Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Brief report on Gilda's encounter with Laura

Mike Ferner with VFP reported on what happened between First Lady Laura Bush and Gilda Carbonaro, mother of a soldier killed in Iraq...

Mike wrote yesterday:
gilda carbonaro did a fine job. she waited in line (it stretched outside the building a hundred feet or more) for a half hour, and purchased a copy of "read all about it" (a requirement to get in line) by jenna and laura bush so she could get it signed and have a couple moments with them. gilda took two signed, laminated copies of her letter (attached) with her, and when she got to the head of the line calmly asked the two bushes to please read it. gilda said that before they could actually take it from her, a secret service person swooped in from nowhere and grabbed the letters. gilda asked the bush women if they would please still read it. jenna said she would, but chances are slim that will happen.

and that, as they say, was it. no protesters showed up, and no press showed up as far as i could tell, except for one photog from "polaris" (like getty, they sell images to newspapers and web sites) to catch the letter delivery, but before she could snap a picture the borders security people hustled her out.

i had printed 150 copies of gilda's excellent letter to distribute to protesters and passers and they're still in my knapsack, along with a 15-ft banner my wife, sue, painted that says, "mrs. bush, your kids are safe. ours are dying in iraq."

so that's about all there is to report, unfortunately. i'll write up something, featuring gilda's letter, for places like counterpunch to try and get a little exposure on it.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mother of a Marine Corps Sergeant killed in Iraq will deliver a letter to Mrs. Bush and her daughter, Jenna

On Friday, April 25, at 7:00pm, at the Borders bookstore at 14th and F Streets, NW, Gilda Carbonaro, mother of Sgt. Alesandro Carbonaro who died after being burned in an IED blast in Iraq, plans to deliver her letter which reads in part:

“Your children, Mrs. Bush, are safe and I am glad for you. But I wonder, have you ever urged them to enlist in this heroic adventure? Your husband has told us many times how important this cause is…Why, then, has the price for this war been paid only by people like my son, Marine Corps Sgt. Alesandro Carbonaro, who died May 10, 2006, eight days after being horrifically burned in an IED blast in Al Anbar Province, Iraq?

Can you not see the simple, basic unfairness of asking others to do what you yourself are unwilling to do? Have you drifted so far from an understanding of fundamental justice that you cannot see the contradictions apparent to so many of us?

These are not rhetorical questions. They are as real as the knot in our stomachs and the ache in our hearts. It is time – and past time – that you face these questions without blinking or dodging and give us a satisfactory answer.”

Ms. Carbonaro, a member of Gold Star Families Speak Out, said she went to the bookstore “to remind the Bush administration that we have now lost 4,050 of our children in Iraq, among them my 28 year old son. The Bush administration cannot continue to demand this sacrifice of the young men and women in uniform who have already given so much in a war that cannot be sustained, neither in blood nor treasure.”

The Democracy Rising 'Stop the War' Campaign seeks to bring people together to become an effective force to ensure a responsible withdrawal from Iraq and to bring the troops home as soon as possible.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

"Activist Base of the Democratic Party" in PA Shocked Over Clinton Tape, Media Blackout

April 20, 2008

By Dean Powers


From Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, Democrats voiced surprise and then anger over comments that Senator Hillary Clinton made at a private fund raiser that were caught on tape. Surprise because the media has largely blacked out coverage of the comments; anger because of their nature.

The Huffington Post published those comments and the clip of the audio sound bite on Friday. At the event last February, Clinton told those in the audience, "We have been less successful in caucuses because it brings out the activist base of the Democratic Party. MoveOn didn't even want us to go into Afghanistan. I mean, that's what we're dealing with. And you know they turn out in great numbers. And they are very driven by their view of our positions, and it's primarily national security and foreign policy that drives them. I don't agree with them. They know I don't agree with them. So they flood into these caucuses and dominate them and really intimidate people who actually show up to support me."

Although the left had flagged numerous warning signs, the release of the tape provided, for the first time, an unadulterated glimpse at Clinton’s feelings for the “activist base of the Democratic Party.”

The truth is: many people don’t know that Clinton disagrees with the “activist base of the Democratic Party.” In fact, Clinton has largely defined herself in contrast to George Bush, and she opened her campaign with a pledge to listen. “I’m not just starting a campaign… I’m beginning a conversation; with you, with America, because we ALL need to be part of the discussion if we’re going to be part of the solution. Let’s talk about how to bring the right end to the war in Iraq and restore respect for America around the world. Let’s talk about how to make us energy independent and free our dependence on foreign oil.”

As an activist in the base of the Democratic Party, I’m pretty enthusiastic about this candidate. She wants to end the war—or at least it sounds that way—and make America energy independent! Clinton for president!

She goes on, “You know, after six years of George Bush, it is time to renew the promise of America.” Therefore, she says, “Let’s talk, let’s chat, let’s start a dialogue about your ideas and mine, because the conversation in Washington has been just a little one-sided lately.”

Exactly! They aren’t listening to the “activist base of the Democratic Party!!!!” Maybe you’ve heard its message: “Get us out of this disastrous war!!!” No? Well it’s not for a lack of trying. So, let’s vote for another candidate who doesn’t agree with the activist base of the Democratic Party. Let’s have that “one-sided” dialogue for another four years.

So we know that Clinton doesn’t agree with the “activist base of the Democratic Party,” so then, who does she agree with? Activism is what defines the Democratic Party. We’ve opposed this war early, if not from the beginning. We’ve signed petitions and called our representatives, and donated to political campaigns, and volunteered around elections, and attended protests and bought hybrid cars and switched to organic foods. Democrats are activists. Hillary Clinton means that she agrees with the 27 Democrats who vote Republican periodically. She agrees with James Carville or Chris Matthews or any of the so-called “Democratic strategists” who turn up on Fox News and bash the Democratic Party.

In over three dozen conversations with folks in Pennsylvania, a clear consensus emerged. Only one of the registered Democrats supported Clinton’s opinion of the “activist base,” and he seemed too intoxicated for a public appearance on these pages. Nobody wants a citation.

Linda Smith, a letter carrier in Philadelphia, said she was still undecided about who she would vote for. She opposes the war and says that she is angry when somebody puts her into a category for her opposition to the war. In reference to Clinton’s comments, Smith said, “It doesn’t bother me, but it upsets me.”

April Davis, a nurse in Philadelphia, said she is tired of feeling like Washington doesn’t care about popular opposition to the war in Iraq and doesn’t want another four years of it.

Arlene Roberts, an office manager, felt the same way, and took issue with the “activist base” label. “Everybody has a right to their own opinion,” Roberts said, “and just because they oppose the war doesn’t mean they should be categorized into a lump of people.”

Asked about her feelings toward Clinton, in light of Clinton’s remarks, Roberts said, “It really shows me what type of person she is. She says what she needs to say to the crowd she’s speaking to.” Roberts was also concerned that the story is receiving no attention from the same mainstream media that attacked Obama for an entire week over a couple of words.

Annelle Davidson, a stay-at-home mom from Pittsburgh, said she felt Clinton shouldn’t even be running as a Democrat. “There’s too many soldiers dying over there,” she said of the Iraq War, frustrated that it continues. “The president is supposed to represent the will of the people and he’s not listening.”

Lavera Brown lives in Pittsburgh, and she’s retired. “I’m uncomfortable with someone who would push away that many people,” Brown said. She felt that the activist base of the Democratic Party was in large part responsible for many of the advances in civil rights over the last 50 years. As for the media blackout of the story Brown said, “I’m always for equal coverage, and I don’t know why they ignored that quote, but I think it’s wrong.”

In contrast to the controversy over Obama’s statements at a fund raiser in San Francisco, which the books of Geoffrey Nunberg and Thomas Frank have largely validated, and the media had to dry spin to arrive at an interpretation of elitism, Clinton’s comments clearly articulate a world view that’s shockingly out of sync with the persona she has presented to voters and 90 percent of the Democratic Party.

The blackout is not a result of a saintly conversion in the corporate mass media in response to the protests against the manipulation and “gotcha” tactics in the ABC debate. In fact, the New York Times, though toned down, is still arguing the Obama-as-elite case.

“Whatever Senator Barack Obama meant by his less than artful remarks about small-town Pennsylvanians ‘bitter’ over lost jobs,” wrote Louis Uchitelle in this Sunday’s “Week in Review,” “he certainly turned a lot of attention last week to the decline of the American worker, bitter or not.”

Less than artful? Where is the attention for Clinton’s “less than artful” opinion of the Democratic base?

In contrast to the headlines declaring “Opponents Call Obama ‘Out of Touch’” that sprouted up in major papers and cable news immediately after the publication of his comments at a San Francisco fund raiser, major newspapers have relegated the story largely to their blogs, or have tucked it away at the bottom of substantive “news” articles with headlines announcing something else.

Until Clinton clarifies her feelings about the “activist base of the Democratic Party” publicly, there is a serious question mark surrounding her campaign. While the media continues to black out the tape’s revelation, an effort will continue online to spread word of its discovery.

The activists who are ready to vote for Clinton in Pennsylvania ought to know that she has different priorities when it comes to national security and foreign relations. They are looking for an end to this war, a de-escalation of American-led conflict throughout the world, and cooperation with the UN in its peace-keeping priorities. Clinton doesn’t agree. Either that or she’s talking about the fence in Mexico. I don’t know which would be more alarming as an indicator of her priorities.

If I’m wrong, I invite her to clarify exactly how and on which issues she disagrees with the “activist base of the Democratic Party” because she isn’t being clear about it in her campaign.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

D.C. Peace and Justice Activist Faces up to 6 Months in Prison

Challenged Gen. Petraeus During September 2007 Hearing

Washington – Last September General David Petraeus sold the continued illegal and immoral war of Iraq to Congress, and they bought it. Washington, D.C. activist David Barrows was arrested for rising and speaking during Petraeus’ testimony before during a congressional hearing in order to bring attention to the general’s lies and the possible expansion of the criminal war and occupation into Iran.

Barrows faces sentencing this Wednesday, April 23, at 9:30 a.m. in Courtroom 220 of D.C. Superior Court, 500 Indiana Avenue N.W.

On September 11, 2007 Barrows was arrested by the U.S. Capitol Police and charged with “Disrupting Congress.” Earlier this month he had a jury trial in D.C. Judge Robert S. Rigsby’s courtroom. After a two-day trial, the jury returned a guilty verdict and Barrows, an artist and a nonviolent peace and justice activist faces up to six months in prison.

“I continue to believe that we, the people, should not allow Congress to insulate itself from us, and that it’s our duty to end this war and occupation,” Barrows said. “When I spoke out, it was clear that General Petraeus was suggesting an expansion of the war into the nation of Iran; he was blaming problems in Iraq on its neighbor.”

This month Congress is expected to pass an additional $170 billion more for the military occupations and operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Judge Rigsby is a reactivated colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves.

For comment: David Barrows, 202-543-4244

Monday, April 07, 2008

China jails rights activist outspoken on Tibet

Reuters/bdnews24.com. Beijing

A Buddhist Chinese dissident outspoken on Tibet and other sensitive topics was jailed for three-and-a-half years on Thursday, a conviction likely to become a focus of rights campaigns ahead of the Beijing Olympics.
Hu Jia, 34, was found guilty of ‘inciting subversion of state power’ for criticising the ruling Communist Party, a verdict at which the United States expressed dismay.
‘In this Olympic year, we urge China to seize the opportunity to put its best face forward and take steps to improve its record on human rights and religious freedom,’ the US Embassy said in a statement.
The official Xinhua news agency said Hu had made a ‘confession of crime and acceptance of punishment,’ leading the court to issue a relatively light sentence. Hu’s two lawyers said he had acknowledged ‘excesses.’
‘In the end, I think that he came to accept that some of his statements were contrary to the law as it stands,’ said defence lawyer Li Jinsong.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Remembering Tom Lewis: Activist, Artist

* By Scott Schaeffer-Duffy

On April 4, 2008, the 40^th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas Patrick Lewis died of natural causes at his home Austin Street home in Worcester, Massachusetts. His commitment to justice and peace flowed out of his love and art and began with civil rights, continued with opposition to the Vietnam War, the nuclear arms race, and the current US War in Iraq. He was arrested many times for nonviolent civil disobedience, serving more than 4 years of his life in jail for his acts of conscience, including a multi-year sentence for his part in the burning of draft files in Catonsville, Maryland in 1968.

Tom was born on Saint Patrick's Day in 1940 in Baltimore, Maryland. He is survived by his daughter Nora Marie Borbely-Lewis, his mother, Pauline, his brothers Don and John, and his sister, Paula Anne Sheye. When he was 17, his family moved to the suburbs of Baltimore where Tom won a football scholarship to Saint Joseph's Xaverian High School. Upon graduation, he joined the National Guard "because we never had an anti-war discussion in any Catholic school I attended. I didn't even know what a conscientious objector was."

In a 1997 interview in /The Catholic Radical/ Tom said that it was during his military service that he started "a slow process of waking up to the problems of war." He said, "We did ABDC (Atomic, Biological, and Chemical) training…. When a tactical nuclear weapon was shot, we were trained to go to ground zero immediately after the weapons exploded to clear out any surviving enemy. The theory was that the radiation hadn't fallen to the ground yet. At worst, you might lose some hair and if it were too dangerous, the badge you were wearing would turn a particular color."

Simultaneously, Tom was developing into a talented artist who became involved in the liturgical movement of the early 1960s. He took courses to improve his skills and found work in churches that were looking for new forms of sacred art. This work also brought Tom into contact with dynamic clergy and the works of people like Tielhard de Chardin. In his own words, Tom "had the opportunity to listen, talk to, and question people in the liturgical renewal."

About this time, a friend named Fred Nass took Tom to a German bar saying, "I want you to meet this priest I know." The priest was Philip Berrigan (a World War II veteran, Holy Cross College graduate, and Josephite). Of the meeting, Tom said, "I was very impressed with how human this person, Phil Berrigan, was; how he was willing to sit down and eat some pretzels, drink a beer, and talk about some important things. This was pretty different from other people in the Church I had known… I was touched by how human and knowledgeable and special he was. It was through Phil that I started to wake up to civil rights issues and nuclear issues." Phil would also be the one to take Tom to New York City to visit the Catholic Worker house on Christie Street where they met Dorothy Day.

But Tom also stresses that his art itself drew him to activism. He described this dramatic examples of how that happened: " I heard about a demonstration at Gwen Oak Amusement park in Baltimore (where Black people were barred), so I went there to do some sketches. I was hoping to get some in the Catholic press because they had been using some of my artwork…. I thought they might want some civil rights drawings. I was there sketching with the group all around the demonstrators and as the demonstrators were hauled to the police van, the people I was standing with got uglier and uglier, yelling at the demonstrators, throwing little rocks and firecrackers. I had this awful feeling that even though I was sketching, I wasn't really separate from them. Even though I was there as an artist, a reporter, I really wasn't separate from the crowd and what they were doing. I was frightened by that, and stepped back, looked over the at the legal support demonstration. It was very clear that anyone who sat down or got near the people at the entrance would be dragged away and arrested. So I went over to carry a sign in the legal demonstration. I think it said, 'Jim Crow Stops Here.' This was quite frightening to do for the first time. I think I was in a cold sweat the entire time."

Following this demonstration, in 1964, Tom joined the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) where he met "a wonderful Black organizer" named Walter Carter who "had the patience to move people along slowly." With Carter's help, Tom started joining marches and was eventually arrested in a protest for housing integration. Tom and five others, three of whom were black, attended a public open house at a Baltimore apartment complex. When told by the manager that rentals were only open to whites, Tom and his comrades sat down and refused to leave. Six hours later, after many management threats, including one to fumigate the apartment, they were arrested.

It was only natural that Tom would become involved in opposition to the Vietnam War with friends like Phil Berrigan, but added to those relationships was the fact that his own younger brother was sent to Vietnam. By 1968, Tom would be a central character in two draft board protests, The Baltimore Four and The Catonsville Nine, which would capture the imagination of the entire country. He would eventually serve three years in jail without being deterred from his commitment to peace.

Since moving to Worcester in the late 1970s, Tom has been a leader in the peace movement. He organized a long and successful campaign to end work on the MX nuclear missile at GTE in Westboro. He vigiled at the plant faithfully for years and was arrested there 4 different times. In 1989, after civil disobedience at the GTE plant, he and his 4 codefendants were acquitted by a Worcester jury of six who agreed with Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan who said, "There are times and situations where civil disobedience is not only justifiable, but may actually be a duty." The MX contract was withdrawn and the plant converted to civilian use.

Tom was also a participant in two demonstrations which involved symbolic damage to nuclear weapons and a nuclear weapons carrying destroyer. These protests called "Plowshares actions" after the Prophet Isaiah's call that swords should be beaten into plowshares, often resulted in long jail sentences. Tom was unafraid of those consequences and continued to participate in nonviolent civil disobedience until his death.

Remarkably, Tom continued an active career as an artist even during his jail terms. He was never seen without his sketch pad. He made countless sketches of inmates and jail scenes, as well as woodcuts, paintings, etchings, and murals. He illustrated a number of scripturally-based books about resistance to war. In the foreword to Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J.'s book The Nightmare of God, the author describes Tom's art as "…a poignant and powerful witness to the survival of the endangered conscience…. He heals the ancient split between ethics and imagination." And although Tom could well have made a comfortable living teaching art classes full time, he chose to live among the poor in a such a way that he was always free to go to jail for nonviolent civil disobedience. Tom said that prison keeps "our minds sane and our direction clear… The nuclear age is calculated to dull our senses with false security and an illusion of hope, a hope which in fact is death. I believe that to stay alive, one must risk or enter jail for non-violent resistance to the Nuclear Beast. Otherwise we are dead before the very first strike is made."

Tom also challenged other injustices besides racism and war. In 2005, Tom was arrested with 6 others at the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, DC to call for an end to genocide in Darfur. He was also arrested years earlier protests nuclear power at Seabrook New Hampshire and, last January, protesting against torture and calling for the closure of the US prison in Guantanamo, Cuba. After that, Tom traveled with a collective of international artists to protest the construction of the Israeli wall inside the occupied West Bank. With his typical artistic calm, he taught Palestinian children his technique of non-toxic printing in Ramallah.

On top of all this, Tom's home, christened Emma House after a deceased African American women who once lived there, has been home to many other activists, friends, and even the homeless. Tom also helped out when he could at the Mustard Seed Catholic Worker across the street.

Despite his focus on serious issues, Tom was also known for a fine sense of humor. Just after his codefendant Father Phil Berrigan was sentences to six years in jail for his part in the Baltimore Four, the judge asked Tom if he had anything to say before sentencing. Tom said, "No, your honor." The judge pressed him, "These are serious charges, Mr. Lewis. Don't you have anything to say?" Tom said, "No, I've said all I want to in my testimony." But, when the judge persisted, "You could be sent to jail for years Mr. Lewis, are you absolutely sure there's nothing you want to add?" Tom began to suspect that the judge wanted to scapegoat Phil as the priest mastermind of the protest and hoped Tom would make a last minute appeal for mercy, so Tom said, "Since you press me your honor, there is one quote which is important to me." The judge leaned forward and said, "Yes, yes." Tom straightened up and said soberly, "You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be lead. That's from Laurel and Hardy, your honor." The furious judge gave Tom six years too.

When asked in 1997 what sustained him through all these years, Tom said simply, "My faith and my art." He also credited his father's deep love for the Bible. Long-time peace activist Elizabeth McAlister said that when she met Tom in 1967 she know that he was "thoughtful, committed, and real." She said "Tom is moved by conscience and friendships." His brother Don said today, "Tom did everything possible to share his love with us, his family, but he belonged to a much wider community." His Catholic Worker friend, Claire Schaeffer-Duffy said, "Tom epitomized fidelity. As a young man he saw the truth of the evil of war and stayed with that truth all his life, even when it cost him to practice it." Her husband Scott said, "Tom was a saint, plain and simple. He's finally able to practice his art with all the masters in a place where there is no violence, war, or injustice. His joy is well-earned. He will be enormously missed."

Tom was in an Alexandria, Virginia court on Good Friday this year for his part in protests at the Pentagon. His case was dismissed and he was set free. His spirit was set free yesterday.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Zirin on Nationals' new stadium

Suburbanites rush to new ball park paid for by DC citizens

By Dave Zirin

So much for the house that Woodstein built. Rarely has the coverage of an event been so pandering, so utterly absent of objectivity than the Washington Post’s coverage of the debut of the Washington National's new stadium.

The Post reported on the ballpark's grand opening with hard-hitting articles like, "Lapping Up a Major Victory, and Luxuries, at New Stadium." Without irony, the article quoted people from the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia, about how much fun they were having playing Guitar Hero and eating authentic DC half-smokes before the big game. It should have come with coupons for the Make Your Own Teddy Bear booth, but that was nothing compared to Postsports columnist Tom Boswell, who long ago cornered the market on sloppy baseball nostalgia. The guy would sob watching home movies of Boog Powell flossing his teeth.

Some Boswell from opening night included, "Imagine 25,000 people all smiling at once. Not for a few seconds, but continuously for hours. You won't see it at a tense World Series. But when a brand new ballpark opens, especially in a city that hasn't had such an experience for 46 years, people can't help themselves."

In a nod to actual journalism, Boswell did manage to raise a few questions. "Are they worth the money? Has MLB mastered civic extortion, playing one city against another?" But have no fear. He had no answers. "That's a different story, a different day." Unfortunately it's a story over the last two years he has never written on any day. He did quote another suburban warrior making the trek into the big bad city who said, "Sometimes you got to spend money to make money." Of course, not his money, but why quibble?

Boswell was a model of restraint compared to city columnist Marc Fisher. In a piece titled, I kid thee not, "The City Opens the Ballpark,And the Fans Come Up Winner," Fisher wrote, "An investment in granite, concrete and steel buys a new retail, residential and office neighborhood. It buys the president of the United States throwing out the first ball. And it buys a son showing his father what his boy has become." (I don't even understand that last line. A son shows his father...his boy? So the father is a grandfather? Is this some sort of Southern Gothic goes to the ballpark? Maybe Fisher was just blissed out on $8 beers and making his own teddy bears.)

While Boswell and Fisher were given prime column real estate to gush, columnist Sally Jenkins didn't even get a corner of comics page. It's understandable why Jenkins, the 2002 AP sports columnist of the year, didn't get to play. Four years ago, she refused to gush: "While you're celebrating the deal to bring baseball back to Washington, understand just what it is you're getting: a large publicly financed stadium and potential sinkhole to house a team that's not very good, both of which may cost you more than you bargained for and be of questionable benefit to anybody except the wealthy owners and players. But tell that to baseball romantics, or the mayor and his people, and they act like you just called their baby ugly. It's lovely to have baseball in Washington again. But the deal that brings the Montreal Expos to Washington is an ugly baby."

Jenkins words have come to pass. But this isn't just an "ugly baby", it's Rosemary's baby. It's $611 million of tax payer money in a city that has become a ground zero of economic segregation and gentrification. $611 million over majority opposition of taxpayers and even the city council. $611 million in a city set to close down a staggering twenty-four public schools.

That's $611 million, a mere five months after a mayor commissioned study found that the District's was the highest it had been in a decade and African-American unemployment was 51 percent. That's $611 million, in a city where the libraries shut down early and the Metro rusts over. That's a living, throbbing, reminder that the vote-deprived District of Columbia doesn't even rest on the pretense of democracy. This isn't just taxation without representation. It's a monument of avarice that will clear the working poor out of the Southeast corner of the city as surely as if they just dispensed with the baseball and used a bulldozer. This is sports as ethnic and economic cleansing, as Hurricane Katrina, as Shock Doctrine, as Green Zone. Fittingly, Fisher wrote, President George W. Bush came out to throw the first pitch. Fittingly, he was roundly booed. He stood tall on the mound nonetheless, proudly oblivious, taking center stage yet again in what can only be described as occupied territory.

[Dave Zirin is the author of "Welcome to the Terrordome:" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by emailing dave@edgeofsports.com Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com. Comment on this article at www.edgeofsports.com]