Monday, March 31, 2014

New Documentary [sic] 'Cesar Chavez' Showcases the Power of Union Organizing and Immigrant Labor

Published on Alternet (

Truthdig [1] / By Sonali Kolhatkar [2]

New Documentary [sic] 'Cesar Chavez' Showcases the Power of Union Organizing and Immigrant Labor

March 28, 2014 |

When Ronald Reagan famously ate grapes on television as governor of California in 1969, he was thumbing his nose at a growing movement for the rights of farmworkers. The grape boycott that Reagan proudly defied put him on the wrong side of history. Today, the leader of that boycott, Cesar Chavez, who died more than 20 years ago at the age of 66, not only has his March 31 birthday commemorated each year, but he now has a feature film dramatizing his life.

The 1960s struggle of migrant farmworkers in California played out alongside many other political movements of the time. Long hours, brutal conditions and lower-than-minimum wages provided the impetus for the great grape strike and boycott, centered in Delano, Calif. The campaign, led by Chavez and Dolores Huerta, the co-founders of the National Farm Workers Association (today known as United Farm Workers of America), lasted more than five years and involved hundreds of miles-long marches, nearly month-long hunger strikes and brutal police violence.

That story and Chavez’s central role in it are depicted in a new biopic by Mexican actor and director Diego Luna. The film, named simply “Cesar Chavez,” opens in theaters Friday, just days before what would have been the labor organizer’s 87th birthday. Starring Michael Peña as Chavez, America Ferrera as Chavez’s wife Helen and Rosario Dawson as Huerta, the film is Luna’s directorial debut.

Thirty-five-year-old Luna is no stranger to politics and political filmmaking. He has spoken out about Mexico’s brutal drug war, lending his support to family members of the war’s victims who traveled across the U.S. in a caravan from Mexico. He has also supported drug legalization to undermine cartels. And he co-founded Ambulante [3], the largest documentary film festival in Mexico, to “support and spread documentary film as a tool of social and cultural transformation.”

Best known for his role in Alfonso Cuarón’s “Y Tu Mamá También,” Luna has also appeared in Hollywood films such as “Criminal,” “Casa de mi Padre” and most recently “Elysium.” In an interview [4] on Uprising [5], I asked him why, as a Mexican national, he considered the American Chavez an important figure worth making a film about. Luna told me, “It transcends the experience of Mexican-Americans or Latinos here. It’s a story about change, about a nonviolent movement, about a beautiful message of being united and finding strength in numbers.” Luna believes “it is a story that should be told in this country, but also south of the border, in Latin America.”

In only one hour and 40 minutes, Luna weaves a brisk narrative that jumps headfirst into Chavez’s efforts to unionize farmworkers in Delano in 1965. The young filmmaker said he was deeply inspired by “how intelligent [the strike organizers] were and how much ahead of their time they were.” He marveled at how migrant farmworkers were “a forgotten community, completely ignored, that suddenly said ‘Hmmm ... there is a chance for us to connect with consumers. And it’s nonviolence that will get us there.’ ”

Luna imagined the conversations that farmworkers might have had with the public, saying, “I have no bathrooms when I work in the fields; if I miss a day, I lose my job. There’s nothing that can assure me I have a job. Every morning I’m in the position of not knowing if I can bring back food to the table. But in the meantime I’m feeding a country!”

Rather than using extras to depict workers, Luna collaborated closely with the UFW to cast actual farmworkers in his film. He explained, “You cannot put makeup on someone and make it look like [a farmworker]. It’s easier to tell a farmworker what we do in film than explaining to an extra what it is to be a farmworker.”

The result is a portrait of a movement with which no one can remain unsympathetic. Peña’s performance as Chavez is nuanced and authentic, showcasing his organizing triumphs as well as his private anguish over his rocky family ties. That Luna chose to explore Chavez’s relationship with his wife and older son Fernando is commendable. Most stories depicting larger-than-life male heroes rarely count the high costs of balancing work and family.

The authenticity of the film is also apparent in the many clips of actual black and white news footage Luna inserted seamlessly in between dramatizations. Although an actor plays the role of Bobby Kennedy, Reagan appears as himself, and the result is coherent.

If any aspects of Chavez’s story get short shrift in the film, it is his formative years — as this review [6] points out, what is a superhero without an origin story? — as well as the role that Filipino union organizers played in the strike and boycott. Filipino activists in Los Angeles were so upset at the downplaying of union organizer Larry Itliong’s role in the film that they even picketed the premiere [7].
But Chavez’s story in the format of an accessible feature film comes at a time when organized labor is attempting to revive itself with high profile efforts at Walmart and in the fast-food industry. It also highlights the importance of the nation’s immigrant workforce at a time when immigration reform and the increasing demographic representation of Latinos in the U.S. are hot-button issues. Ironically, Luna’s film screened at the White House last week with President Obama — labeled by immigrant rights activists as “Deporter-in-Chief [8]” — giving the opening remarks [9].

Chavez and the UFW have had a historically complicated relationship with immigration, which Luna chose not to explore in his film. Although the majority of farmworkers they represented were undocumented, Chavez opposed the role that new undocumented immigrants crossing the border played in breaking the UFW’s strike, and to that end, he opposed the U.S.’ controversial Bracero program for immigrant guest workers. Luna defended Chavez, saying, “From the beginning of the union until today, they represent undocumented workers. It’s not about documents or legal status, it’s about breaking a strike. They always invited every worker to join the union.”

Chavez, who at one time used derogatory terms [10] like “illegals” and “wetbacks,” should not be judged by today’s standards, Luna asserted. “You have to see things in context,” the director said. “The terms he used were the terms everyone used back then.” Luna offered an analogy: “I have pictures of my mum smoking while pregnant ... but in the context of the ’70s that was fine. Obviously today you and I would never say ‘illegals.’ ” The UFW maintains that “some people falsely claim the UFW is or has been against undocumented workers,” and lists on its foundation website [11] the myriad ways in which the union and Chavez have been “longtime champions of immigration reform.”

Clearly troubled by Obama’s harsh policies on immigration, Luna told me, “I worry a lot about deportations, and I worry a lot about how they are doing them. This is a very big problem ... and it’s breaking families.” But he maintained it is not enough to simply end deportations. “You have to fix the whole thing,” he insisted. “This is a form of slavery and it is something I don’t want to be part of. Eleven million people working in this country without having the rights of those who are consuming the fruit of their labor — that can’t be called the ‘Land of Freedom,’ come on! It’s just ridiculous.”

In explaining to me his thought process, Luna illuminated the shortcomings of film as a medium, saying, “I did a lot of research ... to find out what it is to be a union organizer. I needed to know almost everything to then try to forget it, and then go and do the film I wanted to do. Yes, I got all this information, all these details, I took many notes, I rewrote the script so many times.” But, he acknowledged, “you go to shoot and it’s not anymore about that because film is not a history lesson. The idea of a film is to entertain.”

Luna’s “Cesar Chavez” should be seen as an entry point for Americans who know little about him to dig deeper and perhaps discover films such as the 2008 documentary “Viva La Causa: The Story of Cesar Chavez and a Great Movement” [12] or the newly completed documentary “Cesar’s Last Fast” [13] by Richard Ray Perez, which debuted at this year’s Sundance Festival. Perhaps they may also seek out books such as Jacques Levy’s “Cesar Chavez: Autobiography of La Causa” [14] or Miriam Pawel’s just-published “The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: a Biography [15].” Even the UFW website [16]is an easily accessible online resource with a wealth of information.

Ultimately, Chavez’s story offers prescient lessons for the work that remains to be done today on immigrant and labor rights. Luna distilled it, saying, “As this community [of farmworkers] showed us, it’s about organizing. It’s about getting together, raising our voice at the same time.

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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

"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

Millions-Strong March for Dignity Shakes Spain

Published on Portside (

Millions-Strong March for Dignity Shakes Spain

Dick Nichols

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Green Left

All political forces in Spain are now straining to adjust to the huge 1 million to 2 million-strong March for Dignity demonstration in Madrid. On March 22, the march greeted the protest columns that had converged on Spain's capital from 12 outlying cities and towns over the previous week.

The enormous success of this initiative is still sinking in. How come an initiative that began outside the mainstream union confederations, the Workers Commissions (CCOO) and the General Workers Union (UGT), could mobilise so many people and eventually force them to declare their support?

One of the reasons was the very caution of CCOO and UGT leaders over the past year. After calling national days of action and two general strikes in 2011 and 2012, the mainstream confederations have been quiet for more than a year. They have been apparently concerned about their capacity to mobilise members in a phase of rising unemployment.

They have been fearful of producing a flop that the People’s Party (PP) government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy could exploit to mount the next phase of its anti-union laws (being called for by the European Commission but so far hesitated over by Rajoy).
Regardless of whether there was any substance to this reasoning, the crisis has kept grinding on. It is ruining the livelihoods and futures of millions, especially as family savings run out.

By early this year, 650,000 households in the Spanish state were forced to survive with no income at all.

However, various groups have stepped into the leadership vacuum created by the paralysis of the CCOO’s and UGT.

The initial idea for the march came from the Dignity Camps set up in Extremadura, Spain’s westernmost state, with an unemployment rate running at 32.3%. The Dignity Camps arose from a protest outside the government employment office in the city of Merida. Protesters called for the creation of 25,000 public sector jobs and a guaranteed minimum income.

From this seed, a network rapidly grew to more than 300 collectives and social platforms, and thousands of individuals. Its demands expanded to cover the concerns of new participants, such as the Spanish state’s most well-known social movement, the Mortgage Victims Platform (PAH), and the various “tides” against health and education cuts.

A key actor in the movement has been Communist Party of Spain (PCE) Extremadura leader Manual Canada. He is convinced that, with the right tactics, the unemployed can become a source of social mobilisation. “The Dignity Camps are the working-class 15M (indignado) movement”, he is fond of saying.

Canada also shares the extra-institutional strategy of the Andalusian Workers Union (SAT), led by Jose Manuel Sanchez Gordillo, the mayor of the cooperative-based town of Marinaleda.

The SAT is famous in Spain for its raids on supermarkets to take food to feed the hungry, occupations of idle government lands and marches to dramatise its members'

The first Dignity March took place in Extremadura in September last year. At the time, the leaders of the Dignity Camps also established links with the Civic Front (We’re the Majority) of former United Left national coordinator Julio Anguita.
With this broader leadership in place, and joined by others such as leading members of ATTAC (Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions for the Aid of Citizens), the planning for the national March for Dignity began late last year.
It made use of the resources and structures of sympathetic unions and the United Left, the main force to the left of the social democratic Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE).

Once the March for Dignity became public, it rapidly became clear that it was an initiative for which millions had been waiting. Endorsements of its manifesto rapidly multiplied and the popularity of the initiative forced the mainstream union confederations to give it their blessing.

It has been estimated that those who completed the actual marches to Madrid can be counted in the thousands, with the Andalusia column, led by the SAT, the biggest. However, the warm reception these columns received as they passed from one unemployment-stricken regional town to the next was confirmation that they were speaking for millions.

The popular reception reached a crescendo in Madrid. This was registered first when the columns were quartered in various working-class suburbs. But it was on full display on March 22, when hundreds of thousands came from regional Spain to join the hundreds of thousands more Madrid citizens in welcoming the marchers.

However, mainstream TV coverage of the event concentrated on the violent end-of-demonstration clash between the police and what were probably provocateurs (who were disowned by the March for Dignity’s organising collective).

The PP’s Madrid regional premier then likened the marchers to members of the Greek neo-Nazi outfit Golden Dawn. Central government representative in Madrid, Cristina Cifuentes, opened a legal case against its organisers with a view to bankrupting the group with court-imposed fines.

Gines Fernandez, amember of the coordinating collective, put his finger on the roots of these responses: “Cifuentes’ accusations show that, as the rap group 'Los Chikos del Maiz' say, fear is changing sides.

“The government representative and the government itself are trying to silence a massive and important protest which has managed to unite in Madrid people from all regions of the state with very concrete demands: No to the payment of the debt; bread, shelter and work; and not one more service cut.”
The next phase in the work of the March for Dignity will involve actions at the regional level, with the next national mobilisation tentatively planned for April.
[Dick Nichols is Green Left Weekly’s European correspondent. Read an English translation of the March for Dignity’s manifesto [1].]

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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

"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

How Whale Feces Slows Down Ocean Warming

Published on Alternet (

Climate News Network [1] / By Alex Kirby [2]
How Whale Feces Slows Down Ocean Warming

March 27, 2014 |

LONDON — There is plenty yet to learn about the causes and effects of climate change, and here is one fact you may perhaps not have known until now: defecating sperm whales are helping to slow the warming of the Southern Ocean.

A team of Australian scientists and colleagues based at Flinders University in Adelaide reported in Proceedings of the Royal Society B (in 2010) that the whales help to increase levels of iron in Antarctic waters (which are iron-deficient).

Iron is important for marine life, and the polar oceans are important for helping to regulate atmospheric CO2 levels. So the whales' personal hygiene is helping vastly smaller lifeforms to thrive, which in turn keeps the ocean ecosystem in balance and able to recycle carbon safely to the seabed.

Scientists had believed that the whales' breathing decreased the efficiency of the Southern Ocean's biological pump by returning carbon from the depths to the surface and thence to the atmosphere, where it would add to the greenhouse gases already there.

But the Flinders team says that by consuming prey in deep water (the whales search for squid at 1,200 meters or even further down) and then releasing iron-rich liquid feces into the sunlit zone near the surface, the whales instead stimulate new primary production and return the carbon to deep water.

Damaged by whaling

"Primary production" is the scientific term used to describe the minute forms of life produced by the effect of light in the presence of nutrients and - crucially - iron.

The researchers say Southern Ocean sperm whales stimulate the return of 40,000 tons of carbon annually to the deep ocean but breathe out only half that amount. So by stimulating new primary production, the 12,000 Antarctic whales act as a carbon sink, removing twice as much carbon from the atmosphere as they add by their breathing.

The team adds that the ability of the Southern Ocean to act as a carbon sink has been diminished by the large-scale killing of sperm whales during the era of industrial whaling, which reduced the global populations of many whale species to a fraction of their historic levels.

The researchers say the killing of the whales, by decreasing iron inputs to the surface zone, has had a serious impact. "This nutrient loss has undoubtedly altered the dynamics and food-web structure of these environments and this has decreased carbon export to the deep ocean", they conclude.

Not unique

News of the researchers' conclusions, which have so far gone largely unreported, was given to journalists covering a recent meeting in Hong Kong of the Global Ocean Commission by Professor Alex Rogers, of the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford, UK.

Asked by the Climate News Network whether the findings might apply to other whale species in other oceans, he said: "Not for iron, as the Southern Ocean is a high-nutrient low-chlorophyll area and thus primary production in this region is specifically limited by iron. In most other parts of the ocean it is limited by nitrates."

But a similar paper had shown that before industrial whaling began whales had been the primary source of nitrates through the same process in Chesapeake Bay, on the US Atlantic coast. So fertilization through defecation was likely to be a common mechanism, although different constituents of the feces were important, and in the Antarctic krill might also be important in iron release.

Professor Rogers said whales made other useful contributions to human welfare. Taken together, the toothed whales — a group including sperm whales, belugas and narwhals — were thought to contribute 0.5-1.0% of all the energy needed for ocean mixing.

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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

"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

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Baltimore Activist Alert Mar. 31 – Apr. 6, 2014

Baltimore Activist Alert Mar. 31 – Apr. 6, 2014

"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 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski [at]

Tune into the Maryland Progressive Blog at

1] Books, buttons & stickers
2] Web site for info on federal legislation
3] Join Nonviolent Resistance lists
4] Buy coffee through HoCoFoLa
5] Marc Steiner on WEAA – Mar. 31 – Apr. 4
6] "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race" – through Apr. 30
7] Human, Soul & Machine: The Coming Singularity – through Aug. 31
8] "Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons Initiative and its Relationship to the Non-Proliferation Treaty" – Mar. 31
9] Demonstration for Sane Gun Reform – Mar. 31
10] "Islam, Sharia & Alternative Dispute Resolution" – Mar. 31
11] Afghan election – Mar. 31
12] Film "How to Survive a Plague" – Mar. 31
13] Pledge of Resistance/Fund Our Communities meeting – Mar. 31
14] Andy Shallal Rally – Mar. 31
15] Lobby with SOA Watch – Apr. 1
16] Philadelphia Peace Vigil – Apr. 1
17] Condemn drone research at JHU – Apr. 1
18] School of International Service events – Apr. 1-2
20] Organizing, Mobilizing & Advocating for Transgender Equality – Apr. 1
21] "The Price of Privacy: Re-evaluating the NSA" – Apr. 1
1] – Buttons, bumperstickers and books are available. “God Bless the Whole World, No Exceptions” stickers are in stock. Donate your books to Max. Call him at 410-366-1637.

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 Verizon dot net. 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 mobuszewski at Verizon dot net.

4] – You can help safeguard human rights and fragile ecosystems through your purchase of HOCOFOLA Café Quetzal. Bags of ground coffee or whole beans can be ordered by mailing in an order form. Also note organic cocoa and sugar are for sale. For more details and to download the order form, go to The coffee comes in one-pound bags.

Fill out the form and mail it with a check made out to HOCOFOLA on or before the second week of the month. Be sure you indicate ground or beans for each type of coffee ordered. Send it to Adela Hirsch, 5358 Eliots Oak Rd., Columbia, MD 21044. Be sure you indicate ground (G) or bean (B) for each type of coffee ordered. The coffee will arrive some time the following week and you will be notified where to pick it up. Contact Adela at 410-997-5662 or via e-mail at

5] – The Marc Steiner Show airs Monday through Friday from 9 to 11 AM 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

6] – The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's production, "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race" will be exhibited at the Health Sciences and Human Services Library at University of Maryland, Baltimore, Frieda O. Weise Gallery, 601 W. Lombard St. The exhibition will feature photos, films, testimonials and other documentation of Nazi racial experimentation and theories. The exhibit will continue through April 30. Call 410-706-7545. See

7] – See the exhibit Human, Soul & Machine: The Coming Singularity, which
delves into the various ways technology affects lives through the perspective of inventors, futurists and 40 plus visionary artists. The intent is to bring new thoughts on artificial intelligence, robotics, genetics, nanotechnology, 3D printing, and big data, and you can see it through August 31 at the American Visionary Art Museum, 800 Key Hwy. Call 410-244-1900. Go to A ticket costs $20.

8] – On Mon., Mar. 31 from 9:30 to 11:30 AM, Ira Helfand, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and Guakhar Mukhatzhanova, Monterey Institute, will address "Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons Initiative and its Relationship to the Non-Proliferation Treaty." Sponsored by Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Arms Control Association, the event is at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Choate Room, 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, WDC. RSVP at

For decades, the risks posed by nuclear weapons use have driven global leaders, particularly the policymakers in states possessing nuclear weapons, to pursue concrete steps to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons use. Recognizing this threat, the 2010 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference Final Document expresses "deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and [reaffirmed] the need for all States at all times to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law."

The lack of progress on key 2010 NPT disarmament goals has led many nonnuclear weapon states to organize a series of conferences focusing on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. A third conference will be held by Austria in Vienna later this year to evaluate how the humanitarian consequences dialogue can lead to concrete actions that reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles and risks and spur action before and after the 2015 NPT Review Conference.

9] – There is a White House Demonstration for Sane Gun Reform on Mon., Mar. 31 from 11 AM to 1 PM at the North Side of The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Gun violence is a public health issue -- the AMA and AARP recognize this! How About you, Congress? This Monday a concerned group of citizens are coming together to demand common sense legislation on gun violence prevention and safety and who are not afraid of the NRA LEADERSHIP. They are calling on Congress to recognize this is a public health emergency. Contact Helen Ramsey at

10] – Get to a briefing about his book "Islam, Sharia & Alternative Dispute Resolution" with Dr. Mohamed Keshavjee on Mon., Mar. 31 at 12:30 PM at Georgetown University, 3700 O St. NW, Bunn Intercultural Center (ICC), Suite 270. ACMCU (Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding) invites you to the briefing. He will discuss the foundations of Sharia and its differing interpretations, as well as the concept of alternative dispute resolution with references to specific cases. Dr. Keshavjee hopes to provide a more nuanced understanding and appreciation of the role that faith based dispute resolution systems can play through proper application of their ethical principles operating under the public laws of the Western countries where Muslims are settled today. Seating is limited. Lunch will be provided. Please RSVP here:

11] – On Mon., Mar. 31 from 12:15 to 1:45 PM at the New America Foundation, 1899 L St. NW, Suite 400, WDC 20036, listen to a discussion about the April 5 presidential election in Afghanistan. With current President Hamid Karzai constitutionally barred from running for a third term, the election could mark Afghanistan's first peaceful transfer of power between two democratically elected governments. No single frontrunner has emerged from the pack of nine presidential contenders, making the possibility of a run-off between the two candidates who receive the most votes - though shy of the necessary 50 percent - more likely.

Faiysal AliKhan, a Carnegie Fellow with the New America Foundation's International Security Program, spent the last month traveling around Afghanistan, speaking to provincial governors, tribal leaders, government ministers, and several of the candidates about the election, the transition from Karzai to his successor, and the withdrawal of foreign troops at the end of December. He will share what he learned on the campaign trail, and other experts will discuss what the 2014 election. RSVP for the event at Contact Liana Simonds at New America at 292-735-2829 or

12] – See the film "How to Survive a Plague" on Mon., Mar. 31 from 7 to 9 PM at the University of Maryland, 1104 South Campus Commons, Building 1, College Park. This is part of Beyond the Classroom. In this film, faced with their own mortality an improbable group of young people, many of them HIV-positive, broke the mold as radical warriors taking on Washington and the medical establishment. This is the story of two coalitions—ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group)—whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition. Despite having no scientific training, these self-made activists infiltrated the pharmaceutical industry and helped identify promising new drugs, moving them from experimental trials to patients in record time. With unfettered access to a treasure trove of never-before-seen archival footage from the 1980s and 1990s, filmmaker David France puts the viewer smack in the middle of the controversial actions, the heated meetings, the heartbreaking failures, and the exultant breakthroughs of heroes in the making. Go to

13] – The Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore usually meets on Mondays at 7:30 PM, and the meetings take place at Max’s residence. The next meeting will be on Mon., Mar. 31. The proposed agenda will include a report on the appeal of conviction of the CIA Five, the legislative issues in Annapolis--GMO labeling, anti-BDS, and anti-fracking--anti-drone activities, including the Spring Actions, Cornel West, the NSA debate and the Patrick Bond talk. Call 410-366-1637 or email mobuszewski at for directions.

14] – Get over to an Andy Shallal Rally at Ben's Chili Bowl on Mon., Mar. 31 at 7:30 PM. This is the final campaign rally to push to rally the vote and have a strong showing on April 1 during the election for mayor. Go to

15] – On Tues., Apr. 1, SOA Watch activists and staff will meet with their members of Congress to urge them to cosponsor HR 2989, and support other positive policies toward Latin America. Contact Arturo at 202-234-3440 or On this National Call-In Day, voices of activists from around the country can be amplified by concentrating our strength on one day and blitzing the Capitol phone lines.

16] – 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 Street & JFK Blvd., at the entrance to Tracks 3 and 4 on the mezzanine. The next vigil is Apr. 1. Call 215-426-0364.

17] – Vigil to say "No Drone Research at JHU" each Tuesday at 34th & North Charles Sts. Join this ongoing vigil. At the next vigil on Apr. 1, however there will be a commemoration of Fukushima from 5:30 to 6:30 PM. The tragic nuclear accident occurred March 11, 2011. Call Max at 410-366-1637.

18] – School of International Service, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW, WDC 20016, is hosting a series of events. Weini Li, SIS/MA '13 will speak on Tues., Apr. 1 from 4 to 5 PM in the Atrium. From 5 to 6:30 PM in MGC 245, the topic is Afghan Elections, the Future of U.S.-Afghan Relations, and You. The speakers are Ronald Neumann, former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, David Sedney, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense [sic] for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Parnian Nazery, Women for Afghan Women, and Sally Shelton-Colby, SIS.

See "Rehaii," a film about women's issues in Pakistan on Tues., Apr. 1 at 6 PM at MGC's Weschler Theater. The film is sponsored by the US-Pakistan Women's Council Student Chapter. Thomas Pickering, career ambassador, will tackle Improving the Relationship between the United States and Iran on Wed., Apr. 2 from 3:30 to 5 PM in SIS 300.

19] – See a FREE MOVIE SCREENING of CESAR CHAVEZ on Tues., Apr. 1 at 6 PM at the Regal Cinema Chinatown, 701 7th St. NW, WDC 20001. The Good Jobs Nation campaign invites you to the screening of the biography of the civil-rights activist and labor organizer, starring Michael Peña, Rosario Dawson and John Malkovich. Before the screening, a panel of experts and workers will discuss the parallels between the farm worker fight that Cesar Chavez inspired and the low wage worker organizing that's happening around the country today. Go to

20] – Beyond the Classroom is proud to present this special seminar by Andy Bowen (UMD ‘08)--Organizing, Mobilizing & Advocating for Transgender Equality in the Washington, D.C. Area & Beyond—on Tues., Apr. 1 from 6:30 to 8:30 PM. Andy will share the struggles and recent achievements for transgender rights, as well as her journey from UMD college student to professional activist in Washington, D.C. The seminar occurs at the University of Maryland, College Park in South Campus Commons Building 1, Seminar Room 1102.

In the past decade, American attitudes on gay and lesbian rights-- such as same-sex marriage, adoption, and military service-- have shifted tremendously, with polls showing unprecedented levels of support. But what about the "T" in "LGBT"? Get to

21] – On Tues., Apr. 1 at 8 PM, hear a debate "The Price of Privacy: Re-evaluating the NSA" between Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and NSA, and David Cole, Georgetown professor of constitutional law, in Shriver Hall. The debate is organized by the JHU Foreign Affairs Symposium. Visit

To be continued.

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

"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

Ogaden to Dadaab in Search of Peace

Ogaden to Dadaab in Search of Peace
By Graham Peebles

Meeting the victims

It was dark when I arrived at Wilson Airport, Nairobi for the 7am United Nations charter flight to Dadaab. I was in Kenya to meet refugees from the Ogaden region of Ethiopia and record their stories. Accounts of false imprisonment, murder, rape, torture at the hands of the ERPRDF government: stories, which would prove deeply distressing.

An inhospitable land, the Ogaden region is home to around five million Ethnic-Somalis, and has been the battleground for several armed conflicts between Somalia and Ethiopia since the 19th century. There is natural gas and oil under Ogaden soil: is the Ogaden yet another oil-infused battleground?

A hidden war, the people’s suffering irrelevant in the eyes of Ethiopia’s donor benefactors, who see their ally as stable and ignore wide-ranging human rights abuses.
Mainly pastoralists, the people of the region live simple lives tending their cattle and moving along ancestral pathways. Most have never been to school, cannot read or write and live hard but honest lives in tune with the land. They want simply to be left alone, and allowed to live peaceful dignified lives.
Shocking stories

A fleet of white UN 4x4s met the incoming Nairobi flight and drove us along the pitted dusty road through Dadaab town to the main United Nations Humanitarian Committee for Refugees (UNHCR) compound. With a population approaching 500,000 in the five sites Dadaab Refugee Camp collectively forms the largest temporary settlement (22 years temporary) in the world.

A small open room in the middle of one of the courtyards suffices as a workspace. Noor, a tall man in his forties, was eager to talk about his experiences. Strong and proud, he had worked for the local government in Fiiq province, Ogaden. All regional government activities, he said, are supervised by the military, “they control everything.” Arrested without charge in 2010, he had been imprisoned for two years in barracks, where he “was repeatedly beaten. After two years I was released and confined under house arrest, but managed to escape.” Noor had witnessed the killing “of a 14-year-old girl, by the Ethiopian military. She had set up a small business – a kiosk. The military suspected she received financial support from the ONLF [The Ogaden National Liberation Front, which has been fighting for self-determination since 1984].”

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Noor, frustrated by the lack of international interest, estimates that less than 25% of aid reaches those it is intended for; the military steal the rest, some is used to feed soldiers and the Liyuu Police – their paramilitary brothers-in-arms – some they sell to starving villagers. Donor countries are unable to monitor aid deliveries: the Ethiopian government has restricted access to the region for aid groups and the media since 2007.

Having told his story, he shook my hand and sat quietly with the others in the stifling heat. One woman, Muus Mohammed, beautiful and bitterly angry, looked at me through doubtful eyes, unsure whether to trust me. She had witnessed the killing of her father and brother by the military, and had been imprisoned herself for three years, when she was repeatedly raped and beaten.

Carrying out orders

The inculcation of fear lies at the heart of the Ethiopian government’s methodology in the region and indeed throughout the country: “the first mission for the military and the Liyuu is to make the people of the Ogaden region afraid of us,” said Dahir, a former divisional commander of the Liyuu force; In keeping with acts of (state) terrorism, he dutifully carried out his orders “to rape and kill, to loot, to burn their homes, and capture their animals – we used to slaughter some of the animals we captured, eat some and some we sold back to their owners.” He ordered and committed hundreds of killings and some 1,200 rapes, or 1,500 – he couldn’t say precisely. Should this man be granted asylum in London, to end up running a café in Shepherd’s Bush, or in Sweden studying engineering in Stockholm? This moral question confronted me as the former soldier recounted serial brutality that turned my stomach, rendering me silent.

In the safety of the UNHCR compound, a huge enclosure reminiscent of a French campsite, I met 18-year old Hoden. Dressed in a long black headscarf, she avoided eye contact, looked fragile, and shy and would only speak to me if we were alone. We sat in a small air-conditioned portakabin at the back of the main compound and she slowly, tentatively began to answer my intrusive questions.

She cried as she told me her story. Brought up in Fiqq town, her family moved to Gode after her mother was arrested. It was in Gode that she too was imprisoned for six months, caned, tortured, raped every night by gangs of soldiers. She was a frightened 17-year-old child then, today she is a lonely mother shrouded in shame, with a one-year-old baby girl – result of a rape. Hoden is stigmatized within her community for ‘having a child from an Ethiopian soldier’. At the end of our time together she said her ‘future has been ruined.’ She lowered her head and wept.
Omar was a slight, gentle man with a glazed frightened stare, a look I would come to recognise many times during the week. He came to Dadaab in September 2012 from Gode, in the district of Godi, which he said, is one of the most badly affected areas of the Ogaden conflict.

His wife, son and brother had been killed: pregnant with their second child, Omar’s wife became sick and “decided to travel to the countryside to drink goat’s milk hoping to recover.” When her condition deteriorated Omar went to her. “I stayed on in the countryside and sent my wife and son back [to Godi] with my brother.” They were stopped by the military “and asked where they had come from, what they were doing in the countryside and where they got the car from.” They were accused of being affiliated with the ONLF and executed at the roadside.
Accusations of ONLF membership/support are the common excuse for killings, torture, false imprisonment and rape, accusations brandishing the innocent as the enemy. All three bodies were left at the roadside.

When Omar returned to the city he “found the dead body of my son by the roadside, he was being eaten by stray dogs.” Omar was arrested and imprisoned for “one year and two months,” when he was routinely tortured. “There is a river nearby the prison, late at night we were taken to the river, a rope tied around our necks and held under the water. They pulled me out and beat me with wooden sticks and their rifles. Sometimes they would vary the method and put a sack over my head, tie it around my throat with rope, submerge me in the river, then beat me – it happened to most of the prisoners.” One night around midnight, “the rope broke and I fell into the water. The soldiers thought I had drowned [as many do] and left me, but fortunately I know how to swim and I swam to the opposite bank and escaped.”

We had been talking for over an hour, despair and anger filled the room. Drawn back to the horrors of his family’s tragedy Omar sat staring into his pain, his soul entrapped.

From Victim to Murderer

A sullen 25-year-old former member of the Liyuu Police, Abdi joined the Liyuu, rather than be imprisoned, in August 2010 and became one of 500 in a regiment stationed in Fiiq. He looked guilty and repeatedly justified his actions – saying he had no choice, unable perhaps to face the reality of what he had done.

During their three-month training he and his fellow recruits were told “to enjoy our freedom, and to rape the young women. I raped between 10 and 20 women and remember killing 11 civilians.” Soldiers “who raped a lot of women, who robbed a lot and did lots of killing were rewarded and praised. They were given bonuses of around 5000 ETB ($250) as a present.”

Abdi was in the force for two years, three months. Two appalling incidents caused him to leave. “One day we saw a group of pastoralist families with their animals. We approached the families and took three women aged 20 to 30 years and nine girls aged 15-20 years old… We were 300 soldiers. We raped all the women and killed about 80 people.” A group of seven furious village elders “came to ask why we raped their women, one of the men was the father of a girl we raped. The old man was very angry and took a stone and hit the leader of our force on the head, and made him bleed. The leader selected two soldiers and ordered them to kill all seven elders and all the girls and women.” This took place in March 2011 and “started to make me feel sorry for the people.” Despite this rush of compassion, Abdi stayed with the force another year, until a final atrocious straw broke his military resolve. It was around 20th December 2012 in the rural area around Galalshe, where “we killed 96 innocent people. Of the 96, 25 were tied together in a clear field, two soldiers were selected and they shot them all dead. We also burnt their homes to the ground. That day I saw a woman who was dead and lying on her was her baby, who was suckling from her breast. That is the day I decided to leave the Liyuu police.”

I had never sat with a man who had killed and raped; I thanked him for his honesty. He was only a child himself, his life before him a past to somehow atone for.
Aid convoys travel to the camps in convoys of 15-30 vehicles with armed Kenyan police throughout: carjacking and hijacking of staff and visitors is an Al-Shabab threat taken seriously.

In Dagahaley camp (c. 100,000 people), an array of shacks 20-minutes’ drive from UNHCR’s Dadaab compound, children and women collected outside the gates of the UN field office. Fifty or so men, women and children were ushered unceremoniously into a holding area, where they sat with the same dignity I had seen on my first day. I photographed them against the white wall of the UNHCR offices. Ahmed, my translator, wrote a succinct word or two next to their name: Ardo, female 30, falsely imprisoned, gang raped, tortured; Fadumo, female 40, falsely imprisoned, gang raped, tortured; Raho, female 31, falsely imprisoned, gang raped, tortured, her family killed by the Ethiopian military; Cibaado, female, 60, blinded in prison and burned; Khadar Hared Adam, male 17, tortured, using a crocodile to attack his legs.
“Why don’t they stop the violence?”

Many who arrive in Dadaab journey to the Kenyan border on foot, walking in intense heat over harsh landscapes for months: 40 year old Fadumu Siyad arrived in Dadaab in August 2012 after two months: “we used to walk all day and all night. At first we cooked food we carried with us, but after a month the food was finished, then we looked for pastoralists who helped us by giving us food and milk. I was walking with my three young children,” a girl, 14 and two boys, 10 and 7 years.
In the Hagadera camp I met Ardo, a pastoralist; she had never known a permanent home, used a power shower or a dishwasher, she bathed in wells ‘sometimes’ and lived a simple life. “I had very long hair, down to my waist, they used to tie my hair around my throat to strangle me and then, whilst the hair was tied like this, they would rape me.” ‘They’ are Ethiopian soldiers, carrying out the orders of the EPRDF government.

May I ask something now, said Ardo: “Why are the British and Americans supporting the government? Why don’t they stop the violence? Why do they say nothing?”
On my last day a defected former officer from the Liyuu Police agreed to talk to me. Forcibly recruited when he was 30, he was in the force for five years before the horror of what he was doing became too much for his humane sensibilities. Trained to rape and kill, and how to “break a virgin,”, a brutal process involving 15 – -18 -year -old girls who have been falsely imprisoned. He told of violent abuses constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity that shocked and appalled.
How to speak to a man who has just told you he and his “men” dismembered teenage girls, buried others alive, hanged boys, murdered village elders and incessantly raped. He seemed to be in a permanent state of shock, staring out from a dark place onto a world of his own making.

The Ethiopian government denies any abuse is taking place in the Ogaden region.
It was pouring with rain as we landed in Nairobi: I walked to my hotel, ate, began writing and wondered at our fractured world and man’s continual inhumanity to man.

This article was published at NationofChange at: All rights are reserved.

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

"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

Retaliation Measures Taken at Texas Detention Facility as Detainees Resume Hunger Strike in Tacoma

Retaliation Measures Taken at Texas Detention Facility as Detainees Resume Hunger Strike in Tacoma

Friday, 28 March 2014 09:46 By Candice Bernd, Truthout | Report

(Image: Hunger Strike via Noemi B)

Family members of detainees on hunger strike at the Joe Corley Detention Facility in Conroe, Texas, say that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have retaliated against three detainees they believe to be "leaders" of the ongoing peaceful protest by isolating and shackling them and scheduling another for deportation.

Truthout reported on a hunger strike at a privately run GEO Group immigration detention center in Tacoma, Washington, that inspired a similar strike at the Conroe facility, also owned by the GEO Group, last week. Since then, the hunger strike at the Tacoma detention center has resumed and instances of retaliation at both facilities are apparent.

The wife of one detainee at the Joe Corley Detention Facility says her husband, Rubén Rodriguez Bonilla, phoned her Tuesday morning with news of ICE plans to deport him to Honduras on Thursday.

"They're trying to disappear my husband," Sandra Bonilla said in a translated statement released by the grassroots Houston group Alianza Mexicana. "Instead of treating the detainees like human beings they want to treat them like animals. And if they ask for better, they try to get rid of them. My husband should be home with our family, not in detention. He doesn't want to be treated like a dog, and so they're punishing him even more. There's nothing humane about that."

According to family members, lawyers and immigrant justice groups working on their behalf, another three men have been isolated at the Texas facility, and shackled at the ankles, wrists and connected by the waist to steel beds with no blankets or pillows.
ICE officials did not publicly acknowledge a hunger strike at the Texas facility last week, despite two letters outlining a list of demands released by detainees who have since been isolated at the facility.

This week, Houston ICE spokesman Greg Palmore acknowledged that at least three detainees are participating in a hunger strike, saying the men "have been separated from the general population and placed under medical observation." Palmore told Truthout that no punitive actions have been taken against individuals who are participating in the protest.

He confirmed to Truthout that Rodriguez Bonilla was not scheduled for deportation Thursday and that his case is going through appeal. But Palmore said ICE does not provide "removal information for detainees for security reasons." Palmore did not confirm whether ICE officials would force-feed detainees.

But detainees and others who have visited the facility have told Truthout retaliatory measures are being taken at the Texas facility.

Rodriguez Bonilla told his wife that he has not been isolated but was put into a smaller cell with other detainees, some of whom are on hunger strike. He told her four detainees have been removed from his cell this week; he believes them to have been deported. He has also alleged that detention facility officials have attempted to coerce the detainees into signing voluntary departure forms to speed their deportation.

The current number of hunger-striking detainees is difficult to confirm this week because visitation with civilians has been limited since detainees launched the hunger strike last Monday. At one point, at least 120 men were on hunger strike at the Texas facility, but the detainees have been separated from each other, according to family members, and put into smaller group cells, making the number of hunger strikers difficult to confirm.

"Joe Corley detention center is shut down like Fort Knox," said Hope Sanford, who organizes with Alianza Mexicana. "It's … opaque. That's how [prison officials] are keeping it."

Sanford and family members told Truthout that prison guards purposely unshackle the detainees who have been isolated when any visitors approach. The three isolated detainees are allowed only one visit per week.

Tacoma Strikers Negotiate, Inspire Legislative Action
Meanwhile at least 70 detainees at the Northwest Detention Center have resumed hunger striking Monday, but exact numbers remain difficult to assess.

Retaliatory measures also may have been used against detainees at the Tacoma facility, such as placing some detainees in solitary confinement and threatening to force-feed them, according to immigration rights activists working with and visiting the detainees in Tacoma.

Organizer Maru Mora Villalpando told Truthout that prison guards at the Tacoma detention center have been listening in on the detainees' conversations and that the detainees have responded to by finding more "creative" ways to communicate.

Congressman Adam Smith, a Democrat from Bellevue, among other representatives, visited the Northwest Dentention Center last week after news of the detainees' massive hunger strike made national headlines. Smith met with three detainees and agreed with the men that their concerns about the center's conditions were valid. Smith plans to introduce legislation that would create minimum standards by which immigrants can be detained.

"It is really problematic having a private company running this," Smith told The Stranger, emphasizing that the GEO Group contracts out the handling of meals for detainees to third parties. "So I can imagine that the less they pay for the food, the more money they make."
Immigrant rights activists acted on behalf of Tacoma hunger-striking detainees during negotiations with ICE officials in Seattle on Friday, presenting the detainees' list of demands. Organizers said ICE officials invited organizations that had nothing to do with negotiations, and that one group declined the invitation for this reason.

ICE officials told the group that the Tacoma facility is one of the top detention centers in the country. "If that's true, then it tells me the rest of the country is in terrible, terrible shape," Villalpando told Truthout in response.

When negotiating over the detainees' food concerns, ICE officials offered to provide the detainees chicken with bones. When Villalpando took that information back to hunger striking detainees, one detainee told her that ICE's response was "literally just throwing a bone at [detainees] to make them quiet."

ICE officials also told the group that the detainees' personal anecdotes about medical care at the facility were not enough evidence to agree to any of their demands concerning adequate care.

But perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the negotiation process was the discussion concerning the center's profit margins, the length of time it takes for detainees to be released and the rate of bond at the center.

"One thing that we learned is that because we have a detention center here, really, it's a priority to fill up that place and not to offer alternatives to detention," Villapando said. "It really means that if we didn't have these private detention centers here, people would be more likely out with their families in their homes with alternatives to detention, going through civil proceedings."

ICE hasn't yet followed up with the group concerning the negotiations, but the group did provide a report about their meeting to Congressional representatives.
Pressure Mounts for Immigration Reform Vote, Halt to Deportations

The hunger strikes at the privatized detention facilities continue this week as immigrant justice organizers increase pressure on the Obama administration to put an immediate halt to deportation and to pass immigration reform legislation through a range of tactics, including nonviolent civil disobedience.
Protests have erupted this week at the GEO Group's headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida, as well as at ICE's headquarters in Portland, Oregon. And on Monday, seven activists with the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice were arrested while blocking the entrance of the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Alabama, with two undocumented immigrants among them.

Another group,, launched a new campaign Wednesday aimed at Obama's immigration legacy. Several regional and national immigrant-rights groups have worked together to unveil the "Obama Legacy Project."

The groups hope the campaign will hold Obama accountable by providing a comprehensive account of his immigration record, saying he risks becoming "the worst president in history on immigration."

The projects looks at Obama's record on a long list of issues such as deportation, border militarization, mass incarceration of undocumented immigrants, racial profiling policies, hate crimes, the Secure Communities program, the experiences of immigrant women in detention centers and oversight of border patrol, among others.
"It is a tipping point for the president," said Jesús Iñiguez, a campaigner with who is openly undocumented. "He can either be remembered as deporter-in-chief, the worst president in history on immigration, responsible for the record deportations that have ripped hundreds of thousands of families apart, or he can choose to act."

House Democrats tried once again Wednesday to force a vote on immigration reform legislation with a rarely used procedural maneuver called a discharge petition that would circumvent the Republican majority and skirt the regular committee process to bring the legislation to the floor. The move has been called a long shot and is designed mostly to put pressure on House Republicans to act on a reform package before the year's end, according to The New York Times.

"I applaud the efforts of Democrats in the House to give immigration reform the yes or no vote it deserves," Obama said in a statement released by the White House. "Like the Senate bill, the House bill would strengthen our borders, modernize our legal immigration system, and keep more families together. It would make sure everyone plays by the same rules by providing a pathway to earned citizenship for those who are living in the shadows."

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reaffirmed Tuesday that the House immigration reform package, which is very similar to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act that passed out of committee in the Senate, would reduce the federal deficit by about $900 billion over 20 years.

The move comes after Obama, citing concern about family separation, called for a review of his administration's immigration-enforcement policies this month, to look into whether enforcement could be accomplished "more humanely within the confines of the law."

Iñiguez, though, says that these statements - unaccompanied by action - are not enough.

"The debates happening in Congress seems to be more theatric between both political parties than they are constructive. Meanwhile, immigrants continue to suffer on a daily basis because President Obama has strayed from providing any kind of relief by using his executive authority," Iñiguez said.

Copyright, Truthout.

Candice Bernd is an assistant editor/reporter with Truthout. Follow her on Twitter @CandiceBernd.

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

"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

Drone meeting/A Madness Gene?


I am going to this meeting to plan for the upcoming Spring Days of Action against the drones. The DC-Baltimore Area Action Planning Meeting Ending Drone Killings will bring citizen-activists together on Sun., Mar. 30 from 3 to 5 PM at the Arlington Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy St., 2nd Floor Meeting Room, to discuss plans in conjunction with Know Drones
( Bring your ideas of what can be done to work against the drones used for extrajudicial killing. To RSVP, contact Malachy Kilbride at

Kagiso, Max

Do Humans Have a Madness Gene That Will Ensure the End of the Planet as We Know It?
Friday, 28 March 2014 09:22 By Mark Karlin, Truthout |


There have been five great extinctions of species on Earth, all of them the result of natural causes. In a gripping, thoroughly researched book, Elizabeth Kolbert - a New Yorker journalist specializing in the environment - explores in detail the ongoing likely sixth extinction of a massive number of species, this time because of the destructive practices of the human species.

Get the book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by clicking here.

The following is a Truthout interview with Kolbert:
MARK KARLIN: BuzzFlash interviewed you a few years back about your last book, Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change. Now you are back with The Sixth Extinction. Both books are impeccably documented. Is it fair to see that what you reveal puts us past the point of catastrophe?

ELIZABETH KOLBERT: Right now pretty much all the trends are pointing in the wrong direction. But I wouldn’t say we’re past the point where changing our ways would make a very significant difference.

You firmly explain how the sixth mass extinction of many species is different from the first five. That is because it is being caused by us, yes?

This extinction is unique in that it’s being caused by a living thing, and that living thing, as you point out, is humans. But, to paraphrase Tolstoy, each mass extinction is unhappy in its own way.

Are we, as the human species, possibly included in the sixth extinction that we are responsible for?

Certainly it seems possible that we could become victims of our own actions. But it also seems possible that we’ll do fine, even as a lot of other species vanish. A lot of species have already disappeared due to human activity, and, so far at least, the human population has kept right on increasing.

How do you respond to the climate deniers and anti¬science stalwarts who belittle the loss of species that they have never heard of?

At this point, most species on the planet probably haven’t even been named. So of course people have never heard of them. To dismiss the extinction of these creatures as unimportant seems to me pretty mindless. Very basic - and vital - processes depend on all sorts of creatures that most people couldn’t identify.

Haven't we become such a carpe diem world, at least in developed nations, in that we simply don't accept that species are being lost because most of us don't notice or encounter too many species. On a daily basis, we're still mostly concerned about how to dress based on the weather for the day.

Most people who live in the cities of the developed world, or for that matter the developing world, don’t encounter a whole lot of native species. So it’s true that they probably wouldn’t have many experiences that would give them a sense of what’s at risk.

Al Gore reviewed your book for The New York Times. He quotes you as writing simply, "People change the World."

He recognizes in the review the role that the rapidly expanding population of the Earth plays in the ravaging of our planet and resultant loss of species. How can Earth sustain about 7 billion people currently, with an ever increasing number? Global warming aside, aren't some species in danger because there are too many people eating them, such as fish?

There are about 7 billion people on the planet right now, headed very quickly toward 8 billion. Supporting all those people takes a lot of food, which has got to come from somewhere. So, the short answer is yes. A lot of species are threatened by over¬harvesting and over¬fishing. A lot are also threatened by the conversion of forests to agricultural land.

Can you explain the significance of invasive species, with humans being the "ultimate" invasive species?

Invasive species are species that do very well in a place that’s far from their native range. Often they thrive at the expense of the species that were already there: A classic example is the brown tree snake, which was brought to Guam from Papua New Guinea, probably in military cargo. It has eaten through most of Guam’s native mammal species, along with many of its native birds and reptiles. Humans originated in Africa and now we live on every continent. (Well, maybe don’t quite live on Antarctica, but certainly we like to visit it.)
Just about everywhere we’ve gone, like the brown tree snake, we’ve eliminated a significant number of native species.

Using one example of the interrelated ecology that comes into play in terms of species disruption and extinction, can you briefly explain the decrease in barrier reefs and how that impacts species?

Reefs are home to many hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of species. If reef building as an activity ceases - something that could very possibly happen within the next half century or so - then pretty much all of those species are at risk.

What exactly will happen to them is impossible to know at this point. Some may be able to survive without reefs; many probably will not. It’s very hard to predict the proportions, but, unfortunately, we are likely to find out.

Can you explain what you mean by the madness gene as described in Chapter Eight?

The madness gene is not my idea; it comes from a paleogeneticist named Svante Pääbo.

What he meant is that, for reasons that don’t seem entirely rational, people can’t sit still. They’re always pressing on to new places, even though the journey entails significant dangers. As he pointed out to me, how many people had to perish in the Pacific before people happened on Easter Island?

If I may ask on a personal level, how does this research into the impact of climate change - that developed nations are virtually ignoring - affect your thoughts about the future of your children on planet Earth?
Raising children takes - and always has taken - a lot of hope.

Copyright, Truthout.

Mark Karlin is the editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout. He served as editor and publisher of BuzzFlash for ten years before joining Truthout in 2010. BuzzFlash has won four Project Censored Awards. Karlin writes a commentary five days a week for BuzzFlash, as well as articles for Truthout. He also interviews authors and filmmakers whose works are featured in Truthout's Progressive Picks of the Week.

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

"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

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Baltimore Activist Alert - March 30-31, 2014

63] Environmental Film Festival – Mar. 30
64] “On Stealing Ideas” -- Mar. 30
65] Peace and Pancakes – Mar. 30
66] SOAW Spring Days of Action – Mar. 30 – Apr. 5
67] Opening Day for B’More for Mizeur-Coates -- Mar. 30
68] Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Biblical Framework for a Just & Lasting Peace -- Mar. 30
69] SOA Watch concert -- Mar. 30
70] Pentagon Vigil -- Mar. 31
71] Transforming Society through Law & Advocacy - Mar. 31
72] SOA Watch Grassroots Organizing Workshops -- Mar. 31
73] SOA Watch March -- Mar. 31
74] Max is seeking a place to live
75] Ronda Cooperstein on social media
76] Sign up with Washington Peace Center
77] Join Fund Our Communities
78] Donate books, videos, DVDs and records
79] Do you need any book shelves or file cabinets?
80] Join Global Zero campaign
81] War Is Not the Answer signs for sale
82] Join Peace Park Antinuclear Vigil
63] – The 22nd Annual Environmental Film Festival will close on Sun., Mar. 30 in theaters in Washington, D.C. Call 202-342-2564. For scheduling and venue information, go to And most of them are FREE!

64] -- 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., Mar. 30, the platform address is “On Stealing Ideas.” The concept of intellectual property as we know it today is only about three hundred years old, and its bounds are still openly debated. In the last few decades, the bounds of what can be patented has expanded, to the point of including printed text and even mathematical formulæ. In this talk, Ben Klemens will discuss the status of the expansion, and measure the changes against the goals of intellectual property law. Dr. Klemens is a Principal Researcher in the Statistical Research Division of the U.S. Census Bureau. He has a doctorate in Social Science, specializing in microeconomics and game theory, from the California Institute of Technology. Call 410-581-2322 or email

65] -- Join the Kadampa Meditation Center for Peace and Pancakes on Sundays at 10:30 AM at KMC Maryland, 2937 North Charles St. All are invited to participate in guided meditation and chant praying for world peace. There will be a talk based on Buddhist thought followed by brunch. Call 410- 243-3837. Brunch is $5.

66] – From Sun., Mar. 30 to Sat., Apr. 5, join School of the Americas Watch for its Spring Days of Action! The SOA Watch People's Movement Assembly is on Sun., Mar. 30 from noon until 4:15 PM at the Emergence Community Arts Collective, 733 Euclid St. NW to facilitate communication and action during the Spring Days and beyond. See Email!

67] – There is Opening Day for B’More for Mizeur-Coates on Sun., Mar. 30 from 2:30 to 4:30 PM at 1727 N. Charles St. Meet to get organized to elect Delegate Heather Mizeur as governor. RSVP at

68] – On Sun., Mar. 30 at 6:30 PM be at a reception with refreshments. At 7 PM, the program The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Biblical Framework for a Just & Lasting Peace will be presented by TAREK ABUATA and GHASSAN J. TARAZI of the PALESTINIAN CHRISTIAN ALLIANCE FOR PEACE. It will be held at St John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, Wilde Lake Interfaith Center, Columbia. RSVP to

69] – On Sun., Mar. 30 from 8 to 11 PM at Acre121, 1400 Irving St. NW, join SOA Watch at the Spring Days of Action Concert. Come ready to dance! The suggested donation is $10. Look at

70] -- 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 Mon., Mar. 24, 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.

71] – Beyond the Binary: Transforming Society through Law & Advocacy will happen on Mon., Mar. 31 from 9 AM to 5 PM at American University Washington College of Law, 4801 Massachusetts Ave. NW. The college chapter of the National Lawyers Guild & the ACLU are pleased to present a day-long symposium for students, legal professionals and community organizers that promotes expanded knowledge and understanding of trans* identities, current issues affecting the trans* community, and means used to overcome discrimination and oppression against and within the trans* community. Visit

72] – The SOA Watch Grassroots Organizing Workshops are on Mon., Mar. 31 from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM at The United Methodist Church, 100 Maryland Ave. NE., WDC 20002. SOAW's advocacy coordinator, legislative organizer and activists with decades of grassroots lobbying experience will lead a Lobby/Advocacy Training on HR 2989. There will also be workshops on direct action with emphasis on local, grassroots and youth organizing. Go to

73] – An SOA Watch March is Mon., Mar. 31 from 5:30 to 8 PM starting at Union Station, 50 Massachusetts Ave. NE. Take to the streets in a public demonstration aimed at outreach to the local community and messaging directed at two important power players in Washington. Then take the Metro to Takoma Park. March to downtown Takoma Park between Laurel Ave. and Carroll Ave.

74] -- Max is seeking a place to live. Let him know of any possibilities. He can be reached at 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski at net.

75] -- Ronda Cooperstein has taken to social media, and is recording her opinion pieces on You Tube. Check out her essay at

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

77] -- Fund Our Communities campaign is a grass roots movement to get support from local organizations and communities to work together with their local and state elected officials to pressure Congresspersons and senators to join with Congresspersons Barney Frank and Ron Paul, who have endorsed a 25% cut to the federal military budget. Bring home the savings to state and county governments to meet the local needs which are under tremendous budget pressures. Go to

78] -- If you would like to get rid of books, videos, DVDs or records, contact Max at 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski at

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

80] -- 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.

81] -- WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER signs from Friends Committee on National Legislation are again for sale at $5. To purchase a sign, call Max at 410-366-1637.

82] – 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

"One is called to live nonviolently, even if the change one works for seems impossible. It may or may not be possible to turn the US around through nonviolent revolution. But one thing favors such an attempt: the total inability of violence to change anything for the better" - Daniel Berrigan

Longtime peace activist removed from ministry after concelebrating Mass with woman priest

Published on National Catholic Reporter (
Longtime peace activist removed from ministry after concelebrating Mass with woman priest

Brian Roewe | Mar. 28, 2014

A longtime peace and human rights activist arrested countless times, Franciscan Fr. Jerry Zawada has been removed from public ministry for concelebrating Mass with a woman priest in 2011.

The letter removing the 76-year-old's public priestly faculties -- a copy of which NCR obtained March 21 -- came from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which reviewed documentation related to the Nov. 22, 2011, liturgy Zawada concelebrated with Roman Catholic Womanpriest Janice Sevre-Duszynska.

"Having carefully examined the acts of the case, and the vota of the former Minister General and the Rev. Zawada's Provincial Superior, this Dicastery has decided to impose on Rev. Jerome Zawada, OFM, a life of prayer and penance to be lived within the Queen of Peace Friary in Burlington, Wisconsin," the letter states.

In addition, Zawada cannot present himself in public as a priest or celebrate the sacraments publicly; however, he can concelebrate Mass with other friars at the friary and in private.

"I don't mind the prayer part," Zawada told NCR Monday, "but when they called, when they say that I need to be spending time in penance, well, I'm not going to do penance for my convictions and the convictions of so many others, too."

Fr. John Puodziunas, provincial minister of the Franciscan Friars of the Assumption BVM Province, said he has not yet discussed the letter with Zawada but plans to in the coming weeks. He confirmed the letter removes him from his public priestly ministry but said it hasn't been decided how it will restrict his movement outside the friary. At the same time, he said, "Friaries are not jails."

"I can't imagine us approaching it from a perspective that this would be, 'He's restricted, he cannot leave the friary' type of thing," Puodziunas told NCR. "I think the letter is pretty clear that he's not to act publicly as a priest, which he hasn't done in years anyway."

Zawada has not held a parish or chaplain assignment for years, Puodziunas added, and he agreed following the 2011 liturgy not to act publicly as a priest until the matter received clarity. In June, Zawada will celebrate the 50th anniversary of his ordination.

Speaking from the Wisconsin friary, Zawada said the letter "sent me for a loop," even though he anticipated a response at some point. "But nothing has changed in terms of my own commitment and belief" concerning women's ordination, he said, adding that they have only deepened.

"I do feel strongly in support of women priests and married priests in the Catholic church," he said, adding that he felt compelled to be transparent with his views and that he has learned much from ministers of different denominations.

"I know that they don't think I observe obedience very well through these years, but I have to use my conscience. I have to listen to other people who also speak the voice of God," he said.

Despite receiving the letter from the doctrinal congregation, the still-pugnacious priest took comfort from the pope's supposed remarks [1] in June to the Latin American Conference of Religious, that should such a dispatch come, "Do not worry. Explain whatever you have to explain, but move forward."

"Even Pope Francis told Latin American religious not to worry about the congregation. Well, why should I worry, then?" Zawada asked.

As for what he will do next, Zawada said he plans to take it step by step and would like to visit his family in Indiana during Holy Week. From there, he said he feels "a strong hunger" toward migrants, prisoners and others on the bottom rung of the social ladder -- all groups he also considers "my family."

"Every single one of my dreams at night are dreams about living and sharing life with the poor, with people who are destitute, and I sense I have a strong calling for that," he said.

"I feel ready to move on," he said. "I want to move on and be able to take some risks. And I have to and I'm called to do so."

Zawada received his letter, dated Feb. 19, in early March through Puodziunas, who also sent him a letter. The Vatican letter is addressed to Franciscan Fr. Michael Anthony Perry, an American and the minister general of the Order of Friars Minor, and is signed by Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia, an official with the doctrinal congregation.

The concelebration in question [2] occurred during the 2011 SOA Watch, the annual protest of the U.S. Army School of the Americas, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

Zawada told NCR he also concelebrated with Sevre-Duszynska, a close friend and fellow activist, at the previous year's protest but has not done so since, believing the concept of concelebration singles out ordained clergy and excludes the rest of the worshiping community. He told NCR in November 2011 that the liturgy offered him an opportunity to follow his conscience and address injustices he saw in the clergy structure.

Sevre-Duszynska was ordained in August 2008 a priest in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. The participation of Roy Bourgeois in that ceremony led to his excommunication and eventual dismissal [3] in November 2012 from the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

The next month, Jesuit Fr. Bill Brennan of Milwaukee had his priestly ministries removed [4] by Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listeki for also participating in a liturgy with Sevre-Duszynska at SOA Watch.

"They're holy men," Sevre-Duszynska told NCR. "They're men with the strength and grace that Jesus had, speaking truth to power. And I'm grateful they're my friends."

She said she was saddened by the ruling on Zawada, whom she considers a mentor, but predicted it would not stop the ministry of a man "whose voice is one that gives direction to so many."

Zawada, who turns 77 next month and suffers from neuropathy and some mild memory issues, said he lacks the energy to take a larger role in the women's ordination movement, though he will openly discuss his beliefs when people approach him or if it comes up in the context of peace and justice issues.

The latter have largely served as the priest's primary dwelling the past four decades.

His actions at SOA Watch have placed him in the crosshairs of not only the Vatican but the federal government. He estimates he has been arrested there five times, twice serving six-month prison sentences for trespassing.

He participated in the 1988 Missouri Peace Planting, where protesters visited nuclear missile silos in the state. Zawada, who celebrated Mass atop a missile lid and also broke a ban-and-bar letter by visiting a silo for the fifth time, was convicted of several misdemeanors and served a 25-month prison sentence. In 1991, he received an additional five and a half months after he was arrested for protesting the Gulf War while on probation.

More recently, he joined 22 other people in July [5] in crossing the property line of a nuclear weapons facility under construction in Kansas City, Mo., and was among the "Creech 14" arrested in 2009 at Creech Air Force Base outside Las Vegas after peacefully protesting the use of drones. He remains under a two-year probation sentence for trespassing with six others at Naval Base Kitsap in Washington state, where Trident submarines carrying nuclear missiles reside.

He has also advocated for migrants' rights and immigration reform, making frequent trips to the U.S.-Mexico border.

In all, Zawada has served nearly five and a half years in prison. In an August 2006 interview with the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, he estimated he has been arrested "well over a hundred times maybe, maybe two hundred times," admitting he has lost count.

[Brian Roewe is an NCR staff writer. His email address is [6]. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianRoewe [7].]
Source URL (retrieved on 03/28/2014 - 17:04):


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

"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

Stop Likening NSA to a Private Company!

Sirota writes: "The fact is, the White House's legal arguments are deceptive - and at times, outright lies."

(photo: KOAA TV)

Stop Likening NSA to a Private Company!
By David Sirota, Salon
28 March 14

Yes, your credit card and phone companies have access to some personal data. But they have your permission
appeared on CNN today to debate the Obama administration’s NSA spying operation with the president’s pollster, Cornell Belcher. His statements perfectly illustrated the White House’s bait-and-switch rhetorical strategy — one that tries to pretend the mass surveillance system is constrained in its scope and therefore no big deal.

To review the latest news: Earlier today, the president called the unprecedented program “modest” and insisted that “nobody is listening to your phone calls.” Belcher — who advises the White House on how to frame issues — went even further, casting the program as nothing more invasive than, say, your bank logging your personal financial transactions or a pollster evaluating data. Watch it here:

Before evaluating the legal arguments being made by Obama, Belcher and other administration officials, let me just say for the record that the most grotesque part of this CNN exchange was when Belcher tried to justify the surveillance program on the grounds that it is popular. In a country whose constitution was designed, in part, to prevent majority public opinion from trampling the basic rights of minorities, this is a hideous line of reasoning, to say the least. Similarly hideous is Belcher claiming that mass surveillance is making us safer, but not being able to provide any evidence that such a claim is true.

All of that aside, what’s significant here are the larger legal arguments, because they will likely be used in court cases to cement this and other surveillance programs for the long haul. And the fact is, the White House’s legal arguments are deceptive — and at times, outright lies.

First and foremost, let’s remember that a former FBI counterterrorism agent recently told CNN that the administration is, indeed, listening into phone calls. If that’s true, the president is outright lying (which should no longer be considered surprising, in light of his administration’s blatant — and potentially perjurious — lies before Congress on this issue).

But let’s say that despite this, you nonetheless believe President Obama when he says his administration isn’t listening in on phone calls. The fact remains that, as the New Yorker and Reuters both show, the collection of “metadata” about calls is often just as intrusive as listening into the actual calls themselves. Reuters sums it up this way:

Any suggestion that Americans have nothing to worry about from this dragnet collection of communications metadata is wrong. Even without intercepting the content of communications, the government can use metadata to learn our most intimate secrets – anything from whether we have a drinking problem to whether we’re gay or straight… So we shouldn’t be comforted when government officials reassure us that they’re not listening to our communications – they’re merely harvesting and mining our metadata. In a digital world, metadata can be used to construct nuanced portraits of our social relationships and interactions.

That gets to how Belcher followed up his boss during our debate on CNN today. He argued not only that a program sweeping in data from millions of Americans is modest, but also that it is no different than companies analyzing consumer data. Like so many carefully sculpted political talking points, it sounds logical, except when you remember the key facts being omitted — in this case, the fact that the government is using its law enforcement power to obtain the data without the public’s permission. Yes, that’s right: unlike a company with which you personally do business — and with which you sign an agreement about your personal information — the Obama administration is using the government’s unilateral power to simply grab your information across multiple platforms.

That’s hardly, as the dismissive phrase goes, a “distinction without a difference.” As I noted on CNN, when it comes to civil liberties, the Bill of Rights is all about constraining the power of the government to encroach on our freedoms. It does this because the founders recognized that the government isn’t just another institution in society — it isn’t, say, just a private bank or a polling firm. It is granted special powers (subpoena, warrants, etc.) that those other institutions don’t have — but it was granted those powers in exchange for that authority being properly constrained. When such constraints are removed, our liberties are inevitably restricted (this, by the way, is why Senator Obama sponsored legislation to outlaw what President Obama is now doing).

Belcher and other Obama officials likely know all this, but also know that the best way to at once defang the NSA scandal and normalize the government’s assault on civil liberties is to pretend it’s the same as any other company using data in the creepy ways we’ve all gotten accustomed to. It’s the old “nothing to see here, move along” trick. The only question is: Will America fall for it?

© 2014 Reader Supported News

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

"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

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Catholic Left 45 Years Later

Published on Portside (
The Catholic Left 45 Years Later

Ted Glick

Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Ted Glick's Future Hope

It is entirely fitting that the news about who burgled the Media, Pa. FBI office in 1971 and how and why they did it broke just a day after a moving memorial service in New York City for the late Fr. Paul Mayer. Among other accomplishments, Paul was named in early 1971 as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Harrisburg 8 "kidnap Kissinger" indictment that was all about retribution on the part of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI and Richard Nixon's Justice Department against what Hoover called the East Coast Conspiracy to Save Lives.

Actually, that was the name of just one of the many groups which took nonviolent direct action to destroy Selective Service draft files between 1967 and 1972. Sometimes there were other targets, like the offices or production sites of war corporations like GE, Dow Chemical and AMF, or the FBI (it wasn't just at Media, Pa.).

Fr. Dan Berrigan, looking and sounding very frail in body, was one of the speakers at Paul Mayer's memorial, and it was fitting that he received a much-deserved standing ovation from the 250 people who gathered at Judson Church on a very cold and icy day. Dan, with his late brother Phil, was a leader of the Catholic Left, more an inspirational leader than a practical, nuts and bolts leader, which was Phil's department.

I joined the Catholic Left in late 1969 and participated in four "actions," as we called them, before I was arrested over Labor Day weekend, 1970, with seven others at 5:15 am following five hours inside the Rochester, N.Y. federal building. We had spent those five hours cutting up Selective Service files of young men who were classified 1-A, meaning they would soon be sent to Vietnam. We had also gone into the FBI and US Attorney's offices. We had suitcases full of incriminating (for them) FBI files as we waited for our pickup vehicles by the front door, but we never got them out of the building. The Rochester police, who had been tipped off to our plans by a government informer, happened to check on the doors as we sat there waiting underneath them. Three and a half months later, after an incredible two-week trial where seven of the eight of us defended ourselves, opening up the courtroom to testimony we would never have gotten in otherwise, we were on our way to prison, but for much shorter sentences than we had expected.

All of these memories and more have come flooding back to me as I've heard, over Democracy Now, and read in the NY Times and elsewhere about the identities of some of the people who pulled off the successful Media, Pa. FBI action in March of 1971. Without question, their success played a major role in putting the government on the defensive, leading to some reforms of FBI practices and drastically curtailing the use of Cointelpro type programs, at least for many years.

I've been very touched to learn that John and Bonnie Raines played the active role that they did in the Media action. During the time that I lived in Philadelphia in 1970 when I was most active with the Catholic Left, Bonnie and John were close friends and very supportive. But to learn that they were willing to take this risk even with their responsibilities as parents of three young children is very moving, very inspiring. They were clearly about a much higher responsibility to their children, the responsibility of providing an example of someone who is willing to take reasonable risks for justice, peace and the common good.

I wasn't surprised in the slightest to learn that Bill Davidon was the leader of this action, having worked with him on some of the actions which took place in the Philadelphia area during this time. Bill was fearless. He seemed most happy when he was actively preparing for one of them.

There were hundreds of such people in the Catholic Left, Johns and Bonnies and Bills and Dans and Phils. A fair number were Catholic priests and nuns and religious people, but over time, as the actions became less symbolic and more focused on practically disrupting the operations of the Selective Service System, or exposing corporate collusion with war-making and illegal FBI repression and intimidation, younger people like myself - 20 at the time - who were not Catholic and who were not very overtly religious got involved.

For me, the Catholic Left was a way to take action that was appropriate to the urgency of what was happening in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos and among draft-age young men in the USA facing months risking life, limb and their mental stability, especially those from low-income and working-class communities. The actions we took were carried out without the use of violence. The Catholic Left was much more of a threat to the war-making government than the Weather Underground, which got it on the urgency but missed it on what tactics made the most sense in the USA if you were trying to actually stop the war.

Many FBI agents back then, and perhaps still today, were Catholics, and that may be part of the reason why J. Edgar Hoover took the Catholic Left so seriously. The main reason, however, was because we were effective. We were practically effective in throwing some sand into the gears of the Selective Service system, and with the Media action we were effective in making it much more difficult for the FBI to do what it was doing. An action at an AMF plant in York, Pa. in March of 1972, on the eve of the beginning of the Harrisburg 7 trial, rendered unuseable hundreds of "smart bomb" casings about to be shipped to a GE plant in Philadelphia where the seeing-eye electronic "eye" would have been installed.

We were also politically effective. To have a growing number of Catholic priests and nuns publicly taking action in this way was a hard thing to isolate and label as fringe. Without question, the Catholic Left, building upon the mass anti-war movement and the mass draft resistance movement that birthed it, played a key role at a critical time in our nation's history.

(For more information on the Catholic Left I would recommend the movie, Hit and Stay [1], by Joe Tropea and Skizz Cyzyk.).

[Ted Glick has been a progressive activist and organizer since 1968. Past writings and other information can be found here [2], and he can be followed on Twitter at [3].]

[Thanks to the author for sending this to Portside.]

The War Resisters League (WRL), a pacifist pillar of the peace movement, was on the case, boldly putting the trove of FBI files up for public examination: "WRL's WIN Magazine was first to publish the complete collection of the documents in our March 1972 issue." WRL has just put a PDF of the special issue. To download and read a PDF of this special issue click HERE [4].

Source URL:
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

"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