Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Citizen's United" - by Hakim Bellamy

HakimHappy Birthday Occupy. You’ve changed me. Now, let’s change our country.

Citizen’s United – by hakim bellamy

If we kidnapped
THEIR children They would find us

If we put guns
In the hands of those young
They would tag them
“Child soldiers”

But here
We prefer to leave them
Clinically depressed
And decorate them in marine

There is a name
For people who will take
The very bread
Off of our dinner table
And put it in their pocket

They are toast
Like champagne flutes
Are the new silvers spoon

Like what they will be
When the revolutions
And the riots
Catch up with them

Tomorrow morning
When humanity
Has the munchies
And eats presidential candidates
For breakfast

When their war chest
Can fill the holes
In our country’s
Debt, deficit & addiction

But.
They’d rather
Raise money
To argue about it
Than raise sleeves
To fix it

Politicians are NOT people too,
Mitt LOOK AT YOU!

And they’re not Jesus either, Barrack
If you remember
He ran the moneychangers out of the temple
Not into his cabinet

If you remember
He was Guantanamo’s blueprint

He was no popularity contestant
He had no friend in the Pharaoh, Pharisees or FED
He told them
Where they could shove
Their opinion poll
And they hung him from it

Back in the day
When Romans used to lynch Jews
With perpendicular sticks

And you remember
They make sure you do

Cause from the dome of the United States Capitol
To the Pantheon bars of the White House
Boy,
They gon’ make sure that you know
Where Black people are supposed to live

Corinthian columns
At the halls of Congress
With no reparations
Or apologies

Depicting corn cobs
To symbolize
Our stolen bounty

Tobacco leaves
To symbolize
Our stolen “Help”

Our stolen wealth

If you remember
He did not run for office
He ran for his life

What ever happened?
To public servants
Instead of self-serving

When did it stop
Being about “We the People”

And start
Being about winning

When did the Catholic’s
Social doctrine
And the athiest’s
Social justice
Both translate to
“Go to Hell”?

Why do we wait for them?
For education
And elections

And then wonder
Why we won’t teach us
To elect ourselves

What if
Every lawn’s
Campaign sign
Read “Peace”

What if
On November 6th
We’d agree

To agree

What if
I were to say
I’ll only believe
In a government
That believes
In me

What if the citizens
Were really united
And each one of us
Decided

That I’d vote for me.

© Hakim Bellamy September 17th, 2012
For Rasheed and for Occupy
Inaugural Poet Laureate of Albuquerque, New Mexico (2012-2014) http://hakimbe.com/

September 26, 2012 at 09:55 AM in Arts, Citizens United, Occupy Wall Street, Poetry/Spoken Word | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

NM-1: Eric Griego Endorsed by Rep. Keith Ellison, Co-chair of the Progressive Caucus and Griego Signs the 99 Pledge at Roundhouse

From the Eric Griego for Congress Campaign. With video of Roundhouse event at the end.

044 eric occupy sfOn Januray 12, 2012, Eric Griego for Congress (NM-1) announced the endorsement by Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-5), Co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

With Ellison’s endorsement today and Congressman Raúl Grijalva’s previously announced endorsement, Griego now has the support of both co-chairs of the caucus.  This latest endorsement indicates Griego’s continuing momentum to consolidate support from the progressive Democratic base nationally and locally.

“I deeply respect the great work Rep. Ellison and other progressive Democrats in Congress do every day to improve the lives of all Americans throughout our nation,” Griego said.  “That is why I am honored by his support for my candidacy, and if elected, I am committed to joining the Congressional Progressive Caucus to fight together for America’s working families.”

Statement by Rep. Ellison:

“Whether it’s fighting to privatize Social Security, opposing tax cuts for the middle class, or believing that corporations are people, Republicans in Washington clearly care about one thing above all else: their powerful corporate patrons and the wealthiest 1%.

“Progressives in Congress are fighting hard every day to hold the line against radical Republican policies, but we need more help.  To put America back to work and to fix what’s broken in Washington, we need more bold progressive Democrats such as Eric Griego fighting by our side in Congress.

“Eric joins me in supporting my Get Corporate Money Out of Politics Constitutional amendment. This amendment reverses Citizens United by declaring that corporations are not people and limits corporate influence in our democracy.

“For Eric, this isn’t just an election year promise. He fought to get corporate money out of politics as an Albuquerque City Councilor, where he passed public financing of elections -- the first in New Mexico and one of the few cities to do so in the nation. As State Senator, he has sponsored numerous bills to limit political activity by corporations and to hold elected officials accountable to stronger ethical standards.

“We can count on Eric’s consistent record of standing up to powerful corporate interests and fighting for the middle class. Like my Progressive Caucus Co-chair, Congressman Raúl Grijalva, I’m excited about Eric’s commitment to join the caucus and advance a progressive agenda.

“With Eric by our side, Raúl and I will have another committed voice to keep the American Dream alive for all Americans, not just the richest 1%.”

99 Pledge

"On Tuesday 1/17, at the Occupy the Roundhouse event, I signed the 99 Pledge because we need a democracy that works for children, for seniors, for people trying to keep their houses, for those who advocate for others.

We need a democracy that works for us, not the wealthiest 1%."

043
Above State Senator Eric Griego signs the 99 Pledge with two witnesses to hold him accountable signing as well.

To hear and watch Eric Griego accept and sign the 99 pledge click here.

January 19, 2012 at 03:47 PM in Candidates & Races, Economy, Populism, Eric Griego, NM Legislature 2012, Occupy Wall Street, Santa Fe | Permalink | Comments (1)

Press Don't, Won't, Can't, Cover the 99% Occupy the Roundhouse Rally

A must read from contributing writer Lora Lucero.

Middle age woman occupy rndhse“Middle age, middle class. What’s so radical about that?”   The lady marching in front of me to Occupy the Roundhouse on Tuesday was my kindred spirit, even though I could only see the sign on her back. 

I joined an exuberant, high energy crowd of about 300-400 people (my guesstimate) to send a strong message to anyone who would listen ----- “We are the 99% and this is OUR house.”

Occupy groups from Los Lunas, Albuquerque, Silver City, Farmington, Santa Fe, Las Vegas and Taos were present, along with groups focused on healthcare reform, voter’s rights, eliminating corporate personhood, opposing GMO chile, closing the tax loophole for multistate corporations, supporting clean energy, ending fracking and so much more.

What did all of these people (across the age, income, and ethnic spectrum) share in common?  They spoke for the 99% against the special interests and 1%.  Believe me - coming together is very powerful and empowering. 

Press roomWhat did the mainstream media choose to share with you?  There were certainly a plethora of media personnel sitting and standing in the “box” above the House floor in the Capitol building.

I don’t watch much television but I heard that New Mexico stations covered the handful of demonstrators who disrupted Governor Martinez’s speech.  And I saw a Channel 13 crew on the west side of the Roundhouse filming a predictable tit-for-tat between a couple of Tea Party folks and a few representing the 99%.   (The Tea Partiers are going to realize someday that they ARE part of the 99% too.)

Mainstream media always likes a conflict or controversy.  But did you hear any of the messages from the 99%?   Did you hear the reactions of any Legislators about the 99% at their doorstep?  Did you hear about the middle age, middle class woman who was told to leave the public gallery by a security guard because “stickers are not allowed”?   She had a small (2 inches x 4 inches) sticker on the back of her coat that read “We Are the 99%”.  She left without causing a ruckus. 

We may rail against the Koch brothers, corporate America, and the 1%, but I think the media is complicit in undermining our democracy.  It feeds us the soundbites that keep us titillated and dumb, and ignores real issues that an informed citizenry need to know.

Some of us may not be comfortable disrupting the Governor’s speech, but thank goodness someone has the courage to stand up and make noise.  I suspect that we are going to need more provocative actions of peaceful civil disobedience in order to dislodge the stranglehold that the special interests and 1% have on our politicians, our government, and our media. 

And we need to support the public radio and television stations that break with the status quo to provide us with meaningful news reporting. 

I’m still seething from being escorted out of the gallery on Tuesday because of the message (“We Are the 99%”) on my back.  Capitol security and staff need some First Amendment training, and I need to make noise.  Being one of the 99% carries awesome responsibility.

Come join us this Friday, January 20, to Occupy the Courts.  https://www.facebook.com/events/270552246315008/   There are actions happening at courthouses across the country.  I’m headed to the Federal District Court in downtown Albuquerque from noon to 3 pm.

January 19, 2012 at 12:06 PM in Lora Lucero, Contributing Writer, Media, NM Legislature 2012, Occupy Wall Street | Permalink | Comments (6)

Monday, January 09, 2012

NM Legislature Show Up, Be Counted!

Lora luceroGuest contributor Lora Anne Lucero is currently a registered lobbyist for the League of Women Voters of New Mexico.  In years past she has lobbied on behalf of other organizations and also served as an analyst for the House Judiciary Committee in 1992.

Something New Mexico Senator Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe) said a few weeks ago to a gathering in Santa Fe has stuck with me through the holidays.  Simple and to the point.  He said, “If you want to make a difference, show up.”  Or words to that effect.

He was talking about the New Mexico Legislature and how ordinary citizens can have a real impact on the fate of legislation.  Wirth shared his story about one contentious committee hearing years ago.  A constituent called him and said she wanted to bring her students to the Roundhouse to see their government in action.  He encouraged her to arrive early because the committee rooms at the Roundhouse fill up quickly when there is a controversial bill.

The teacher arrived early with her gaggle of students in tow.  They all sat down and patiently waited for the action to begin.  Soon enough, the lobbyists in suits and ties showed up but there were no seats available.  One lobbyist asked Senator Wirth to move the students out of the room, but he refused, telling the lobbyist: “This is their government too.”  Or words to that effect.  The controversial bill that Senator Wirth was hoping would make it out of committee did, thanks in part to the students who showed up and participated in the process.  The suits were not pleased.

Roundhouse with rall

The 99% is sharing that same message.  We can make a difference if we show up!

The short 30-day session begins on January 17th at noon and ends on February 16th at noon.  Some lament that New Mexico Legislators don’t have enough time to accomplish much.  I say, “they don’t have much time to get into mischief.”

When in session, the Roundhouse is a madhouse that makes little sense to the average New Mexican.  In addition to the Legislators, their staff, analysts, lobbyists, and the press, you will find women dressed in their finest outfits dripping with Spanish jewelry, and young pages scurrying around delivering messages, and citizen activists hoping for a moment to share their elevator speech with a Legislator.   You will also find some of the best pieces of New Mexican art on the walls of the State Capitol.

If you have never attended a legislative committee hearing, resolve to make 2012 the year you do. Your presence, whether you speak or not, will have an impact. 

One way to magnify your presence is by joining other New Mexicans who plan to Occupy the Roundhouse on opening day of the session. “At 10:30 am on Tuesday, January 17, a unified gathering of statewide New Mexico Occupy / (un)Occupy groups and allies will commence in Santa Fe at the NM State Capitol for opening day of the 2012 NM Legislature, meeting on the corner of Old Santa Fe Trail & Paseo de Peralta .At 11:30 am, a march will also start at the Railyard Station (North)  and make its way to the Roundhouse. This march is for people traveling on the train that arrives at 11:15 am from Albuquerque, plus everyone else from Santa Fe and statewide who would like to join. We will then all converge together at the Roundhouse – OUR HOUSE!” 

More details available here. http://www.occupynewmexico.org/ and on Facebook too.   MarchtoRoundhouse@groups.facebook.com

Connecting with your State Senator or Representative, either in person, phone or email, is easy to do.  All of the information is available here.  http://www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/default.aspx   Following the progress of draft legislation is fairly easy too.  http://www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/BillFinder.aspx  Believe me, when a Legislator sees a message from a constituent, he or she takes it seriously, on both sides of the aisle.  Let them know what you think.

My very first experience sharing my two cents with New Mexico Legislators was 20 years ago as a new resident, having just returned from California.  I was sitting in the House Judiciary Committee, just observing the proceedings.  The committee was discussing the “Bottle Recycling” bill for the upteenth time.  On the spur of the moment, I stood up and introduced myself as a new resident who had recently moved from Califonria where they had great success with their version of the “Bottle Recycling” bill and I encouraged the committee to approve it.  Or words to that effect.

Lo and behold, did I get a tongue-lashing from a Legislator who wagged his finger at me and said “We don’t need any advice from Californians.” The room fell quiet, everyone looked over at me (or at least it felt like all eyes were on me).  I was shocked, wanted to crawl under my chair, and swore I would have nothing to do with these “nuts” ever again.

Thank goodness I didn’t follow through with that promise.  The very next day, that very same Legislator who wagged his finger at me the day before saw me in the hall and apologized!  

New Mexicans are lucky to have a State Legislature that is open and accessible to everyone, unlike many other states.  We need to take advantage of that and participate in the process.

Hope to see you on the 17th!

January 9, 2012 at 11:59 AM in Action Alerts, Lora Lucero, Contributing Writer, NM Legislature 2012, Occupy Wall Street | Permalink | Comments (6)

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Overwhelming Democratic Message for 2012: ORGANIZE.

LoraThe following motivated, high spirited first DFNM blog post for 2012 was provided by contributing writer Lora Lucero. Thank you Lora. Help keep us on track.

A twitter at the end of the year - #4wordsfor2011: Rise, Revolt, Topple, Repeat.  No one could have predicted Mubarak’s fall nor the rise of the OWS (Occupy Wall Street). However, we should have reasonably predicted many of the horrendous records broken last year – weather disasters topping them all.

As a self-identified “progressive” (and we can debate another time what that term means), I wanted to know whether the tumultuous year just passed left progressives with any lessons and hope for 2012.  I caught up with several of my favorite elected officials who shared their thoughts as the curtain fell on 2011.

One word summarized everyone’s comments – ORGANIZE.  The battle at the federal, state and local levels will require that “Democrats organize and focus on issues at every level of government” because the opposition is very well organized.   We must be willing to “organize our communities.”  “The right wing ruling class is counting on voter ignorance and anger.” We must “stand our ground and not waiver.”   

“The 1% at the top of the economic ladder will never voluntarily step aside and relinquish its stranglehold on the public pocketbook.  It will have to be forced to do so and that means the opposition, as ferocious and as well-financed as it will be, must be confronted directly.  In other words, we cannot back down; we cannot become exhausted; we cannot stop working every single day. And it means we should turn off our television sets because the avalanche of ‘independent’ PAC issue ads will be frightening.”

This past year “we underestimated the shrillness and meaness that is possible from Republicans and we turned on ourselves in trying to outshout the other side.” It’s very difficult to get anything done (must be how Obama feels) when we are in “clean-up mode” and trying to repair the mess of others. “There are places where horse-trading (as much as I personally abhor it) is necessary to make progress ... that is incremental at best.”

The impact and influence of the Occupy Movement was noted by several. “Occupy Wall Street is immensely hope-inspiring.” The 99% has turned the political debate. “Occupy Wall Street got the media to talk openly about ‘corporate greed.’ There are indications around the country that a more liberal view on government may bode well in future elections.” “Clearer heads are prevailing despite the increase of hate and fear” ---- witness the anti-Walker protests in Wisconsin, overturning anti-worker legislation via initiative process in Ohio, and the recall defeat of anti-immigrant architect Senator Pearce.

“Lets not forget the working class, the working poor, and lets hope the occupy movement keeps it up. I’m hoping the inside of the state capitol gets occupied. Heck, the Governor’s office too!”

Advice for New Mexico progressives?

“Partner and build consensus. Identify 3 key policy initiatives that directly impact people’s lives and pursue them relentlessly with the most united front possible.” 

“In New Mexico, the way the Democrats in the Senate came together to thwart Governor Martinez’ angry, illogical campaign to end drivers licenses for foreign nationals was a surprising and very encouraging indication of what might be done when we stay united and determined.”

“We need new blood: younger, energetic and more diverse legislative candidates if we are going to not only resist the Governor’s agenda but formulate a successful agenda of our own. And we have to find a way to communicate our message effectively since neither the Albuquerque Journal nor the television stations have shown any interest in helping us inform the public about the crucial issues: government’s role in boosting employment (jobs!); the necessity of financing infrastructure adequately (taxes!); the necessity of protecting the environment (resisting corporate greed!). Those issues are almost always reframed in the mass media into a conservative’s vision. Until we can figure out how to speak the truth in a way that registers as truth with the voters, we will be on the defensive.”

Elections matter.  Everyone noted the importance of elections for championing the progressive agenda.  “We need to learn that the dem candidate cannot be someone who merely assumes the candidacy but is someone who has really been vetted by the people.”  “Support candidates in democratic primaries who have exhibited a history of participating in the progressive movement as opposed to those who are risk averse and self-serving.”  We must protect the progressive districts and continue to elect progressives. And we must watch out for the Agenda 21 folks who are on the prowl with a campaign to unseat elected officials in cities around the state that have supported ICLEI. http://www.iclei.org/  As an organizing tool, “the Progressive Voter Alliance is a good model which we should try to set up around the state.” (More about that in a future post.)  

Thanks to the contributions  of State Senators Stephen Fischman and Jerry Ortiz y Pino; State Representatives Mimi Stewart, Antonio Maestas and Eleanor Chavez; Albuquerque City Councilor Ike Benton; Santa Fe Councilor Rosemary Romero; and Las Cruces Councilor Sharon Thomas. I appreciate you taking time during your holidays to share your thoughts and wisdom.  Lets plan for 2012 to be the Year of the Progressives!

January 1, 2012 at 01:28 PM in Economy, Populism, Local Politics, Lora Lucero, Contributing Writer, Occupy Wall Street | Permalink | Comments (6)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

1/17: Occupy the New Mexico Roundhouse

Opening day of the 2012 New Mexico Legislature Occupy New Mexico has got great plans for the Roundhouse. "Come ready to exercise your rights to free speech and assembly — speaking your own voice while actively listening to and respecting the voices of others."

The Occupy New Mexico website lays out the days activities. "A unified Gathering of statewide New Mexico Occupy groups and diverse allies will converge in Santa Fe at the NM State Capitol for opening day of the 2012 NM Legislature, on the corner of Old Santa Fe Trail & Paseo de Peralta, at 10:30 a.m. At 11:30 am, a march will start at the Railyard Station (North) and make its way to the Roundhouse. We will then all merge together and march in a continuous circle around the Roundhouse – OUR HOUSE!"

"As the 2012 New Mexico Legislature convenes on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 for a 30-day session, come create history and join the 99% to reclaim our Capitol from the 1% who think they own it. In this centennial year marking 100 years of New Mexico statehood, the citizens of New Mexico will take back our democracy from the corporations and make it work again for the People!"

Occupy leg 2012

December 29, 2011 at 07:46 PM in Action Alerts, Events, NM Legislature 2012, Occupy Wall Street | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Poem by Richard Vargas: When You Beat Me

Richard vargasRichard Vargas is a talented local poet and activist residing in Albuquerque, NM. See Richard's other work on his website link here

when you beat me

does your arm tire 
as you swing your
baton into the thud
of my flesh and bone
and you hear me
moan in pain
when you crack
my ribs and jab
my soft belly
do you feel like a
job well done when
you pin me on the
ground and harness
my wrists like a
rodeo cowboy
hogties cattle

no matter that
we are both looked
down upon by those
on their balconies
of glass and steel
who laugh and joke
as they spread caviar
on fancy crackers
that will never pass
our lips

while you choke me
knock me down
look at how they
raise their flutes
of exquisite champagne
sparkling in the sun

blinding you with
cold brilliance
and empty nods
of approval

November 20, 2011 at 08:48 AM in Occupy Wall Street, Poetry/Spoken Word | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bill McCamley Guest Blog: Thoughts on the Occupy Movement

6a00d834519ed469e20154324ba3ee970c-120wi This is a guest blog by Bill McCamley, a former Doña Ana County Commissioner who is currently employed with ROJO Apparel (a Las Cruces Clothing Company), and was recently the Chair of the Las Cruces Ad-Hoc Citizens Redistricting Committee.

“Taxes are important. President Bush's tax proposals leave no rich person behind. Voters approve of President Bush helping the kind of people they wish they were one of.” Andy Rooney

Most people don't ask for much: the chance to work at a meaningful, decent paying job; the ability to feed and house their families; time to de-stress with Harry Potter, American Idol, football, etc.; freedom to pursue spiritual fulfillment in a way that they choose. They're just asking for a shot at a satisfying life.

But in the past few years most Americans' ability to do those things have been  shackled by recession, and it seems to be getting worse. The frustration with this has bubbled over recently into the Occupy movement. While varied in their opinions, they have a few focused concerns.

− Corporate incomes and CEO pay have skyrocketed to the highest levels since the 1950's. CEO pay is now between 300 and 400 times the average workers'.

Most occupy people say this wouldn't be a problem if growth were shared by everybody. But that is not reality.

 - Unemployment in the US in now higher than at any point since the 1940s, with the exception of a short spike in the early 1980s. And people are staying out of work far longer than any time in the past 70 years. The result? While the bottom 90% of American earners only own 17% of the nation's wealth, they also own 73% of its debt. Last weeks cover story in Time documents just how much harder it is becoming for a person born in to one income bracket to make it in to another.

So the vast majority of Americans are finding it increasingly hard to get that shot at a good life, while a very few at the top have amassed immense percentages of wealth.

However, the Occupy movement has not done a great job of pointing out solutions to this situation. While they have made attempts at proposals for financial reform, there are two bigger issues they might consider adopting.

First, tax reform. The role of our government in a free market is to provide people resources so they can make it in a competitive environment. These include meaningful education; access to basic food, housing, and clean water; reasonable transportation infrastructure so people can get to work; prudent protections for everyday life with institutions like the military, police/fire services, and food inspectors. If you don't have these resources, your chance of success drops significantly.

These services though, require funding. The Tea Party is right that running up deficits is no way to fund them sustainably. They are, however, mistaken to ask for cuts to these services without instituting more progressive tax rates on the wealthy or, at the very least, getting rid of the tax havens and loopholes that allow rich people to pay less taxes than the middle class.

Arguments against “taxing the rich” usually take three forms:

− It isn't fair to tax someone more than anyone else.

− Rich people earned their money; taking away from them decreases their (and everybody's) incentive to work.

− Rich people are “job creators”; taxing them will hurt the economy because they won't spend money to hire people here (the “trickle down” economic theory).

First, fairness is relative. Let's say there is a 10% flat tax. If I have $2 million, I pay $200,000 in taxes. If I have $20,000, I pay $2,000. So the person with more money still has $1.8 million left while the other person only has $18k . The $2,000 that the second person loses might mean a choice between putting food on the table and paying for their child's school supplies, while the first person may be able to only get a BMW instead of a Lambroghini.

In response to the second argument, take a look at Forbes' top 10 richest Americans. While five of them earned their fortune and can be held up as examples of the American dream, another five either inherited or married in to vast sums of money. This is not to say that they didn't work after being born, but they won the lottery by being born  or  marrying in to wealthy families.

Just because you win the lottery doesn't mean you shouldn't pay your fair share.

And Warren Buffet (in the self-made category of the top 10) advocates for higher taxes on wealthier Americans, including himself, because his secretary currently pays a higher portion of her income in taxes than he does.

As for the “job creator” argument, fact simply fails to back up the argument. During America's economic boom years stretching between WWII and the early 1970s top bracket tax rates ran from 70%-90%. During the 90s, another strong period of the American economy, they were still around 40%. Since George W Bush lowered these taxes ten years ago our debt has skyrocketed while our economy has stagnated.

And in today's worldwide economy there is a much better chance that a wealthy American with money to invest will become a “job creator”, just in places like China, India, and Brazil.

The second reform that the Occupiers should examine deals with campaigns. The amount of money required to run a successful campaign for any office is staggering. In last years' Congressional Elections over $4 billion was spent. That amount, however, was only provided by a very few. 0.26% of the American population (819,000 people) gave over $200 to a campaign, yet this group constituted over 67% (or $2.68 billion) of the amount given.

What does that mean? Money buys TV time. More TV time almost always means a win. So even public officials who mean well will give more access and influence to those with money who are willing to contribute. And these few people will more likely advocate for their self-interest, not favoring the population as a whole.

Therefore, if the Occupy movement were to be truly serious about things like tax and finance reform, an overhaul of the election system allowing people to get elected based on their character and ideas (and not on how good of a fundraiser they are) is absolutely essential.

Otherwise all the camping out in the world, as fun as it is, won't do any good.

November 19, 2011 at 11:27 AM in Guest Blogger, Occupy Wall Street | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Military Budget Fraud and Waste No One is Talking About

This commentary post is by Mary Ellen Broderick. It encompasses material about military fraud and waste that is not being talked about, anywhere. 

The following press release was provided by the Whitehouse on 11/15/11: “We Can’t Wait: Agencies Cut Nearly $18 Billion in Improper Payments, Announce New Steps for Stopping Government Waste”.

The first two paragraphs of the report state the following: “Office of Management and Budget (OMB) today announced that the Administration cut wasteful improper payments by $17.6 billion dollars in 2011 as part of the Obama Administration’s Campaign to Cut Waste, fueled by decreases in payment errors in Medicare, Medicaid, Pell Grants, and Food Stamps.  Combined with the improper payment cuts in 2010, agencies have avoided making over $20 billion in improper payments in the two years since President Obama issued an Executive Order initiating an aggressive campaign against wasteful payment errors.

“When the President and I launched the Campaign to Cut Waste we knew success would be measured by results, not rhetoric,” said Vice President Biden. “The sharp reduction in payment errors announced today demonstrates this Administration is serious about cutting waste,” he added.

Although it is commendable to be finding fraud in the programs that serve the poorest and most in need in our nation -- Medicare, Medicaid, Pell Grants, and Food Stamps -- there is no mention in this release regarding the obscene Military Waste and Fraud. This report, “Wartime Contracting Commission releases final report to Congress” , starts out with these 4 bullets:

• Pegs waste, fraud in Iraq, Afghanistan at >$30 billion

• Sees threat of more waste in unsustainable projects

• Faults both government officials and contractors

• Offers 15 recommendations for contracting reform

This report was issued back on 8/31/11, and there has been no discussion of this fraud and waste anywhere. Here is the entire report, with great waste graphs and photos on everything, as well as who is doing the most stealing. I have not seen a single member of Congress comment on this report and its findings. None of our elected officials in NM have commented on this report.  Did our elected officials not see this report -- nor did any of their staff? Well, here it is and I am asking for more motivation from our elected officials to start pushing for this waste and fraud to be addressed. This whole website -- Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan--  is full of interesting maddening, information, yet no one is saying a word about it.

Occupy Congress
Remember this ticker many blogs had up when the Afghanistan and Iraq war started? Cost of War Ticker. Well, it is still ticking away -- to the tune of billions. Every minute of every day the people of this country are struggling while these billions go out into unknown places and pockets, with zero accountability. This link, Ten Years After 9/11: The Dollars and Sense of War, is also informative on where our tax dollars are going and what the funds could be doing if spent here in this country.

It is staggering that we have this amount of our tax dollars leaving our country not accounted for and with no one even mentioning it. We need some of our Senators and Representatives to start camping out on the floor of the people’s house. Camp out until someone listens.

Estimated War-Related Costs, Iraq and Afghanistan
According to the Center for Defense Information, the estimated cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will reach $1.29 trillion by the end of fiscal year 2011. The chart below shows yearly expenditures for the Iraq and Afghan wars. 

War spnding chart 001

1. Includes $5.5 billion of $7.1 billion appropriated in DOD's FY2003 Appropriations Act (P.L. 107-48) for the global war on terror that CRS cannot allocate and DOD cannot track.

2. Of the $25 billion provided in Title IX of the FY2005 DOD appropriation bill, CRS includes $2 billion in FY2004 when it was obligated and the remaining $23 billion in FY2005. Because Congress made the funds available in FY2004, CBO and OMB score all $25 billion in FY2004.

3. Includes funds in the FY2007 Supplemental (H.R. 2206/P.L. 110-28), Title IX, P.L. 109-289, FY2007 DOD Appropriations Act (H.R. 5631) designated for war and funds for other agencies in H.J. Res 20, P.L. 110-50, the year-long Continuing Resolution. VA Medical estimates reflect VA FY2008 budget materials and CRS estimates. Amounts for foreign and diplomatic operations reflects State Department figures.

Source: "The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11," Amy Belasco, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, RL33110, p. CRS-9).

Read more: Estimated War-Related Costs, Iraq and Afghanistan — Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0933935.html#ixzz1dyw8JIFR.

Where is All This Money Going?
Besides the wartime contracting fraud report linked to above, I see no other place where these dollars are being accounted for. This report is just dealing with that one portion of war funding too -- needless to say the tip of the iceberg.

I am an architect and in my career I have worked on many public sector projects, many federal projects. And it is my experience that the contractor is held to high scrutiny when working for the federal government, both on ensuring accuracy within documentation and accountability in terms of actual production. I do not see how this Iraq-Afghan boondoggle is being managed at all, and yet just the pure volume of 2 bil a week leaving our country is a huge undertaking to account for. There should be scores of people tracking these monies -- and reporting on them in a timeless and honest manner. I like the saying I encountered recently: Let's invade the US so we can have massive Wartime Contracting Spending rebuilding this country.

Just remember, every week 2 bil dollars leaves this country that could be being used to put our people back to work. 

Defense Spending Cant' Be Immune
This article, "Dire warnings from Pentagon over potential defense cuts", reports what Defense Secretary Leon Pannetta said recently to the Super Committee about any cuts to defense spending.  Paraphrasing -- don't do it or we will not be prepared for the boggie men. Leon, my bad dreams are not about the boogiemen invading this country or the so-called freedom haters; my worries first thing in the morning are about jobs, money, healthcare.

Yet since September 11, 2001, the Military Industrial Complex has had free reign. A bonanza of fraud and waste. Sinful really. Read this report: The Military-Industrial Complex Revisited: Shifting Patterns of Military Contracting in the Post-9/11 Period. The companies listed should be prosecuted for treason. Not given more contracts. They are part of the problem. They and their investors are the controllers of that 1% of all the wealth in the nation. This is one of the major issues of the Occupy movement. How can we as the 99%'ers ever get our message heard as long as our elected officials refuse to face realities and talk about it.

To Remain Silent is to Condone This Waste and Fraud
The silence around this military spending matter is deafening. Why? Because the war profiteers and crooks own the elected officials. From Kucinich to Boehner. From McCain to Schumer. Bought, owned. The only elected official with a soul talking about these matters in depth seems to be Sen. Sanders. I challenge our Senators and Congressmen to break their silence on these outrages. Take action, and do not mention cutting the people's programs without -- in the same sentence -- talking about cutting the military programs that are draining our nation's treasury and enriching crooks. And that just might mean no more "Tacos" and other unnecessary and wasteful military and lab spending here in New Mexico. There is no more of a lot of what we used to have. Why should military spending be immune?

Lab Spending
One last point. It was reported in this morning's Albuquerque Journal that LANL has almost 50% of its funding going towards administration.  HALF!! You can’t tell me there isn't any fraud or waste in that bloat. I suggest our Congressional delegation and the rest of Congress set about finding it.

November 17, 2011 at 03:17 PM in Afghanistan, Iraq War, Military Affairs, Occupy Wall Street, Super Committee | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Barbara Grothus Guest Blog: Occupy Albuquerque is a Family that Includes all Kinds of People

This is a guest blog by Barbara Grothus, an artist and activist who supports the legalization of marijuana, among other progressive measures. She says, "I also support the DFNM blog, and I hope others will too by making a donation today!" (Click on the orange DONATE button on the upper left side of this page or use this direct link.)

On Saturday,November 12, the Albuquerque Journal hosted an Op-ed by Lisa Huval, Policy and Advocacy Director, NM Coalition to End Homelessness.  This is a response to her.

As a participant in (Un)Occupy Albuquerque, I am responding to Lisa Huval's "Homeless Part of 99 Percent Too."  It is unclear to me if Ms. Huval has spoken with (Un)Occupy participants herself, or if she is getting her information from written accounts in the newspaper.  I do not know what she has seen on TV or whether anyone who she mentions who has "referred to the tensions" in re: the "unhoused" is an active participant or is a random person on the street who may or may not sympathize with or have familiarity with our movement.

What I have witnessed and heard, from my first experience at a General Assembly to my most recent (and I am a regular participant who was also arrested at UNM for refusing to leave per the curfew), I have seen the "unhoused" embraced, fed and accepted as a part of the movement.

Yes, it is difficult for untrained and inexperienced people to become a de-facto multi-faceted social services agency.  Yes, it is a challenge for us all to intervene in potentially dangerous situations that arise in the circumstances we face.  Yes, "tensions" are palpable during certain kinds of crises that are likely when people with mental health and substance abuse issues come together around food, safety, shelter and compassion--all "attractive nuisances" to those who wish to use the very tools of our movement against us and find excuses plentiful to exercise coordinated evictions to remove us from public spaces all across the country.

(Un)Occupy Albuquerque is a family that includes all kinds of people, and we are active in working together to assure that all members of our family, regardless of their challenges or ours, are respected and given comfort by our movement.  We are the 99%, and we do not take that lightly.

It would be helpful if more advocates for the "unhoused," the uncared for, and the uninformed would take the time to meet us and join in our efforts to create the better society we envision.  We are (Un)Occupied, and we welcome you to join us.  Watch for us in neighborhoods near you!

November 16, 2011 at 11:05 AM in Guest Blogger, Occupy Wall Street | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Eric Griego Delivers Petitions to John Boehner

From the Progressive Candidate for CD1 - Eric Griego

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I went to Speaker John Boehner’s office on Wednesday to help deliver more than 35,000 petitions calling on him to stand with the 99%. The petition also called on Boehner to stop playing political games and pass the President’s jobs bill.

Even though his office had a sign saying “welcome, please come in”, Boehner wouldn’t see us. Instead, he sent a staffer out to take our petitions. But as promised, we had lots of media there with us to cover it, including CNN, CBS, NBC, and the Politico.

Click here to watch the video of the petition delivery to John Boehner and share it with your friends.

The Republican Congress is too busy coddling the richest 1% to pay attention to the 99% of us who want Congress to create jobs instead of playing political games.

Help send me to Washington to keep fighting for the 99%, and not just the richest 1% that Boehner and the Republican Congress continues to coddle, by chipping in $1.99.

October 29, 2011 at 02:27 PM in Eric Griego, NM-01 Congressional Race 2012, Occupy Wall Street | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Video: The Revolution Starts Now-Occupy Albuquerque

Check out Tom Solomon's excellent video of the October 15, 2011 Occupy Albuquerque event set to Steve Earle's "The Revolution Starts Now." And it does. If we want it ...

The revolution starts now 
When you rise above your fear 
And tear the walls around you down 
The revolution starts here 
Where you work and where you play
Where you lay your money down 
What you do and what you say 
The revolution starts now 
Yeah the revolution starts now 

This week, Occupy Albuquerque is organizing a week-long teach-in at the University of New Mexico. Click for details. Info on General Assembly meetings and more can be found here.

In the meantime, Occupy Wall Street has formed a "Demands Working Group" that has posted a preliminary list of demands and announced a national general assembly to be held July 4, 2012 in Philadelphia.

The Revolution Starts Now (complete lyrics)
I was walkin’ down the street
In the town where I was born
I was movin’ to a beat
That I’d never felt before
So I opened up my eyes
And I took a look around
I saw it written ‘cross the sky
The revolution starts now
Yeah, the revolution starts now

The revolution starts now
When you rise above your fear
And tear the walls around you down
The revolution starts here
Where you work and where you play
Where you lay your money down
What you do and what you say
The revolution starts now
Yeah the revolution starts now

Yeah the revolution starts now
In your own backyard
In your own hometown
So what you doin’ standin’ around?
Just follow your heart
The revolution starts now

Last night I had a dream
That the world had turned around
And all our hopes had come to be
And the people gathered ‘round
They all brought what they could bring
And nobody went without
And I learned a song to sing
The revolution starts now

October 19, 2011 at 09:14 AM in Corporatism, Economy, Populism, Events, Finance, Investments, Jobs, Occupy Wall Street | Permalink | Comments (1)