September 23, 2005
Senator Dayton introduces Department of Peace legislation in the Senate!
On September 22nd, 2005, Senator Mark Dayton (D-MN) introduced the Department of Peace legislation into the U.S. Senate (S. 1756), calling for an elevation of the Reagan-established "Institute of Peace" to a Cabinet-level position.
This is a huge moment for our campaign, and for the future of the Department of Peace! Senator Dayton's leadership and enthusiastic support will take us to the next level in our work as we continue to advocate for this historic legislation.
Speaking from the Senate floor, Dayton said, "If we are to remain the world's leader, and if we are to lead the world into a more secure and more prosperous future, we must become better known and more respected for our peacemaking successes than for our military forces. Peace, to have any lasting value, must be advanced, expanded and strengthened continuously. Doing so requires skill, dedication, persistence, resources, and, most importantly, people."
Appropriately, Dayton's legislation coincides with the 44th anniversary of the nation's oldest federal agency dedicated to peace. On September 22nd, in 1961, President Kennedy signed legislation that created the Peace Corps, an idea originally proposed by Senator Hubert Humphrey in 1957.
Many thanks to our Department of Peace activists from Minnesota who met with Senator Dayton this past week at our conference and encouraged him to take this on. In particular we thank three of our youth leaders: Chelsea Skog, Eric Skog and Raven Kinnell who also met with the Senator. Senator Dayton said he was doing it for them, and for all our youth.
*** CALL YOUR SENATORS ***
We ask that each of you help continue this momentum by calling your own Senators today and urging them to support (bill # is S. 1756). Contact your Senator at the U.S. capitol switchboard: (202) 224-3121. To find your Representative, visit http://www.vote-smart.org Tell the staffer who answers your call that you want your Senator to sign on as a co-sponsor of the Department of Peace legislation. Request a written response explaining your Senator's position and the reasoning behind it. It's most effective if you call first, then follow-up with a fax or email.
*** WRITE YOUR SENATORS *** To write your Representative, click below to get started. This will allow you to send an email or a fax to your congressperson.
Join us now. Create a Department of Peace. Help make history. Together, we can do this.
September 18, 2005
by Kevin Drum
from Washington Monthly
CHRONOLOGY....Here's a timeline that outlines the fate of both FEMA and flood control projects in New Orleans under the Bush administration. Read it and weep:
* January 2001: Bush appoints Joe Allbaugh, a crony from Texas, as head of FEMA. Allbaugh has no previous experience in disaster management.
* April 2001: Budget Director Mitch Daniels announces the Bush administration's goal of privatizing much of FEMA's work. In May, Allbaugh confirms that FEMA will be downsized: "Many are concerned that federal disaster assistance may have evolved into both an oversized entitlement program...." he said.
"Expectations of when the federal government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level."
* 2001: FEMA designates a major hurricane hitting New Orleans as one of the three "likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing this country."
* December 2002: After less than two years at FEMA, Allbaugh announces he is leaving to start up a consulting firm that advises companies seeking to do business in Iraq. He is succeeded by his deputy and former college roommate, Michael Brown, who has no previous experience in disaster management and was fired from his previous job for mismanagement.
* March 2003: FEMA is downgraded from a cabinet level position and folded into the Department of Homeland Security. Its mission is refocused on fighting acts of terrorism.
* 2003: Under its new organization chart within DHS, FEMA's preparation and planning functions are reassigned to a new Office of Preparedness and Response. FEMA will henceforth focus only on response and recovery.
* Summer 2004: FEMA denies Louisiana's pre-disaster mitigation funding requests. Says Jefferson Parish flood zone manager Tom Rodrigue: "You would think we would get maximum consideration....This is what the grant program called for. We were more than qualified for it."
* June 2004: The Army Corps of Engineers budget for levee construction in New Orleans is slashed. Jefferson Parish emergency management chiefs Walter Maestri comments: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay."
* June 2005: Funding for the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is cut by a record $71.2 million. One of the hardest-hit areas is the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, which was created after the May 1995 flood to improve drainage in Jefferson, Orleans and St.
* August 2005: While New Orleans is undergoing a slow motion catastrophe, Bush mugs for the cameras, cuts a cake for John McCain, plays the guitar for Mark Wills, delivers an address about V-J day, and continues with his vacation. When he finally gets around to acknowledging the scope of the unfolding disaster, he delivers only a photo op on Air Force One and a flat, defensive, laundry list speech in the Rose Garden.
So: A crony with no relevant experience was installed as head of FEMA. Mitigation budgets for New Orleans were slashed even though it was known to be one of the top three risks in the country. FEMA was deliberately downsized as part of the Bush administration's conservative agenda to reduce the role of government. After DHS was created, FEMA's preparation and planning functions were taken away.
Actions have consequences. No one could predict that a hurricane the size of Katrina would hit this year, but the slow federal response when it did happen was no accident. It was the result of four years of deliberate Republican policy and budget choices that favor ideology and partisan loyalty at the expense of operational competence. It's the Bush administration in a nutshell.
September 04, 2005
Sept. 14th Action Alert- Dept. of Peace
Help establish a U.S. DEPARTMENT OF PEACE!
A Call to Action
September 14th, 2005
HELP SPREAD THE WORD!
On September 14th, 2005, legislation to establish a U. S. Department of Peace will be re-introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The primary function of a United States Department of Peace will be to research, articulate and facilitate nonviolent solutions to domestic and international conflict. The Department of Peace will employ proven and effective strategies for reducing violence in our country and around world, including nonviolent communication skills, conflict resolution techniques and cultural relationship building. Learn more at http://www.ThePeaceAlliance.org
We need your support to help make this bill law -- by calling, faxing and/or emailing your representative and also by spreading the word to everyone you know.
Nothing you can do will have as much impact as contacting your member of Congress.
TAKE ACTION NOW!
*** CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE ***
Contact your Representative at the U.S. capitol switchboard: (202) 224-3121. To find your Representative, visit http://www.vote-smart.org Tell the staffer who answers your call that you want your Representative to sign on as a co-sponsor of the Department of Peace legislation. Request a written response explaining your member’s position and the reasoning behind it. It’s most effective if you call first, then follow-up with a fax or email.
There will be no bill number assigned until after 11:00 a.m. eastern on the 14th. We will post the bill number on our website at http://www.thepeacealliance.org as soon as it is available on that day. In the meantime, just tell your Representative that you want them to support the Department of Peace bill. H.R. 1673 is last sessions bill number for reference. Call now and on the day the bill is re-introduced.
*** WRITE YOUR REPRESENTATIVE ***
To write your Representative, click below to get started. This will allow you to send an email or a fax to your congressperson.
Join us now. Create a Department of Peace. Help make history. Together, we can do this.
You can also contribute to our campaign by making a financial donation on our website at http://www.ThePeaceAlliance.org/donate, and by participating in and/or starting up a local campaign group. We already have active groups in more than 250 Congressional districts in over 43 states. Visit http://www.thepeacealliance.org/organize
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE LEGISLATION
-- Provide much-needed assistance for the efforts of city, county, and state governments in coordinating existing programs in their own communities, as well as programs newly developed and provided by the Dept. of Peace
-- Teach violence prevention and mediation to America’s school children
-- Effectively treat and dismantle gang psychology
-- Rehabilitate the prison population
-- Build peace-making efforts among conflicting cultures both here and abroad
-- Support our military with complementary approaches to ending violence
-- Gather and coordinate information and recommendations from America’s peace community
-- The Department of Peace will create and administer a U.S. Peace Academy, acting as a sister organization to the U.S. Military Academy.
Learn more at http://www.ThePeaceAlliance.org
September 02, 2005
A Can't-Do Government
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: September 2, 2005
Before 9/11 the Federal Emergency Management Agency listed the three most likely catastrophic disasters facing America: a terrorist attack on New York, a major earthquake in San Francisco and a hurricane strike on New Orleans. "The New Orleans hurricane scenario," The Houston Chronicle wrote in December 2001, "may be the deadliest of all." It described a potential catastrophe very much like the one now happening.
So why were New Orleans and the nation so unprepared? After 9/11, hard questions were deferred in the name of national unity, then buried under a thick coat of whitewash. This time, we need accountability.
First question: Why have aid and security taken so long to arrive? Katrina hit five days ago - and it was already clear by last Friday that Katrina could do immense damage along the Gulf Coast. Yet the response you'd expect from an advanced country never happened. Thousands of Americans are dead or dying, not because they refused to evacuate, but because they were too poor or too sick to get out without help - and help wasn't provided. Many have yet to receive any help at all.
There will and should be many questions about the response of state and local governments; in particular, couldn't they have done more to help the poor and sick escape? But the evidence points, above all, to a stunning lack of both preparation and urgency in the federal government's response.
Even military resources in the right place weren't ordered into action. "On Wednesday," said an editorial in The Sun Herald in Biloxi, Miss., "reporters listening to horrific stories of death and survival at the Biloxi Junior High School shelter looked north across Irish Hill Road and saw Air Force personnel playing basketball and performing calisthenics. Playing basketball and performing calisthenics!"
Maybe administration officials believed that the local National Guard could keep order and deliver relief. But many members of the National Guard and much of its equipment - including high-water vehicles - are in Iraq. "The National Guard needs that equipment back home to support the homeland security mission," a Louisiana Guard officer told reporters several weeks ago.
Second question: Why wasn't more preventive action taken? After 2003 the Army Corps of Engineers sharply slowed its flood-control work, including work on sinking levees. "The corps," an Editor and Publisher article says, citing a series of articles in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, "never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security - coming at the same time as federal tax cuts - was the reason for the strain."
In 2002 the corps' chief resigned, reportedly under threat of being fired, after he criticized the administration's proposed cuts in the corps' budget, including flood-control spending.
Third question: Did the Bush administration destroy FEMA's effectiveness? The administration has, by all accounts, treated the emergency management agency like an unwanted stepchild, leading to a mass exodus of experienced professionals.
Last year James Lee Witt, who won bipartisan praise for his leadership of the agency during the Clinton years, said at a Congressional hearing: "I am extremely concerned that the ability of our nation to prepare for and respond to disasters has been sharply eroded. I hear from emergency managers, local and state leaders, and first responders nearly every day that the FEMA they knew and worked well with has now disappeared."
I don't think this is a simple tale of incompetence. The reason the military wasn't rushed in to help along the Gulf Coast is, I believe, the same reason nothing was done to stop looting after the fall of Baghdad. Flood control was neglected for the same reason our troops in Iraq didn't get adequate armor.
At a fundamental level, I'd argue, our current leaders just aren't serious about some of the essential functions of government. They like waging war, but they don't like providing security, rescuing those in need or spending on preventive measures. And they never, ever ask for shared sacrifice.
Yesterday Mr. Bush made an utterly fantastic claim: that nobody expected the breach of the levees. In fact, there had been repeated warnings about exactly that risk.
So America, once famous for its can-do attitude, now has a can't-do government that makes excuses instead of doing its job. And while it makes those excuses, Americans are dying.
An Open Letter from Michael Moore
Friday, September 2nd, 2005
Dear Mr. Bush:
Any idea where all our helicopters are? It's Day 5 of Hurricane Katrina and thousands remain stranded in New Orleans and need to be airlifted. Where on earth could you have misplaced all our military choppers? Do you need help finding them? I once lost my car in a Sears parking lot. Man, was that a drag.
Also, any idea where all our national guard soldiers are? We could really use them right now for the type of thing they signed up to do like helping with national disasters. How come they weren't there to begin with?
Last Thursday I was in south Florida and sat outside while the eye of Hurricane Katrina passed over my head. It was only a Category 1 then but it was pretty nasty. Eleven people died and, as of today, there were still homes without power. That night the weatherman said this storm was on its way to New Orleans. That was Thursday! Did anybody tell you? I know you didn't want to interrupt your vacation and I know how you don't like to get bad news. Plus, you had fundraisers to go to and mothers of dead soldiers to ignore and smear. You sure showed her!
I especially like how, the day after the hurricane, instead of flying to Louisiana, you flew to San Diego to party with your business peeps. Don't let people criticize you for this -- after all, the hurricane was over and what the heck could you do, put your finger in the dike?
And don't listen to those who, in the coming days, will reveal how you specifically reduced the Army Corps of Engineers' budget for New Orleans this summer for the third year in a row. You just tell them that even if you hadn't cut the money to fix those levees, there weren't going to be any Army engineers to fix them anyway because you had a much more important construction job for them -- BUILDING DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ!
On Day 3, when you finally left your vacation home, I have to say I was moved by how you had your Air Force One pilot descend from the clouds as you flew over New Orleans so you could catch a quick look of the disaster. Hey, I know you couldn't stop and grab a bullhorn and stand on some rubble and act like a commander in chief. Been there done that.
There will be those who will try to politicize this tragedy and try to use it against you. Just have your people keep pointing that out. Respond to nothing. Even those pesky scientists who predicted this would happen because the water in the Gulf of Mexico is getting hotter and hotter making a storm like this inevitable. Ignore them and all their global warming Chicken Littles. There is nothing unusual about a hurricane that was so wide it would be like having one F-4 tornado that stretched from New York to Cleveland.
No, Mr. Bush, you just stay the course. It's not your fault that 30 percent of New Orleans lives in poverty or that tens of thousands had no transportation to get out of town. C'mon, they're black! I mean, it's not like this happened to Kennebunkport. Can you imagine leaving white people on their roofs for five days? Don't make me laugh! Race has nothing -- NOTHING -- to do with this!
You hang in there, Mr. Bush. Just try to find a few of our Army helicopters and send them there. Pretend the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are near Tikrit.
P.S. That annoying mother, Cindy Sheehan, is no longer at your ranch. She and dozens of other relatives of the Iraqi War dead are now driving across the country, stopping in many cities along the way. Maybe you can catch up with them before they get to DC on September 21st.