By Medea Benjamin On the eve of a gathering of over 25,000 social justice activists in Detroit called the U.S. Social Forum, environmentalists and peacemakers led by the group CODEPINK converged to bury the symbol of the American hubris: the Hummer. One month after the last Hummer rolled off the production line, the activists gave the hulk of steel a proper burial. The resting place chosen for the Hummer was the Heidelberg Project, an artistic community in downtown Detroit where dolls and plastic toys and shoes and shopping carts are transformed into street art. People come from far and wide to view the wild and wacky creations by artist Tyree Gupton. Heidelberg Street’s message to Detroit and global visitors is one of renewal and hope in a city devastated by hard times and unemployment. The activists used the Hummer’s demise to mark the end of a Rambo-like era, culture, lifestyle, and political philosophy. A converted military tank first sold to civilians in 1992 thanks to the promotion of action hero/Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hummers represented an increasing militarization of our society and the glorification of war. They were also an energy sinkhole that helped fuel wars for oil and global warming. The Hummer’s dreadful gas mileage of 8-10 miles per gallon was less than half the mileage of the Model T Ford 100 years ago! Hummers emitted over 3 times more carbon dioxide than average cars and they give off more smog-producing pollutants and dangerous particulates. But because they had been categorized as light trucks, they were exempt from meeting emission or fuel-efficiency standards. While the $50,000-$150,000 Hummer models were advertised as the coolest, fiercest car on the road and a patriotic way to “support the troops”, activists tried to label the Hummer an unpatriotic car that fueled war and warming. For years, CODEPINK women would do guerrilla theater at auto shows, climbing atop the vehicles and draping them with messages such as: “Real soldiers are dying in their Hummers so you can play soldier in yours.” They held anti-Hummer actions at auto dealers, surrounding the monstrosities with bicycles and Priuses. They handed out traffic violation tickets, signed by Mother Earth. Campaigns like that of CODEPINK raised awareness and shamed many a consumer from driving a Hummer. The Hummer also took a blow when the resistance movements in Iraq started blowing up Humvees with primitive IEDs. The burned shells on the side of the Baghdad roads tarnished the image of the “invincible King of the Road”. But the real blow came with the rise in oil prices. Sales plummeted when people had to cough up over $100 to fill the gas tank. The generalized economic crisis in the past two years put the nail in the coffin. And with the news that the Hummer was officially off the assembly line, CODEPINK made plans for the burial. The H-3 Hummer that was buried in Motor City was bought from a parts yard for $500. The spanking new vehicle had been leased from a dealership but when the leasee discovered he owed more money then he had, he had the bright idea of torching the $100,000 tank and claiming it was an accident. The story didn’t go down well with the dealer or the police. The macho man is now spending time in prison for arson and fraud, while the burned-out hulk of the vehicle became the centerpiece of CODEPINK’s art installation. With the help of a backhoe and a car carrier, the activists dug out the final resting place and slowly lowered the shell into the ground. They painted it bright pink with vines and flowers. John George, founder of Motor City Blight Busters brought four brightly painted butterflies to add to the emerging greenery. They filled the insides of the Hummer with dirt, and then festooned it with live plants, a rainbow of flowers and a pear tree bursting through the sunroof. The macho machine was suddenly transformed into a giant flower pot. Watch the video "Farewell Gas Guzzler" to see the burial and ceremony. Just ahead of the buried Hummer, rising out from the ground, was a pink bicycle with an arrow pointing “To the Future.” And off to the side, a car hood became the Hummer’s memorial tombstone, lettered to read: ODE TO THE HUMMER Ashes to ashes, dust to dust We bury a Hummer here to rust And from these ashes, we recreate A world of peace, an end to hate. At the close of a long work day, the group held a solemn ceremony where they individually pledged to do more to help heal our planet. Then they sang, danced and rode bicycles on the Hummer’s grave. “I always wanted to dance on the Hummer’s grave,” said CODEPINK activist Tighe Barry, who directed the project and grew up in Detroit. As he bid the Hummer a formal farewell dressed in a pink Marine uniform decorated with peace symbols, he said, “For us, burying the Hummer is letting go of the macho ways of driving and dominating our streets, our economy and our foreign policy. It’s time a new trend of green jobs and renewable energy for all. We see the demise of the Hummer as a positive sign of the clean, green, peaceful planet we’re determined to build.” CODEPINK would love to hear your pledge for building a clean, green, peaceful planet --share them with us here. Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK: Women for Peace (www.codepink.org) and Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.org)
Americans who supported, organized, or were on the flotilla headed to Gaza with humanitarian aid stormed the office of U.S. Congressmen Brad Sherman and turned themselves in for their "crimes." The stunt was in response to Sherman's call for Americans on the flotilla be arrested for helping "terrorists." Col. Ann Wright (ret.), a former U.S. diplomat, Gaza Freedom March organizer, and a passenger aboard the recent Freedom Flotilla, stated that: "Nine aid workers were murdered by Israeli commandos, and more than fifty were wounded. I want to look Brad Sherman in the eye and see if he has any sense for the gravity of this situation. If Sherman wants to have us arrested - we'll be there." Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) has publicly called for the arrest and prosecution of "any U.S. citizens who were aboard or involved with the Freedom Flotilla" under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. Rep. Sherman serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and chairs the subcommittee on terrorism and nonproliferation. According to Rep. Sherman: "[It's] absolutely illegal for any American to give food, money, school supplies, paper clips, concrete ...so I will be asking the Attorney General to prosecute any American involved in what was clearly an effort to give items of value to a terrorist organization." Rep. Sherman also stated that he was planning on working with the Department of Homeland Security to make sure all non-U.S. citizens aboard the Flotilla would be permanently barred from entering the U.S. This list includes Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire, former UN assistant secretary general Denis Halliday, as well as a number of parliamentarians and government officials from Ireland, Britain, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Palestine, and Israel. Ramzi Kysia, an organizer with the Free Gaza Movement, said that: "Rep. Sherman is welcome to arrest me and try to make his case to a jury of my peers. Delivering humanitarian aid to people in need is not 'terrorism.' Brad Sherman is a prime example of just how degenerate our political discourse has become on Capitol Hill." The action illustrates the disconnect between a U.S. Congress which supports Israel unrelentingly, a White House that calls policies in Gaza unsustainable, and an international community condemning Israel's raid of the flotilla. You can help share the truth about the Gaza flotilla with your Congressperson and friends and also donate to send Ret. Col. Ann Wright on a speaking tour about the flotilla and siege of Gaza.
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WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 12:  Veteran White House...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife
CODEPINK honors former White House dean of correspondents, Helen Thomas (89), for her 60 years of excellent investigative journalism.  It is a shame that Ms. Thomas's career came to a screeching halt because of a comment that she has apologized profusely for.  There's no excuse for Ms. Thomas's remark; we take her apology seriously; and we still have a tremendous respect for her long, productive career, her daring challenges to presidents and their spokespeople, and her opposition to US wars. During a “Jewish Heritage celebration” at the White House on May 27, Helen Thomas was asked what she thought about Israel and commented: "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine." Upon further prodding, Ms. Thomas stated that "Remember these people are occupied and it's their land..." and those who are the occupiers should "...go home" to "Poland, Germany...And America and everywhere else." Ms. Thomas misspoke on the matter concerning Jewish citizens of Israel and was sent to the gallows in a hypocritical fashion that has been trending in America for quite a while.  The right-wing media was not about to back down even after Helen Thomas apologized for her mis-statement. While her comment was reprehensible, it is devastating that a single botched answer ended a career of tough questions. On Sunday, Nine Speakers dropped Thomas as a client, stating that "in light of recent events, Nine Speakers is no longer able to represent Ms. Thomas, nor can we condone her comments on the Middle East." Helen Thomas should be judged on the basis of her long career in probing journalism, not a 30-second sound bite. Yet, there's this nagging question left -- isn't the United States supposed to protect free speech regardless of subject matter so how does such a trailblazing woman lose her job after a long career of achievements for a 30-second soundbite? After all, Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and a paid contributor at Fox News is still a golden for asking Palestinians to leave Israel. Double-standards much? We should start applying the same standard to comments about Muslims, "Mexicans" and African Americans because a lot of people should be losing their jobs from Representative Barrett calling for a ban of all immigrants from "terrorist countries" to State Senator Jake Knotts calling prospective Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley a "f***king raghead" to the countless racially-biased comments made by Fox news correspondents such as Glenn Beck. That is just a starter list of right-wing politicos who give ludicrous soundbites on their jobs who don't have anywhere near the career achievements of Helen Thomas. CODEPINK believes that the extreme backlash and overnight blacklisting of Helen Thomas shows how American society is unable to use this as a teaching moment to educate and forgive. Rather, the response to her statements shows total media bias as one prejudice is immediately called out and rightly so, while Islamophobia is allowed to run rampant. This was the case with Helen Thomas, who happens to be the most prolific Arab-American journalist in United States history. In her apology, Ms. Thomas wrote: "I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heartfelt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon." We totally concur.
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http://s3.amazonaws.com/codepink4peace.org/img/original/Diane_Wilson_Getty_Images.jpgI am a fourth-generation shrimper from the Gulf of Mexico and today I was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for pouring oil on myself at a Senate Energy Committee, while protesting Senator Lisa Murkowski’s refusal to make BP pay for the disaster that has devastating my shrimping community. I took this step after seeing the destruction of my community. I am outraged that representatives like Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) are protecting BP from being legally responsible to pay for this catastrophe. Sen Murkowski stopped the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act and wants to keep the liability cap at a pitiful $75 million. This is outrageous. How dare she side with big oil over the American people who have been so devastated by this manmade disaster? Over the decades I have seen the oil and chemical companies destroying our air, water, our wildlife–and the government going along with it. Politicians like Murkowski take campaign money from big oil and then get in bed with the same oil companies. This must stop. Our livelihoods, the health of our coasts and our childrens’ futures are at stake. Enough is enough. Imagine that. BP can get away with pouring millions of gallons of oil in our seas and still end up with billions in federal contracts while throwing pennies at the cleanup, and I get arrested for dumping oil on myself in protest. I hope you find it as appalling and unacceptable as I do. Please put pressure on Senator Murkowski by signing this letter telling her that protecting BP was plain wrong. Now, if you can, please call her DC office at (202)-224-6665 and give her hell. Here’s a sample call-in script:
“Hi, my name is _______ and I am from _______. Senator Lisa Murkowski stopped the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act and wants to keep the liability cap at a pitiful $75 million. This is outrageous. Senator Murkowski, shame on you. You must stand with the shrimpers, the community, the wildlife, the earth, not big oil. Thank you."
Then after telling your friends, join me and thousands across the United States for the Boycott BP International Day of Action on June 19. You can find and create actions in your area here. Lets make sure we spill the truth. Diane Wilson, founding member of CODEPINK, is author of An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters, and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas.  Read her most recent article, “The BP oil gusher is just the latest in a long line of assaults on the Gulf of Mexico” published on Grist.com
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This week no matter what channel you've turned to, you've likely heard about the Israeli military's attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, a collection of ships that attempted to break the siege of Gaza and distribute tons and tons of humanitarian aid (stuff usually not allowed into Gaza like cement, medicines, toys, spices, jam, chocolate, potato chips and so on).  Over 700 people, including my friend and colleague Ann Wright who is a retired Army colonel and diplomat, were on those ships from nearly 50 countries, and were jailed by Israel for trying to deliver the aid.  Most have been released and their stories are now coming out - you can hear Ann on Democracy Now! today.  9 humanitarian aid workers were shot and killed by the Israeli military. There's a lot of misinformation going around about this attack, and some valiant efforts of Israel's PR team to cover up the truth. The world is outraged about the massacre; Israel is isolating itself in the global community, and the US continues to be one of the only allies still blinded by Israeli propaganda, though just today US officials are saying the blockade of Gaza is "untenable". To set the record straight from the extensive amount of articles, videos, and reports that are proliferating the mass media this week, here are my recommended sources: Here is an explanation of what happened with 5 actions you can take, including signing a petition to President Obama asking him to condemn the Israeli assault and freeze military aid to Israel that enables the occupation.
To further unravel claims that Israel was acting in self defense, I offer you this piece from Associate Professor Ben Saul, the Co-Director of the Sydney Centre for International Law at The University of Sydney.
For a little humor, check out my coworker Prerna's list of Top 10 Threats to Israel, which includes references to the photos that Israel has tried to say show weapons aboard the ship (but have been proven to be from other incidents entirely - don't you just love the digital age of photo and video play?).
And check out Jon Stewart on the "Cluster*$% to the WarHouse".
Read "Open the Gates" - Rabbis responding to the tragedy.
Isha l'Isha, the oldest feminist org in Israel, and the Coalition of Women for Peace in Israel, have put out statements supporting the flotilla, and hundreds of Israelis have demonstrated against Israel's brutal action (just like when we demonstrate against the US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan here).  Read Israel's Ha'aretz news.
Here's a really worth-while well-done youtube asking Elton John not to play in Tel Aviv, which gives a good quick overview of the occupation.
And see a debate on MSNBC between Jeremy Scahill and former mayor Ed Koch on Israel's justification for attacking the aid flotilla - decide for yourself!
Finally, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is growing as a powerful way to exert economic pressure on Israel to abide by international law. BDS Day of Action has been called for this Saturday, June 5th in solidarity with the flotilla.
Writing this I feel my heart broken open.  I feel love and compassion for people on all sides of the conflict, including my family and loved ones in Israel, and the friends I made during my trip to Gaza last New Year's.  Witnessing the wall, the checkpoints, the siege of Gaza from inside it's walls, and the way "separate but equal" has become an acceptable justification for brutality and oppression, during my two trips to Israel, Palestine, and Gaza over the past year, there is no doubt in my heart and mind that the killing must end and human rights must be restored.
If you're one of my Jewish friends, I invite you to join me in saying the Mourner's Kaddish for the 9 humanitarian aid workers who were killed this week.  Let's also not forget the over 1,400 civilians killed in Gaza in January 2009 during Israel's Operation Cast Lead assault.  I invite you to offer up prayers from whichever spiritual traditions you pursue.  And coupled with prayer, I invite you to join me in action.  We cannot be silent.  "Never again" includes all people everywhere in the world, including our neighbors in Gaza. Youth in Gaza have organized nonviolent, creative demonstrations. For a listing of rallies happening around the world, go here.
For all this info in quick bites on one 8.5x11 sheet that you can distribute at events visit End the Occupation For live updates, check Witness Gaza. Author: Rae Abileah is an American Jew of Israeli decent who lives in San Francisco, CA and is the national grassroots coordinator with CODEPINK Women for Peace.
Just one day after Israeli commandos stormed civilian boats that were bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza, leaving nine dead, a group of Nobel Peace prize winners put out a statement condemning the attack. South African president Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, whose lives have been indelibly shaped by a cruel apartheid system, were joined by other Nobel laureates, including former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, former US president Jimmy Carter and detained Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi. They called Israel’s three-year blockade of Gaza illegal under international law and “one of the world’s greatest human rights violations.” Conspicuously absent from the Nobel Peace prize signees was President Barack Obama. Instead of expressing outrage at an attack on civilian ships in international waters, Obama issued a tepid statement saying he "deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained." All over the world, government representatives are condemning the Israeli government’s action. Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa labeled the assault a “terrorist act.” French President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned the disproportionate use of force and addressed his condolences to the families of the victims. European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton called the blockade of Gaza “unacceptable and politically counterproductive.” Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas said, "There is no excuse. The level of violence cannot be excused.” But at the United Nations, Deputy Permanent U.S. Representative Alejandro Wolff seemed to be doing just that: making excuses for Israel’s actions. His statement read as if the problem was not the Israeli government and its inhumane siege of Gaza, but the humanitarian effort of the Free Gaza Flotilla. “Direct delivery [of aid] by sea is neither appropriate nor responsible, and certainly not effective,” he said, while railing against Gaza’s governing Hamas and referring to Israel’s security concerns. On no other foreign policy issue is this administration so out of touch with the majority sentiment worldwide. When President Obama visited Cairo just a year ago, he promised a new era in U.S. relations with the Muslim world where there would be a sustained effort to “listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground.” The voice of the Muslim world—indeed the entire world--is speaking right now. You can hear that voice at demonstrations from Ankara to Beirut, from Rome to Sydney, from New York to San Francisco. People all over the world are calling for an end to the siege that has made life miserable for the 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza since 2006, most of whom are under 18. They are calling for accountability for Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s 22-day military assault of Gaza in 2009 that left over 1,400 dead, thousands wounded and countless homes, schools and businesses destroyed. They are calling on Israel to open the borders so that people can get medical treatment or import the building materials they need to rebuild their shattered lives. This is why efforts like the Freedom Flotilla are so critical. They not only bring aid, but they show that the world has not abandoned the Palestinians in Gaza. UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Richard
Falk, noting the world governments’ failure to help the people of Gaza, cited non-violent grassroots campaigns such as the flotilla as "the only meaningful current challenge to Israel's violations of its obligations as the Occupying Power of the Gaza Strip under the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Charter." The killing of humanitarian aid activists must mark a turning point in U.S.-Israeli relations. President Obama must join other Nobel Prize winners and world leaders in condemning Israel’s abuses. Verbal condemnation must be accompanied by action: an immediate cut off of aid to Israel. Currently, Congress is in the process of appropriating a record $3.2 billion in military aid to Israel. This aid must be frozen while the investigations of this crime move forward. President Obama is a constitutional lawyer. He must understand that the blockade of Gaza is illegal under international law. So is attacking civilian boats in international waters. The Israeli government must be held accountable for its actions. Global leaders, including its most revered members such as Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi, have come out on the side of justice and law. So must President Obama. Please sign this petition calling on Obama to condemn Israel’s assault.
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On September 3rd, 2008 Medea Benjamin and I stood trembling at the side of the stage at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, waiting to speak out during Sarah Palin's convention speech on behalf of peace and the environment. When Sarah Palin intoned her infamous "Drill Baby Drill" slogan, we were horrified by the stamping of feet and the hollering of the crowd. I think we were more frightened by that chant than by the seven Secret Service agents surrounding us. Today, Monday May 24, joined by dozens of activists from 8 Texas cities and 7 states, we exposed the Naked Truth of Drill Baby Drill. 2010-05-25-Sandwichsigns.jpg We exposed ourselves to bring attention to the devastation caused by the greed of British Petroleum and our nation's addiction to oil. We are horrified that Congress has maintained a $75 million cap on BP's liability when the cost of the cleanup is already estimated at $16 Billion. I was amazed that with a few days notice, Texans and others came pouring from all directions to join the protest. There were passionate shrimpers, fisherwomen, businesswomen, and members of the clergy among others. Their fury was inspiring. Each has shed tears at how this disaster will be affecting their lives, the lives of their children and their communities. All agreed that we can't leave the solution to the government, that we--the people--must step forward to demand not only a total cleanup, but a real commitment and investments in a clean energy system that respects the lives of the workers and the planet we all share.
President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan is in Washington this week meeting with the Obama administration and Congress about the status of the war. Despite the platitudes coming from both sides, the conflict is intractable and there is no military solution. President Karzai is well aware of this, which is why he is organizing a peace gathering (called a jirga) in Afghanistan starting on May 20 to set the ground rules for negotiating a settlement with the Taliban and other armed insurgents. After much pressure by Afghan women, 200 of them have won the right to be represented at the 1,200-person peace jirga. Since the jirga will be a national reflection on reconciliation, women are anxious to be integrally involved so that their rights will not be bargained away in any talks with the Taliban. Setting up an equitable and effective peace process is a delicate dance that requires the full commitment and energy of all parties, including the U.S. government. Instead, the Obama administration is focusing on a new military offensive. The looming June counter-insurgency plan led by General McChrystal against Kandahar with at least 23,000 NATO and Afghan troops will undoubtedly lead to the death of more innocent Afghans and our soldiers, and escalate resentment and blowback against us, as we saw in the attempted Times Square bombing. Even the Pentagon has growing doubts about the McChrystal war plan in Afghanistan. Just look at what happened in Marjah, where February's offensive left locals feeling more negative about NATO forces than before the operation. The New York Times reported that two months after the Marjah offensive, “Afghan officials acknowledge that the Taliban have in some ways retaken the momentum there, including killing or beating locals allied with the central government and its American backers.” Agence France Press reported that “Pockets of resistance remain amid intense danger posed by innumerable crude bombs and mines planted by retreating fighters. The Red Cross has said these bombs -- cheap and easy to make, and sown across a large area -- have led to an increase in the number of civilian deaths and injuries in Marjah.” Tribal leaders and the public in Kandahar, fearing the consequences for their families, are already strongly opposed to the forthcoming attack. Unlike Marjah, Kandahar is one of Afghanistan’s largest cities and the potential for massive civilian casualties is frightening. If we want to prevent a horrific spilling of blood reminiscent of devastating U.S. attack on Fallujah in Iraq, we must make a radical shift in course—and do it immediately. President Obama, the Commander-in-Chief, should call off the Kandahar offensive and instead work with President Karzai on peace talks. Since both Afghan and U.S. women have legitimate concerns that a peace process would reverse gains that women have made since the overthrow of the Taliban, the reconciliation process must ensure Afghan women a prominent place at the table so that they can advocate for the protection of their rights. To demonstrate the U.S. commitment to a peace process, Congress should stop funding the war and should demand that Obama set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Congress has been asked by the Administration to approve a $33 billion supplemental request. The money is supposed to pay for the 30,000 additional troops President Obama ordered to Afghanistan in December and are now starting to arrive for the Kandahar offensive. Congress should take a stand for peace by refusing to fund the war. Congressional representatives should also co-sponsor the McGovern-Feingold bill (HR 5015, S.3197) requiring the President to provide a plan and timetable for "the safe, orderly and expeditious redeployment of US troops from Afghanistan." There are presently 82 co-sponsors of this bill. If over 100 representatives sign on, the bill will hopefully generate a long overdue Congressional debate about the need to end this war. After 9 years of U.S. occupation, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Afghans need jobs, not war. The American people are suffering from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We need jobs, not war. With just a fraction of the over $270 billion that U.S. taxpayers have spent on this war, we could be creating millions of jobs for both Americans and Afghans. President Karzai’s visit is a propitious occasion for demanding a new direction. If we allow the Kandahar offensive to go off as planned, we are signing the death sentence for more innocent Afghans who just happened to “be in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Afghans have suffered from decades of war; let’s give them a chance to live in peace. For Americans fearful of terrorist attacks, we need better intelligence gathering and police work, not attacks overseas that give more would-be terrorists more reason to hate us. And with our present economic distress, let’s tell our elected officials that instead of pouring billions into endless wars, it’s time to invest in productive jobs that improve the lives of our communities. Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK: Women for Peace (www.codepink.org) and Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.org).
http://s3.amazonaws.com/codepink4peace.org/img/original/goldmansachs_1.jpg CODEPINK was at the Senate Office Building just when the doors opened at 7am, determined to be the first in line to get into the hearing with Goldman Sachs. We had met CEO Lloyd Blankfein before, when we jumped on stage during one of his talks at the height of the bailout and politely asked him to give us our money back. This time we were less polite. The more we’ve learned about Goldman Sachs ripping off the American public, the more disgusted we’ve become. Just before the hearing began at 10am, we changed into our costumes: prison suits with the names of the Goldman banksters, crime scene tape and WANTED posters. There were four of us: myself, Ann Wright, Tighe Barry and Polly Miller, but with all our paraphernalia, we looked about twice our numbers! The first panel of Goldman crooks included the young, French broker, Fabric Tourre, aka Fabulous Fab. Last week, the SEC filed fraud charges against him for helping a hedge-fund billionaire make a killing by dumping worthless mortgage securities on unsuspecting Goldman customers and then betting against those very securities. In the broader context, these shenanigans contributed to the burst of the housing bubble and millions of Americans losing their homes. Fabulous Fab was incredibly arrogant and refused to acknowledge any ethical lapses, much less illegal activities. We, however, were there to show the public outrage. We had Fab’s mugshot on WANTED posters and after his testimony, we ran after him as he and his entourage rushed out of the Senate. We were shouting out our questions so loudly that we were detained by the police who threatened to arrest us. After they ran an ID check on us and we pleaded to be freed, the police relented and we were allowed to return to the hearing—if we kept seated and quiet. The last to testify was CEO Lloyd Blankfein. It was hard to sit still and be quiet while this character testified. He, too, was arrogant beyond belief and refused to admit any wrongdoing. The hearing went on for 10 hours! Senator Carl Levin was quite spectacular in his questioning. So were some of the others, like Senator Claire McCaskill, who kept talking in terms of unscrupulous Vegas bookies who were gaming the system. Sadly, we were the only protesters in the entire hearing, but we felt we represented the millions of Americans who lost their homes, the millions of Americans who lost their jobs, the millions of hard-working people who are losing their pensions and their health benefits while these guys continue to make out like bandits, make double the profits. We can only hope that the hearing represents some movement towards real reform and accountability. And we will hold on to the dream that one day, the Goldman gang will be serving time. As we chanted outside the hearing, “They shouldn’t be too big to fail, and they’re not too big to go to jail!”
Northrop GrummanBy the time you find the threat, we've already taken it out of the picture. Northrop Grumman—the weapons profiteer with revenues of $34 billion--was all set to get a $25 million subsidy from the DC City Council to move their headquarters to DC. The legislation was originally sponsored by seven of the City Council’s 13 members and supported by Mayor Adrian Fenty, but the DC community mobilized against the corporate giveaway—and won! The proposed taxpayer giveaway incensed small businesses, watchdog groups and peace activists, who formed a new coalition called CENTS—Coalition to End Needless Tax Subsidies. We held meetings with the mayor and council members, testified at hearings, held press conferences and educated the public. Our message was clear: no taxpayer giveaways to wealthy, outside corporations. At CODEPINK, we targeted the seven members of the DC City Council who were promoting the subsidy. We generated over 1,000 emails or calls to each member! With the public outcry, one by one, the council members began to change their minds. Just this week, Council Chair and mayoral candidate Vincent Gray remarked on all the messages he had received and said “You can stop. The deal is dead.” Together, the domestic, fiscal, peace, and small business groups beat the corporate behemoth. Moral: Working together, we can stop corporate giveaways and force our elected officials to invest in our communities. Medea Benjamin resides in DC and is a cofounder of both CODEPINK and the international human rights organization Global Exchange. She can be reached at medea@globalexchange.org