Thursday, May 31, 2018

'No Such Thing as Cheap Meat': New Global Index Shows Industry's Failure to Combat Climate Crisis, Antibiotic Resistance

'No Such Thing as Cheap Meat': New Global Index Shows Industry's Failure to Combat Climate Crisis, Antibiotic Resistance

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Index gauges how 60 suppliers, worth a combined $300 billion, are managing sustainability risks based on nine criteria


Cattle graze on a farm in Caroline County, Maryland (Photo: Bob Nichols/USDA/Flickr/cc)

   A new sustainability index found that roughly three-quarters of the world's largest meat and fish suppliers are failing to manage their contributions to worldwide antibiotic resistance as well as their contributions to the climate crisis, "putting the implementation of the Paris agreement in jeopardy."

   "There is no such thing as cheap meat—these industries have been subsidised for years by the public because we pay for their environmental pollution, public health costs that they do not account for in their business model."

—Shefali Sharma,
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy 

  The Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index, a project from the London-based investor initiative Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR), launched Wednesday as a tool for investors. Companies analyzed include suppliers to major fast-food chains such as McDonald's and KFC.

  The index gauges how 60 suppliers, worth a combined $300 billion, are managing sustainability risks based on nine criteria: greenhouse gas emissions; deforestation and biodiversity loss; water scarcity and use; waste and pollution; antibiotics; animal welfare; working conditions; food safety; and sustainable protein.

  Across the global livestock sector, the measurement and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions—which fuel global warming—is "inadequate, unstandardized, and unverified," according to index's executive summary.

  Although the sector is responsible for 14.5 percent of global emissions—or about the total amount produced by the United States—FAIRR found that a full 72 percent of companies simply aren't tracking their emissions at all. 

  Additionally, 77 percent of these companies are "failing to adequately manage or disclose antibiotic use, despite growing levels of regulation and international action to combat antibiotic resistant superbugs."

  In response to rampant overuse of antibiotics on livestock, public health experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have issued grave warnings about the growing threat that antibiotic resistance poses to human health.

  And while FAIRR's findings about climate and antibiotic risks are enough to alarm environmentalists and doctors separately, experts say the two issues are connected. Research published last week "found a signal that the associations between antibiotic resistance and temperature could be increasing over time," meaning global warming could exacerbate drug resistance.

  Policy experts argue the findings indicate a need for ramping up accountability across the livestock sector.

   "It is clear that the meat and dairy industries have remained out of public scrutiny in terms of their significant climate impact. For this to change, these companies must be held accountable for the emissions and they must have credible, independently verifiable emissions reductions strategy," Shefali Sharma, director of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy European office, told the Guardian, responding to FAIRR's new index.
Beyond just the industry's contributions to the global climate crisis, "it's always worth remembering that there is no such thing as cheap meat—these industries have been subsidised for years by the public because we pay for their environmental pollution, public health costs that they do not account for in their business model," Sharma added. "This is where governments need to step in."

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

When the Mailmen Rebelled

Published on Portside (

When the Mailmen Rebelled

Paul Prescod
May 24, 2018

   For eight days in March 1970 the country was rocked by an unprecedented and shocking national strike by postal service workers. Starting in New York City, the strike spread quickly and affected thirteen states, two hundred cities and towns, two hundred thousand workers, and 671 stations across the country. This action by seemingly docile and harmless federal workers provoked a crisis so severe that President Nixon sent twenty-two thousand National Guard troops to New York City to somehow move the mail and restore order.

    Time magazine concluded that the strike “. . . underscores the helplessness of government in the face of organized, even if nonviolent, lawlessness.” It went on to warn that it “could set a pattern of ruinous civil service strikes.” In his speech authorizing the deployment of the National Guard, Nixon went as far as to claim that, “What is at issue is the survival of a government based upon law.”
The government was indeed helpless, and the postal workers achieved an overwhelming victory amid a broader political climate of protest and working-class militancy around the country. A look back at the strike is instructive for grasping the current eruption of teacher strikes, as well as the dilemmas of dealing with hostile labor law.

Roots of a Strike

   Like many strikes that seem spontaneous, conditions for strong workplace action had actually been building among postal workers for some time. For one thing, the pay was abysmal. Starting salaries were $6,176/year, and workers topped out at $8,442/year only after twenty-one years of service. Many letter carriers had to work multiple jobs to get by or were eligible for welfare. By 1970, the annual starting salary for postal workers was 27 percent lower than for New York City sanitation workers and less than 50 percent of police and transport worker salaries.
Postal workers had no collective bargaining rights and had to rely on lobbying Congress to pass legislation giving them a pay raise. These lobbying efforts, cynically referred to as “collective begging” by some, yielded fewer and fewer results throughout the 1960s. Workers were particularly angered when Congress voted to give itself a 47 percent raise while denying them a much more modest one.

    Mail sorters had to work in outdated facilities without heating or air conditioning, referred to by many as “dungeons.” Management constantly harassed employees as mail volume steadily increased throughout the 1960s. William Burrus, who would eventually become president of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), characterized the postal service as a “quasi-military place of work.”
Although banned from striking as federal workers, small numbers of postal employees began pushing the limits of the law a few years before 1970. As early as 1966 there was evidence of a worker slowdown causing a breakdown at the Chicago post office, the world’s largest. In 1969 both the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) and the National Postal Union (NPU) passed convention resolutions to explore overturning the no-strike law. Over five thousand postal workers in Manhattan and the Bronx took part in a demonstration on June 20, 1969. United Federation of Postal Clerks legislative director Patrick Nolan told Congress that postal union leaders were “sitting atop a live volcano.”

    The dynamic really changed on July 1, 1969, when letter carriers and postal clerks in the Bronx staged a sick-out. When they were suspended, sixteen additional letter carriers, in the Throggs Neck Branch, also called in sick. This bold action electrified members of New York’s NALC Branch 36. It was there that rank-and-file member Vincent Sombrotto, who would eventually lead the great strike in 1970, got involved in the union.

    At a special Branch 36 letter carriers union meeting, Sombrotto motioned to pay the suspended workers two-thirds of their salary. In a foreshadowing of things to come, all the rank-and-file members voted for the motion while the entire leadership voted against. The vote was narrowly lost, but it provided a basis for Sombrotto to develop a cadre of workers who were determined to take action. After these “mini-wildcats” a Rank-and-File Caucus was formed within the union to maintain organization among the members. Eventually they prevailed and the suspended workers were paid.

    In December 1969, NALC president James Radamacher broke ranks with the other postal unions to make a deal with President Nixon for a 5.4 percent wage increase, tied to a plan to corporatize the post office. It was then that NALC Branch 36 members seriously began to talk about a strike.

The Strike Begins

     A strike vote was scheduled for March 17, 1970. Over 2,600 members showed up to a rowdy and electrifying meeting. In a room swirling with chaos, Vince Sombrotto took control of the microphone and led the strike vote. It passed by a margin of five hundred.

    The grievances voiced by members of NALC Branch 36 in New York were felt by postal workers across the country, who quickly responded to their daring act. In Chicago, around three thousand members of the mostly African-American Chicago NALC branch packed the union hall and voted to strike while chanting “Postal power!” The strike spread like wildfire, engulfing thirteen states and causing a major crisis for the federal government.

  The wildcat strike put union leaders on the defensive and they now scrambled to keep up with events. Elated workers were testing their power in uncharted territory. William Burrus, a rank-and-file postal worker in Cleveland at the time, called it a “carnival-like atmosphere.” Sombrotto described the “euphoria of being up against the greatest government in the world and they couldn’t do anything about it.”

   There was no coordination or central planning by the union. Strikers used personal phone calls, newspaper coverage, face-to-face meetings, and portable radios to get the latest updates from around the country. And the Rank-and-File Caucus put together a platform of demands that included a full government pension, retirement after twenty years, life insurance, area wages, and the right-to-strike.

“There’s Only One Thing Worse Than a Wildcat Strike”

   The effects of the strike were immediately felt by a wide range of people and institutions. A New York nursing home manager said, “I don’t think people realized how much the post office really meant until the strike.” Census questionnaires had been scheduled to go out to every family that week and had to be delayed. It was the effect on the centers of economic power, however, that really concerned the government. Checks, stock certificates and bonds could not be delivered on Wall Street. New York Stock Exchange officials considered a market shutdown.

   Postal union leaders, facing enormous pressure from the government to get their members back to work, tried to negotiate a settlement acceptable to their uncontrollable members. Labor Secretary George Shultz argued to NALC president James Radamacher, “There’s only one thing worse than a wildcat strike — a wildcat that succeeds.” But postal workers rejected Radamacher’s deal, which offered pay raises only after they returned to work.

   Beyond the immediate economic impact of the strike, there was the subversive effect of having government employees openly defying the law and getting away with it. John Griner, who was head of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), had to intervene personally to prevent some of his locals from striking. Time magazine claimed the strike “demonstrates the deterioration of discipline that has become a major challenge to US society in recent years.”

  On March 23, 1970 President Nixon declared a state of emergency and ordered twenty-two thousand federal troops to move the mail in New York City. The troops did little to help Nixon, as they were woefully unprepared to operate a complex postal system. Many postal workers were also in the National Guard. Soldiers openly fraternized with the workers, and some even helped in sabotaging mail processing.

  Eventually, the government had to concede an overwhelming victory to the postal workers. Employees were granted an overall 14 percent wage increase, collective bargaining rights, and a formal seniority system. Instead of taking twenty-one years to reach top salary, workers could now reach top salary after eight years of service. Though the government had been pushing for the postal service to be turned into a private corporation, the Postal Reorganization Act kept it government-owned. No workers were fined or jailed.

  Significantly, the Rank-and-File Caucus remained active and made substantial inroads in reforming the union. In 1978, strike leader Vince Sombrotto was elected president of the Letter Carriers.

A Climate of Dissent

  The Great Postal Strike of 1970 fed off a broader political climate that was rife with dissent and working-class militancy. Many strike participants cited the era’s broader social movements, as well as more localized labor struggles, as inspiration for their actions. As Sombrotto put it, “authority meant nothing” to many people in the country at this time.

  The movement against the Vietnam War had, of course, been gaining momentum throughout the 1960s, reaching its peak in 1970. Massive demonstrations organized by the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (the “New Mobe”) showed the extent to which people were willing to openly defy their government. A fascinating appeal from “New Mobe” about the postal strike showed the potential for struggles to converge in that moment:

  It is a mockery of all human decency that a nation which spends $30 billion on an illegal and immoral war refuses to find a pittance to provide a living wage to underpaid letter carriers. As concerned citizens we demand that you cancel war expenditures and turn from life destroying to life fulfilling efforts.

  Another manifestation of militant defiance that influenced workers was the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. The strike had significant participation from black workers, since the postal service has historically been a vital source of stable employment for black communities. In 1970 around 20 percent of the postal workforce was black. In major cities like Detroit, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh 50-70 percent of the workers on strike were black. Many of them were young and recently returned from Vietnam. Black workers were especially militant during the strike, as 91,000 of the 92,265 black postal service employees were in the lowest pay grades.

   The era also saw an ongoing wave of rank-and-file rebellions in private- and public-sector unions across the country. Teachers, sanitation workers, and transportation workers in New York City all had gone out on illegal strikes before the postal walkout. Public-sector workers across the country were proving that with enough solidarity it was possible to break the law and win. Wildcat strikes were also taking place in industries like mining, trucking, auto, steel, and communications. The postal strike conformed to the general historical pattern of mass strikes coming in waves, rather than incrementally.

Then and Now

   Today, teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, and elsewhere are showing us again that it’s possible for workers to defy the law, as well as their own union leadership, and win. There are many striking similarities between the (largely) successful actions teachers are taking and the Great Postal Strike of 1970.

   The postal strike worked due to broad solidarity that cut through craft divisions. Letter carriers, clerks, mail handlers, and truck drivers all joined in. In many places, there was strong interracial cooperation on the picket lines. It’s not surprising that the strike failed to take off in historically Jim Crow locals in the South. Postal workers also enjoyed wide public support throughout the walkout.

   Equally important was the structural power that postal workers were able to leverage. Beyond the strike’s disruption of everyday life, its ability to shut down Wall Street was what pushed the federal government to take the situation seriously. It’s no coincidence that when Nixon sent federal troops, he prioritized New York City.

   As West Virginia teachers showed, the existence of strong workplace leaders makes a huge difference. The postal strike vote, and its spread to other locals, happened because of the organizing done through the Rank and File Caucus. Without credible and daring rank-and-file leaders like Vince Sombrotto, the strike’s gains would not have been consolidated into overall union democratization and reform.

   1970 also showed how the broader political environment makes a difference. Working people can take advantage of volatile political moments to dramatically shift the balance of power. When teachers today reference the Bernie Sanders campaign or general anti-Trump feeling, they are tapping into a broader political sentiment that creates space for their actions. Once the first strike was initiated and proved successful, the militant feeling showed itself to be contagious.

  The Great Postal Strike of 1970 was an explosive episode in our history. It serves as a reminder of the stunning achievements that mass workplace action can win. Postal workers learned through this struggle that their most important weapons were collective action and an engaged rank and file, not smart lobbying tactics or relationships with the right politicians. Teachers and other long-embattled workforces are learning these same lessons again today.
Paul Prescod is a middle-school social studies teacher and member of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-
323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to

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

Baltimore Activist Alert - May 30- 31, 2018

27] Nukes are a problem – May 30
28] Catholic Nonviolence Initiative – May 30
29] Memorial Day Parade – May 30
30] Protest UniverSoul Circus Cruelty!  – May 30
31] Candidates Forum – May 30
32] The Six-Day War – May 31
33] Climate Change Working Group Meeting – May 31
34] Progressive Montgomery Happy Hour -- May 31
35] Phonebank-A-Thon – May 31
36] Speaking Truth to Poverty – May 31
37] Justice Arts Movement – May 31
38] "Knowing North Korea” registration deadline - May 31
27] – On Wed., May 30 from 2:30 to 4 PM catch the talk From the Korean Peninsula to South Asia at the U.S. Institute of Peace, 2301 Constitution Ave. NW, WDC.  In the past two years, the world has witnessed multiple crises in regions where nuclear weapons are present: the Korean peninsula saw heightened tensions throughout 2017; China and India were involved in a major border crisis; violence between India and Pakistan on the Line of Control in Kashmir has been the highest in 15 years and the U.S. and its partners in the Middle East now face a highly uncertain future vis-à-vis Iran. The U.S. has an innate interest in preventing nuclear war around the world. Along with other strong powers, the United States has been proactive in managing crises in nuclearized regions, most notably in South Asia, which has seen repeated bouts of escalated tensions since the end of the Cold War. Yet, as great power competition resurges and U.S. interests in Asia pit it against actors like Iran, Pakistan, and increasingly China, the U.S. role in crises in nuclearized regions may become more complicated. What implications could this have for the probability of conflict and for U.S. influence as other strong powers compete more aggressively with Washington in these theaters, including possibly using crises as opportunities to overshadow the traditional U.S. role as crisis manager?

RSVP at  If you cannot make it in person, the event will also be live streamed.

28] –  On Wed., May 30 from 3 to 5 PM, the Alliance for Peacebuilding’s Nonviolent Action & Peacebuilding Working Group will include a presentation on the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative with Marie Dennis and Eli McCarthy, followed by a discussion on Religious Actors and Inclusive Peace Processes. RSVP at   It will be held at the Alliance for Peacebuilding, 1800 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Suite 401, WDC. You may also join online: or dial in via phone: 669 900 6833 Meeting ID: 866 553 799.

29] – On Wed., May 30 at 6 PM, join the Memorial Day Parade in Wilmington, DE and march with Pacem in Terris.  Join the group at 5:50 PM at Delaware Ave. at Woodlawn Ave.

30] – On Wed., May 30 from 6 to 7 PM, Protest UniverSoul Circus Cruelty!  The protest is hosted by Animal ACTivists of Philly at Belmont Ave. and Security Blvd, Baltimore.  Contact Marianne at 610-733-1248 or UniverSoul Circus has worked for years with disgraced animal exploiters who have lengthy records of animal-welfare violations. Please join a peaceful demonstration urging UniverSoul to end the animal acts and urging the public to steer clear until they do. Posters and leaflets will be provided. 

An inspection of the circus by Fulton County Animal Services in Georgia last year revealed many potentially serious issues, including the following: Elephants Betty and Bo, exhibited by Larry Carden, had been given minimal hay, had no water, and were made to stand on concrete, despite having bruised feet. One camel, named Larry, had a swollen ankle that needed to be drained and treated, and another, named Emmet, had a three-inch-long laceration on his leg.  Several horses had chipped, cracked hooves that were "in bad shape."  See

31] – The Charles Village Civic Association Candidates Forum will happen on Wed., May 30 from 6:30 to 9 PM at 2801 N. Charles St., Baltimore. The forum is for 43rd District candidates for senator & delegates, and for Baltimore City State’s Attorney candidates. Call 410-878-1020.

32] – On Thurs., May 31 from 9 AM to noon, hear from Avner Cohen, Middlebury Institute; Hassan Elbahtimy, King's College London; Adam Raz, Tel Aviv University; William Burr, National Security Archive, share a discourse on “The Six-Day War (1967) Revisited: The Nuclear Dimension" at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Suite 1225, 1400 K St. NW, WDC. RSVP by email to Check out,

33] –  There is a MD Commission on Climate Change Working Group Meeting on Thurs., May 31 from 10 AM to noon, organized by the Sierra Club-Maryland Chapter at Montgomery Park, 1800 Washington Blvd, Baltimore, MD 21230. This is open to the public. The Commission will hear about a market-based systems to reduce climate pollution. Make sure the state understands the importance of using these kinds of policies to drive further investment in clean transportation and clean energy programs to reduce pollution!  The more the Commission and MDE officials can see there are supporters for this approach, the greater the likelihood they will be receptive to it.  RSVP at David Smedick at or (301) 277-7111.

34]-- Progressive Montgomery is having a Happy Hour at the World of Beer, 196 E Montgomery Ave. B, Rockville 20850 on Thurs., May 31 from 6 to 8 PM. Contact Andrew Krug at  RSVP at

35] – On Thurs., May 31 at 7 PM, Progressive Prince George’s is holding a Phonebank-A-Thon at the Clout Co-Working Space, 9221 Hampton Overlook, Capitol Heights, MD 20743.  Go to

36] – On Thurs., May 31 from 7 to 9:30PM, get involved in Speaking Truth to Poverty: Bail Bond Reform, hosted by Takoma Park Mobilization at the Silver Spring Civic Center, 1 Veterans Place, Silver Spring 20910.  Tickets are at  The criminal justice system tragically failed 16-year-old Kalief Browder, who spent three years in Rikers Island jail awaiting trial -- two of those years in solitary confinement -- after being arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack. The case was never prosecuted, the charges were ultimately dropped, and Browder committed suicide after his release.  In conjunction with the Montgomery County Chapter of the ACLU, Ending Mass Incarceration is showing the second episode of the Time documentary entitled "Bing" which delves into Kalief Browder's time in solitary confinement. "Bing" is the term coined to describe the effect prolonged solitary confinement has on the brain. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion. Go to

37] – As part of the Poor People’s Campaign, on Thurs., May 31 at 7:30 PM come to the Justice Arts Movement: Theomusicology and Poetry Night at BloomBars, 3222 11th St. NW, WDC 20001.  Visit

38] – Thursday, May 31 is the deadline to apply for "Knowing North Korea: A Workshop for Students and Young Professionals," hosted by the National Committee on North Korea, Suite 650, 1111 19th St. NW, WDC.  Go to It will take place August 13 & 14. Visit

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [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

Monday, May 28, 2018

Steve Sachs challenged for his "rule of law" belief/Anti-war movement film '1971' at Charles Theatre

  Below is a review of 1971, a fabulous film which is an intimate look at some of the activists who dethroned J. Edgar Hoover when they broke into an FBI office in Media, PA. The director also touches on a draft board raid in Camden, NJ.  However, a much better documentary regarding that subject is THE CAMDEN 28. 
  Besides seeing 1971, the audience was able to witness a lively cross-examination of Stephen Sachs, the U.S. Attorney involved in the prosecution of both the Baltimore Four and the Catonsville Nine.  Fifty years later, he is trying his best to argue that he was right to prosecute and that the activists who destroyed draft records and actually saved lives were wrong.  Sachs really got my ire up when he wrote an op-ed in THE BALTIMORE SUN “Former U.S. attorney: conviction, courage and dishonor among 'Catonsville Nine.'”  To suggest that the nine were guilty of dishonor was preposterous.
  Following the film, during a Q and A with Keith Forsyth, the locksmith for the Media FBI break-in, and Sachs, moderated by Joe Tropea, I challenged the retired U.S. attorney.  I reminded him that he took an oath to uphold the constitution.  However, he never used his office to prosecute anyone involved in orchestrating an illegal war against the people of Vietnam.  Obviously, the war was immoral, and I argued illegal and unconstitutional.  The constitution makes clear that Congress has the sole authority to declare war.  Even if you accept the bogus 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident as fact, U.S. involvement in Vietnam had been going on under presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and of course Johnson without Congress authority.   
   Also I pointed out to Sachs what we have learned from the Nuremberg Tribunals. Of course, Nuremberg was flawed as it was victor’s justice.  For example, the United Sates was not prosecuted for destroying civilian populations in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Nevertheless, most observers are aware of the ruling that you can’t obey illegal orders.  But also we learned from the Tribunal that citizens must challenge a government committing illegal acts.  The Vietnam War was an illegal act, and the Baltimore Four and the Catonsville Nine challenged the government. 
  In response, Sachs said yes, he did take an oath, but added that federal courts were not equipped to prosecute the warmongers.  I yelled out that the courts prosecuted the peacemakers, but not those waging an illegal war.  He stated that he did not say that the courts are not set up to prosecute war crimes.  I am not aware of any federal court which prosecuted the architects of the war.  While the former prosecutor admitted he was opposed to the war, this opposition never surfaced in a courtroom.
Kagiso, Max
Anti-war movement film ‘1971’ at Charles Theatre
The anti-war film, “1971,” was shown Monday at the Charles Theatre before a large audience. The compelling documentary, which focused on a break-in by antiwar activists of an FBI office in Media, PA, on March 8, 1971, was produced by Johanna Hamilton. It will show only this one time in Baltimore. It was part of the “50th Anniversary of the Catonsville Nine’s Resisting War Film Series.”
For many reasons, the “Catonsville Nine” case became the “cause celebre” for the non-violent war and resistance movement. Two of its members, both Catholic priests, Dan Berrigan, a Jesuit, and his brother, Phil, became well-known public figures as a result of this daring action.  Phil Berrigan later left the priesthood. He was a member of the Josephite Fathers and a WWII veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
Phil Berrigan
Around that same time, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the U.S. was extremely conservative and mostly went along with the Vietnam War, as many of them did with the more recent Iraq conflict. The reactionary Cardinal Francis Spellman of NYC was their titular leader at that time of the Vietnam War. He never saw a war or weapon system he couldn’t bless.
After the murder of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, the U.S. buildup of combat troops in Vietnam increased dramatically. First, under President Lyndon B. Johnson and then continuing under Richard M. Nixon’s demented presidency (1969-74). The latter barely escaped impeachment before resigning his office.
The actor Martin Sheen, also an antiwar activist, was a colleague of Phil Berrigan. He attended his funeral in Baltimore, in 2002. Sheen labeled the “Catonsville Nine” action, the “single most powerful antiwar act in American history.” I’m inclined to agree with Sheen, but others – a minority – have seen it differently.
The backdrop for the “Draft Resistance Movement,” especially on the Catholic Left, was the illegal and immoral Vietnam War (1963-1975). Over 58,000 of our finest sons and daughters died in that lethal conflict, with 303,000 more casualties. Congress had failed to “declare war,” as required under the U.S. Constitution, instead of the pro-war elements in the government, the Military-Industrial Complex, and in “Deep State,” relied on the legally-suspect “Gulf of Tonkin Resolution” to justify their actions. The Resisters considered the war not only immoral but illegal as well.
Getting back to the film, the “Washington Post,” opened the floodgates by publishing most of the stolen files from the break-in, at Media, PA. Other newspapers, like the “New York Times,” and a host of TV stations, soon joined in by also publishing the material seized. The FBI, under its then czar-like Director, J. Edgar Hoover, was also outraged by the newspapers’ collective actions and threatened prosecutions.
The highly-secret cache revealed the FBI was running “a vast and illegal regime of spying and intimidation of Americans, who were exercising their First Amendment rights.” The FBI’s name for its patently illegal operation: “COINTELPRO.”
Media, PA is a town located on the outskirts of Philadelphia. The activists revealed in the film that they chose it as a site for a break-in because this particular FBI office was located in a building with little or no security. They carefully planned the break-in. They were never caught or prosecuted for their offenses. Nobody squealed either. They were careful to wear gloves and left no fingerprints. The statute of limitation has long since passed for any criminal prosecution of the defendants to take place.
One of the participants in the Media action was Keith Forsyth who actually “broke the lock,” to get into the building. He was present at the viewing of the documentary at the Charles. Forsyth, also a member of the “Camden 28” action, took part in the lively Q&A session that followed the film’s presentation. Steve Sachs, former U.S. Attorney for Maryland, (1967-70), joined in the post-movie discussion as well.
Keith Forsyth (l) and Steve Sachs (r)

  Mr. Sachs was the federal prosecutor in charge of the Catonsville Nine case, although he wasn’t one of its “trial attorneys.” He did, however, personally prosecute another case, the “Baltimore Four,” (10.27.67), which did involved destruction of government draft records by “pouring blood on them” at the Customs House. One of the “Baltimore Four” was in the audience, the poet, David Eberhardt. Another defendant, in that case, was the late Phil Berrigan.

  Moderating the Q&A session was Joe Tropea, who co-produced the popular documentary, “Hit & Stay,” which covered not only the Catonsville Nine case but other antiwar actions during that same period. There were reportedly 271 draft board raids in the U.S. between 1968-71. “Hit & Stay” was also shown at the Maryland Film Festival, along with Tropea’s “Sickies Making Films,” which dealt with film censorship in Maryland.
Joe Tropea

The spirited Q&A session went on for about an hour. Folks in the audience, like local peace activist, Max Obuszewski, had more than one question to ask, as did others from the Peace Community.

  Sachs said, with respect to the break-ins and destruction of draft records cases, that you “open the door to a lawless society,” if you pick and choose what case to prosecute based on the motives, no matter how honorable, of the defendants. Motives, he added, are important only at sentencing for the court to consider, however, they have no role to play in the bringing of a criminal action.

  Forsyth countered by saying, it all comes down to what is the “right or the wrong” thing to do for an individual under the circumstances. A person has to decide for him or herself: “Am I on the right or wrong side of humanity on this issue?”

  Citing the desperate situation that the Jews found themselves in WWII, in France, under the “Vichy Regime” (1940-45). Forsyth said the democratically sourced government in that country had decided “to round up” its Jewish population for deportation back to Nazi Germany. An individual back then, Forsyth underscored, had to decide for himself either to “resist those laws,” or to go along with them. Were those laws – right or wrong? “It was that simple,” concluded Forsyth.

   The “Camden 28” case also came under discussion. This anti-draft board action took place in 1971, in Camden, NJ. All 28 defendants were found “not guilty” by a jury in 1973. Forsyth said that a few of the jury members told him after the acquittal, that they decided on a “not guilty” verdict because they believed the “Vietnam War was wrong.”

  It also turned out that one of the 28 defendants was “an informant” for the FBI and that he had been involved in the “planning and training perspective” of the action. That was more than enough to convince the jury to acquit the defendants. Some have called the verdict in the “Camden 28” case, a classic example of “jury nullification!”

   Finally, the presentation of the film, “1971,” at the Charles, in light of the current political situation in this country, was, indeed, a fitting way to round out the 50th anniversary of the “resisting war films series.”

Bill Hughes is a native of Baltimore. He’s an attorney, author, professional actor and hobbyist photographer. His latest book is “Baltimore Iconoclast” and it can be found at: Contact the author.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [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

Why I Spoke Out At The Senate Gallery Vote On Gina Haspel For CIA Director MAY 21 | FILED UNDER: TORTURE
Why I Spoke Out At The Senate Gallery Vote On Gina Haspel For CIA Director

By David Barrows

  There comes a time to speak out, even if it might result in a jail sentence of up to six months, and this is precisely what I did when the Senate was voting on Gina Haspel to head the CIA. Gina Haspel is the first woman and the worst woman to head this secret, anti-democratic agency. She was directly involved in torture and then in the destruction of the evidence. That’s why from the Senate Visitors Gallery balcony, far above the Senators who were about to vote on her nomination, I shouted out:

   “You senators who vote to approve a human torturer and destroyer of evidence of human rights violations are violators yourselves of the Geneva Conventions, the Convention Against Torture and you violate the Nuremberg principles.  Hitler, too, had lawyers to excuse torture. All my life the CIA has committed crimes against humanity. No one has ever been held accountable. We tortured 3,000 Vietnamese to death under Operation Phoenix.  The CIA has overthrown four democracies: Iran, Guatemala, Chile…”

  I could not remember the fourth republic, as I was by now slowing down and running out of breath. I am, after all, seventy years old.

  I was removed by three burly Capitol Hill police officers, who ushered me down a long flight of steps and promptly handcuffed me.  The arresting officers tried to be humane in the way they treated me. The plain-clothed officer spoke to me in a gentle voice, “Now, you do know that what you did was wrong?” “No,” I answered, “I stood up for human rights.”
It is common knowledge that Gina Haspel followed illegal orders to supervise torture in a secret black site prison in Thailand called Cat’s Eye. Torture included waterboarding, mock executions by firing squad with the victim blindfolded, putting prisoners in a coffin-sized box with insects. Gina earned the nickname given her by her fellow CIA mates as “Bloody Gina.” The excuse offered to Haspel by collaborationist Senators was that at this time “enhanced interrogations” had been suddenly declared legal by three US Department of Justice lawyers, including John Yoo.

  These lawyers had turned themselves into little Daniel Websters and said torture is not torture unless the victim dies from the practice of torture or there is organ failure. Of course, this convenient re-definition was arbitrarily written by one offending party years after we had signed on to the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture. It was also long after we had prosecuted Nazis and Japanese war criminals under the Nuremberg Principles, which held that obeying orders that violate human rights are illegal. Most people know B.S. when they see it, but with too many politicians, B.S. is their second language.       
  Only a week earlier, in a Senate hearing, the only hearing on Haspel that the public could attend, four of us were arrested before the hearing started when we chanted “Don’t promote a torturer,” while holding signs that read “Vote no on Gina” above our heads. Although Capitol Hill police officers had said we could chant and hold our signs above our heads until the hearing began, suddenly the head officer ordered our whole row to be arrested.  It was then that I started calling out while I held onto the velvet divider rope: “‘What meaning does love have when we allow torture to continue unopposed?’ These were the words of Sister Dianna Ortiz, who was tortured under CIA supervision in Guatemala in 1989.” More mayhem broke out as the Capitol Hill police sought to arrest two other Code Pinkers, Tighe Barry and Medea Benjamin, who were shouting out, “Don’t reward a torturer.” Janice Sevre-Duszynska, an ordained Catholic female priest then yelled out, “Stop crucifying Muslims.” Both our phrases referred to Sister Dianna Ortiz’s prayer, “Jesus Our Tortured Brother Today.” It turned out that Sister Dianna Ortiz herself attended this hearing, arriving after our arrests.  Ray McGovern, a 78-year-old former briefer of Presidents for the CIA, was brutally assaulted in his arrest as he spoke against Haspel. Another arrestee, Helen Schietinger, had called Haspel by her known CIA nickname, “Bloody Gina.” Thus, a week earlier we protesters had played an important role, but for me this was not enough by itself.

   I was determined that at the final confirmation vote on Gina Haspel for CIA director at least one citizen’s disapproval should be heard, albeit a voice in the wilderness. I spoke out to oppose the suffering and cruelty that our false democracy, unrepentant, perpetuates upon the rest of our world. Our citizens must add their voices to bolster the integrity of senators like Leahy, Sanders, Harris, Wyden, and McCain, who have spoken out against torture. Unfortunately, they are too few, and the Senate went on to confirm Haspel. She has been rewarded for torture. I, on the other hand, await my trial.

  © 2017 CODEPINK | All Rights Reserved

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [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