Michael Ratner Update: GTMO 8th Anniversary / 198 People Still Detained
Witness Against Torture: Demonstrations To Close Guantanamo Bay Prison
Historic Win for Constitutional Rights! Injunction Granted in CCR Lawsuit on Behalf of ACORN
Recently, a federal judge blocked Congressional effort to withhold funding to the community group ACORN. In the decision, the court found that ACORN can show that the targeting by Congress in de-funding the anti-poverty group is a violation of the Constitution’s prohibition against the Bill of Attainder. This is a legislative act which singles out a specific person or group for punishment. Jules Lobel, CCR Vice-President and Cooperating Attorney says: “This historic decision by the Court affirms the fundamental constitutional principle that the Congress cannot be judge, jury, and executioner.” Following the decision, Bertha Lewis, ACORN’s Executive Director, said: “The court’s decision is a victory not only for the many dedicated citizens who work with ACORN to improve their communities and promote responsible lending and homeownership, but for the Constitution and the rights of all Americans.”
- ACORN is 39 years old, started in Little Rock, Arkansas. It grew out of the welfare rights movement, George Wiley founder of WRO. We began to organize folks in the South first, just around bread and butter issues.
- Red-lining banks, block busting racist strategies, potholes. Most people would know us by the housing work that we did; we challenged the banks for the red-lining tactics. I was the executive director for New York; I’ve been with ACORN for almost 20 years.
- We had an internal scandal, where the founder Wade Rasky had allowed his brother in a 2 year period of time to misappropriate almost a million dollars. I was appointed CEO after that for my New York City organizing work. We’re (ACORN) the best organizers, but we’re not the best managers.
- It was fine if we stuck with soup kitchens, etc, but we started registering poor people to vote around issues. The minimum wage law passed in Florida. I think we became a threat when we actually moved those people to the polls. Now we begin to change the balance of power.
- We need to organize multi-ethnic, multi-culture, multi-issue, and build an institution where people have real power. Karl Rove leaked emails revealed: “Bring me the head of ACORN.”
- The organizing was effective because we’re not a single issue organization. We can be better managers, but I guess we had a naïveté about the forces we’ve been going against all these years.
- Since 2000, the right has seen us as a growing threat, we were effective and almost immediately we were accused of voter fraud, voter registration fraud. Nothing stuck. They decided, we’ve got to keep ACORN in the news, we’ve got to keep attacking them.
- This filmmaker James O’Keefe made up this fantasy scenario; it was racist and sexist. So, they had this series of videos, when you looked at it, it was very sensational.
- Anyone could see it was highly edited, where they had this woman say she hadn’t paid taxes, and there are these girls from Honduras we want to bring over.
- So, what you see in these tapes is some of our workers giving advice. Next thing it was online, it went viral. Funders were saying they didn’t want to be associated with us. Five hundred organizers, four hundred thousand member families.
- Three times before the Republicans tried to say ACORN was a criminal organization, no due process. In October after that video, they put in writing, no funds given to ACORN. Omnibus funding bill. The bill passed; only 7 brave senators voted against it.
- Congress (right wing) was pushed to name ACORN, because federally funded groups such as Blackwater, KBR would be snared in broad language net. This is about the Constitution, it applies to poor people, it applies to poor people’s organizations.
- CCR lawyers – “I call them Jedi Knights for Justice”
Guest – Bertha Lewis, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Organizer of ACORN, the largest community organization in the country. Appointed in May 2008, Ms. Lewis oversees the operations of its 400,000-strong membership, which is active in over 110 cities across the country. A 16-year veteran of the organization, Ms. Lewis was most recently the Executive Director of ACORN’s New York affiliate and is a founding Co-Chair of the New York Working Families Party.
Why Are We in Afghanistan is the question many listeners still have and is the title of a film by Michael Zweig. The film examines how the reasons for the Afghanistan war have clouded since September 11, 2001. The conflict centers on geo-political positioning that holds the US in the war-torn landscape. At this stage, the Afghanistan war is a humanitarian disaster, the civilian casualties are stunning and conditions on the ground are desperate for Afghani women and children. The film Why Are We in Afghanistan? is an educational resource for communities, unions, veterans and active duty military, classes, and anyone who wonders why we are in Afghanistan, and what to do about it.
- We started out being in Afghanistan because of the 9/11 attacks, the idea was they attacked us from a base in Afghanistan, and we’re going to get the bad guys. Once they were there it became clear that they weren’t interested in going to Afghanistan, they were interested in invading Iraq.
- Starting in 2002, the focus left Afghanistan; we were there, in an inactive state. Then comes the presumed resolution in Iraq, then Obama comes in and tries to be the president, running the campaign of prosecuting the good war.
- Why are we now doubling down in Afghanistan?
- Obama’s latest speech says primary reason for war escalation is Taliban, who are sheltering Al-Qaeda. To “nation-build” – stabilize Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda is in Pakistan, though; if you were to stabilize Pakistan, Al-Qaeda would go to Somalia, etc. It’s like wack-a-mole.
- General Petraeus’s American Counterinsurgency Doctrine, 2006
- They accept in the doctrine, that counter-insurgency is 80 percent civilian work and taking care of civilian population / 20 percent military. But if you look at the budget in place right now for 2010, it’s 6 percent civilian and 94 percent military.
- So, what’s going on? It’s not really about counterinsurgency, it’s not really about Al-Qaeda. We shouldn’t downplay the domestic and military pressure to do this.
- Sentiment about Afghanistan War changed in the US labor movement summer of 2009
- Pipelinestan: During collapse of Soviet Union, the Central Asia “stan” countries came in to play.
- The US Department of Energy forecasts between the year 2000 and 2025, China’s need to import oil is going to increase to 73 percent of its oil needs they will have to import.
- Pakistan’s agents in Afghanistan are the Taliban.
- Unocal – Moderate-sized US oil company, negotiating with Taliban and Pakistan to build pipeline.
- Unreported: There were meetings in Turkmenistan, in 2002 with the Bush Administration and Asian Development Bank to build a pipeline going to Arabian Sea.
- There was a meeting in 2001 before 9/11, with Cheney and energy executives. They issued a report on American energy strategies May 2001. They identified the Central Asian republics as a major source of oil and natural gas.
- They identified these resources, Cheney and his crew, as a source to block from the Chinese and others from getting those resources.
- We’re in Afghanistan because of both strategic interests which include the oil resources and to block others.
- What are going to do, we can’t win, but we can’t not fight it. Obama doesn’t see a way unless there’s a mass movement in this country or military rebellion.
- Barbara Tuchman – March of Folly – Leaders of countries lead them into disastrous courses, against advice and alternative policies.
- You can’t reduce it all to simple, rational calculations because there are other courses that they could do.
- How do you make it hot for Obama on the decisions that he’s made? How do you build the social movement.
- We’ve built quite a presence in the labor movement around Iraq.
- Almost spending $100 billion a year in Afghanistan. You could create a lot of jobs, tax relief, stimulus systems.
- War good for economy? No. For every dollar spent on military spending, you create way fewer jobs than the same money spent on building roads, or turbines for wind farms.
Guest – Michael Zwieg, Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for Study of Working Class Life at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he has received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. His most recent books are What’s Class Got To Do With It? American Society in the 21st Century and The Working Class Majority: America’s Best Kept Secret (2000). He was executive producer and co-writer of the documentary Meeting Face to Face: The Iraq-US Labor Solidarity Tour. (Center for Study of Working Class Life, 2006).
Professor Zweig received his PhD in economics in 1967 from the University of Michigan where, as an undergraduate, he was a founding member of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and as a graduate student helped found the Union for Radical Political Economics (URPE).