SF Antiwar Protest on 12th Anniversary of U.S. Invasion of Iraq
Saturday, March 21, 12 noon, Powell and Market Streets
In solidarity with the “Spring Rising” protest at the White House on Mar. 21
Stop Pres. Obama’s proposed new 3-year AUMF – Authorization for Use of Military Force!
End U.S. War and Occupation in the Middle East and Central Asia – U.S. Out!
No to U.S. sanctions and intervention vs. Iran, Venezuela, Korea, Cuba, Mexico, Russia, Haiti and everywhere
Free Palestine – End U.S. Aid to Israel!
Fund People’s Needs, Not Endless War!
To Endorse or Volunteer reply to: email@example.com
More info: 415-821-6545 or visit www.ANSWERsf.org.
To join the Facebook event for Spring Rising: https://www.facebook.com/events/430232700485435
For more information, click here:
Cancel the #DetroitWater Debt and Start Afresh
Sign the petition:
We call on the City of Detroit and the newly-formed Great Lakes Water Authority to cancel the existing debts of Detroit Water and Sewerage customers and start afresh with simple, affordable rates: all customer past-due balances are wiped clean.
Last year, Detroit made international headlines when tens of thousands of residents lost their access to water through an aggressive shut-off program by the water department.
The city of Detroit has endured decades of economic turmoil, drastic depopulation and repeated mismanagement. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) is over $5 billion in debt (over $4,500 per family in the metro Detroit area).To compensate, they have increased rates over 119% in the last decade.¹Residents who fall behind on their bills risk water shutoff, and in 2014 that’s exactly what happened to tens of thousands of Detroiters.
The shutoff program didn't work, and the DWSD collected less than 3% of the over $100 million currently owed.² A large number of the families who entered into payment plans last year are now defaulting on them yet again because they lack sufficient income.
In contrast, a voluntary bond tender offer initiated during the shutoffs allowed the city to renegotiate high interest rates on municipal water bonds and save over $250 million in interest fees for the city.³
The bond markets know that Detroit's water debt is junk and the city will unlikely ever be able to pay the current interest rates, which is why Default Trends proclaimed Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) its "Biggest Default of 2014".⁴
Corruption in the DWSD has been rampant, with former Department head Victor Mercado currently serving an 8-month federal corruption sentence for "conspiracy to commit extortion" by padding department contracts and rigging bids that netted his business associates millions. Although many of those contracts are now being scrutinized by the city's legal team, Detroiters are still paying dearly for the fraud of past leaders.
The overbearing Detroit water debt has a human side, too: it has pushed Detroit into an outright humanitarian crisis. Rates of infectious disease and sickness are up dramatically, leading the National Nurses union recently to declare a 'Public Health Emergency' in Detroit.⁵The water department is significantly under-staffed and water infrastructure is crumbling, leading to leaks that cost taxpayers tens of millions annually. The department is unable to address these time-sensitive issues due to lack of funding, as it currently spends 46% of its operating revenue on debt service to banks - the largest line-item by far in its budget.
We call on the City of Detroit and the newly-formed Great Lakes Water Authority to cancel the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department's existing debts and start afresh with simple, affordable rates: all customer past-due balances are wiped clean.
Detroit's existing water/sewerage rate structure is highly-regressive and unaffordable for too many families. We call on the city to implement the 2005 Water Affordability Plan to ensure that no family pays more than the EPA-recommended threshold for water, including "lifeline rates" for essential quantities of drinking/bathing water.⁶
The water department acknowledges that 90% of its operating costs are fixed⁷, meaning they don't depend upon how much water is consumed by users. Still, they charge usage-based rates that fluctuate dramatically with weather (up to 18% decrease in usage) and with broader demographic shifts in the region (2/3 of Detroit's population has left the city since 1950). Creating a progressive rate structure based at least partially upon a family's income - as is done with many public services like streetlights, schools, libraries, etc - would more equitably distribute the burden of operating a system relied upon by over 4 million people for essential drinking water.
The Detroit Water Brigade has provided emergency relief and advocacy to hundreds of families since June of 2014, including providing immediate financial assistance to families currently without water.⁸We've seen first-hand the disastrous effects of these harsh, debt-driven austerity policies.
We pledge to escalate this campaign in the coming months until we bring relief to the tens of thousands of metro Detroit families living without water today and the millions living precariously with unaffordable water rates.
Free Albert Woodfox!
End the Injustice. Don’t Oppose Bail for Albert Woodfox
Albert believes that he and fellow prisoners, Herman Wallace and Robert King, were placed in solitary confinement in retaliation for their activism and outspoken critique of injustice. All three men were members of the Black Panther Party and campaigned for better treatment, racial solidarity, and an end to the brutal sexual slavery in prison. Woodfox, Wallace and King came to be known as the Angola 3.
Albert Woodfox’s conviction has been overturned three times - most recently in 2013 on the basis of racial discrimination in the selection of a grand jury foreperson. In late 2014, an appeals court upheld the decision in Alberts favor, and on February 6, his lawyers filed for bail. After years of the State of Louisiana appealing decisions in Albert’s favor, It is critical that Governor Bobby Jindal show leadership, and ensure that Albert’s cruel and unjust isolation is not his legacy. April 2015 will mark 43 years since Woodfox was first placed solitary - for a crime he maintains that he didn't' commit, a claim that much of the available evidence supports. It is time for the State to let the wisdom of the courts stand and ensure his release.
Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:
A. EVENTS AND ACTIONS
B. ARTICLES IN FULL
A. EVENTS AND ACTIONS
Justice for Rasmea: All out for March 12!
On March 12, Rasmea is set to appear once again in the Detroit courtroom of Judge Gershwin Drain, this time for a sentencing hearing. We are seeking letters to the judge requesting leniency.
For this round of letters, we are NOT looking for a mountain of individual statements, but rather letters from prominent individuals who represent broader constituencies. We need you to work with leaders of faith-based, labor, and community organizations, as well as student governments, student organizations (national), prominent professors, and legislators in your area to draft and submit letters.
Below you will find an outline you can use to draft these letters, but it is important for the authors to write them in their own voices. Letters should be submitted by February 4 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned! Keep sharing Rasmea’s story and organizing fundraisers. Watch for calls for your support as we prepare for sentencing and appeal. Our organizing is key to winning #Justice4Rasmea.
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Copyright © 2015 Committee to Stop FBI Repression, All rights reserved.
Thanks for your ongoing interest in the fight against FBI repression of anti-war and international solidarity activists!
Our mailing address is:
Committee to Stop FBI Repression
PO Box 14183
Minneapolis, MN 55414
Save the Date - UNAC National Conference, May 8 - 10, 2015
UNAC is the major national antiwar coalition in the U.S. today. The existence of a United National Antiwar Coalition is vital and we need your financial support to continue our work and to expand.
With U.S. wars today accelerating and expanding globally in various forms – from drone attacks on Yemen and Pakistan, never-ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, support to neo-fascists in Ukraine, and proliferating Africom forces to threats of war for regime change in Syria – we have an obligation to do whatever is possible to educate the public and to take action to stop the carnage.
The wars abroad are connected to global warming with most wars fought over energy resources with the U.S. war machine as the largest polluter.
At home, we see hugely growing income inequality, a militarized and racist police force, mass incarceration of Blacks and Latinos, and a massive police state apparatus that includes global surveillance and laws to quell dissent.
In spite of the trillions spent by the U.S. corporate war government and its controlled media propaganda machine to keep us in check, the people are fighting back. We’ve been inspired and strengthened by the hundreds of thousands of new activists taking to the streets of this country to stop police brutality, to build Occupy encampments, to fight for decent wages, to demand full rights for immigrants, to win marriage equality, to end global warming, to demonstrate solidarity with the besieged people of Gaza, and to protest unending U.S. wars.
UNAC has played an active, often leadership role, in all of the antiwar and social justice movements of our time. While most activists are focused on their particular issues, the most vital role we can play is to connect the issues to their source. All of the injustices and crimes we protest, stem from the imperialist insatiable drive for expanding profit and control – and the U.S. is the largest imperialist power militarily and economically. When there should be plenty for all, only the obscenely wealthy benefit while the rest of the 99% struggle just to survive.
Some of our recent major accomplishments:
· Initiated protest against NATO and 15,000 marched in Chicago in 2012.
· Called for immediate actions against threats of war and coups directed at Libya, Iran, No. Korea, Africa, Latin America, Ukraine, and maintaining the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.
· Organized a national tour for Afghan leader Malalai Joya.
· Sent representatives to international NATO protests and conferences.
· Serve on the Board of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms to act against Islamophobia , racist attacks on Muslims, and attacks on our civil liberties.
· Participated in national efforts to organize anti-drone actions.
· Campaigned to defend victims of government repression who speak out and expose Washington’s crimes, including Rasmea Odeh, Mumia abu Jamal, Lynne Stewart, Chelsea Manning, and the Midwest activists targeted by the FBI.
· Produced national educational conference calls featuring experts on topics such as U.S. intervention in Africa, the destruction of Libya, the developing wars in Syria, and others.
· Built an antiwar contingent in the massive New York City Climate Change march and built Climate Change action in other cities around the country.
· Helped organize protests against Israel’s attack on Gaza
· Helped organize protests against the murder of Blacks by white police and the militarization of the police forces in the U.S.
UNAC has a history of bringing hundreds of activists together at large national conferences to learn about the issues of the day, to discuss the way forward and to vote on an Action Program for the coming period.
The UNAC conference next May will bring activists from all the movements in motion to cross-fertilize these struggles. We are particularly dedicated to bringing young activists together to support and learn from each other. For this, we need your help to offer subsidies to leaders from Ferguson, from the border wars in the southwest, from the Native Americans who are fighting against the pipelines ruining their lands, from the Students for Justice in Palestine, and many others.
Please give generously so that we can continue our work to bring harmony and justice to the peoples of this earth.
You can send a check to UNAC at PO Box 123, Delmar, NY 12054 or click the button below to contribute on-line with your credit or debit card.
On Behalf of Wadiya Jamal and
A Contribution Request
The message following is a forward from:
Sister, Advocate and Friend of the Extended Family
Samiya “Goldii” Abdullah, a daughter of Wadiya Jamal and Mumia Abu-Jamal died on December 17, 2014 after years of battle with breast cancer. Samiya would have been 37 this January 9 and is survived by two young daughters, Aiyanah and Aaiyah, affectionately known as Dolly and Puddy, ages eleven and four.
Samiya was a remarkable woman. She was accomplished as a musician, an activist and rapper on social justice, particularly in the struggle for Mumia’s freedom. She devoured books and education. During her long, often debilitating illness, Samiya finished her Masters Degree in School and Mental Health Counseling from the University of Pennsylvania with honors. She was dedicated to her young daughters and wanted them to grow up loving each other as much as she did her brothers and sisters. And she wanted her daughters to see Mumia (called “Pop Pop” by them) walk out of prison and home with their grandmother, Wadiya.
Samiya's active fight for Mumia's freedom, began at the young age of four. Mumia wrote about this in “The Visit” printed in Live from Death Row in 1994. This was recreated in the movie "Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary."
"My father is still considered to be a dangerous individual … his mind is what they fear, there is over- whelming evidence that would exonerate him of his conviction.
"He is an innocent man and the commonwealth has always known this, but being too Black, too smart, and too strong … The government will silence anyone that possesses the power to open the minds of the people."
Samiya’s strength, character and spirit were nurtured by Wadiya and Mumia and are being passed on to her daughters.
On behalf of Wadiya Jamal and Mumia Abu-Jamal, this is a request for funds to assist Wadiya for care of her granddaughters, Dolly and Puddy.
A financial contribution of any amount will be greatly appreciated.
Please send checks or money orders, made payable to Wadiya Jamal:
P.O. Box 19404
Kingsessing Postal Station
Philadelphia, PA 19143-9998
In loving memory of Samiya and in tribute to her fierce fight for life,
Sister, Advocate and Friend of the Extended Family
Hear Mumia’s Words (and Song) played before the Janazah for Samiya on December 20, 2014: “Samiya Abdullah Makes Transition”:
This message has been sent to you by:
The Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
PO Box 16222 • Oakland CA • 510.763.2347
to fight the “gag” law!
Support Prison Radio
$35 is the yearly membership.
$50 will get you a beautiful tote bag (you can special order a yoga mat bag, just call us).
$100 will get the DVD "Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary"
$300 will bring one essay to the airwaves.
$1000 (or $88.83 per month) will make you a member of our Prison Radio Freedom Circle. Take a moment and Support Prison Radio
Luchando por la justicia y la libertad,
Noelle Hanrahan, Director, Prison Radio
P.O. Box 411074 San Francisco, CA 94141
Campaign to Free Lorenzo Johnson
Lorenzo Speaks Concerning Prosecution's Brief:
JANUARY 1, 2015—The prosecutor has run away from (almost) every issue raised in my PCRA by begging the Court to dismiss everything as “untimely”. When they don’t do this, they suggest that me and my lawyers were “defamatory” towards either my former prosecutor Christopher Abruzzo or Detective Kevin Duffin, in our claims they withheld, misused or hid evidence of my Innocence, in order to secure an unjust conviction in this case. If I charged, a year ago, that about a dozen AGs (attorneys general) were involved in circulating porno via their office computers, people would’ve laughed at me, and seen me as crazy.
But, guess what? During 2014, we learned that this was the truth. How can it be defamatory to speak the truth? Notice the OAG (Office of Attorney General), never said the obvious: That AG Abruzzo didn’t inform the Defense about the relationship between his Motive Witness and his head detective (Victoria Doubs and Det. Duffin); that Det. Duffin doesn’t deny Doubs was his god-sister, and that she lived in his family home, or that he assisted her whenever she got into trouble.
Why not? Because it is true. How can you defame someone who defames himself? Mr. Christopher Abruzzo, Esq., when a member of the higher ranks of the OAG, sent and/or received copious amounts of porno to other attorneys general and beyond. What does this say about his sense of judgment? He thought enough about his behavior to resign from his post in the Governor’s Cabinet. If he thought that his behavior was okay, he’d still be sitting in the Governor’s cabinet, right? The OAG cannot honestly oppose anything we’ve argued, but they try by seeking to get the Court to do their dirty work, how? By denying an Evidentiary Hearing to prove every point we’ve claimed.
The prosecution is trying desperately to avoid dealing with the substance of my claims in Com. v. Lorenzo Johnson. So, they slander my Legal Team and blame them for defaming the good AG’s and Cops involved with this case. They try to do what is undeniable, to deny that they hid evidence from the Defense for years. They blamed me for daring to protest the hidden evidence of their malfeasance and other acts to sabotage the defense. They claim that they had an “Open File” policy with my trial counsel. But “Open File” is more than letting an attorney read something in their office. If it’s a search for the truth it must include what is turned over to the attorney, for how do we really know what was shown to her?
They say it is inconceivable that an attorney would read a file, beginning on page nine (9), and not ask for the preceding eight (8) pages. Yet, it is conceivable if trial counsel was ineffective for not demanding the record of the first eight pages. Pages that identify the State’s only witness as a “SUSPECT” in the murder for which her client was charged! How could such an attorney fail to recognize the relevance of such an issue, barring their sheer Ineffectiveness and frankly, Incompetence.
By seeking to avoid an evidentiary hearing, the prosecution seeks to avoid evidence of their wrongdoing being made plain, for all to see. If they believe I’m wrong, why not prove it? They can’t. So they shout I filed my appeal untimely, as if there can ever justly be a rule that precludes an innocent from proving his innocence! Not to mention the fact that the prosecution has failed to even mention the positive finger prints that ay my trial they said none existed. Don’t try to hide it with a lame argument about time. When isn’t there a time for truth? The prosecution should be ashamed of itself for taking this road. It is unworthy of an office that claims to seek justice.
After the trial verdict The Patriot-News (March 18, 1997) reported, “Deputy Attorney General Christopher Abruzzo admitted there were some serious concerns about the strength of the evidence against Johnson and praised the jury for doing a thorough job.” I guess he forgot to mention all of the evidence he left out to show Innocence.
Now, more than ever, Lorenzo Johnson needs your support.
Publicize his case; bring it to your friends, clubs, religious
and social organizations.
SIGN LORENZO JOHNSON'S FREEDOM PETITION
CONTRIBUTE TO LORENZO'S CAMPAIGN FOR FREEDOM!
Write: Lorenzo Johnson
301 Morea Rd.
Frackville, PA 17932
Email: Lorenzo Johnson through JPAY.com code:
Lorenzo Johnson DF 1036 PA DOC
Click HERE to view in browser
Join the Fight to Free Rev. Pinkney!
On December 15, 2014 the Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor, Michigan was thrown into prison for 2.5 to 10 years. This 66-year-old leading African American activist was tried and convicted in front of an all-white jury and racist white judge and prosecutor for supposedly altering 5 dates on a recall petition against the mayor of Benton Harbor.
The prosecutor, with the judge’s approval, repeatedly told the jury “you don’t need evidence to convict Mr. Pinkney.” And ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE WAS EVER PRESENTED THAT TIED REV. PINKNEY TO THE ‘ALTERED’ PETITIONS. Rev. Pinkney was immediately led away in handcuffs and thrown into Jackson Prison.
This is an outrageous charge. It is an outrageous conviction. It is an even more outrageous sentence! It must be appealed.
With your help supporters need to raise $20,000 for Rev. Pinkney’s appeal.
Checks can be made out to BANCO (Black Autonomy Network Community Organization). This is the organization founded by Rev. Pinkney. Mail them to: Mrs. Dorothy Pinkney, 1940 Union Street, Benton Harbor, MI 49022.
Donations can be accepted on-line at bhbanco.org – press the donate button.
For information on the decade long campaign to destroy Rev. Pinkney go to bhbanco.org and workers.org(search “Pinkney”).
We urge your support to the efforts to Free Rev. Pinkney!Ramsey Clark – Former U.S. attorney general,
Cynthia McKinney – Former member of U.S. Congress,
Lynne Stewart – Former political prisoner and human rights attorney
Ralph Poynter – New Abolitionist Movement,
Abayomi Azikiwe – Editor, Pan-African News Wire<
Larry Holmes – Peoples Power Assembly,
David Sole – Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice
Sara Flounders – International Action Center
MESSAGE FROM REV. PINKNEY
I am now in Marquette prison over 15 hours from wife and family, sitting in prison for a crime that was never committed. Judge Schrock and Mike Sepic both admitted there was no evidence against me but now I sit in prison facing 30 months. Schrock actually stated that he wanted to make an example out of me. (to scare Benton Harbor residents even more...) ONLY IN AMERICA. I now have an army to help fight Berrien County. When I arrived at Jackson state prison on Dec. 15, I met several hundred people from Detroit, Flint, Kalamazoo, and Grand Rapids. Some people recognized me. There was an outstanding amount of support given by the prison inmates. When I was transported to Marquette Prison it took 2 days. The prisoners knew who I was. One of the guards looked me up on the internet and said, "who would believe Berrien County is this racist."
New Court Date on 4 Motions for Rev. Pinkney
TUES, FEB. 24 1pm Berrien County Court
Background to Campaign to free Rev. Pinkney
Michigan political prisoner the Rev. Edward Pinkney is a victim of racist injustice. He was sentenced to 30 months to 10 years for supposedly changing the dates on 5 signatures on a petition to recall Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower.
No material or circumstantial evidence was presented at the trial that would implicate Pinkney in the purported5 felonies. Many believe that Pinkney, a Berrien County activist and leader of the Black Autonomy Network Community Organization (BANCO), is being punished by local authorities for opposing the corporate plans of Whirlpool Corp, headquartered in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
In 2012, Pinkney and BANCO led an “Occupy the PGA [Professional Golfers’ Association of America]” demonstration against a world-renowned golf tournament held at the newly created Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course on the shoreline of Lake Michigan. The course was carved out of Jean Klock Park, which had been donated to the city of Benton Harbor decades ago.
Berrien County officials were determined to defeat the recall campaign against Mayor Hightower, who opposed a program that would have taxed local corporations in order to create jobs and improve conditions in Benton Harbor, a majority African-American municipality. Like other Michigan cities, it has been devastated by widespread poverty and unemployment.
The Benton Harbor corporate power structure has used similar fraudulent charges to stop past efforts to recall or vote out of office the racist white officials, from mayor, judges, prosecutors in a majority Black city. Rev Pinkney who always quotes scripture, as many Christian ministers do, was even convicted for quoting scripture in a newspaper column. This outrageous conviction was overturned on appeal. We must do this again!
To sign the petition in support of the Rev. Edward Pinkney, log on to: tinyurl.com/ps4lwyn.
Contributions for Rev. Pinkney’s defense can be sent to BANCO at Mrs Dorothy Pinkney, 1940 Union St., Benton Harbor, MI 49022
Or you can donate on-line at bhbanco.org.
COURAGE TO RESIST
New Action- write letters to DoD officials requesting clemency for Chelsea!November 24, 2014 by the Chelsea Manning Support Network
President Obama has delegated review of Chelsea Manning’s clemency appeal to individuals within the Department of Defense.
Please write them to express your support for heroic WikiLeaks’ whistle-blower former US Army intelligence analyst PFC Chelsea Manning’s release from military prison.
It is important that each of these authorities realize the wide support that Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning enjoys worldwide. They need to be reminded that millions understand that Manning is a political prisoner, imprisoned for following her conscience. While it is highly unlikely that any of these individuals would independently move to release Manning, a reduction in Manning’s outrageous 35-year prison sentence is a possibility at this stage.
Take action TODAY – Write letters supporting Chelsea’s clemency petition to the following DoD authorities:
Secretary of the Army John McHugh
101 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-0101
Washington, DC 20310-0101
The Judge Advocate General
2200 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-2200
2200 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-2200
Army Clemency and Parole Board
251 18th St, Suite 385
Arlington, VA 22202-3532
251 18th St, Suite 385
Arlington, VA 22202-3532
Directorate of Inmate AdministrationSuggestions for letters send to DoD officials:
Attn: Boards Branch
U.S. Disciplinary Barracks
1301 N. Warehouse Road
Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027-2304
Attn: Boards Branch
U.S. Disciplinary Barracks
1301 N. Warehouse Road
Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027-2304
- The letter should focus on your support for Chelsea Manning, and especially why you believe justice will be served if Chelsea Manning’s sentence is reduced. The letter should NOT be anti-military as this will be unlikely to help
- A suggested message: “Chelsea Manning has been punished enough for violating military regulations in the course of being true to her conscience. I urge you to use your authorityto reduce Pvt. Manning’s sentence to time served.” Beyond that general message, feel free to personalize the details as to why you believe Chelsea deserves clemency.
- Consider composing your letter on personalized letterhead -you can create this yourself (here are templates and some tips for doing that).
- A comment on this post will NOT be seen by DoD authorities–please send your letters to the addresses above
Help us continue to cover 100% of Chelsea’s legal fees at this critical stage!
Courage to Resist
484 Lake Park Ave. #41
Oakland, CA 94610
B. ARTICLES IN FULL
1) Seeking Drugs and Weapons, Rikers Locks Down Inmates for 34 Hours
2) The Fed Knew the Economy Was a Disaster in 2009. Here’s What They Talked About Instead.
3) A New Kind of Mental Disturbance? Drone Pilots Are Quitting in Droves
By Pratap Chatterjee
March 5, 2015
The U.S. drone war across much of the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa is in crisis and not because civilians are dying or the target list for that war or the right to wage it just about anywhere on the planet are in question in Washington. Something far more basic is at stake: drone pilots are quitting in record numbers.
There are roughly 1,000 such drone pilots, known in the trade as “18Xs,” working for the U.S. Air Force today. Another 180 pilots graduate annually from a training program that takes about a year to complete at Holloman and Randolph Air Force bases in, respectively, New Mexico and Texas. As it happens, in those same 12 months, about 240 trained pilots quit and the Air Force is at a loss to explain the phenomenon. (The better-known U.S. Central Intelligence Agency drone assassination program is also flown by Air Force pilots loaned out for the covert missions.)
On January 4, 2015, the Daily Beast revealed an undated internal memo to Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh from General Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle stating that pilot “outflow increases will damage the readiness and combat capability of the MQ-1/9 [Predator and Reaper] enterprise for years to come” and added that he was “extremely concerned.” Eleven days later, the issue got top billing at a special high-level briefing on the state of the Air Force. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James joined Welsh to address the matter. “This is a force that is under significant stress -- significant stress from what is an unrelenting pace of operations,” she told the media.
In theory, drone pilots have a cushy life. Unlike soldiers on duty in “war zones,” they can continue to live with their families here in the United States. No muddy foxholes or sandstorm-swept desert barracks under threat of enemy attack for them. Instead, these new techno-warriors commute to worklike any office employees and sit in front of computer screens wielding joysticks, playing what most people would consider a glorified video game.
They typically “fly” missions over Afghanistan and Iraq where they are tasked with collecting photos and video feeds, as well as watching over U.S. soldiers on the ground. A select few are deputized to fly CIA assassination missions over Pakistan, Somalia, or Yemen where they are ordered to kill “high value targets” from the sky. In recent months, some of these pilots have also taken part in the new war in the Syrian and Iraqi borderlands, conducting deadly strikes on militants of ISIL.
Each of these combat air patrols involves three to four drones, usually Hellfire-missile-armed Predators and Reapers built by southern California’s General Atomics, and each takes as many as 180 staff members to fly them. In addition to pilots, there are camera operators, intelligence and communications experts, and maintenance workers. (The newer Global Hawk surveillance patrols need as many as 400 support staff.)
The Air Force is currently under orders to staff 65 of these regular “combat air patrols” around the clock as well as to support a Global Response Force on call for emergency military and humanitarian missions. For all of this, there should ideally be 1,700 trained pilots. Instead, facing an accelerating dropout rate that recently drove this figure below 1,000, the Air Force has had to press regular cargo and jet pilots as well as reservists into becoming instant drone pilots in order to keep up with the Pentagon’s enormous appetite for real-time video feeds from around the world.
The Air Force explains the departure of these drone pilots in the simplest of terms. They are leaving because they are overworked. The pilots themselves say that it’s humiliating to be scorned by their Air Force colleagues as second-class citizens. Some have also come forward to claim that the horrors of war, seen up close on video screens, day in, day out, are inducing an unprecedented, long-distance version of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).
But is it possible that a brand-new form of war -- by remote control -- is also spawning a brand-new, as yet unlabeled, form of psychological strain? Some have called drone war a “coward's war” (an opinion that, according to reports from among the drone-traumatized in places like Yemen and Pakistan, is seconded by its victims). Could it be that the feeling is even shared by drone pilots themselves, that a sense of dishonor in fighting from behind a screen thousands of miles from harm’s way is having an unexpected impact of a kind psychologists have never before witnessed?
Killing Up Close and Personal From Afar
There can be no question that drone pilots resent the way other Air Force pilots see them as second-class citizens. "It's tough working night shifts watching your buddies do great things in the field while you're turning circles in the sky," a drone instructor named Ryan told Mother Jones magazine. His colleagues, he says, call themselves the “lost generation.”
“Everyone else thinks that the whole program or the people behind it are a joke, that we are video-game warriors, that we're Nintendo warriors,” Brandon Bryant, a former drone camera operator who worked at Nellis Air Force Base, told Democracy Now.
Certainly, there is nothing second-class about the work tempo of drone life. Pilots log 900-1,800 hours a year compared to a maximum of 300 hours annually for regular Air Force pilots. And the pace is unrelenting. “A typical person doing this mission over the last seven or eight years has worked either six or seven days a week, twelve hours a day,” General Welsh told NPR recently. “And that one- or two-day break at the end of it is really not enough time to take care of that family and the rest of your life.”
The pilots wholeheartedly agree. "It's like when your engine temperature gauge is running just below the red area on your car’s dashboard, but instead of slowing down and relieving the stress on the engine, you put the pedal to the floor," one drone pilot told Air Force Times. "You are sacrificing the engine to get a short burst of speed with no real consideration to the damage being caused."
The Air Force has come up with a pallid interim “solution.” It is planning to offer experienced drone pilots a daily raise of about $50. There's one problem, though: since so many pilots leave the service early, only a handful have enough years of experience to qualify for this bonus. Indeed, the Air Force concedes that just 10 of them will be able to claim the extra bounty this year, striking testimony to the startling levels of job turnover among such pilots.
Most 18Xs say that their jobs are tougher and significantly more upfront and personal than those of the far more glamorous jet pilots. “[A] Predator operator is so much more involved in what is going on than your average fast-moving jetfighter pilot, or your B-52, B-1, B-2 pilots, who will never even see their target,” Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Black, a former Air Force drone pilot says. “A Predator pilot has been watching his target[s], knows them intimately, knows where they are, and knows what’s around them."
Some say that the drone war has driven them over the edge. "How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile? How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?" Heather Linebaugh, a former drone imagery analyst, wrote in the Guardian. "When you are exposed to it over and over again it becomes like a small video, embedded in your head, forever on repeat, causing psychological pain and suffering that many people will hopefully never experience."
"It was horrifying to know how easy it was. I felt like a coward because I was halfway across the world and the guy never even knew I was there,” Bryant told KNPR Radio in Nevada. "I felt like I was haunted by a legion of the dead. My physical health was gone, my mental health was crumbled. I was in so much pain I was ready to eat a bullet myself."
Many drone pilots, however, defend their role in targeted killings. “We’re not killing people for the fun of it. It would be the same if we were the guys on the ground,” mission controller Janet Atkins told Chris Woods of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. “You have to get to [the enemy] somehow or all of you will die.”
Others like Bruce Black are proud of their work. “I was shooting two weeks after I got there and saved hundreds of people, including Iraqis and Afghanis," he told his hometown newspaper in New Mexico. "We'd go down to Buffalo Wild Wings, drink beer and debrief. It was surreal. It didn't take long for you to realize how important the work is. The value that the weapon system brings to the fight is not apparent till you're there. People have a hard time sometimes seeing that."
Measuring Pilot Stress
So whom does one believe? Janet Atkins and Bruce Black, who claim that drone pilots are overworked heroes? Or Brandon Bryant and Heather Linebaugh, who claim that remotely directed targeted killings caused them mental health crises?
Military psychologists have been asked to investigate the phenomenon. A team of psychologists at the School of Aerospace Medicine at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio has published a series of studies on drone pilot stress. One 2011 study concluded that nearly half of them had "high operational stress." A number also exhibited "clinical distress" -- that is, anxiety, depression, or stress severe enough to affect them in their personal lives.
Wayne Chappelle, a lead author in a number of these studies, nonetheless concludes that the problem is mostly a matter of overwork caused by the chronic shortage of pilots. His studies appear to show that post-traumatic stress levels are actually lower among drone pilots than in the general population. Others, however, question these numbers. Jean Otto and Bryant Webber of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, caution that the lack of stress reports may only “reflect artificial underreporting of the concerns of pilots due to the career-threatening effects of [mental health] diagnoses, [which] include removal from flying status, loss of flight pay, and diminished competitiveness for promotion.”
Seeing Everything, Missing the Obvious
One thing is clear: the pilots are not just killing “bad guys” and they know it because, as Black points out, they see everything that happens before, during, and after a drone strike.
Indeed, the only detailed transcript of an actual Air Force drone surveillance mission and targeted killing to be publicly released illustrates this all too well. The logs recorded idle chatter on February 21, 2010, between drone operators at Creech Air Force base in Nevada coordinating with video analysts at Air Force special operations headquarters in Okaloosa, Florida, and with Air Force pilots in a rural part of Daikondi province in central Afghanistan. On that day, three vehicles were seen traveling in a pre-dawn convoy carrying about a dozen people each. Laboring under the mistaken belief that the group were “insurgents” out to kill some nearby U.S. soldiers on a mission, the drone team decided to attack.
Controller: “We believe we may have a high-level Taliban commander.”
Camera operator: “Yeah, they called a possible weapon on the military-age male mounted in the back of the truck.”
Intelligence coordinator: “Screener said at least one child near SUV.”
Controller: “Bullshit! Where? I don’t think they have kids out this hour. I know they’re shady, but come on!”
Camera operator “A sweet [expletive]! Geez! Lead vehicle on the run and bring the helos in!”
Moments later, Kiowa helicopter pilots descended and fired Hellfire missiles at the vehicle.
Controller: “Take a look at this one. It was hit pretty good. It’s a little toasty! That truck is so dead!”
Within 20 minutes, after the survivors of the attack had surrendered, the transcript recorded the sinking feelings of the drone pilots as they spotted women and children in the convoy and could not find any visual evidence of weapons.
A subsequent on-the-ground investigation established that not one of the people killed was anything other than an ordinary villager. "Technology can occasionally give you a false sense of security that you can see everything, that you can hear everything, that you know everything," Air Force Major General James Poss, who oversaw an investigation into the incident, later toldthe Los Angeles Times.
Of course, Obama administration officials claim that such incidents are rare. In June 2011, when CIA Director John Brennan was still the White House counterterrorism adviser, he addressed the issue of civilian deaths in drone strikes and made this bold claim: “Nearly for the past year, there hasn’t been a single collateral death, because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities that we’ve been able to develop.”
His claim and similar official ones like it are, politely put, hyperbolic. “You Never Die Twice,” a new report by Jennifer Gibson of Reprieve, a British-based human rights organization, settles the question quickly by showing that some men on the White House “kill list” of terror suspects to be taken out have “'died' as many as seven times."
Gibson adds, “We found 41 names of men who seemed to have achieved the impossible. This raises a stark question. With each failed attempt to assassinate a man on the kill list, who filled the body bag in his place?” In fact, Reprieve discovered that, in going after those 41 “targets” numerous times, an estimated 1,147 people were killed in Pakistan by drones. Typical was the present leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri. In two strikes against “him” over the years, according to Reprieve, 76 children and 29 adults have died, but not al-Zawahiri.
Deserting the Cubicle
Back in the United States, a combination of lower-class status in the military, overwork, and psychological trauma appears to be taking its mental toll on drone pilots. During the Vietnam War, soldiers would desert, flee to Canada, or even “frag” -- kill -- their officers. But what do you do when you’ve had it with your war, but your battle station is a cubicle in Nevada and your weapon is a keyboard?
Is it possible that, like their victims in Pakistan and Yemen who say that they are going mad from the constant buzz of drones overhead and the fear of sudden death without warning, drone pilots, too, are fleeing into the night as soon as they can? Since the Civil War in the U.S., war of every modern sort has produced mental disturbances that have been given a variety of labels, including what we today call PTSD. In a way, it would be surprising if a completely new form of warfare didn’t produce a new form of disturbance.
We don’t yet know just what this might turn out to be, but it bodes ill for the form of battle that the White House and Washington are most proud of -- the well-advertised, sleek, new, robotic, no-casualty, precision conflict that now dominates the war on terror. Indeed if the pilots themselves are dropping out of desktop killing, can this new way of war survive?
Pratap Chatterjee is managing editor of CorpWatch and the author of Halliburton's Army: How a Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War (Nation Books, 2009).
4) U.S. Economy Added 295,000 Jobs in February; Unemployment Rate at 5.5%
5) Ferguson Report Puts ‘Hands Up’ to Reality Test
6) Wisconsin Closer to Becoming a Right-to-Work State
7) Some in Ferguson Who Are Part of Problem Are Asked to Help Solve It
"The emails uncovered by the Justice Department included a cartoon portraying President Obama as a chimpanzee and a joke about giving a black woman a crime-prevention award for having an abortion."
8) Wisconsin Police Fatally Shoot Black Teenager, Prompting Protest
9) Ferguson Became Symbol, but Bias Knows No Border
If the shooting of Michael Brown had taken place about 500 yards to the southeast, he would have died not in Ferguson, Mo., but in the neighboring city of Jennings. The court system there, which is overseen by a white judge but has almost exclusively black defendants, routinely sends people to jail for failure to pay minor traffic fines, a new lawsuit alleges.
Had the shooting occurred three and a half miles to the north, the world’s attention might have turned to the city of Florissant, where in 2013, the police stopped black motorists at a rate nearly three times their share of the population. Less than four miles to the northwest, in Calverton Park, court fines and fees accounted for over 40 percent of the city’s general operating revenue last year.
But it was Ferguson and its government that came under federal scrutiny almost unprecedented for a city of its size, culminating in a Justice Department report last week that described explicit racism among city officials, abusive policing and a system that seemed to view people “less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue.” And it is Ferguson that will almost certainly be forced to make wholesale changes.
Ferguson, a city of 21,000, is unusual in some respects — it has issued the most warrants of any city in the state relative to its size, for example — but the unfairness in its court system that the Justice Department highlighted is not limited to it, to St. Louis County or even to Missouri. In one meeting of federal investigators, a Missouri F.B.I. agent told colleagues that if he had been asked to predict which cities were most likely to erupt over racially charged policing, Ferguson would have been low on his list. Yet Ferguson’s neighbors are not under the same pressure to change.
“Ferguson is one dot in the state, and there are many municipalities in the region engaged in the same practices a mile away,” said Vanita Gupta, the Justice Department’s top civil rights prosecutor. “It would be a mistake for any of those neighboring jurisdictions to fold up their hands. They should absolutely take note of this report.”
Ms. Gupta urged police and city officials nationwide to read the report on Ferguson and take stock of whether their police and court systems were equally in need of an overhaul. “The Ferguson report really does highlight some issues that jurisdictions around the country are plagued with,” she said. “Police departments shouldn’t wait for us.”
Across the country, a mounting number of investigations and lawsuits have focused attention on the justice system’s heavy burdens on the poor. In Alabama, which has tried to make up for deep cuts to court funding by imposing fees like $35 for posting bail, half a dozen lawsuits contend that local courts perpetuate a cycle of steep fines for minor offenses and jail for those who cannot pay. And as early as 2009, Florida became a model for aggressive collection of court fees and fines.
“There’s clear case law that police can’t illegally search you for no reason, but it happens 10,000 times a day,” said Alec Karakatsanis, a co-founder of Equal Justice Under Law and the lead lawyer in suits against Ferguson and Jennings. “The Constitution is not self-executing.”
While statistics alone are not clear-cut proof of discrimination, there are cities around St. Louis with far greater racial disparities in traffic stops than Ferguson, and cities with court systems that appear even more predatory than the Justice Department says Ferguson’s is. According to a report from Better Together, a nonprofit group, Ferguson does not even rank among the top 20 municipalities in St. Louis County in the percentage of its budget drawn from court fines and fees. The small city of Edmundson, five miles away, brings in nearly $600 a year in court fines for every resident, more than six times the amount in Ferguson.
Antonio Morgan, the owner of a car repair business, has spent months in various St. Louis County jails, paid thousands of dollars and been shocked by a Taser, mostly because of traffic violations. “People are actually getting mad that everybody thinks it’s Ferguson, Ferguson, Ferguson,” Mr. Morgan, 29, said. “They pull over a lot of black people, yeah, but they’re not the worst, I’ll tell you that. It’s worse ones than that.”
Not only do nearby cities work in the same ways as Ferguson, but they work with the same people. Ronald J. Brockmeyer, the municipal court judge in Ferguson whom the Justice Department report singled out for ticket-fixing, is a judge in another city and a prosecutor in three more.
Ms. Gupta said civil rights prosecutors were seeking information to help small cities and towns that may have problems but are unlikely to attract attention in Washington. But she also made clear that it was incumbent on local governments to make changes themselves, because “the Justice Department can’t be everywhere.”
Officials in nearby cities rejected any comparison to Ferguson.
“You don’t dismantle the whole house in order to kill one bug,” said Mayor Patrick Green of Normandy, who is black. He said that his police force had issued more citations since state agencies asked it to help patrol Interstate 70, and that the money had been used to pay for public safety. “Everyone’s saying, ‘Oh, no, that’s cities just taking advantage of the poor,’ ” he said. “When did the poor get the right to commit crimes?”
James A. Paunovich, chairman of the board of trustees of Calverton Park, echoed Mr. Green’s sentiment, saying, “You’re blaming the police officer or you’re blaming the municipality or blaming the judge for enforcing the law.” He added, in a common refrain, that cities the size of his, with few or no businesses, do not have many ways to raise money.
“They have to find a recession-proof revenue generator,” said Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz, a political-science professor at the University of Rhode Island, adding that the best solution for small, financially struggling cities like Ferguson was probably to declare bankruptcy. “No matter how poor people are
On Friday, Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, acknowledged that “the Ferguson municipal court is not alone” and expressed support for a variety of changes, such as the cap on the percentage of revenue a city can collect from traffic tickets and court fees, and alternatives to jail for people who cannot afford to pay fines.
Benjamin Sutphin, the mayor of Jennings, declined to comment because of the lawsuit against his city. Officials in Florissant did not return calls for comment.The St. Louis County Municipal Court Improvement Committee, formed after the Brown shooting, has recommended voluntary changes such as increasing the use of community service as a sentence for indigent offenders and setting a uniform fine schedule across jurisdictions. (It found that the fine for driving without insurance, for example, ranged from $99 in Bridgeton to $377 in Ferguson.)
Frank J. Vatterott, the municipal judge of Overland and the chairman of the committee, who is white, said a majority of courts had responded positively to the recommendations. But he added: “I don’t have any power. We have no legal or moral authority over the other courts.”
Enforcement would also be a problem for the kind of revenue caps being pushed by Mr. Nixon and some state legislators. The state already limits fines and fees to 30 percent of municipalities’ yearly operating revenue, and Missouri’s attorney general, Chris Koster, has sued five cities in St. Louis County for exceeding that. Mayor Green, whose city is a defendant in the lawsuit, said the cap would hit predominantly black cities hardest.
Brendan Roediger, a professor at Saint Louis University School of Law, said the only solution was to discard the county’s municipal court system and replace it with something else.
“I don’t think that it could possibly be fixed,” said Mr. Roediger, who, along with Arch City Defenders, a nonprofit legal group, is suing several municipalities over their court practices. “The system is absolutely rotten from the core.”
He pointed to the routine ticket-fixing by officials across city lines described in the Justice Department report. This collusion, along with the everyday transfers of people from city jail to city jail, shows just how much the municipal governments are tied together, he said.
Qiana Williams, 36 and the mother of a 9-year-old girl, said she had been jailed multiple times for traffic violations. She was once arrested when she called the police for help after a former boyfriend hurt her. None of this took place in Ferguson, she said: Some of her worst experiences were in another county altogether.
“They’re all suffering from the same problems,” said Ms. Williams, who is black, adding that she had already been working with a group of activists to plan a protest against the municipal court in Pine Lawn when the shooting of Mr. Brown in August drew the protests northwest to Ferguson.
“St. Louis knows that it’s not just a Ferguson problem,” she said. “I don’t know if the country knows.”
Campbell Robertson reported from New Orleans, Shaila Dewan from New York and Matt Apuzzo from Washington.
10) Despite Protections, Miami Port Project Smothers Coral Reef in Silt
“I’m not quite sure that county taxpayers fully understand that they are on the hook for paying for this...”
11) Judge Who Makes a Living Incarcerating People Over Fines Owes $170K In Unpaid Taxes
by Dr. Sinclair Grey III
March 8, 2015
Ferguson, Missouri is a familiar town to anyone who has been keeping up with the news, especially after the shooting and killing of Michael Brown by former officer Darren Wilson.
In a report by the Department of Justice about the gross misconduct of what has transpired within Ferguson, Missouri, it’s been concluded that Judge Ronald J. Brockmeyer has benefited financially while locking up the disenfranchised over fines and fees.
Brockmeyer owes more than $170,000 in unpaid taxes, according to records obtained by The Guardian from authorities in Missouri. Department of Justice investigators discovered that Brockmeyer, 70, was using unethical tactics to increase revenue for the city. Because the city is overwhelmingly Black and those in authority are White, calls for justice are loud.
According to The Guardian, “Investigators found Brockmeyer had boasted of creating a range of new court fees, many of which are widely considered abusive and may be unlawful. A city councilman opposing the judge’s reappointment was warned switching judges would/could lead to loss of revenue.”
For 12 years, Brockmeyer has been the municipal court judge in Ferguson while serving as a prosecutor for two nearby cities. In addition to this, he’s also a private attorney. This is a serious problem because there’s a conflict of interest.
Brockmeyer’s court is at the center of attention because of his imprisoning those who have fines and fees and yet, he owes the government himself. Thomas Harvey, the director of Arch City Defenders who is representing one of those victimized by Brockmeyer’s court says, “Judge Brockmeyer not being incarcerated is a perfect illustration of how we should go about collecting debt from people who owe it.”
Officials contend that people should be responsible for their actions, however, African-Americans are punished at higher rates compared to whites. The Justice Department found in their investigation that “even as Ferguson city officials maintain the harmful stereotype that black individuals lack personal responsibility – and continue to cite this lack of personal responsibility as the cause of the disparate impact of Ferguson’s practices – white city officials condone a striking lack of personal responsibility among themselves and their friends.”
Ferguson, Missouri has a lot of work to do in order to get things in order. This is simply a case of racial injustice and systemic racism.
Source: The Guardian
Dr. Sinclair Grey III is an activist, speaker, writer, author, life coach, and host of The Sinclair Grey Show heard on Mondays at 2pm on WAEC Love 860am (iHeart Radio and Tune In). Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @drsinclairgrey