Thursday, October 15, 2009

Peace Geek on Climate Change (Blog Action Day '09)

This year's blog action day topic is Climate Change. The idea is to get as many bloggers as possible from around the world to share opinions on Climate Change and encourage our leaders to prioritize this issue and take action. Check out http://www.blogactionday.org for more information.

I've been reading "Hot, Flat and Crowded" recently and getting charged up (pun intended) about the idea of cheap, clean electrons. It sounds rather obvious that the time for debate is long past us and every moment we spend not developing and implementing a systemic solution for reducing atmospheric CO2 levels is going to make the job that much more difficult, if not impossible, done the road. I haven't finished the book, so I won't recommend it just yet.

The author - Thomas Friedman - makes enough assumptions of his own to enable people to poke holes in his arguments. One "given" that I'm struggling with is the idea that growth is a necessary condition for lifting people out of poverty. The struggle I'm having is a lack of distinction between growth to support peoples' needs versus growth to support peoples' wants. If I cut my consumption in half (since 50% of my consumption is to satisfy wants, not needs) and use that other half to meet the genuine needs of two people living in poverty, then we have zero growth but still help get people out of poverty. I still need to think through this. If anyone has any thoughts on this, I'm all ears (or eyes).

The implications for peace are that people who are not living in a state of despair are less likely to resort to violence to have their basic needs met. If the predictions of climate change impacts are anywhere near accurate, the competition for resources and violent struggle for existence will only increase if we don't address the problem sooner rather than later.

Peace,
Peace Geek

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Canada introduces Department of Peace legislation!

Hot off the presses is the following article from the Vancouver Sun about how the Canadian lawmakers are pursuing the idea of creating a Department of Peace. Way to go, Canada! Now, what can the rest of us do to help make this happen? We can start by sending MP Bill Siksay a big "THANK YOU!" at Siksay.B@parl.gc.ca or visit his web page. Read the text of bill C-447 here.

OTTAWA — A federal New Democrat has teamed up with a Liberal to propose the creation of an army of peace professionals within a new federal department to resolve violent conflicts within Canada and around the world.

The idea was introduced through new legislation tabled Thursday by NDP MP Bill Siksay, seconded by Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis. Siksay said the proposed department of peace could change the role of the Canadian military, but not necessarily replace it.

"In a utopian vision of our world, maybe that will be possible some day but certainly we see this as an area that hasn't gotten the attention it deserves," said Siksay at a news conference.

"The inclination to seek a non-violent solution to conflict isn't always the first action that people take in our society and around the world."

Siksay's private member's bill was modelled after a proposal by an advocacy group that suggests Canada needs more trained experts to promote peace in its diplomatic corps as well as in the military.

Bill Bhaneja, a co-chair of the Canadian Department of Peace Initiative, said the proposed department could employ hundreds of professionals who would promote a culture of peace in the government's policies and actions, as well as help to resolve conflicts in a non-violent way.

"These peace professionals would be different from the diplomats and from the soldiers," said Bhaneja. "Right now we have suits and boots on the ground, but we don't have people who are trained to resolve conflicts at the cutting edge where the problem is taking place."

He said his group has also submitted its proposals to the Harper government which replied it was satisfied with existing policies and practices.

Siksay said it was unlikely that the legislation and its proposals would get adopted in the near future in Parliament since it is a private member's bill. Government legislation gets priority for debates in Parliament while opposition bills are debated in order based on a random draw.

But Bhaneja said he was encouraged by recent meetings with Liberals and New Democrats who appear to be more interested by the establishment of a ministry of peace, following other countries such as Nepal, Solomon Islands and Costa Rica.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Peace Studies Take Off

(By Dana Micucci, New York Times)

LOS ALAMOS, New Mexico — The Bradbury Science Museum in this drab high-desert town studded with old army barracks houses life-size replicas of Little Boy and Fat Man, chilling reminders of the human capacity for unspeakable violence. The cutely named atomic bombs, which were invented here, were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.

Less than 100 miles away, or 160 kilometers, in Montezuma, New Mexico, lies United World College of the American West (UWC-USA), a two-year pre-university residential school offering an international baccalaureate diploma, with a special emphasis on peace studies and conflict resolution.

One of twelve UWC campuses worldwide and the only one in the United States, the school admits about 200 students a year, aged 16 to 19, from more than 80 countries, with the aim of fostering respect for diverse cultural, social and religious backgrounds.

Building upon its commitment to conflict-resolution training, UWC-USA established the Bartos Institute for Constructive Engagement of Conflict in 2000 to expand students' skills in managing and reducing interpersonal and inter-group conflicts locally and globally.

Renata Dwan of Ireland, a 1988 UWC-USA graduate who now works in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at the United Nations, says her education at UWC was instrumental in teaching her how to live peacefully in a community of diverse cultures.

"Creating an environment where peace can thrive is, at the most basic level, about respecting and accepting others and realizing how subjective our perceptions are," Dwan said.

Please visit the New York Times to read the remainder of the article...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Veterans For Peace Support the Youth PROMISE Act



At the recent Veterans for Peace convention in College Park, Maryland, Jim Ramelis introduced a resolution for VFP to support the Youth PROMISE act - and it was approved! The below text is from the VFP website:

"YOUTH PROMISE ACT

Whereas Veterans for Peace affirms its responsibility to serve the cause of world peace in its "Statement of Purpose", and

Whereas a bill known as "The Youth Promise Act " has been introduced in the legislature as House of Representatives Bill 1064 and Senate Bill 435 that proposes to reduce violence among our youth in targeted neighborhoods and areas. Violence will be reduced through prevention in positive ways such as after school programs, sports and community activities, by implementing the best policy recommendations from crime policy makers, researchers, practitioners, analysts, and law enforcement officials from across the political spectrum concerning evidence- and research-based strategies to reduce gang violence and crime, and

Whereas many of the neighborhoods where violence is rampant are the same neighborhoods that have Junior R.O.T.C. programs in the schools and are heavily targeted by recruiters, and

Whereas many at-risk youth turn to military service because they have limited options for productive citizenship, and

Whereas the Youth Promise Act seeks to provide at-risk youth with alternative life skills,

Therefore Be It Resolved that Veterans for Peace hereby endorses the Youth Promise Act and strongly encourages chapters and individual members to lobby Congress to request co-sponsor the Youth Promise act (currently H.R.1064 and S.435 in the 111th Congress)

Approved at the 2009 VFP national convention"

Congratulations, Jim, and thanks for helping build a culture of peace!



Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Corrections" System So Wrong

(Guest post by Kendra Mon)

Correcting California's so-called “corrections” system could reduce budget woes and help people turn their lives around. In the last 20 years our prison population tripled. We waste billions of dollars yearly, locking up thousands of nonviolent drug offenders though community-based treatment is cheaper and actually gets people off drugs. We throw away hundreds of millions of dollars annually on the largest, most dysfunctional death penalty system in the country even though permanent imprisonment is cheaper and no less effective. We pay over $380 million every year to lock up more than 1,600 young people in youth prisons, even though local programs like Sonoma County's Restorative Resources are cheaper and more effective.

The Youth Promise Act is Congressional legislation that could help turn our youth corrections system around. House bill H.R.1064 and companion Senate bill S.435 would provide funding to local community councils to spend on effective programs that reduce youth crime, violence and incarceration. This bill has remarkable bipartisan support as well as endorsement by officials and organizations concerned with law enforcement, civil rights, education, and the U.S. Congress of Mayors. The knowledge about effective rehabilitation programs exists. It's a crime not to use it to save lives and taxpayer dollars.

To learn more about the Youth PROMISE act and send your Representative and Senators a letter asking for their support, visit Change.org and sign the e-mail petition.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Aim4Peace - A Program to Help Stem Inner-City Violence

Amidst the non-stop media reminders that we live in a violent society, every once in awhile comes a story that offers an amount of hope. One such story is about the work of a group called Aim4Peace in Kansas City, Missouri. Aim4Peace recruits and trains ex-convicts and puts them to work to prevent future convicts. The street-savvy Aim4Peace "violence interrupters" are charged with identifying hot spots in the most violent neighborhoods and defusing the situation before violence can erupt.

By their own count, Aim4Peace mediators have been able to resolve 22 potentially-violent conflicts in 2008, and at least 14 so far in 2009. The Kansas City police department is crediting Aim4Peace with reducing violence in the East Side to the point where it no longer is the most violent area of the city. According to Maj. Anthony Ell, commander of the Kansas City Police Department's violent crimes division,
"The work they're doing in that area is having an impact."
The Aim4Peace program is modeled along the lines of Chicago's CeaseFire project, which sends former gang members and ex-convicts to the streets to stop violence before it starts. The program is rooted in the theory that violence is a public health concern akin to diseases or viruses.

Dr. Gary Slutkin, an epidemiologist who founded CeaseFire, said training people to control violence is no different from teaching them to control tuberculosis or AIDS. Says Dr. Slutkin:

"Violence behaves like every other epidemic does. One event leads to another just like every other epidemic."

Of course, programs like Aim4Peace and CeaseFire require funding to sustain their positive impact. In these difficult economic times where municipalities are cutting budgets, proactive pro-peace programs are at greater risk of being cut. This makes it even more important to pass federal legislation such as H.R. 1064 - the Youth PROMISE act - to help get the most at-risk communities the funding they need to keep programs like Aim4Peace alive. Visit Change.org to learn more about H.R. 1064 and send a letter to your elected officials urging their support of the Youth PROMISE act.

Congratulations to the forward thinking leadership in Kansas City and to the people of Aim4Peace for their outstanding success!



Friday, July 17, 2009

Youth PROMISE Act Close to Reality - 228 cosponsors!

The grassroots campaign to garner support for H.R. 1064 - the Youth PROMISE act - continues to build momentum. The number of co-sponsors has risen dramatically since the bill was first introduced in February, climbing to 228 cosponsors as of this writing. This total includes 18 Republicans, so even Conservatives recognize the value of evidence-based programs that are tailored to meet the needs of local environments to address the root causes of youth violence. Dealing with the root issues at the front end will save a lot of tax money compared to dealing with the after effects of violence.

On July 15, there was a hearing on H.R. 1064 in the Crime Subcommittee (part of the House Judiciary committee). Several expert witnesses spoke in favor of the legislation and offered detailed explanation about why we have every reason to expect the approaches offered by the Youth PROMISE act will be effective at reducing violence where other legislation has failed. You can read a summary account of the hearing on DoPeace, the social networking site for peacebuilding activists.

Because of the extensive bipartisan support for H.R. 1064, and because of the positive hearing in the Crime subcommittee, it looks like the next step for the bill is to get a recommendation from the Judiciary committee and then to the House floor for a vote. This will likely occur after the summer recess, so look forward to more activity in the fall. It a very exciting time for the grassroots!

If you haven't already done so, please visit Change.org to learn about the Youth PROMISE bill and to send a letter to your elected officials asking for their support. The more support we can get going into the Fall legislative session, the more likely H.R. 1064 will become law in the 111th Congress!



Saturday, July 4, 2009

Declaration of Independence from Violence

On this day in 1776, our country's forefathers declared independence from the tyranny of the British monarchy and launched this shining example of democracy. However, somewhere along the way, the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" has morphed into a society based on violence and a winner-take-all mentality. The history of our democracy is filled with one tragic period of war followed by another, with all-too-brief interludes to reload. When school children are taught about our nation's history, the focus is mainly on learning about our glorious wars. Isn't this telling our children that violence is the best, if not only, means to resolve our differences?

Certainly, if we look at the fact that the U.S. has by far the largest per capita incarceration rate in the world, one might conclude that a large portion of our population missed the part in school about how your pursuit of happiness cannot infringe on mine. But wait! That presumes that there is a teaching in school about how to live peacefully with each other! Some schools may have such a curriculum, but most do not. We teach are kids the three R's, but leave out the most important "R" - rightdoing.

So where should people learn a sense of right-and-wrong and how to be civil if not in school? Some people will learn this in their religious communities, but they are also likely to learn about "us vs. them" and the concepts of "just war" and punishment for sinning. Many will argue that children should learn how to get along from their parents. But what about children whose parents are abusive? Those children will learn how to bully to get their way or how to be submissive, and the cycle of violence continues.

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of the violence. Several years ago, on the eve of the second invasion of Iraq, I pulled my head out of the sand and became painfully aware of the level to which violence has spread throughout our culture. I cannot go back to ignoring it, so I'm compelled to do something about it. This Independence Day, I renew my personal Declaration of Indepence from Violence, maintaining that all people are created equal and endowed with the unalienable right to live peacefully with neighbors, both domestic and foreign.


Signed,

Violence B. Gawn


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

DoPeace Ning Overview

Check out this SlideShare presentation about the new DoPeace site:

Monday, June 22, 2009

Celebrating A Future Secretary of Peace

(Thanks to Wendy Greene for sending this in.)

This article was printed in the Sonoma Index-Tribune. It's a look at how the vision of the Department of Peace inspires and fuels life's greatest dreams. What a beautiful world we have with dreams--and actions--like this.

Here's the link to the original article, which is excerpted below.

Schorr, Jasperse top SVHS grads
Graduation tonight
By Emily Charrier-Botts INDEX-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

Lauren Schorr and Leland Jasperse have grown up together, attending the Sonoma Charter School before entering Sonoma Valley High School, participating in the same after-school activities and hanging out with the same friends.

Today, the pair will stand together one last time when they address their class, parents and teachers as the valedictorian and salutatorian of the class of 2009. Schorr, 17, was named valedictorian during last Wednesday's Senior Awards Ceremony at the school. As with all valedictorians at the high school, she will be giving a speech that looks at the future.

"I finally know what I want to say," Schorr said. She plans to attend Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., where she will major in government with a focus on international relations, a far cry from where she thought she'd take her education.
"I was into biology and zoology," she said. "And I really wanted to stay in California."
But everything changed for Schorr last year when a librarian at the Sonoma Valley Regional Library told her about the Student Peace Alliance, an organization that campaigns to support H.R. 808, a bill seeking to establish a national Department of Peace. Schorr was so enamored of the program that before long she became the city organizer for the group.
"(The experience with the Peace Alliance) completely turned around my plan," Schorr said. "Now, I would love to one day become the Secretary of Peace when the department is created."
Read the rest of the article online.



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Monday, June 15, 2009

"Soldiers of Peace" - CSN&Y

In keeping with the theme of the past few posts, I offer lyrics from the Crosby, Still, Nash & Young song:

Soldiers of peace are not fighting a war
Are not looking for enemies behind every door
Are not looking for people to kill or to maim.
Soldiers of peace are just changing the game.

Men who were fighting for all of our lives
Are now fighting for children, for homes and for wives,
Fighting for the memory of all who fell before,
But the soldiers of peace just can't kill any more.

So come all you warriors who live for the fight,
Come listen to somebody, someone who might
Have been there before you and they have the right,
They've been dying to tell you the score.
The old warriors don't want you to hurt any more.

Soldiers of peace can still hear the cries
When the people were screaming and losing their lives,
When bodies were broken and spirits were torn
The soldiers of peace do not want you to mourn.

So come all you warriors who live for the fight,
Come listen to somebody, someone who might
Have been there before you and they have the right,
They've been dying to tell you the score.
The old warriors don't want you to hurt any more.

Soldiers of peace are not fighting a war.
No more! No more! No more! No more!



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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Needed: Peace Heroes

(by Mary Jane LaVigne | June 11, 2009 )

"Never a shot fired in anger." That's what my father tells me. We’re visiting Fort Snelling in the Model T Ford after Saturday errands. We have many times, but this is the first time I’ve been inside the Round Tower.

Dad boosts me up on the rifle slit so I can peer out. They’re rebuilding the fort. The slit gives me a sight line down the reconstructed wall toward the Mississippi River. I play at taking aim at the invading marauders, all Hollywood and heroic. My father laughs at me. The limestone smells cool. The walls are impossibly thick. If a wall could make you safe, surely these would do the trick.

“If you were a sentry in the old days,” says Dad. “You would have done a whole lot of nothing. Not much happened here.” Never a shot fired in anger. No good battles, this whole beautiful fort, a waste. I am eight years old and a history fan, a war buff. War is synonymous with history to me. Peace is boring and probably indicates a lack of gumption.

That was back in 1968. The events of the day were happening fast but far away; Martin Luther King dead in March, then Robert Kennedy in June. NBC News had nightly pictures of the world gone array. In my family lexicon, hippies, peaceniks and troublemakers were members of the same tribe.

Their “peace rallies” often turned violent. Their “demonstrations” I learned, were not the helpful kind, not at all like the what you’d find in the 4 H building at the State Fair. On our way home from church one Sunday, my Dad spied a peace sign painted on a bed-sheet flapping from the windows of Kirk Hall at Macalester College. “Stay away from Mac,” he warned.

Smack in the center of nothing-ever-happens here land, Minnesota history seemed built on boring. Now, forty years later, Fort Snelling’s battle-less-ness intrigues me. Take a family, a fort, a suburb or city, a congregation or campaign; any patch of peace is pretty sweet. Experience has taught me a lesson; good things seldom happen as the result of doing nothing. Yet, it hard to tell stories about bad things that didn’t occur.

The movie "Soldiers of Peace" does just that. The award winning film, from Australia based One Tree Films documents what it calls an astonishingly little-known fact, that the number of wars across the world is in fact dropping. Narrated by Michael Douglas, it features a list of luminaries including Desmond Tutu.

But on screen, it's the ordinary people who shine the brightest; the Muslim and Christian leaders in a small Nigerian city who sign their own peace pact, an IRA terrorist who makes amends to a young woman whose father was his victim, Iraq Veterans Against War in the U.S.

Memorial Day, Flag Day the new "Greatest Generation" exhibit at the Minnesota History Center, don't give me more veterans of war, I want some peace ancestors. Come to the movie Soldiers of Peace and find some of your own.

Twin Cities Premiere this Monday, June 15th at 7:30 at The Heights Theater. 3951 Central Avenue, NE, Columbia Heights. Tickets at Bibelot or contact Marcy Ryan 612-239-9032
Tickets also at the door. The event is a fundraiser for the Department of Peace Campaign.

www.thepeacealliance.org
www.soldiersofpeacemovie.com
www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=100918139401




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Act Now to Reduce Youth Violence


Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Line Between "Free Speech" and "Irresponsible Speech"

Michael Rowe posted a fantastic entry on Huffington Post today - Death at the Holocaust Museum and the Degradation of the American Dialogue - that reflects on some of the hate-based violence of the past few days. A snippet:
There is no Environmental Protection Agency to measure hate pollution in national dialogue, and no mechanism in place to warn us when the poisonous rage spewed into the national consciousness by shock-jocks, poisonous television pundits, megachurch leaders, and oh-so-subtle politicians, has reached dangerously toxic levels.
Although he wanders off a couple of times into the cesspool he's trying to drain, it's a great voicing of the concerns many of us who are working towards a more peaceful society have about the state of civil discourse. Many of the comments are worth reading, as well.

But what can be done about it? How do we regulate irresponsible speech? Is it like pornography? We know it when we hear it? What are the implications for democracy if we try to control it?

Shit! Why can't people just behave!?!?



Visit DoPeace

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Twin Cities Premier: "Soldiers of Peace"

SOLDIERS OF PEACE
Monday, June 15, 7:30 p.m
Heights Theater

The Department of Peace campaign in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District is excited to be hosting this fundraiser with Friends for a Nonviolent World (FNVW.org).

About the film: Through the course of this documentary, we meet some amazing people and see what they are accomplishing around the world in the way of peace and reconciliation, sometimes in dangerous situations. We see that peace is in fact breaking out, regardless of the images of war we are bombarded with every day in the news. We look at how peace activists use the internet to reach millions of people, which was unheard of even 10 years ago.

We tell stories of peace through grass roots activists around the world: unsung heroes who are working towards peace and have amazing stories that we could capture on camera. These people are rarely heard of in the news and its these characters that the audience will identify with. Their stories are entwined with our “peace experts” and notable individuals, who explain the key messages of the film and the challenges facing humanity in the 21st century.

Tickets: $15 before June 8, $25 day of event

For tickets and information call Marcy Ryan, team leader for the Fifth Congressional District, 612.239.9032.

To read more about the campaign to create a U.S. Department of Peace, visit the Peace Alliance site.






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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sarasota, Florida, Supports a U.S. Department of Peace

(Sarasota, FL- June 1, 2009)

On a 3-2 vote, the Sarasota City Commission approved resolution 09R-2099 to support legislation to create a U.S. Department of Peace (H.R. 808) at their June 1 meeting. By passing this resolution, Sarasota (pop. 53,000) joins a long list of other cities around the country - including Detroit, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Chicago and Los Angeles - that are supporting this visionary legislation and asking their elected representatives to make it law. Overall, cities that have endorsed the Department of Peace legislation represent over 14 million citizens!

Before the vote, local activists Augie Schmitz (co-founder of the SW Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice) and Alex Coe (from the Alliance for Peace) voiced their support for H.R. 808 and informed the Commission about other peacebuilding activities going on locally. Ms. Coe had attended the Peace Alliance conference in D.C. in March, and had returned to Sarasota determined to better understand the local nonviolence organizations and look for ways to get existing organizations working together for maximum impact. Mr. Schmitz told the Commission about an upcoming forum designed to engage the community in defining programs that will help improve the lives of citizens by reducing violence, including programs to provide conflict resolution skills for children.

Mayor Richard Clapp spoke of the resolution as a statement of intent to Sarasota citizens and to the Congressional delegation that the City of Sarasota values efforts to reduce violence and make the community a model of peaceful existence. Commissioner Suzanne Atwell also spoke in favor of the resolution, adding that it was important for Sarasota to get behind the movement and recognize the symbolism of this type of legislation. Commissioner Fredd Atkins also supported the resolution. (You can send a note to these Commissioners thanking them for supporting the legislation by clicking on their names above.)

The two dissenting votes came from Commissioners Kirschner and Turner, largely along the lines of not wanting to tell Washington what to do. However, both Commissioners spoke in support of the local efforts to promote peace and nonviolence.

For a replay of the recorded Commission meeting, click on this link - http://sarasota.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=7&clip_id=2502. To review just the part of the meeting that deals with the Department fo Peace resolution, fast-forward to the 1:16 (1 hour, 16 minute) mark. The discussion concludes at the 1:30 mark. You can also find a copy of the resolution by searching for "09R-2099" and clicking on the backup material link.

For more on the Department of Peace legislation and the nationwide grassroots campaign, visit The Peace Alliance web site. The Peace Alliance also has tips and tools for working with your own city government on a resolution in support of H.R. 808.

Get active! Make Peace! Make History!



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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Rep. Donna Edwards Supports a Department of Peace

Washington, DC - June 4, 2009

Today, Congresswoman Donna Edwards from Maryland's 4th district became the 71st cosponsor of H.R. 808 - the Department of Peace act. Rep. Edwards joins Congressman Elijah Cummings (from District 7, a long time supporter of the Department of Peace bill) as the second cosponsor of the legislation from the great State of Maryland, which has eight congressional representatives.

Rep. Edwards won her seat in the 111th Congress by first defeating former Representative Albert Wynn in the primary elections of November 2008. Ms. Edwards ran on a very progressive platform, claiming that Mr. Wynn was not progressive enough for the people of the district. Mr. Wynn had been a previous supporter of H.R. 808 in the 110th Congress, so it's great to see that Congresswoman Edwards is continuing the tradition of support for violence reduction on behalf of the people of her district.

On a related note, Rep. Edwards is also a cosponsor of H.R. 1064 - the Youth PROMISE act to reduce youth violence. Rep. Edwards, who signed on as a cosponsor on May 12th, joins Reps. John Sarbanes (MD-04) and Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02) and Elijah Cummings (all signed on when the bill was introduced on 2/13/09) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD-08), who signed on May 18. With a total of 129 cosponsors and bipartisan support, the Youth PROMISE act is well on it's way to becoming law and improving the lives of at-risk youth.

Please join me in thanking Congresswoman Edwards - 202-225-8699 - for her leadership in support of the Department of Peace and Youth PROMISE legislation.

Also, if you live in the district of any of these Maryland Representatives, please contact them and let them know that you want there support for:

Rep. Frank Kratovil (MD-01) - Please support H.R. 808 (as did your predecessor) and H.R. 1064.

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02) - Thanks for supprting H.R. 1064, now please also support H.R. 808

Rep. John Sarbanes (MD-03) - Thanks for supprting H.R. 1064, now please also support H.R. 808

Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD-05) - Please support H.R. 808 and H.R. 1064

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (MD-06) - Please support H.R. 808 and H.R. 1064

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD-08) - Thanks for supprting H.R. 1064, now please also support H.R. 808




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Friday, June 5, 2009

What is Real National Security?

(Posted by Wendy Greene on DoPeace.ning.com)
"Security is not Defense; Defense does not equal security."
The concept was far from new to me. What was different was who was saying it.

Lt. Col. Shannon Beebe, former Senior Africa Analyst in the Office of the U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff, Intelligence, is considered one of the nation's leading thinkers on the concept of human security. He spoke as part of a panel discussion at the April 2009 Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum held at John's Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D.C.

"Security is not kinetics-based, state-focused, tank, plane, gun, defense budget-centric types of issues," he continued. "It is not about kinetics; it is about conditions—conditions that create creeping vulnerabilities that we do not see as threats."

Beebe's words were the exclamation point on the panel's discussion about shifting our international security strategies toward a more balanced "3D" approach using diplomacy, development and defense.

Moderated by Eastern Mennonite University's Lisa Schirch, director of the 3D Security Initiative, the panel also included Reuben Brigety, II, director of the Sustainable Security Program at the Center for American Progress; and Barak Salmoni, full political scientist at the RAND Corporation.

Reminding us his remarks were not an official Department of Defense presentation but a compilation of his own personal reflections, Beebe added, "I would contend that today's strategic security narrative fails at identifying and understanding the challenges of the 21st Century."

Those challenges, Beebe explained, include a "multi-polar" world that is inherently more unstable than the old "bipolar" structure of USA vs. USSR; economic globalization that remains uneven (the ramifications of which, he noted, we still don't fully understand); and the instantaneous nature of technology that allows a Somali-born cab driver in New York to know more about enemy movements in his home country than the CIA knows.

As I listened, I wished I could teleport into the room Republican strategist Sheri Jacobus, a regular on the cable news talking head circuit who diminished, demeaned and discounted the idea of a Department of Peace during an interview segment I shared with her and an equally ill-informed Democratic pundit on CNN Headline News's Jane Velez-Mitchell show. The Department of Peace is based on addressing the issues Beebe laid out and would facilitate much of what he said was needed.

"We have a Department of Peace," she’d said. "It's called the Pentagon."

I wondered if her mind would open to the same issues I was articulating when she heard them from Lt. Col. Beebe.

"Folks, we have to understand, this has untethered our traditional 20th Century security system," he continued, "This is not about the Department of Defense; this is about more of a collective effort, about asking the first order question: What is security for the 21st Century?"

Affirming remarks made by Brigety, who focused on the need to restructure government bureaucracy, not just throw more money into the same dysfunctional system, Beebe noted, "Our bureaucracies have become so calcified, so ossified, so set in 20th Century types of ways…that we're failing to see to see what I call 'creeping vulnerabilities'--these things we do not see as threats."

Beebe brought those vulnerabilities home, challenging us to consider the last time the United States was threatened by a mosquito, dirty water, or someone living on less than a dollar a day as we are now.

"These are not going to be won at the point of a gun," he said. "These are not going to be won with $2 billion fighters. These are not going to be won with multi-trillion dollar military-industrial complexes building new weapon systems. This is also not going to be done by the Department of Defense alone."

He shared results of a study conducted at the request of the Army Chief of Staff in which they asked Africans to describe the greatest threats to stability in Africa. The top four answers were the need for reform in the security sector (military, police, and judicial systems), climate change, poverty and health.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I'm here to tell you today that we don't have a tank or a plane that will counter that," Beebe emphasized.

Preventing the need for military action is, no surprise, Beebe's priority. As he reminded us, it's the one who must fight the war who wants most to avoid it. He challenged everyone to have the courage to ask tough questions:

"Is it possibly the case that we are creating more terrorists than we can possibly kill?" he said. "Is it possibly the case that we are allowing these conditions--these creeping vulnerabilities--to grow unnoticed along these strategic seams until they are a kinetic-type of threat [requiring military action]?"

So if this uniformed, Iraq war veteran, active duty Army officer gets it, many of his peers get it, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gets it, and the President gets it, what's the problem?

The problem is Congress and the American people don't get it.

Asked how we might structure the workload in this new "3D" paradigm, Brigety responded that this seemingly daunting challenge is actually the easy part.

"The harder problem is convincing the American public there is more to security so they'll get Congress to do something," he explained. "Until we change that, we won't get these [non-defense] efforts resourced."

No one need look past the outcry at plans to cut the F-22 fighter to understand just how true his statement was.

In the face of our own ignorance, obstinance and partisan fear-mongering, how are we to move beyond the outdated systems, structures and beliefs that block us from understanding that human security--not just for Americans, but for everyone--is the only thing that will truly keep us safe?

Beebe offered one possibility: we must get beyond our mistrust of one another--military and civilian, contractor and bureaucrat, activist and politician, liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat--and create the language that can bridge our seeming differences.

"We have to shift our thinking for the 21st Century," Beebe said.

Watch the video of the speaker's remarks online.




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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Youth PROMISE Update - 31 New Cosponsors in May!

The Change.org community is having a huge impact! The concerted effort to lobby Representatives in the House since the Youth PROMISE act (H.R. 1064) was first introduced has lead to some very encouraging results. In the month of May alone, 31 new co-sponsors have signed on, bringing the total number of cosponsors to 115, representing 26% of the 435 delegates in the House! The following list shows the new cosponsors who have signed on in May. If any of these visionary supporters represents your district, please send them a note or call them to say "Thanks" for standing up to reduce violence. If your Representative has not yet signed on, send them a note through Change.org asking them to do so.

Representative State/District
Rep Pastor, Ed AZ-4
Rep Sherman, Brad CA-27
Rep Berman, Howard L. CA-28
Rep Richardson, Laura CA-37
Rep Davis, Susan A. CA-53
Rep Miller, George CA-7
Rep DeLauro, Rosa L. CT-3
Rep Meek, Kendrick B. FL-17
Rep Wexler, Robert FL-19
Rep Hare, Phil IL-17
Rep Gutierrez, Luis V. IL-4
Rep Souder, Mark E. IN-3
Rep Capuano, Michael E. MA-8
Rep Edwards, Donna F. MD-4
Rep Van Hollen, Chris MD-8
Rep Thompson, Bennie G. MS-2
Rep Jones, Walter B., Jr. NC-3
Rep Sires, Albio NJ-13
Rep Bishop, Timothy H. NY-1
Rep Towns, Edolphus NY-10
Rep Israel, Steve NY-2
Rep Slaughter, Louise McIntosh NY-28
Rep Driehaus, Steve OH-1
Rep Fudge, Marcia L. OH-11
Rep Schwartz, Allyson Y. PA-13
Rep Doyle, Michael F. PA-14
Rep Langevin, James R. RI-2
Rep Rodriguez, Ciro D. TX-23
Rep Nye, Glenn C., III VA-2
Rep Perriello, Thomas S.P. VA-5
Rep Boucher, Rick VA-9


Late update: As this post was going to press, we found out that an additional 4 new cosponsors have signed on to H.R. 1064, bringing the total to 119 cosponsors. Again, if any of these people is your Representative, please send them some love.

Representative State/District
Rep Waxman, Henry A. CA-30
Rep Platts, Todd Russell PA-19
Rep Wittman, Robert J. VA-1
Rep Wolf, Frank R. VA-10




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Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Root of All Evil

Beliefs are the root of all evil.

Now that I have your attention, allow me to clarify. Attachment to beliefs…, or Personal identification with beliefs…, or Belief that beliefs are “truth” and not just opinion… is the root of all evil.

Most, if not all, of the conflict we witness on a daily basis (that which is not based on fighting over subsistence issues, such as food and water) is the result of the zealous defense of personal beliefs. Whether on the local, national or international stage, when people feel they have to protect the value they have placed on their beliefs in order to preserve the value of their own existence, conflict is inevitable and often leads to violence.

Don’t get me wrong. I recognize that some people hold beliefs that help them deal with their daily lives in ways that are more meaningful to them than would be the case without those beliefs - something along the lines of “Being kind to each other makes us more human.” These benign beliefs are very personal and don’t have much impact beyond the circle of the person who holds the belief or those who share the belief. If the belief were somehow to be proven untrue tomorrow, the individual(s) might struggle to make new sense of the world, but it would be a personal struggle, not a major disruption of world events.

The type of destructive, malignant beliefs I’m talking about are those beliefs that are used to manipulate political or religious power to control the behavior of large groups of people and create “us vs. them” separation in order to bolster the sense and importance of “us.” Beliefs such as “life begins at conception” or “my prophet is more right than your prophet” take on the mantle of “truth” when professed ad nauseum by people in power. And the Believers gladly back up these opinions with threats and acts of violence as ways of “proving” their beliefs are “right”.

I believe that a massive re-education of humanity is needed on the definitions of “truth”, “belief” and “delusion”. I also believe (there’s that word again) we all need training on how to embrace uncertainty as a mystical, magical part of life that does not need to be feared or explained away with fantasy and superstition. I don’t know how this amazing planet got here, or why I’m here, but it’s a fun project trying to find out.

Friday, May 29, 2009

"Amazing Grace" - Amazing Movie!

"Amazing Grace" is a movie about the abolition movement in England, but it has meaningful and inspiring messages for the modern peace movement, as well. It's also a darned good movie in it's own right, especially for fans of period pieces. I give it five peace signs, easily.



One of the early scenes shows the protagonist - William ("Wilber") Wilberforce - holding a meeting at his estate with very few attendees, much to his dismay. How many of us peace activists have held such meetings, with our hearts full of passion for the cause and in need of an audience? Without giving too much away, his later meetings have larger attendance.

Other scenes emphasize the importance of the slave-industrial complex to the British economy, and the reluctance of politicians to support abolition because of the negative economic impacts on their constituents. The parallel to the importance of the violence-industrial complex to the US economy, and the impediment this poses for progress toward a more peaceful society, is obvious. The abolitionist come up with a creative legal move around this - I hope advocates for nonviolence will come up with a similarly creative approach to break the stranglehold of the violence industry.

One of my favorite lines from the film comes in a scene where a young fan of Wilber's efforts is consoling him during a bout of discouragement after years of campaigning have yielded (apparently) no results. The British Empire is in a sustained period of war with America and France, and the public is too distracted by the wars to pay attention to anything else. Any voice of opposition to the Crown on any topic - including that of abolition - is considered sedition. Wilbur's new friend reassures him that “when people stop being afraid they rediscover their compassion.” This thought, along with other encouragements, gives Wilber the strength to carry on.

The modern peace movement can learn a lot and gain much strength from the story of William Wilberforce. Whether you're campaigning for a Department of Peace, or for the Youth PROMISE act, or for any significant change that will reduce violence, you can be assured that the momentum of history will eventually lead society to the logical conclusion. Carry on!



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Monday, May 25, 2009

A Memorial Day Salute

This Memorial Day, I'm choosing to honor those who died for our country by considering what we should be doing to make sure no one else need to die for our country ever again. A couple of things that come to mind:
  • Outlaw the concept of "Preemptive War"
  • Embrace the concept of "Preemptive Peace"
We need to stop funneling billions and billions of dollars year after year expanding our national capacity to create and then destroy our enemies while creating thousands upon thousands of Memorial Day honorees in the process. Instead, we should be using our financial and human resources, along with our communal creative energies, to identify those who would seek to harm us and work with them to proactively address their grievances and work to turn them into allies.

I know this may sound Utopian, but we do already possess the necessary technologies to make this work. Experts in international affairs know from experience what factors will create levels of desperation that will ultimately result in violent conflict - high infant mortality, lack of access to free markets, absence of democratic processes, for example. If we make investments in these situations to address the root causes and create lasting solutions to these problems, we will not have to send in the troops later as peacekeepers or invaders. I think we should give it a try, don't you?

This promising approach is not going to happen if we don't change the way our federal government is organized. We need a new structure that includes a Department of Peace that will work with the State and Defense departments to establish conditions that foster allies, not just project our national interests and exploit international relationships to our benefit. There is currently legislation in the House - H.R. 808 - to create a Department of Peace. If you are interested in getting involved in the national grassroots campaign to make this happen, contact the Peace Alliance at www.thepeacealliance.org.

Let's not let the sacrifices of those brave servicemen and women be for nothing. Let's put our hard-won freedoms to work and create a better way for all.



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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"Peace on the Streets" Ad



Choice FM - a radio station in London - has been working to end street violence. Not quite "Department of Peace" worthy, but a striking video, nonetheless.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

NAACP Supports the Youth PROMISE Act


LEGISLATION EMPOWERS COMMUNITIES TO INVEST IN AT-RISK YOUTH BEFORE THEY JOIN GANGS

The Issue:
The United States, by far, incarcerates its residents at much greater rates than any other nation in the world. Incarceration costs in the U.S. have risen to $65 billion a year. African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities are especially over-represented among the prison population. Especially devastating to our communities and to our youth is gang violence: many of the crimes committed by gangs and gang members are reprehensible and cause irreparable harm not only to individual victims but to families and whole neighborhoods as well. While the perpetrators of these crimes must be punished, it is becoming clear that we must take a proactive approach and try to steer at-risk youth away from gangs and towards being successful, productive members of our communities before a crime is committed.

Congressman Robert “Bobby” Scott (VA) and Senators Robert Casey (PA) and Olympia Snowe (ME) have introduced H.R. 1064 / S. 435, the “Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support and Education Act” (the “Youth PROMISE Act”) to reduce crime before it happens by investing in research-based programs. The Youth PROMISE Act mobilizes community leaders and invests almost exclusively in prevention and intervention, as opposed to the standard approach, which is obviously not working, of waiting for a crime to occur and then putting the alleged criminals in jail.

Specifically, the Youth PROMISE Act allows communities facing the greatest youth gang and crime challenges to form a council to include representatives from law enforcement, court services, schools, social service organizations, health and mental health providers and community-based organizations, including faith-based organizations. These councils will then develop a comprehensive plan for implementing evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies that fit the needs of the particular community. These strategies will target young people who are at-risk of becoming involved, or who are already involved in, gangs or the criminal justice system and redirect them toward productive and law-abiding alternatives.

To show your support for the Youth PROMISE act, go to http://bit.ly/Y085M on Change.org and let Congress know you think this legislation deserves their attention.

Monday, May 11, 2009

What's More Deadly? Swine Flu or Gun Violence?

(by Cynthia Tucker - April 29, 2009)

The deadly contagion is spreading, striking down young and old, well-heeled and downtrodden, sophisticates and illiterates. Last year alone, the affliction killed thousands in Mexico and even more in the United States.

Not swine flu. Gun violence. While federal and state authorities are preoccupied with preventing a swine flu pandemic from overwhelming the United States, the epidemic of gun violence rages on, unabated and little noted.

Last Saturday, George Zinkhan III, a well-respected University of Georgia professor, took two handguns to a community theater and killed his wife, Marie Bruce, and two of her theater colleagues while wounding two others, police said. Zinkhan left his 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son in his car while he went on his bloody rampage, according to authorities. Then, he dropped the children off at a neighbor’s house — he explained he had an emergency — and fled, police said.

Don’t expect that this latest mass killing will arouse any more outrage or prod any more public action than those that preceded it. In March and April, armed gunmen of curious motive and deranged sentiment opened fire in a nursing home, a community center, their own homes and public spaces, killing family, friends and strangers.

Among the lowlights of this savage spring were the murders of two children of Devan Kalathat, who shot them and three other relatives before he killed himself; the murders of five children of James Harrison, who killed them before committing suicide; and the murders of the daughter and nephew of Kevin Garner, who, similarly, killed his estranged wife, his sister and the children before turning his gun on himself, law enforcement officials said. The shootings produced outpourings of grief and outbursts of anger but few calls for tighter gun laws.

In fact, state legislatures in the South, including the Georgia General Assembly, have recently loosened laws that deal with weapons in public places. In Georgia, gun owners with concealed-carry permits may now take their firearms into state parks, onto public transit and into many bars and restaurants.

Moreover, the sales of firearms and ammunition have soared over the last several months, sparked by the election of President Barack Obama and the belief that Democratic control of the White House and Congress will lead to restrictions on gun ownership. It’s a strange notion with absolutely no basis in fact.

Witness Obama’s tepid response to Mexican authorities who pleaded for help in stopping the flow of deadly firearms from the United States into the hands of drug thugs.

After Attorney General Eric Holder suggested the Obama administration might push to reinstate the ban on assault weapons, which expired in 2004, the White House received a letter signed by 65 craven Democrats insisting that the president leave assault weapons alone. Obama agreed to do nothing.

We have an odd way of assessing risks. While swine flu may yet emerge as a full-scale pandemic, it hasn’t proved especially lethal so far. Even in Mexico, where public health facilities are not as well developed as in the United States, the death toll has crept past 150 but hasn’t claimed lives on the scale of drug-related gun violence.

Yet, swine flu has prompted the travel industry to brace for a panic; pharmacies report a run on supplies of antivirals such as Tamiflu; and the news media have hurriedly produced new catchphrases for their round-the-clock swine flu reportage. President Obama has dispatched Cabinet-level advisers to assure Americans that his administration is doing everything necessary to prevent the spread of the disease.

If only we could muster half that hysteria over gun deaths.

______________________________________________

Cynthia Tucker is editorial page editor at AJC. She can be reached at cynthia@ajc.com.