“I’m here to celebrate an American hero, and a hero of the first amendment, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of thought. And Bradley Manning has really stood for that all his life. In a way he’s been an outlier for a long time and I admire him for that.” -Daniel Ellsberg
Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, talks about the upcoming court martial of Army Specialist Bradley Manning at a protest in support of Manning on June 1, 2013. Asked to compare Manning’s situation with his own predicament 40 years ago, Ellsberg describes the disadvantages Manning experiences because he is in the military. He credits Manning for alerting people to “this brutal war and the wars that lie ahead.”
Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK made waves when she interrupted President Obama during his policy address at the National Defense University on May 23, 2013. Even the President said, “That woman is worth paying attention to.”
Benjamin spoke to Cool Revolution about Obama’s speech on drone strikes in the Mideast and the future of Guantanamo prison detainees. She explains why she thinks he isn’t making a change in policy at all. She also explains why she spoke up and why disrupting speeches like this one is the result of “desperation.”
“We’ve done everything conceivable… we’ve run out of options.”
Medea Benjamin, founder of the organization CODEPINK, has actually been to Pakistan and seen the results of drone bombing. Obama has not. She had several pointed questions for him, which she yelled from the back of the room even as she was being thrown out.
“Will you tell the Muslim people their lives are as precious as our lives? Can you take the drones out of the hands of the CIA? Can you stop the signature strikes that are killing people on the basis of suspicious activities? Will you apologize to the thousands of Muslims that you have killed? Will you compensate the families of innocent victims? That will make us safer.”
Right-wing opinion spewer Michelle Malkin called her a “serial heckler.” A conspiracy theory sprang up on social media that Benjamin was planted by Obama to help make him look good.
In my opinion, she derailed him. Obama spent most of the speech justifying the drone program as “legal” and making us safer. He failed to address how the U.N. has said that drone strikes in Pakistan violate its sovereignty. He failed to justify the deaths of three American citizens killed by drones and the maiming and killing of children by drone attacks. Or the terror thousands have suffered in the Mideast anticipating drone attacks on their homes and villages.
Toward the end of his address Benjamin started in and wouldn’t let up. Eventually, Obama was brought to a standstill. “The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to,” he conceded.
Seriously, the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES IS RIGHT NOW SAYING YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO @medeabenjamin
We get the usual sexism whenever CODEPINK comes to town. They, and Medea, are screeching loonies, freaks, bitches and worse. At least they’re not dressed up like vaginas this time (like they did at the Democratic National Convention). At first Obama called Benjamin a “young lady.”
Right-wingers found plenty to heckle in the heckler. And Obama-worshiping liberals squirmed in their seats and said, “Won’t she just shut up??”
The fact is, disruption and interruption get attention. Passivity doesn’t. Look at what passivity has gotten us for the last decade. Iraq, Afghanistan, financial collapse, unemployment, loss of civil liberties, cuts to education, lack of accountability. And on and on.
Political activity for most people means “being informed,” sadly equated with watching MSNBC. People sitting in front of the TV getting outraged and fearful serves the interests of the powerful. It keeps them paralyzed. To combat impotence and vent rage, you might rant on Facebook, troll on websites, and tweet clever, snarky haikus.
My favorite form of pseudo-activism is signing online petitions. From my brief days of fundraising, I know that fifty percent of the time online petitions are a way to scoop up info on potential donors.
You can get involved in “the democratic process” and knock on doors for a candidate. The bravest souls scrawl a slogan on a sign and actually get out on the streets. The hardcore get arrested.
A variety of tactics, from moderate to radical, is important in movements for social change. But the moderate may have little to no effect these days. We’re entering an age – or maybe we’re long past it – when thousands of people carrying signs make no difference to those wielding power. Post-9/11, crowds are viewed as a threat to maintaining order. It doesn’t take much for law enforcement to break out the teargas and tasers.
During Obama’s speech, Benjamin asked questions that the White House press corps can’t and won’t ask. Maybe the questions don’t occur to them. Even if they did, they don’t dare ask them for fear of losing “access.”
What mainstream media has been good for in the past is investigative journalism. Free press is supposed to be the watchdog of government corruption and wrongdoing. What they didn’t realize when they snickered at Wikileaks was that eventually the Obama administration was going to come down hard on them too. Investigative reporting through whistleblowers is all but impossible now.
So what have we got left? It’s getting cramped in here–less wiggle room to reform the corrupt system, agitate on the streets, expose wrongdoing and hold lawbreakers accountable.
We can go into the halls of power and say fuck dignity and make a ruckus, that’s what we can do.
Every person in power needs to know that prepared speeches and talking points aren’t going to cut it any more. Pushed to the breaking point by unemployment, low wages and illegal foreclosures, ordinary people are becoming radicalized.
Your next interview, Mr. President, ain’t gonna be softball questions thrown by Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes. It’s gonna be Medea Benjamin in your face every day.
This video on wealth inequality in the U.S. has gone viral within days, and for good reason. It painstakingly goes through several graphics to get across some basic, staggering facts about who owns America.
The data used in the video is from 2007. Data from 2010 show that it’s getting even worse. There has been a 4% shift in the distribution curve from poorer to wealthier. The top 10% of the population own 77% of wealth (up from 73%), and the bottom 90% own 23% of wealth (down from 27%).
If you want some really in-depth numbers, including the jaw-dropping racial disparities, see this article by G. William Domhoff of the University of California, Santa Cruz. The bottom line: “Since financial wealth is what counts as far as the control of income-producing assets, we can say that just 10% of the people own the United States of America.”
The video is not only presents the facts so we can “get” them but points out the gap between reality and perception. We get that things are skewed. Yet we so vastly underestimate the extent of wealth inequality that you have to wonder whether the myth of a classless America is so impermeable and right-wing propaganda so relentless, that we simply can’t see what is staring us in the face.
Friends Committee on National Legislation has a different take on automatic cuts to Pentagon spending: cut away. The core Pentagon budget still hasn’t fallen even after the scale-back in Iraq and Afghanistan, and almost equals that of Vietnam and the Cold War.
The New York Timesagrees, but views the sequester as a blunt instrument.
The arbitrary budget cuts known as the sequester will exact a toll on not only domestic programs but military spending as well. Hence the howls in Washington from the Pentagon chieftains and their ardent Congressional supporters. But the truth is that the military budget not only can be cut, but should be cut, though not with this kind of political machete and not in the way the service chiefs say they plan to wield it…
If the Pentagon is ill prepared to deal with the sequester, it is to some extent a self-inflicted wound. Military leaders assumed the sequester would never happen and refused to mitigate its effects in advance. The Pentagon also does itself no favor by continuing to throw money at troubled weapons. As for the sequester’s impact on defense contractors, experts say the contractors have long known military spending was on the decline and built that into their projections.
Early childhood education is not only about academic success, but children’s emotional and social development. It’s also important for getting services to kids in vulnerable families and neighborhoods:
Research shows that early education is vital to children’s long term success, particularly for those who are the most vulnerable. If Head Start programs disappear or services are substantially reduced without corollary program development, it is unclear whether children would attend other preschools or programs, and if so, what the quality of those services would be.
Cool Revolution interviews actor and activist Daryl Hannah just before her arrest at the White House in a civil disobedience action on February 13, 2013. She joined a group of a few dozen demonstrators, including leaders of environmental organizations, who demanded that President Obama use his executive authority to stop construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
She was glad that President Obama pressed for action on climate change in his State of the Union address, but “we don’t need to wait for further innovation and technology” before we move to clean energy.
She believes that so many people deny that global warming is happening because, she said, “Global warming denial has a history of being very well-funded.”
When asked if we’ve already reached the point of no return when it comes to climate change, she said, “It’s never too late to stop creating a problem…. If you’re going down the wrong road, it’s never too late to turn around and go the other way.”
Dennis Trainor, Jr. points out that the Super Bowl is one of the last communal experiences we have. Last year, 71% of TV households watched the Super Bowl. Nevertheless, advertising–full of cars, beer, pizza and surgically enhanced women–is aimed only at the straight male demographic.
No matter how sick and twisted the gladiator games may be, Trainor, a self-professed NFL-aholic, will be watching them anyway.
It was the final act of defiance by Occupy DC, a group of people who had given their last ounce of effort in protest, their last will in a park occupation–against a system we saw as repressive. In the previous three years, millions of people had lost their homes, and millions more had lost their jobs and savings. Ordinary people climbing the ladder to the American Dream slipped and lost their foothold forever.
Why did we erect the Tent of Dreams? The bankers and stock traders on Wall Street, who nearly destroyed the economy by the summer of 2008, silently slipped under the radar of legal prosecution. Yet occupiers who expressed dissatisfaction with lack of economic opportunity were being arrested by the thousands, merely for exercising their First Amendment right to dissent. What drove us was the fundamental imbalance of power, which was made even more apparent as the Occupy movement unfolded. Occupiers were arrested around the country in an arbitrary enforcement of the law, while financial managers went unpunished, still raking in millions in fraudulent profits.
Four days before we raised the Tent of Dreams, the U.S. Park Police had left official letters on our tents, warning us that we were no longer welcome. We knowingly were breaking a federal statute which forbade sleeping in tents in public parks.
So we created a symbol of a dream–a huge blue tarp painted with falling stars, symbols, and statements of hope. Just before noon on January 30, we used long poles and strung it up over the statue of McPherson, a brass symbol of state power. We encircled it and chanted, “We are the 99 percent!” and defiantly willed the state to come and take it down!
We hunkered down and stayed together under the blue tarp, taking turns on the nightwatch for an imminent police raid. It did not come the first exuberant night, nor did it come on the second or third nights. Guitars played, drums beat, coffee was served. Camaraderie kept us assured that we were doing the right thing. Defiantly we stood together, sleepless sentinels against the inevitable.
Some of us managed to stay up the first night until dawn without sleep under that blue tarp in a “sleep strike.” We persevered for four days and nights before the last of us caved in to exhaustion. By the fifth day, our fear turned into boredom.
Little did we know that the raid police planned for February 4th would change us forever.
I, like many American mothers, looked on for decades as gun violence increased and gun laws loosened. I hoped I could make a difference by raising compassionate children. I hoped that the President, our Congress, and our state and local legislators would act to protect us.
No more dependence on the actions of others; it is our time as mothers to rise up as a collective force and demand action on gun control.
The organization wants to enact “common sense” gun control laws, such as re-instituting the assault weapons ban and passing other laws limiting gun availability and misuse in the U.S.
On January 26, One Million Moms for Gun Control co-sponsored the March on Washington for Gun Control. In the video above, John Zangas interviews Shannon Watts at the conclusion of the march.