressional hearings shed light on some very interesting, previously unknown (or at least not widely known) facts related to our “national security.”

The first, earlier this week, came at a Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing on emerging threats. As reported by Walter Pincus for the Washington Post, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM in military shorthand), Admiral William McRaven, stated, “On any day of the year you will find special operations forces [in] somewhere between 70 and 90 countries around the world.”

Now this number surprised me very much. Had I been asked to guess, I might have said we have special ops forces in maybe half that number of countries. On the other hand, given that the U.S. has somewhere between 800 and over 1,000 foreign military bases around the world (there is no consensus on how to even count them), as well as an overall unprecedented global military footprint, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised at the 70 to 90 number. It may in fact be low.

Pincus’s article hinted at not only the increased role of Special Ops (which, along with drone strikes, are preferred means of projecting U.S. military might as the military seeks to reduce boots on the ground in some regions of the world), but also its growing budget (“Special Operations wins in 2014 budget”). Of course the budget, along with the number of countries, not to mention what the special ops forces are doing, all fall into the “we could tell you, but then we’d have to kill you” category.

Which is ludicrous, since we taxpayers foot the bill for all of this special opping. Shouldn’t we know what the tab is, and be able to judge if it’s worth it? Is this making us safer, or earning us more enemies around the world? Is this a good priority for our tax dollars, or would we feel more secure investing instead in our improving our schools, re-building our aging infrastructure, creating jobs and affordable housing and investing in green energy sources?

The Obama White House, which is failing miserably in its pledge to be the most transparent administration ever, should heed the adage that sunlight is the best disinfectant, and release the budget, list of countries we’re on the ground in, and various missions of the Special Operations Command.

The second illuminating hearing, of the House Armed Services Committee, was held Thursday. As was widely reported, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) revealed a Defense Intelligence (oxymoron alert!) Agency report that, counter to widely held belief, North Korea has the capability to hit the United States with a nuclear-armed missile, though the weapon’s reliability would be low. The Obama Administration and other government spokespeople were quick to either disavow the DIA finding or point out this is not a consensus position of the U.S. intelligence community.

On this one, I’m inclined to the skeptical view. Miniaturizing a nuclear warhead, fitting it atop a missile that has to fly across the North Pole or the world’s largest ocean, come close to its target and explode at the right time, well this is called “rocket science.” North Korea’s ain’t anywhere close to ours.

Do you know what’s not rocket science? Understanding North Korea’s government isn’t crazy, paranoid or irrational. Their recent nuclear and missile tests, as well as other provocative actions and threats, while regrettable, are the moves of an isolated, impoverished country targeted as part of the “Axis of Evil” by our previous president. It keenly observed what happened to the other two, sanctioned-to- death, invaded, regime-changed and occupied Iraq, and sanctioned-to-death and threatened with “all options on the table” Iran. Both lacked nuclear weapons of their own to deter U.S. (and Israeli, in the case of Iran) aggression, so North Korea learned the obvious lesson about nuclear weapons – “we better get us some.” Moreover, North Korea has long faced the overwhelming economic, political and especially military power of the U.S. and South Korea.

While recently the U.S. has correctly backed off plans to escalate military pressure on the North, in the last few weeks it conducted massive war games with South Korea, with the stated objective of preparing for regime change or collapse in the North. U.S. B-2s and B-52s ran simulated nuclear attacks on North Korea, and F-22 fighter jets were moved to the South. If you were in the North Korean government, wouldn’t you be pretty jumpy right about now?

Putting out the fire with gasoline is not what we need. Let’s hope Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to the region succeeds in calming the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Calm, reasoned diplomacy is what we need, not military escalation and threats. Let’s also look longer term, to put in place steps leading to a peace treaty with North Korea (we have only a supposedly temporary armistice signed 60 years ago at the end of the Korean War) and denuclearization of the region, and the world.

Nuclear deterrence clearly isn’t working; if it were, wouldn’t the U.S.’s massive nuclear arsenal of over 5,000 warheads, most of which are tens or hundreds of times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb which killed over 130,000 people, be dissuading North Korea from threatening to attack us, whether the threat is credible or not? Nuclear disarmament would make the region and the world much safer, and cost a lot less to boot.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 13,049 other followers

%d bloggers like this: