Thursday, July 29, 2010


WikiLeaks just pushed us over the edge into the next stage of the information revolution.

Lots of people talk about how much the internet has changed the way we work, and the way we live, and how we communicate with each other. Though it is a fundamental truth, it has become cliché, by virtue of repetition. Mostly, over the last twenty years or so, for those of us in the United States, in the heart of the empire, we go about our lives, and things are the same as they were before.

Here in the U.S., we get in our cars and drive to work. We talk to people on the phone. It's a smaller, portable, more convenient phone, that we carry in our pocket, but it's still a phone, and at it's most basic level, it's not really obviously different. We use computers, every day, and that's different for some, but twenty years ago many of us used computers at work, even if they were more cumbersome, and didn't do as much. Email has been around for a while, and hasn't changed too much over that time.


A new crime, Identity Theft, has appeared, that never was heard of or discussed before. A music sharing site for geeks, Napster, and now LimeWire, nearly disemboweled the recording industry. Pirate Bay has challenged the very concept of intellectual property. Video has evolved from home movies and TV to an almost unrecognizable state of phone & pocket cameras, YouTube, iTunes downloads, and TiVo and DVR. An apparent fad, Twitter, empowered a near revolution in Iran, saved lives in Haiti, and despite government suppression, is used routinely by activists during large protests. People use their phones to do things they never could before, way beyond text messages and instant shared photographs. Social media like Facebook are becoming more and more popular, and are reconnecting old friends and lost family members at an astonishing rate. Also, social media allows professionals, activists, and others to communicate in a new complex way that's hard to explain to those that don't use it. The sum of human knowledge is available at our fingertips. Virtual Worlds and games such as Second Life and World Of WarCraft are immensely popular, where people can play games or interact socially (or professionally) with other people from all over the world, in an immersive 3D environment. Virtual Worlds aren't just for play, activists are already using them to connect with each other.

Now there's this WikiLeaks thing.

Xeni Jordan of was on the Rachel Maddow show the other night, and was interviewed by Chris Hayes.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

What I got out of what she said was that the Afghanistan leak itself, even though it's an earth-shattering unprecedented story, isn't the most important thing. "WikiLeaks represents a sort of tipping point in control, in secrecy, in the dominance of institutions that we`ve known for generations over the control of the flow of information about what`s happening with war" (at about the 4:00 minute mark in the above video).

I think it's bigger than this war. I think it's the beginning of waking up, and realizing what kind of power we each have in this new reality. The world changing event is the fact that nobody could stop it. The news really, is that WikiLeaks can't be touched. Even if the servers are seized, all the personnel are arrested, and the information deleted, it's too late. To use another cliché, the genie is out of the bottle. Outrage over attempts to shut WikiLeaks down will cause a dozen more sites like it to spring up.

Jay Rosen, of NYU, sums it up: "In media history up to now, the press is free to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the laws of a given nation protect it. But Wikileaks is able to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the logic of the Internet permits it. This is new."

All of these developments together, setting aside the individual organizations: P2P sharing; torrent downloads; tweeting (as opposed to Twitter itself); portable media devices and instant text, photo and video publishing; social media; public supported whistle-blowing; and online virtual worlds, are leading us into the future.

Nobody knew what would happen, in the late eighteen-hundreds, when the rise in factories started to change the way society worked. The history of the Industrial Revolution was complex, and had as much suffering and darkness integral to the changes it wrought in the way we live as any progress it brought. That said, who wants to go back? Even if we do, it's not possible.

In the same way, nobody knows what will happen now. Here in the early twenty-hundreds, the increase in the flow of information has started to change the way society works.

As an activist, speaking to other activists... Pick up a sign and stand on a street-corner. Pick up a bullhorn and a drum. Resist in all the usual ways. Then, pick up a smartphone. Pick up a digicam. Hurl your thoughts into the void of cyberspace, and listen for the echo. Old dogs, learn new tricks.

We can change the world, we already have. Seize this opportunity to democratize information forever, and fight any attempt to restrict its control to a few. Information wants to be free. Singularity anyone?


P.S. I have included links to sourcing for this article throughout, just click on the hyperlink text. Usually I use verified sources for my information, and so for information that it's important to source, I try and stay away from Wikipedia, not because it's not useful, but because it's live and changeable real-time, and so sometimes isn't accurate. For this post, I rely on it heavily, because the nature of Wikipedia lends to the spirit of my meaning here. I encourage all to use Wikipedia as a starting place, and use other information or resources to back any real research.
Peace, C

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Peace. Now.

A number of very real and critical problems confront us: Environmental disaster, impending environmental catastrophe, corporate malfeasance, economic injustice, corruption, violence, violations of civil rights, institutionalized prejudice, unpunished crimes, the problem of empire, the marginalization of victims. War and occupation.

For me it comes back to war. The official, though illegal, occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan is foremost in the national consciousness, as far as that goes. The wars we wage in the Sudan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Iran are less visible to the American public, but still there, and still have enormous consequences.

It's easy to pretend that someone other than the United States is waging the war and occupation by proxy in Gaza and the West Bank in Palestine. It's also much too easy to ignore it all completely. The consequences of this are just too much for many to grasp.

Even concentrating 'just' on Afghanistan (well, and Pakistan because you have to), the situation is almost too complex to parse.

Ethnic tensions are high, and the breakdown in Afghanistan(very roughly, and compiled from Wikipedia, so feel free to source check this) is:
42% Pashtun
27% Tajik
9% Hazara
9% Uzbek
4% Aimak
3% Turkmen
2% Baloch
4% Other

The different groups operating in the region,(the 'bad guys' according to Richard Holbrooke, in the Maddow interview last week - the explanation starts on the YouTube link here at 7:45) are:
Al Qaeda
The Afghan Taliban
The Pakistani Taliban
The Haqqani Network

Now, throw into that mix:
The US Military
The Afghan Army (propped up by the US Military)
The Pakistani Army
The Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP)
The British Military
Other Nato Troops
Joint Special Operations Command
     (JSOC - an almost autonomous special ops
     US Military group)
Other Private Miltary Companies (PMCs - basically Mercenaries)

What a fucking mess. I'm sure I left an important group or two out, and my breakdown is oversimplified. We're trying to get the people of Afghanistan to accept a single national civilian government? All of these groups have independent missions, and have a history and old resentments with other groups in the region.

One example is Haqqani, and his network. Jalaluddin Haqqani's importance goes back to the Soviet occupation, when he worked with the CIA. Unsurprisingly, despite his importance to the story, a character by that name did not appear in the movie "Charlie Wilson's War". The Haqqani Network was targeted by drone strikes allegedly orchestrated by the CIA base in Afghanistan, and not long afterwards, that base was taken completely by surprised by a suicide bomber. Seven CIA agents, and an employee of Blackwater/Xe, were killed.

The way JSOC, the CIA, and Xe (aka Blackwater) operate together in Afghanistan is detailed fairly exhaustively by Jeremy Scahill at the Nation. (Click for link)

I don't think I could sum it up better than Rachel Maddow did on her show on July 14th.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

An excerpt from an AP quote in the below article: "Last month was the deadliest of the war for international forces: 103 coalition troops were killed, despite the infusion of tens of thousands of new U.S. troops."
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

'Despite'. An increase in the number of troops killed, 'despite' the escalation of the war. The talking points and lack of internal consistency of the mainstream press (in this case the Associated Press) would baffle me if I thought they were doing anything but spouting propaganda towards the uninformed. This war was escalated from a half-assed occupation to full-on Vietnamization, and nearly every major voice in the media has treated it as an original strategy.

This will not end well. Holbrooke says that our national security depends on defeating terrorism in southwestern Asia. He says that the US administrations who thought that our national security depended on defeating communism in southeastern Asia were wrong, but that this time they're not wrong. Which "ism" is the next biggest threat? Majoritarianism?

The whole history of Vietnam has been shoved down the memory hole. Big Brother is watching, but 'any intrusion on privacy is "no greater than what the public already endures from traffic cameras."' We have always been at war with Eurasia, or is it Eastasia?

There's a lot going on in the world, and I think it's critical that people are advocating and struggling for economic and social justice, for environmental sanity, for human rights, and for peace - all at the same time. It's all really the same issue.

It's time to get involved and force an end to this madness. Pick up a protest sign, pick up a bullhorn, pick up a pen. The twenty-first century offers us more opportunities to speak out than in recent years, so if you don't have time to hit the streets, if you can't afford to travel, network online. Tweet to the world, and build a network. Use Facebook for more than playing Mafia or Farmville, and network your friends to the real issue in the world. Find out about Diaspora, probably the next big wave in social networking. Get involved in the emerging technology of virtual worlds, and join us in Second Life, at the Four Bridges Project, or the Commonwealth Islands, or Cafe Wellstone, or some other group - there are hundreds. At least connect the old fashioned way to some local progressive group to stay informed by using an email list-server.

The problems are serious, and I'm afraid we have to ramp up our skills to meet the challenge.

Peace.     Now.


Monday, June 7, 2010

War in Afghanistan reaches milestone

We have been at war in Afghanistan longer than we were in Vietnam.

The complexities involved in this conflict are immense. One of the main issues contributing to the layers of difficulty here, is the nature of the groups involved.

This map shows Afghanistan and Pakistan, the darkened area in the border regions of both countries show where the Pashtun people live.

Taliban is primarily Pashtun. The above is the primary reason that we are carrying out drone attacks in Pakistan, how Al Qaeda is able to easily cross the gauze curtain that is the border, and why there is no giant outcry from the Pakistani government, or serious effort to stop it.

The region of Pakistan where the Pashtun people live has been largely autonomous, by Pakistani law, because of the tension between ethnic Punjabis and Pashtuns. There is a different type of relation in Afghanistan between the various tribal groups of Pashtuns and the various tribal groups of Afghanis, i.e. warlords.

Then bring into the equation opium poppy production (the largest source of Heroin in the world), endemic opportunistic military and political corruption, a series of colonial intrusions into the region over the last few centuries (including ours, the most recent one). In addition regional religious fundamentalism conflicts with international religious fundamentalism (both Islamic and Christian), and some history of religious tolerance in some areas.

Get Out Now. This is multiple times worse than Vietnam. This will end worse than Vietnam no matter when we get out.
Get Out Now.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

In Memoriam

Here is a link to the VFP Memorial Day 2010 Statement by Board President Mike Ferner.

In addition, here are two poems, both written by combat veterans. I feel they are appropriate to the message of VFP for Memorial Day, which is to remember all the fallen of war, and the ultimate futility of war.
If there is a concern about permission to use these poems by the author or their family, please contact me and I will remove them.

Both poems are intense, and may disturb.



Murder -- Most Foul

I shot a man yesterday
And much to my surprise,
The strangest thing happened to me
I began to cry.

He was so young, so very young
And Fear was in his eyes,
He had left his home in Germany
And came to Holland to die.

And what about his Family
were they not praying for him?
Thank God they couldn't see their son
And the man that had murdered him.

I knelt beside him
And held his hand--
I begged his forgiveness
Did he understand?

It was the War
And he was the enemy
If I hadn't shot him
He would have shot me.

I saw he was dying
And I called him "Brother"
But he gasped out one word
And that word was "Mother."

I shot a man yesterday
And much to my surprise
A part of me died with Him
When Death came to close
His eyes.

Sgt. James Lenihan, World War II Veteran (1921- 2007)


I am who survived forgive me

I am who survived forgive me
I am who survived forgive me
I am who survived forgive me

I am who survived don't forgive me
I am who survived don't forgive me
I am who survived don't forgive me

I am who survived hate me
I am who survived hate me
I am who survived fucking hate me kill me

I am who
I am who
I am who

I am who. helped dirt and dust and death I am who. drove through dirt
and dust and flesh and guts I am who. kill me
I am who.. Kill me not them or you or fucking kid on road on death on
lust and blood Dirt blood road blood Horizon.

I am
I am
I am guilt and guts and hate and lost
I am nothing
I am lost and tired and nothing
I am lost guts throw up shit

I am who survived kill me
I am who survived
I. I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I
fuck I

I am who survived

Sgt. Aaron Hughes, Iraq War Veteran

Friday, May 14, 2010


Mohandas Gandhi is one of the primary figures in the development, and grudging public acceptance of nonviolence as both a personal philosophy, and a practical strategy for social change. His ideas are grounded in Indian cultural tradition, specifically around the difficult spiritual concept of Ahimsa (see The Hindu Ethic of Non-Violence). When these ideas were being developed, the common term for nonviolence was passive resistance. Gandhi himself recognized that a new word was needed to better convey the meaning of nonviolence, his proposed word was Satyagraha, or Truth Force. Satyagraha was (and often still is) commonly translated into English as passive resistance.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi


His message has been heard by the activist community internationally. His ideas have been put into practice in large part among those struggling for justice across the world. What has been lacking has been general acceptance of those ideas by the West.

Most people in Europe and America and the global north (see North-South divide) have not fully grasped the potential collective power afforded them by disciplined nonviolence. There has been much more influence of his ideas in the global south, and this makes sense, really, partly because of the long term effects of colonialism, and the ongoing arrogance of American exceptionalism, and the expanding American Empire. People who have an urgent need for the principles of nonviolence adopt them if they are aware of them, sometimes even when they are based on concepts apparently foreign to a particular culture.

Gandhi's term for nonviolence, Ahimsa, and for nonviolent resistance, Satyagraha, are fine for academics, and for the people of India, and perhaps for some others. My concern is that, for Americans and Europeans, these words are not rooted in our culture. One of the chief characteristics of English, especially American English, is that it often easily accepts words from other languages when there is no comparable word. Satyagraha and Ahimsa have not made their way in to English. My reason for concern about the lack of acceptance of Gandhian ideas in America specifically, and in the West generally, is partly because of the fact that I am an American, and partly because I am a U.S. Military Veteran, but mostly because of the policies and practices of American Empire.


An American pioneer of nonviolence, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., first absorbed these concepts, and used the specific techniques of Gandhi. He first used nonviolent techniques in the civil rights struggle. He achieved success and made enormous gains in equality for all Americans. The influences of Dr. King on everyday life in America have not yet been fully measured, and he used the techniques of nonviolence in a uniquely American way.

Later, he was widely criticized for his commitment to peace, during the Vietnam War. His plans for energizing the public to confront economic injustice failed after his death. His tragic assassination before his Poor People's Campaign was even fully launched disheartened his followers, and it never fully recovered.

Dr. King on Satyagraha (from The Autobiography of Martin Luther King: "Like most people, I had heard of Gandhi, but I had never studied him seriously. As I read I became deeply fascinated by his campaigns of nonviolent resistance. I was particularly moved by his Salt March to the Sea and his numerous fasts. The whole concept of Satyagraha (Satya is truth which equals love, and agraha is force; Satyagraha, therefore, means truth force or love force) was profoundly significant to me. As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi, my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time its potency in the area of social reform."


The power of nonviolence is often derided. My usual response to skepticism is to recite a list of successful nonviolent movements: India, South Africa, Poland, the Philippines, blocking the Soviet coup, I could go on. In America the lunch counter sit-ins, the bus boycott, the grape workers boycott led by Chavez & Huerta, the labor movement, GI resistance during the Vietnam War, even the Boston Tea Party and the merchant's coalition to boycott British goods during the American Revolution.

There are of course, unsuccessful movements as well: Czechoslovakia, Tiananmen, The Russian Revolution of 1905, there are many more. The lack of success of some nonviolent movements are often cited as reasons to dismiss it completely, but every struggle has winners and losers. Nobody who views violence as power advocates giving it up because of lost struggles.

My experience as an organizer, trainer, and strategist in the last four years have led me to ask a question. Why are these ideas and techniques not more widely accepted in the West? Are they counter to Western culture?

The concept of nonviolent resistance in Western culture is not new. Tolstoy wrote of it in his work The Kingdom of God is Within You. Labor unions have successfully used nonviolent techniques for over a century. In the West, the idea of collective action goes back to guilds in medieval towns. Further back, nonviolence threatened to destabilize the Roman Empire, until the religion and philosophy that professed it was co-opted by Constantine. I simply point out here, that the roots of nonviolence in Western culture are deep.


Another possibility is that nonviolence, and associated concepts and techniques are suppressed by corporate media, or overcome by the use of propaganda. Probably both, but much of the resistance to the acceptance of the nonviolence of King and Gandhi may be due to something much simpler.


Satyagraha is hard to pronounce in English, and I expect in most of the languages of Western Europe as well. Nonviolence is commonly used for all these techniques and concepts in the peace movement, and by activists in English speaking countries. It's fine to use the word nonviolence when speaking of a personal philosophy, just as Ahimsa is fine in Hindi, but it is easy to be misconstrued as passivity. Nonviolence is a negative word, by this I mean that it negates the word violence, which leads to the misunderstanding of it as a weakness, by those that see violence as a form of strength. It is an essential word, and we need it to reinforce the discipline of nonviolent action, to affirm the principles, but it fails to fully communicate its potential power and effectiveness. The phrase Truth Force has been used as well, as a translation of Satyagraha, and it is better, but still clumsy. It doesn't ring.

We need a new word.


Veritas is a Latin word, not commonly used. It is the root of several words in English and in most European languages. It's less clumsy than nonviolent action or nonviolent techniques and the word itself has some weight to it. In the information age, it's applicable to the written and spoken word, as well as to physical actions.

There may be a better word. I can't think of one.

There will still be a struggle to overcome the media. There will still be a vast difficulty pushing past the very real and deep roots of violence in Western culture, and in contemporary consciousness. But I think it's a good word, and it may help push.

In all humility, I hurl Veritas into the internet, in the hope that it may inspire the power of collective action, to push integrity and peace into the face of deceit and violence, to set facts athwart propaganda, to bring empowerment and enlightenment in challenge to oppression and ignorance.



Monday, May 3, 2010

Congressman Compares Gulf Coast Oil Spill To 'Chocolate Milk,' Says It Will 'Break Up Naturally'

As a Coast Guard veteran, a radioman that helped to coordinate communications for the Exxon Valdez disaster, I find it unconscionable that a US Congressman, also a USCG vet, would make a comment like this. Peace, Coyote
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Monday, April 12, 2010

Divisions & Phantasms

Over the last eight and a half years, all my long held views of justice and human rights have been completely transformed. Twice.

From 9/11 until about the middle of 2005, I went from being shocked and horrified, and supporting military attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq to being completely disillusioned about the lies and sociopathic opportunism that we endured from the various tragi-comic actors of the Bush administration, and completely opposed to both wars.

A little less than a year after that, I became a full-time peace activist, and a member of Veterans For Peace. At that point I thought that I was fully awake, and that I had a clear grasp of what the issues were, and a pretty good idea about a plan of action, and how to apply my efforts through the organization that I felt, and still feel, is the best place for my energy.

I had a lot to learn, a lot to unlearn, and still believed that traditional politics were ultimately the way to restore what I thought had been destroyed by Bush.

I lobbied congress. I marched on Washington and in my local community. I wrote letters. I blogged. I stood at vigils. I learned to be an organizer, and a nonviolence trainer. I talked and worked with a whole range of people: Educators, gay rights activists, labor organizers, traditional groups like Democratic party clubs, nontraditional party groups like PDA, real leftists like Socialists and Communists, and immigrant rights groups. I talked with nonviolent anarchists, Republicans, Ron Paul people, Libertarians, and people who were disillusioned with politics completely.

I saw a lot of people get outraged, finally, and organize themselves around the Obama campaign. I felt hope. I wept on election night, and again during the inauguration speech.

As I write this, it's April of 2010.

Our empire is at war in six countries: Bush's war in Iraq continues, and though there has been some force drawdown. we are nowhere near the end of the occupation. Obama's war in Afghanistan worsens daily. Our unofficial war by robot drone continues in Pakistan, and has widened to include Yemen and Somalia. Our proxy war and occupation in Palestine by our ally (vassal?) Israel continues to wag the dog. Tensions flare with Iran.

Our journalists, with a few notable exceptions (thank you Amy & Rachel), do not do real journalism anymore. Climate change is still treated as if it is debatable, prisoners are still held without charge in Gitmo, the imperial presidency still reigns without check.

A false division has been imposed on the American people that label us artificially as 'Liberal' or 'Conservative'.

Many of the people who identify with social or economic conservative ideas have been sold on the concept that 'the Liberals' are out to to sell our freedoms, to spread socialism throughout the land, and to take away rights that they hold dear. They are Destroying America.

Many of those that identify with social or economic liberal ideas have been convinced that 'the Conservatives' have degenerated into a dangerous scary ignorant racist movement that either is laughable, or is irrelevant, or should be feared, depending on the pundit, but regardless, 'they' threaten to Destroy America.

The thing is, if you ask members of either group "Are you mad at the banks?" or "Do you think that your government is doing its job correctly" or "are you concerned about our Armed Forces?" you are likely to get the same answer. There are real policy differences, but angry reactionary outbursts and arrogant condescension solves nothing for anybody. I don't say that there are no wing-nuts, but realistically, they come in two flavors.

Liberal ideologues ARE arrogant and dismissive, and stop listening when they hear the words 'Tea Party'. Conservative ideologues ARE angry and reactionary, and sometimes buy into the "Ends justify the means" argument. So lets acknowledge that and work together. Can we channel the anger towards the banks, and force the politicians to give us real reform? Can we organize 21st Century style, with Twitter, Facebook, Virtual Worlds, and other emerging technologies to struggle for peace, and justice, and human rights, and against environmental catastrophe?

We the People can. Yes we can.