Other Voices: The Connexions Newsletter

October 16, 2014

Is that a laptop in your closet?

At Connexions we put a lot of effort into preserving the history of movements for social justice. We have a massive library of documents on our Connexions.org website, and an even more massive collection of physical documents awaiting digitization.

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This Week on Connexions.org

Lying to Ourselves About the Air War

Most US citizens have never been subjected to an air raid. They have never heard the roar of planes flying high above them while an air raid siren wails, its whine competing with the planes’ roar and piercing the audio centres of the brain making sequential thought difficult if not impossible. Nor have they heard the sound of bombs – canisters filled with high explosives and fire – whistling as they fall through the air toward their targets on the ground. Nor have most US citizens ever sat in a bomb shelter wondering if their homes will survive the aerial assault they are hoping to survive themselves. The fear one feels is unmistakable. Indeed, it is probably quite similar to the fear a combatant feels in the heat of battle. There is no certainty as to one’s survival until the bombs have stopped falling and the siren’s all clear signal sounds. Even then, the possibility of unexploded ordnance remaining on the ground makes that certainty less than guaranteed. Read More

Keywords: Bombing - US Military

Factory and Lab: Israel's War Business

There’s not much left of the high-tech car. In a warehouse about the size of an aircraft hangar, its remains look tiny. There are no wheels, no chassis, just the angular body of the car. And it’s not in good shape at all. There’s a gaping hole in its side with edges of lacerated metal. “Rocket-propelled grenade,” says Yoav Hirsh, smiling. Had a person been inside, he or she would likely not have survived the blast. But there was no one behind the wheel: The Guardium is a fully automated vehicle.

Pride radiates from Hirsh -- who has a mix of gray and white hair, an athletic frame and a determined look on his face -- when he talks about his cars. He’s the CEO of G-Nius, one of first companies in the world able to produce an army of robot fighters. The Guardium has been used since 2007 in patrols along the border of the Gaza Strip. It can be guided by remote control or can steer itself through a pre-selected route as its cameras and sensors capture data about the surroundings. Read more

Keywords: Israeli Military - Military-industrial Complex

Denver students stage mass walk-out over US history ‘censorship’

Hundreds of Denver-area high school students walked out of their classrooms in a mass protest against what they call an attempt to censor their history curriculum by refocusing it on topics that promote citizenship, patriotism and obedience.

Students at six Denver-area highs schools walked out their classrooms en masse, protesting a plan by the conservative-majority Jefferson County school board to push for curriculum changes to Advanced Placement history courses to promote patriotism and deference to authority. The proposed changes would include the removal of topics that could ‘encourage’ civil disobedience from textbooks and materials.

The protest was organized through social media, encouraging students to stand outside the Jefferson County School Administrative Building with placards which read “People didn’t die so we erase them,”“Educate free thinkers,” “There is nothing more patriotic than protest,” and “History is History.” Read more

Keywords: Historical Interpretation - US History

The Anti-Empire Report #132

William Blum: “Each of you I’m sure has met many people who support American foreign policy, with whom you’ve argued and argued. You point out one horror after another, from Vietnam to Iraq. From god-awful bombings and invasions to violations of international law and torture. And nothing helps. Nothing moves this person. Now why is that? Are these people just stupid?I think a better answer is that they have certain preconceptions. Consciously or unconsciously, they have certain basic beliefs about the United States and its foreign policy, and if you don’t deal with these basic beliefs you may as well be talking to a stone wall.The most basic of these basic beliefs, I think, is a deeply-held conviction that no matter what the United States does abroad, no matter how bad it may look, no matter what horror may result, the government of the United States means well. Their intentions are always honorable, even noble. Of that the great majority of Americans are certain.”. Read more

Keywords: Intervention - Regime Change

Activists mount court challenge to Montreal’s anti-protest bylaw

As the City of Montreal cuts spending in pursuit of austerity, two Montrealers who are challenging the city’s anti-protest bylaw are questioning the city’s willingness to spend large amounts of money defending the controversial bylaw. “It seems like there is room for austerity measures around everything except repression,” said Julien Villeneuve, better-known as Anarchopanda, in an interview. Documents obtained by Villeneuve and Jaggi Singh, both plaintiffs in their own separate court challenges against municipal bylaw P-6, show that the city has decided to turn to private lawyers in order to defend the regulation. The documents show that the city is seeking outside legal counsel in the two cases. In the case of Singh, they are contracting the firm for $40,000 in services (plus tax) and for Villeneuve, $70,000 (plus tax), to a total of $110,000 before taxes.. Read more

Keywords: Police - Legal Systems as Instruments of Oppression

The Emergence of Marx's Critique of Modern Agriculture

Examining Karl Marx’s notebooks, one realizes that he gradually came to a truly critical and ecological comprehension of modern agriculture. Although Marx was at first optimistic about the positive effects of modern agriculture based on the application of natural sciences and technology, he later came to emphasize the negative consequences of agriculture under capitalism precisely because of such an application, illustrating how it inevitably brings about disharmonies in the transhistorical ‘metabolism’ between human beings and nature.

If, despite the intensive usage of synthetic fertilizers, industrial agriculture under capitalism only exhausts land over the long run, a socialist project needs to carry out a radical change. This means learning to manage soils more holistically, using better rotations and other management practices than possible given the logic of capitalist markets. These practices should aim to maintain and build soil organic matter and enhance the health of the soil and its biological, chemical, and physical characteristics. Contrary to a common critique of Marx’s “Prometheanism,” he does not overestimate the modern development of technology at all. Instead, analyzing how the logic of capital transforms the transhistorical metabolism between humans and nature, Marx convincingly emphasizes the necessity of consciously interacting with nature to enable a sustainable development of humanity and nature, and he attests to the irrationality and contradictions of the development of productive forces under the capitalist mode of production. Read More

Keywords: Agriculture - Marxism Overviews

Treasures from the Archives

The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism: The Political Economy of Human Rights: Volume 1

Chomsky and Herman demonstrate, with devasting logic and overwhelming documentation, that the purpose of U.S. global policy is to make the world safe for exploitation by U.S. corporate interests and that this has required and continues to require the installation and support of brutal military/police dictatorships throught the Third World. It also requires an apologetic ideology which portrays all this as being in the highest interests of democracy and human rights. Read more

Forgotten graffiti sheds new light on long, hot journeys to Vietnam

Military historian Art Beltrone found the graffiti by chance. He and a filmmaker had received permission to board the rusty old troop ship anchored in Virginia's James river. They climbed steps up from a tugboat, crossed the gangplank to open the door and found – a time capsule.Orange life vests sat atop each bunk, still at the ready. There were notices pinned to the bulletin board, dated 1967. "It was as though the men had just left," said Lee Beltrone, Art's wife. "Papers left on desks, dirty dishes in the galley."The graffiti was scrawled on the undersides of the canvas, quadruple-decker bunks: names and hometowns of young men headed to war in Vietnam, peace symbols, song lyrics, drawings of girlfriends and calendars counting down the days until they could go back home. Read more

'Anthropologists, Spooks, and the Boys Who Went To War' by Rowan Cahill

They are old men now, the youngest in his 80s; at most some 200 or so of them remain. In the grim days of the war in the Pacific when Australia faced the relentless drive southwards by Japanese armed forces, they were recruited to the Allied war effort in Sydney, some as young as 15 years of age, and sailed to war in the waters of New Guinea, and beyond, some to die, serving on Australian vessels, but under the American flag and the command of the US Army.These veterans, all that remain of some 3000 who served, do not easily mesh with masculinist renderings of Anzac mythology/military lore; the professional military history industry has largely bypassed them. Some of them were boys, not metaphorically as beloved by military cliché peddlers, but chronologically. Some of their comrades were older, the oldest in his 70s; at least one father and son team served, the father was just on 60, his son 16 and a half; some others who served only had one arm, at least one only had one leg. And their American leadership mainly comprised amateur soldiers. Read more

People's History and Grassroots Archives News: The “Yellow Book” of the Armed Forces

The names, nicknames and photos of 1,975 individuals classified as “delinquent terrorists” were included in a 270-page report created on July 1987 by the Salvadoran military. The existence of this document, called the “Yellow Book,” was revealed on September 28 by the National Security Archive (NSA), the University of Washington Center for Human Rights and the Human Rights Data Analysis Group.

“Is the first-ever confidential Salvadoran military document to be made public,” states an electronic bulletin of the NSA. “And the only evidence to appear from the Salvadoran Army´s own files of the surveillance methods used by security forces to target Salvadoran citizens during the country´s 12-year civil war.”

The “Yellow Book,” compiled by the Intelligence Department of the Joint Staff of the Armed Forces, consists of a systematic list with 1,915 entries, 1,857 identified by name, photograph, and alleged connection to suspect organizations, including unions, political parties and rebel groups of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN).

A hand-written note on the document´s cover page asks the reader to “use it” and “make copies of the photographs and put them on your bulletin board so you will know your enemies,” indicating that the report was intended to aid security forces in identifying the opposition. Read more

Topic of the Week: Arms Trade

The selling and trading of arms around the globe, be it through governments, companies or other groups, has had a profound effect in many parts of the world and continues to do so. Many of the civil wars and insurgencies are fought using arms sold to them through the international arms trade, often times through questionable or illegal means. The trade of arms has only increased in recent times as a result of a surplus of arms from the former Soviet republics and as a result of countries and unions such as the United States, China, Iran, Russia and the EU all vying for influence. For more sources on the arms trade click here. For additional information on the military-industrial complex as well as the movements against the international trade of arm click here and here.You can also browse or use our search feature.

Book of the Week: The No-Nonsense guide to the arms trade

Burrows explains that military, government and corporate entities together form a powerful, legitimate authority. A government will support its military by organizing laws to better facilitate international trade. Current military alliances like NATO and the European Framework Agreement have consequences for the movement of weapons. Organized arms fairs operate as both a showcase and a venue to strengthen business relationships. Burrows details a list of warring nations that are regular attendees, despite claims of exhibition hosts that they are not willing to trade with undemocratic or human rights abusing countries. Though suppliers try to make strategic deals, shifting political relationships mean that a country may supply weapons to a future enemy.

Arms tend to be re-sold to progressively poorer countries that have lax import and environmental laws. De-regulated trade has allowed some African nations to purchase arms and prioritize war efforts over social stability and public health. Other valuable commodities include torture equipment, restraints, electroshock devices, chemicals and gas, which are often traded without stipulation for their use. Burrows argues that by fueling known violence and oppression, suppliers legitimate undemocratic regimes and indirectly condone human rights abuses.

The illegal arms trade is heavily dependent on its legal counterpart and neither is regulated by an independent monitor. Lack of market transparency obscures the value of deals and so bribes, incentives and excessive hospitality are easily hidden. Research, personnel, arms and other non-essential materials are trafficked legally by governments and illegally by hired mercenaries and private military companies.

In recent years, the UN and some NGOs have worked to abolish or regulate the arms trade and have met with some success. Burrows presents several activist groups and the steps they have taken toward this end.This book cites relevant worldwide examples of countries involved in the arms trade and explains the history of each case. It is an informative and comprehensible guide to the arms trade that is perfect for those who do not have a political science background.

Read more →

Film of the Week: The Corporation

THE CORPORATION explores the nature and spectacular rise of the dominant institution of our time. Taking its status as a legal "person" to the logical conclusion, the film puts the corporation on the psychiatrist's couch to ask "What kind of person is it?" The Corporation includes interviews with 40 corporate insiders and critics - including Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Milton Friedman, Howard Zinn, Vandana Shiva and Michael Moore - plus true confessions, case studies and strategies for change.

Read more →

Website of the Week: Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade

COAT is a national network of individuals and organizations in Canada that began in late 1988 to organize opposition to ARMX '89, which was the country's largest weapons bazaar. COAT has continued to expose and oppose Canada's role in the international arms trade, particularly where there is trade to governments which are engaged in war or which violate human rights.

Since its formation, the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) has made significant contributions to Canada's peace movement. As an Ottawa-based organization, supported by a network of individuals and groups across Canada, COAT made great headway in exposing and opposing many military export events held in the nation's capital.

Throughout the 1990's, COAT continued to organize major events, including anti-war rallies, marches, peace vigils and conferences in Ottawa. COAT has also coordinated campaigns against war/air shows, war toys and Canada's active participation, and hypocritical role, in various U.S-led wars. Much of our work has helped to challenge the dominant cultural mythology that Canada is a great force for peace in the world. Unfortunately, the reality of the Canadian government and corporate complicity in war and injustice does not correspond to the the mythology.

Read more →

Connexions Calendar

October 18 to 19, 2014
Ontario Health Coalition: Health Action Assembly and Conference
Toronto, ON

October 20 to 22, 2014
ICCE2014: International Conference & Exhibition on Clean Energy
Vancouver, BC

October 25, 2014
Glen Greenwald speaks in Ottawa
Ottawa, ON

October 30, 2014
Legal Toolkit Workshop for Environmental Protection
Toronto, ON

Read more →

Seeds of Fire

October 16, 1856

Birth of Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), playwright, poet, epigramist, and socialist.

October 16, 1859

John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry begins. Brown and his group, all deeply committed to the anti-slavery cause, have planned the raid in the hope of obtaining guns, freeing slaves, and triggering an armed revolt against slavery. By October 18, the raid has failed; some of Brown’s men are dead, and Brown and six other raiders are subsequently executed.

October 16, 1970

Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau declares a state of apprehended insurrection and invokes the War Measures Act in the wake of two kidnappings – those of James Cross and Pierre Laporte – by members of the FLQ. Under the War Measures Act, habeas corpus is suspended, allowing police to arrest and detain people without charge. Soldiers are sent to patrol the streets of Montreal. While the War Measures Act is in force, hundreds of people are arrested and held without charge.

Read more →

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Thanks to Tahmid Khan and Ulli Diemer for their work on this newsletter.


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