Category Archives: Granny Guide to Real News

ALL SEATS FILLED AT THE US PREMIERE OF “STANDING ARMY” AT THE LEONARD NIMOY THALIA

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February 27, 2011.  You want to be here as the theater fills; you’re absorbed in the quiet as Vinie Burrows asks for moments of silence in memory of the anti-imperialism historian Chalmers Johnson.  It is his testimony you’re about to hear in Enrico Parenti and Thomas Fazi’s film, STANDING ARMY.

"Standing Army" banner
Vinie recalls the promise she and other Grannies made four years ago to other women at an international conference in Venezuela: to inform the U.S. public about the many sorrows visited upon these women and their families by the U.S. military presence in their countries.  And today, she says with feeling, for the fifth time we offer a “teach-in” as evidence of the “sorrows of the U.S. Empire.”

The theater darkens.  The film begins to unfold the facts.

The official statistics:
The U.S. maintains 716 operational military bases in 110 countries.   There are 250,000 military personnel, men and women, employed on those bases.  The annual cost of the US military presence is in the billions.

US Military Bases - World Map

The sweep of history:
WW II ends, and the U.S. corporate elite sees its future in the war industry, an endless production of bigger and more destructive arsenals.  A good pretext is the threat from the USSR, the escalation of fear, the arms race, the creation of the “communist menace.”

Always, there is the need for an enemy (Castro, Ho Chi MInh);  after glasnost, new enemies are found:  Chavez, Iran, drugs, then Al Qaeda and terrorism.

The testimony:
You feel the power of people’s life stories. The filmmakers show us how an airbase on Okinawa shatters the quiet in a nursery school.  An eloquent Japanese man gestures to his land, now part of a huge airfield and says that so long as his land is used for machines of war and death, he feels responsible, and will not stop his protest or efforts to end the occupation of his land.

Brown University Anthropology Professor Catherine Lutz calls bases “the booty of war.”  That is the premise and rationale for their presence in Japan, Italy, Germany (all WWII) and more recently South Korea, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.  You re-learn that military personnel stationed on US bases commit violent crimes against women and men of the occupied country.  Offenders are not tried by local the courts because of SOFA (the Status of Occupying Forces Agreement).  Often they are not punished other than to be sent back to the U.S.  SOFA causes huge resentment towards the U.S.

You see the enormity of construction; you sense it is not “temporary”.  You follow the logic that where there are soldiers there will be war.  Eisenhower warned against the escalation of the Military Industrial Complex, but here it is, fully realized.  And in the worst case scenario, it is unstoppable.

Here some of the heroes of Parenti and Fazi’s film come in:
The people of Okinawa keeping vigil in their rainforest to stop a U.S. helicopter pad from being constructed.  The 2,000 Chagossians forcibly removed from their small, beautiful island of Diego Garcia by Great Britain after WW II and leased to the U.S. for a secret naval and air base but continuing the struggle to regain the right to live in their homeland, seeking redress in ever higher courts of law.  The people in Vicenza, Italy holding a referendum to prevent a U.S. airbase expansion and their mayor deying authorities in Rome.

Then there are the clear, cogent statements of Chalmers Johnson who worked within the US information-gathering system until he saw too much, and began to feel the urgent need to document how military bases and soldiers are a recipe for endless war.

The film ends with a reminder of the reason for its title: STANDING ARMY.  It was George Washington who warned that a Standing Army would be a threat to any republic.
You, the viewer, feel keenly grateful for the accuracy and skill of these two filmmakers who, with the benefit of an Italian perspective, have succeeded in telling the story of the way the US commitment to empire parallels the course of history that led to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.

Lights come up and we’re introduced to our guest speaker, Ray McGovern. Vinie outlines Ray’s background as a CIA analyst during years of the Kennedy through the George H.W. Bush administrations, and more recently as the founder of the VIPS, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.  We’re in the company of the kind of hero we’ve just seen in the film.  He’s recently been hurt during a brutal arrest by the Washington, DC police when he protested the statements of Secretary of State Clinton.  All he did was silently stand and turn his back during her speech.  He asks us to turn around and look at one another.  He wants us to feel ourselves as a presence, as a force.  He says, “We need to put our bodies into it!  Does anyone have any more doubts as to why “they” hate us??”
2011_02_27_051McGovern tells how as a major in Russian studies at Fordham, he admired and learned from his mentor George Kennan.  Later, he was appalled by Kennan’s statements that the U.S. has 50% of the world’s wealth, 6% of the world’s population and the goal is to keep it that way….forget sentimentality, forget human rights.   Here one can recognize US policy in South and Central America, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Africa and the Middle East.  Here is the structure of the Foundations for a New World Order reported in the film.

Some of McGovern’s points:
The presence of US military in the Middle East and elsewhere is about O.I.L.
O for oil; I for Israel; L for logistics.  It’s about securing access to petroleum and supporting our ally, Israel.  But, says McGovern, it might be time to realize our interests in the Middle East are not the same as Israel’s right now.

Iran stopped building a nuclear weapon in 2003.  This is a fact.

The 4th Estate media, controlled by advertisers, corporations and the government, is no longer an honored part of our common life.

Wikileaks is good news.  The 5th Estate media is our only channel today. Watch footage that showed the attack on Iraqi civilians from the Apache helicopter. Also, watch a fine piece put together by German TV about Bradley Manning.  (Google: “Panorama, Bradley Manning”)

Though the US disclaims having permanent military bases abroad, the word “enduring” has appeared in the lexicon.

Many good questions are submitted to McGovern.  His responses:

The Pentagon, not the President, not Congress, holds warmaking power in D.C.

Q:  What do you suggest a person can do?
A:  “Get together with no more than four others, preferably a majority of you should be women, meet regularly, decide that you’ll be supportive of one another, you’ll hold one another accountable for doing what you agreed to do. Then do it!”

Democracy Is Not A Spectator Sport - sign

Obama, during his campaign said, “You’ve got to make me do it!” (change the system).  Let’s make Obama do it!

On that stirring note, the audience gave Ray Mc Govern a standing ovation, which was followed by songs from The Raging Grannies.

Must see this film!
Who would have a better perspective on the perils of empire than the Italians, where Rome still holds the evidence of the greatness and the fall?  It is our good fortune that two Italian filmmakers have shown that the story of US Imperialism is repeating the story of the end of the Roman Empire  It’s important to see this film.  It brings the arguments together and supplies the evidence to back them up.

– Caroline Chinlund
for the Granny Peace Brigade
Illustrations (1&2) courtesy of “Standing Army”
Photos (3&4): Eva-Lee Baird

FEAR – AMERICA CAN SLEEP EASY NOW

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We filed into court, quiet, respectful,  hoping against hope that the prisoner would be given the full  extent of the powers of the court. That she would receive a mild admonishment for her slight alleged infraction of the law, an error in judgement that anyone, even the most learned judge might make.

According to John Eligon of The New York Times, Thurs. July ,16th, Judge John Koeltl presided over the resentencing of Lynne Stewart after it was deemed that her first sentence of twenty-eight months was too light.  Lynne Stewart – the Terrorists’ Handmaid – will be tucked away for the next ten years.  Maybe she’ll make it in jail until she’s 90 though she’s got breast cancer.

You better watch out, America.  Didn’t she say,  “I’d do it again” ?  And that’s why they have to lock her up for a good, long time.  She’s “potentially lethal” said the prosecuting attorney, Mr Andrew Dember to the grey-haired, school-marm lawyer sitting in  front of him.

He should be feeling good now, Judge Koeltl, he’s done his duty.  Even though he received hundreds of letters attesting to Lynne’s honesty, virtue and loyalty; even though he heard her daughter burst into tears on hearing  the cruel verdict, he can rest easy.  He was so careful about all the necessary legal enhancements that will keep America safe, especailly since 9/11. They – the powers that prevail in this country today – are not stupid. They know a good opportunity when it happens.  9/11 was a gift from heaven – although devastating and horrible as it was – it gave them a chance to “enhance” our laws.   Enhance was once a pretty word – it usually meant to make nicer or better.  Not in this case!  Their aim is to destroy the liberties that the founders of our country fought so hard to create – now with new laws they can  sanction government interference between client and attorney,  wire-tapping and above all, intimidation of the legal profession into fear and ultimately, impotence.  Woe to a hapless victim who appears before the bench.  Between the lawyers’ fear and the enhanced laws, justice doesn’t stand a chance.

Why were we lulled into thinking she might given a mild, fitting sentence?  This isn’t medieval times when men were sentenced to life imprisonment or death for stealing a loaf of bread. We are reasonable people nowadays with reasonable laws – aren’t we?  Or is there now a deliberate choice to destroy all the civil liberties that followed those times? We listened so patiently as Koeltl struggled to justify the numbers of the various enhancements, wondering how he could have forgotten what was crucial to the sad woman sitting in front of him; enhancing prison numbers can do that to you. She was asked by Judge Koeltl why she doesn’t exhibit remorse – a strange question.  She is an innocent woman.  She has nothing to show remorse for.

No, Lynne, you didn’t  fail us.  We failed you.  We failed because we weren’t ready – too sanguine – perhaps stupid – but we should have known and been prepared for that verdict.  We should have proclaimed, exhorted, shouted – Lynne Stewart is innocent – she is guilty of nothing but being human.  She has never aided or abetted terrorists – she is just a good human being – the best among us.  It is the legal system that is now being perverted, destroyed and dishonoring America.  But it is more than that – it is the governing body – the Congress and the President that are guilty as well, playing their parts and letting it happen.

We must have courage.

– Lillian Pollak
reading the U. S. Constitution
July 4, 2010
for the Granny Peace Brigade

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY:

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A GRANNY ATTENDS A CODE PINK SPONSORED SCREENING OF A FILM ABOUT THE WOMEN OF AFGHANISTAN

Fahima Vorgetts put on a blue scarf. She said, “I felt warm earlier, so I took it off, but I”m putting it back on because it was given to me by the women of Afghanistan and I wear it to remind you for them, don’t forget about us: don’t go away and let what you have learned today fade into the every day coming and going of your lives.”

It was International Women’s Day and we had watched Kathleen Foster’s film “Afghan Women: A History of Struggle.” After watching this well-told history of the events affecting the legal, economic and social status of Afghan women over the past 35 or so years, the shame I felt over being a US citizen was overwhelming. I took out my camera, and after receiving a nod of permission from her, I captured this photo of a person who has spent her adulthood working for a better life for her sisters. You see the blue scarf.
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What it means to me today is that there are people in Afghanistan whose well being has been directly affected by the military interference of the U.S. through the CIA and now, overtly. They are not better off for our government’s military involvement. I learned in Foster’s film that the warlords now holding the reins of power under Karzai’s government in Afghanistan are the ones setting the tone for law and government. These guys are holding on to their turf, to their well-equipped militias, to their ways of currying popular support by espousing fundamentalism. They are not much different from the Taliban. They have definitely not liberated the women of Afghanistan.

In that country as you read this, women’s rights activists are being assassinated by representatives of the government which Karzai doesn’t really control. Women, men and children are constantly suffering violence. The weapons readily available and plentiful, supplied by the U.S., Saudi Arabia and others are easily bought by warlords who profit from trafficking in Opium.

U.S. military involvement will not help. U.S. aid goes 80 or 90 percent to US military contractors or local gatekeepers. Fahima Vorgetts says she is able to deliver a fine well with fresh water to a community through her organization Afghan Women’s Fund for $10,000, while a contractor will bid $27,000 or more for the same job.

So what does the blue scarf say to me? Keep working against military involvement in Afghanistan. Support organizations led by Afghan people which can build schools and dig wells. Have the courage to bring the shameful situation into bright light and discourage people from careers in the military.

Learn more about Fahima Vorgetts’ organization at www.womenforafghanwomen.org. See the film by contacting www.kathleenfoster.com.

– Caroline Chinlund, Granny Peace Brigade

NO PERMANENT/”ENDURING” U.S. MILITARY BASES IN IRAQ

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CALL FOR COMPLETE WITHDRAWAL OF U.S. MILITARY FORCES FROM IRAQ

The Bush Administration told us Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs); they didn’t wait for the UN inspectors to finish their work; and they lied to the United Nations, which authorized the U.S. and an international coalition to attack Iraq, a country that had nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with September 11th.

Today we know both the sad truth – there were no WMDs, and the tragic results – massive death, destruction, dislocation. Iraq has been devastated – estimated more than 1 million dead, over 4 million displaced, infrastructure in a shambles. As at October 24, 2008, the toll of U.S. military personnel was over 4,100 dead and over 30,000 wounded (the official count – some estimates are significantly higher); the monthly cost of the war/occupation is over 10 billion dollars and the U.S. is trillions of dollars in debt. Today U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing this undertaking to the tune of over $200,000/minute.

UN Security Council Resolution, S/Res/1790(2007), which mandates U.S. presence in Iraq at the head of an international coalition, ends in December 2008. The Iraqis continue to express a fervent wish for the U.S. military to leave their country. We must ask ourselves – WHY does the U.S. want a long-term agreement for 58 “enduring” military bases in Iraq? (For some existing bases, the description “Little America” has been used.) WHY?

REMEMBER “NO BLOOD FOR OIL” were the signs carried and these were the words chanted by protesters before and after the invasion of Iraq. ‘No,’ insisted the Administration, the war was ‘not about the oil.’ But now Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve Chairman has said ‘the Iraq war is largely about oil.’* And today 36 years after the nationalization of the Iraqi oil sector in 1972, foreign companies are bidding on long-term contracts for oil extraction and gas production management.

We insist that the commencement of foreign company control of oil/gas extraction operations in Iraq cannot justify continuation of a U.S. military presence. Iraq itself must be allowed to assume responsibility for security matters in Iraq, as well as for its rehabilitation, in collaboration with assistance agencies identified and selected by the Iraqi Government.

On CSPAN, September 22nd, Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, said, in effect, that Iraq cannot be Iraq while the U.S. is there; that most Iraqis want the U.S. to leave; that ‘yes’ after our departure there will be some violence — a reason for the U.S. to remove ourselves as irritant.**

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, our largest embassy, covers 104 acres in the Green Zone. It is a city unto itself — larger than Vatican City.

The rationale for the Administration’s insistence on permanent/”enduring” military bases in Iraq is crystal clear. Five times since 2006 President Bush has signed into law Congressional Bills authorizing military funding but prohibiting expenditure of funds “to exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq.” In this connection, he has, however, issued two “signing statements” this year, the most recent one in October, asserting that banning U.S. control over Iraqi oil would violate the constitutional power of the executive branch. He argues that his administration is not legally bound by those restrictive provisions. Thus he would deny the Iraqi people and the Iraqi Government the government’s sovereign right to control their own natural resources.*** We the people must not give tacit approval to this totally unacceptable state of affairs!

There is no defensive reason for any U.S. military base in Iraq. It cannot be over-stressed that the recent “bail out” of Wall Street is just the tip of the iceberg which threatens us.

Do not delay action until the new Barack Obama Administration takes office. We urge you to telephone your Representative and Senators to say that United States withdrawal from Iraq must be complete, emphasizing that there should be no permanent/”enduring” U.S. military bases in Iraq. In addition, please write to them to state strongly that having studied this matter you deem it vital for the safeguarding of both Iraqi and U.S. interests that U.S. military operations in Iraq be ended and bases closed.

Please telephone and write to your three Congress people (Representative and both Senators) in this regard OFTEN!

*Book – “The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World,” by Alan
Greenspan.

**CSPAN, ‘After Words,’ September 22, 2008,

***Source: Friends Committee on National Legislation, Press Release –
‘President Bush Asserts Right to Control Iraqi Oil,’ October 16,
2008.

-Barbara Walker
Granny Peace Brigade

GRANNIES SHINE ON WBAI

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Vinie, Molly & Lillian guest on pre-debate round-table.

Like fingerprints and snowflakes, there are no duplications in the ranks of the Granny Peace Brigade. When WBAI put out the call for three grannies who survived the Great Depression to participate in an on-air round table discussion, their listeners got a kaleidoscopic look at the 1930s from three different perspectives.

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Molly Klopot, Lillian Rydell and Vinie Burrows in action – always

Vinie gave a warm and nuanced recollection of growing up in depression era Harlem, reminding us all of the extraordinary journey of this talented woman. Molly’s account of the 1932 Ford Hunger March from Detroit to Dearborn that resulted in the murder of four of her friends is the stuff of legends. Lillian recounted the deep hardships suffered and life lessons learned in a small coal mining town in rural Pennsylvania. All three women spoke of the dynamic and positive role a responsive and progressive government can have during tough economic times. Citing ground-breaking programs like the WPA (Work Progress Administration) and the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), the rise of organized labor, the creation of the Social Security Administration and other programs that helped level the social and economic justice playing fields, they called on concerned citizens everywhere to reach out into their communities.

– Fran Sears and Lillian Rydell
– Photos: Phyllis Cunningham & Eva-Lee Baird

MIS-FORTUNE

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THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES VS FINANCIAL REGULATION – Two Sad Stories

First Story:
We had a law on the books that might have prevented the present financial crisis if it had been left alone. The Glass Steagall Act was passed in 1933 to get us out of the great depression. It was doing okay for years until it became the victim of some unwise surgery.

In 1999, that good old Glass Steagall Act, was eviscerated when the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was passed by Congress. (Note well: One of the authors, Phil Gramm, had been an adviser to John McCain’s 2008 Presidential campaign, until he said that US consumers were “whiners.” President Clinton signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act but if he had vetoed it, the number of votes in Congress was high enough that it was said to be veto-proof.

This change to the Glass Steagall Act allowed investment banking, insurance, and commercial banking to be mingled in firms, rather than being kept separate.

Why is this important? Investment banks help companies raise money by issuing stocks or bonds. Usually they keep some of the stock for themselves, and this stock becomes part of their capital; they also earn fees for issuing and distributing the stock. These activities can be risky especially if the stock declines in price.

Conversely, commercial (and savings & loan association banks) were prohibited under the Glass Steagall Act from the above-noted activities; they could take deposits, and lend money in many ways, especially cheap mortgages. They had to keep on hand enough money to pay out on demand. That all changed in 1999.

Insurance companies jumped into the mix. Insurance companies had a lot of money to invest, so they wanted to combine with investment banks and commercial banks.

Once the two types of banks and insurance companies could be combined, the riskiness of the investment banking activity could affect the health of the resulting institutions and their ability to pay money on demand and, even more important, their ability to continue making loans. However, there were rules, such as the net capital rule, that required maintaining a certain ratio of capital to debt, just in case.

In 2004 the Securities and Exchange Commission met for 90 minutes in April and eliminated the net capital rule for the largest banks, with over $4 trillion in assets. Examples are Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. The banks were supposed to monitor themselves. The SEC was supposed to oversee this but not regulate it, but they only had 7 people to do so, and after a while the unit’s chief resigned and was not replaced.

During 2005-2008 people who thought they were very smart bundled mortgage loans and “sliced and diced” them giving portions to companies that serviced the loan and creating mortgage backed securities for sale to investors, i.e., the securities were collateralized by the mortgages. However, these securities included many mortgages that were sub-prime, although they had higher interest rates on them than prime loans they were, of course, also more risky because the people had less secure jobs or were not careful or able to understand what they were signing. (Dollars & Sense “Predatory Lending story)

Second Story:
Fannie Mae was created in 1938 – the year I was born. It was a government institution created to help people keep their homes. It purchased Veterans Administration (VA) mortgage loans and Federal Home Administration (FHA) mortgage loans, which it then pooled and sold to investors in the open market. It had a goal of making housing affordable. This worked pretty well for quite some time.

In 1968, because of the Federal budget problems caused by the Vietnam War, Fannie Mae was made a semi-private Government Sponsored Enterprise (GSE). It was then allowed to purchase conventional loans originated in thrift institutions (Savings & Loans banks). When Freddie Mac began operations in 1970, it was specifically created to compete with Fannie Mae for the secondary market for the conventional loans.

In 1995, Fannie Mae began including sub-prime securities (bundles of mortgages) in its purchases; this continued with increasing encouragement until 1999. In 2000 rules were put in discouraging the inclusion of risky mortgages, but in 2004, those rules were dropped.

Call your Senators. Call your Representative. Tell them to reinstate the provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act. Then join us in the streets.

– Edith Cresmer
for the Granny Peace Brigade

WAKE UP AMERICA!

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The Major media is too busy glorying in a mud-wrestling match between the Obama camp and the Clinton mob to report anything at the convention with serious content. In his speech Tuesday night Dennis Kucinich gave a straight dose of what people need to hear; the convention crowd was cheering every line.
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For all the media attention it got, he might as well be speaking to himself.

– Fran, Caroline, Phyllis & Eva-Lee