The hosts of the Homeland Security Congress were getting anxious. It was ten minutes past the time former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell was scheduled to begin his big announcement. The defense contractors, law enforcement officials and assorted military personnel in the audience were starting to fidget.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Powell is nearly here,” announced the conference host, a woman named Barbara wearing a bright red power suit. “Please sit tight for another few minutes—meet your neighbor! And get ready for what I hear will be an extremely interesting announcement about our nation’s new energy plan.” There was a murmur of forbearing chuckles.
“So really, how long do we think he’ll be?” whispered another of the conference organizers, a muscular woman named Doreen to a man known to her as “Mike Lee.” Like all the conference people, Doreen thought Mike was a higher-up at the eminent public relations firm Burson-Marsteller.
“Well, I just got some really good news,” answered Mike. “Powell’s unfortunately still a half hour away, but he’s got a colleague at the Department of Energy, a guy named Benedict Waterman. He’ll be here in just five minutes. He’ll be accompanied by Bana Slowhorse from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, who I’ve heard puts on an amazing show.”
In fact, Mike had no idea whatsoever where Colin Powell was at this moment; far from being Powell’s liaison from Burson-Marsteller, “Mike Lee” was actually Mike Bonanno from the Yes Men, a group known for impersonating government and corporate officials.
But Mike also had no idea where “Waterman” and “Slowhorse” were. And that was not as planned. “Waterman” was actually Yes Man Andy Bichlbaum, and “Slowhorse” was actually a Native American Tar Sands activist named Gitz Crazyboy.
Finally, in walked Andy and Gitz. But what was that on Andy’s head?
Andy’s wig was supposed to look like the strange ’70s hair of his supposed boss, Department of Energy head Ernesto Muniz. But it had been delivered at 7 a.m. that morning by RuPaul’s wigmaker, who had begun work on it after a drag show ending at 4 a.m.
Doreen turned to Mike. “Wig,” she mouthed, pointing to her head.
“He’s a scientist,” Mike offered. “They don’t know much about hair.”
“That’s not hair,” Doreen answered.
Mike’s heart sank. For the second time in 24 hours, he was certain the jig was up.
The day before, April 30, we were driving from New York to Washington, D.C., headed for the Homeland Security Congress, a conference run by a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman for businesses interested in securing government contracts related to homeland security. Mike had wrangled a speaking spot for Colin Powell by posing as Powell’s agent.
We knew Powell would never arrive. But in his place would be his “collaborators” from the Department of Energy (Andy) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (Gitz). They would announce a U.S. government plan to convert the entire country to renewable energy by 2030, dismantling fossil fuel companies in the process and handing ownership of renewable energy production directly to individuals—and to Native American tribes, whose reservations happened to be in some of the windiest and sunniest areas in the United States. The profits would serve as reparations for genocide. The plan was a slightly more radical version of several actual proposals from environmental organizations, including The Solutions Project plans for all 50 states to convert to 100 percent renewable energy.
The Yes Men chose the Homeland Security Congress as our audience for this plan precisely because they were not our people. Many of them would be bonafide, gun-loving, flag-toting, rightwing patriots. Our goal was to see if we could promote this revolutionary (but entirely feasible) plan to people on the exact opposite end of the political spectrum. If we could get even those on the “Dark Side” to embrace a plan to end fossil fuels and democratize energy, it would confirm our suspicions that there’s only one force on Earth that’s holding us back from a sane future: the fossil fuel industry itself, and the tiny number of people who work for it.
But first, we had to actually get to the conference. And one hour out of New York, two phone calls made it seem we never would.
The first call was from Doreen. Mike, posing as a representative of Colin Powell from PR giant Burson-Marsteller, had been speaking to Doreen every other day for the past three weeks. He’d gotten Doreen to schedule Powell to announce at her conference, Obama’s top-secret new Energy Security plan.
For the first time, Doreen sounded suspicious. She’d been trying to reach Mike all morning, and asked Mike some probing questions about where he worked, which office, and how long he’d been there. She ended the call abruptly. When Mike tried to call back a few minutes later, she didn’t pick up.
“It’s over,” he said to Andy, who was riding shotgun.
Ten minutes later, Mike’s phone rang again. It was an unknown D.C. number.
“I work for Burson-Marsteller,” said a woman’s voice. “What office are you with?”
“Uh, Washington,” Mike answered.
“Who hired you?” asked the woman.
“Uh, a man named, uh, Jack Parent,” Mike improvised. “He hired me, you know, on a special project. Very special.”
“There’s no Jack Parent,” said the woman. “Who are you really?” Then she hung up.
“They figured us out. It’s over,” said Mike.
We’d spent months planning this action. Not only was it an amazing opportunity to test out our theory of what’s holding us back from a sane climate policy, it was going to be the final scene in our new movie, The Yes Men Are Revolting. We’d built the entire movie around this scene. We had no more time—and, more importantly, no budget—to come up with a whole other ending. But we decided to continue to Washington anyhow.
Then, 15 minutes outside of D.C., Mike got another phone call.
“Still on schedule? What time can we expect you at the hotel?” Doreen asked.
Mike’s jaw dropped. “I’ll be there.”
“Great,” said Doreen. “Looking forward!”
Slowly, it dawned on us what had happened.
Unable to reach Mike, Doreen had called Burson-Marsteller to find out where he was. To get to the bottom of it, the public relations people had called Mike. But following that, they hadn’t gotten in touch with Doreen.
At the conference the next day, Andy, wearing his ridiculous wig, ascended the podium as Benedict Waterman, undersecretary of policy implementation for the Department of Energy. Doreen, though suspicious, did not intervene.
“On behalf of the Department of Energy, I am very excited to announce that we are today beginning a process that will convert the United States energy grid into one that’s powered entirely by renewable sources—and we’re going to do it in only slightly more time than it took to win WWII,” Andy announced. The joint DOE/DOD plan, he said, would be called AmeriCAN, the American Renewable Clean-Energy Network, and would involve dismantling the fossil fuel companies, and putting ownership of the new, clean power facilities in the hands of communities.
The audience repeatedly interrupted his speech—with applause.
Andy explained how converting to renewable energy would create millions of jobs, eventually save half a trillion dollars per year on healthcare costs, result in lower energy costs and greater price stability, and—bonus!—give our civilization a chance of surviving well into the future. More applause.
Andy also noted another reason, perhaps more important from the DOE’s point of view, for why AmeriCAN was needed. He pointed to a slide showing protesters blocking the Keystone XL pipeline. “A revolutionary energy program today is easier than a real revolution tomorrow,” Andy intoned—and received yet another round of applause.
Finally it was time for “Bana Slowhorse”— actually Gitz Crazyboy, the Canadian Tar Sands activist—to take the stage on behalf of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Gitz, who stands about 6-foot-2, was dressed like a “Hollywood Indian,” with a huge black “Billy Jack” hat. He told the audience he was a member of the Wannabe Tribe, in a native joke from the 1970s by Oneida comic Charlie Hill. No one got it.
Gitz described how AmeriCAN would at long last put an end to the disease of fossil fuels, imposed like smallpox on his people—and, of course, on the whole world. His disturbing, moving speech combined fabricated pan-Indian mythology with heartwarming but equally bogus anecdotes—but the core message was completely sincere: A revolutionary energy program was truly the way to ensure that our generation would be remembered not as the one that watched the world swirl counterclockwise down the toilet, but as the one that finally put an end to the unlimited greed at the root of the Indian genocide and, now, planetary destruction.
Finally, Gitz introduced our secret weapon: Ojibwe comedian Tito Ybarra, sporting a suit, a big purple headband and a necklace of oversized turquoise beads, and holding a hand drum. Gitz introduced Tito as Four Feathers, a great chief whose feathers represented his functions in Wannabe society: drum chief, fire chief, water chief and midwife. (Yes, midwife.)
Gitz asked everyone to rise and form a circle. He showed them how to link arms the “traditional” Indian way: If you’re standing next to a man, grab on his belt loops, ready to tug it up tight in case he begins to stray from the path.
And then, as Tito began singing his strange song, the defense contractors, law enforcement officials, retired generals and admirals, and even a former Navy Seal and aspiring Republican Congressman Larry Wilske danced together in a huge circle, some of them sporting special headbands with “Native Headband” emblazoned across them, and adorned with a little plastic windmill. They danced enthusiastically, for renewable energy and revolution.
Afterward, two dozen Homeland Security Congress attendees gave their business cards to Andy, Mike and Gitz, and told them about the emotion they’d felt, and how excited they were to be part of this great historic moment.
Perhaps we shouldn’t have been so surprised that, given the option, even those we consider opponents would join in on an evidently sane plan to save the future. After all, it’s not security or defense contractors who are blocking enlightened climate policy. Purely out of security concerns, the military has actually been converting its own bases to renewable energy, so that they can stand alone if the whole grid goes down. The Pentagon has even published studies about climate change and its dire security implications, and has lately become somewhat vocal about the inevitable violence that will come if we fail to stabilize the climate. Maybe that’s why the GOP-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization bill that blocks the DOD from even talking about climate change.
The lesson we take away is that only a tiny handful of people stand on the other side: namely, the fossil fuel companies, their lobbyists and their cronies in Congress.
This doesn’t make the fight any easier. It doesn’t mean we can achieve sane policy without revolution; after all, fossil fuel companies are some of the richest companies in human history. But it does mean that the revolution is certain to succeed, since at least 99.9 percent of us are arrayed on this side of the struggle.
Link to original article from In These Times
WASHINGTON-Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison(D-MN) released the following statement today after Speaker Boehner told the New York Times that he prefers to not hold a vote authorizing action against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other groups until next year.
Oakland, CA – In response to the airstrikes last night in Syria, Congresswoman Lee released this statement:
"I am gravely concerned about the expansion of U.S. airstrikes into Syria and continuation of airstrikes in Iraq.
It is clear we are rapidly becoming more involved in another war in the Middle East.
President Obama has put together a strong international and regional coalition to address the ISIS threat. We must now leverage this regional coalition to achieve the political solution that will end this crisis. Only a political solution that respects the rights of all Iraqis and Syrians will ultimately dismantle ISIS.
Washington, DC -- Representatives from several organizations will gather at 11:30 am on Wednesday, September 17 at the House Triangle to respond to the President's plan to bomb Iraq and Syria. Speakers include Andrea Miller of Progressive Democrats of America, Stephen Miles of the coalition Win Without War, Ret. Colonel Ann Wright of Veterans for Peace, Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, and Alli McCracken of the youth group No Future in War.
Washington, D.C.–Today, the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) sent Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) a letter urging him to create a Select Committee on Income Inequality instead of spending as much as 3.3 million tax dollars on another investigation into Benghazi. An analysisfrom Think Progress shows the Republican-led House of Representatives is on track to spend more investigating Benghazi than it does on nine other House committees.
MINNEAPOLIS—Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) released the following statement today after Israeli and Hamas officials announced they had agreed to an open-ended ceasefire.
“I am happy and relieved with yesterday’s ceasefire agreement,” Rep. Ellison said. “I call on all parties to comply with the agreement and refrain from further violence. It is time to move forward with negotiations and diplomacy that will ultimately end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
GAZA CITY — Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday reached a long-term cease-fire after seven weeks of fighting, according to officials on both sides, halting the longest, bloodiest battle either side has experienced in years — but without resolving many of the bigger issues underlying the conflict.
When Congress returns from recess on September 8, will they authorize the New Iraq War? That's the question some anti-war groups are asking their representatives now home in their districts. Rep. Jim McGovern is demanding "a full debate and a vote whether to authorize the war," which has been escalating during the Congressional absence.
It is not a lack of sympathy with the historic and current circumstance of Iraq’s religious minorities—or of other persecuted peoples in that traumatized country—that leads some of the most humane and responsible members of Congress to say that President Obama must seek approval from the House and Senate before committing the United States military to a new Iraq mission.
PDA (Progressive Democrats of America) shares the horror of the world at the slaughter of hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza. We condemn violence against civilians by all sides.
Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) strongly endorses the statement of our Advisory Board Member Congresswoman Barbara Lee who expressed grave concerns about the "violence and loss of life in Israel and Gaza." We agree with Rep. Lee that, "this horrific violence does nothing to enhance the security of Israelis or Palestinians," and we join her calling for a diplomatic solution to ensure lasting security." Rep. Lee once again is the voice of reason saying, "We need strong diplomatic intervention by the US and regional partners to help establish an immediate ceasefire that allows for the negotiations of a permanent and peaceful settlement."
Furthermore, we endorse our Advisory Board Member Congressman Keith Ellison's demand that Israel and Egypt end the Gaza blockade to achieve peace.
PDAers have, with the rest of the world, reacted with outrage and heartbreak to the violence in Israel and Gaza. Board members like Medea Benjamin have worked for decades to bring attention to that area of the world, to its crying need for peace with justice. PDA was founded during the 2004 Democratic Convention in opposition to the Iraq War, which was being silenced by “official” party leaders. Our Inside/Outside strategy brought street heat to the suites, opening up our political process to the nonviolent call of Dr. Martin Luther King: turn from perpetual war to meeting human need. Nonviolence grounds all our policy advocacy: Healthcare Not Warfare; Windmills Not Weapons.
Washington DC – Today, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan McGovern-Jones-Lee resolution which requires the President to seek Congressional authorization before deploying armed services engaged in combat operations in Iraq.
The stunning military advance into cities in northern and central Iraq by an Al Qaeda offshoot, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria—backed by some of Iraq's Sunni tribal paramilitary forces and a militia tied to remnants of the deposed Baath party—compounds Iraq's long-running tragedy.
According to Ha'aretz correspondent Amira Hass, the [Israeli Defense Force] ] IDF has been conducting mass arrests in the West Bank, between 10 and 30 every day. Twenty-four of the arrested are members of the Palestinian parliament from Hamas' Change and Reform party. The number of those arrested since the kidnapping and murder of the Israeli teens has already exceeded 1,000. The Palestinians are convinced that most of those detained have nothing to do with the kidnapping and that these are mainly political arrests for purposes of intimidation and revenge.
PDA Advisory Board members Reps. John Conyers, Keith Ellison, and Barbara Lee joined 3 congressional colleagues--Reps. Jim Moran, Hank Johnson, and Alan Lowenthal--calling upon President Obama and Secretary Kerry to "redouble" their efforts to urge Israeli and Palestinian leaders to reach a cease-fire agreement. The full text of their letter is below, and a signed PDF can be found here.
80 Members of Congress Write to the President on Iraq
Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA13), Congressman Scott Rigell (R-VA02) and seventy other Members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama calling on him to seek Congressional approval before taking any military action in Iraq.
Please act now! We need your Congress member's signature on the Lee-Rigell Letter opposing a military attack on Iraq. Consult the list (see below). If your member of Congress is not there, call the Congressional switchboard ASAP (before Close of Business July, 2nd) and ask them to sign on to the Lee-Rigell Letter. Republicans may be willing to sign on, so it's worth trying them as well. The Switchboard number is 202-224-3121. Tell them to contact Rep. Barbara Lee's staffer Monica Pham at
At this writing, President Obama has neither the legal nor the political mandate to conduct airstrikes in Iraq or Syria.
On Thursday night, 182 Members of the House voted yes on Representative Barbara Lee's amendment defunding the use of the 2002 Iraq Authorization for the Use Military Force.
Members of Congress want to send a clear message to Obama: They won’t stand for another war.
After a recent string of insurgent attacks from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the northern part of Iraq, President Obama told Congress on Monday night that he will order 275 troops to the country to protect American personnel and the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
Residents of Mosul and Samarra, and a spokesman for a militant group, speak about their experience of the latest conflict
Why is Congress trying to allocate $601 billion to the military?
Next week, Congress will begin debate on a roughly$601 billion Pentagon budget for FY2015. Before we let this pass unchallenged, let's take a few minutes to put it in some historical perspective.
During the Bush years, people all over the world were horrified by America's aggression, human rights abuses and militarism. By 2008, only one in three people around the world approved of the job performance of U.S. leaders. The election of President Obama broadcast his message of hope and change far beyond U.S. shores, and Gallup's 2009 U.S.-Global Leadership Project (USGLP) recorded a sharp rise in global public approval of U.S. leadership to 49 percent.
U.S. efforts to overthrow foreign governments leave the world less peaceful, less just and less hopeful.
Soon after the 2004 U.S. coup to depose President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti, I heard Aristide's lawyer Ira Kurzban speaking in Miami. He began his talk with a riddle: "Why has there never been a coup in Washington D.C.?" The answer: "Because there is no U.S. Embassy in Washington D.C." This introduction was greeted with wild applause by a mostly Haitian-American audience who understood it only too well.
Or How the U.S. Military Avoided Budget Cuts, Lied About Doing So, Then Asked for Billions More
Washington is pushing the panic button, claiming austerity is hollowing out our armed forces and our national security is at risk. That was the message Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel delivered last week when he announced that the Army would shrink to levels not seen since before World War II.
Washington is pushing the panic button, claiming austerity is hollowing out our armed forces and our national security is at risk. That was the message Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel delivered last week when he announced that the Army would shrink to levels not seen since before World War II. Headlines about this crisis followed in papers like the New York Timesand members of Congress issued statements swearing that they would never allow our security to be held hostage to the budget-cutting process.
The U.S. is backing Ukraine's extreme right-wing Svoboda party and violent neo-Nazis whose armed uprising paved the way for a Western-backed coup. Events in the Ukraine are giving us another glimpse through the looking-glass of U.S. propaganda wars against fascism, drugs and terrorism. The ugly reality behind the mirror is that the U.S. government has a long and unbroken record of working with fascists, dictators, druglords and state sponsors of terrorism in every region of the world in its elusive but relentless quest for unchallenged global power.
America's military adventures have fueled a global explosion of terrorism and a historic breakdown of law and order.
Twelve years into America's "war on terror," it is time to admit that it has failed catastrophically, unleashing violence, war and instability in an "arc of terror" stretching from West Africa to the Himalayas and beyond.
The implementation of the Iran accord Monday signaled a modest but still important sea change in that country’s relationship with the world. As with all good diplomacy, the deal is a win-win for Iran and the United Nations Security Council’s permanent members.
MONTREUX, Switzerland (AP) — The United Nations is taking a day to see if there is enough common ground between Syrian President Bashar Assad's government and the opposition to talk directly for the first time since the rebellion began in 2011.
The talks in Syria began today, with the Syrian government and opposition exchanging accusations and invectives. Missing was the voice of nonviolent civilians, especially women, even through they have been trying for months to have a seat at the table.
At least ten states will be sites for testing drones — unmanned aircraft — in the next couple of years, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) announced on Monday. Six institutions have been authorized to operate test locations for the use of drones and for studying how they will interact with air traffic systems.
As we end the longest period of war in our history, we should be entering a period of postwar downsizing - but what about the communities dependent on the massive post-9/11 military budget?
End wars. Shrink the Pentagon budget. Reinvest the savings in neglected domestic priorities. It’s a logical progression. Right?
Washington, D.C.— Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) issued the following statement on the passing of former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela:
Iraq is still suffering from the US invasion because the apparatus of state oppression and terror is still in place, killing people every day. But few in the US seem to realize the scale of the war crimes committed in Iraq, an expert author told RT.
Having the most expensive and destructive military does not make the American people safer. The idea of U.S. "national security" seems inextricably entangled with the notion of "military supremacy."
All of a sudden we’re talking to Iran. Now, granted, that shouldn’t be such an astonishing bombshell. But given the reality of the last several decades, it pretty much is. And that’s all good. It’s been too long coming, it’s still too hesitant, there’s still too much hinting about military force behind it… but we’re talking. Foreign minister to foreign minister, Kerry to Zarif, it’s all a good sign.
A trillion dollars. It's a lot of money. In a year it could send 127 million college students to school, provide health insurance for 206 million people, or pay the salaries of seven million schoolteachers and seven million police officers.
On Friday, September 12th more than 150 activists will go to DC and Demand that their Senators and Representatives support removing the ratification deadline from the ERA (SJ Res 15 and HJ Res 113)
MoveOn.org Petition - Congress Don't Renew Fast Track
Public Citizen Petition - Congress Must Reject Fast Track Authority
MoveOn.org Petition - Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership
CREDO Petition - Stop the Massive Corporate Power Grab
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