Wednesday, November 19, 2014

POOR IN PARADISE

Or Part of the 45% in Florida
By Anita Stewart for Challenging the Rhetoric
November 19, 2014

IMAGE SOURCE: NBC NEWS

Ft. Lauderdale is looking really bad lately on an international scale with the issues surrounding the Homeless and Hungry in this city. The Mayor and the City Council members and the shadowy Downtown Development Authority (an unelected and monied corporate council of sorts) have implemented a collective effort to silence the Homeless and make them disappear. The Mayor even started a program giving the Homeless bus tickets out of town to get them to their friends and family members and insultingly called it a “Family Reunification Program.” 

The Mayor, Jack Seiler has some pre-defined responses to inquiries that ended up being lies and included the following: “The City Commission did not realize that requiring the homeless be fed in safe, secure, sanitary and healthy conditions would be distorted by the media as an attack on the homeless. The City Commission did not ban feeding the homeless in the City of Fort Lauderdale and did not make it illegal to feed the homeless; the City Commission only regulated the location of those feedings. In fact, there are numerous locations where homeless feedings may be legally held in the City, including our downtown. You can read the ordinance online at our website: FortLauderdale.gov.

Further, the cycle of homeless and homelessness on the streets of Fort Lauderdale is unacceptable, and this City Commission will do everything possible to get them off the streets and into the right programs, to the appropriate facilities, and to the proper resources necessary to turn their lives around.

This City Commission also does substantial charitable work for the homeless here in South Florida, volunteer at the local homeless assistance center, contribute financially to assist homeless programs and benefits, and work on several successful homeless veterans programs and projects. You can find many of those programs listed on our website at FortLauderdale.gov.

Mayor Seiler speaks of multiple programs to aid the Homeless and Hungry in his communiques but according to those on the streets, the only one that exists is run by the county and is woefully inadequate for the sheer numbers of the people in need.

Radical actions over the past few weeks have included the arrest of a homeless man, Ray Cox in the City Council meeting on November 18, 2014  while at the same time the Council claimed November 16-22, 2014 as “National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.”

Yesterday, Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Dean Trantalis urged other city officials to end the controversial law. So far he was the lone voice in favor of rescinding the ordinance. Local Channel 10 also reported that Ft. Lauderdale’s lists of feedings and aid for the Homeless did not yet exist. 

The arrests continue of those from Food Not BombsLove Thy Neighbor and other groups, charities and individuals who are publicly feeding the Homeless and Hungry. Mr. Abbott, the 90 year old who runs Love Thy Neighbor has been arrested multiple times. He has been feeding the homeless for over 20 years. This does not sound like an atmosphere of love and compassion and true caring by the city.

As of this writing, Jillian Pim of Food Not Bombs is on Day 17 of her Hunger Strike in solidarity with the Homeless and Hungry. She plans on continuing until the ordinance is rescinded or no longer enforced by the city. And Ft. Lauderdale may lose a lot of downtown revenue as Christmas has been cancelled by those feeding the Homeless and Hungry.  

Aaron Jackson, a CNN Hero who has also been arrested is currently crowdfunding a food truck so he can feed the Homeless and Hungry outside of City Hall. 

At the same time as this is occurring in Ft. Lauderdale and throughout Florida and indeed, across the country in many cities, an alarming study by the United Way gives us a number to go on: 45% of Florida households can’t afford to live within the average cost of living here. And what is especially significant is the amount of people that are working and still cannot afford even the basics for their households. Between 2007 and 2012 the cost of basic housing, child care, transportation, food and health care in Florida increased by 13 percent. The United Way report analyzed this report with each county using the following criteria: affordable living, jobs and community support.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

WAR AND PEACE FROM A VETERAN’S PERSPECTIVE

IMAGE SOURCE: digboston.com
IMAGE SOURCE: digboston.com
Updates on the Challenges We Face During a Wartime Culture
By Anita Stewart for Challenging the Rhetoric
November 17, 2014
A Quick History of the Peace Movement Since 2002
Since 911 and soon after our military’s incursions into Afghanistan and then Iraq, between 2001--2003, Wars and Occupations have become our government’s primary instruments of foreign policy. The first pro-peace/anti-war protests took place 18 days after the 911 event. At that time and for years afterwards, the peace movement quickly organized and deployed front and center and were very visible. These events made the corporate news in the early 2000’s.
Between the implementation of the Patriot Act and then the presidential election of 2004 when Bush Jr was re-elected, the post 911 Peace Movement was active and engaged. The Peace Movement grew and millions took part in direct actions and protests around the world. In a short amount of time, from 2004 until 2008 when Obama was elected, the Peace Movement had dwindled down to almost nothing. Most activists believed that the elections and a regime change in 2008 would solve everything and that Obama would do as he had promised during his campaign and end the Wars and Occupations.
And Just What are the Stats?
Rhetoric continues to this day with the polls and stats on how many civilian casualties, how many military active duty members have died at the front or in the hospitals, how many veterans have died after their return from injuries sustained during the Wars and Occupations or from mental health issues that resulted in suicides. The criteria is different with every poll so the results we are getting are skewed.
The current rate of suicides among veterans is 22 per day. Another number that is never tallied is how many family members succumb to suicide and how many surviving family members exist. What is a known fact is that endless war is a tragedy and takes a never ending traumatic toll on military families.
Another horrific trend with veterans is MST or Military Sexual Trauma. The victims don’t die and get released from their trauma. They live through the memories every day. The numbers are impossible to calculate and the victims are active duty women AND men in lesser numbers. It is estimated that many MST cases have never been reported. Fear of retribution keeps many victims from speaking out or seeking help. A sense of betrayal is included with these instances of MST. Women and men who join the military come to think of those they are stationed with as “comrades in arms” and instead these people become their enemies. This makes for a hostile working and living environment for the victim. MST was documented in a movie called “The Invisible War.” Because women are now in combat positions and stationed at the front lines unlike women who served in the military in the past, it is believed that these numbers have increased over the years.
Over the past months we have all heard the corporate media’s stories about the Veterans Administration and the fraud, waste and abuse inflicted on veterans as they try to acquire their healthcare that was guaranteed to them when they signed on. Lack of care, endless red tape, long wait times for appointments and procedures, woeful lack of counseling and mental health care is not supporting existing veterans or the huge influx of returning ones. 
All of this was documented in the documentary film “Body of War,” produced by legendary talk show host, Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro. Especially poignant on this past Veterans Day (2014) was the death the day before of veteran, anti-war activist and paraplegic Tomas Young, the subject of the movie.
Media, the Elections, Candidates, Representatives and Voting
During the Elections in 2008 many promises were made to bring the troops home by most of the Democratic candidates and by one Republican, Ron Paul. By the 2012 elections, candidates were stumping on the following issues: the economy, jobs, taxes, federal spending, climate change and healthcare. War was rarely if ever mentioned.
For years now, the mostly pro-peace Third Party candidates have not been heard by the masses. And the presidential, federal and those running for local offices and are Third Party candidates are largely not permitted to debate with the mainstream candidates. At times they are even arrested for attempting to attend the debates.
After viewing the information on the current state of political debates, it would be difficult for anyone to believe that the US is still a democracy and that all voices are heard.
Voting for either corporate political party’s candidates is ensuring more of the same and not furthering a peace agenda.
In the last several election cycles, the public no longer heard promises from the candidates that included bringing the troops home, ending the Wars and Occupations and using Foreign Policy measures to resolve continuing conflicts between nations. 
In the American consciousness, we have already become part of the War Culture.
Peace is not in the Americans’ psyche anymore and rarely mentioned in the corporate media. Therefore, technically it no longer really exists in the minds and hearts of the masses. And since voices for peace are rarely heard by the citizens, the people who mention peace are usually characterized as being part of a “fringe” element.
What is Blowback and What About Rhetoric?
An article titled “Blowback“ by Chalmers Johnson and published in The Nation in 2007 defined the word “blowback” as the following: “...a metaphor for the unintended consequences of the US government's international activities that have been kept secret from the American people.”
What we are getting through the corporate media is not even close to the reality of the true costs of war, the real blowback of the impacts on human life both military and civilian. And the casualties. “We do not do body counts,” was what General Tommy Franks had stated after being questioned about how many Iraqis had died. 
No one is mentioning the trillions of dollars that has been spent already and how this affects every aspect of life here in the US. And the infrastructure of our country that is breaking down. The Wars and Occupations continue on a large scale and now, even though it was promised that there would be no more “boots on the ground” our military will be deployed again in large numbers. And also worthy of mention is our expansion into the continent of Africa and a new command called AFRICOM. The powers that be have no plans to lessen war. To note this rhetorical statement; that the US had won the war but Obama lost it. And this cannot be true since our military is still deployed. Endless war for endless profits, “War is a racket,” as General Smedley Butler said and the elite get rich from continuing it.
Where is the Peace Movement Now and How Do We Activate It?
Many are calling for ways to galvanize the peace community again and no one is really sure of how to begin. But we need to find ways to unite based on our commonalities, to forget the strife, the political agendas, the support of one or the other candidates or political parties. To just focus on taking care of our wounded and dying and mentally/emotionally challenged and making Peace and ending the Wars and Occupations part of our everyday conversations with everyone we speak to. There are amazing people that are out there trying to speak to people; follow them, connect with them on social networks. Encourage others to do the same. There are groups to work with or be a part of that have never quit the peace dialogue and if you cannot join one or there are none in your community, start one! Veterans for PeaceCode PinkIraq Veterans Against the War to name a few that are still very vocal and speaking truth to power. Veterans have the floor and we have the voices people will listen to. It is time to stand up, walk to the podium and do a “mike check” to get everyone’s attention.
"Mr. Speaker, we make war with such certainty, yet we are befuddled how to create peace. This paradox requires reflection, if we are to survive. Making and endorsing war demands a secret love of death, a fearful desire to embrace annihilation. Creating peace requires the mirror of compassion -- putting ourselves in the other person's place, in all their suffering, with all their hopes -- acting from our heart's capacity for love, not fear. The fight against terrorism in the 21st century is beginning to have the feel of the fight against communism in the 20th century: Conjuring of enemies, scapegoating and wanton destruction. Our war on terror has become a war of errors as we blindly exercise our capacity for war making. We have not yet begun to explore our capacity for peacemaking, so we are reduced to a predatory voyeurism: creating war, watching war, being aghast at war, impotent to stop ourselves. We are the most powerful nation, but even we do not have to power to reserve for ourselves, or to grant to our allies, an exemption from the laws of cause and effect. The fate of the world lies in the balance at this time. Until we consciously choose peace over war, life over death, love over hate -- the balance is tipping toward mutually assured destruction. Please... let us reconsider our actions."
US Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) Speech to the House of Representatives, July 18, 2006

BREAKING: NO KXL!

PHOTO SOURCE: PopularResistance.org

Or the Planet Dodges a Big Bullet for Now

By Anita Stewart for Challenging the Rhetoric

November 18, 2014

The NASA scientist, James Hansen said many years ago that it would be game over for the planet if the Keystone Pipeline was implemented. He also said that it would be the “fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet.” 

Last week the GOP-led House voted in favor of the bill by 252 to 161. Today the Senate voted it down by 59 to 41. Senate Republicans and a few moderate Democrats voted in favor. 

Even though it was widely known that President Obama did not approve of the bill, there was no communication coming from the White House confirming that he would veto it, only a lot of speculation.

In response to the vote today, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune released the following statement:

"We applaud the Senators who stood up for the health of our families and our climate by fighting back against this big polluter-funded sideshow. There’s no good reason the Senate should have wasted all this time on yet another meaningless push for Keystone XL. Since day one, the decision on the pipeline has belonged to President Obama, and he has repeatedly said he will reject this pipeline if it contributes to the climate crisis. As there is no doubt that it does, we remain confident that is precisely what he’ll do."

Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer D-Ca., spoke about the environmental concerns of the Keystone XL:

Misery follows the pipeline. It’s called XL which should stand for ‘extra lethal.’ A 45 percent increase in tar sand production means a 45 percent increase in hazardous metals and pollutions like lead and sulfur from the dirtiest oil on the planet,” Boxer stated as she switched between slides of oil spills and cloudy, polluted landscapes. “In terms of carbon emissions, this pipeline is the equivalent of adding emissions from 29 dirty coal-fired power plants to our environment.

If the vote had passed, it might have been vetoed by the President. Environmental activists and organizations that have fought the good fight for over 6 years did not back down today and continued asking for calls and petitions. They filled lawmaker’s offices in Washington, DC and did direct actions in front of legislators’ homes. 

Senator Mary Landrieu (D) sponsored the bill and brought it to the floor with a vote thinking that it would bolster her chances at a Dec 6th run-off election in her home state of Louisiana. She spoke to reporters after the vote stating: “For jobs, for economic opportunity, for independence, for energy independence, this fight was worth having.”

The current administration had said that it wanted to wait for a review of the long term effects of the project. The administration was skeptical that the project would bring more jobs and reduce the cost of fuel; what the backers of the project had previously claimed.

Originally published here: CLICK