The high cost of war

July 28, 2011

I received the following email from former Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson about a week ago, and think it important enough to share with you. Our news media keep us distracted with non-news; smoke and mirrors. The bogeyman which confronts us isn’t taxes, the high price of gasoline, or child murderers, etc., as horrific as these are, but rather the high cost of constant war. The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya consume nearly 50% of the United States budget, and enrich the few at the expense of the many. These wars are directly responsible for millions of Americans being out of work, and for the middle-class erosion that continues. Following is the text of Alan Grayson’s letter:

There are 23 million Americans who can’t find full-time work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There are 50 million Americans who can’t see a doctor when they are sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

There are more than 15 million American families who owe more on their mortgage than their homes are worth, according to Zillow.  That’s almost a third of all the families who own homes.

If I were in Congress right now, these are the problems that I would be trying to solve.

But instead, we see a bizarre preoccupation—no, really, an obsession—with cutting federal benefits.  Some kind of weird contest to see who can inflict the most pain on the American people.  With the proponent of each new sadistic plan announcing proudly, “mine is bigger than yours.”

I’ll be honest—the federal deficit for the year 2021 is not something that I spend a lot of time thinking about, these days.  But let’s assume—arguendo, as they used to say back in Ancient Rome – that for some reason, there were some compelling, emergency need to work out how to cut $2 trillion from projected federal budget deficits over the next ten years.

I have an idea about how to do that.  It’s a very simple idea.  In fact, I can sum it up in one word, with five letters:

PEACE.

 

Now, I know that peace may not be as popular as it used to be.  The polling is very iffy.  The focus groups are mixed.  But let’s look at the facts.

Last year, we spent $154 billion in appropriated funds on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  That is in addition to the $549 billion in appropriated funds for the Pentagon – you know, just to keep the lights on.  And the non-appropriated cost of war was even higher – especially when you include the cost of care for the 15% of all the American troops in Iraq who come home with permanent brain abnormalities.  According to Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, the war in Iraq alone is costing us $4 trillion and counting. That’s more than $13,000 for every one of us, and roughly 8% of our entire net worth as a nation.

The cost of war is enormous.  So enormous that, as I pointed out in H.R. 5353, The War is Making You Poor Act, if we simply funded that cost through the Pentagon’s own budget, rather than through supplemental appropriations, we could eliminate taxes on everyone’s first $35,000 of income ($70,000 for married couples), and still reduce the deficit by more than $10 billion a year.

And that was last year.  Since then, the number of wars has gone up by 50%.

This is what Pat Buchanan—of all people, Pat Buchanan—said two weeks ago:

“The United States is strategically over-extended, worldwide. What are we doing borrowing money from Japan to defend Japan. Borrow money from Europe to defend Europe. Borrow money from the Persian Gulf to defend the Persian Gulf. This country is over-extended. It is an empire and the empire is coming down.”

You say that you want to save $2 trillion in ten years?  It’s simple:  end the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and end whatever it is that they are calling it now in Libya.  I’d rather do that than throw Granny from the train.

But that’s just me. 

Guns or butter.  It’s not a new choice.

I prefer butter.

What about you?

Courage,

Alan Grayson


Third annual Woodstock Walk

July 8, 2011

This year’s Woodstock International Walk for World Peace is scheduled to begin at 11:00 a.m., Saturday, August 6, 2011. We will meet at the parking lot at the intersection of routes 375 and 212 in Woodstock, NY, where the flags of every country will be handed out for our procession through town to Comeau Field, where the World Peace Prayer Society will once again hold the Flag Ceremony.

We hold this walk each year to reaffirm our commitment to peace. The walk is always held on the weekend closest to the anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, to recognize that we never again wish to see nuclear weapons used. We hold that all life is sacred, and that there is no such thing as a “just” war. The only way to peace is through peace, and we support the peaceful resolution of all disputes. This year’s walk happens to fall on the actual date of the bombing, and we will say a prayer for the casualties of this horrific event.

Our founder, John Nelson, is in Hiroshima, setting up events there for Live Peace International, a worldwide event where concerts for peace will be streamed live from venues throughout the world. More info is available on YouTube, and I’m awaiting more details from John; as soon as they are made available I will post them here.

The same goes for events at the third annual Woodstock International Walk for World Peace; as performers and speakers are confirmed, we will post them here. The Parrots for Peace will once again be on hand, too. We look forward to seeing you all there! Peace and Love!


Thanks!

August 13, 2010

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I hope you enjoy the slide show above (all photos © 2010 Cameron Williams or © 2010 Doug Potoksky, all rights reserved); this is the first opportunity I’ve had since Sunday’s second annual Woodstock International Walk for World Peace to say thank you to all of you who helped make our event a success.

First, thanks to the legendary Pete Seeger, to whom the Woodstock Council awarded the first “Noble Peace Prize”.

Pete Seeger’s "Noble Peace Prize”

Thanks also to Joyce Beymer, and all the wonderful folks at the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and the Arts, Woodstock Town Supervisor Jeff Moran, Woodstock Police Chief Clayton Keefe and the Woodstock Police Department, Terrie Rosenblum, Cathy Magarelli, Bill McKenna, Jay Wenk, Angela Sweet, Jacquelyn A. Earley, Michael Reynolds, Paul Andreassen, Ray Brundage, who was so helpful in setting up Comeau Field, Adam Slagsvol and all the other folks at American Printing, Michael and Ziedel Epstein at Hurley Ridge Market, Nick Altomare, Mark McDunna, Fumi Stewart and The World Peace Prayer Society, Gloria Waslyn and The Parrots for Peace, Victorio Roland Mousaa, Princess WOW!, founder of The Smile Revolution, Mary Poppiins, Caitlin O’Heaney, Hank Woji, Luke Hunzberger, Norman (who played and sang, and whose last name I don’t know), Mighty Xee, Christina Valentine and Monica, Tinya Seeger, Phil Sauers, Sonia Malkine, who repeated her moving rendition of Pete’s song “Where Have All The Flowers Gone”; Greg Reitman and Britta Peterson of Blue Water Entertainment, who are filming Rooted in Peace, Russell Richardson of the INDIE project, and Marie Uridia, also of INDIE, who filmed our walk; Carol Johnson, Catskill Mountain Plumbing & Heating, Vivo Gallery, and Cucina restaurant; David and Fiona Saxman of The White Gryphon, Catskill Mountain Pizza, Reverend Josh Bode of the Dutch Reformed Church (congratulations!), Bill McKnight and Melinda Terpening McKnight, Doug Potoksky; the inimitable Father Jack Nelson, without whom this would not be possible; Elaine Maggiore, B. Vos, Michele Elyse Flanders, Bob Place, Tony Angel, Pierre and Terry LeRoy of the Haitian People’s Support Project, and anyone else whose name I may have omitted. Special thanks also to Ronnye Jai and Alan Shapiro, who serve as inspiration to us all. Peace! —CW


Universal Peace Day and The Woodstock International Walk for World Peace

August 6, 2010

Today, August 6th, 2010, is the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.  “Little Boy” was the name of the fission bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The 30 year old pilot, Colonel Paul Tibbets, named his B-29 Superfortress the “Enola Gay” after his mother. The immediate death toll was approximately 70,000 men, women & children, who were instantly vaporized. Many others perished in the months and years that followed. August 6 has been internationally recognized as Universal Peace Day, though due to the International Date Line, it is often observed in the U.S. on August 5th.

Yesterday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for the total elimination of nuclear weapons, and Nobel Prize-winning author and Hiroshima survivor Kenzaburo Oe wrote a moving article in The New York Times.

A photo from last year's walk. ©2009 Doug Potoksky

We ask all of you to join us this Sunday, August 8, 2010, for the Second Annual Woodstock International Walk for World Peace. We walk on the weekend closest to Universal Peace Day each year as a reminder to all that we wish to never again witness nuclear devastation, and to express our profound wishes for an end to all wars. If each of us is dedicated to a more peaceful world, we will have one.

We thank The Woodstock Chamber of Commerce & Arts, The Town of Woodstock, The World Peace Prayer Society, Pete Seeger, Victorio Roland Mousaa, Princess WOW!, Tony Angel, and all the other individuals who have given so generously their time and efforts to support our goals.

Now come on out Sunday morning for a great time!


Peace on Earth

July 28, 2010

John McConnell's Earth Flag

We all have reason to celebrate this year and join the Woodstock Walk for Peace! Peace can be at hand if we all give a hand to help make peace. With our voices, our words, and our deeds, we can all help bring peace to our beautiful planet. Please join all of us on August 8, 2010 at 8am to once again Walk for Peace and participate in a World Peace Prayer and a day of music, art, and celebration for all of the Earth!

Hope to see all the smiling faces there again this year!

Peace, Love, and Kindness for you all,
Bill McKnight wm_media@yahoo.com


2nd Annual Woodstock Walk for Peace—Save the date!

July 18, 2010

Hello, everyone! After the wonderful walk we had last year, we feel that it’s once again time to hold a Woodstock Walk for Peace, to affirm our message of peace and love. All are welcome and invited to participate, and the date is tentatively set for August 8, 2010—once again, the Sunday nearest the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945, sixty-five years ago.  Living peace icon, Pete Seeger, whose song, Where Have All the Flowers Gone, a spontaneous anthem of the annual tradition of the Woodstock Walk for Peace, has agreed to participate in this year’s event.  Pete will be giving an 8:00 a.m. interview for WDST, Woodstock radio from his home in Beacon and be with us from 10 a.m. to 11:30 before he performs at the Bearsville Theater at 1 (doors open at noon) with a benefit concert for Clearwater (cleaning up the Hudson River and environmental education and activism) and The Smile Revolution, a campaign to ignite the power of a smile to begin peace in one’s heart and radiate to those who are touched by this simple act. Following the concert, Pete will be signing his newly published book, “Where Have all the Flowers Gone”, an anthology of popular folk songs.  Pete wished to be at the first annual walk, last year, but had a previous concert commitment. Toshi Seeger, Pete’s life-time love and partner in marriage, comes from Woodstock originally, Pete is always glad to announce, as Woodstock is an extension of home for the Seeger family.

We are now beginning the process of seeking approvals from the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and the town board—we will

Pete Seeger. ©2010 Cameron Williams

make announcements here, and expect to begin distributing flyers around town this week. With the enthusiasm generated from last year’s walk and the buzz around making it happen on a continuing basis, the grass roots organizing has now begun. Jack Nelson will participate, along with local talent for peace, social justice, music, and joy.

“May Peace Prevail on Earth” is our theme.  With the World Peace Prayer Society’s donation of the Peace Pole in the Village Green and the flag ceremony, a uniting pageantry of flags representing each nation and indigenous region of the world last year, we call upon the ideal of peace to end the unfortunate and continuing strife around the world, from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, to Palestine, and more; our voices need to be heard more now than ever. Join with us in the spirit of peace and brotherhood, and let the world know that the spirit of peace lives in Woodstock, and around the world in sister cities of the Woodstock Nation.


Vernal Equinox (Spring is here!)

March 21, 2010

The ecliptic path at vernal equinox

Yesterday, at 1:32 p.m., spring arrived in the northern hemisphere, and fall began in the southern. The vernal (spring) equinox marks the time each year when daylight and darkness are exactly equal (in the northern hemisphere; this date marks the autumnal equinox in the southern hemisphere.

I was privileged to attend the United Nations Earth Day ceremony and the ringing of the peace bell in the rose garden, where I heard the wonderful Tarumi Violinists, directed by Yukako Tarumi, and many interesting speakers on the environment. Among the speakers were Helen Garland, chairperson of the Earth Society Foundation, co-founded with John McConnell and supported by noted anthropologist Margaret Mead; Simon Reeves from New Zealand; Vahan Galoumian, Project Coordinator of UNESCO‘s liason office in New York, and Andres Gomez of the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation of Natural History at the American Museum of Natural History.

John McConnell's Earth Flag

We are losing habitat and biodiversity at an alarming rate; 40% of the Amazon rainforest will be lost by 2030 if deforestation continues at present rates; soil and fisheries depletion are accelerating, and 30,000 people per day are dying from lack of access to clean water. These are severe problems that need solutions, and I thank all of yesterday’s speakers for their dedication to these issues.

Yet too often, the multinational corporations and the men and women who run them are portrayed as arch-villains; I find this disturbing for many reasons, chief among them that these men and women are people just like you and me, and no man or woman is my enemy. For better or for worse, these corporations are here to stay, and we need to enlist them as partners to move forward; the way to peace can only be through peace. As Jurrian Kamp, editor-in-chief of Ode magazine states in his article We need to end climate anger: “…environmentalists… need to embrace all the people they fear stand in the way of the progress the planet needs: the politicians and industrial leaders.”

To be sure, corporations must practice corporate responsibility and become good planetary citizens, and their track record on this has been dismal, yet demonizing these corporations and the men and women who run them is the most ineffective means at our disposal of enlisting their cooperation—and we need their cooperation and access to their vast resources if we are to find solutions to the problems we face. We are all in this together.

The above views are my own, and do not necessarily represent the Woodstock Council for World Peace.