The view off Okinawa Island today. Now imagine a giant airbase filling the horizon.
Action Alerts: Militarism, Tsunami, Supreme Court
... and More
Monday, 14 February 2005
Happy Valentine's Day
In this message:
- Act Now: Stop U.S. Military Base Expansion
- Shirt Sale for Tsunami Relief: Final Days
- Changing the Rules: Extreme Court Judges and Other Outrages
- Computer Crisis: A Machine Dies, and We're in Trouble
- 3 Millionth Letter Sent by Progressive
Dear ProgressivePortal.org user:
With all the headlines coming out of Washington D.C. lately (vote certification,
inauguration, approval of Cabinet nominations, passage of extreme legislation),
it's easy to lose track of other causes that still need our support. One of
our roles at ProgressivePortal.org is to focus on issues that may not be getting
headlines and the full attention of other progressive organizations. I'm writing
to let you know about several issues that are at critical stages right now,
but are not at the center of the U.S. public's attention.
1. Stop Military Base Expansion
If you think you know what it means to be a dedicated anti-militarism activist,
wait until you hear about the grandmothers of Henoko.
Okinawa Island in the south of Japan is the reluctant host to one of the biggest
concentrations of U.S. military force outside of North America. Twenty percent
of the island is military bases. Not content with occupying much of Okinawa's
landmass, the military now wants to build an offshore airbase in the pristine
waters off Henoko. (The military is claiming this is a tradeoff for the mid-1990s
promise to close the massive Futenma military base, but Japanese activists
have discovered planning documents for the offshore airbase dating to 1965.)
The offshore base would be built atop fragile coral reefs and sea-grass
beds, destroying the habitat of several endangered species, including the
gentle dugong, a sea mammal that is a close cousin to the manatee and is a
symbol of peace to the Japanese people. Because of this, the Japanese government
is required to conduct an environmental assessment - an assessment that itself
will damage the environment, including by drilling dozens of holes in the ocean floor.
The project is at a crucial stage. The first five drilling platforms were
recently built offshore. That's when the grandmothers of Henoko swung into
Before the drilling platforms arrived, anti-military and pro-environment
activists, some as old as 90, sat in at government offices for 10 days, occupied
the beachfront for more than 250 days, and held a 20-day hunger strike. When
the action moved offshore, so did the opposition. The scrupulously nonviolent
activists, some of whom had not previously learned to swim, became
skilled rowers and divers. Former Naha City Council member
tells of 70-year-olds in wet suits diving into the waters to disrupt the attempts
to bore holes in the sea floor. At the World Social Forum in Brazil and on
a subsequent visit to the U.S. this month, Ms. Takazato displayed pictures
of women and elders blocking drilling workers in rowboats and occupying the
Rowing out to the platforms at 6:30 every morning, day after day, week after
week, the resisters have managed to prevent all drilling to date. Workers
have not yet been able to install a single drilling engine on any of the platforms.
Okinawan protesters occupy a platform, preventing installation
of seabed-drilling equipment.
Other avenues are also being pursued. Citizens voted against
the offshore base in a
the mayor, who opposed the airbase, was then called to Tokyo, and after
a four-hour closed-door meeting in the prime minister's office, he declared
the people's wishes null and void - and then resigned, to be replaced by a
pro-base mayor. A
against the base is proceeding in U.S. federal court.
(U.S. groups participating in the lawsuit were introduced to the issue by ProgressivePortal.org.)
But as yet, the U.S. and Japanese governments have not budged.
The Japanese subspecies of dugong is highly endangered. Scientists believe
there may be as few as
remaining in the wild. While dugongs
have no natural enemies, they are at risk because of human activity - including
the attempts to conduct the drilling survey prior to building the airbase.
If the survey continues, and particularly if the base is built, they will
almost surely be wiped out forever.
Activists in Okinawa and Tokyo are asking our help now to prevent further
base-construction activity and save the endangered creature of the Henoko
With elections last year, both the U.S. and Japan have several new public
officials involved in this matter. We've devised a letter that goes just to
those new officials, so if you have already sent our Save the Dugong letter
(before 21 Jan 2005), please go to
this special page
to write to officials who weren't in office when
you sent the previous message. (If you sent the letter on 21 Jan or later,
it has already gone to all the recipients.)
If you have not previously sent a Save the Dugong letter, please
go to this page
to send the letter to all of the officials on our list. And for more about the issue, including
rare video of a dugong swimming and feeding on sea grasses, visit our links page.
2. Tsunami Relief: Special Sale through Feb. 20
As the waters receded from the tsunami-ravaged shores of East Asia, so did
the West's attention to the disaster. Now there is a danger that some of the
government aid pledged so generously in the first days of the crisis will
not materialize. (The U.S. is but one country known for announcing generous
aid commitments and then
to follow through.)
According to relief workers in the field, victims of the disaster are right
now facing a critical need that has gotten far too little attention:
grief counseling. There are survivors
who lost parents, children, entire extended families, along with homes and
livelihoods. They need physical support (food, water, medicine, housing)
for certain; but for many, putting their lives together will be impossible
without psychological assistance as well. And most mainstream aid groups won't
touch a concern key to progressives: Helping poor communities become self-sufficient
rather than keeping them dependent for their survival on support from the
West or from dictatorial regimes, at the price of their freedom and dignity.
aid organization we've been supporting has focused from the beginning on providing
both physical and psychological assistance, with emphasis on self-reliance
and sustainability for its beneficiaries. International Service Society (ISS)
Gandhian principles of self-sufficiency, equality, and respect for
the environment. Donations to ISS go 100% toward its aid projects: All fundraising
and management costs are covered by its trustees and endowment funds. I've
followed the work of ISS and its founder, Shrikumar Poddar, for more than
20 years. It's one of the more trustworthy, effective, and progressive
In December, we planned to conduct a January stock-reduction sale on our line
of environmental and peace shirts. After the tsunami hit, we decided to give
all of our net proceeds from that sale to ISS for tsunami relief. After promoting
the sale to our existing customers and donors, we've decided to extend it
through Sunday, 20 Feb, and to invite everyone on our contact list to take
part. Please visit the sale page here.
At the bottom of that page,
you can make a further donation for tsunami relief, if you wish.
In addition, right now we're giving a portion of all
(flags, posters, buttons, stickers, patches, magnets,
etc.) to ISS for tsunami relief.
3. Changing the Rules for Court Appointments
-- and Other Attacks on the Structure of Democracy
The unabashed power grab by the right-wing fringe of the Republican Party
continues. Several legislators have just met to plot the
of Social Security, a
conservative goal. We're working on a new action campaign to help
head them off.
Meanwhile, the Congress and the Administration are working to undermine the rules, procedures, and processes that protect us from tyranny. By attacking the structural underpinnings of our government, they hope to avoid attention as they dismantle democracy. For example:
By using such obscure "back-door" strategies, the right wing hopes to escape notice as it sabotages democracy. Sorry fellas - not a chance. We're onto you. See our Action Alerts dated 26 Jan, 9 Feb, and 13 Feb 2005.
- The Senate Majority Leader is threatening to change the rules so Democrats will be powerless to prevent the appointment of far-right, anti-choice, anti-liberty judges, including Supreme Court justices.
- The House has just passed a law giving the Director of Homeland Security dictatorial powers to waive any legal impediments in installing security at the U.S. borders - including environmental-protection laws, labor laws, even criminal laws - at his sole discretion. Worse, the law prohibits all courts from reviewing those actions! It's truly a police-state measure - but as an obscure section of a larger bill, it passed without public notice. (Now we must stop it in the Senate.)
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics wants to stop collecting data on the status of women in the workplace. The goal: Make it difficult to gauge the amount of discrimination in the workplace.
Ever feel overwhelmed sorting through the myriad action requests from many
different progressive organizations? Well, at ProgressivePortal.org we offer
an easy solution. Our Alerts Editor, Henry Norr, scours the Internet and other
resources for the most important action campaigns. Several days a week, we
publish a selected alert. Our Alerts Page
is a one-stop resource for the most vital actions on a range of progressive
You can receive these alerts by e-mail, too. To sign up, simply send a blank
message to this address:
alerts-all[AT]progressiveportal.org (change "[AT]" to "@") .
4. Help! A Computer Dies, and We're In Trouble
ProgressivePortal.org is operated on the most threadbare of shoestrings, so the death of our laptop computer a few days ago poses a serious problem.
I must travel soon to help a relative with a serious illness, and need to bring a portable computer in order to keep things going at ProgressivePortal.org.
If you can donate a laptop computer, or even lend one, it will be a tremendous help.
Our first choice is a Macintosh, but we can also use a PC with the right software. We need something in hand by Feb. 21.
If you can donate legal copies of the following software (for Mac OS X or Windows), that will also be a great help:
Microsoft Word and Excel, or similar programs that produce compatible files; and Dreamweaver or other site-management/ftp software.
Please contact me at
(change "[AT]" to "@") or (510) 595-4626 if you can help out. Thanks.
5. Our Users Have Sent Three Million Letters
-- and Are Winning Progressive Victories!
On the morning of 22 January 2005, Beth Enson of New Mexico participated in
our Save the Dugong campaign. Hers was the three millionth message
sent in our letter-writing campaigns since our launch on 15 May 2001.
User Beth Enson sent our 3 millionth message on 22 Jan 2005.
Beth describes herself as "a poet, mother of one fab seven-year-old
daughter who we home-school, and Dean of Students at the National
College of Midwifery." Beth is also involved in co-counseling (also
known as Reevaluation
Counseling), which takes a progressive approach to personal and
we started ProgressivePortal.org, I had no idea activists around the world
would make our efforts so successful.
Our first large campaign was to return the progressive Pacifica Radio network
to grassroots control after a Washington, DC clique managed to take over.
Our users sent more than a million messages in that campaign, including thousands
pressing Ken Ford to quit the Pacifica
board. The day he resigned, which returned majority control to community members,
he first telephoned us.
When the Charles Krug Winery in Napa Valley, CA tried to divide and conquer
its unionized production workers, hiring a union-busting law firm, locking
out the workers, and demanding salary cuts from most of them, we were asked
to step in. A person who works in the Krug office said management was "freaked
out" by the seven-foot stack of faxes sent by ProgressivePortal.org users.
A Krug Winery official telephoned us just a few days before the winery rescinded
the salary cuts and ended the lockout.
Earlier this year, when ploughshares activist Mary Kelly was facing a ten-year
prison term for damaging a U.S. warplane stopping over in Ireland before possibly
heading to Iraq, our users were asked to write to the judge calling for leniency.
Within days, more than 1,600 letters were sent. Although observers believed
"the fix was in" and a long prison term had already been decided upon, when
the sentencing date arrived, Ms. Kelly received a suspended sentence - not
Now peace- and environment-loving citizens throughout Japan are seeking our
support to prevent construction of a U.S.-Japanese military base off the Okinawa
shore. With the dedication of Henoko's grandmothers and others keeping watch
over the site, the lawsuit in U.S. courts, and a nudge from thousands of ProgressivePortal.org
users throughout the world, we believe another success story is now being
written. Thank you so much for being part of it.
We have no big donors. Foundations won't support us because our work is too
political (and not tax-exempt). These successes and our ongoing campaigns
are made possible by people like you, who donate
to keep us going, buy merchandise
from our Peace Store, and participate
in our action campaigns. Please allow me once again to express my deep gratitude
for your participation in our work, and for all you do on behalf of a better
P.S. Key actions to take:
- The campaign to stop the offshore airbase is at a critical point.
If you sent a Save the Dugong message through our site before 21 Jan 2005,
please visit this page
to write just to newly installed Japanese and U.S.
officials (including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice).
If you've never sent our dugong letter, use the this page to send it
to all the officials on our list.
- Through 20 Feb 2005, net proceeds from our special
Shirt Sale Page
go to the progressive tsunami-relief work of International Service Society.
You can also make a donation to tsunami relief at the bottom of that page.
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