Democratic viewpoints on politics, policy and activism

Support Negotiations Not War with Iran

By Mary Francis

Hawks in the U.S. and Israel believe military action against Iran is justified because Iran enriches uranium for its nuclear power plants and medical uses.  This enrichment activity is entirely legal under the Treaty for the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).  Nevertheless, hawks characterize this as a “nuclear weapons capability” and insist that it must cease, or be stopped by force.  The U.S. and the world cannot afford another war.  

The U.S. House and Senate may already have passed a resolution (H. Res. 568, S. Res. 380) expressing the sense of Congress that if Iran acquires a nuclear weapons capability, then “containment” options are insufficient. Containment includes diplomacy, sanctions, deterrence, and inspections short of war.  Since some hawks in Israel and Washington regard Iran’s enrichment facilities as already “nuclear weapons capable” this resolution ratchets up the drift toward war.

Iran has no nuclear weapons and no program to develop them, according to U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and the International Atomic Energy Agency.  These same experts agree that it would take Iran more than a year to produce a nuclear weapon.

Ongoing inspections of Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities by the IAEA confirm that Iran is enriching uranium only to the levels permitted by the NPT Treaty for electrical power generation and medical purposes.  

Most of America’s senior military personnel, including eleven retired military generals and admirals, and two former Secretaries of Defense, have made it clear that a war against Iran is a terrible idea.  In March, on CBS’s 60 Minutes, the head of Israel’s intelligence division, Meir Dagan, said that “military action against Iran would be catastrophic, possibly sparking a regional war involving the U.S. and Russia.”  He also said, it is “the stupidest idea” he had ever heard.  

Bellicose language about danger from Iran is reminiscent of claims about weapons of mass destruction made by politicians and hawks and uncritically reported in the media prior to the 2003 war against Iraq.  We all remember Secretary of State Colin Powell’s solemn warnings to the Security Council about mobile chemical labs in Iraq, only to learn later that these claims — and so many others — were based on false testimony from unreliable sources.  

The media is once again reporting claims of a danger to the world (Iran) without balanced reporting of voices against war. This is a dangerous powder keg that can lead to a war everyone would regret.  Attacking Iran could cause gasoline prices to skyrocket, sacrifice more American lives, and embroil the United States in another Middle East quagmire.  War would also add billions more to our national debt and plunge our economy back into recession.

There is no basis in law or common sense for the United States to launch a war against Iran.  We must all tell elected officials:  Not another war!  America needs to come home and defend America!  

(Mary Francis is a Peace Activist and member of Americans Against the Next War and The Peace House in Oklahoma City.)

Silent vigil for for death row prisoner Michael Selsor today at Governor's Mansion

Image of Michael Selsor

Michael Selsor is pictured above. The photograph is courtesy of Fault Line Productions

Today, May 1, 2012, members of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (OK-CADP) and others will stand in silent vigil for death row prisoner Michael Bascum Selsor outside the Governor’s Mansion at 820 NE 23rd Street, from 5:15 pm until they receive notice of a stay of execution, or until the execution is carried out.  

On Tuesday, May 1 2012, Michael Bascum Selsor is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 6 p.m.  Selsor’s will be the third execution in Oklahoma this year if there is no reprieve.

OK-CADP co chair, Lydia Polley said, “As we stand behind our “Don’t Kill for Me” banner to bring public attention to Mike Selsor’s state sanctioned & financed homicide, we also grieve with the victim’s family and hope that they somehow find solace. They are in our thoughts and prayers along with Mike, his legal team, his friends on death row, and those who have to carry out this act.”

In 1976, Michael Selsor was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Clayton Chandler in 1975.  During Selsor’s first trial, he was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. He appealed and won a retrial. During the second trail, he was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Selsor based his appeal for a second trial on a case called Riggs v. Branch. Whereas before, under that decision, the only punishment for his crime was life imprisonment.  

It was a court of criminal appeals decision that came out in 1976.  The courts overruled this after Selsor won his challenge to their conviction.  They reconsidered the decision and said they were no longer going to follow it.  Relying on that, he challenged the conviction, but his lawyers had a conflict of interest.  They didn’t just represent Selsor, they were required to represent his co-defendant Dodson as well.  He had good legal reasons to challenge his conviction. He also thought that the maximum penalty if he failed would be a life sentence.  Riggs v. Branch said exactly that.  But after his appeal succeeded the court of appeals overruled Riggs v. Branch in his case, and said that he was subject to the death penalty. Eventually that was the decision.

“They reconsidered their decision, which of course they have the right to do, but they didn’t give him a chance to reconsider his decision,” said Gary Peterson, Selsor’s attorney.  “As I look at it, he basically swapped a life sentence for a death sentence and didn’t really find out what he was getting into until after he’d made the trade.”

In 1976, Oklahoma’s death penalty was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals adjusted Selsor’s sentence to life without the possibility of parole. In 1996, the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Selsor’s conviction. During a retrial in 1998, Selsor was again convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.

Recently, on April 16, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 4 to 1 to deny clemency to Selsor.

During that hearing, via teleconference from McAlester, Selsor asked, “Is it too late to say I’m sorry?” Selsor added, “I am truly sorry for the suffering and damage I have caused.”

Barring an act of mercy by Gov. Mary Fallin, Michael Bascom Selsor, a 57 year old death row prisoner who has been incarcerated for 37 years, will be executed at 6 p.m., on Tuesday, May 1, at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

Upon Selsor’s passing, the state will issue a death certificate as it does for every person who dies in Oklahoma. For Michael Selsor, the cause of death will be listed as homicide, which is the deliberate and unlawful killing of one person by another.

“When someone is executed by the state, she or he is killed in my name,” said Margaret Cox, OK-CADP board member.   “We all hold a responsibility not to let that happen. This action should not go unnoticed by the people of Oklahoma.”

For more information about the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty visit www.okcadp.org.

OCDP Affordable Care Act Forum

Image of DrKatherineScheirmanDrsforAmerica

The Oklahoma County Democratic Party (OCDP) is hosting a health care forum to discuss the Affordable Care Act.  The event, “People Over Politics: What You Should Know About the Affordable Care Act”, will be held on Monday, April 2, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the IBEW Local 1141 Union Hall, 1700 SE 15 St., in Oklahoma City.  

Special guest speaker for the event will be retired US Air Force Colonel Katherine Scheirman, MD, who is the Oklahoma State Director for the event’s co-sponsor, Doctors for America.  

As part of the Doctors for America’s, ‘One Million Campaign,’ Scheirman joins with thousands of physicians and medical students from all 50 states. Their goal is to educate one million Americans about the Affordable Care Act.  

Scheirman says that surveys indicate most Americans don’t know basic facts about the ACA, and most think it’s too complicated to understand.

Doctors for America is a national movement of physicians and medical students working together to improve the health of the nation and to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, high quality health care.   For more information visit www.drsforamerica.org.

The Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in March 2010 takes full effect in 2014. Scheirman says it will give Oklahoma residents more control over their health care choices.

Currently, 597,000 Oklahomans, or 19 percent of the non-elderly population, lack health insurance. Under ACA, according to advocates, the number of uninsured is projected to fall by 57 percent to 259,000, or 10 percent of the non-elderly population.

Dr. Scheirman currently serves on the Council of Fellows of the American College of Physician Executives, and is a senior advisor to Vote Vets.

There will be a Q&A session following Dr. Scheirman’s presentation and participants will have an opportunity to submit their own health care story, whether it’s about patients lacking adequate health coverage or about personal experiences that helped create change in their own community.  

A reception with refreshments starts at 5:30 p.m. and the program will begin at 6:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information call Margaret Leon at 405.536.2422 or email info@okdemocrats.org. To register online visit www.okcountydemocrats.org.

Avoiding a Catastrophic War with Iran

image of Nathaniel Batchelder by Rena Guay

By Nathaniel Batchelder

Director, Peace House Oklahoma City

Pray cooler heads will guide America in the dialogue and decision-making over Iran’s position in the world.  Iran does not have nuclear weapons, and there is no certain evidence that such a program is under way.  Certainly Iran has the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and the interests of world peace demand that these issues be resolved without military action that could launch a catastrophic war.

Another war would destroy America’s painful recovery from the indebtedness of two wars and the 2008 economic crash.  Gasoline prices would probably go up another dollar per gallon.  The Iraq and Afghanistan war’s final costs will exceed $2 trillion.  Some estimates say $4 trillion, or even $6 trillion, including lifelong care for veterans physically or emotionally disabled.  

Iran has four times the population of Iraq, many times the military capability, and would seek support from other nations like Russia and China, possibly sparking an unpredictable regional war.

Political hawks and shock-jocks on talk radio condemn calls for negotiations and dialogue to resolve such matters without military action as weakness.  The U.S. spends as much on military preparedness as the rest of the world combined, so no one can doubt America’s capacity to wage war.  It is shocking that the theme song of one national talk show host states, “We’ll put a boot up your ass, it’s the American way.”  

The world does not find this amusing or appealing.

More than six thousand American families grieve the deaths of sons and daughters in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.  More than 30,000 U.S. troops have been physically wounded in action, and untold numbers have returned home emotionally and physically disabled.  Suicides of war veterans each month exceed combat deaths.

Official estimates of some 100,000 deaths in Iraq and 20,000 in Afghanistan are considered low by other calculations. The British polling group Opinion Research Business (ORB) has estimated Iraqi deaths at closer to one million, with some 5 million becoming displaced refuges who are homeless or have left the country.

Many believe our wars in the Middle East are breeding resentments that will last lifetimes.

War brings big profits to military contractors and oil companies that simply raise their prices.  Everyone else pays dearly, in dollars, lives and blood.

The people of Iran are not well served by having a bellicose posturing leader in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  Cowboy professions of toughness are usually hot air, appealing to the pride of some, but are not helpful to the interests’ of peace. The vast majority of humanity desperately hopes for negotiated resolutions to political tensions to avoid war and its deaths and destruction that ruin lives and wreck economies.

The United States must lead the world in calling for cooler rhetoric and civil dialogue by all nations in the Iran discussion. Israel particularly must relax its rhetoric, confident that its close alliance with the United States and its own arsenal of some 600 nuclear weapons renders it a muscular regional power whose sovereignty is unquestioned.

War truly is hell, as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan remind us too well.  Let’s remember that the terrible attacks on America of 9/11, 2001, were not from a nation, but from an alliance of individuals from many nations, most prominently Saudi Arabia.  The U.S. attack on Iraq is now admittedly blamed on “faulty intelligence,” misinformation and miscalculation.  Vice President Dick Cheney predicted that the Iraq war would last six weeks and that U.S. forces would be welcomed with flowers as liberators.

All Americans opposed to another war must stand behind leaders seeking nonviolent resolutions to world situations that could blow up into wars that would wreck our economy, raise oil prices, profit only a few, and cause incalculable suffering everywhere, while we taxpayers foot the bill.

Nathaniel Batchelder is a Vietnam veteran and has been director of the Peace House Oklahoma City since 1990 – a center for public education on justice, peace and environmental issues.

Photograph of Nathaniel Batchelder by Rena Guay.

Bush appearance at Woodward 4th of July event upsets fathers

(Not everyone was happy about Bush’s visit to Woodward, OK for the 4th of July celebration. – promoted by Darla)

Image of photographer, Warren Henthorn and John Scripsick

(The photograph that appears in this post was taken by Darla Sheldon.)

Bush invite to event upsets dads

The fathers of two servicemen killed in Iraq say he shouldn’t be Woodward’s guest.

By SARA PLUMMER World Staff Writer

Published: 7/4/2009  

http://www.tulsaworld.com/news…

CHOCTAW – Oklahomans Warren Henthorn and John Scripsick are upset and disappointed that former President George W. Bush is considered an honored guest at Woodward’s Independence Day celebration Saturday.

Both believe Bush and his administration shoulder some of the blame for their sons’ deaths while serving for the U.S. military in Iraq.

Henthorn of Choctaw said his son, Army Spc. Jeffrey Henthorn, joined the Oklahoma Army National Guard when he was 17 and served six years. He enlisted in the Army in 2003 and was serving a second tour in Iraq when he died on Feb. 8, 2005, at the age of 25.

(To read the rest of the article, click here.)

Oklahoma Fathers Speak Out about Loss at Iraq War 6th Year Memorial

(John Scripsick, of Wayne, OK, and Warren Henthorn, of Choctaw, OK, speak out at 6 Year Anniversary of Iraq War Events. – promoted by Darla)

Image of Warren Henthorn and John Scripsick

Immediate Release:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Contact: Nathaniel Batchelder, 405-824-2794c 405-524-5577

www.peacehouseok.org

Iraq War 6th Year Memorials Planned in Oklahoma City

Two Oklahoma Fathers of Fallen Soldiers Speak Out about the Human Cost of War

What:  Iraq 6th Year Memorial Service

When:  7pm, Thur, 3/19 (6:30 pm Media Interviews)

Where: Unitarian Church, 600 NW 13th St, OKC

Also:  Other events listed below

The March 19, six-year anniversary of the start of the U.S. war in Iraq will be commemorated in Oklahoma City with memorial events, public vigils, and a silent memorial walk, according to planners. Peace House Director Nathaniel Batchelder said that the tone of events planned this year is more to seek higher wisdom to make the world less violent and more humane, and less to tell Washington, D.C., what to do.

Batchelder said, “We are hopeful that a new administration and Congress can resolve the Middle East conflicts with more diplomacy and less violence.”

A memorial service will be held Thursday evening, March 19, at the First Unitarian Church, 600 NW 13th St. The public is invited, and the event begins at 7 p. m. Speakers include: Rev. Amy Venable, St. Stephens United Methodist Church, Norman; Imam Imad Enchassi, PhD, Islamic Society of Oklahoma City: Rev. Mark Christian, Senior Pastor at the Unitarian Church; and James Nimmo, Humanist and Atheist. Also speaking will be two Oklahoma fathers who lost their sons in the Iraq war, Warren Henthorn (Choctaw, OK), pictured left,  and John Scripsick (Wayne, OK), pictured right. Media interviews available @ 6:30 pm.

On Saturday, March 21, a memorial vigil with activists holding signs calling for peace in the Middle East, will be held from 10 a.m. to noon on the northeast corner of the intersection of Meridian Avenue and Northwest Expressway. The public is invited to bring signs expressing their own hopes for peace, Batchelder said.

On Sunday, March 22, a silent memorial walk will begin at 2 p.m., from Civic Center Park, downtown Oklahoma City, at 201 N. Walker. Speakers will set the tone of the walk, and the route will encircle the Murrah Building National Memorial and return to the park. “In Oklahoma City, we know that one bomb is too many,” Batchelder said. A display of boots symbolizing the deaths of U.S. troops in Iraq will be part of the event, provided by members of the American Friends Service Committee. Speakers include John Scripsick and Warren Henthorn, who both lost their sons in the Iraq war, Daniel Sandate, Iraq veteran and Reggie Cervantes, 9/11 rescue worker. Rev Lance Schmitz, of the First Nazarene Church of Oklahoma City, will lead attendees in a reading of the names of Oklahomans fallen in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

On the following Tuesday, March 24th, Oklahoma City Community College has events planned after students return from spring break. Call Steve Morrow, OCCC Advocates for Peace, at (405) 682-1611 x 7350 for more information.

Screening of "Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas"

( – promoted by DocHoc)

Michael Fox and Silvia Leindecker, the creators of the documentary “Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas”, will screen their film in Oklahoma City, Monday, October 13th.   Beyond Elections is a journey, which takes viewers across the Americas, to attempt to answer one of the most important questions of our time: What is Democracy?

From the communal councils of Venezuela to constitutional assemblies, grassroots movements and cooperatives, filmmakers Silvia Leindecker and Michael Fox explore the many incarnations of democracy across the Americas. The documentary examines democracy in nations such as Brazil, Colombia and Canada, and features interviews with journalists, cooperative and community members, elected representatives, academics and activists including Eduardo Galeano, Amy Goodman, Emir Sader and Martha Harnecker.

The full length documentary film “Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas” is now being shown during Michael and Silvia’s tour across America.   Just months away from one of the most important elections in US history, everyone is talking about elections, but few people are talking about democracy.  

Fox and Leindecker run Estreito Meios, an independent production company founded in 2007 and based in South America.  Michael Fox is a freelance journalist, translator, reporter and documentary film maker based in South America. He is a former staff reporter for Venezuelanlaysis, a radio correspondent for Free Speech Radio News, and his articles have been published in Yes Magazine, Earth Island Journal, NACLA and The Nation online.

Co-founder Sílvia Leindecker is a Brazilian documentary film maker, a philosopher and independent photographer who has shot for the Spanish news agency EFE, Germany’s Politik magazine, and numerous independent projects, advertisement and film productions.

Last year, Michael and Sílvia helped to co-found the internet Radio Venezuela en Vivo, which broadcasted live coverage from Venezuela’s Constitutional Reform Referendum.  Based in between Venezuela and Brazil, Michael and Sílvia have for many years been researching and covering the growth in the region’s participatory democracy cooperatives, Brazil’s participatory budgeting and Venezuela’s communal councils.

During the tour, Estreito Meios is also working on a new documentary about the state of the economy and it’s effects on Americans in different parts of the country.  

http://www.beyondelections.com/

What:   Screening of “Beyond Elections” and meet the producers

When: Monday, October 13th @ 6pm

Where: Private residence –  Oklahoma City, OK – call for directions.  405/840-0244