Author Archive: NJPeaceAction

What’s Wrong with Our Economy?

April 15th is Tax Day. Many Americans part with their hard-earned cash and send it to the federal or state government in the form of taxes. Many wonder why we owe still more than we already have paid with every paycheck throughout the year and what our latest tax payment will purchase and it just doesn’t seem fair. We work so hard and have so little to spare, but still our government takes about 55 cents out of each dollar we pay to spend on the military, with only 6 cents on education and 3 cents on energy and the environment.

What’s wrong with this picture? The government’s priorities don’t match with what we see as our community’s needs. While there always seems to be more money for war, or expensive fighter plans like the F35s or “modernizing” the B61s, our nation’s oldest nuclear weapons, there never seems to be enough money to maintain the current level of food stamps or government-subsidized health care or a city’s public schools or a county’s community colleges or to create jobs that pay a living wage.

The movement to increase the minimum wage in New Jersey and nationwide continues to grow and receive broader support. New Jersey Peace Action (NJPA) is honoring 15NowNJ at its upcoming Annual Dinner on Sunday, April 19th because of 15NowNJ’s ongoing efforts to persuade New Jersey’s public officials to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.  15NowNJ held five events in New Jersey on Tax Day, joining more than 60,000 low-wage workers, unions, community groups and allies nationwide calling for a $15/hour minimum wage and the right to unionize.  

The work to raise the minimum wage closer to a living wage and a shift from a war economy to a more peaceful one is essential in creating a more inclusive economy. Economist Richard Wolff, featured speaker at NJPA’s Annual Dinner, (www.njpeaceaction.org/drupal/dinner2015),  will address both in “The Economics of War: Endless Violence, Peace and the Economy.”

“Because when you look at what families like that can actually afford, they have to deny huge parts of the American dream to their children and to themselves as a necessary consequence of where they are put,” writes Wolff.

“And I don’t need to be an economist to put it as starkly as I know how. We can read every day that in the major cities of the United States, apartments are changing hands for $10 million, $20 million, $30 million, $40 million. People have enormous yachts that they cruise — we all see it. We all know it. We even celebrate it as a nation. How does that square with millions of people in a position where they can’t provide even the most basic services and opportunities?

We don’t have equality of opportunity. Because there is no shortcut. If you want equality of opportunity, you’re going to have to create equality of income and wealth much closer to a genuine equality than anything– we’re going in the other direction.”

Governor Christie’s comments at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce meeting, published in the 10/21/14 Talking Points Memo (http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/chris-christie-tired-minimum-wage-debate), reveal much about the politics of this issue in New Jersey. “I gotta tell you the truth, I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage, I really am…I don’t think there’s a mother or father sitting around a kitchen table tonight in America who are saying, ‘You know honey, if my son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all our dreams would be realized.’

People reacted harshly, wondering if Governor Christie ever thought about how people making the minimum wage survive and how tired they feel trying to pay for their household’s basic expenses on the minimum wage?

In the Daily News of October 21, 2014 (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/christie-tired-hearing-minimum-wage-article-1.1982653) Bill Hutchinson writes that Governor Christie and his wife earned $700,000 in 2013. At the same time, 16.5 million Americans worked for the minimum wage. Christie vetoed a bill in January 2013 to raise NJ’s minimum wage by only $1.25/hour claiming it would harm the state’s economic recovery.  

In the April 14th New Jersey Watchdog.org article by Mark Lagerkvist titled “Christie fails to report income, avoids $152,000 in taxes,”  (http://watchdog.org/211787/christie-avoids-income-taxes/)we learn that because Governor Christie did not declare certain expense allowances on his tax returns, he has purportedly avoided paying approximately $152,000 in taxes over the past four years. While disputed by Governor Christie’s press office, Watchdog.org stands behind the claims made in the article. If proven true, this is one more reason to be skeptical of the governor’s comments on the minimum wage.

Michael Palmieri’s April 10th article in OpEd News “2016 GOP Budget Speaks Volumes” (http://www.opednews.com/articles/2016-GOP-Budget-Speaks-Vol-by-Madelyn-Hoffman-Budget_Budget-Bill_Budget-Deal_Budget-Wars-On-The-Middle-Class-150410-869.html) adds a sobering perspective. “The U.S. is the most unequal developed nation and one of the most unequal nations in the entire world, yet neither plans to raise taxes on the highest income earners or to close corporate loopholes are included in the text. Indeed, the level of inequality we are now witnessing is greater than at any time since the Great Depression. Today, the top 1% of income earners captures 20% of all income and the top .1% own more than 1/5th of the wealth. Millions of Americans are still unemployed or working low wage jobs, yet no jobs program was included.”

It’s time to work for peace and economic justice!  

Where Peace and Civil Rights Meet in New Jersey

The connection between the military and repression of civil rights is a theme that New Jersey Peace Action (NJPA) has been exploring since its founding in 1957 as New Jersey SANE. NJPA’s local “Move the Money” campaign to re-direct at least 25% of the money in the military budget to peaceful needs of communities, joined with national efforts several years ago.  

The money we need desperately for schools, jobs creation, health care, infrastructure repair and more should be taken from the overblown military budget of between $650 billion and $750 billion.

Money for Food or for Nuclear Weapons?

Buried in the next-to-last paragraph is an upcoming NJ event April 27 in Pompton Plains on a nuclear-free Middle East. Looks interesting to me, so I’m promoting this post. – Rosi

We live in strange times, indeed. In the past few months, the U.S. Congress has failed to extend unemployment benefits for 1.3 million people and has passed legislation that will cut $8.6 billion in food stamps over the next 10 years, affecting 850,000 households in 1/3 of the states.

At the same time, the 2015 budget shows a 7% increase in spending on nuclear weapons, from $18.6 billion to $19.4 billion – almost $1 billion. While the overall amount allocated for nuclear weapons is greater than last year, the funds dedicated to nuclear nonproliferation programs – programs to reduce the numbers of available warheads or securing so-called “loose nukes” was cut, making more dollars available to either build new nuclear weapons hardware or spend billions to modernize old ones, such as the B-61 bomb.  

Jeremy Scahill, author of Dirty Wars, to speak in New Jersey on 4/28/13

promoted by Rosi

These are very sobering and frightening times. Not only have we reached an important milestone – 10 years after the original invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003 – but we have reached a critical juncture in our country’s history of dealing with violence, whether that violence is taking place here at home or part of U.S. foreign policy abroad. It is sad to contemplate how long this war and the war in Afghanistan have dragged on, how many American, Iraqi and Afghan lives have been lost or disrupted, and how almost $2 trillion, if not more, has been spent on wars seemingly without end. And still there are those voices clamoring for war against Iran, Syria, North Korea or Mali, instead of pushing for reliance on increased diplomacy and a complete end to ongoing (and sometimes, covert) wars.

New Jersey Peace Action is deeply concerned about the human, environmental and financial impacts of continued and long-term U.S. involvement in multiple wars and its seeming willingness to expand that involvement. NJPA is also concerned about how the bombings at the Boston Marathon a week ago will translate into U.S. foreign and domestic policies – will there be new examples of martial law here at home or calls for additional strikes abroad or both?  

The Cuban Missile Crisis: What Have We Learned? — NJ Peace Action shares some ideas

On Saturday, November 10, 2012, Jonathan Granoff, one-time resident of Englewood, New Jersey and  renowned author and speaker on nuclear disarmament will be the featured speaker at New Jersey Peace Action’s (NJPA) 55th Annual Soup Luncheon at Bloomfield High School from 11:45am to 4:00pm.

The Soup Luncheon takes place shortly after the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis (October 14 – October 28, 1962) and just a few days after the elections of November 6th, both of which will inform Jonathan Granoff’s presentation “At This Critical Moment: What Next for International Security?”

In his September 30, 2012 Huffington Post article Ronald Reagan, Republicans and Nuclear Weapons Jonathan Granoff writes “Listening to today’s candidates – at any level-one would not know that, historically, Republicans have been instrumental in advancing arms control, nonproliferation, and nuclear disarmament. That is, until the recent Bush administration. In fact, active Republican leadership was essential in obtaining the Biological Weapons Convention, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, the Strategy Arms Reduction Treaty, and the Chemical Weapons Convention, to name but a few. However, the current Republicans running for offices, both high and low, have forgotten this legacy of success in making America and the world safer based on the U.S. value of the rule of law.”

After a recent Presidential debate where both President Obama and Governor Romney agreed on almost every foreign policy issue, NJPA is even more convinced that all diplomatic avenues must be explored to prevent the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons and move instead toward their total abolition. And nowhere is that position more critical than in addressing international concerns about Iran.

In their foreign policy debate on October 22nd, both President Obama and Governor Romney stated that a nuclear capable Iran is problematic. However, neither candidate spoke about stepping up negotiations and diplomacy. Instead they tried to outdo each other in their support for “crippling sanctions,” sanctions that indiscriminately punish Iranian people for alleged missteps of their government. Neither candidate ruled out military intervention.  

Have our leaders learned nothing from the Cuban Missile Crisis about preventing nuclear war?  Fifty years ago, the whole world was on edge. One wrong word or action from a party to the conflict might have unleashed the terrible destructive power of nuclear weapons. The Russians ultimately backed off, not because of the threat of more forceful action, but because through negotiations and diplomacy, a compromise was reached. The United States declared never to invade Cuba in exchange for the Soviets’ dismantling of their offensive weapons in Cuba, returning them to the Soviet Union, subject to United Nations verification.  

Then Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, spoke eloquently of how the crisis was averted in Errol Morris’s 2003 documentary, “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara.” The lesson here: Know your enemy and empathize with them. “We must try to put ourselves inside their skin and look at us through their eyes,” he said.

The goal then becomes crafting a resolution to the conflict that allows all parties to “save face” so when crisis is averted, each party can face their own people without recrimination. Such negotiations require listening and compromise – we give away something meaningful to get something meaningful in return, a lesson the U.S. appears to have forgotten in dealing with Iran.

NJPA opposes a so-called pre-emptive strike against Iran. We know what happened in Iraq, the lives lost, billions of dollars spent and damage to our international reputation. Max Fisher, in the October 25th issue of The Guardian in his article titled “The U.K. thinks a strike on Iran would be illegal, denies U.S. access to its bases” writes:

The British attorney general has circulated legal advice to the prime  minister’s office, Foreign Office and Defense Ministry warning that a  preemptive military strike on Iran could violate international law, the  Guardian’s Nick Hopkins reports… Iran does not currently meet the legal threshold for a “clear and present danger” that would merit such an attack.

NJPA believes an important first step toward resolving this situation peacefully and legally is passage of H.R. 4173, the Prevent Iran from Acquiring Nuclear Weapons and Stop War Through Diplomacy Act. The ultimate goal is creation of a nuclear-free Middle East and then beyond.

Since 1940 the United States has spent over $5.8 trillion dollars on nuclear weapons and their support systems. During that time over 400 million people perished from poverty-related causes and pollution. Each year 14 million people around the world continue to die from these preventable causes, including 130,000 annually here in the U.S. We must continue our work to “move the money” from nuclear weapons spending and toward community programs. Perhaps then, we can avoid further loss of human life.

To hear Jonathan Granoff speak at NJPA’s Soup Luncheon, make your reservations now at www.njpeaceaction.org.

Secret Surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey and Elsewhere Should Concern Us All

Secret Surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey and Elsewhere Should Concern Us All

By Madelyn Hoffman, Executive Director of New Jersey Peace Action

Recent news about the New York Police Department (NYPD) and its surveillance of the Muslim community in New Jersey and elsewhere makes me frightened for my country and my fellow citizens. Not only have we started two illegal, lengthy and expensive wars and are now threatening a third, but we have seemed to abandon some of our core principles in the process.

Our justice system is supposed to operate on the premise that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately, it seems the NYPD has put that aside and is classifying a whole community as suspect, simply because of their religion.

Most of the mainstream media responding to this story have described this as an issue between Muslims and the government. While Muslims’ civil rights and civil liberties are under attack, let me be clear — Muslims aren’t the only people concerned. Concerns about the NYPD’s activities extend beyond the Muslim community to all those who want the United States to uphold the Constitution.  

Lessons learned during World War II led Pastor Martin Niemoller to observe:

First they came for the communists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me

and there was no one left to speak out for me.

“The idea of Muslim students being monitored by the NYPD genuinely scares me,” said Jessica Camacho, a student at Bloomfield College. “I feel as if we are entering another period of history where people of a certain background will be rounded up and kept away to ensure safety without due process. This fear of all Muslims because a few extremists committed horrible crimes is unjust and misplaced. As a society, we can’t allow fear to guide our judgments.”

Mayor Bloomberg’s refusal to launch an investigation into the practices employed by the NYPD because he asserts they were “appropriate, legal and constitutional” is misguided. Not only did the NYPD seem to employ “profiling” rather than follow specific leads, their surveillance extended to Upstate New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey locations that included Muslim Student Associations (MSAs) at Rutgers University. The fact that over the past 40 years, some dozen individuals arrested in connection with “terrorist” activities once belonged to a Muslim Student Association does not provide nearly enough evidence to secretly monitor meetings of today’s MSAs and employs a common logical principle that is important for policymakers to remember — correlation does not imply causality.

NYPD activities now being publicized are already having a chilling effect on Muslims and their right to peaceably assemble and to freely exercise their religion. Students are afraid to attend meetings for fear of using the wrong word or discussing a sensitive topic. Muslim leaders are concerned that people are shying away from attending their mosques out of fear that their mosques are under surveillance.

What about the mapping and monitoring of Muslim-owned businesses and restaurants in the city of Newark? There was no report of wrongdoing at any of them and no wrongdoing found.   One clever Gawker.com reporter satirized this activity by taking pages out of the 60 page report obtained and publicized by the Associated Press and showing how it could be read as if it were a Zagat’s Guide to Halaal Dining in Newark.

One commentator noted that some of the information recorded during this process was wrong and could easily have been corrected simply by asking someone. However, since the operation was secret, no such questions could be asked.

This speaks to an issue that first surfaced shortly after passage of the U.S.A. Patriot Act in October 2001. By creating fear among the Muslim community, the law also discouraged people from stepping forward in the event there was something suspicious to report. Instead of resulting in more cooperation with the Muslim community which has led to the apprehension of 40% of all terror suspects since 9/11, the law made it more difficult for information to be obtained. In the matter of determining if any threats exist, cooperation would be far more effective than confrontation.   Unfortunately, documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) showed that outreach efforts by law enforcement agencies have been exclusively information-gathering exercises, rather than partnerships built on trust.

The U.S. Constitution contains no provisions for its suspension and must remain in effect, even when it is the most difficult to uphold. Even under the worst of circumstances, the First Amendment and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution must be upheld. The First Amendment guarantees protection of five liberties, three of which are impacted by NYPD’s surveillance: the freedom of speech, the freedom to exercise one’s religion, and the freedom to peaceably assemble. The Fourth Amendment guarantees protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. Reasonable is defined as one for which a warrant has been issued based on probable cause. The NYPD’s surveillance has had a chilling effect on Muslims’ first amendment rights and has completely made irrelevant the requirement for a warrant to be issued based on probable cause.

Violation of the U.S. Constitution is something that should concern ALL of us. For this reason, all of us should be concerned about the activities of the NYPD and should join the Muslims’ call for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into these activities. We are neither stronger nor more secure as a nation because of the NYPD’s secret surveillance program.

On Sunday, April 29th, New Jersey Peace Action is proud to announce that Captain James “Yusuf” Yee, former Muslim Army Chaplain at Guantanamo Bay Prison will be speaking on the topic of “9/11 and Guantanamo: The Fight for Justice Ten Years Later.”

Yee’s book, God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire, describes his experience and struggle for justice. He is a past executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) and currently lectures on Guantanamo, his ordeal, Islam, Asian-American and religious diversity issues and the challenges of protecting both national security and civil liberties.

NJPA’s theme this year brought these comments from Mohammad Ali Naquvi, Founder of Independent Viewpoints, “Moments like this are an opportunity.  We can either give up in fear as a community or do what we should have done long ago – build relationships, forge partnerships, and foster trust among the diverse communities in New Jersey.  It’s time that American Muslims come together with other American concerned citizens on common civic issues like civil liberties, human rights and end to torture for all.  This year’s NJPA dinner is the start of a new vision for New Jersey.”

The dinner and program will start at 1 p.m., with a social hour preceding this at 12:15 p.m. Reservations may be made by calling 973-259-1126, or online at www.njpeaceaction.org. Ticket prices are $50 until April 16 and $60 after that. Pax Christi New Jersey will be honored at the event.  

NJ Peace Action’s 53rd Annual Dinner: Featuring Phil Donahue

Bloomfield, NJ. 4/15/2010 – Phil Donahue, the Emmy Award-winning media personality, writer and film producer, will speak about his film The Body of War at NJ Peace Action’s 53rd Annual Dinner. The event will be held on Sunday, April 25th from noon to 4:00 p.m. at the Regency House, located at 140 Route 23, North Pompton Plains, NJ.

Mr. Donahue will also receive The Dorothy Eldridge Peacemaker Award, presented by Hackensack resident Ruth Neustadter, community activist and radio news reporter. Madeline Vricella formerly from Totowa, now from Asbury Park, New Jersey will be named Peace Action Activist of the Year, and the organization August 9 Saving Lives Task Force, will be recipients of the Sylvia and Oscar Ackelsberg Peace Award. 

Phil Donahue and The Donahue Show have been honored with 20 Daytime Emmy Awards, including 9 for Outstanding Host and a George Foster Peabody Broadcasting Journalism Award. Pioneer of the television talk show format since 1967, Mr. Donahue has interviewed world leaders, celebrities, newsmakers, and people from all walks of life. As a radio host, he interviewed Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mr. Donahue has hosted nearly 7,000 shows, including historic broadcasts from Russia. In 2002-2003, he returned to television to host the highest rated show on MSNBC. The show was later canceled with implications that Donahue would be a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war.”

Most recently, Donahue Executive Produced Body of War, a documentary about a 25-year-old Iraq War Veteran, Tomas Young, who was paralyzed by a bullet to his spine during his first week of service in Iraq. The film chronicles Tomas’ copings with disability as well as the development of his passionate voice against the war. 

“We are very pleased to be bringing such a high caliber voice for peace  into our dedicated community of local activists,”said Madelyn Hoffman, Executive Director of NJ Peace Action. “I feel that this year’s Annual Dinner will help forge alliances between community activists, students and labor, all working toward peace. By coupling a voice of Mr. Donahue’s caliber with the many local figures dedicated to a more peaceful world, we can collectively begin to move away from a planet gripped by war, toward a world of peaceful camaraderie, a safer world for all of our children and grandchildren to come.”

Music will be provided by Cecilia St. King, the Peace Troubadour. Cecilia St. King is sponsored by the M.K. Gandhi Institute of Nonviolence.

For More Information and To Make Reservations Contact:

Madelyn Hoffman, Executive Director of NJ Peace Action,

973-259-1126 (office), (973) 876-1023 (cell)

http://www.acteva.com/booking….  director@njpeaceaction.org, 673 Bloomfield Ave., Bloomfield, NJ 07003

Dahr Jamail to Speak about “Iraq and Afghanistan: Which Way Out?” at NJPA’s 52nd Annual Soup Lunch

Iraq and Afghanistan: What is the Way Out?

Dahr Jamail speaks at NJ Peace Action 52nd Annual Soup Luncheon

Saturday, November 21st at Columbia High School in Maplewood

For Immediate Release

October 9, 2009

Dahr Jamail will be speaking at NJ Peace Action’s 52nd Annual Soup Luncheon on Saturday, November 21st, at Columbia High School in Maplewood. His topic will be “Iraq and Afghanistan: What is the Way Out?” Since the nation just marked the 8th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, this program could not be more timely.  The program runs from 11:45am to 4:00pm with Dahr Jamail speaking just after 2:00pm.

Dahr Jamail, a political activist and unembedded journalist from Anchorage, Alaska, first traveled to Iraq in November 2003 to write about the effects of the US occupation on the Iraqi people. After nine weeks covering the occupation, he returned to the US and addressed audiences in Alaska and the Northeast about his experience.  As his articles at dahrjamailiraq.com became more widely referenced, his reputation grew quickly as a courageous journalist for whom the pursuit of the truth was worth risking his life. He is the author of Beyond the Green Zone (Haymarket Books, 2007) and The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan (Haymarket Books, 2009).

“Dahr Jamail is one of the few reporters brave and principled enough to report independently on the conflicts, instead of being embedded with military units fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. His  presentation could not be any more timely,” said Madelyn Hoffman, Director of NJ Peace Action. “President Obama is currently deciding whether to send thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan on the advice of General McChrystal or to pursue an alternative approach to ending the conflict, particularly since public opposition to the on-going war is steadily increasing.  It is essential to hear from an independent voice at this critical juncture – as we make the case against an escalation in the number of troops being sent to Afghanistan.”  

When asked about the decision facing President Obama regarding an increase in troops to Afghanistan, Dahr replied “The US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan violates both international law as well as the US constitution. I feel it is fair to ask this question to the President: given the law, and given that you are a constitutional lawyer yourself, how can you, as President, justify sending more troops into an occupation that violates the UN Charter and the US Constitution?”

“The US is a signatory nation of the UN Charter,” continues Dahr Jamail. “According to the UN Charter, there are only two reasons why any country is allowed to go to war. The first is in self-defense and second is only with UN Security Council Ratification. The US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan is not a just war, as it meets neither of these criteria. Given the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution, Article 6 Paragraph 2, which tells us all foreign treaties the US signs become the supreme law of our land, the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan violates both international law as well as the US constitution.”

Dahr writes for the Inter Press Service and many other outlets and is a regular guest on the radio show, Democracy Now! His extraordinary reporting talent has earned him numerous awards, including the prestigious 2008 Martha Gellhorn Award for Journalism, The Lannan Foundation Writing Residency Fellowship, the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, the Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage, and four Project Censored awards.

Some of Dahr Jamail’s most compelling observations appear below:

– On Journalism:

“Since an informed citizenry is the basis for a healthy democracy, independent, non-corporate media are more crucial today than ever before.”

– On Reporting about Iraq:

“I feel it imperative to maintain a solid presence of independent journalists in Iraq, as there are so few. Most of the mainstream media are just parroting the news fed to them by the CPA and military.”

– On Veterans:

“It is a painful irony that some of those who volunteered to serve and defend our nation are now left particularly defenseless and vulnerable as a direct consequence of its ill advised foreign adventures.”

– On American Ignorance of the occupation:

“I keep wondering how long it can go on; how long so many people in my home country will continue to ignore it, to be complicit, whether they know it or not, in our brutal occupation — so long after it was proven beyond a shadow of a shadow of a doubt that this war was illegal and based on nothing but lies. ”

Reservations for the Soup Luncheon are $25 before November 10th and $30 after that. Reservations can also be made on line, by clicking

here.

For more information contact:  Madelyn Hoffman, Executive Director of NJ Peace Action, 973-259-1126 (office), (973)876-1023(cell)

Madelyn Hoffman

NJ Peace Action

973-259-1126 (phone)

973-259-1139 (fax)