Death Penalty News
Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens explains changing to oppose the death penalty: Adam Liptak reported in the November 27, 2010, New York Times the story of how one US Supreme Court Justice came to oppose the death penalty. Shortly after joining the Court in 1976, Justice Stevens voted to bring the death penalty back after its arbitrariness had been ruled unconstitutional in 1972. He wrote that clear procedures could make it possible to ensure “evenhanded, rational and consistent imposition of death sentences under law.” But in 2008, two years before announcing his retirement, Justice Stevens wrote in a Court decision that he now believed the death penalty was unconstitutional. In November 2010 he explained his reasoning. He lamented that newer justices and “regrettable judicial activism” had resulted in a death penalty system full of racism, biased against defendants, and infected with politics and hysteria. See www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/us/28memo.html
International support grows for a United Nations moratorium on the death penalty: On November 11 the US joined China, India, Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in voting against a resolution in the United Nations seeking a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty. The motion passed with 107 countries supporting, 38 opposing, and 36 abstaining. The vote occurred in the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee, a body composed of all 192 UN member states that addresses human rights and humanitarian issues. The General Assembly adopted a similar resolution in 2007, but the 2010 vote won by a larger margin.
Three major newspapers in Texas call for ending the death penalty: Texas's largest newspaper, the Houston Chronicle, recently joined the Dallas Morning News and the Austin American Statesman in calling for abolishing the death penalty. Massively embarrassing scandals about innocent people on death row (and some executed), racial bias, and other problems have led the three newspapers to conclude that the death penalty is unworkable, and that Texas should stop it altogether. See the Houston Chronicle at www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/editorial/7362050.html
Learn about and discuss the Death Penalty: Olympia FOR can present a 6-session study group in your faith community or other organization: Are you troubled by the death penalty? You can learn a lot about it and discuss various aspects in the Olympia FOR’s six-session study group, which addresses many aspects of the death penalty, including innocence, racial and economic class bias, cost, victims, legal history, and other factors. It can include a variety of faith perspectives if you want them. Participants read and discuss various printed materials, watch three compelling short videos, and share their own insights. The Olympia FOR’s Committee for Alternatives to the Death Penalty offers this study group series for faith communities and other settings. If you would like to host this Death Penalty Study Group from Faith Perspectives, (or the study group without the faith-based content), please contact (360) 491-9093 firstname.lastname@example.org
Trident Submarine and Nuclear Weapons News
83 people protested nuclear weapons at Trident base on Martin Luther King weekend -- 12 were arrested: The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stated, “When scientific power outruns moral power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men.” Decades later on his holiday weekend, 83 people participated in a vigil in Kitsap County with a full-size 44-foot-long inflatable Trident D-5 missile. Each D-5 missile, deployed on Trident nuclear submarines, carries up to 8 warheads, each with an explosive yield of up to 475 kilotons. Each D-5 missile costs approximately $60 million. Participants also remembered King’s words, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” After nonviolence training, six activists were arrested by Kitsap County sheriff deputies for closing a major traffic gate during the afternoon shift change, and six more crossed the “blue line” into a federal area and were arrested by the Navy’s security personnel. Arrestees from our local area included Larry Kerschner from Centralia and Berd Whitlock from Olympia. Several persons held a banner by the road proclaiming, “BILLIONS FOR LIFE, NOT BILLIONS FOR DEATH.” This is consistent with the Western Washington FOR’s campaign to “Bring Our Billion$ Home.” WWFOR pointed out that our state government is planning to cut more than $4 billion from budgets for schools, health care, public safety and other programs, while Washington State’s people have paid $28.6 billion far for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – let alone the countless billions spent on nuclear weapons and other aspects of rampant militarism. Info: Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action www.gzcenter.org
Ground Zero’s January 17, 2011 action – Photo by Leonard Eiger
U.S. Navy plans to build a new generation of ballistic missile submarines: As if the Trident nuclear submarines were not deadly (and provocative and expensive) enough, the Navy is planning to work on a new fleet of nuclear weapons-carrying submarines to replace the current Trident fleet. This reckless new nuclear weapon system would perpetuate the myth that nuclear weapons are good for us, and it would likely cause a variety of other nations to produce their own nuclear weapons or expand their current inventories. The U.S. must stop holding the rest of the world hostage to our cruel practice of nuclear terrorism. Also – in light of our nation’s massive deficit – don’t we have better uses for the money? On January 27 the Kitsap Sun published an article about the Navy’s plan: www.kitsapsun.com/news/2011/jan/27/navy-embarks-on-replacements-for-trident/. Please take 5 minutes to watch “The Myth of Nuclear Deterrence” at www.wagingpeace.org/dvd.htm Info: Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action www.gzcenter.org
State Legislature considers a publicly owned State Bank: Washington State collected about $10.4 billion in taxes in 2009. Where does the state keep those deposits? Washington State puts most of it in private banks that are headquartered outside the state, the majority in Wall Street Banks like Bank of America. Washington State’s taxpayers could save a lot, keep our state government’s money close to home (away from Wall Street banksters), and use it for productive purposes if we were to create a publicly owned State Bank. A bill creating a publicly owned state bank (the “Washington Investment Trust”) – HB 1320 – got a hearing in a legislative committee recently. Info about HB 1320 is at http://apps.leg.wa.gov /billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=1320&year=2011 More information is at www.justsustainableeconomy.org You’ll soon be able to watch Olympia FOR’s January TV program about this at www.olympiafor.org/tv_programs.htm For more information contact Cindy Ann Cole (email@example.com) and John M Repp(firstname.lastname@example.org)
SB 5053 would reform Washington State’s horribly unjust “3-Strikes” law: Over the past decade, more than 30 legislators have sponsored 3-Strikes reform bills. Senator Kline, Chair of the Senate Judiciary committee, has been the most consistent champion of this reform. This year, he has crafted Senate Bill 5053, a narrow fix to 3-Strikes that would reduce the most disproportionate impact of this law, but still leave the basic law in place. While not going as far as many of us would like (e.g., repealing the 3-Strikes law altogether), these reasonable, common-sense reforms should be politically achievable with public support.
News of Other Countries
Tunisia’s nonviolent democratic revolution arouses support and replication: The Campaign for Peace and Democracy (www.cpdweb.org) and a great many other peace and pro-democracy organizations have expressed public support for the nonviolent uprising against the repressive and corrupt regime that had long ruled Tunisia in northern Africa. People throughout the Arab world especially were inspired by this success in ousting a dictator, because many of their countries are ruled by brutal and corrupt regimes that provide only a façade of democracy. The U.S. government has long supported Tunisia’s government – even by providing military aid and enjoying “an active schedule of joint military exercises.” In fact, as recently as December 2010, when the uprising against Ben Ali was already building, Congress authorized $12 million in “security assistance” to the Ben Ali dictatorship. The U.S. did not criticize its ally until after Ben Ali had fled the country. The Campaign for Peace and Democracy and other peace and pro-democracy organizations call upon the U.S. to keep out of the current situation and allow the Tunisian people to establish a society that provides full democratic rights and social justice without U.S. meddling.
Several kinds of progress for Sudan in eastern Africa: In mid-December the Senate unanimously passed S Con Res 71, a bipartisan resolution to prevent genocide and mass atrocities in Sudan, one of the poorest nations in the world, which is caught between a brutal government in the north and people in the south who want freedom. A 20-year civil war several years ago resulted in 2005 agreement calling for a referendum election to determine whether the southern Sudanese want independence. The voting began on January 9 amid high and tensions and some violence. The U.S. and other nations are concerned about the violence and other problems. The new House Foreign Affairs Committee chair, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), is threatening to focus on cutting the already limited funding for diplomacy, development, and international cooperation, and she is critical of the United Nations. But the U.S. State Department’s new Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) supports building civilian capacities to prevent and respond to crises, although the QDDR is problematic in some other ways. The Friends Committee on National Legislation (www.fcnl.org) and other good organizations are working actively on these matters.
Why Peace Activists Should Take an Active Interest in the Green Movement in Iran: Daniel Postel and Nader Hashemi from the national Fellowship of Reconciliation say: “We are peace activists and supporters of the Green movement in Iran. We adamantly oppose any military attack on Iran, and we stand in solidarity with the democratic struggle in Iran. We see these positions as inextricably linked, as forming a consistent position based on the principles of peace, social justice, and human rights. But there’s a lot of confusion about this in the peace movement. We offer the following food for thought in hopes of clarifying some of the issues at hand and encouraging peace activists to learn more about the Green movement.” Read the rest of their article at www.truth-out.org/why-peace-activists-should-take-active-interest-green-movement-iran66237
Bert Sacks, the gentle Seattle nonviolent activist who was fined $10,000 by the federal government in 2002 for bringing medical supplies to Iraq in 1997, goes to trial this year. Bert offers a monthly e-mail update (“Fined for Helping Iraqi Kids”) on the 11th of each month through September. You will learn a lot about the 12 years of brutal sanctions imposed on Iraq by the U.S. (with United Nations backing). Bert saw first-hand the raw sewage pouring directly into the Tigris River in Baghdad and knew it would become the drinking water of people downstream, causing many people to become sick. In Basra (downstream from Baghdad), he visited the diarrhea clinic that was filled with mothers holding their infants and very young children. He knew that water-borne diseases were the prime killer of Iraqi children under five. In 1991 – at the time of the Gulf War – the U.S. government had deliberately targeted and destroyed virtually all of Iraq’s electrical-generating plants and sewage infrastructure. Then the U.S. imposed sanctions that prevented Iraq from rebuilding them as a cruel way to pressure Saddam Hussein. The U.S. knew this would injure and kill a great many Iraqis, especially children and anyone who was frail. The U.S. government prevented anyone from bringing medical supplies to help Iraqi people. So Bert Sacks from Seattle did just that! Info: www.iraqikids.org and www.eatthestate.org/bert-sacks-vs-the-us-government/
Obama Administration eases travel ban to Cuba: After decades of U.S. isolation, the Obama Administration has finally announced new regulations allowing U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba for certain purposes. While not allowing total freedom, it is a big step forward. Information is posted on the blog at the Latin America Working Group’s website, www.lawg.org. LAWG encourages people to continue pressuring Congress to remove the remaining restrictions on open travel to Cuba for all U.S. citizens and the half-century of embargo restrictions on economic and other interactions.
The Nonviolent Peaceforce accomplished a lot in 2010: A few years ago some of the world’s top practitioners of practical nonviolence created a non-profit organization that would hire and train nonviolent activists to go into conflict situations and provide various kinds of services to protect people. Peace Brigades International (PBI) and Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) had already been doing this, and the new Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) geared up too. In 2010 two communities in Kediba, Sudan, were in violent conflict over cattle raiding. NP brought community leaders together to discuss and solve the problems. They seem to have succeededd. Cattle and kidnapped children were returned, and the two communities now coexist peacefully. NP also helped a number of women in Sri Lanka win the release of men who had been unjustly arrested and imprisoned. They also created a Peace Committee in a troubled school in Mvolo, Sudan. When violence was so excessive that children could not attend classes, NP worked with teachers and students to develop a youth-led peace committee. The school has re-opened and students are continuing their educations. www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org
US government opposes treaty against cluster munitions: The Inter Press Service’s Marwaan Macan-Markar recently reported: “A campaign to rid the world of cluster munitions was having difficulty roping in the US government, a major producer and stockpiler of the deadly payload, for last November’s global conference in Laos to ban their production and use. The U.S. still has not signed the treaty, although 50 nations have ratified it. Laos, a poverty-stricken South-east Asian country, is still grappling with the legacy of the bombs dropped by U.S. warplanes four decades ago.” Read the article at www.truth-out.org/cluster-munitions-treaty-leaves-us-behind64790 More info: Cluster Munition Coalition www.clustermunitions.org and International Campaign to Ban Landmines www.icbl.org
US/Mexico border fence is canceled: Remember all the controversy about a fence along the US/Mexico border? After spending $1 billion of taxpayers’ money to build 53 miles of fencing, the government concluded that it is not effective and canceled the project. We need practical, comprehensive solutions, not the simplistic fear-based political grandstanding that led to this waste of our tax dollars.
The WikiLeaks model is spreading to exposing environmental abuses through www.enviroleaks.org: EnviroLeaks is a repository of leaked information that fills the gap between what the mainstream media allow us to know about the environmentally destructive behavior of the industrial system. EnviroLeaks encourages ordinary people with access to embarrassing and potentially disruptive information to submit it for review, with the intention of it being published as a publicly accessible article. This may take anywhere between a few days and a few months depending on the level of verification needed and the nature of the information. EnviroLeaks feels free to embarrass business corporations, non-profit groups, or any other entities that it believes are hurting the environment and keeping information secret. It also provides commentary and analysis about leaks from other sources. Unlike WikiLeaks, EnviroLeaks won't accept classified information, although it does accept confidential information. Will other “leaks” organizations arise to specialize in exposing various kinds of hidden or hard-to-find information?
Wikileaks revealed that the US Ambassador to France asked the Bush administration to retaliate against Europe for refusing to use genetically modified seeds: See www.responsibletechnology .org/blog/507 and watch the Democracy Now! Interview about this at www.responsibletechnology.org /resources/audio-video
Lessons of Wikileaks (according to the Olympia FOR’s newsletter editor): (1) The government can invade OUR privacy, but it doesn't like it when we quote what THEY tried to keep secret. (2) Mainstream news media are embarrassed because Wikileaks volunteers are doing investigative reporting while mainstream news media merely serve as stenographers to the powerful interests (when they aren't preoccupied with celebrity gossip). (3) Follow the centuries-old Quaker advice ("Speak truth to power") and the older Christian advice ("The truth will make you free").
Federal Budget and War Taxes
“So tonight, I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years.” President Obama’s State of the Union address on January 25, 2011, urged freezing domestic spending – even while he keeps proposing more military spending. Even his commission on the deficit recommended cutting $100 billion from the military. America needs our “Bring Our Billion$ Home” campaign! See page 2 of this newsletter.
President Eisenhower warned against the “military-industrial complex” exactly 50 years ago (January 1961): “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
Convert to a peace economy: Convert military bases, industries and workers: In 1977 Glen Anderson completed a 100-page report (with 335 footnotes!) about the military-industrial complex’s domination of the U.S. economy, how this damages our economy systemically (how it hurts the way our economy functions as a system), and the prospects and methods of converting from a war economy to a peace economy. A great deal had been written about this in the 1960s and 1970s, and a lot of organizing was occurring into the early 1980s. This report (“The Case for Peace Conversion: Its Impact on Washington State and Suggestions for Converting Successfully”) is a great resource to help our Bring Our Billion$ Home campaign. When we propose cutting military spending, people will claim that military spending creates jobs and helps the economy. Actually, military spending creates fewer jobs than spending the money for civilian purposes, and military spending hurts the economy in many ways. This report will help us respond to those common misconceptions. We need to revive the Peace Conversion movement! To borrow a copy of this report – and perhaps discuss it with other interested persons – contact Glen at (360) 491-9093 email@example.com. The Olympia FOR’s December 2010 TV program “Converting to a Peace Economy” is a one-hour summary of this report, so you can watch it on www.olympiafor.org or borrow a DVD from Glen.
Cut the deficit? Why not stop the wasteful, ineffective War on Drugs? President Obama and virtually every member of Congress say they want the federal government to tighten its belt and stop wasting so much money. Why don’t they stop the War on Drugs, which not only wastes billions of dollars every year, but also destroys many people’s lives without solving the problem of drugs – which is really a public health matter, not a criminal matter. Stop wasting money for marijuana arrests or laughably stupid anti-marijuana ads or random drug testing. Stop SWAT raids on people's homes for suspected drug law violations. Stop violating civil liberties. Stop prohibiting free needle programs which inhibit the spread of HIV and AIDS. Stop clogging our courts and building more prisons with people who need treatment and real jobs. Stop tearing families apart and barring people from the job market. Several organizations are working to reform marijuana laws and stop the War on Drugs overall.
Conscientious Objector status for federal taxpayers? The law allows people whose religious and spiritual grounding prohibits them from participating in war to avoid serving in the military. The Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund (RFPTF) Act would extend this basic human right to federal taxpayers. The military’s share of our income tax would be reallocated to new peace-oriented programs. For information see www.peacetaxfund.org or call 1-888-PEACETAX.
War taxes: Information, resources, actions: The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC) offers information, resources and actions for people to oppose taxes for war. Some actions are legal and some violate federal law. NWTRCC says that an April 15 holiday in Washington DC moved the income tax deadline to Monday April 18. The Olympia FOR has a copy of NWTRCC’s video “Death and Taxes.” NWTRCC has updated its War Tax Boycott website (www.wartaxboycott.org) and its brochure about resisting the Federal Excise Tax on local phone service (www.hanguponwar.org). Look for a lot more information, resources, and ideas for actions at NWTRCC’s website (www.nwtrcc.org).
Join Olympia’s delegation to Santo Tomas, Nicaragua in early July: See the February 16 calendar listing for an opportunity to learn about the upcoming Olympia community delegation to our sister town of Santo Tomas, Chontales, Nicaragua, in early July. Imagine yourself with family, friends and neighbors in the small town of Santo Tomas for 11 days on a very supported, family friendly, language interpreted, and affordable experience (or a 23-day version if your Spanish language skills are moderately strong). Live with host families and reconnect with the 29 Nicaraguan friends we’ve met on delegations to Olympia over the past 21 years. Participate in a volunteer opportunity prioritized by our sister organization – perhaps in a classroom or construction project – or perhaps help with a health clinic or website development project or a cultural workshop, or something else. Spanish language interpretation will be provided for the group during the 11-day trip to accommodate low-level Spanish language skills. Spanish classes will also be available. Grace Cox and Jean Eberhardt will co-facilitate this summer’s delegation, so you know you’ll have a great time! Info: firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 943-8642.
Register now to join the Interfaith Peace-Builders’ 36th delegation to Israel/Palestine May 21 to June 3: This delegation will be led by Huwaida Arraf and Adam Horowitz. It will explore Palestinian and Israeli efforts to achieve peace and a resolution to their conflict based on justice. The delegation will feature meetings with Palestinian and Israeli peacemakers – leaders of civil society groups, grassroots organizers, religious leaders and more. IFPB’s May-June delegation also traditionally focuses on the annual commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe) and the founding of the State of Israel. The cost of approximately $2100 includes 13 days of the delegation, hotel and home stay accommodations, breakfasts and dinners, local transportation, guides, speaker/event fees, basic tips and gratuities. Partial scholarships may be available for those with demonstrable need. This does not include airfare. IFPB was started by the national Fellowship of Reconciliation and has successfully spun off to become an independent organization. Info: www.ifpb.org/delegations/default.html
Join a powerful and symbolic nonviolent march for justice in India from October 2011 to October 2012: The final stage during October 2012 will include more than 100,000 people gathered together, including poor people, landless peasants, tribal persons and untouchables. They will march for the final thirty days in order to urge recognition of their rights to livelihood, resources and a dignified life. To support this march and organize similar non-violent events worldwide, Gandhi International is circulating a declaration of solidarity with this march.
For more information contact Gandhi International www. Gandhi2012.org or Olympia’s Bernie Meyer bernie email@example.com.
Protect Democracy and Human Rights
Reform election campaigns: Several organizations work to reform the ways our nation and state conduct and finance election campaigns. Previously we have mentioned Washington Public Campaigns (www.WashClean.org), which focuses replacing special interests’ big money from with public funding for state and local elections in the state of Washington. At the national level, Americans for Campaign Reform (www.ACRreform.org) likewise wants to replace special interest money with public financing. Nationally, FairVote (www.FairVote.org) promotes several kinds of electoral reform (e.g., proportional representation and ranked-choice voting [instant runoff voting] to improve the quality of democracy. Also, please remember Common Cause (www.commoncause.org), which has worked nationwide for more than 40 years as a nonprofit, nonpartisan citizen's lobbying organization promoting open, honest and accountable government.
We need an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the Constitution: US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recently stated publicly (and incorrectly) that women are not protected under the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. Right now, five justices have the power to pick and choose when women should be considered full citizens. And that’s not right. A new movement is underway to add an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution that will guarantee women and men equal status under the law. The National Organization for Women (NOW) is pushing ahead. The attempt in the 1970s and early 1980s got 35 states to ratify the ERA, but it fell short of national ratification by just three states in 1982. Info: http://action.now.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=3037
Stop the FBI’s repression of peace activists and other nonviolent progressives: Increasingly the FBI is targeting people who disagree with U.S. government wars and foreign policies. Federal agents have broken into people’s homes, seized their computers, and violated constitutional rights in many other ways. The government has ordered nine peace and solidarity activists to appear before a grand jury in Chicago. People in dozens of cities (including Seattle) are protesting at local FBI offices and other locations. Info: (206) 499-1220 firstname.lastname@example.org www.stopfbi.net
Pass local ordinances to protect law-abiding Americans’ liberty and privacy and hold government officials accountable when they abuse people: The nationwide organization Bill of Rights Defense Committee – which has local affiliates across the country – has developed two model ordinances for consideration by city councils across the country. One focuses on law enforcement, surveillance, and immigration. Another ordinance focuses on accountability for torture. Look for information about the Local Civil Rights Restoration Act (LCRRA) at www.bordc.org
Other News, Resources and Opportunities
Olympia FOR needs people to serve on (and one to chair) our Outreach Committee: The Olympia FOR is constantly reaching out to our community in various ways to tell people who we are and what we do. We set up information tables at public events, communicate with various organizations and constituencies, write information about the Olympia FOR to print on paper and post to various websites, and so forth. We created an Outreach Committee to plan and carry out these activities, but the committee is short-handed. Are you interested in this creative way to help the Olympia FOR? If so, contact us at 491-9093 email@example.com Our Fundraising Committee also needs more volunteers.
Important food issues: both global and local: Many local people attended TJ Johnson’s recent Olympia presentation on our local and world food situation, sponsored by several organizations. Many people also attended a Seattle presentation on The Economics of Happiness. Both urge people to organize local food sovereignty efforts immediately. Also, Lester Brown’s excellent books over the years have summarized our current food predicament. Growing populations conflict with environmental and resource depletion to cause an escalating food crisis in many parts of the world. Brown urges a massive mobilization on the scale that the U.S. accomplished to fight World War II. Information: www.earthpolicy.org and www.earth-policy.org/plan_b_updates/2011/update90
Receive AlterNet’s new Culture and the Arts newsletter by e-mail: The creative juices of artists, and the energy of the larger universe of culture offers us some positive messages at a time when many of us feel very frustrated about the state of the world. Many people already rely upon AlterNet (www.alternet.org) for news about current events. Now they’re starting an e-mail newsletter to connect politically progressive people with relevant culture and arts. Sign up at www.alternet.org/signup/CultureNewsletterSignUp
The YWCA Other Bank provides free hygiene and cleaning supplies to families in need: Simple items that most of us take for granted (e.g., toilet paper, laundry and dish detergent, deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, soap, tampons and pads, and household cleaning products) cannot be purchased with food stamps and are not available at food banks, but they are necessary for maintaining health and personal dignity. Please donate these kinds of items at the YWCA, 220 Union Ave SE, Olympia, between 9 am and 5 pm Monday-Friday. Info: 352-0593
CodePink has a new website: See www.codepink.org for each week's action alert, breaking news, and upcoming events about peace issues. CodePink mobilizes women with concerted action, wit, energy and determination. Enjoy a wide variety of interesting Adult Education classes at Olympia Unitarian-Universalist Congregation: OUUC offers one-time and multi-session classes on a variety of topics several times a year. The winter/spring 2011 series is starting now. Info: www.ouuc.org/pages/adultED.html