The Brain Trust, the Love Circle and the Seed Sowers

March 24, 2015

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–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Last week I had a very enjoyable, short work trip to New York City. On Wednesday night, the indefatigable Judy Lerner (90+ years young!), who has served on the Peace Action national board for at least two decades, hosted a wonderful wine and cheese reception at her Manhattan apartment. Close to 30 Peace Action supporters turned up for a relaxed, social soiree, but we also talked a lot of politics as you can imagine (the picture above, taken by my Uncle, Todd Whitmer, who was there along with my brother, Kris Martin, shows just some of the assembled good folk) and raised a bit of much needed dough, thanks to a strong pitch by Joanne Robinson, Peace Action of New York State’s fundraising chair.

A few days before the event, I saw an RSVP list compiled by Sylvia Rodriguez Case, Peace Action of New York State’s superb administrator, and thought, wow, the brain trust of Peace Action in New York will be at the event, that’s great! And I got to thinking about the term “brain trust.” In Peace Action’s case, leadership is a collective, decentralized “brain,” and we have a lot of trust in our leadership to make the right decisions about priorities, strategies and tactics in our work.

Then I recalled Jim Anderson, board chair of Peace Action of New York State, from Buffalo, calling our national organizers’ meeting in DC two months ago a “Love Circle.” This wasn’t some hippie thing, he was encouraging a younger colleague to feel comfortable that her concerns would be heard and respected, even if they made some folks at the meeting a bit uncomfortable. Peace Actionistas certainly do form a trusting love circle where disagreements can be respectfully aired so we might reach higher ground together. I felt honored to be a part of that love circle last week at Judy’s, and also the following night at a chapter meeting of Peace Action of Staten Island, where I spoke to a terrific bunch of local supporters about the state of Peace Action’s work to support diplomacy with Iran, cut the gargantuan Pentagon budget, abolish nuclear weapons and end our country’s endless wars.

We also focused quite a bit on the April 24-26 Peace and Planet mobilization in New York City, which will bring together these issues as well as social, economic and racial justice and climate concerns. Right there at the meeting, Staten Island organizing powerhouse and Peace Action Fund of New York State board chair Sally Jones got firm commitments from over 50 people to turn out for Peace and Planet! And kudos to Peace Action of Staten Island chair Eileen Bardel for running a great meeting, keeping the agenda moving while also allowing space for everyone to participate, no easy feat!

Lately, some scholars and a few journalists have raised questions about why the peace movement isn’t as strong or visible as it was in the Bush error, I mean era, or why the peace movement isn’t as strong as the labor or environmental or human rights movements. Sometimes I get analytical about it (I could go on and on with my analysis but won’t do so here), other times I get a bit defensive, and other times I think, well if you’ll let me get off the phone I’ll get back to my job, which is to help organize and strengthen the peace movement.

Taking a long view, there are many social, political, economic and cultural factors (most out of our control) at play in why a movement catches fire or doesn’t in a particular place and time. One thing we can always control is sowing seeds that will lead to future growth in our organization and movement, and Peace Action of New York State is a leader in its investment in student/campus organizing. PANYS now has ten student chapters around the state, which didn’t just spring up by themselves. PANYS has invested in building those student chapters, and has a wonderful Student Outreach Coordinator Natia Bueno hard at work to spread this student chapter network even further (Natia will help lead a training session on student organizing for Peace Action affiliates and chapters next month, details TBA soon). Another crackerjack young organizer, Drew King, is working as our coordinator for Peace and Planet (and the apple didn’t fall far from the tree as his father, Jonathan King, is an MIT professor and Massachusetts Peace Action activist).

Peace and Planet will be an outstanding opportunity to build and support the Peace Action brain trust, embrace our love circle, and sow seeds that will blossom in myriad, wonderful ways we can’t fathom today. Please plan to join us!

 


For Peace and Prosperity, Support the People’s Budget

March 23, 2015

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On Tuesday, the Republicans introduced a draconian budget proposal that would gut Medicare, defund the Affordable Care Act, and make deep cuts to domestic programs such as food stamps, housing, education, and the environment.   They’ve made these proposals before — but since they now control both Houses of Congress, it might really pass. Their budget would increase the Pentagon’s slush fund that pays for the Afghanistan war and the war on ISIS.

But the Congressional Progressive Caucus has an alternative.  They call it the People’s Budget: A Raise For America, and it is the polar opposite of the Republicans’ budget proposal.

Congress will vote on budget proposals as early as next week – so contact your Representative TODAY and ask him or her to vote for the People’s Budget.

While working families face smaller paychecks, corporations and the super rich are amassing record wealth.  American families know the system is rigged in favor of the corporations. The People’s Budget makes the economy work for everyone. It creates high quality jobs and reduces family expenses, restoring the buying power of working Americans to drive a full economic recovery.

The People’s Budget creates 8.4 million good paying jobs by 2018; invests $1.9 trillion in America’s future; and puts $820 billion towards infrastructure and transportation improvements.   Ask your Representative to support the People’s Budget!

The People’s Budget cuts waste from the base military budget, eliminates the Pentagon’s “Overseas Contingency Operations” slush fund, ends the US military presence in Afghanistan after 2016, cuts unnecessary spending on destabilizing nuclear weapons, requires that the Pentagon be audited, and invests in diplomacy.  It also provides a new framework to transition workers in military industries to good jobs in the civilian sector.

The People’s Budget would bring in revenue and redress extreme inequality by closing corporate tax loopholes and by a progressive tax on incomes over $1 million a year.   It takes on the climate crisis by imposing a carbon tax as well as by funding transportation improvements.

The People’s Budget is a package that brings together the big issues – taxes, jobs, government services, and militarism – and asks our Members of Congress to take a stand for peace and justice and against austerity and war.  Support of the Progressive Caucus budget in Congress has grown over the years. Let’s keep up the momentum by adding more support this year!   Will your Representative vote for the People’s Budget?

Write Congress now to support the People’s Budget.

For Peace and Justice,

Cole Harrison
Executive Director, Massachusetts Peace Action
National Peace Action Move the Money Working Group Convener

P.S.  Please click now to ask your Representative to support the People’s Budget!


Our Bill to Slash Nuke Weapons Funding

March 12, 2015

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As you know, Peace Action formed over 60 years ago as The Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy to abolish nuclear weapons.  We have come a long way.  The world produced over 125,000 nuclear warheads and now around 17,000 remain.  And that number continues to decline.

Write Congress now to move closer to abolishing nuclear weapons.

Despite President Obama’s Prague speech a few years ago proclaiming a world free of nuclear weapons, he has committed to completely rebuilding all three legs of the U.S. nuclear triad – strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and nuclear-armed submarines (SLBMs) and calls for spending $350 billion over the next decade and up to $1 trillion over the next 30 years.  Military experts agree that we cannot afford these costs and we can be completely secure with far fewer nuclear weapons.

Next week, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) will introduce the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) Act of 2015 in the House and Senate that will save approximately $100 billion over 10 years from unneeded nuclear weapons programs.

We are honored that this legislation, named after our organization, will be introduced again.  Please take a quick moment to ask Congress to become an original cosponsor of the SANE Act.


Diane Nash, George W. Bush, Selma and Our Understanding of Nonviolence

March 11, 2015

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

In case you missed it, civil rights heroine Diane Nash, one of the relatively few women in leadership positions in the civil rights movement in the ’50s and ’60s (she was a key aide to Martin Luther King, Jr. and a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or SNCC) boycotted the 50th anniversary commemorative march in Selma, Alabama last weekend, not wanting to march with George W. Bush. (She was at the event, but her conscience wouldn’t let her be seen marching with Bush).

Nash said, “”I think the Selma Movement was about nonviolence and peace and democracy and George Bush stands for just the opposite—for violence and war and stolen elections,” also noting that his administration conducted torture. “George Bush’s presence is an insult to me and to people who really do believe in nonviolence,” Nash continued, voicing concern that the nonviolent legacy of the Selma Movement would now be “confused.”

I love the following part of Nash’s interview the most:

“Back in the 1960’s we did not know if nonviolence would work,” Nash told NewsOne. “Now we know that it does.” Nash said that she thought the Selma March anniversary “should have been a celebration of nonviolence,” which she added, was “definitely one of the most significant social inventions of the 20th century.”

A longtime respected colleague of mine voiced some mixed emotions about Ms. Nash’s position, stating he understood her but also that we need to welcome former adversaries when they join us.

I agree, and that certainly is in the spirit of nonviolence, if the former adversary is in fact transforming into an ally and “joining” us. If I thought that were true in George W. Bush’s case, I’d welcome him to the side of peace, social and economic justice, civil rights and nonviolence, though I’d be highly skeptical and would demand some accountability or at least repentance from him for his egregious actions as president. I see no evidence Bush is anywhere close to such a transformation.

What Bush’s appearance at the Selma commemoration does show is hard-earned mainstream respect for the courageous civil rights heroines and heroes and the social progress they sweated, bled and died for. But that has nothing to do with war criminals like Bush. Sister Nash was right, but that’s not really the point. From her comments I think it’s pretty clear that on a gut level her conscience just wouldn’t let her be at the same event as Bush, so it was much more a personal than political statement.

And of course Barack Obama, aka President DroneStrike, is no advocate of nonviolence, Nobel Peace Prize notwithstanding. We need to push him not just to conclude a peace deal with Iran, but also to end drone strikes and give up the madness of a new war in Iraq and Syria.

Thanks to Common Dreams and NewsOne for their reporting on Diane Nash’s powerful statement of conscience.


Call Congress Now to Support Iran Diplomacy!

March 2, 2015

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The Boehner/Bibi circus is finally in town.

After weeks of media hype and legitimate debate Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress is tomorrow.
Simultaneously, another bad bill, by Sens. Graham and Corker, has been introduced that could block a deal. They plan to use the speech to build support for anti-deal bills.

Can you call today and make sure pro-diplomacy voices are not drowned out?

I know I’ve been writing to you a lot about Iran lately. But this is such a critical moment for diplomacy in this country – and that’s the best way to stop wars long before they start.

And isn’t that what the peace movement is all about: using diplomacy to solve conflicts. Wouldn’t a victory for peace like that be sweet?  That’s why we’re pushing so hard.

So even if you’ve already spoken out on Iran, can you call again today?

The Netanyahu speech is just one part of a well-oiled machine. Right now that machine includes Republican party leadership, neocon think tanks, Netanyahu himself, and the hawkish, right-wing lobbying group AIPAC which has its annual D.C. lobby push this week.

So let’s make the phones ring and gum up the works of that machine. Most Americans support diplomacy. We can’t let the right-wing noise machine drown out our voices.

Can you click here to use our special call-in tool today? The tool lets you know:

1) Who to call; 2) What to say and 3) If you want … it lets you jot down a couple notes on what you find out from the office. That information is invaluable for our lobbying work.

Thanks so much for all you do for peace,

 

Humbly for Peace,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. For background you can check out (and share) Peace Action West’s Jon Rainwater’s piece in the Hill on the anti-diplomacy legislation


Two Peace Movement Book Events Next Week in DC with Authors Michael Heaney and Vincent Intondi

February 27, 2015

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Our good friends at Busboys and Poets are hosting two very interesting book events in Washington, DC next week, well worth your time if you are free Monday and/or Tuesday evenings.

Our good friends at Busboys and Poets are hosting two very interesting book events in Washington, DC next week, well worth your time if you are free Monday and/or Tuesday evenings.

Event #1: Monday, March 2, 6:30-8:00 pm at the 14th and V Sts, NW Busboys and Poets, sponsored by Teaching for Change

Author Michael Heaney, assistant professor at the University of Michigan, will speak about his book (written with Fabio Rojas) Party in the Street: The Antiwar Movement and the Democratic Party after 9/11.  Michael, Fabio and their assistants did a phenomenal job interviewing anti-war activists and attendees at all the major antiwar rallies of the 2000s, and their findings are very compelling. Click here for more information.

Event #2: Tuesday, March 3,  6:30 pm at the Busboys and Poets Brookland location, 625 Monroe St, NE, Washington, DC 20017, sponsored by Politics and Prose

Vincent Intondi, professor at Montgomery College and American University’s Nuclear Studies Institute, will speak on his book African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism and the Black Freedom Movement. Vincent’s book is groundbreaking in raising up a forgotten history of people of color movements against nuclear weapons, in the context of broader liberation and justice struggles. Click here for more information.


Please Join a Dozen Organizations in Telling Congress to Reject Endless War

February 19, 2015

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The U.S. Congress is considering another “Authorization for the Use of Military Force” — a broad approval for more war.

Click here to oppose any new AUMF.

This is the last thing we need. These wars are not making us safer but generating enemies. They are not surgical operations, but mass killings, as well as assaults on the natural environment and the public budget — not to mention excuses for curtailing civil liberties.

Please click here to sign the following statement for delivery to the media and Congress:

We oppose any new authorization for the use of military force and call for the immediate repeal of the authorizations passed by Congress in 2001 and 2002.

This petition will be a powerful tool as it is being jointly promoted by Conference of Major Superiors of Men, Iraq Veterans Against the War, KnowDrones.com, Military Families Speak Out, Peace Action, Peace Action Montgomery, RootsAction.org, United National Antiwar Coalition, Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones, U.S. Labor Against the War, and World Beyond War.

After signing the petition, please forward this message to your friends. You can also share it from the webpage after taking the action yourself.

Humbly for Peace,

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

 


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