Goodbye Bernie Signs, Hello Revolution


Today, with great sadness and apprehension, I take down the Bernie signs in the back windows of my van.

They traveled with me all over America, from Philadelphia to Washington, DC, North Carolina to Florida, New Orleans to Chicago, and West Virginia to Minnesota, inspiring conversations, hand gestures, honks, waves, and girls screaming out the windows of passing cars.

I remember the bearded man with a John Deere cap who came up to my van as I sipped coffee at a WAWA in Spring Mountain, PA. He told me how much he loved the van and praised me for carrying the Bernie message in a town he considered too Trumpish for his liking. He cursed the lack of jobs, the diminishing wages, and a fixed political system that kept people like him down. We chatted for 30 minutes or more as morning commuters rushed about, and when he left with his fist raised, he kept thanking me for those Bernie signs.

I remember the elderly woman who approached me at a rest stop in Virginia. As I ate my salad in the driver’s seat, she stood outside my door and told me that it was dangerous what I was doing, that I didn’t know, that she had lived in an East European communist country for many years, and that socialism was to be feared.

I asked her which country. She replied, “Czechoslovakia.”

I’ve been living in Prague for 20 years,” I told her, “I don’t see much wrong with their free education, free health care, and lengthy maternity leave. In fact, a lot of American kids are going there to study because they can’t afford it back home.”

She continued to rant against a form of socialist communism that disappeared long ago from the Czech Republic. I finished my salad. When she finally stopped talking, we shook hands and smiled. I thanked her for sharing; she thanked me for listening.

And I remember the smiles on the faces of those in the know, those joyful drivers who sped up alongside me and raised a hand in solidarity, screaming, “Go, Bernie!” before speeding off. They would appear from all sides around me, cruising at my pace for some time in a show of unity. We shared hope on the roads of America, a sense of justice, and the passion of supporting the only honest politician in the race, and the only one who called for the political revolution we need to save our democracy from oligarchy rule.

My Bernie signs became a magnet for the political dialogue we so desperately need in this country. I got the signs the day they opened Sanders’ headquarters in Miami, FL, where a young woman told me the tragic tale of her hellish journey through the US medical system, which has left her desperate, broke, divorced and in dire need of care to save her from a life-threatening illness. We talked for an hour before I bought a Bernie shirt from her and gave her a hug.

After taping the signs to my back windows, I joined the “Art Walk,” where many people were scrolling Bernie quotes on the sidewalk in chalk. Like many of Bernie’s campaign headquarters, his volunteers established this office in a funky part of town, which is a warehouse district that has been converted into an artists’ quarter full of galleries, restaurants and bars. I met young Bernie supporters who told me that his run for the presidency was even uniting them with their parents, who were lifelong Republicans now considering a vote for Bernie because of his message.

Even his detractors took the time to speak with me. In Fort Myers, FL, I parked the van at a massive intersection to go speak with Trump supporters doing a “Honk&Wave.” Jane and John eyed my stickers and signs warily, but they soon opened up about why they were supporting Trump. Together, we bemoaned the corporate royalists destroying our lives. We denounced a lame Congress that caters to its donor class and ignores the will of the people. We cursed our failed actions in Libya, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

If not for our signs, you would have thought we supported the same candidate. John even sent Jane to his car to give me a book he compiled entitled, Conspiracy Facts: Neocons Unmasked.

Bernie Sanders opened up a discourse for me. If not for those signs, I would not have had so many discussions with my fellow citizens concerning the environmental, racial and social injustice of our day. In an age where many exchanges become acrimonious in the anonymous realm of the internet, I stood face-to-face with countless individuals as we debated our convictions.

Despite our differences, we all shared one thing in common: We knew our country was in dire need of radical change.

So as I take down my signs, I bow my head in thanks to the man who opened up a national dialogue that was unheard of one year ago. Bernie Sanders has brought together old, young, black, white, conservative, liberal and all others in between. He articulated what we need to do as a people to reclaim our democracy and to bring justice to our society. In honor of him, I am flipping the signs over and scrolling the following on the back before taping them back to my windows:


It’s time we turn the conversation into action. See you in Philly.


Sowing Seeds of Resistance


During the early stages of resistance against the Keystone XL pipeline in Nebraska, an unlikely alliance of farmers, ranchers, environmentalists and Native Americans held a spiritual gathering at the farm of Art Tanderup. While gathered in a tepee during a cold night, Mekasi Horinek of the Ponca Nation had a vision: they should plant the newly revitalized Ponca Nation sacred corn along the proposed route of the pipeline.

The planting of this seed not only offered a life-affirming resistance to the pipeline, but it also represented a return of the corn to this land after a 137-year absence. Mekasi’s great-grandfather had walked across this very farm at the age of eight when white settlers drove the tribe from Nebraska and forced them to relocate to Oklahoma on a 600-mile trail of tears. Allowed to take with them only what they could carry, the natives to this land had to leave behind their newly planted crop of corn and thus lose a precious link to their heritage.

ponca_nation_corn_seeds2The corn seeds are the most sacred thing we have as a tribe,” Mekasi told me. “The Ponca Nation corn goes all the way back to our origin story. This was a sacred gift given to us to use as a people. We wanted to reclaim the seeds. They were missing from our culture and our spirituality.”

Through a call to elders of the Ponca Nation, Mekasi and his cousin, Amos Hinton, the Agricultural Director of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, found seeds in a medicine ball over 100 years old. After successfully planting some crops and building up a seed bank, Mekasi offered the sacred corn to this disparate group in Nebraska that had come together to save their land and water from the threat of toxic pollution.

They planted the corn, and after years of struggle, they helped to stop the Keystone XL pipeline from being built, learning a valuable lesson in the process. It took their unlikely alliance of former adversaries to defeat powers much greater than themselves.

And now the Cowboy and Indian Alliance of Mr. Tanderup, Mekasi, and Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska has spent the last three days in Virginia and West Virginia planting seeds of resistance on land the oil and gas industry wishes to seize through eminent domain to build pipelines for fracked gas. The proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines threaten countless communities and watersheds across these states. The alliance came here to stand in solidarity with those under duress and to share their story of success. cowboy_indian_alliance2

The environmentalists can’t do it alone, landowners can’t do it alone, Native Americans can’t do it alone, young people can’t do it alone, faith healers can’t do it alone,” Ms. Kleeb told a gathering of neighbors and activists on the farm of Anne and Steve Bernard in Boones Mill, Virginia. “It really is all of us coming together shoulder to shoulder to make sure our voices are larger than big oil and big gas.”

The gas industry is using eminent domain and a pliant Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) to grab land for their pipelines, often taking advantage of elderly folk who may not fully understand what the industry proposes to do to their property.

We have a pipeline now on the land, but it’s just nine inches in diameter,” Mrs. Bernard said. “So I thought, no big deal. But the more we learned, it just mushroomed into this giant behemoth of a monster. We haven’t slept very well since. I woke up with a clap of thunder recently and thought, pipeline blowing up!”

Mike Carter, a neighbor of the Bernards, shared how corporate representatives got his 87-year-old father to sign papers he could not possibly understand. When outsiders came to destroy a building on the property and mark where the pipeline would run near the house, the father called his son.

Mike, I’ve made a terrible mistake.”

That was two years ago. Since then, the younger Mr. Carter has voided the contract and been fighting the pipelines ever since. “Those pipelines endanger water in every county of the state. And most of that gas is going for export. It doesn’t serve us in any way.”

Indeed, most of the fracked gas would be transported across the states to an export facility in Cove Point, Maryland and sold abroad. With the pipelines providing easy transport, the gas industry hopes to cash in and multiply fracking sites throughout Virginia and West Virginia, doubling production at a time we must cut greenhouse emissions to comply with agreements reached in Paris at the COP21 climate conference.

Tom Berlin, who owns a pristine plot of land outside of Weston, WV and mostly lives off the grid, pointed down a valley over thick, plush forest. “They constructed a well pad down there a year and a half ago. They already have permits for six fracking sites there just waiting for pipelines. They use horizontal drilling that will come under my property. They just leapfrog north to south and keep adding sites.”

methane_leak_tom_berlin_farm2He already has a smaller pipeline running across his property and showed me where gas currently leaks from the ground. I easily detected the acrid smell of methane. “This is just a small leak they won’t even bother to come out and fix,” Mr. Berlin said, pouring water in the hole to show bubbling gas. “I have two of them that have been going on for a year. Now multiply that by the thousands and thousands and you get an idea of what is happening with these pipelines.”

Anne “Cookie” Cole, who owns a farm near Union, WV, decried outsiders coming to profit off of their clean land and water. “People come from Japan, twelve of them, and told how eager they are to get into West Virginia’s gas. It’s outside interests eager to suck the lifeblood out of Mother Earth and leave us with the toxic waste stuff. They won’t even allow fracking in these other countries that want to take gas from us. When they’re taking over our land and making us worry if that thing is going to explode in the ground, it’s nothing but death.” cookie_and_neighbors2

With her arms interlocked with Mekasi and Ms. Kleeb, Cookie thanked all those gathered for coming out to plant corn.

Our family has fiercely protected our freedoms and our way of life, so that we could continue to be free and enjoy the land and mountains that we so dearly love. Monroe County is a special place, and we have been fortunate to be its caretakers and defenders. I am grateful that the Bold Alliance and the Monroe Coalition have chosen my farm as a place to plant the sacred Ponca Indian corn.”

Those in attendance stepped forward to plant corn in her field, forming lines and then joining hands in a circle as Mekasi said a prayer for the land.

mekasi_prayer2These are seeds of resistance,” Mekasi told the group. “Resistance to corporate greed and the destruction of Mother Earth. We want to save our land for our children and grandchildren. Also, for the animals that walk through here. When you stand up for the land, for the water, you stand up for all living things.”

After an absence of over a hundred years, the spirit of the sacred Ponca Nation corn refuses to die. That Mekasi and the Cowboy and Indian Alliance could share these seeds with those who were once his people’s oppressors illustrates the power of these seeds to unite disparate groups fighting to preserve their heritage. The seeds have returned to remind us to care for the land and water, to preserve for our children and grandchildren, and to stand united in resistance to the destruction of Mother Earth.

Planting Seeds of Resistance

mekasi_horinek copy

I will be joining the Cowboy & Indian Alliance in a few days to plant seeds of resistance on land in Virginia and West Virginia that lies in the paths of the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley proposed fracked gas pipelines. This alliance successfully stopped the Keystone XL Pipeline from being built across Nebraska and the northern USA, which would have carried tar sands from Canada to Texas for delivery to foreign markets.

The first “Seeds of Resistance” were planted in 2014 when sacred Ponca corn was returned to the tribe’s ancestral homeland in Nebraska for the first time in 137 years — since the tribe was forcibly removed from Nebraska. The planting of the corn provided a creative method for opposing the Keystone XL pipeline as well as for bringing Native Americans and activists of European descent together in the struggle to save our planet from the most extreme results of climate chaos.

Jane Kleeb, founder of BoldNebraska, will travel to Virginia and West Virginia to share and coordinate with local farmers and landowners on how to successfully defend their land from the rapacious oil and gas industry. BoldNebraska led the fight against Keystone XL in the Midwest.

Mekasi Horinek Camp, a member of Ponca Nation and coordinator with Bold Nebraska, will also be there. This will be the third time I will meet up with members of the Camp family.

I first heard Mekasi’s mother, Casey Camp Horinek – a long term native rights and environmental activist – speak before 30,000 people protesting the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington DC. I later met her in Paris COP21 at an “It Takes Roots Rally” at the Peace Wall near the Eiffel Tower. This rally brought indigenous groups together with African Americans to stand united as one people, one human race fighting for climate justice.

I later met Mekasi in New Orleans where we shut down an oil and gas lease auction at the Superdome. He was there with his brother to speak before the demonstrators and help lead the march to the Superdome.

These veteran activists continue to stand on the front lines in the fight for racial and environmental justice. It will be an honor to stand with them and plant more seeds of resistance.

Breaking Through War


We are a nation permanently at war. Our intervention policies lead us into one quagmire after the next, one failure exploded upon another, yet we relentlessly push onward, forever seeking the next territory where to lay our bombs and mass destruction.

Our drone strikes strengthen the terrorists we purportedly seek to annihilate. Our bloated military budget sucks our national funds away from the desperate needs of our people, leaving us with a third-world infrastructure and gutted middle class.

As Ralph Nader said at Wednesday’s session of Breaking Through Power entitled “Breaking Through War,” “Empires devour themselves. They expend the energy of their young people and drain the national budget. They consume themselves economically and spiritually.”

Or, as Dennis Kucinich said, “Our national budget reflects our national priorities, and with military spending at close to 60% of our total budget, our priority is war and imperialism.”

Look at all of our foreign intervention throughout the 20th Century. It would have been far better for everyone if we had just stayed away. We make a mess in the countries we invade. We create terrorists and obliterate lives. We lay waste to a nation’s infrastructure, kill its men, women and children, often topple its democratically elected government, install puppet totalitarians, and then expect the people to embrace us as liberators. The jihadists who do aim to harm us could not have asked for a better recruiting tool.

The US keeps coming back for more,” said Paul Pillar, who retired in 2005 from a 28-year career in the U.S. intelligence community, in which his last position was National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia. “More war despite no need and a poor record. The impulse to do more war goes deeply. Terrorism doesn’t justify it. Terrorism has been around for centuries. All this war has nothing to do with terrorism. Our leaders are just capitalizing on the national mood. What should have been sobering lessons from our failures tend to get swept aside by the historically based optimism of the use of force.”

And rather than de-esculate the nuclear threat, we are launching a new arms race. Obama seeks $1 trillion over the next 30 years to revamp our nuclear arsenal. The other eight nuclear states will have no choice but to do the same. What a colossal waste of our tax dollars, yet Congress seems willing to go along with it.

Wouldn’t it be far better to announce $1 trillion for revamping our energy sources and converting to renewable energies? Wouldn’t that serve our national security interests far better than continuing nuclear programs that put the whole world at risk? Imagine the outcry you would hear in opposition. The money doesn’t exit! You will destroy the economy, many congressmen would cry, yet it doesn’t bother them that $1 trillion for nukes will go out of the economic cycle and into the coffers of a small clique of defense contractors and their lackeys in government.

As Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson is known to say – and I recommend seeing this video bearing the same phrase – “This Ship is Sinking.” So why do we allow it to continue?

One major is reason is that we lack any serious debate about going into these wars. Our founders in their wisdom only granted Congress the power to declare war, yet December 8, 1941 marks the last time Congress used its Constitutional power formally to declare war. President Harry Truman set the precedent in 1950 for presidents to violate the US Constitution when he invaded Korea. He also presided over the greatest increase in defense spending from 13 to 59 billion dollars while the country was in great need of universal health care, housing for the poor and other social initiatives.

There exists a presidential predilection for power,” said Mr. Pillar. “Our presidents, however, are usually so encumbered with so many agencies and advisors that they can hardly get anything done – except war. I know it. I’ve seen three presidents up close. They are subservient to so many forces that the one sure way they show they are king of the hill is through war. War is the predilection of presidents. War is the playbook.”

Indeed, since WWII the US has launched 201 of the 248 armed conflicts around the globe. Millions have been maimed and murdered. From Guatemala to Nicaragua, Syria to Libya, Afghanistan to Iraq, Honduras to Haiti, Somalia to Sudan, we have cast our imperialist shadow across the whole globe.

Congress allows it, too timid to take a stand, too cowardly to even provide a serious debate before we send young men and women off to get maimed and die. Phil Donahue related his life-changing experience of producing the film, “Body of War,” which is about Iraq War veteran Tomas Young who returns from duty with a severed spine and post-traumatic stress disorder. The film provides a very personal look at how war rips apart lives.

Mr. Donahue screened one part of the film showing the “debate” that occurred in Congress before the invasion of Iraq. One after another, congressmen and congresswomen took to the podium to rattle off the administration’s talking points, blathering on about the evil Saddam Hussein, the threat of terrorism, the fear of a mushroom cloud rising over us, and the smoking gun of weapons of mass destruction. It was the same exact hype that played on television 24/7. There was no debate about the consequences of invading Iraq, how power may shift in the region, what it would do to our international standing, or how many lives might be lost. They did not seriously consider if it was worth maiming so many like Tomas for such a war, or killing hundreds of thousands of others.

Who are we?” Phil Donahue asked. “We spend $2 billion a day on things that go boom. One hundred thousand have security clearance. Spying agencies are farmed out. If peace broke out, these people would not be able to feed their families – we’ve made peace impossible. What about these drone strikes killing children and eliminating wedding parties. They are not the ones attacking with drones. We are. Drones with incendiary devices should be a war crime.”

Is this who we want to be?”

Apparently so. Our corporate-run media is more than happy to provide the cheerleading for these perpetual invasions into foreign lands. As Ralph Nader said, “Mass commercial media squanders the public trust and the public interest. Nothing reflects what’s going on on the ground. Over 300 retired generals and high officials spoke out against Bush’s war. The war in Iraq would have been averted if our complicit media did its job – we would have avoided so many further incursions into places like Libya, Syria, and Yemen.”

The prolific author and writer Chris Hedges added, “As soon as our own nation goes to war, the press immediately signs on for the crusade. The first casualty is the truth. There is always a tension between commercial media and unencumbered journalists trying to report on the facts. The major media outlets don’t want to alienate those on whom they depend on for access and money.”

Leading up to the Iraq War, out of 300 reports on war, 293 were pro-war. This from the four major networks. Then they all named their coverage of the war Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

War racketeering has become our national defense strategy and foreign policy all wrapped into one. Let’s not forget what Major General Smedley Butler said:

I wouldn’t go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.”

I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”

I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.”

During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

As President Dwight Eisenhower lamented, “This is no way of life. This is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

Fortunately, we have people fighting against permanent war from both within and without the system that perpetuates its existence. And the only thing that will stop war is for enough people to stand against it.

The only solution is the American people” Colonel Wilkerson said. “They must grow so angry and so fatigued that they do something about it. The first step is to throw every bastard in the United States congress out. There are some good people, one or two, but if I had to choose, I’d throw them all out.”

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Codepink, has been a non-stop advocate of peace, speaking out loudly against warmongerers in government and throwing her body on the line in protest. She has written several books and continues to be a presence around the nation against social injustice.

Focus on war is critical because it’s so rarely done these days.,” she said at the conference. “Nice to see the defeat of AIPAC with regards to Iran, Also, we had a victory with Cuba. We’ve been taking groups to Cuba. It was a fun place to go to defy US policy. The US froze our bank accounts and took our passports, but that didn’t stop us. Fidel Castro wanted to meet us – you are such creative revolutionaries, he told us. This defiance gave Obama confidence to do something – and these victories did not come from under the leadership of Hillary Clinton. They came after she left.”

But Obama has continued a lot of Bush policies. Bombing of seven countries. His strategy has been drones. We at Codepink are very active exposing this drone program. We have organized protests at drone bases. People don’t see this war. People killing others thousands of miles away with a push of the button. We visited the victims. We brought victims here to testify before Congress. Now a lot more are coming out exposing the impact of drones. Our actions have had an impact. We must force the government to say they will be more transparent.”

Our focus also is on Saudi Arabia – we can’t even get the 28 page report out (about Saudi involvement in 9/11). Give us those 28 pages the families have asked for – it’s about time. Saudi Arabia must be held accountable. Also, their internal suppression, prison for ten years and a 1,000 lashes for blogging, taking young people, arresting them for protesting and putting them on death row to await beheading. Is this a country we should be allied with?”

We let our guard down when Obama came in. We need an anti-war movement not tied to any political party. We must connect with other parts of the social justice movement. If we got rid of one weapons system, we could have free college education for everyone the next 23 years. Cut the military budget and put those funds into health care. Show the environmental movement that we must cut the Pentagon budget for funds to transition to new energy. Cut budget by 50%.”

Jim Cason of FCNL added this:

The solution is us. The good news is that a lot of people want to do something about ending war. Don’t just talk to your friends. Talk to people you may not agree with. Discuss why preventing war is better. Get involved. There is a public discussion. Unfortunately, that narrative is dominated by the idea that war is the answer. Ninety percent of our budget for foreign engagement is spent on war.”

If we do the work, we can change this situation. New nuclear weapons systems have been defeated by people around the country contacting their reps. Diplomacy with Iran – whole groups of people who said no, don’t support that deal. Folks around the country went into offices and said, we want you to support diplomacy. Train others to engage.”

It is the military that often wants to build on peacekeeping, which wants to promote peace, because they know the pain and destruction of war. Focus on the war five years from now and try to prevent it. Start from your values and then have a conversation. What’s the definition of insanity? Continuing to do war when we see war is not working. Go from the insane to the sane.”

Perhaps the best speaker of the day was Colman McCarthy, who describes himself as a pacifist, anarchist, vegetarian and commuter of more than 2,000 miles per year by bicycle (with a helmet). He founded the Center for Teaching Peace. He started with a moment of silence for all who suffer from violence:

Let’s reflect on all the people on this planet who will be victimized by violence: military, emotional, environmental, prison, gun, drone, airplane, domestic. Let’s remember the homeless. Remember the people in our own lives. We are too busy in our lives to notice their pain.”

He interviewed all of these peace activists and questioned how do we increase peace and decrease violence. We need to go where the people are, he concluded, where people keep having conflicts – solved with violence or non-violence. He volunteered to teach a peace course at one of the poorest high schools in the nation and just blocks from the White House. He went to teach for free.

He read off a list of peace activists to his new students. Someone jumped up and asked why haven’t we ever heard of them. Because you go to a conventional school, he answered. He then asked us how many went to a school that taught conflict resolution. No one. How many had to study algebra and geometry. All of us.

Point made, Mr. McCarthy.

He told us that the leading cause of injury for women is being beaten up at home. A girl once came up to him and said I live in a war zone. At home. In the kitchen. In the living room. How do I stop that war?

Maybe if they learned conflict resolution,” Mr. McCarthy said, “We’d know where to begin.”

He finally said something that my children would agree with enthusiastically. “Grades and homework are forms of academic violence. You can learn by fear or learn by desire. There are two types of teachers: teachers that want power over the students and those that share power with the students.”

We may not always see eye to eye,” he said, “But we can always see heart to heart.”

The greatest threat that comes to this nation comes from within. We must end the impulse to wage war and wage love instead.

It will take a revolution of the spirit for this to happen – inside of each of us. Let that revolution begin.

Breaking Through the Media


During my travels around the country, when I’m crashed on a friend’s couch (and not busy devouring the leftovers in the fridge), I’ll occasionally flick on the TV for a bit of diversion. I’ll run the gamut of over 100 stations and not find anything worth watching, flipping through the infomercials, golf shows, extreme sports, family feuds, B-rated flicks and endless stream of advertisements before throwing the remote down in disgust.

Local news programs dispense nine minutes of ads, four minute of obsessive attention to weather patterns, four minutes of the national propaganda bulletins, five minutes of sports, and some scraps of crime or accidents that happened in the area. You may get a feel-good story of some kid saving a cat, but beyond that, you’ll have little idea what’s actually happening locally.

That goes for the national news as well. They all read from the same propaganda script that runs through the wire service, perhaps telling us that Prince never did like the Kardashians, or that heavy rains will drench much of the East Coast. We get non-stop coverage of Donald Trump saying outlandish things about women while we hear nothing from the candidates offering real solutions to the problems facing our country.

You’d think all is honky-dory and we can just rot our brains in the land of the free, but nothing could be further from the truth. Never before in the history of mankind have we faced horrors of such magnitude: 45 million Americans are stuck below the poverty line, we’ve surrendered our democracy to the highest bidder, and climate change threatens to wipe out the human race. Millions of young people, mostly minorities, rot for years behind bars for petty crimes. A surveillance state has eradicated any notion of privacy.

But nothing from the news programs about this.

The sorry state of our corporate-controlled media was the subject today at Ralph Nader’s Breaking Through Power conference at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. One speaker after another spoke about the need for a free, independent, and not-for-profit press, without which we can never have a functioning democracy, nor will we be able to instigate the radical change needed to address such problems as climate change, inequality and racial injustice. Rather, the media powers will do all they can to protect the interests of their corporate sponsors at the expense of the people.

John Nichols, who writes about politics for The Nation as well as several other publications said, “freedom of the press was put in our Constitution so we can be our own governors and not be dictated to by others. But we have never realized the promise of our freedom of the press – if we did, we would have such an informed citizenry that we would have 100% voter turnout.”

Instead, we have elections where half the people don’t bother to vote, in large part because the media does such a good job of making politics so detestable through political ads and partisan sniping.

Our media process tells people not to care, to not engage, to turn away and entertain themselves,” Mr. Nichols said. He went on to share how he visits local antique shops to see the old papers. “You will find a newspaper with more information than you could get reading everything of today and listening to everything today. Fifty years ago a good daily paper was heavy and full of print. Lots of little articles about all sorts of things. You would find headlines like, Ralph Nader had a press conference in DC – someone could put an issue on the table and the whole country would pay attention.”

Today, we are denied that coverage, our rallies are ignored, our press conferences are ignored, climate change, war policies, all ignored. People are raising these issues everywhere but no coverage…if we could put this information on the front page and on the news, I guarantee you we would have a solution to these problems.”

We all know this. Look at the lack of coverage Democracy Spring got when over 1,000 of us got arrested on the steps of the Capitol – an historical event – for demonstrating against money in politics. Look at the total blackout of the recent BreakFree campaign where hundreds of thousands gathered all over the world to call for immediate action on climate change, shutting down coal fields, stopping trains carrying fossil fuels, and calling on bureaucrats at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to stop rubber stamping oil and gas permits and make the change to renewable energy – now.

These are our public airwaves, the critical breathing space for our opinions, our solutions, and our communities.

We have treated public airwaves like abandoned property,” Mr. Nader said. “This is the most valued real estate in our nation. We have let it go.”

We must break through the commercial media. Otherwise, our democracy cannot survive. It was that great founder of our democracy, Thomas Jefferson, who said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Those gathered provided a list of ways we can change all of this. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has tremendous power to rectify some of these problems, and it is not using that power.

We need to take seriously the FCC – they have so much power,” Mr. Nichols said “Section 317 could force those who pay for TV ads – ads that are deceptive and presented by so-called advocacy groups – reveal who is actually paying for those ads. We should know who is buying our elections. Reassert the basic premise. With the Fairness Doctrine, the FCC could step up in so many ways.”

He also suggested an innovative new approach to empower citizens in having a voice in media.

We must demand a role in what the media companies will not do. We should have citizenship vouchers,” Mr. Nichols said, building on a proposal from Dean and Randy Baker. “Every citizen gets a voucher for $200 and can use it to support any not-for-profit media group. You could give it to Amy Goodman or a community radio station. We too often fail to make the connection between media and democracy.”

Imagine if we could advocate in such a direct way. We could contribute to and bond with those giving us voice.

Jeff Chester, from the Center for Digital Democracy, said, “We have an opportunity to change the media landscape. Sustainable, independent communication – we must create it. Spectrum (the arena of media outlets) is public property, but it’s been auctioned and sold off. What if we nurtured local news and issues? Public airwaves are ours – we need a whole new deal with the FCC. Bernie Sanders should push for a plank in the Democratic platform about (retaking our public airwaves).”

Media is perhaps the most powerful instrument for lifting or suppressing our voice. The only thing worse than being censored is being ignored. As our people movement gathers in strength, we must find new outlets for expanding coverage of positive change in our communities, as well as reporting on our mass demonstrations on the street.

Money media keeps us from the good news,” said Laura Flanders, who hosts an internationally syndicated TV program, “The Laura Flanders Show,” which provides interviews with forward-thinking people from political, business, cultural and social movements. “We get so many negative messages, we are isolated from the movements and change happening around the world. Every four years we are told we can do change with our votes. That our votes matter. Then after the election we are told to go back to shopping.”

For any of us who care to change our corrupt system, we must take back our public airwaves to break through the media blockade. Without a voice we have no democracy. Over the coming months, we should build a strategy for putting pressure on the FCC, for demonstrating at mainstream media outlets and for supporting innovative ideas like the citizens voucher program.

Today the Breaking Through Power conference continues with “Breaking Through War,” featuring some amazing people. You can view details here and access live streaming of the event. I will report on this at the end of the day.

HIGHLIGHT: A highlight of the media day featured Patti Smith, who performed some beautiful songs as well as chatted with those gathered. I taped her whole appearance, which you can see here. Some great tunes for the movement!

Ben&Jerry’s Launches EMPOWERmint for Democracy

Ben&Jerry's Launches EMPOWERmint.Still001

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben&Jerry’s united with civil rights activist Reverend William Barber II and members of North Carolina’s NAACP yesterday to launch a people’s flavor of ice cream called, “EMPOWERmint.” Billed as a flavor to benefit democracy, proceeds from the ice cream will help fund efforts of the NAACP NC in their struggle for economic, racial and electoral rights. EMPOWERmint aims to give everyone an equal serving of democracy.

Reverend Barber joined Ben and Jerry on stage at the Greek Bowl of North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC, calling attention to its founder, Dr. James E. Shepard, who was a pharmacist and religious educator whose fledgling school went bankrupt before benefactors stepped forward to lend aid. The college eventually became the nation’s first state-supported liberal arts college for Black students.

Leading the audience in a chant of “May 17th,” Reverend Barber reminded those gathered that the Supreme Court handed down an unanimous decision in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka on this day in 1954, ruling that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional.

And a lot of people don’t know that there was a lot of money – I like to call it mean money – that worked against the Brown vs. the Board of Education case,” he said, linking this historical case to struggles today against big money in politics. “In fact, some of that money was Freddie Koch, the father of Charles and David Koch.”

The Koch brothers are currently supporting backers of the anti-LGBT and discriminatory HB2 law in North Carolina, a bill that Reverend Barber, the NAACP and other activists are fighting to defeat in court on June 21st. Proceeds from EMPOWERmint ice cream will help lead those efforts.

And so I am glad that years ago we had to sit down at the counter to try and get ice cream, but now ice cream has come to us to help us counter this oppression,” Reverend Barber cried. “I’m glad!”

BnJ truck2In supporting these North Carolina activists struggling for electoral and civil justice, Ben&Jerry’s has cranked up its mobilization to get money out of politics and create a democracy inclusive for all. Jerry spoke of his recent arrest with those of us in Democracy Spring who marched from Philadelphia to Washington, DC and sat in on the Capitol steps to demand electoral reform and an end to Citizens United.

And I was truly honored three weeks ago when Ben and I were able to get arrested, along with Reverend Barber, on the steps of the Capitol, along with hundreds of other people, protesting big money in politics,” Jerry said. “Ben&Jerry’s step here today is just another stand in that big march.”

Ben&Jerry’s is at its best when it uses its voice to talk about injustice, and is also smart enough to partner with local groups on the ground who are actually doing the work. Ben&Jerry’s will be working here with North Carolina NAACP, Common Cause and a coalition of other groups. The campaign will be centering around two issues, both the policy issue of reauthorizing the Civil Rights Act, and the actual issue of registering voters.”

Chairman of the Board of Directors for Ben&Jerry’s, Jeff Furman, expressed the company’s solidarity with minority groups suffering from mass incarceration, police brutality and voter suppression.

We learned that ice cream here in Durham was part of a sit-in in 1957,” he said, referring to the Royal Ice Cream Sit-In that led to a court case on the legality of segregated facilities. “We’re happy to bring ice cream back into the action. We are deeply thankful to the young generation continuing the struggle through organizing such groups as Dream Defenders, Black Lives Matter and United We Dream. And, of course, Moral Mondays.”

Ben Cohen deplored voter suppression laws that “are giant leaps backwards in the struggle for a more inclusive and just America…(voter ID laws) are a thinly veiled tactic to throw up roadblocks in front of young people and poor people – who happen to be disproportionately Black and Latino – to get to the voting booth.”

Why should an ice cream company care about this stuff? Because it isn’t just. It isn’t fair. It isn’t moral. As Archbishop Tutu said, you cannot be neutral in situations of injustice. Or, as Martin Luther King said, there comes a time when silence is betrayal. North Carolina is justly proud of being first in flight. Let’s not let it be marred by being first in discrimination. By releasing this flavor here today, we’re hoping to make North Carolina first in the empowerment of its citizens.”

These civic leaders and businessmen then stepped down from the stage to join the audienceme_ben_rev_barber2 in sampling the new EMPOWERmint flavor. Despite the onslaught of a heavy rain, spirits remained high as we enjoyed this bountiful new taste.

I’m wondering if we are out here now because the universe is baptizing us,” Reverend Barber said to those around him as rain splashed down. “For me, the rain is both tears and baptism. Maybe that’s what’s going on. We should be crying. We should as a nation be crying. We should be mourning. But not the kind of tears that makes you go run away, but the kind of lament that makes you stand up and fight back.”

I want to believe the universe is sending us a good signal. What I see in the Moral Monday movement…just last night we had Black, White, Latino, old, teen, republicans, democrats, standing together against this legislature. This is not the old South. I believe a new South is rising. We are in the middle of a Third Reconstruction. We’re all alive at the same time to fight back together. That’s a hopeful sign. And on top of that, we can do with a little joy and a little ice cream in our hands.”

Break Free DC Highlight Video

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Below is some video I shot of yesterday’s BreakFreeDC gathering at Lafayette Park and the subsequent march from the White House to the Lincoln Memorial. Definitely worth watching Reverend Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus fire up the crowd and speak some heartfelt truth about climate change.

I must say, it was a very emotional day, full of celebration and sadness at the same time. Such beautiful people in attendance. Such a herculean task in front of us to shake our dependence on fossil fuel. I just sat in terrible traffic outside of DC and thought, this is our problem! This traffic is happening everywhere around the world, 24-7. And here I am, sitting in the middle of it in my van, a part of the problem. How to break free?

I know some people who have, but they have all established very independent lives that force them to reject so many elements of the greater society around them. They don’t have kids waiting for rides to ball games. Blah, blah, blah. I can make a lot of excuses. But to break free we will have to change so much about our current existence. Don’t know if we’re up to it. Maybe if our society encouraged us to do so, to face the facts of our addiction instead of serving as the enabler and pusher.

I mean how many of us can just walk away from it all? To reject all the comforts of our lives that we take for granted?

But we have to crush the demand for oil if we want to eliminate the supply…simplify, simplify, simplify in all aspects of our lives. Good for our pocketbook, health and planet.

Anyway, hope you watch at least part of this video. Some beautiful people there, from our brothers and sisters in the Arctic and Gulf to some wonderful kids from all over…

Break Free DC

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Today residents of the Gulf, Arctic and Atlantic coasts came together in Washington, DC to call for an end to all offshore drilling, as well as a finish to our dependence on fossil fuels. Environmental activists of all ages and backgrounds united at Lafayette Park next to the White House before marching to the Reflecting Pool at the Lincoln Memorial to call for a future free from the destruction wrought from fracking and reckless drilling.

rev lennox and meThe Reverend Lennox Yearwood, president of the Hip Hop Caucus, got our spirits fired up with impassioned speeches and jovial interaction with all assembled. I approached him near the stage before the demonstration began and said, “Here we are again, fighting the dinosaurs in the fossil fuel industry.” I reminded him of the time he spoke a few years ago on a frigid day before 30,000 people next to the Washington Monument at a protest against the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Yea, we won that one,” he laughed, slapping my hand. “We’re starting to pile up the victories.”

Once he took to the podium, he brought us all together by inviting up residents of coastal regions to the stage. “Come on, you all get up here, you from the Arctic and Gulf. Members of the front line communities. Standing side by side. You from the Atlantic make some noise. We have now completed this circle to make history and stop offshore drilling. Those from the Arctic, those from the Gulf, and those from the Atlantic come together to say keep it in the ground.” The crowd howled and chanted and sang.

rev and childrenAfter several people shared tales of climate change chaos in their home communities, the good Reverend then invited up all the young people in attendance, from 10 to 18 years of age, to stand behind him. He asked us to imagine their world when they reach our age – us older folk – in 2060, for example, if we continue to burn fossil fuels. “How can Exxon continue to do this?” he cried. “How can they destroy the future of these kids when they know the damage they do?”

It was a poignant moment. I have often asked that question myself. Some of us were even brought to tears. In fact, emotions flowed freely all day as we connected with each other on a heartfelt level that brought us together as human beings fighting for our survival. Reverend Lennox reminded us that Martin Luther King gave his speech at the Lincoln Memorial about coming together to be free, to be humans fighting for justice, and equality, while now we are fighting for our existence as a people.

march at white houseAfter wrapping up the speeches in Lafayette Park, the youngest led us marching to the White House, where we carried on for some time so they could hear us inside. We then took to marching down 15th St. to Constitution Ave and on the way to the Lincoln Memorial, passing the Washington Monument on our left. We chanted refrains such as, “Stop. Offshore drilling now,” “Keep it in the ground” and several chants I remember from our Democracy Spring marches, such as “The people united, will never be defeated.”

I darted out of the line of demonstrators to take some photos and ran into Medea and Tighe from Codepink. What a pleasure to see these wonderful people who seem to be everywhere fighting for causes of justice and peace.medea and tighe

Indigenous people from the Arctic carried the forward banners. Black leaders from the Gulf led us in chants. Residents of Virginia Beach, North Carolina, New Jersey and Vermont clung to signs in a blustery wind. We reached the Lincoln Memorial in high spirits and as one mass of people committed to stopping the madness of a fossil fuel injected lifestyle.

Some may say marching changes nothing, but usually those people have never marched and felt the mutual care flowing through all present and demanding to be heard. Marching is not an end in and of itself, but a stepping stone to higher consciousness and involvement with issues of survival.

The Reverend saved his best for last. Standing on steps overlooking the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument with the Lincoln Memorial behind him, he recalled the horrors of Hurricane Katrina from a personal perspective. He bemoaned the language of betrayal we get dished out to us every day.

We give the title of climate leadership away too easily,” he said. “Too many politicians will be renewable on Monday and fracking on Wednesday. Too many of our candidates think it’s too easy (to hoodwink us). We saw the children on the stage earlier. We need real leadership now.”

There are wildfires in California. In Canada. People are dying. This must change!”

rev lennox reflecting poolI think of Dr. King when he stood on these steps behind me and talked about a dream he had. He said, ‘I have a dream. We will be free at last. We will be free at last. Thank God almighty but free at last.’

“I have a dream now that there will be solar panels all over this country. I can see wind turbines all over this country. Fossil fuels, like dinosaurs, only belong in museums, and now in the ground.”

We demand on this day that they keep it in the ground and they stop offshore drilling now. This day we transition to fighting not just for equality but for existence. This day we went from free at last to fossil free at last.”

It was a day of union for the various coastal areas battling for their very survival. We bonded, we united. Now we must take this energy and force the change that is necessary for our health and our well being. On Monday, we join with the Rubber Stamp Rebellion to begin a week of civil disobedience aimed at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the bureaucrats who work there rubber-stamping oil and gas permits without regard to our health, our safety and our lives.

Global Resistance to Fossil Fuels


Actions are happening all over the world to stop the greatest threat that has ever faced mankind: runaway climate change. Planning started for these events at Paris COP21, when the thousands of us activists gathered there realized that our leaders would fail yet again to stand up to the fossil fuel industry to begin a radical transition to renewable energy. Rather than seize this opportunity to halt the most ravaging effects of climate change, world power brokers decided on business as usual with a very green spin meant to deceive the public.

We have no other choice but to disrupt the devastation wrought by the fossil fuel industry. We are nature defending ourselves. Mass actions of civil disobedience are going on right now through the Break Free 2016 campaign.

In Germany, 3,000 people continue to shut down Vattenfall’s lignite coal mine. Coal trains, diggers and a power plant have all been disrupted.

In Anacortes, Washington, thousands have converged on the site of two oil refineries in acts of civil disobedience against the source of 47% of all gas used in the Pacific Northwest.

In Albany, New York, activists have gathered to halt oil trains and to demonstrate agains fracked gas and oil pipelines.

Demonstrators in Aliaga, Turkey have found massive public support for their march against more coal development at a time when world temperatures are soaring. Buses full of citizens have converged from all points in Turkey to demonstrate at huge coal mines.

At various locations in Colorado, environmental activists and citizens of all ages have taken to the streets to stop fracking in their communities. They disrupted yet another auction from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that continues to sell our public lands to the very industry busy killing life on this planet.

In Los Angeles, California, citizens joined the global wave of resistance to keep fossil fuels in the ground and to transition to 100% renewable energy. Residents of Porter Ranch related tales of the largest methane leak in human history. The four-month leak released roughly 100,000 tons of methane — effectively doubling the methane emissions rate of the entire Los Angeles Basin. Who knows what devastating health effects this leak will have on the population.

These are just some of the actions happening in 13 countries around the world. Visit BreakFree2016 to learn about them all.

In less than an hour I set off for Washington, DC, where I will take part in a march at the White House to demand that President Obama honor his pledges to fight climate change and put an end to offshore drilling. Shell just dumped another 90,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf. How much longer will we tolerate the killing of our planet? We citizens must defend ourselves and continue these great acts of massive civil disobedience.

I will remain in Washington, DC for the Rubber Stamp Rebellion where we will demonstrate at the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) to denounce their rubber-stamping of oil and gas projects that enable the destruction of all sacred life on our planet.

We must also consider our personal carbon footprints and try to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels as much as possible. The environmental revolution we seek demands a spiritual awakening as well.

Please check back here for reports on the actions at the White House and at FERC this week.

Welcome to the Revolution


emmie_granny_dToday we’re launching our website as a platform of revolution for people and planet. We hope activists from the environmental, racial, social, electoral, and economic justice movements will use this site as a hub to connect to people and events happening around the world. Together, we can create the radical change necessary to transform our predatory economic system into a sustainable society that places people and planet over profit. You can read our Mission statement to learn more about our objectives.

As full-time activists, we will travel the country and take part in demonstrations that push for revolutionary change. We’ve been doing this already around the world, from Paris COP21 to Democracy Spring. We reported on these events extensively, which you can access through our archives located on the right sidebar.

Over the coming weeks we will stand on the front lines at the following actions:

May 15 – Break Free DC: Offshore Drilling March at the White House

May 16, 18, 19, 20 – The Rubber Stamp Rebellion

May 17 – Ben and Jerry’s new flavor “For the People” launch with Reverend William Barber and the NAACP in North Carolina

May 21 – March Against Monsanto – Philadelphia

May 23 – 26 – Ralph Nader’s civic mobilization Breaking Through Power

May 30 – June 7 Campaigning for Bernie Sanders, California

June 12 – Grafton Peace Pagoda Flower Festival with Jun Yasuda

June 14 – Day of Climate Action in Harrisburg, PA with the Sierra Club

June 17 – 19 The People’s Summit

cropped-all4one_thumbnail.jpgDuring all of these events, we will network with our fellow activists and report here on the activities. We will also gather troops to attend the main event of the summer: The Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Please do all you can to be there. We need 100,000+ to push a people’s agenda and to show the media we will not go away after the corporate-sponsored Democrats anoint their chosen candidate over the will of the people.

We want this site to be a community center where all activists have a voice. We welcome your submissions, suggestions, comments, and support! Please email them here or post directly to our web pages in the comments section. Help us to build a national movement to restore democracy to this country and to fight for economic, racial, and environmental justice for all.

Each day we will post on the demonstrations and events we attend. We will also feature an activist of the week – this week Tim DeChristopher – and highlight those warriors fighting for the health of our people and planet.

revolution_rideMost of all, we want to drop the terminology that is used to keep us divided. We come together as people – not idealogues!

Later today we head to DC in our Revolutionary Ride to march on the White House! Check back here for reports on the event.

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