fresh voices from the front lines of change








Sarah Anderson

Congress Needs To End War Profiteering Now

The prospect of war with Iran is terrifying. Experts predict as many as a million people could die if the current tensions lead to a full-blown war. Millions more would become refugees across the Middle East, while working families across the U.S. would bear the brunt of our casualties. But there is one set of people who stand to benefit from the escalation of the conflict: CEOs of major U.S. military contractors. This was evident in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. assassination of a top Iranian military official on January 2. As soon as the news reached financial markets, these companies’ share prices spiked. Wall Street traders know that a war with Iran would mean more lucrative contracts for U.S. weapons makers. Since top executives get much of their compensation in the form of stock, they benefit personally when the value of their company’s stock goes up. I took a look at the stock holdings of the CEOs at the top five Pentagon contractors (Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman). Using the most recent available data, I calculated that these five executives held company stock worth approximately $319 million just before the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian leader Qasem Soleimani. By the stock market’s closing bell the following day, the value of their combined shares had increased to $326 million. War is bad for nearly everyone. But as long as we allow the leaders of our privatized war economy to reap unlimited rewards, their profit motive for war in Iran — or anywhere — will persist.

House To Vote On Trump's War Powers

House to vote on war powers resolution after Trump officials brief Congress on killing of Suleimani. LA Times: "The House will vote on a war powers resolution Thursday to limit what military action President Trump can take against Iran after Democrats — and even a couple of Republicans — complained a Trump administration briefing on the justification for killing a top Iranian general came down to simply: Trust us. Democrats said Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley provided few specific details in a closed door meeting Wednesday about what imminent threat existed that warranted the U.S. drone strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani. By the end of the day House members said they were more determined that Congress needs to reassert its role in deciding when military force is necessary. House Foreign Affairs Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said the evidence presented by the administration officials was so vague that it boiled down to 'trust me.' 'I’m not sure that trust me is a satisfactory answer for me,' Engel said. Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) called the briefing 'sophomoric, and utterly unconvincing. And I believe more than ever the Congress needs to act to protect the constitutional provisions about war and peace.' An angry Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) scolded the briefers, who he said spent only 75 minutes with the lawmakers. He said it was 'insulting and demeaning' to both the lawmakers and the Constitution. 'It is not acceptable for officials within the executive branch to tell us whether we can debate and discuss the appropriateness of military intervention in Iran,' Lee said. 'I would hope and expect they would show greater deference to their own limited power.'"

12,000 Activists Join Sanders, Warren Ahead Of Anti-War Marches

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren jointly urge against war with Iran. NYT: "Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, two of the leading Democratic presidential candidates, joined forces on Wednesday to help rally progressive opposition to a war with Iran and to blame President Trump for his role in the Middle East crisis even as the threat of open conflict appeared to subside. In a call on Wednesday night that included thousands of listeners and was hosted by MoveOn and other left-leaning advocacy groups, Ms. Warren acknowledged that there appeared to be 'a pause in the hostilities, for now' after Mr. Trump, earlier in the day, backed away from further military action against Iran and said the United States was 'ready to embrace peace with all who seek it.' Ms. Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, said she hoped the peace would continue, but also renewed her criticism of the president."

Rule Change May Gut Environmental Protections

White House wants to change environmental rules to speed up highway projects, pipelines and more. WaPo: "The White House is moving to exempt projects without significant federal funding from environmental reviews that have been required for 50 years, a major shift that would make it easier to build mines, expand airports and lay pipelines, among other things, according to three people familiar with the proposal. The individuals spoke on the condition of anonymity because President Trump is expected to unveil the plan Thursday morning. The proposed changes would narrow the scope of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires federal agencies to assess the impact of a major project before a spade of dirt is turned and to include the public in the process. Environmental groups, tribal activists and others have used the law to delay or block a slew of infrastructure, mining, logging and drilling projects since it was signed by President Richard Nixon in 1970. It represents one of the most forceful efforts to date by the Trump administration to strip away existing legal constraints on construction and energy production in the United States."

Groups Make Case For Progressive Unity

Coalitions call for show of progressive unity in elections. The Intercept: "On stage at debates, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren make a formidable team, deflecting attacks and amplifying criticisms of the more business-as-usual candidates. Off the stage, they avoid publicly disparaging each other, and their campaign staffers, with some notable exceptions, tend to do the same. Much has been made of this informal 'non-aggression pact' between the pair, but as the Iowa caucus on February 3 approaches, some activists are beginning to ask how long this (relative) peace can last. Two progressive candidates may be better than one on debate night, but it might not be at the voting booth — where Sanders and Warren will inevitably split the electorate’s share of left-wing Democrats, preventing either from emerging as a dominant frontrunner. 'We cannot sit on the sidelines as we watch this primary play out and allow a neoliberal be elected,' said Ana María Archila, co-president of Center for Popular Democracy Action, explaining CPD’s endorsement of Sanders in December. 'If we stay divided, the corporate Democrats will pick the nominee.' Nathan J. Robinson, editor of Current Affairs magazine and a Sanders supporter who has repeatedly made the case for harsher criticism of Warren, made a similar point: 'Bernie represents a historic opportunity that must not be missed. If people sit on the fence for it, Biden may very well win this primary.' The same fear has inspired another group of progressive leaders to adopt a different tack, however. Democracy for America, the grassroots progressive group founded by Howard Dean in 2004 and which endorsed Sanders in 2016, told The Intercept they will decline to endorse before the first set of primaries. The goal, instead, is to make sure one of the two wins. 'We see two extremely powerful and talented candidates that are both running excellent campaigns,' DFA Executive Director Charles Chamberlain said. Chamberlain pointed to the overlap in the two candidate’s goals on health care, a Green New Deal, and taxing the wealthy. Instead of picking sides, Chamberlain and DFA are planning to launch a coalition united by the shared goal of 'defeating the corporate wing of the Democratic Party' and electing a progressive president — that is, either Sanders or Warren."

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