March 21, 2010

The Indiana War Memorials Commission (IWMC), U.S. Submarine Veterans, Inc., City of Indianapolis and Indiana Department of Administration (IDOA) have a plan for some of the last undeveloped land left in downtown Indianapolis: a memorial to the decommissioned nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Indianapolis.

On May 22 of last year, the Department of Metropolitan Development (DMD), which owns the site, held a "canal stakeholders" meeting in response to the grassroots organization Canal Park Advocates' (CPA) request for an opportunity for public comments.

At the meeting U.S. Submarine Veterans described the plan, and several citizens in attendance questioned the appropriateness of the memorial for the site.

March 7, 2010

As anyone who has walked the halls of the U.S. Capitol can attest, the hairstyles of male politicians oftentimes rival Stonehenge for implausible construction.

Perhaps it is easy for me to say, since I don't have to brandish my own rapidly receding hairline on C-Span, but Indiana voters seem to be treated to more than our share of toupees, hair plugs and comb-overs elaborate enough to make Donald Trump blush.

But, if hair provided the window on the political soul, the true look of the moment would be the faux-hawk.

March 7, 2010

This is the second of two columns that explore the relationship between popular movements and the news media. Read Part 1 -- "Made for each other."


If the Tea Party movement is the spoiled stepchild of the American news media, then the 911 Truth movement is the mad woman in the attic of U.S. journalistic culture.

As I suggested in my previous column, the Tea Party's notoriety and popular appeal is fueled by press coverage that is, by turns, wildly enthusiastic and wholly uncritical. In contrast, American news workers have long ignored, shunned or ridiculed the 911 Truth movement. Likewise, relatively few international news outlets have taken the 911 Truth movement seriously. Until now.

February 21, 2010

Use as many low-energy lightbulbs as you like, turn down the thermostat and drive a hybrid car, but whatever you do as an individual -- indeed, the sum of what we all do for the environment --does almost nothing to alleviate the U.S. military's destruction of the earth.


In The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism, Barry Sanders writes that like other capitalist institutions, "each military branch ... must grow larger and fatter each year; expansion is the life blood of imperialism." Further, Sanders asserts, "The military can brook limits of no kind whatsoever. ... The Pentagon conducts its business behind very thick and very closed doors. It writes its own rules and either follows them or violates them, depending on the situation."

Almost all "military numbers remain off of official reports, secret and out of sight." Sanders obtained the information he cites in the book by gleaning what he could from "arcane reports" and obscure Web sites belonging to the Department of Defense and Government Accounting Office, plus books and articles.

February 7, 2010

On Feb. 1 President Barack Obama asked Congress to approve a record $708 billion in defense spending for fiscal 2011. The budget calls for a 3.4 percent increase in the Pentagon's base budget to $549 billion, plus $159 billion to fund the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But citizens aren't sitting by while the Pentagon's budget balloons. On March 20, just after the seventh anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, protestors will march on Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco.

On Friday evening, March 19, at least 55 Hoosiers and Kentucky residents will board a bus bound for Washington, D.C., for the second peace march since President Obama was elected. Participants will demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan and Iraq.

January 24, 2010

Like abolitionists, civil rights activists and opponents of the wars in Vietnam before them, those who question the endless U.S. war on terror are routinely dismissed as naive.

But what should we call those whose trillion-dollar wars hold no answers for a disturbed Nigerian young man willing to blow up an airplane on Christmas? What about those whose bombs could not prevent a Jordanian spy from killing himself and eight others on a CIA base in Afghanistan?

Predator drones and troop surges could not stop these threats. But U.S. invasions, missiles and torture surely fueled them. And the cycle of violence rolls on.

January 10, 2010

The recent spate of high-profile intelligence failures -- most notably the attempted Christmas Day bombing on board Northwest Airlines fight 253 -- put me in mind of an old Groucho Marx line: "Military intelligence is a contradiction in terms." In the days following the foiled terrorist plot, the usual suspects in and out of official Washington demonstrated their own faulty intelligence.

On one hand, Obama administration officials struggled to save face in the wake of an embarrassing, and potentially catastrophic, security lapse. On the other, a handful of House Republicans sought to score a few political points -- and raise a little campaign money in the bargain -- by politicizing this latest terrorist episode. Meanwhile, syndicated columnists and cable TV pundits were working overtime, spinning the story this way and that. As usual, the ensuing debate over intelligence failures and security breaches generates more heat than light.

January 10, 2010

At the commencement ceremony held on the Bloomington campus of Indiana University on Dec. 19, 2009, the speaker was honored with the degree of doctor of humane letters and upheld as an exemplary individual before the assembled hundreds of IU graduates. One might have thought that the recipient of this signal distinction was some large-hearted benefactor to the human race.

Maybe a scientist who had dedicated many years of selfless toil to the discovery of a cure for a killer disease. Or a humanitarian who had established schools and hospitals in underserved parts of the world. Possibly an apostle of peace who had worked tirelessly to resolve a festering international conflict. Someone whose heroic efforts had prevented loss of life amid present and future generations of concerned parties in a prolonged conflict.

Unfortunately such reasonable expectations are wide off the mark in regard to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the invited speaker at the winter commencement. The secretary has been best known since 2006 as a prominent enabler of the wars that have ravaged life and society in Iraq and Afghanistan. His most conspicuous recent achievement was advocating the escalation of a merciless war waged in Afghanistan by a powerful, technologically superior military against a country whose essentially defenseless population is innocent of complicity in perpetrating attacks on the United States.

December 27, 2009

It's not every day that the U.S. secretary of defense comes to Bloomington to address the new graduates and receive an honorary doctorate. Local peace activists saw this event, which took place at 9 a.m. on Dec. 19 at Assembly Hall, as a call to action.

On the cold, snowy Saturday morning, 22 people with signs stood, conversing quietly, across from the south entrance to Assembly Hall as people arrived to observe a commencement ceremony that featured Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Gates served as secretary of defense under President George W. Bush and continues in that role today under President Barack Obama. He was the director of the CIA from 1991 to 1993. Before that, from 1986 to 1989, he was the deputy director of the CIA.

December 27, 2009

It is a bitter cold Friday afternoon, and three people stand bundled up against the wind on a downtown Indianapolis street corner, silently holding signs pointed toward the rush-hour traffic. Two of the signs are in blue and white, with the words "War is not the answer" printed next to a drawing of a dove. The other sign reads, "Peace is patriotic."

This presence across from the Minton-Capehart Federal Building has been a weekly vigil since shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, when President George W. Bush chose to respond to tragedy with warfare.

A few folks driving or walking by wave at the demonstrators; a peace sign is flashed. Most just stare and move on.

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