Can Rep. Adam Smith move the needle on military spending, secrecy, and adventurism?

Starting in January, Rep. Adam Smith (WA, D, 9th CD) will be the Chair of the House Armed Services Committee.

Rep. Adam Smith is called a progressive, and a great hope for pacifists, in this Politico article Democrats going nuclear to rein in Trump’s arms buildup. (The title they chose for the article is rather unfortunate.)

Adam Smith also wrote an article in Defense One decrying Pentagon secrecy: The Pentagon’s Getting More Secretive — and It’s Hurting National Security.

Though Adam Smith is not as progressive as his opponent Sarah Smith, he is a smart, reasonable guy who “gets it” about military waste, secrecy, and adventurism.

Adam Smith is mentioned, more critically, in this Counterpunch article Will the new House Dems take on the War Lobby?. The article points out that Adam Smith received $261,450 in campaign cash from the arms industry in the 2018 election cycle.

Given the power of the Blob (military industrial complex) reining it in is a formidable task. But Smith gets it. He has been moving to the left with his district.

This is an issue where we can move the needle.  Of course, we need to do this responsibly!

I know Smith personally.  I often ask questions at his town hall meetings, and he must know about this website. I told him many times that the country needs to rein in military spending and close some of the 800 military bases in more than 70 countries. The majority of military interventions in the last 75 years have had negative outcomes for the U.S. and the world — aside from the outrageous cost in lives, suffering, and money.

Smith phoned me during the campaign to solicit my support, so this issue is something I care deeply about.  I would even consider quitting my job to work on this full time if I knew I can make progress.

BTW, Trump ran to the left of Hillary on both the economy and military affairs.

U.S. Has Spent Six Trillion Dollars on Wars That Killed Half a Million People Since 9/11, Report Says “In sum, high costs in war and war-related spending pose a national security concern because they are unsustainable,” the report concluded. “The public would be better served by increased transparency and by the development of a comprehensive strategy to end the wars and deal with other urgent national security priorities.”

People for Climate Action

Cities Climate Action Summit:
We can do this!

People for Climate Action’s “Cities Climate Action Summit: We can do this!” was held on November 17th in Kirkland.

PCA is delighted that so many enthusiastic climate concerned members of our communities joined in the discussion on local climate action opportunities. We look forward to your engagement in our future efforts. Thank you!

Jan Keller speaks at the summit

Summit Slide Deck

The slide deck used during our Summit is available from the PCA Resources page.

A Few Useful Links

Climate Action Plans

If you want links to climate action plans from other cities, or to other organizations in the field of climate action planning, please let us know, or contact members of your local PCA group.

Uncle Sam on the Lam

by Lansing Scott

Uncle Sam drinking
Drunk Uncle Sam is on the lam. He escaped from DC and has been hitchhiking across the country, sleeping under bridges, & drinking his Thunderbird for months now. Hes almost reached Vancouver, BC, where he will formally apply for political asylum.

Asked to explain his sudden departure from his job as personification of the United States of America, Sam said, “Are you fucking kidding me? Like anybody would want this job right now? They wanted me to lead a campaign encouraging ICE agents to separate babies from their mothers. That was the final straw. Luckily Id skipped town before they could make me recruit support for that rapist judge Kavanaugh.”

Asked why he was seeking political asylum in Canada, Sam said, “I’ve been in an abusive relationship with this government. I cant take it any more! Were all in serious danger unless we vote against Republican control of government on Nov. 6.”

Pointing his finger at the camera, drunk Uncle Sam said, “I WANT YOU to get out the vote in this election! Im not fucking kidding! DO IT!”

On political struggle and spiritual acceptance

Ady Barkin wrote an essay in The Nation, I’m Dying. Here Is What I Refuse to Accept With Serenity, about politics, spirituality, and dying. At age 32 he was diagnosed with ALS, and within a few years he was unable to feed himself. He dictated the essay to a friend because he was unable to write or type. He wrote:

Like many people suddenly confronted with agonizing loss, I looked for answers in Buddhism. Pema Chödrön teaches us that when the ground disappears beneath your feet, the solution is not to flail around in a desperate attempt to find a handhold; it is to accept the law of gravity and find peace despite your velocity. Leave the mode of doing and enter the mode of being. Accept things as they are, rather than yearning for them to be otherwise.

Such radical acceptance is in tension with my identity as a movement builder. Activism is precisely about not accepting the tragedies of this world, but rather on insisting that we can reduce pain and prolong life. Social justice means creating a stable floor beneath our feet and then putting a safety net under that, to catch us if it suddenly vanishes: universal health insurance, affordable housing, unemployment benefits. Being part of a progressive political movement is about fighting back and building toward a better future. “Acceptance” is not part of our vocabulary.

The theologian Reinhold Niebuhr—whose most famous disciple, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., would become the patron saint of American organizers—sought to resolve this tension in his Serenity Prayer: asking for the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, the courage to change what can be, and the wisdom to know the difference.

This is something I have wondered about for a long time: how to harmonize letting go and selflessness, on the one hand, with the obligation to work — indeed fight — for what is right and just.

For the things that we can  change (for the better) we are obligated to fix them; since we know that we can change them, it’s presumably not that difficult.  The challenging issues are the ones on the borderline between what we can change and what we can’t.    It’s not just a matter of wisdom. It’s also a matter of action: we don’t know if we can change them if we try, but try we must.  And we may stumble or go in the wrong direction, since our information is imperfect.

Barkin concludes his article like this:

Sometimes, though, our struggle is not enough. ALS destroys my body, no matter how many medicines I take or exercises I do. Sometimes, oftentimes, white supremacy, violent misogyny, and rapacious capitalism rip apart our families and destroy lives, regardless of how well we organize. And sometimes, oftentimes, our stories are not powerful enough. Despite our best efforts, Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed, and will do lasting damage to America and its people.

Yet it is in these moments of defeat that hopeful, collective struggle retains its greatest power. I can transcend my dying body by hitching my future to yours. We can transcend the darkness of this moment by joining the struggles of past and future freedom fighters. That is how, when we reach the end of our lives and look back on these heady moments, we will find peace in the knowledge that we did our best.

There is a seeming paradox embedded in the third part of Niebuhr’s prayer, because the wisdom to know the difference between what we can and cannot change can only be earned through struggle. Neuroscientists seek a cure for ALS because they do not accept its inevitability. Organizers rage against the machines of capitalism with that same determination. It is only by refusing to accept the complacency of previous generations that the impossible becomes reality. For me, Niebuhr’s prayer is most true if rearranged: Collective courage must come first, wisdom second, and serenity at the very end.

Buddhist teacher and author Jack Kornfield wrote an essay  Dharma & Politics on the same topic.   He calls on people to act from a place of love and peace. Find peace within and then go out into the world.

The Buddha’s teachings of compassion and wisdom are empowering; they encourage us to act. Do not doubt that your good actions will bear fruit, and that change for the better can be born from your life. Gandhi reminds us: “I claim to be no more than an average person with less than average ability. I have not the shadow of a doubt that any man or woman can achieve what I have if he or she would simply make the same effort and cultivate the same hope and faith.”

The long arc of justice is slow.  Despair is not an option. Selfless sacrifice is needed.  We must fight without becoming monsters ourselves.  But how to retain inner serenity in the midst of our sacrifices and struggles — both personal and societal — requires wisdom and maturity indeed.

I’m glad, by the way, that Kornfield descends from his spiritual heights — concern for one’s spiritual growth can be selfish, though they say that meditating for hours a day for years is for the benefit of others too — and addresses social justice: “America has sometimes confused power with greatness.”  “[I]f we envision the fulfillment of wisdom and compassion in the United States, it becomes clear that the richest nation on the earth must provide healthcare for its children; that the most productive nation on earth must find ways to combine trade with justice; that a creative society must find ways to grow and to protect the environment and sustainable development for generations ahead.”

Political activism may be a form of Karma Yoga (service). But because of the overall ugliness, anger, and impurity of politics — no politician is perfect — political activism doesn’t feel spiritual.

In short, what I liked about his article was (1) His eloquence and grace in the face of death, (2) his comments about the tension between spirituality (letting go) and political struggle, which is all about GETTING and DEFEATING, and (3) how it addresses a spiritual dilemma: the inability to surrender or let go or accept. Life can be a constant ego struggle to succeed. What can one surrender to if one is an atheist?

How to win hearts and minds

Winning hearts and minds would be a LOT easier if the Left controlled more media. The Right has Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, Breitbart, AM talk radio, etc. Nationally there are a few lefty media outlets. We need local ones that we control. The numerous lefty and Democratic interests should band together and organize a news and opinion website and/or radio station that is owned by no single group but is managed by a nonprofit aligned with liberal/progressive values.

There are plenty of wealthy progressives in Washington State. Funding such a non-profit should be feasible.

Crowd-funded journalism is needed, because newspapers are closing and down-sizing.

It's our action now

It’s up to us, we the people, if we want to save life on earth and build a better world for all. The 1% cannot and will not save us. They are afflicted with the deadly greed disease. The two major parties will not save us, the police and military will not save us; they are all owned and their power usurped by the 1%. We cannot unite under the banner of resistance groups with a great leader anymore. They will out our leaders just like they took out such people as John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and others who take a stand for people.

We cannot have a violent revolution to set things right. When we resist violently to bring justice the 1% will use police and military power against us with deadly force. The 1% can’t help it, they are drugged with greed for power and wealth. They have indoctrinated our kids in schools to become good sycophants to their cause. Get smart, get a good job with their corporations and get ahead of everybody else. Students are trained to become good employees for the corporations owned by the 1%. Liberal arts have been denigrated. The game is to win. That is all that matters, compete and beat, that is what our world has become.

Let’s meditate on this a bit. Look where it has gotten us. We are in constant wars, our planet has been brought to the point of total destruction and disaster. Our air is polluted, our lakes, rivers and now the oceans are polluted and dying, all for their profit. We have created all kinds of technological developments. Every time something good is invented that can benefit people, they turn it around and use it against us and their other so-called enemies.

From the 1%’s viewpoint everything is positive and wonderful. They own over 50% of the wealth and can live in luxury. They can buy anything they want including our police, our military, our judiciary, our Congress and the executive branch. The rest of us do not matter. If we are not a consumer of their products or serve in their employment we are useless humanity. What happens to us doesn’t matter.

Okay, I’ve spelled it out; our world is in the deadly grip of the 1%. So what can we do about it? We must recognize and utilize our own power. Without us to do their work and consume their products the 1% is helpless and their power is broken. That’s it, we must break their power and build alternative sources to fill our needs. That’s what the capitalists did to conquer the feudal age. They built alternatives and made nobles superfluous. Now it is their turn to be replaced since they exploit rather than serve us.

Like I said, at this point we can’t organize groups to take corrective action. They will take out our leaders and come down with deadly force. Look at what happens in the rest of the world. When people in other countries try to organize and throw off the outside yoke of imperialism, drones take out their leaders, their citizens are bombed to hell and we buy their BS that they have taken out “the enemy.”

What can we do to change all of this? As organized groups, not much at this time, because of their deadly force. We must first break their power. We each must take personal responsibility. Start dealing with local folks to fill our needs. Get out of debt and quit borrowing money from their banks and credit cards. Buy from local farmers and merchants, who are there mainly to fill needs and make a living rather than huge profits. Get yourself a small piece of ground or use your backyard to start growing more food. Quit wasting your backyard on grass for appearances. Learn how to preserve food for the off seasons. If you have no need to grow food, do it anyway to learn how and to help others trapped in landlord-owned apartments. What you don’t need, give it away to help others become independent of the big corporations. Food and shelter are the first two basics. If we have these without having to depend on the big corporations, that is the path to freedom. If we work for a corporation that is exploiting others, making killing machines, or polluting our world, try to get away from them as quickly as you can. If we work at making their products to kill others, or destroy our environment we are part of the problem. It doesn’t make any difference how much money we make as a sycophant to them; it is not worth it if we are helping to bring death to life on earth. We really don’t need all this stuff they sucker us into buying with their advertising. If we can get an acre of this good Earth, feed ourselves and start rebuilding the soil, we become independent. If nothing else, use our backyards or sack-bags of dirt to grow vegetables. Treat land as sacred, it is here for all life.

We must demand that the UN has the power to hold war makers and those who abuse others to account. If we can’t make the UN do its duty, we must organize an international People’s Tribunal that will take action to hold war makers and polluters accountable. In the future we must settle our conflicts by law and courts rather than war.

We are better off when we cooperate and share rather than compete and beat. The state does not give life, therefore; the state does not have the right to take life. Let’s discipline ourselves and cut down on the world’s population explosion. Once we have broken the power of the 1%, we must change the system to register all people of legal age to vote regardless of circumstances. We must set up term limits and public financing for elections. Those people and corporations who utilize our public airways shall be required to dedicate 20% of each broadcast timeslot for 30 days prior to elections, as a royalty due the people, to be used by qualified registered candidates.

We shall create a world based on laws that bring justice for all. We shall develop an international power to hold war makers and exploiters to account. We start by taking individual responsibility, withdrawing our support and cease cooperating in their deadly game of destruction for profit. Resources of this earth are here for all life and not just for a few rich grabbers who take more than their share. Why should one person accumulate enough for 1000 lifetimes and 1000 families go hungry? Let’s start thinking about what personal action we can take. It is with our combined personal action that we shall end their power. We must stop allowing them to use people against each other. With life on earth we are all in the same boat, so let’s start bailing, even if we have but a thimble to use.

Inspire Seattle: Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on Sat, May 7 at 6:30PM

InspireSeattle invites YOU to join us at our Social Forum: Saturday, May 7th at 6:30PM.

Main discussion topic for this evening: Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): is this Asian trade agreement good or bad for America (and Americans)?

President Obama’s Office of the United States Trade Representative frames the TPP as “INCREASING AMERICAN EXPORTS, SUPPORTING AMERICAN JOBS”. Is this true? At what cost?

Obama announced the United States’ intention to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to conclude an ambitious, next-generation, Asia-Pacific trade agreement that “reflects U.S. economic priorities and values”. Obama states this will boost U.S. economic growth and support the creation and retention of high-quality American jobs by increasing exports in a region that includes some of the world’s most robust economies and that represents nearly 40 percent of global GDP. The US is negotiating the TPP with 11 other countries (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam). The TPP is the cornerstone of the Obama Administration’s economic policy in the Asia Pacific. As a group, the TPP countries are the largest goods and services export market of the United States. U.S. goods exported to TPP countries totaled $698 billion in 2013, representing 44 percent of total U.S. goods exports.

Clearly this proposed TPP has been a hot topic this election season, with some presidential candidates for it, some against it. (Hillary Clinton has been both for and against it!). On the “against” side, some candidates argue that this deal would mimic the effects of NAFTA by exporting jobs, lowering wages, and leading to greater income inequality. Even more, what has been left out of this conversation is the impact of the TPP on several aspects of our economy and legal system. The TPP increases the length of drug patents, limits our ability to regulate Wall Street, affects copyright laws and the internet, and as will be presented at the meeting, poses a serious threat to our ability to fight climate change. In this 5000 page document, the words “climate change” are not even mentioned. Instead, the deal grants corporations a powerful tool against our ability to fight climate change. This tool — the Investor-State Dispute Settlement system (ISDS) — threatens our sovereignty and our climate by allowing foreign corporations to demand damages in foreign trade tribunals over laws designed to protect the public and our environment.

Clearly trade is critical for the US in our global economy. This discussion is to evaluate the pros and cons of the TPP and its likely impact on Americans, and the planet.

Please join us for this important discussion!

Guest Speaker: Selden Prentice

Selden Prentice is a retired lawyer and college instructor who now volunteers full-time with the climate change group, 350Seattle. She leads the trade policy workgroup which is currently focused on the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership.

About InspireSeattle

InspireSeattle is a progressive network of Seattle-area people sharing ideas and supporting action. InspireSeattle’s vision is to create connection throughout our community and better community through activism. InspireSeattle’s mission is to provide a fun, supportive gathering for people who care deeply about our community, our country and our planet. We embrace progressive policies that improve our society and protect our environment. We discuss current issues, share ideas and activism efforts while striving to inspire additional action. Subscribe (or unsubscribe) to InspireSeattle by visiting www.inspireseattle.org contact.html.

When: May 7th at 6:30PM. Please try to be on time!!!

Where: Carrie Bogner’s place, 1120 24th Ave E, Seattle, WA 98112. Home # is 206-280-4214.

Directions: (easy to find!) Click here for a map: http://goo.gl/maps/IIHhE

From 520, Eastbound: Take the Lake Washington Exit, go right at the light on to E. Montlake which quickly turns into 24th Ave E. Go up the hill then go left onto Highland Dr. The entrance to the house is in the alley between 24th and 25th, but please park on Highland Dr or on 25th Ave. It is the 2nd house on the west side of the alley (from Highland Dr) and has a 3 car garage. Front door is on the south side of the house. Look for signs at the alley entrance!

From 520, Westbound: Take the Lake Washington Exit, go right at the stop sign, then go left at the light on to E. Montlake which quickly turns into 24th Ave E. Go up the hill then go left onto Highland Dr. The entrance to the house is in the alley between 24th and 25th, but please park on Highland Dr or on 25th Ave. It is the 2nd house on the west side of the alley (from Highland Dr) and has a 3 car garage. Front door is on the south side of the house. Look for signs at the alley entrance! place

Format

It’s a potluck: so please help out and bring something to eat and to drink!

6:30 to 7:45: Social time! Eat, drink, relax, and catch up with some other local progressives

Formal discussion and guest speakers, 7:45 to 9:30

Other Announcements – got any?

Rules of Engagement!

1. So that everyone has a chance to participate, please keep your comments short

2. Raise one’s hand to ask a question in lieu of shouting out

3. Respect the points of views of others

4. No arguing of politics during the formal discussion – save that for afterwards!

The revolution will not be pleasant

On facebook some supporters of the Green Party put up a meme image suggesting that only Jill Stein would end our militaristic foreign policy. Here’s the image:

Only the Green Party will end war

I replied:

Aren’t Bernie and Rand much less hawkish than the others? Anyway, the Green Party hasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of making much of a difference, much less winning. Bernie Sanders might actually win the Presidency! And the movement he created may reinvigorate democracy. Why is it that angry conservatives take over the GOP but angry progressives typically flee the Democratic Party (with their tails between their legs)?

With all its problems, the Democratic Party is still easier to reform than the country in general. In WA State especially (where I live), if the thousands of Bernie supporters who showed up at the caucuses showed up regularly to  Legislative District meetings we could make real progress and we can send the corporate Dems packing.

The leftist guy responded, “Existing Democratic Party people make it pretty unpleasant to show up to meetings, so they won’t.” That was a perfect opening for this:

I agree it’s unpleasant. But, sorry! The revolution will not be pleasant. If you can’t handle some unpleasant corporate Dems you might as well give up!

The Legislative District caucuses on Sunday were unpleasant: tedious and long. One caucus (the 27thLD) started at 1PM and finished at 12:45 AM in the parking lot,, after getting kicked out of the school! Perhaps the unpleasantness of Democratic Party meetings is a feature meant to discourage participation. But, seriously, politics is inherently unpleasant often.

Another gripe (while I’m on this rant):  leftists need to learn how to get along and cooperate! Too many leftists are allergic to any sort of hierarchy or cooperation that requires agreeing to majority rule. That’s one reason why the Occupy Movement wasn’t as successful as it could have been:  the Occupiers were all into mic checks and unanimity. Talk about unpleasant process!  (Another reason the Occupy Movement was less successful than it could have been is that the police ruthlessly suppressed it.)  The Tea Party on the right took over the GOP and seated scores of lawmakers in Congress.  Can leftists/progressives organize to take over the Democratic Party? Or are they too averse to unpleasant things like voting and debates and meetings and majority rule?

Millions of young, motivated progressives are participating in Democratic Party primaries, caucuses and meetings, thanks to the leadership of Bernie Sanders.  But many hard-core leftists (Socialists and Anarchists) still insist on fleeing from the Democratic Party. What are they afraid of?  Dealing with unpleasant corporate Democrats?  A little hierarchy?

Supporting the Solar Incentive Bill HB2346 in Senate

The Solar Extension bill HB 2346 is alive and is now in the Senate.  It supports the Solar industry in Washington state by helping to make an installation more affordable up front.

The Bill will have a committee (Senate Energy, Environment and solar-panels-on-roof-3Telecommunications Committee)  hearing on Wednesday, February 24.  To get out of this committee and on to Ways and Means then Senate floor, we need to stress the jobs and good for the economy message.  Please contact your state senator and let them know you support the Solar Extension bill as it encourages this industry and will help create new jobs in Washington state.  You can call your senator/reps at  1-800-562-6000 and ask them to support HB2346.  You can also email by looking them up here:  http://app.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/.

This weekend many reps and Senators are having Town Hall Discussions.  This is another great place to ask for support for great legislation such as HB2346.  The jobs and economy message will resonate with Senators more than an environmental message.  The bill passed the house with bipartisan support, so with the right encouragement there is a good chance it will also pass the senate.

Thank you for considering this action.  Please spread the word, constituent voices are very influential!