Thursday, January 19, 2017

Baltimore Activist Alert January 22 - 24, 2017

Baltimore Activist Alert January 22 - 24, 2017

"I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours.
The initiative to stop it must be ours." -Martin Luther King Jr.

Friends, this list and other email documents which I send out are done under the auspices of the Baltimore Nonviolence Center.  Go to  If you appreciate this information and would like to make a donation, send contributions to BNC, 325 East 25th Street, Baltimore, MD 21218.  Max Obuszewski can be reached at 410-323-1607 or mobuszewski [at]

1] Books, buttons and stickers
2] Web site for info on federal legislation
3] Join Nonviolent Resistance lists  
4] Two friends are looking to buy a house in Baltimore
5] “Community Solar – Solar Is for Everyone” – Jan. 22
6] Holiday Potluck Social and Legislative Briefing – Jan. 22
7] Challenging Trumpism – Jan. 22
8] Baltimore Green Forum -- Jan. 22
9] Pentagon Vigil – Jan. 23
10] Marc Steiner on WEAA – Jan. 23 – Jan. 27
11] ERA Briefing and Lobby Day -- Jan. 23
12] See a screening of “Agents of Change” – Jan. 23
13] Rally for Healthy Families -- Jan. 23
14] Get Money Out Maryland conference call – Jan. 23
15] Peace vigil in Philadelphia – Jan. 24
16] Vigil to say "No Drone Research at JHU" – Jan. 24
17] Brendan & Willa discuss their book – Jan. 24
1] – Buttons, bumperstickers and books are available.  “God Bless the Whole World, No Exceptions” stickers are in stock. Call Max at 410-323-1607.

2] – To obtain information how your federal legislators voted on particular bills, go to  Congressional toll-free numbers are 888-818-6641, 888-355-3588 or 800-426-8073. The White House Comment Email is accessible at

3] – THE ORGANIZING LIST will be the primary decision-making mechanism of the National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR].  It will be augmented by conference calls and possibly in-person meetings as needed.  It will consist of 1 or 2 representatives from each local, regional, or national organization (not coalitions) that wishes to actively work to carry out the NCNR campaign of facilitating and organizing nonviolent resistance to the war in Iraq.

To join the ORGANIZING List, please send your name, group affiliation, city and email address to mobuszewski at  Different local chapters of a national organization are encouraged to subscribe.  

THE NOTICES LIST will include only notices of NCNR actions and related information and is open to any interested person to subscribe.  It will be moderated to maintain focus & will include periodic notices about getting involved in NCNR national organizing.  To join the NOTICES List, send an email message to You will get a confirmation message once subscribed.  If you have problems, please write to the list manager at

4] – Janice and Max are looking to buy a house in Baltimore.  Let Max know if you have any leads—410-323-1607 or mobuszewski at Verizon dot net.

5] – Usually, the Baltimore Ethical Society, 306 W. Franklin St., Suite 102, Baltimore 21201-4661, meets on Sundays, and generally there is a speaker and discussion from 10:30 AM to noon.  On Sun., Jan. 22, the Sunday Platform Address is “Community Solar – Solar Is for Everyone” with Gary Skulnik, founder and president, Community Solar.  Thanks to a new community solar law in Maryland, everybody can go solar. Community solar allows you to sign up for solar power for your home, business or organization without installing any equipment on your roof. It’s clean energy from a local project in your neighborhood. Come to this presentation and learn how you, your business, and your neighbors can join together to build a local clean energy solar project that will let you save money and help the environment.

Gary Skulnik is the founder of a new social enterprise called Neighborhood Sun ( and a leader in developing the clean energy market on the East Coast. As President of Clean Currents, he started the movement for clean power in Maryland and the region.
Call 410-581-2322 or email

6] – The Prince George's Holiday Potluck Social and Legislative Briefing is happening on Sun, Jan. 22 from  5 to 7 PM, organized by the Prince George's County Group/Sierra Club, at the Watkins Regional Park Nature Center, 301 Watkins Park Drive, Upper Marlboro MD 20774.  RSVP to Janis Oppelt at    

Celebrate the Group's achievements in 2016 and learn more about local and state environmental issues for 2017. Dr. Matthew Perry will present "The History and Wonders of Belt Woods Natural Environmental Area," located at Central Avenue and Church Road, which risks being trampled by the Department of Natural Resources' decision to allow open hunting season. Chapter Legislative Chair Mark Posner will highlight key environmental legislation before the General Assembly in 2017.  The cost is $5/person if you bring a dish, $10 if you don't, to defray the cost of the venue.  

7] – On Sun., Jan. 22 from 1 to 5 PM, come to "CHALLENGING TRUMPISM, WARS AND MILITARISM," sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee, at the American University Kay Spiritual Life Center, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW. It will feature Phyllis Bennis, Judith LeBlanc, Alli McCracken, Kevin Martin. Raed Jarrar and Joseph Gerson.  Engage in a dialogue on building the peace and social justice movement as we build the resistance needed to overcome the Trump regime’s tyranny. In addition to panel discussions, we will have small-group strategy sessions.  See a campus map at  There is a shuttle bus from Metro Red Line – Tenleytown Station. 

8] – The BALTIMORE GREEN FORUM, a monthly environmental education and discussion forum, takes place on Sun., Jan. 22.  The presentation and Q&A goes from 4 to 5:15 PM, followed by announcements & networking from 5:15 to 5:45 PM.  Finally there will be a Roundtable Discussion from 5:45 to 6:30 PM.  The forum is at 1105 Providence Road, Towson 21286. Go to  The topic for discussion is The Youth Perspective on the Problem with Plastics -- and More with Claire Wayner and Mercedes Thompson. Claire Wayner and Mercedes Thompson are high school students at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. They've been involved in environmental work together for a few years, but their motivations to pursue conservation differ. Claire is an avid birder and approaches environmental activism from a natural conservationist's world. Mercedes aspires to be a doctor and addresses environmental problems from the public health perspective.

Claire and Mercedes recently started Baltimore Beyond Plastic, a youth-led, action-oriented organization dedicated to reducing waste in Baltimore City. Plastic is both a public health and environmental concern that threatens the livelihoods of future generations. Sign up for the organization's mailing list, and learn more at

The Baltimore Green Forum seeks to educate and stimulate dialogue about what humans can do to make modern civilization more sustainable, including adjusting to finite resource limits and preserving biodiversity and a healthy environment. We do this through 8 monthly meetings a year. The topics are far ranging. They vary from local to planetary and from philosophical to scientific to very practical.

  BGF is open to the public and is free of charge, but donations to Maryland Presbyterian Church are collected during the meeting to thank the church for their generous gift of the space to us. Email or call Sam Hopkins at 410 554-0006.  Go to

9] – There is a weekly Pentagon Peace Vigil from 7 to 8 AM on Mondays, since 1987, outside the Pentagon Metro stop.  The next vigil is Jan., 23, and it is sponsored by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker.  Email or call 202-882-9649.  The vigil will be outside the Pentagon's south Metro entrance and in the designated "protest zone" behind bicycle fences across from the entrance to the Metro.  By Metro, take Yellow Line and get out at the "Pentagon" stop. Do not go to the Pentagon City stop! Go up south escalators and turn left and walk across to protest area. By car from D.C. area, take 395 South and get off at Exit 8A-Pentagon South Parking. Take slight right onto S. Rotary Rd. at end of ramp and right on S. Fern St. Then take left onto Army Navy Dr. You can "pay to park" on Army Navy Dr.,  and there is meter parking one block on right on Eads St. Payment for both of these spots begin at 8 AM.  No cameras are allowed on Pentagon grounds. Restrooms are located inside Marriott Residence Inn on corner of S. Fern and Army Navy Dr. 

10] – The Marc Steiner Show airs Monday through Friday fr6m 10 AM to noon on WEAA 88.9 FM, The Voice of the Community, or online at   The call-in number is 410-319-8888, and comments can also be sent by email to All shows are also available as podcasts at

11] – There is an ERA Briefing and Lobby Day on Mon., Jan. 23 from 10 AM to 1 PM at 325 Russell, 2 Constitution Ave. NE, WDC 20002.  This is an update on where we currently stand on ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. On Jan. 17, Sen. Cardin re-introduced his Remove the Ratification Deadline bill in the 115th Congress as SJ Res 5 with 20 cosponsors. Contact Andrea Miller at

12] –  See a screening of “Agents of Change” at the Lohrfink Auditorium, Rafik Hariri Building, Georgetown University, 37th and O Sts. NW, WDC, on Mon., Jan. 23 from 5 to 8 PM. There is a pre-screening reception at 5 PM, followed by a 6 PM screening (66 minutes) and then a discussion with producers/screenwriters, Frank Dawson and Abby Ginzburg.  From the well-publicized events at San Francisco State in 1968 to the image of black students with guns emerging from the takeover of the student union at Cornell University in April, 1969, the struggle for a more relevant and meaningful education, including demands for black and ethnic studies programs, became a clarion call across the country in the late 1960s. Through the stories of these young men and women who were at the forefront of these efforts, the film examines the untold story of the racial conditions on college campuses and in the country that led to these protests. Email mg1704 AT This is part of Georgetown University's "Let Freedom Ring!" Initiative honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Visit:

13] -- Many hardworking Marylanders have no access to earned paid sick days. Our neighbors are going to work sick or sending a sick child to school, because staying home means losing needed income or risking being fired.  The Healthy Working Families Act will allow hundreds of thousands of hardworking men and women in our state to earn paid sick days. Join Working Matters for a Rally for Healthy Families. On Mon., Jan. 23 at 7 PM at Lawyers Mall, 100 State Circle, Annapolis 21401. RSVP at

14] – Get Money Out of Maryland has a weekly teleconference, every Monday evening at 8:30 PM.  Call 605-475-6711, and use the Code 1136243#.  Go to

15] – Each Tuesday from 4:30 - 5:30 PM, the Catholic Peace Fellowship-Philadelphia for peace in Afghanistan and Iraq gathers at the Suburban Station, 16th St. & JFK Blvd., at the entrance to Tracks 3 and 4 on the mezzanine.  The next vigil is Jan. 1.  Call 215-426-0364.

16] – Vigil to say "No Drone Research at JHU" each Tuesday at 33rd & North Charles Sts. join this ongoing vigil on Jan. 24  from 5 to 6 PM. Call Max at 410-323-1607.

17] -- Writers LIVE: Brendan Walsh & Willa Bickham will discuss their book “The Long Loneliness in Baltimore” on Tues., Jan. 24 at 6:30 PM at the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, 415 Park Ave., Baltimore 21201.

A compilation of essays, stories, poems, parables, and art, the book depicts nearly fifty years’ worth of experiences in Southwest Baltimore (“Sowebo”). Through the establishment of Viva House, Brendan Walsh and Willa Bickham are able to restore hope to the hopeless. Viva House, the temporary home and soup kitchen for those living in Sowebo, provides love and community to many. This eye-opening book gives insight into what is it really like to be one of the “powerless” constantly oppressed by the “powerful.” Coming out in a turbulent time for Baltimore City, this book exposes social injustices while promoting the message that hope will prevail.  Writers LIVE programs are supported in part by a bequest from The Miss Howard Hubbard Adult Programming Fund. 

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Baltimore Activist Alert - January 20 -21, 2017

35] Not my president rally – Jan. 20
36] J20RESIST – Jan. 20
37] CODEPINK starts it off – Jan. 20
38] Day of Fasting – Jan. 20
39] Stand Against Trump, War, Racism and Inequality – Jan. 20
40] Trade for People and Planet– Jan. 20
41] Disrupt J20 – Jan. 20
42] Resist Trumpism– Jan. 20
43] Interfaith Vigil – Jan. 20
44] WIB peace vigil – Jan. 20
45] Youth training event – Jan. 20
46] Protest Trump in Philadelphia -- Jan. 20
47] Anti-War / Anti-Nuclear Protest -- Jan. 20 - 22
48] Black Lives Matter vigil -- Jan. 20
49] Ballroom Dancing – Jan. 20
50] Anti-Inauguration Event at the Lincoln Theater – Jan. 20
51] Join the Maryland District CPUSA in D.C. – Jan. 21
52] The Women’s March -- Jan. 21
53] Healing Our Country Post-Election Workshops – Jan. 21
54] West Chester peace vigil – Jan. 21
55] Barn-blazing teach-in -- Jan. 21
56] Anne Arundel Sierra Club’s Annual Dinner – Jan. 21
57] Sign up with Washington Peace Center
58] Donate books, videos, DVDs and records
59] Do you need any book shelves?
60] Join the Global Zero campaign
61] Join the Peace Park Antinuclear Vigil
35] – #NotMyPresident Inauguration Rally will be at the US Capitol Building, E. Capitol Street NE & First Street, WDC 20004, on Fri., Jan. 20 starting at midnight and continuing all day.  Refuse to recognize Donald Trump as the President of the United States, and refuse to take orders from a government that puts bigots into power. Make it clear to the public that we did not choose this man for office and that we won't stand for his ideologies. Silently protest the swearing in of Donald Trump. Bring posters, t-shirts, anything with "#NotMyPresident” written on them. Go to

36] – #J20RESIST at 6 AM will have a Convergence in front of Union Station, and then MARCH ON THE WHITE HOUSE at 10 AM.

37] – CODEPINK will continue to bring a message of Love and Peace as the group disrupts the Inaugural, inside and out. Go to and join CODEPINK through Sat., Jan. 21 to Rise, Love, and Resist Trump’s incoming administration of intolerance, Islamophobia, racism, militarism, misogyny, and more. On Jan.20 be at Union Station at 7 AM with the One Billion Rising flash mob dance. Email

38] – The School of Life is asking the spirit of goodness to open the hearts and illumine the minds of the new Administration that will be inaugurated on Fri., Jan. 20. You are invited to a day of Fasting, Meditation and Prayer. The day will start at sunrise 7AM with a Meditation and Agnihotra Yagna (Vedic fire ceremony), and end at sunset 5:15 PM with Meditation and Agnihotra Yagna. RSVP at Visit

39] – On Fri., Jan. 20, protest at the Inauguration: Stand Against Trump, War, Racism and Inequality in an event hosted by the Answer Coalition from 7 AM  to 5 PM at the US Navy Memorial, 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, WDC 20004.  See or visit

40] – On Fri., Jan. 20 from 8 AM to noon, Trade for People and Planet (a campaign of Popular Resistance) and Trade Justice Alliance are organizing a trade justice action as part of Disrupt J20. Meet at 6th St. and I St. NW, WDC.  Then there will be a march. Sign up for the action at

41] – On Fri., Jan. 20 from 9 AM to 10 PM, the #DisruptJ20 Outdoor Convergence Begins in McPhearson Square Park.  The DC Counter-Inaugural Welcoming Committee is organizing a Festival of Resistance on Inauguration Day, beginning at noon at Columbus Circle (in front of Union Station), and marching to McPherson Square. This march is permitted, and you can enjoy marching bands, drummers, puppets, and vibrant displays of art and culture to show the diversity and power of resistance to Trump’s agenda. March in solidarity to protect our communities and reject racism, sexism, transphobia, Islamophobia, ableism, and all forms of hate and oppression. Resist despair and fear with hope and resistance. RSVP at

Occupy Inauguration opens at 9:30 AM with a rally in Malcolm X Park.  At 12:30 PM march to McPhearson Square Park and join with DisruptJ20. RSVP at Sat., Jan. 21 at 10 AM, join the Women’s March on Washington, Intersection of Independence Ave. and Third St. SW, near the U.S. Capitol. The March is a grassroots effort comprised of dozens of independent coordinators at the state level. The effort is helmed by four national co-chairs and a national coordinating committee who are working around the clock to pull it all together.

42] – Join the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance in an Inaugural Action on January 20, 2017.  According to Forbes Magazine, Nov. 9, 2016, “President Trump Is Likely To Boost U.S. Military Spending By $500 Billion To $1 Trillion.” So we need a strong presence in D.C. for the inauguration to call for an end to all warfare, including drone warfare.  NCNR is organizing an action of nonviolent civil resistance on the day of the inauguration, Friday, January 20.  Some of us will be risking arrest, and we need others there in support and solidarity.  We will meet in the lower level food court at Union Station at 10 AM on the day of the inauguration for our final planning meeting.  We will have a final planning meeting knowing we have to keep things fluid because there is no certainty as to what will happen that day.

 The idea will be to process as near as possible to a checkpoint and make us visible to the crowds.  Then perhaps we can do a die-in.  We will have model drones, coffins, signs, banners, and leaflets to get our message across.  If you have ideas on messaging, please share over email.  Again, this will be a very fluid experience, and we will come together and make decisions as we go along. Contact Max at 410-323-1607 or mobuszewski at Verizon dot net.

43] – There is a group participating in the Interfaith 100 Hour Vigil. This group will vigil on Fri., Jan. 20 from 11 AM to 4 PM at the Annapolis Friends Meeting, 351 DuBois Road, Annapolis 21401. Email or go to

44] – On Fri., Jan. 20 from noon to 1 PM, join a Women in Black peace vigil. A vigil will take place in McKeldin Square at the corner of Light and Pratt Sts. Stay for as long as you can. Wear black. Dress for who knows what kind of weather. Bring your own poster or help with the "NO WAR IN MY NAME" banner.  When there are others to stand with, you don't need to carry the burden alone. Do this to be in solidarity with others....when everything around us says “Be afraid of the stranger.” Carpool and parking available at both locations. Just send an email that you need a ride [].  Peace signs will be available. 

45] – Come to Washington D.C. on Fri., Jan. 20 for a dynamic one-day youth training event to help equip progressive Millennials with the issue strategies and skills necessary to mount an effective resistance against the Trump Administration. Workshops will include trainings on issue-based resistance — with such topics as immigration, higher education, civil rights, climate and energy, and health care — and skills-based resistance, including sessions on citizen-lobbying, earned media tactics, and how young people can run for public office.  We Are Progress: The Trump Resistance Bootcamp is happening at the George Washington University from noon to 6 PM. The event is free, but online pre-registration is mandatory. Register at

46] --On Fri., Jan. 20 Protest the Inauguration of Donald Trump.  For buses from Philadelphia to DC, go to At noon, there is an Anti-War Protest at the Philadelphia Federal Building, 601 Market Street.  Show your indignation to Trump's America: Militarism and More Nuclear Weapons. Inaugurate Justice/Ignite Peace. Contact the Brandywine Peace Community at or 484-574-1148.

48] – There is usually a silent vigil on Fridays, from 5 to 6 PM, sponsored by Homewood Friends Meeting, outside the Homewood Friends Meetinghouse, 3107 N. Charles St.  The next scheduled vigil is on Jan. 20. Black Lives Matter.

49] – There is an opportunity to participate in ballroom dancing, usually every Friday of the month, in the JHU ROTC Bldg. at  8 PM.  Turn south on San Martin Dr. from the intersection of Univ. Parkway and 39th St.  Drive on campus by taking the third left turn. The next dance will be Jan. 20. Call Dave Greene at 410-599-3725.

50] – Check out an Anti-Inauguration Event at the Lincoln Theater, 1215 U St. NW, WDC, on Fri., Jan. 20 from 8 to 10 PM, sponsored by Jacobin Magazine, Haymarket Books, and Verso Books. Visit

51] – Join the Maryland District CPUSA in D.C. on Sat., Jan. 21 as the group carries a beautiful, lavender "We Won't Go Back" banner in the Women’s March. A group from the NE Baltimore Club, Communist Party USA, will be assembling at Penn Station, Baltimore at 7:30 AM and taking the 8:30 MARC Train to D.C., arriving at 9:30 AM.  The group will then walk the blocks to the rally point at Independence Ave. and 3rd St. SW. Call Margaret Baldridge at 443-413-8758 (cell in D.C.)

52] – On Sat., Jan. 21 from 9 AM to 4 PM be part of the "Women March for the Human Race, Not a New Arms Race" which is part of the Women's March on Washington. Start at the Spirit of Justice Park, New Jersey Ave and C St. SE, WDC. Go to

53] – There are Healing Our Country Post-Election Workshops on Sat., Jan. 21 and Sun., Jan. 22 on nonviolent communication. For many people the recent elections and the events since the election have been very challenging and worrisome.  Some of us have serious negative judgments (even "enemy images") of people supporting our President-elect and the President-elect's actions and statements.   It may be hard to connect with and understand people who appear to think so differently.  Even, or perhaps especially, when they are members of our own family, work-place or community.  And yet we are all living in the same country and have to understand each other, even if we don't fully agree with each other.  And it is best when we can use those understandings as a basis for finding creative solutions that address the fundamental needs of all.

Both workshops are at the Greenbelt Community Center, 15 Crescent Road. Greenbelt. Each one is designed to stand alone effectively. Energy for Building a World of Compassion is on Sat., Jan. 21 from 10 AM to 4:30 PM. Connecting Across Differences - Post Election is on Sun., Jan. 22 from 10 AM to 4:30 PM.  Sponsors include Maryland United for Peace and Justice. The workshops are offered free, but donations to defray expenses will be appreciated.  Volunteers are needed to come early and help with set-up logistics.  Contact Jane Connor McMahon at 202-684-5974 or Jane is a certified trainer. Kanya Likanasudh M. Div. is a certified life coach. Ian H. Solomon J.D. is the CEO of SolomonGlobal. Visit

54] – Each Saturday, 11 AM – 1 PM, Chester County Peace Movement holds a peace vigil in West Chester in front of the Chester County Courthouse, High & Market Sts. Go to Email

55] – On Sat., Jan. 21 from 1:30 to 8:30 PM, nurture the resistance with a barn-blazing teach-in complementing the historic Women’s March on Washington. The teach-in will launch a serious conversation about what it means to have a democracy in an America where corporate interests dominate and the constitutional rights of millions are publicly threatened by our elected leaders. And it will plug Americans into urgent campaigns rooted in protecting these most basic rights. Space is limited. RSVP and registration are required at The Teach-In is at All Souls Unitarian Church, 1500 Harvard St. NW, WDC 20009.

56] – On Sat., Jan. 21 at 6:30 PM, come to the Anne Arundel Sierra Club’s Annual Dinner with guest speaker Seth Bush presenting "Compassion in Action: Coming of Age on A Warming Earth." The gathering will be held at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Eastport, 1101 Bay Ridge Ave., Annapolis 21403. Contact Liz Vanden Heuvel at or (410) 267-9009. If your last name begins with the letter A through F - bring a main dish, G through L, bring a dessert, M through S, bring a side dish, and T through Z, bring a salad. Dishes should be large enough to feed yourself (or your party) plus one more.  Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children 12 and under, and can be bought at the door. If you can’t bring a dish, bring an additional $5 per person in your party for others to do the cooking.  The ticket money goes to cover hall rental, soft drinks, tableware and other basics.  RSVP at

57] -- The Washington Peace Center has a progressive calendar & activist alert! Consider signing up to receive its weekly email:

58] -- If you would like to get rid of books, videos, DVDs or records, contact Max at 410-323-1607 or mobuszewski at

59] -- Can you use any book shelves? Contact Max at 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski at

60] -- Join an extraordinary global campaign for the elimination of nuclear weapons: A growing group of leaders around the world is calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons and a majority of the global public agrees.  This is an historic window of opportunity.  With momentum already building in favor of Zero, a major show of support from people around the world could tip the balance. When it comes to nuclear weapons, one is one too many.

61] – A Peace Park Antinuclear Vigil takes place every day in Lafayette Park, 1601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 24 hours a day, since June 3, 1981. Go to; call 202-682-4282.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The New York Times' Food Stamp Fables

The New York Times misreported a USDA study in a piece critical of the food stamp program over the weekend. (photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr)
The New York Times misreported a USDA study in a piece critical of the food stamp program over the weekend. (photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr)

The New York Times' Food Stamp Fables

By Joe Soss, Jacobin
17 January 17

The New York Times’ front-page attack on food stamps over the weekend peddled harmful myths and outright lies.

    The political mean season has returned, with all the usual slanders of social programs that protect Americans from the worst kinds of hardship and deprivation. The poors! They’re behaving badly! And government handouts paid for with your tax dollars are to blame. In the end, we are told, the well-intentioned policies of meddling do-gooders do nothing but encourage bad behaviors and self-defeating choices.

    The latest target in this campaign is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, more commonly called food stamps).

  In a New York Times story over the weekend, Anahad O’Connor massages and misreports a USDA study to reinforce some of the worst stereotypes about food stamps. For his trouble, the editors placed it on the front page. Readers of the newspaper of record learn that the end result of tax dollars spent on food assistance is a grocery cart full of soda. No exaggeration. The inside headline for the story is “What’s in the Shopping Cart of a Food Stamp Household? Lots of Sugary Soda,” and the front-page illustration shows a shopping cart containing almost nothing but two-liter pop bottles.

    O’Connor tells us that “the No. 1 purchases by SNAP households are soft drinks, which account for about 10 percent of the dollars they spend on food.” Milk is number one among non-SNAP households, we are told, not soft drinks.

    And O’Connor does not hold back in building his indictment of the program. He begins by framing these and other alleged facts with a quote that informs readers, “SNAP is a multibillion-dollar taxpayer subsidy of the soda industry.” The story doubles down on this misleading image by ending with a discussion of how the big soda companies lobby to keep the SNAP funds flowing — and with a quote asserting, “This is the first time we’ve had confirmation that this massive taxpayer program is promoting all the wrong kinds of foods.”

   Let’s be clear here: this is nonsense. It’s a political hack job against a program that helps millions of Americans feed themselves, and we should all be outraged that the New York Times has disguised it as a piece of factual news reporting on its front page.

    There are two major problems here. First, O’Connor misrepresents the findings of the USDA report. Second, O’Connor’s article is a case study in the dark arts of making biased reporting appear even-handed. Let’s start with the facts.

   Even if we relied solely on O’Connor’s massaged numbers, we’d have to conclude that 90 percent of what people buy with SNAP is not soda (which O’Connor says makes up 10 percent of purchases). But what does the USDA report actually say? Strangely, neither the author nor the New York Times saw fit to link to the report in the story, online or in print. I had to look through agency reports to find it.

   Spoiler alert: the report does not state that SNAP changes what people buy at the grocery store; it does not suggest any effect on buying soda; and its findings differ considerably from the picture O’Connor paints.

   O’Connor did not simply miss details buried in obscure tables. He misreported basic statistics, selectively chose to ignore the report’s major findings, and cherry-picked a few facts to build a misleading case. Here are the top three items in the report’s summary of its major findings:

1.     There were no major differences in the expenditure patterns of SNAP and non-SNAP households, no matter how the data were categorized.

2.     The top 10 summary categories and the top 7 commodities by expenditure were the same for SNAP and non-SNAP households, although ranked in slightly different orders.

3.     Less healthy food items were common purchases for both SNAP and non-SNAP households. Sweetened beverages, prepared desserts and salty snacks were among the top 10 summary categories for both groups. Expenditures were greater for sweetened beverages compared to all milk for both groups, as well.

Later, the report adds these bullet points to its summary:

1.     Overall, there were few differences between SNAP and non-SNAP household expenditures by USDA Food Pattern categories. Expenditure shares for each of the USDA Food Pattern categories… varied by no more than 3 cents per dollar when comparing SNAP and non-SNAP households.

2.     Protein foods represented the largest expenditure share for both household types, while proportionally more was spent on fruits and vegetables than on solid fats and added sugars, grains or dairy.

    No fair reading of this report can support the Times’ portrayal. Even the central fact O’Connor builds the article around — the claim that soda makes up 10 percent of SNAP household purchases — seems to have been ginned up.

    Exhibit 6 of the report states that soft drinks comprised 5.44 percent of SNAP household expenditures. To get the 10 percent figure, my guess is that O’Connor looked to Exhibit 5, which incorporates soft drinks into the broader summary category of all sweetened beverages. That category makes up 9.25 percent of SNAP household purchases, a percentage well below the “proteins” category of meat, poultry, and seafood (19.19 percent).

  So, it appears O’Connor inflated the soft drink estimate of 5.44 percent to 9.25 percent by equating soda with the broader summary category of sweetened beverages, and then rounded 9.25 up to 10 percent for good measure. (O’Connor later updated the story to note the discrepancy between sweetened beverages and soft drinks, albeit without a correction.)

  And that claim about milk, not soda, being number one among non-SNAP households? Here, O’Connor is just scoring a political point based on the slimmest of rank-order differences: for non-SNAP households, Exhibit 6 reports that fluid milk products make up 4.03 percent of purchases while soft drinks make up 4.01 percent. Two one-hundredths of a percentage point. That’s what O’Connor uses to paint non-SNAP households as the normal milk people, and offer them up as the foil to the bad soda people on SNAP.
Here’s what the report actually finds.

   First, out of each dollar paid to the grocery store, non-SNAP households spent 4 cents on milk and 4 cents on soft drinks. Households receiving SNAP spent 4 cents on milk and 5 cents on soft drinks. Consider those numbers and look again at the shopping cart full of soda that graced the New York Times’ front page.

    Second, the life conditions and characteristics of SNAP recipients differ considerably from the huge category of “all other households,” but the data analyzed for the study made it impossible for the researchers to distinguish program effects from these group differences in any way. As the study makes clear, no conclusions can be drawn about whether the program is responsible for even the tiny gap observed for soda purchases.

    Third, because SNAP benefits are too low to cover the full food costs of households, people who receive SNAP spend a mix of program benefits and other income on food. This is critical to understand because, as the authors of the study note, the data provide no indication of whether soda purchases were made with SNAP dollars, work earnings, or some other source of income. If someone spent all their SNAP benefits on meats and vegetables and then used their own money to buy a six-pack of soda, they were classified as a SNAP household purchasing soda. As a result, the study tells us nothing about what people actually used SNAP benefits for, only what they bought in general.

   The study’s authors are admirably clear about all these facts and limitations, and O’Connor clearly knew about them. Indeed, he provides himself with some political cover by quickly mentioning a few of these points deep in the article. What O’Connor does not do is fulfill the journalist’s obligation to explain how the facts fit together, or avoid using a factual news article to leave a misleading impression.

The article quotes well-established food stamp critics whose views were on the record long before the recent USDA study, but, in a research field where their views are widely opposed, does not provide space for a single researcher with a contrasting viewpoint.
O’Connor also singles out soda-company lobbying as the reason why USDA officials have been resistant to commodity-specific limitations on what households can buy with SNAP benefits. Nothing is said about the many legitimate reasons why lots of people who work in the field hold this commitment — from the belief recipients should have dignity as equal citizens to the implementation burdens having an extensive list of verboten items would introduce.

   To be fair, O’Connor does eventually acknowledge that “sweetened beverages are a common purchase in all households across America.” But this is really just one of the oldest tricks used in news stories that disparage stigmatized social groups based on behaviors that are common in the population as a whole. Headline and lede: “What’s in the Shopping Cart of a Food Stamp Household? Lots of Sugary Soda.” Somewhere below: All Americans are drinking lots of sugary soda. (It’s an easy game to play: Headline and lede: “Children from Low-Income Families See No Point to Homework.” Somewhere below: Rightly or wrongly, kids in general don’t like homework and tend to see it as pointless.)

    What also makes O’Connor’s article so troubling is that he wraps the usual scurrilous myths about SNAP in a veneer of health promotion — a framing that’s sure to win over some left-leaning readers who’d otherwise recoil at the usual trumped-up claims about food stamps. Yet in the end, O’Connor’s health paternalism doesn’t just run aground morally, but empirically: the study provides no evidence that SNAP encourages soda purchasing, and no evidence that SNAP funds (as opposed to personal funds) were used to buy soft drinks.

    O’Connor writes a lot about sugar, and not much about social policy. So perhaps his main target here is the sugar industry. If so, he has thrown millions of food-insecure Americans — most of whom work or have significant disabilities — under the bus to advance his agenda.

    Just as political attacks on social protections are on the rise, the article panders to the worst stereotypes of “welfare,” ignoring the SNAP program’s many successes. In the process, it tells people who imagine the worst about food stamps that they’ve been right all along. Facts be damned.

C 2015 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Baltimore Activist Alert - January 17 - 19, 2017

28] Legislative briefing – Jan. 18
29] Trumplandia – Jan. 18
30] Homes Not Bombs -- Jan. 19
31] Anti War/Anti Nukes Rally, Concert & Camp - Jan. 19
32] Defend Public Schools – Jan. 19
33] Peace with Justice Forum -- Jan. 19
28] -- There is a Legislative Briefing on Wed., Jan 18 from 6:30 to 8:30 PM,  organized by the  Anne Arundel Group of the Sierra Club at the Annapolis Library, 269 Hillsmere Dr., Annapolis 21403. Contact Earl Bradley at or (410) 295-5024.  Get an update on the Feb 20th Sierra Club lobby night; hear about an overview of the Sierra Club Maryland Chapter's environmental priorities; and visualize a tailored focus on local legislators.  RSVP at

29] – On Wed., Jan. 18 from 7:30 to 9:30 PM at the 2239 Kirk Ave., Baltimore 21218-6204, hear from Arun Gupta (Independent Journalist) discuss Trumplandia. Arun has written for the Washington Post, The Nation, YES! Magazine, The Progressive, In These Times, Telesur, The Guardian, and dozens of other publications. He is formerly international news editor of The Guardian Newsweekly (New York), and co-founder of The Occupied Wall Street Journal. He is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York and author of the upcoming Bacon as a Weapon of Mass Destruction: A Junk-Food-Loving Chef's Inquiry into Taste (The New Press). Email or call 312-451-8133.  Go to   Visit

30] -- On Thurs., Jan. 19 at noon until Fri., Jan. 20 at noon, "Homes Not Bombs" will do a 24-hoour protest vigil .in Franklin Square, 1332 I St. NW, WDC. Contact John Penley at (828) 423-5071 or at  On Fri., Jan. 20 at noon, there will be the Inauguration of President Trump at the Capitol Building.

31] -- On Thurs., Jan 19 from 2 to 10 PM get over to a Nonviolent Protest Anti War/Anti Nukes Rally, Concert & Camp in Franklin Square Park.  It is hosted by the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign and the Revolutionary Road Radio Show. Note there will be daily concerts and speakers from 4 to 8 PM every day from Jan. 19 through Jan. 22.  RSVP at

32] -- Join Communities United to defend our public schools and to demand increased investment! The Baltimore Rally to Protect Public Education is on Thurs., Jan. 19 at 3:45 PM at the City Springs Elementary/Middle School, 100 S Caroline St., Baltimore.  Rally outside before gathering inside around 4:15 PM to learn about and prepare to resist coming threats to public education. Hot chocolate and other refreshments will be served! RSVP

33] --There will be a Peace with Justice Forum: Advocacy in the New Year and Interfaith Worship Service on Thurs., Jan. 19 from 7 to 9 PM at St. John’s of Baltimore City United Methodist Church, 2640 St. Paul St. The event will be held in the Sunday Room. Use the 27th St. entrance. A small parking lot is located off of 27th St. behind the church; and street parking is also available.

This is a series for peacemakers who feel discouraged following the recent election, to renew through sharing and learning. The Opening Meditation will be in Spanish and English. First, hear a presentation by members of Casa Baltimore / Limay, “a friendship-city project connecting the peoples of San Juan de Limay, Nicaragua, and Baltimore. Second, there will be Sharing from the Community. What are meaningful and useful ways of advocacy? What help do peace groups need now? How can we communicate with those who do not share our values and beliefs, in a nonviolent way? The evening will close with an Interfaith Worship Service. Enjoy refreshments, and browse the table for literature on peacemaking and advocacy. Contact Barbara Larcom at [].

34] – On Thurs., Jan. 19 at  AM to 7:30 PM at Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, 30 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21201, hear about BLACK PROMETHEUS: RACE, MATERIALISM, AND THE FUTURE OF ATLANTIC RADICALISM. Join a conversation among Johns Hopkins colleagues about race, materialist critique, and the history and future of Atlantic radicalism in acknowledgment of the publication of “Black Prometheus: Race and Radicalism in the Age of Atlantic Slavery” (Oxford University Press, 2016). The author, Jared Hickman (Associate Professor of English), together with Nathan Connolly (Herbert Baxter Adams Associate Professor of History), Jeanne-Marie Jackson (Assistant Professor of English), Shani Mott (Instructor and Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies, Center for Africana Studies), and Hollis Robbins (Director of the Center for Africana Studies), will address questions such as: What exactly is the "material" in materialist critique, and how have the Eurocentric and secularist biases of the Marxist tradition skewed that project in particular directions? On the eve of Donald Trump's inauguration and amid right-nationalist upsurges throughout the world, how do these questions and their answers bear on our current political moment? Call 443-602-7585.  Go to

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs