|PEACE ACTION FOR A SANE WORLD, the nation's largest grassroots peace network,
with chapters and affiliates in over 30 states, organizes our grassroots network to place
pressure on Congress and the Administration through write-in campaigns, Internet actions,
citizen lobbying and direct action. Through a close relationship with progressive members of
Congress, we play a key role in devising strategies to move forward peace legislation, and as a
leading member of United for Peace and Justice and the Win Without War coalition, we lend our
expertise and large network to achieving common goals.
Real change comes from the bottom up.
We're committed to educating and organizing at the grassroots level.
Peace Action Youngstown , Ohio chapter since 1989, merges the organization's national
mission with efforts to build community peace and social justice programs, including
neighborhood restoration and the arts.
Together, we have the power to be the change we wish to see in the world.
|FOR MORE THAN 30 YEARS, WE'VE WORKED FOR PEACE THROUGH COMMUNITY COMMITMENT, ISSUES INTERCHANGE AND ARTS PRESENTATIONS
|IF YOU WANT IT...
|WAR IS OVER
|"No matter how cynical you
get, it's almost impossible
to keep up." - Lily Tomlin
|PEACE ACTION YOUNGSTOWN
|More of the Same
Lesson from 9/11
by CESAR CHELALA
Sept 10th, 2014
On a rainy morning on April
1958, in Washington DC, Ezra
Pound -then a seventy-two
year-old man- was declared
“incurably insane” by Judge
Bolitha J. Laws, who set him
free. As he prepared to leave
for Italy Pound declared
“Any man who could live in
America is insane.”
I wonder what Pound –one of
America’s greatest poets-
would think today of the state
of the country, which is
suffering from a long blood-
letting process resulting from
unjust, unjustified wars. This
situation is particularly evident
when one returns to the US
after staying from some time
overseas. What one sees, as
many friends told me, is an
American government bent on
an almost suicidal road to war.
It has been shown almost ad
infinitum that following the wars
in Iraq and Afghanistan, to cite
only the most important ones,
that the climate of worldwide
violence has increased
substantially, and shows no
signs of diminishing. And while
we are justifiably horrified by
the recent beheadings of two
American journalists, we were
not equally horrified by the
killings by drones of whole
families in countries overseas.
Nor we were equally horrified
by the hundreds of Palestinian
children and the destruction of
thousands of homes of people
fighting for the right to live in
their own land. In the
meantime, meretricious US
politicians repeated like a
mantra that they supported the
right of Israel to defend itself,
without any mention of
In the meantime, few people
seem to be concerned about
the tortures and humiliations at
Guantanamo, Iraq, Afghanistan
and so many other countries
where prisoners were sent to
be tortured by the US
authorities. And while President
Barak Obama has promised,
even before being elected, that
he would close Guantanamo
this is yet to happen, and the
issue has become one of the
darkest episodes in the US’s
This is happening while more
attacks are being carried out
on Iraq and in Syria, the same
rebels we have armed, are
proving to be a nightmare for
US forces and a huge
hindrance to eventually reach
peace in that region. In the
meantime, the US intervention
in Libya, rather than
democratizing the country, has
left a mess of deadly rivalries of
conflicting armies without a
solution in sight.
And while an agreement with
Iran over its nuclear program is
pursued, new sanctions were
imposed on that country that in
the least are an irritant and at
most an obstacle
to an agreement.
To add to this panorama of
desolation, we see the slow
disintegration of Ukraine, the
hapless country in the middle
of conflicting US and Russian
interests. And rather than
trying to calm the waters of
dissent, the US is slowly
encircling Russia through
NATO, unconcerned that a
similar situation on the US
borders would be
unacceptable to the US.
The “war on terror” has not
defeated it but brought more
terror to the world. As Rami G.
Khouri, a contributing editor to
the Beirut Daily Star, and a
keen observer of international
politics recently wrote, “Dear
Mr. Obama, Mr. Biden and
Prime Minister David Cameron
of the United Kingdom: before
you launch a new global war on
terror and another coalition of
countries to fight ISIS, please
note that the last three
decades of your global war on
terror have sparked the
greatest expansion of Islamist
militancy and terrorism in
modern history. This partly,
maybe largely, because your
military actions in Islamic lands
usually destabilize those lands,
allowing your enemies to
organize and take root, and
also provide the greatest
magnet that attracts mostly
fringe and lost young men to
give meaning to their lives by
joining what they see as a
defensive jihad to save Islamic
societies from your aggression.”
To continue the war on terror is
thus not only counterproductive
and will not bring peace to the
world but will show, sadly, that
the main lesson of 9/11 has not
Dr. Cesar Chelala is a winner
of an overseas Press Club of
America award for an article on
|Workers in Maine Buy Out Their Jobs,
Set an Example for the Nation
By Rob Brown, Noemi Giszpenc
and Brian Van Slyke, Truthout | Op-Ed
t(On remote Deer Isle, Maine, the movement for a more just and democratic
economy won a major victory. More than 60 employees of three retail
businesses - Burnt Cove Market, V&S Variety and Pharmacy, and The Galley -
banded together to buy the stores and create the largest worker cooperative
in Maine and the second largest in New England.
Now the workers own and run the businesses together under one banner,
known as the Island Employee Cooperative (IEC). This is the first time that
multiple businesses of this size and scope have been merged and converted
into one worker cooperative - making this a particularly groundbreaking
achievement in advancing economic democracy.
Getting There: What It Took
When the local couple that had owned the three businesses for 43 years
began to think about selling their stores and retiring, the workers became
concerned. The stores were one of the island's biggest employers and a
potential buyer probably would not have come from within the community or
maintained the same level of jobs and services. Only a worker buy-out could
Because these workers were trying to accomplish something historic, it took
more than a year - and it wasn't always an easy road. But the workers'
strength lay in their own determination, and in the ability to rely on a group of
allies dedicated to growing the cooperative movement. The Independent
Retailers Shared Services Cooperative (IRSSC) and the Cooperative
Development Institute, helped them develop their management, governance,
legal and financial structures. They were also able to secure financing from
Maine-based Coastal Enterprises and the Cooperative Fund of New England,
both Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs).
Without that dedicated technical assistance and available capital, it is doubtful
the IEC would be here today.
More Is Needed
While the creation of the IEC maintained dozens of decent paying jobs and a
remote community's only nearby access to essentials such as groceries and
prescription medications, it also points to a successful model that could be
used across the country to expand ownership and wealth to regular working
people. This experience shows that if only we had more resources to
experiment with grounded, practical economic policies, we could create many
more of the living-wage jobs and community-sustaining businesses we
The Great Recession has led many to consider better ways to organize our
economy, as always happens during economic downturns. But the reality is
that our economy, even during the "good times," has always been failing
working people. So we need to think long term and change our strategies in
order to build a durable, democratic, equitable and just economy.
The Great Recession in Maine: A Bad Situation Gets Worse
In the aftermath of the Great Recession, Maine has won back less than half of
the jobs we lost (ranking us 46th among the states): We are second from the
bottom for total job growth, and we have one of the highest numbers of
part-time workers who want more employment but can't find it. Nearly one-third
of unemployed Mainers have been looking for work for more than six months,
which is more than twice the national average. And what little growth there has
been has occurred almost exclusively in the Portland metro region, in far
But it's not as if our workers were prospering before the Great Recession.
Over the last 30 years, the incomes of the poorest Maine workers grew by only
27 percent, while incomes for the wealthiest Mainers jumped by 67 percent.
Starting in the late '90s, Maine lost more manufacturing jobs per capita than
any other state. Maine workers also have the lowest average incomes of all
the New England states and, of Maine's 16 counties, 14 of them are among
the poorest in the region. As a result, one in seven Mainers overall and more
than one in five children live in poverty. Most shamefully, poverty characterizes
more than one in four young children, and one in three in our poorest counties.
In short, Maine's low wages, limited job prospects, deepening poverty and
growing inequality are not just the result of the Great Recession; it is structural
and long-standing. We've needed to change the way the economy works for
quite a while. And that's exactly why strategies to create sustainable,
democratic businesses like the Island Employee Cooperative are so critical.
The Island Employee Cooperative: A Model for Maine and the Nation
Worker cooperatives hold the promise of fundamentally addressing our long
standing economic woes. Because they give members an equal voice in the
co-op's governance, a worker co-op will almost never pick up and leave
its community. Those jobs are democratically owned by the people
who work and live there.
In addition, in worker co-ops, employees have an incentive to work harder and
smarter, because they benefit from an equitable share of the profits. And
when a worker co-op is facing financial difficulty, the first response isn't to lay
people off. That's because the worker-owners are sharing the risks and
burdens of the business as well. Instead, members often come together to find
democratic solutions to their problems, such as temporarily lowering wages or
cutting hours for all workers, so that no one person has to lose their job. This
is one of the major factors that also make worker co-ops more economically
sustainable in low-income communities.
For the new worker-owners of the Island Employee Cooperative, the
transformation into a co-op will, over time, create profound changes in their
lives as they begin investing some of the business' profits into better wages
and benefits - something that is extremely uncommon for those in the retail
business. The co-op is also already collaborating with the Maine Community
College System to deliver education programs on-site so that the workers can
improve their knowledge and skills. While retail jobs are often depicted as
low-wage and dead-end, these retail workers are now business owners who
will learn to make many hard decisions together. And because IEC is one of
the island's largest employers, the cooperative ownership model will make a
tremendous impact on the community as many more families build wealth
through democratic ownership.
That's a model we can and should scale up.
A New Approach to Economic Development
Unfortunately, successful examples like the IEC are rare in the United States
because worker cooperative development gets little to no support from city,
state and federal governments. Instead, these institutions spend a fortune on
economic development programs that create windfall profits for corporations,
but very few sustainable, living-wage jobs.
The way states have traditionally pursued economic development relies
primarily on "chasing smokestacks" and dreaming up new tax giveaways for
out-of-state corporations. That serves to benefit the 1% while leaving
workers in the dust.
A less costly, more effective and more equitable strategy of focusing on
worker co-op development would drive investments into grassroots initiatives
for economic sustainability. Some support already exists: For example, New
York City just passed its 2015 budget and is investing over $1 million in a
comprehensive program to support the development of worker cooperatives,
including directing existing business-development resources to be more
supportive of worker co-ops. Ohio has provided small grants for feasibility
studies and technical assistance to employees considering a cooperative
buyout of their workplace, using federal funds that are available in every state
(but utilized by only a half-dozen or so). Rural Cooperative Development
Grants from the US Department of Agriculture support state and regional
groups that provide cooperative development services in rural areas (though
not just to worker co-ops).
There are more examples of supportive policies, but they all amount to a tiny
drop in the bucket compared to what is spent on typical economic
development approaches that do little for working people.
In order to begin scaling up worker co-op development, we need to provide
technical assistance and small pre-development grants to people starting
co-ops within their own communities, make available better education on how
to operate a cooperative, provide loan guarantees for groups who would
otherwise struggle to access credit, and offer targeted,
accountable tax incentives.
Communities across the country would benefit from more initiatives that
support development of new co-ops, as well as converting existing businesses
into worker-owned ones like the Island Employee Cooperative.
This approach would allow many more communities to sustain themselves,
cultivate jobs with dignity, improve wages and help more people build wealth
through democratic ownership. And then we might see a transformation into
an economy that truly and sustainably serves the needs of all.
|The Last Letter
A Message to George W. Bush
and Dick Cheney From
a Dying Veteran
To: George W. Bush
and Dick Cheney
From: Tomas Young
I write this letter on the 10th
anniversary of the Iraq War
on behalf of my fellow Iraq
I write this letter on behalf of
the 4,488 soldiers and Marines
who died in Iraq.
I write this letter on behalf of
the hundreds of thousands
of veterans who have been
wounded and on behalf of those
whose wounds, physical and
psychological, have destroyed
their lives. I am one of those
gravely wounded. I was
paralyzed in an insurgent
ambush in 2004 in Sadr City.
My life is coming to an end.
I am living under hospice care.
I write this letter on behalf of
husbands and wives who have
lost spouses, on behalf of
children who have lost a parent,
on behalf of the fathers and
mothers who have lost sons and
daughters and on behalf of
those who care for the many
thousands of my fellow veterans
who have brain injuries.
I write this letter on behalf of
those veterans whose trauma
and self-revulsion for what they
have witnessed, endured and
done in Iraq have led to suicide
and on behalf of the active-duty
soldiers and Marines who
commit, on average, a suicide
I write this letter on behalf of the
some 1 million Iraqi dead and on
behalf of the countless Iraqi
wounded. I write this letter on
behalf of us all—the human
detritus your war has left
behind, those who will spend
their lives in unending pain
You may evade justice but in
our eyes you are each guilty
of egregious war crimes, of
plunder and, finally, of murder,
including the murder of
thousands of young Americans,
—my fellow veterans—whose
future you stole.
I write this letter, my last letter,
to you, Mr. Bush and Mr.Cheney.
I write not because I think you
grasp the terrible human and
moral consequences of your
lies, manipulation and thirst for
wealth and power.
I write this letter because, before
my own death, I want to make it
clear that I, and hundreds of
thousands of my fellow
veterans, along with millions of
my fellow citizens, along with
hundreds of millions more in Iraq
and the Middle East, know fully
who you are and what you have
You may evade justice but in
our eyes you are each guilty
of egregious war crimes,
of plunder and, finally, of
murder, including the murder
of thousands of young
Americans —my fellow
veterans—whose future you
Your positions of authority,
your millions of dollars of
personal wealth, your public
relations consultants, your
privilege and your power cannot
mask the hollowness of your
You sent us to fight and die in
Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney,
dodged the draft in Vietnam,
and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL
from your National Guard unit.
Your cowardice and selfishness
were established decades ago.
You were not willing to risk
yourselves for our nation but
you sent hundreds of thousands
of young men and women to be
sacrificed in a senseless war
with no more thought than it
takes to put out the garbage.
I joined the Army two days after
the 9/11 attacks. I joined the
Army because our country had
been attacked. I wanted to strike
back at those who had killed
some 3,000 of my fellow citizens.
I did not join the Army to go to
Iraq, a country that had no part
in the September 2001 attacks
and did not pose a threat to its
neighbors, much less to the
I did not join the Army to
“liberate” Iraqis or to shut down
destruction facilities or to
implant what you cynically called
“democracy” in Baghdad and
the Middle East.
I did not join the Army to rebuild
Iraq, which at the time you told
us could be paid for by Iraq’s
oil revenues. Instead, this war
has cost the United States over
I especially did not join the Army
to carry out pre-emptive war.
Pre-emptive war is illegal under
international law. And as a
soldier in Iraq I was, I now know,
abetting your idiocy and your
crimes. The Iraq War is the
largest strategic blunder in U.S.
history. It obliterated the
balance of power in the Middle
East. It installed a corrupt and
in Baghdad, one cemented in
power through the use of
torture, death squads and
terror. And it has left Iran as the
dominant force in the region.
On every level—moral,
strategic, military and
economic—Iraq was a failure.
And it was you, Mr. Bush and
Mr. Cheney, who started this
war. It is you who should pay the
I would not be writing this letter
if I had been wounded fighting in
Afghanistan against those
forces that carried out the
attacks of 9/11. Had I been
wounded there I would still be
miserable because of my
physical deterioration and
imminent death, but I would at
least have the comfort of
knowing that my injuries were a
consequence of my own
decision to defend the country I
love. I would not have to lie in
my bed, my body filled with
painkillers, my life ebbing away,
and deal with the fact that
hundreds of thousands of
human beings, including
children, including myself, were
sacrificed by you for little more
than the greed of oil companies,
for your alliance with the oil
sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your
insane visions of empire.
I have, like many other disabled
veterans, suffered from the
inadequate and often inept care
provided by the Veterans
Administration. I have, like many
other disabled veterans, come
to realize that our mental and
physical wounds are of no
interest to you, perhaps of no
interest to any politician. We
were used. We were betrayed.
And we have been abandoned.
You, Mr. Bush, make much
pretense of being a Christian.
But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder
a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish
ambition sins? I am not a
Christian. But I believe in the
Christian ideal. I believe that
what you do to the least of your
brothers you finally do to
yourself, to your own soul.
My day of reckoning is upon me.
Yours will come. I hope you will
be put on trial.
But mostly I hope, for your
sakes, that you find the moral
courage to face what you have
done to me and to many, many
others who deserved to live.
I hope that before your time on
earth ends, as mine is now
ending, you will find the strength
of character to stand before the
American public and the world,
and in particular the Iraqi
people, and beg for
|In March 2013, Truthdig
columnist Chris Hedges
published an interview with
Young about his worldview and
circumstances.Young was in
hospice care at the time of the
interview, which was conducted
at his home in Kansas City.
Although he has contemplated
suicide on various occasions,
he decided "to go on hospice
care, to stop feeding and fade
away. This way, instead of
committing the conventional
suicide and I am out of the
picture, people have a way to
stop by or call and say their
goodbyes." He later changed
his mind, saying "I want to
spend as much time as possible
with my wife, and no decent son
wants his obituary to read that
he was survived by his mother.
"Young died on November 10,
2014 in Seattle. In November
2014, Hedges wrote a column
on Young's passing, in which
he stated that "Young hung
on as long as he could. Now
he is gone. He understood
what the masters of war had
done to him, how he had
been used and turned into
|Dr. Roberts~ Public Service ~ President Reagan appointed Dr. Roberts Assistant
Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and he was confirmed in office by the
U.S. Senate. From 1975 to 1978, Dr. Roberts served on the congressional staff where
he drafted the Kemp-Roth bill and played a leading role in developing bipartisan
support for a supply-side economic policy. After leaving the Treasury, he served as a
consultant to the U.S. Department of Defense & the U.S. Department of Commerce.
More on Dr. Roberts and his book at paulcraigroberts,org
|Peace cannot be achieved through violence,
it can only be attained through understanding.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Dr Helen Caldicott
The single most articulate and passionate advocate of citizen action to remedy the
nuclear and environmental crises, Dr Helen Caldicott, has devoted the last forty two
years to an international campaign to educate the public about the medical hazards
of the nuclear age and the necessary changes in human behavior to stop
Born in Melbourne, Australia in 1938, Dr Caldicott received her medical degree
from the University of Adelaide Medical School in 1961. She founded the Cystic
Fibrosis Clinic at the Adelaide Children’s Hospital in 1975 and subsequently was an
instructor in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and on the staff of the Children’s
Hospital Medical Center, Boston, Mass., until 1980 when she resigned to work full
time on the prevention of nuclear war.
In 1971, Dr Caldicott played a major role in Australia’s opposition to French
atmospheric nuclear testing in the Pacific; in 1975 she worked with the Australian
trade unions to educate their members about the medical dangers of the nuclear
fuel cycle, with particular reference to uranium mining.
While living in the United States from 1977 to 1986, she played a major role in re-
invigorating as President, Physicians for Social Responsibility, an organization of
23,000 doctors committed to educating their colleagues about the dangers of
nuclear power, nuclear weapons and nuclear war. On trips abroad she helped start
similar medical organizations in many other countries. The international umbrella
group (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War) won the Nobel
Peace Prize in 1985. She also founded the Women’s Action for Nuclear
Disarmament (WAND) in the US in 1980.
Returning to Australia in 1987, Dr Caldicott ran for Federal Parliament as an
independent. Defeating Charles Blunt, leader of the National Party, through
preferential voting she ultimately lost the election by 600 votes out of 70,000 cast.
She moved back to the United States in 1995, where she lectured at the New
School for Social Research on the Media, Global Politics and the Environment;
hosted a weekly radio talk show on WBAI (Pacifica)in New York; and was the
Founding President of the STAR (Standing for Truth About Radiation) Foundation
on Long Island.
Dr Caldicott has received many prizes and awards for her work, including the
Lannan Foundation’s 2003 Prize for Cultural Freedom and twenty one honorary
doctoral degrees. She was personally nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by
Linus Pauling – himself a Nobel Laureate. The Smithsonian has named Dr Caldicott
as one of the most influential women of the 20th Century. She has written for
numerous publications and has authored seven books, Nuclear Madness (1978
and 1994 WW Norton) , Missile Envy (1984 William Morrow, 1985 Bantam, 1986
Bantam) , If You Love This Planet: A Plan to Heal the Earth (1992, W.W. Norton);
A Desperate Passion: An Autobiography (1996, W.W. Norton; published as A
Passionate Life in Australia by Random House);The New Nuclear Danger: George
Bush’s Military Industrial Complex (2001, The New Press in the US, UK and UK;
Scribe Publishing in Australia and New Zealand; Lemniscaat Publishers in The
Netherlands; and Hugendubel Verlag in Germany); Nuclear Power is Not the Answer
(2006, The New Press in the US, UK and UK; Melbourne University Press in
Australia) War In Heaven (The New Press 2007); revised and updated If You Love
This Planet (March 2009); and Loving This Planet (The New Press; 2013).
She also has been the subject of several films, including Eight Minutes to Midnight,
nominated for an Academy Award in 1981, If You Love This Planet, which won the
Academy Award for best documentary in 1982, and Helen’s War: Portrait of a
Dissident, recipient of the Australian Film Institute Awards for Best Direction
(Documentary) 2004, and the Sydney Film Festival Dendy Award for Best
Documentary in 2004.
Dr Caldicott currently divides her time between Australia and the US where she
lectures widely. In year 2001, she founded the US-based Nuclear Policy Research
Institute (NPRI), which became Beyond Nuclear. Currently, Dr Caldicott is President
of The Helen CaldicottFoundation/NuclearFreePlanet.org, which initiates
symposiums and other educational projects to inform the public and the media of
the dangers of nuclear power and weapons. The mission of the Foundation is
education to action, and the promotion of a nuclear-energy and weapons-free,
renewable energy powered, world.
The Foundation’s most recent symposium, co-sponsored by Physicians for Social
Responsibility was held at the New York Academy of Medicine in March 2013, It was
entitled The Medical and Environmental Consequences of Fukushima
helencaldicottfoundation.org, at http://www.totalwebcasting.com/view/?id=hcf.
A book – Crisis Without End — emanating from the conference proceedings and
edited by Dr. Caldicott was published by The New Press in the Spring of 2014.
|Crisis Without End
The Medical and Ecological
Consequences of the
Edited by: Helen Caldicott
The world’s leading scientific and medical
experts offer the first comprehensive
analysis of the long-term health and
environmental consequences of the
Fukushima nuclear accident
|“The clock cannot be turned back. We live in a contaminated world.”
—Hiroaki Koide, Kyoto University
On the second anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, an international
panel of leading medical and biological scientists, nuclear engineers, and
policy experts assembled at the prestigious New York Academy of
Medicine. A project of the Helen Caldicott Foundation and co-sponsored by
Physicians for Social Responsibility, this gathering was a response to
widespread concerns that the media and policy makers had been far too
eager to move past what are clearly deep and lasting impacts for the
Japanese people and for the world. This was the first comprehensive
attempt to address the health and environmental damage done by one of
the worst nuclear accidents of our times.
The only document of its kind, Crisis Without End represents an
unprecedented look into the profound aftereffects of Fukushima. In
accessible terms, leading experts from Japan, the United States, Russia,
and other nations weigh in on the current state of knowledge of radiation-
related health risks in Japan, impacts on the world’s oceans, the question
of low-dosage radiation risks, crucial comparisons with Chernobyl, health
and environmental impacts on the U.S. (including on food and newborns),
and the unavoidable implications for the U.S. nuclear energy industry.
Crisis Without End is both essential reading and a major corrective
to the public record on Fukushima.
A snappy guide and an indispensible
tool to reclaiming the right to
dissent—perfect for activist,
teachers, grandmothers, and anyone
else who wants to exercise their
constitutional rights—from the
country’s leading constitutional
“Dissent is the highest form of
patriotism.” —Howard Zinn
Published in conjunction with the
Center for Constitutional Rights
With a preface by Vincent Warren
In the Age of Terrorism,
the United States has become a much
more dangerous place—for activists
and dissenters, whose First
Amendment rights are all
too frequently abridged by
In Hell No, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the country’s leading
public interest law organization, offers a timely report on government attacks
on dissent and protest in the United States, along with a readable and essential
guide for activists, teachers, grandmothers, and anyone else who wants to
oppose government policies and actions. Hell No explores the current situation of
attacks upon and criminalization of dissent and protest, from the surveillance of
activists to the disruption of demonstrations, from the labeling of protesters as
“terrorists” to the jailing of those the government claims are giving “material
support” to its perceived enemies.
Offering detailed, hands-on advice on everything from “Sneak and Peak”
searches to “Can the Government Monitor My Text Messages?”
and what to do “If an Agent Knocks,”
Hell No lays out several key responses that every person should know in order to
protect themselves from government surveillance
and interference with their rights.
Beginning with a preface by Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for
Constitutional Rights and a frequent legal commentator on CNN, MSNBC, and
NPR, Hell No also includes an introduction on the state of dissent today by CCR
board chair Michael Ratner and Margaret Ratner Kunstler. Concluding with the
controversial 2008 Mukasey FBI Guidelines, which currently regulate the
government’s domestic response to dissent,
Hell No is an indispensable tool in the effort to give free speech and
protest meaning in a post–9/11 world.
Michael Ratner is an attorney and president emeritus of the Center for
Constitutional Rights. He is well known for his human rights activism and the
author of numerous books, including The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld and Hell No:
Your Right to Dissent in Twenty-First-Century America (co-authored with
Margaret Ratner Kunstler), both published
by The New Press.
He lives in New York City.
|Noam Chomsky, author and Institute Professor
Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
where he taught for more than 50 years.
He is author of dozens of books.
An updated edition of his book 9-11
has just been published, called
9-11: Was There an Alternative?
|NINE CORPORATIONS THAT SUPPLY MOST OF OUR PACKAGED GOODS
|Killing With Impunity
The Fifteen Most
Responses by Police
by BILL QUIGLEY
Police kill a lot of unarmed people. So
far in 2015, as many as 100 unarmed
people have been killed by police.
Here are fifteen of the most
outrageous reasons given by police
to justify killing unarmed people in
the last twelve months.
First, a bit of background. So far in
2015, there have been around 400
fatal police shootings already; one in
six of those killings, 16 percent, were
of unarmed people, 49 had no
weapon at all and 13 had toys,
according to the Washington Post. Of
the police killings this year less than
1 percent have resulted in the officer
being charged with a crime. The
Guardian did a study which included
killings by Tasers and found 102
people killed by police so far in 2015
were unarmed and that unarmed
Black people are twice as likely to be
killed by police as whites.
One. He was Dancing in the Street
and Walking with a Purpose. On June
9, 2015 an unarmed man, Ryan
Bollinger, was shot by police in Des
Moines after “walking with a
purpose” towards the police car
after he exited his vehicle after a low
speed chase started when he was
observed dancing in the street and
behaving erratically. The deceased
was shot by the police through the
rolled up cruiser window. The murder
is under investigation.
Two. Thought It Was My Taser. An
unarmed man, Eric Harris, ran from
the police in Tulsa Oklahoma on April
2, 2015. After he was shot in the back
by a Taser by one officer and was on
the ground, another 73 year old
volunteer reserve officer shot and
killed him, all captured by video.
While dying he was yelling that he
was losing his breath, to which one
of the officers responded “F*ck your
breath.” The police said the officer
thought he was shooting his Taser
and “inadvertently discharged his
service weapon.” The officer has
been charged with second degree
manslaughter. Running away from
the police so often provokes police
overreaction that the aggressive
police response has several names
including the “foot tax” and the
Three. Naked Man Refused to Stop.
A naked unarmed mentally ill Air
Force Afghanistan veteran, Anthony
Hill, was shot and killed March 9,
2015 by DeKalb County Georgia
police after police said he refused an
order to stop. The killing is under
Four. Not Going to Say. On March 6,
2015 Aurora Colorado police shot
and killed unarmed Naeschylus
Vinzant while taking him into custody.
For the last three months, while the
investigation into the killing
continues, the police have refused to
say what compelled the officer to
Five. Five Police Felt Threatened by
One Unarmed Homeless Man. March
1, 2015 Los Angeles police shot and
killed an unarmed homeless man
Charly Leundeu Keunang after five
officers went to his tent and
struggled with him. One unarmed
homeless man threatened five armed
LAPD officers? Los Angeles police
have killed about one person a week
since 2000. An investigation is
Six. My Taser Didn’t Work. On
February 23, 2015, an unarmed man,
Daniel Elrod, was shot twice in the
back and once in the shoulder and
killed by Omaha Nebraska police
after he tried to climb a tree and jump
a fence to escape police who
suspected him of robbery. Police
said their Taser did not work, he
ignored their demands to get down
on the ground, he did not show his
hands, and they felt threatened.
Video was not made available and
the officer later resigned. This was
the second person this officer killed.
No criminal charges were filed.
Seven. Armed with a Broom. Lavall
Hall’s mother called the police in
Miami Gardens February 15, 2015
and asked for help for her son who
was mentally ill. Lavall Hall, five foot
four inches tall, walked outside with
a broom and was later shot and killed
by police who said he failed to
comply with instructions and
engaged them with an object. The
killing is still under investigation.
Eight. Throwing Rocks. On February
10, 2015 an unarmed man, Antonio
Zambrano-Montes, was fired at 17
times and killed by police in
Kennewick, Washington. A video of
his killing has been viewed more than
2 million times. Officers said he had
been throwing rocks at cars, ran
away and then turned around.
Nine. Taser Worked but He Didn’t
Stop Moving. On February 2, 2015, a
Hummelstown Pennsylvania police
officer shot unarmed David Kassick
in the back with a Taser and when
Kassick went to the ground on his
stomach, then shot him twice with
her gun in the back, killing him. The
officer said Kassick, who was
running away from a traffic stop, was
told to show his hands and not move
but continued to try to remove the
Taser prongs from his back and the
officer thought he was reaching for a
gun. The officer has been charged
Ten. Car going 11 Miles an Hour was
going to Kill Me. Denver police fired 8
times at unarmed Jessica
Hernandez, 17, who was killed
January 16 after being hit by four
bullets. The police said she drove too
close to them when she was trying to
get away and may have tried to run
them down as she tried to drive away
so they shot into the windshield and
driver’s windows. The police said the
car may have reached 11 miles per
hour in the 16 feet it traveled before
hitting a fence. The police were not
Eleven. Armed with a Spoon. Dennis
Grigsby, an unarmed mentally ill man
holding a soup spoon, was shot in the
chest and killed in a neighbor’s
garage by Texarkana Police
December 15, 2015. The killing is
Twelve. Armed with Prescription
Bottle. Rumain Brisbon, a 34 year old
unarmed man, was shot twice and
killed by police in Phoenix on
December 2, 2014, after he ran away,
was caught and was in a struggle
with the officer who mistook a
prescription pill bottle in Brisbon’s
pocket for a gun. The police officer
was not charged.
Thirteen. It Was an Accident. On
November 20, 2014, a New York City
police officer fired into a stairwell
and killed unarmed Akai Gurley. The
officer, who was charged with
manslaughter, is expected to say he
accidently fired his gun.
Fourteen. Don’t Mention It. On
November 12, 2014, an unarmed
handcuffed inmate was shot multiple
times in the head, neck, chest and
arms by officers while fighting with
another hand-cuffed inmate in the
High Desert State Prison in Carson
City Nevada. His family was not told
and did not know he had been shot
until three days later when they
claimed his body at a mortuary.
Fifteen. Armed with Toy Gun. John
Crawford was unarmed in a Walmart
store in Beavercreek Ohio on August
4, 2014, when he picked up an
unloaded BB gun. When officers
arrived they say they ordered him to
put down the gun and started
shooting, hitting him at least twice
and killing Mr. Crawford. In a widely
viewed video Mr. Crawford can be
seeing dropping the BB gun, running
away and being shot while unarmed.
Likewise, Cleveland police shot and
killed an unarmed 12 year old boy,
Tamir Rice, who was playing with a
toy pellet gun on November 22, 2014.
Police said they shouted verbal
commands from inside their vehicle
in the two seconds before they shot
him twice. In both these cases, the
police story of shouting warnings and
orders looks quite iffy at best.
These are the responses of police
authorities who face less than one
chance in a hundred of being
charged when they kill people, even
unarmed people. These outrages
demand massive change in the way
lethal force is used, reported,
justified and prosecuted.
Bill Quigley teaches law at Loyola
University New Orleans and can be
reached at email@example.com.
|The Punishment of Gaza
Washington is Complicit
in Israel’s Crimes
by PAUL FINDLEY CounterPunch
While viewing the massacre of
Gazans, you may wonder why 1.8
million Arabs are crowded on that
tiny strip of seashore and are being
bombed day and night into death
and ruins by Israel’s powerful
A glimpse of history is timely. Facts
set forth below are little known in
America: Sixty years ago 800,000
Arabs fled their ancestral homes in
rural Palestine fearing death as a
Jewish onslaught obliterated
without a trace over 500 Arab
towns, villages and hamlets.
Massacres were reported.
Those who fled are forbidden to
return home. Fifty years later, a
survey show the refugee problem
staggering: 766,000 in Gaza;
741,000 in Jordan; 408,000 in
Syria; and 144,000 in Egypt;
smaller numbers in other Arab
states. Gaza soon become a part of
Israel Occupied Palestine.
Refugees and their descendants
struggle there for survival. Israeli
controls are brutal. Potable water is
nearly gone. Most of the
population depends for survival
on food and water distributed by
United Nations officials. If supplies
are not increased starvation—not
just malnutrition–is certain.
Arabs huddle behind high fences
equipped with Israeli remote-
controlled machine guns. A gate
that once served as an occasional
opening to freedom is now kept
locked by the government of Egypt
at Israel’s request. Gaza has long
been described as the largest open-
air prison in the world. Israeli
punishment of Gazans became
more severe seven years ago when
they exercised the right of self-
determination by electing the Hamas
Party to manage local affairs.
Once Hamas took control in Gaza,
Israel and the U.S. government
conspired in a sustained but
unsuccessful attempt to destroy the
Hamas was reelected to a second
term and recently achieved a
cooperative arrangement with the
Fatah organization that maintains a
measure of authority
in the West Bank.Infuriated
because all gates stay closed,
Hamas sends rockets over the
fence. They do little damage but
incite Israelis to launch heavy lethal
bombing. Revenge is not
commendable, but I understand
why people penned up like cattle
may welcome pain and discomfort
for their oppressors.
The current assault on Gaza is
Israel’s third in seven years. This is
the first time Hamas has used
sustained rocket fire, but it is no
match for Israel’s artillery,
missiles and bombs. Thanks to U.S.
taxpayers, Israel has high tech
missiles that shoot down Hamas
rockets while still in the air. Hamas
has no such defense,
in fact, no defense at all.
The late radical Rabbi Meir
Kahane, wrote a book titled “They
Must Go.” In it he contended that
all Arabs must be removed from
Palestine so an all-Jewish Eretz
Israel, the dream of Zionism, can
come into being. Eretz Israel
consists of entirety of Palestine,
including the West Bank, East
Jerusalem and Gaza, plus the
Golan Heights, long a part of Syria,
exactly the Arab territory Israel now
controls. All Arabs are not gone,
but nearly two million are
imprisoned in Gaza. Elsewhere in
Occupied Palestine, 4.2 million
Arabs are abused and denied basic
liberties. Their property and
livelihood are steadily being seized
by Israel to provide illegal housing
for Jews-only settlements. These
Arabs are squeezed into an ever-
shrinking part of their birthright.
More than one-half of the
Palestinian West Bank is now
populated by more than 500,000
Israeli settlers. Zionist dreamers
can boast they are more than
halfway toward their dream.
Who is responsible for this tragic
treatment of Palestinians? If you
ponder that question, bear in mind
that Israel could not possibly
commit this criminal behavior
without automatic, unqualified, U.S.
government support year after year.
Pro-Israel lobby pressure controls
all major news media. Congress
behaves like a committee of the
Israeli parliament. No president
since Dwight Eisenhower has had
the courage to stand up to Israeli
wrongdoing. Those who know the
truth are afraid to speak out for
fear of paying a heavy price–
maybe loss of employment.
All citizens of the United States
must face the truth: Our
government is complicit in Israeli
crimes against humanity. We
should elect a Congress that will
suspend all aid until Israel behaves.
The bloody standoff in Gaza will
stop if Israel opens the gate to
Egypt and keeps it open. When
that happens Arabs living there can
“breathe free,” a precious right our
Statue of Liberty proclaims for all
Paul Findley served as a member
of United States House of
Representatives for 22 years. His
books include ”Deliberate
Deceptions: Facing the Facts
About the U.S.-Israeli Relationship.”
Political Profiteers Push Ohio's Pot Vote
By Liz Essley Whyte, The Center for Public Integrity | News Analysis _ 2015.6.27
A political consultant came up with the idea to legalize marijuana in Ohio
through a ballot measure, lined up investors to fund the campaign in exchange
for ownership of the wholesale pot market and now plans to pay his own firm
$5.6 million to push the 2015 initiative.
Columbus, Ohio - Thousands of hastily scribbled signatures fill boxes in the basement of
Ian James’ 7,800-square-foot restored Victorian home in the historic Franklin Park
neighborhood. James needs these names to win a place on Ohio’s November ballot for a
measure to legalize medical and recreational marijuana.
But the political consultant isn’t just gathering the signatures. He came up with the idea for
the measure. And he recruited a lawyer to draft a constitutional amendment that would put
Ohio’s future marijuana market in the hands of only 10 growers — an arrangement that
critics are calling a monopoly. Meanwhile, he plans to pay his own firm nearly $6 million
to run the campaign.
Though James is an extreme example, he’s a member of a much larger and little-known
class of professionals that form what could be called Ballot Measure Inc.: a powerful
electoral-industrial complex funded by moneyed interests that belies the quaint notion of
“citizen democracy” that such efforts are assumed to represent.
Active in the 26 states that have citizen-initiated ballot measures, the network of pollsters,
direct mail specialists, lawyers, consultants, signature gatherers and voting data whizzes
were paid at least $400 million for 85 statewide measures across the country in 2014,
according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of state records. In presidential election
years, state and local measures are a billion-dollar industry, said ballot initiative
expert David McCuan.
The growth of the industry means that often only those with money can afford to get into the
game. In some big states, such as California, where political consultant David Townsend
estimates a controversial measure costs at least $25 million to pass, paid signature
gatherers are now virtually a requirement to get on the ballot.
And this process of direct democracy sometimes appears to directly benefit only special
interests: such as the Native American tribes who gave $107 million in 2008 to win
measures expanding their slot machine operations in California; the agribusiness giant
Monsanto, which gave $10.7 million last year to block labeling of genetically modified foods
in Colorado and Oregon; or the plastics industry, which is currently fighting
a plastic bag ban in California.
“The process has been captured by interests,” said McCuan, a Sonoma State University
professor. “It’s been professionalized. It’s expensive.”
This has created a market filled with the promise of profits for those willing to work as
mercenaries for a cause — or even come up with their own cause. James isn’t the only one
known to have done so. The California lottery was famously created by signature gatherers
in 1984, and a Nevada political consulting firm came up with and successfully campaigned
for anti-union measures in multiple states, beginning in 2010.“The honest and most easy
response is: I am going to profit from this,” James told the Center for Public Integrity. “If
people are upset about me making money, I don’t know what to say other than that that’s
part of the American process. To win and make this kind of change for social justice, it does
cost a lot of money.”
James’ initiative has drawn considerable heat. The measure would root the 10 marijuana
growth sites to particular land parcels, which happen to be controlled by the mysterious
companies funding the initiative. They would function as Ohio’s only wholesale suppliers of
marijuana, selling to separate retail shops and nonprofit medical dispensaries.
James, a 49-year-old Ohio political veteran, has succeeded at this before. In 2009, he
persuaded Ohioans to approve four casinos, also rooted to particular plots of land. For
Responsible Ohio, as his marijuana effort is called, James wrangled together investors who
are willing to bankroll a $20 million campaign, sink in an additional $20 million to buy the
land and $300 million more to build facilities.
The investors have contributed through limited liability corporations with vague names such
as Verdure GCE LLC and NG Green Investments LLC, offering few clues as to who’s behind
them. Their hoped-for payoff? Guaranteed ownership of a wholesale marijuana market
potentially worth more than $1 billion, according to a prospectus to investors outlining the
Responsible Ohio campaign budget and obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.
And once the measure passes, James said he plans to open a consulting company
helping launch marijuana retail stores.
Investing in pot
Just off Interstate 71 in Franklin County, Ohio, a 19-acre field on a two-lane road will become
an oasis of legal pot if Responsible Ohio’s measure passes.
The field’s owner, Kenneth Campbell, said he signed a contract early this year to take the
plot off the market and give an unknown buyer the exclusive right to purchase the field by the
end of 2015. When Campbell’s name and plot of land started showing up in news reports on
marijuana legalization, he was as surprised as anyone.
“People saw my name,” Campbell said. “They said, ‘Hey Ken, you’re growing some pot!’
And I said, ‘I am?’ ”
Around the state, at least four other sections of land were reserved in the same way —
to LLCs that paid for the exclusive right to buy the land by the end of the year or early into
2016. All 10 land parcels will be written into the state constitution should
Responsible Ohio get its way.
The Responsible Ohio campaign has trumpeted some of the investors, including minor
celebrities such as Nick Lachey, former 98 Degrees boy-bander and ex-husband of singer
Jessica Simpson; fashion designer Nanette Lepore; and Arizona Cardinals defensive end
Frostee Rucker. Others — such as Chicago investor Ben Kovler and Dayton pain specialist
Dr. Suresh Gupta — can only be found after digging through documents.
These investors declined or did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
James said he’s not an investor.
Responsible Ohio investor Alan Mooney, a financier who specializes in off-shore
corporations, said the limited set of investors would ensure Ohio’s marijuana market has the
capital to get off the ground.
“I don’t want to throw open the doors like they did in California,” he said. “I know a lot of the
street people, the hippies and stoners would love that. This has got be professional business
The pre-arranged, limited list of investors doesn’t sit well with some Ohioans. Words such as
“monopoly,” “cartel” and “oligopoly” appear frequently in critics’ speeches and newspaper
Responding to such concerns, some state legislators are working on a counter ballot
measure that would block initiatives benefiting only a small group. As lawmakers, they can
refer an item to the ballot without gathering signatures.
Major pro-legalization groups such as the Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy
Alliance also have distanced themselves from the initiative, despite supporting legalization
measures in other states including Colorado, where the number of pot cultivators
was not capped.
And some longtime supporters of marijuana in Ohio are actively opposing Responsible Ohio,
alongside anti-drug activists.
“This is egregious to me on many levels,” said Marcie Seidel, an anti-drug activist who
opposes all forms of legalization and heads Ohio’s Drug Free Action Alliance. “This is
basically wealthy individuals, the 1 percent that we always hear about, that are wanting and
asking us as Ohio citizens to guarantee in the constitution that they are going to make
millions and millions more dollars so they can become even more wealthy.”
It’s not uncommon in the U.S. for moneyed interests who will benefit financially from the
outcome of ballot measures to back their campaigns or opposition movements. Corporations
and business trade groups gave more than three-quarters of the $266 million contributed by
top donors to ballot measure groups in 2014, according to a Center for Public Integrity
analysis published earlier this year.
For example, in Colorado, competing casinos gave more than $36 million in a fight over
a 2014 measure to expand gaming at racetracks.
And Monsanto and other food-company allies raised $36 million to successfully block
measures last year to label genetically modified foods in Colorado and Oregon,
while pro-labeling groups fueled by money from natural foods businesses raised
$7.5 million in the two states.
Ballot measures were the darling of early 20th century progressives, who saw them as a way
to circumnavigate corrupt legislatures. South Dakota became the first state to add initiatives
and referenda to its constitution in 1898, borrowing from the ideas behind robust ballot
measure politicking in Switzerland. By 1918, 24 states and many more cities had
adopted ballot measures, according to the University of Southern California’s
Initiative and Referendum Institute.
But the provisions played a minor role in American political life until 1978 when Proposition
13, California’s anti-tax initiative, heralded the “taxpayer revolt” and new popularity for ballot
measures. Now, measures promoted with expensive TV ad campaigns often bankrolled by
wealthy interests or activist groups are a way of life in California, where the ballot measure
is most popular, followed closely by several other western states, such as Oregon,
Washington and Arizona. Ohio typically sees one or two statewide measures per year.
Moneyed interests don’t always win ballot measure fights, of course. In 2010, voters rejected
California’s Proposition 16 that would have made it harder for municipalities to create their
own power companies, despite $46 million spent by Pacific Gas & Electric in support,
and less than $100,000 spent by opponents. But if big business is going to win, it needs
help to create the network that a true grassroots movement would have at the ready.
That’s where the pros come in.
"Not a Process for Amateurs"
At Responsible Ohio’s headquarters in James’ Victorian home, July 1 looms. That’s the day
the campaign must turn in its signatures to the secretary of state — at least 305,591 to get
the measure on the ballot. The team has already surpassed that number, but James is
hoping to obtain 800,000 signatures and register thousands of new voters — then remind
them all to go to the polls in November.
To do this, James has assembled a cadre of professionals. The prospectus for potential
Responsible Ohio investors outlines a preliminary $20 million budget for the campaign: $5.6
million for signature gathering, canvassing and operations, paid to James’ firm; $702,000 for
lawyers and bookkeepers; $278,000 for polling; $350,000 for public relations; $1.5 million for
data analysis by veterans of Barack Obama’s two presidential campaigns; $4 million for
direct mail and a vote-by-mail program; $7.1 million for TV and radio advertising; and
$440,000 for lobbying.
In Ohio, this is what it takes to run a ballot measure campaign: more than 500 people
working full-time, and election pros running the whole show.
“This is a business,” James said. “What we’re doing in changing the constitution to legalize
marijuana will lead to more than 10,000 people working in the state, billions of dollars being
generated in new revenue. That money is also going to flow into local communities. But no
one creates an industry of that magnitude without being paid for it.”
James has worked on eight state and local ballot measures in Ohio. He got his taste for
politics as a kid going to union meetings with his mother, a teacher. Starting in high school,
he volunteered or worked on about a dozen candidate campaigns, he said, and later took
jobs in the Ohio statehouse and as a lobbyist for the late entertainer and casino mogul Merv
Griffin. He focuses now on ballot measures and said he works 80 hours a week on
Responsible Ohio’s campaign.
Many other politicos also work exclusively on ballot measures for hefty price tags. Barry
Fadem, a California-based attorney, has spent his three-decade career writing ballot
measure language. His clients typically need to spend $100,000 even before the measure is
filed with the state, he said, just to conduct opinion polls, hire consultants to start organizing
the campaign and pay him to craft the legalese.
“The initiative process is just not a process for amateurs,” Fadem said. “It’s really not.
Because it’s so hard to win.”
Some industry members claim only to work for causes they care about, but most combine
work that supports their political principles with work that lines their pocketbooks, taking on
gambling, land-use or other types of measures that pay well.
But industry members said they aren’t getting rich. Michael Arno leads a major signature
gathering company, Arno Petition Consultants, that has been paid more than $9.5 million
since 2010, according to data from the Lucy Burns Institute and state records.
“If I had a nickel for every nickel people thought I’d had, I’d be retired by now,” he said.
“We go through long stretches we don’t have any work.”
With clipboards and pens in hand, Donnie Dawson stood on the sidewalk outside the
Franklin County Government Center on a recent afternoon, calling to people shuffling into the
revolving doors to pay speeding tickets and lawyers leaving to catch a smoke break.
“Legalize marijuana, bro?” he called out to a man in bright red pants.
“I don’t smoke,” the man said as he kept walking. “I sell.”
The man had a point: His current illegal business would be doomed under Responsible Ohio’
s initiative, because only the 10 for-profit companies that are also funding the campaign
would be allowed to grow and sell pot wholesale, though others could set up retail shops.
But voters may not know that from listening to Dawson try to collect their signatures.
“Basically the 10 companies are for the nonprofit medical marijuana, for research for the
medical marijuana,” said Dawson when asked what he tells potential signers curious about
the alleged monopoly. "They're there to do the research and invent different strands of weed
That leaves out a piece of the picture. Though it’s true the 10 wholesalers would supply
nonprofit medical dispensaries, the wholesalers are presently organized as for-profit LLCs
and would also supply for-profit retailers. “While maybe not artful, it is accurate,” James said
of Dawson’s words.
A stream of Ohioans signed Dawson’s petition. None of them read the entire 24-page
measure; many of them didn’t seem bothered by the wealthy investors behind it.
"It goes hand in hand. It's kind of like Philip Morris and cigarette companies,” said 36-year-
old warehouse employee Jorrel Carse, who also said he didn’t know much about the petition
when he signed it. “It's all just a part of business."
Josh Sword, a construction worker and self-described “street pharmacist,” said he has grown
marijuana in the past and would grow it again if Responsible Ohio’s measure passed.
Ohio’s potential marijuana market even inspired a copycat measure. But the Better for Ohio
group seeks to authorize 40 growth facilities instead of just 10. The right to operate those
sites would go to owners of certain $100 bills, with their serial numbers listed in the ballot
measure. Better for Ohio said it would assign ownership of the bills at a later date.
The backers of the measure aren’t joking — they hired Arno’s California-based firm to gather
signatures but will be aiming for the 2016 ballot after running out of money to pay
Arno to qualify this year.
Massive signature drives, though fraught with claims of fraud and deception over the years,
remain the hallmark of the initiative process. Though some measures can still rely on
volunteers for the labor-intensive job, at least $20 million was paid to 21 firms gathering
signatures for the 2014 ballot, according to data from the Lucy Burns Institute
and state records.
But Dawson, a professional signature gatherer, isn’t making millions. The 42-year-old father
of five did not say how much he makes, but James said signature gatherers are paid a base
rate of $9.50 per hour, with the chance to earn more if they bring in many valid signatures.
Responsible Ohio is attracting a motley crew of opponents, from anti-drug activists to pro-pot
voters hoping to get other, less restrictive versions of marijuana legalization on the ballot.
Mary Smith, a marijuana activist and the former owner of what she called a “run-of-the-mill
hippie department store” in Toledo, said she isn’t backing it because she doubts
Responsible Ohio’s wealthy investors have genuine empathy for medical marijuana patients.
“This is completely about greed,” she said.
But so far opponents are without a broad coalition and have yet to muster significant funding
to go up against the $20 million campaign from Responsible Ohio. Anti-drug activist
Seidel said she thinks some sort of opposition group will form but doesn’t know
where the money will come from.
Vermilion resident Aaron Weaver and about 20 other pro-pot critics of Responsible Ohio
are trying to put up a fight. In April, they formed a new nonprofit,
Citizens Against Responsible Ohio.
So far the group exists as a website, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. And they are
paying out of their own pockets to promote Facebook posts criticizing the measure.
Encouraged solely by a tweet from comedian Drew Carey, an Ohio native who voiced
skepticism about Responsible Ohio’s plan, Weaver drafted a letter asking him for money.
“With your assistance, we can turn the tide and put a stop to these well-polished thugs
in their tracks,” Weaver’s letter reads.
In an initiative process intended to be the voice of the people, the people are struggling to
find the money to get their voices heard, while moneyed interests can afford to pay top dollar
for the ballot professionals. It’s an irony not lost on the professionals themselves.
“To be quite honest, it’s a lucrative business, but there are certainly questions we all have
about the efficiency, and what’s good for democracy and what’s not,” said Paul Maslin,
a pollster who has worked on initiatives for 20 years. “Because let’s face it:
Sometimes ballot measures can be the purview of special interest groups that
may not be linked up with the public interest.”
Others are unmoved, even upon hearing that Ian James plans to pay his own firm
$5.6 million to promote the idea he created.
“It's America,” said David Bruno, an Akron-based consultant who has helped James attract
investors. “Good for him. And for the people that want to criticize that,
it's a shame they didn't try to do it first.”
But for Weaver, Responsible Ohio would crush his version of the American dream:
opening a marijuana farm that would double as his business and a retirement plan for
his parents if legalization ever came to Ohio.
“It’s an absolutely unfair fight,” the 28-year-old administrative assistant said.
“It’s a perversion of our process in the state of Ohio and I think any state, really. I mean
putting your business plan into the constitution of a state? That’s unheard of.
Liz Essley Whyte is an American University fellow for The Center for Public Integrity.
Reprinted with permission from truthout.org