The Pledge of Allegiance is offensive to many people, for many different reasons. Some religious groups take exception to the idea of taking an oath of loyalty to a government. Atheist citizens are bothered by the Pledge of Allegiance because it requires people to swear an oath in part to “God”, a religious character that they don’t believe exists. People, religious and irreligious alike, who support the First Amendment to the Constitution, are offended by the Pledge’s promotion, since it was edited in the 1950s, of the concept that the nation and its government are “under God” rather than under the Constitution and federal law. Citizens who sincerely believe in democracy are concerned that the Pledge of Allegiance asks people to make an oath of affiliation to a flag, and to the republic, without considering what political content the republic and its flag are representing at the time.
Certainly, some Americans don’t care about these things, and are happy to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The point is that not all Americans feel the same way about the Pledge of Allegiance. Even those who disagree with the Pledge of Allegiance disagree with it for different reasons.
The United States of America, despite what the Pledge of Allegiance says, is divisible. It’s already divided. That’s always been the reality of our nation. It’s the reason that democracy is so important. We don’t all believe the same things. We don’t all have the same concept of what our nation is, or what it should be.
That in itself constitutes another reason for Americans of good conscience to avoid saying the Pledge of Allegiance. It asserts “liberty and justice for all”, while in fact promoting uniformity under authority by all. Recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance is a rotten tool for teaching concepts of citizenship.
If you’re a public school student, and one of these reasons for objecting to the Pledge of Allegiance makes sense to you, then you have the power to opt out. If your teachers, and even your school principal, tell you that you have to recite the Pledge, or even stand while others are being recited, they are wrong. Yes, teachers and school administrators are capable of being wrong. They do it all the time.
If you don’t agree with the Pledge, then don’t say it, and don’t stand up for it. Sit down in silent protest. What you’re doing isn’t rude. It’s what citizenship looks like.
The American Humanist Association is supporting a Don’t Say The Pledge campaign, which includes contact information for a legal team willing to support students who refuse to obey commands to recite or stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. If you encounter trouble from your school in your Pledge boycott, get in touch with them.
Do you remember the Mayday PAC, the Super PAC unregulated political corporation that promised to get big money out of politics? Do you remember when its leadership — Americans Elect alums libertarian Lawrence Lessig, Republican Kahlil Byrd and Republican Mark McKinnon — asked you to “embrace the irony”?
Well, the Mayday Super PAC is still around, and the irony is getting piled higher and deeper.
The Mayday PAC has repeatedly declared that it is interested in one and only one issue: campaign finance reform. Mayday has promised that it would only spend money on the issue of campaign finance reform and to elect candidates who support campaign finance reform.
In a series of blog posts last month, DocDawg and Miscellany Blue noted with growing suspicion indications that Mayday PAC had donated over a hundred thousand dollars to a PAC called Stark360, and that Stark360 in turn used the money to spread political messages having nothing to do with campaign finance reform. Indeed, a previous article showed that Stark360 sent out a raft of pro-gun, anti-Obamacare, bank-deregulation, climate-change-denying messages in New Hampshire.
What’s new since that raft of early September revelations?
Enough time has passed that any additional contributions received by Stark360 for New Hampshire primary spending would have come to light. The last day for reporting contributions and spending in the primaries in New Hampshire was September 17. Most September 17 reports were posted to the New Hampshire 2014 campaign finance disclosure page on that day or the day afterward. I’ve given an extra two weeks to wait and see if an additional filing showing that Stark360 got money from any other source might appear. It has not. You can see that in the specific page listing reports as of September 17, no Stark360 PAC filings are listed. This means that the last filing of Stark360 reporting contributions it received and expenditures it made was on September 3.
Let’s look in detail at the September 3 report and see what it indicates.
FACT: Stark360 reports that it received a total of $134,020 in the entire New Hampshire primary period.
FACT: As you can see here, Stark360 filed forms to come into existence on July 29, 2014 — right in the middle of the primary period — so there was no time beforehand for it to have accumulated other money.
FACT: Stark360 reports that it received $103,500 of this amount from the Mayday PAC.
This leaves just $30,520 from other sources. All expenditures not having to do with campaign finance either must add up to $30,520 or less, or it must be true that Mayday PAC money went to support the right-wing Stark360’s other political activities.
Let’s do the math. Subtraction is not hard.
In September, Stark360 spent $6,000 in direct gifts to candidates who are not in the Mayday PAC list of approved candidates. That leaves $24,520 of non-Mayday money that Stark 360 could legitimately spend on non-Mayday activities.
Stark360 spent $6,000 to DB Capitol Strategies for “legal and compliance services” to support Stark 360 itself — not campaign activities for any Mayday-approved candidate. That leaves $18,520 of non-Mayday money that Stark 360 could legitimately spend on non-Mayday activities.
That’s all Stark360 reported on its September 3 New Hampshire disclosure form. But wait — there’s more. In a previous report to New Hampshire, Stark360 reported it made more direct campaign donations, totaling $5,000, to various conservative political candidates not endorsed by the Mayday PAC. That leaves $13,520 of non-Mayday money that Stark360 could legitimately spend on non-Mayday activities.
And that’s not all. In this federal report, Stark360 reports making two independent expenditures totaling $12,740.96 on behalf of the campaign of Marilinda Garcia for Congress. Marilinda Garcia is not on the list of Mayday PAC endorsees. That leaves just $779.04 of non-Mayday money left for Stark360 to legitimately spend.
Whew, that was close, wasn’t it?
But no, we’re not done yet. You see, we haven’t looked yet at New Hampshire’s reports of independent expenditures made by Stark360. Here’s one. It shows that Stark360 spent $26,050 for a media buy on behalf of Andrew Hemingway for Governor. Stark360 also spent another $4111.44 for a mailer supporting a roster of 176 candidates for state office in New Hampshire. Not one of these candidates is on the Mayday PAC list of approved candidates. These expenditures take us over the line. So far, it appears that Stark360 has spent at least $29,382.40 of Mayday PAC money on non-Mayday conservative causes and candidates.
There’s more, you say? Yes, there is. Another Stark360 independent expenditure report reveals that Stark360 spent $1,019.85 on banners to support conservative political candidates who have nothing to do with the Mayday PAC platform or issue slate. That takes the running tally up to at least $30,402.25 of Mayday PAC money spent for non-Mayday conservative political purposes.
Phew! Let’s look at the last report, which reveals that the Stark360 PAC spent another $4,600 on lawn signs promoting Andrew Hemingway for Governor of New Hampshire. This is not a Mayday-related political cause, and our final tally comes to at least $35,002.25 of Mayday PAC money spent for non-Mayday conservative political purposes.
At least a third of the money the Mayday PAC shuffled into Stark360 accounts appears to have been spent to promote conservative political causes and candidates unrelated to campaign finance reform.
A caveat: it may be that Stark360 is not reporting some additional source of money flowing into its coffers, in which case Stark360 would be committing a campaign offense. Assuming this is not the case, there’s a whole lot of Mayday money being spent in inappropriate ways.
Listen here to audio of a Stark360 PAC representative openly talking about all the ways in which it is spending its funds — overwhelmingly coming from the Mayday PAC — promoting conservative politics and politicians.
If you donated money to the Mayday PAC thinking you were supporting campaign finance reform, you should be asking Mayday to fully and transparently investigate and report on Stark360’s use of Mayday funds.
P.S. Look carefully through those expenditure reports and you’ll see payment after payment, totaling thousands and thousands of dollars, going to “ARD Ventures.” This is odd, considering that ARD Ventures is listed as a corporate buyout firm
, not a political organization.
Even odder is the list of executives at “ARD Ventures.” here and here and here and here and here and here for documentation. They include:
Hemingway, Hemingway… haven’t we seen that name before? And who are the leaders of Stark360? See here; they include:
Popular protests taking place this Saturday include:
The Six Nations Men’s Fire, a Haudenosaunee group in Canada, will close down of Ontario’s Highway #6, in protest of the refusal of the Canadian national government to open up an independent inquiry into cases of missing and murdered Six Nations women.
In front of the Home Depot on Maka’ala Street in Hilo, Hawaii, protesters will stand with signs urging shoppers to boycott Honeywell products. In addition to thermostats and dehumidifiers, Honeywell manufactures killer flying robots for the U.S. government.
In Bath, Maine, protesters will gather on Washington Street to protest for peace and against the construction of war machines for the Navy.
At 20830 Stevens Creek Blvd. Cupertino, CA 95014 at Noon and 627 East Calaveras Blvd. Milpitas, CA 95035 at 2:00 PM, members of a postal workers union will gather to protest against the office supply chain Staples. The union claims Staples is working with the U.S. Postal Service in order to pay workers below the level of wages previously agreed to by the Postal Service.
At Fort Meade in Maryland, members of Pledge of Resistance of Baltimore will be protesting outside offices of the National Security Agency, in defiance of the NSA’s electronic spying against Americans.
At noon in Philadelphia, at the corner of 12th and Market Streets, there will be a death march against drone warfare.
An anti-drone protest will be held at 10:00 AM at the Craycroft Gate of the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, (at Golf Links Road) in Tucson, Arizona.
At 8:30 AM, anti-nuclear protesters will begin a carpool at 420 Mesa Road in Colorado Springs, traveling to the site of a Minuteman nuclear missile silo, where they will hold a demonstration for peace.
More protests will be held around the world this weekend as part of the Global Action Day Against the Use of Drones for Surveillance & Killing.
On September 11, 2001, 2,999 people were killed in a terrorist attack. In response to those deaths, the United States has spent trillions of dollars to engage in three separate wars, in addition to bombings from robotic aircraft around the world, has instituted draconian search regimes and a practically omnipresent electronic surveillance system, and set up torture prisons around the world. A Department of Homeland Security was established, even though no one had ever heard of the Homeland before.
These deaths have not been repeated in any subsequent attacks.
Every year since then, over 4,000 people in the United States have been killed while peacefully going out for a walk. In 2012, the most recent year for which these statistics are available, 4,743 people were killed.
They were struck down by cars, trucks, and other automobiles. People who were killed by cars while walking in parking lots and across driveways were not included in these statistics.
In response, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched a public relations campaign, and has made two million dollars in grant money available for state and local efforts to protect pedestrians from cars. Over the last 5 years, the amount that the United States federal government has spent on protecting pedestrians has been 8.6 millionths of one percent of the amount the federal government has spent on wars in response to the single terrorist attack of 2001.
World Can’t Wait has announced that October 30th is National Wear Orange Day, an opportunity to… hold on…
In 2012 and 2013, National Wear Orange Day was celebrated in September, as a show of solidarity with the work of food banks.
In February of 2014, National Wear Orange Day was observed in recognition of the problem of teen dating violence.
In January of 2012, and for six years prior, National Wear Orange Day tried to raise awareness about cervical cancer.
East Bay Indymedia says that National Wear Orange Day will take place on October 22, not October 30, and will be part of a “Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation”.
So, what could the World Can’t Wait Wear Orange Day on October 30th be about?
Rational Animal says that orange ribbons symbolize the effort to transition people from the understanding of owning pets to being guardians for companion animals.
Awareness Ribbon Gifts advises its customers that orange ribbons represent awareness of “Agent Orange Exposure, Cultural Diversity and Racial Tolerance, Deep Vein Thrombosis, the Highway and Road Worker Memorial, Hunger, Kidney Cancer, Leukemia, Motorcyclist Safety, Multiple Sclerosis, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, Self Injury, Skin Cancer, Support of the Jewish Settlements in the Gaza Strip and North Samaria, Underage Drinking, and Work Zone Safety.”
MD Junction adds addiction recovery to this list.
So, you know what to do on October 30! Get out there and wear orange, to support… stuff!
“Sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds. Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.”- William Shakespeare
In 2001, the President of the United States was given authority by Congress to go to war against groups that were involved in the planning and execution of the terrorist attacks of September 11 that year. Little over a year later, the President of the United States was given authority by Congress to go to war against the government of Iraq.
Neither of these authorizations for war included a war against the Islamic State. Indeed, the Islamic State military organization didn’t even exist back when these authorizations were passed. So, President Obama has no legal authority to take the United States into war against the Islamic State, but has taken us into this new war anyway, not just in Iraq but also in Syria, and has declared that he intends for the war to go on for years and years.
As a small attempt at legal justification for expanding American bombing into Syria, the Obama Administration announced that there was an Al Quaida affiliate group in Syria that was posing an imminent threat of terrorist attack in the United States. It’s name: Khorasan. With this tangential link to a group that was involved in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, President Obama went ahead and bombed neighborhoods in Syria.
The odd thing that few remarked upon was that no evidence of any actual Khorasan terrorists in the United States ever surfaced. No one from Khorasan was arrested in the act of attempting terrorist attacks. No Khorasan conspirators were ever found. Furthermore, no one could remember ever having heard of a Khorasan terrorist group before. The story all started to look rather fishy. So, some people began asking an inconvenient question: Was this Khorasan group genuine? Did it actually exist?
At a press conference yesterday, Rear Admiral John Kirby, spokesman for the U.S. military was asked to address this question. He was asked by a reporter: “Was it an important thing for you to keep the existence of Khorasan secret? Is that, did that happen? Is this something that was not talked about intentionally, the existence of this group, and the reason I’m asking is there are suggestions out there that today particularly, that the threat posed by Khorasan was — was sort of fabricated, perhaps, by the administration as a pretext for war, to legally justify involvement in Syria. How do you respond to that?”
Kirby denied that the imminent threat of Khorasan attack was just a pretext for expanded war into Syria. He replied, “That’s absolutely false. It’s a ridiculous allegation. And we’ve been watching this group for a long time. I can’t account for the fact that it wasn’t a household name in America or elsewhere around the world. There were other organizations, not of this department, that certainly we’re tracking this group as well. The notion that we would just, you know, make them up or fancify the threat they pose to – you know, to justify military action, is just absolutely ridiculous.”
At no time, however, did John Kirby offer any evidence to back up his assertions. Kirby only could claim that the assertions that the Khorasan threat was truly were imminent were “absolutely ridiculous”. Kirby didn’t prove it. He didn’t even try to provide evidence, and the Pentagon reporters didn’t ask follow up questions.
So, it seems, the Pentagon believes that the American people should accept it the new war, without asking for proof that the war is necessary and legal. The military even scoffs at the idea that we aren’t all familiar with the Khorasan terrorist group. “I can’t account for the fact that it wasn’t a household name in America or elsewhere around the world,” Kirby said.
Can Kirby truly not account for the fact that Khorasan is not a household name in America? Here’s a snapshot of every effort the Pentagon has made to tell the American people about the Khorasan group, provided by a search enabled by the Department of Defense’s own search engine:
All of these communications from the Pentagon about the Khorasan terrorist group come after this month’s declaration that Khorasan had suddenly become an imminent threat to the United States, of a sufficient size to justify the bombing of Syria.
Across the web, there has been a similar silence about a Khorasan terrorist group, until this month. Look at this record of online references to Khorasan from Google.
The references to “Khorasan” before this month were talking about a region along the border of Iran and Afghanistan, not talking about a group with that name in Syria.
Given this lack of a record prior to this month of news about a Khorasan terrorist group, and the extreme swerve into a bombing war that has been justified by claims of imminent Khorasan terrorism, the American people are justified in asking skeptical questions about the reality of the supposed Khorasan threat.
Given the long record of outright lies from the Pentagon and the White House about threats to national security, used to justify war, it is not reasonable for the Pentagon to ask the American people to accept the reality of the Khorasan threat on mere faith. The Obama Administration needs to provide extensive proof that the Khorasan group was threatening the United States with a significant, imminent terrorist attack. If Obama cannot provide this evidence, the bombing of Syria must stop.
Last month, U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) voted on behalf of large out-of-state donors who want to keep donating huge amounts of unregulated money. It turns out that Senator Collins is herself receiving huge amounts of money from those same large out-of-state donors. Senator Collins is taking significantly more money from outside the state of Maine than she has attracted from within Maine. It is fair to ask who Susan Collins is really representing.
What does this look like in practice? A review of data from the Federal Elections Commission shows that:
- Susan Collins has more donors from Beverly Hills, California than from Blue Hill, Maine.
- Susan Collins has more donors from Boston, MA than from Bar Harbor, ME.
- Susan Collins has more donors from Bryn Mawr, PA than from Belfast, ME.
- Susan Collins has taken more cash from Chevy Chase, MD than from Castine, ME.
- Susan Collins has received far more in campaign contributions from Greenwich and Groton, CT than from Gardiner, ME.
- Susan Collins has more donors from Malibu, CA than from Machias, ME.
- Susan Collins has more donors from Princeton, NJ than from Port Clyde, ME.
- Susan Collins gathered more campaign cash from Vero Beach, FL than from Veazie, ME.
- Shenna Bellows has received the majority of her campaign contributions from inside the state of Maine.
- Shenna Bellows has more donors from Blue Hill, Maine than from Beverly Hills, California.
- Shenna Bellows has more donors from Bar Harbor than from Boston, MA.
- Shenna Bellows has more donors from Belfast than from Bryn Mawr, PA.
- Shenna Bellows has received more donations from Castine than from Chevy Chase, MD.
- Shenna Bellows has received more campaign funding from Gardiner than from Greenwich or Groton, CT.
- Shenna Bellows has more donors from Machias than from Malibu, CA.
- Shenna Bellows has more donors from Port Clyde than from Princeton, NJ.
- Shenna Bellows gathere more campaign cash from Veazie than from Vero Beach, FL.
Senate challenger Shenna Bellows has a very different pattern of campaign contributions from Susan Collins. Given these patterns, it’s fair to ask: who does Susan Collins really represent? Who would Shenna Bellows represent?
For years, we have been following stories of Ram Bomjon, the teenage boy who, it was claimed, was able to sit and meditate for months straight, without taking any food or water, or even moving. Access to Ram Bahadur Bomjon was tightly controlled by his group of teenage followers, and no one was allowed to see the so-called Buddha Boy at night, fueling suspicion that the supposedly miraculous meditation was a hoax.
With the police closing in to conduct an fraud investigation, Ram Bomjon disappeared into the forest. Since that time, he and his followers have popped up over and over again, getting into violent fights with non-believers, even kidnapping people who get in his way.
One of our readers, going under the name Zsuzsi Takacs, has referred us to two news articles from Nepal, indicating that Ram Bomjon and his crew are still stirring up trouble. According to the Kathmandu Post and Online Nepal, Ram Bomjon’s gang had a violent confrontation with a group of local inhabitants of Halkhoriya. The locals came, they said, to rescue two people who had been taken prisoner by Ram Bomjon, and then brutally beaten.
Followers of Ram Bomjon say that their “guruji” carries a message of peace and enlightenment. Can peace and enlightenment come in the form of a savage beating? Can there be such thing as a bloody Buddha?