Saturday, June 30, 2007
In case you are not aware, you should know that there is a fairly new sattelite TV channel called CurrentTV. It is unique in that it's programming aires in the form of 3 to 6 minutes "pods" rather than the traditional 1/2 hour or hour programs. Also, most of the programs are "viewer created content" which means that you and I and everybody can get a program on Current TV. It is similar to YouTube in that independent film makers can upload videos to the website at http://www.current.tv/, however CurrentTV is unique in that people can "greenlight" the online videos to be aired on CurrentTV's sattelite channel:
Direct TV channel 366
Dish Network channel 196
ALL Time Warner Digital systems... channel 103 in NYC & 142 in LA
Comcast digital basic nationwide: Channel 107 (except Seattle and Dallas where it's 125).
So anyway, I recently set up a CurrentTV account for CODEPINK Studios DC and uploaded our first video . Please go watch, and vote for, the video interview featuring Leslie Angeline who recently passed out in Joseph Lieberman's office after fasting for 10 straight days. She has been on a hungerstrike in order to compel the Senator to meet with her conerning his recent comments about a pre-emptive U.S. military attack on Iran. Leslie recently took part in a Global Exchange goodwill trip to Iran where she fell in love with the people and especially the children.
And keep checking back to the CODEPINK Studios DC account for more videos of CODEPINK actions on capitol hill in the halls of Congress.
And while you are on the CurrentTV website check out these other CODEPINK videos I discovered that have been made by various autonomous video producers:
One Million Reasons
Video Documentary of a day of peaceful civil resistance in front of the White House gate.
Troops Home Fast
The "troops home fast" hunger strike began on July 4th 2006. This film introduces some of the fasters.
Protesting In Style
Various protesters wax "red carpet," showing off their fashionable clothing and telling us just how important their clothes are. CODEPINKers were among these fashionistas!
Grace at Camp Casey 2
Four days after Cindy Sheehan began her vigil outside President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, the rumor was that she and her supporters might soon be arrested. We went to “Camp Casey” the next day to help document the protest that may prove to have been a turning point in the tide against the Iraq war.
Code Pink Alert dot org came to the Libby sentencing with a sign. They brought danishes and coffee for everyone. They sang a song and screamed at Libby when he left.
Okay, just thought I would let you know... pass it on as you deem appropriate.
Friday, June 29, 2007
June 28, 2007
US Social Forum
ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE
ANOTHER US IS NECESSARY
Since we are on the subject of funding healthcare, I decided I should repost the CODEPINK "Prescription for Peace" video that we uploaded in April. Check it out!
On her website, Kay Bailey regurgitates Bush rhetoric as if it were the proclamation made by the town crier of old:
Our brave servicemen and women are fighting terrorism in Iraq, in Afghanistan and around the world so the terrorists will not be able to export their heinous crimes to America.
As we celebrate this Fourth of July, we send our special thoughts and earnest prayers to those American men and women who fight to defend our way of life. Our founding fathers pledged everything they had to secure our freedom. Today, we honor the men and women who follow in their footsteps to preserve it, and carry on our legacy of liberty.
"Kay Bailey", I would ask, "if you are so gung ho about this war and so proud of the men and women who fight to defend, as YOU say, our way of life, why is it that you do not have at least a photo memorial for those same men and women?"
In the tunnel of the Russell building she ignored me. Slipping behind the giant "Miss Freedom" and zipping past the Capitol Police to the trolley.
In the hallway at her Texas tea, surrounded by families of ignorant, yet loyal Texans for their photo op, her jaw dropped and her eyes widened as I slid past her Barbie & Ken doll aides and posed the question again. But no answer was forthcoming. I almost felt sorry for her. She is not used to reproach. She surrounds herself in a bubble of young assistants who lamely deflect negative attention.
As our most patriotic of all holidays nears, I beseech all true Texans to join us here in the nation's capital with all true patriots to once again unite and overthrow the reign of King George IV and his lackeys. May the Texas Tyrant (yes I know he's really from Lieberman's state) and his loyalists go.
We decided to wait until the end of the debate to fly the banner so that we wouldn't get kicked out before the end, but the debate ended so abruptly that it caught us a bit off guard. They ran out of time, so there were no closing statements and they actually had to cut the last candidate off because they ran out of time. We stood up immediately and began chanting "Troops out now, not in 2009" over and over again. I ripped the banner out from under my shirt and tried frantically to hold it up by myself until I realized it was upside-down! We got it right side up and Tina helped me hold it, but it wasn't long before the debate was off air and a group of guards came frantically running at us trying to shut us up. We were sitting behind the cameras so we didn’t get on TV, but hopefully our chant could be heard.
As we were walking out, I could see the guards gesturing at each other from across the room and I turned around to see three of them standing shoulder to shoulder right behind me, herding me out of the auditorium. I said, “awww… isn’t that sweet, you guys are all walking me to the door.” They smiled, but continued to escort me out. When I went to go to the bathroom, a man in a crisp blue suit told me I wasn’t to go anywhere but out of the building. I was finally able to convince him to let me go, as long as he escorted me to the bathroom. I asked if he was going to listen at the door to make sure I was really peeing, and he got this funny disgusted look on his face and assured me that he would certainly not be doing that. When I got out of the bathroom, there he was, waiting for me and he walked me all the way up to the door. I gotta say, I felt pretty important!!
I wish we would’ve been on TV, but it was still good that the audience and all of the candidates heard us. The best part was that it was so much fun! Watching everyone get all uncomfortable and frantic when we started chanting was hilarious. Before CODEPINK I think I would’ve been uncomfortable and embarrassed to make a scene like that, but last night I just felt pure delight!
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
a CODEPINK butterfly flitted and fussed
at a Senator in the marble mazes.
Necklaced with a sign pleading for the children
of Iran, she would stand, tall and slim, at those
Asking just to meet, to have assurance that
diplomacy had primacy and
Not the spoken idiocy and rhetoric of WAR.
A Mariposa in the Marble Mazes of D.C.
In a metamorphosis for PEACE.
Charlotte~ A CODEPINK Peace Crone
1. If you would like to meet with a Senator or Legislative Aid, you must fax in your request. If you don't have a fax, you can write a letter. How efficient is that?
2. When running into Presidential candidate Joe Biden in the hallway, Liz mentioned to the Senator that his plan to partition Iraq is not a solution. Joe Biden responded by saying "Go Home." Liz responded by saying "But Joe, I am home!"
3. When confronted by me and another CODEPINKer on an elevator, Senator John McCain, another Presidential candidate, refused to listen to our assertions that education should be funded before war. He told us to stop following him and threatened to summon the Capitol police.
4. Senator John Conyers, who is supposedly opposed to the war, continues to pink profile Codepinkers and has been very hard on the ladies. He even had CODEPINK removed from a committee hearing he chaired even before the meeting started.
5. When six women entered Senator Lieberman's office to ask the Senator why he continues his rhetoric about bombing Iran, Lieberman's staff called nine police officers in to monitor the situation.
6. When Carla, another CODEPINK newbie, and I walked into a Committee room, a staffer quickly accosted us and said in a rather rude manner "You do KNOW what the House rules are don't you? There are no demonstrations allowed." We were only there to listen and after all it was a public hearing.
7. In several instances this week, Leslie our resident who visted Iran and has been fasting for two weeks until Lieberman meets with her to discuss her Iran visit (he cancelled a previously scheduled meeting with her) has been trying to talk to him in the hallways. Several times he slipped out the back of hearing rooms, at other times he made cursory remarks to Leslie, but in general he continues to refuse to meet with her.
8. If you are one minute late to lunch at the Dirksen cafeteria, they won't let you in during staff serving time. We of course bum rushed the door and got to eat anyway. In our book, tradition and process does not trump hunger.
9. Note to those coming to D.C: Walk fast and wear tennis shoes. Congress members really won't stop to talk to CODEPINKers (just another example of pink profiling). If they see pink, they move fast.
10. In meeting John Warner, my very own Senator, Senator Warner did slow down to shake my hand and listen to my concern about funds from Virginia going to fund war instead of education, but beyond that I have not been able to schedule a meeting with his Legislative Aid this week.
PS-On a positive note, most members of the Capitol Police seem to love CODEPINK!!
Teacher from Richmond, VA
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Wednesday morning we were all out the door by 7:30 a.m. on our way over to the final day of the Take Back America Conference. About six of us walked to Union Station and took the metro to Dupont Circle to get there. Others rode in the two available cars. When we arrived we headed over to the Exhibition Hall and got ourselves organized. Hillary was speaking first. We went into the Ballroom early to get good seats. We sat close to the front, with a group to the right of the podium, a group front and center, and a group to the left of the podium. We started passing out our pink flyers which said LEAD US OUT OF IRAQ NOW. We were getting a good response. Most people wanted one.
Not too much later, someone came along and told us all we weren't allowed to have signs in the area that we were sitting in and that we would all have to turn them in or move to the back of the room where signs were permitted. They started collecting all the signs we had handed out. I quickly grabbed a bunch back and stuck them on my seat and sat down. We were warned that if we held them up, we would have to leave. All signs were collected including HILLARY signs, so it was somewhat less painful than it might have been, but so often when I am doing actions, I can't help but wonder what kind of country I live in. It doesn't feel like I have free speech.
The room filled up and Hillary spoke. We called out challenges to her claims when appropriate. At some point the signs started going up and no one came to challenge us, so it wasn't long before there were LEAD US OUT OF IRAQ NOW signs everywhere. Hillary saw them and referred to them in her speech. I had a difficult time when she spoke about her commitment to labor in America and her claims to want to get Corporations out of government considering the role Bill Clinton played in shepherding NAFTA through when he was President.
My roommate, Leslie, said of Hillary's speech. "I listened to her, I liked what she said, but I just wish I could believe her. It would be wonderful to have a woman president, but I don't trust her at all. I had mixed feelings. I wanted to be able to cheer, but I could not do that. I just didn't believe her."
After Clinton left, Dennis Kucinich spoke. He is just so right-on about every issue. I was getting hoarse from shrieking my approval. One woman in front of me had to move away. She said she appreciated my enthusiasm, but it was difficult to be sitting in front of me, could I stop? Well, I do apologize to her, but heck no, I couldn't. She was free to move and she did.
"Dennis is a man with heart, integrity and a beautiful soul. I wish our country could embrace someone with that much soul." said Leslie.
Nancy Pelosi was up next. She seemed nervous. Leslie is one of the people who camped outside her house in California for twelve days. Leslie thought that Nancy was justified in feeling proud of the things she had accomplished, but she was disappointed in her failure to do more to bring the troops home. Nancy was treated to our LEAD US OUT OF IRAQ NOW signs with great frequency.
Next up was a session led by Codepink on the specific ideas that the Progressive Movement could focus on to get the politicians to lead us out of Iraq. It was well-attended and many ideas were offered. One, that Codepink was already using, was to piggy-back onto Michael Moore's message with our own message, WAR IS SICKO! Another was to build support for HR 508 and to push Pelosi to put this on the floor. People discussed many options including short, sweet, sharp ads, like VetVotes.org, uses, pointing out which politicians have betrayed us.
After the morning session of speeches, some of us piled into a car and drove over to the Hill to get to the Press Conference and Forum with Michael Moore about his new film, Sicko. Michael was supposed to speak at the Take Back America Conference, but was unable to get there because of flight delays. We got to the hallway outside of where the Press Conference was to happen just as Michael Moore was strolling down the hall, entourage and media surrounding him. We followed until we were barred from entering and then found the correct entrance to the hearing room. It was very crowded. I managed to get one of the few chairs left, on the aisle in the center of the room right next to all the video cameras. I settled in and started working on my sign: HEALTH CARE NOT WARFARE.
Before the Press Conference started, two doctors spoke from Physicians for a National Health Plan: Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard and co-director of the Harvard Medical School General Internal Medicine Fellowship program, and Dr. Quentin Young, a practicing internist in Hyde Park, a Clinical Professor of Preventive Medicine and Community Health at the University of Illinois Medical Center and Senior Attending Physician at Michael Reese Hospital. Both of these distinguished speakers advocated for universal, single-payer, not-for-profit health care for all Americans.
The discussion turned to John Conyers' House Resolution 676, introduced into Congress Jan. 24, 2007, to provide for comprehensive health insurance coverage for all United States residents. It would expand medicare and deliver national health insurance. This Bill has, at present, 74 cosponsors in the House. Many of these cosponsors later showed up at the Press Conference.
"Health care must become a human right in this country, not a privilege." The government would be the single payer. Every American should get a card at birth or fill out a form at a Doctor's office enabling them to go anywhere they want for health care. Doctors would get paid electronically. There would be no deductibles and no co-pays. It would be a non-profit system. Insurance companies would still have plenty to do. They could cover non-medically necessary things like cosmetic surgery. The premise now is that insurance companies exist to make a profit. They must deny treatment whenever possible. This is not what is needed. Would we set up our police or firefighters in this way?
Many people ask, "How will you pay for it?" Under single payer, costs are reduced because of a reduction in paperwork. We have money now, but it goes to CEOs and for-profit companies.
The Press Conference got under way, led by John Conyers, head of the House Judiciary Committee, a man who has frequently had Codepink thrown out of hearings or barred all together so I was timid about raising my sign. I kept it down low in front of me. Many members of the Progressive Caucus were on hand and spoke at the Press Conference about the necessity of having universal, single-payer, government-sponsored, not-for-profit health care in this country. As more people expressed their desire for this, I became more emboldened and soon my sign was up and over my head. Several of the Representatives saw it and spoke out the message.
Keith Ellison, the U.S. Congress' first Moslem Representative from Minnesota said, "A loving nation should care for its people." "It is a question of national priorities."
Others spoke just as fervently. "We, the people, not me, the people!" "There is too much greed here. This industry needs to be regulated like a public utility."
After the Press Conference, a forum began, where Michael Moore showed parts of his film and several of the main characters testified about their situations. These people were not uninsured. In fact, they were fully insured. But one woman lost her husband to cancer because of repeated denials of treatment. The other woman lost her 18-month-old daughter because the emergency room where she was taken would not treat her. They didn't accept her plan.
When the forum ended, we headed over to Union Station Theatre where a preview screening was to take place for invited guests only. The invitations had gone out in the Washington Post earlier that morning, inviting, by name, every single health care lobbyist on Capitol Hill. There are four health industry-related lobbyists for every single Congressperson and Senator in the Capitol.
We grabbed a cab and when we arrived at the entrance to the theatre, there was Michael and his entourage chatting with the press. We followed them, as if we belonged, into the almost-empty theatre and sat down close to the front. When Michael asked if everyone there was a lobbyist, I said we were not. He asked how we had gotten in and I said we had followed him. He then apologized, but said that he needed us to leave and that we could see the movie in one of the other screening rooms. We exited the theatre and hung out in the hallway until we received clarification. There were no other screening rooms showing the film. It was soon made clear that Michael wanted the press to see how few lobbyist had been willing to show up and see the film. We were told that they would show it for us later that evening at 7:00 pm.
There is a standing tradition in the Codepink House, that every Wednesday evening there is a potluck supper. I hadn't made anything to bring, so I stopped and got some already-prepared food and headed back to the house. There were lots of people and lots of things going on when I arrived. There was to be a special guest this evening, Tilly, a woman who had been working for an NGO in Afghanistan. When people heard about the movie screening, many chose to go. So we ate hurriedly and walked the five blocks back to Union Station. Again, the theatre was almost empty. We were having a private showing. Someone bought some popcorn and we settled in.
I must tell you, that you have got to see Sicko, if for any reason you were considering not going. It was amazingly powerful. I won't say more right now. We owe a great debt to Michael Moore. Hopefully, people will pay attention and the dialogue in this country will shift. Don't forget to contact your Congressperson and ask them to co-sponsor HR 676.
Back at the house, Tilly began a conversation about her experiences in Afghanistan. I wasn't feeling very well, so missed a lot of her talk. But from what I heard, things are very difficult for the women in Afghanistan, especially those in the rural areas where life is still medieval. They have very few options. Conversation continued long after I went off to bed.
On Thursday morning, everyone was up early and dressed to go to the Hill. We were met downstairs by three men who made up a German film crew doing a documentary on the peace movement and working on a segment about Codepink. They had been at the house the previous day and done some interviewing and filming, but today they were going to follow us as we worked on Capitol Hill. It was difficult to get going. I'm sure I've said it before, but getting all the women to leave at once is like herding cats.
Finally enough people were together for us to represent a sizable force and we left the Codepink House with cameras rolling. As we walked through our beautiful neighborhood to Capitol Hill, we sang our Codepink songs. We garnered honks and peace signs along the way. We created song verses as we went. As we passed a playground with young mothers and their tots, we sang to the tune of "When the saints come marching in," When every child, has a place to play!
We walked slower than I have ever seen Codepinkers walk. I kept finding myself a good half a block in front of the others, only to turn around and wait. When Medea, who usually walks faster than anyone I have ever known, caught up, she pleasantly reminded me that this stroll was for the cameras. As it was, they were racing ahead to catch a glimpse of us as we passed each new camera angle that they set up.
We walked pass the Supreme Court and passed scores of high school kids who were part of the National Young Leaders Conference. Each time we passed one of them we gave them the peace sign, told them to work for peace, and to "hurry up," we desperately needed new leaders. Many returned the peace sign, others high-fived us. The cameras rolled.
When we arrived at the Rayburn Building, we went through Security and we headed to our first hearing of the day on Guantanamo Bay. Many of us had brought some sort of orange jumpsuit or shirt with a slogan against torture on it. Others had black hoods. We all donned these once we were inside the hearing. This was very difficult to listen to. There was a Bush Administration spokesperson discussing the necessity of keeping Guantanamo Bay open and the justification for having it in the first place. He tried to say that the Geneva Conventions don't fit the situation because they were designed for standing armies.
Steny Hoyer then made a brief appearance before the committee and said "It's time to close Guantanamo Bay." I have not been a big fan of Steny Hoyer's recently, but I appreciated him this morning. Here are some snippets taken from my notes at this hearing: "The most powerful nation must also be the most powerful in its commitment to human rights; recognizing that if a civilization is to be what we want it to be it will follow the rule of law; we can't detain them for four years without letting them know why they are being held; indict or release.
The next speaker was a french woman who was a special envoy to Guantanamo reporting to the committee. She spent much time studying this issue. She said that the camp was a major problem for Americans in the eyes of the world.; it was the basis for anti-American sentiment including in friendly countries.
Others who testified said that they continued to be puzzled by why the U.S. was so secretive at Guantanamo Bay. Why weren't due process and international standards of treatment applied? Why did the U.S. do things the way that they did? Now there is a concern that the U.S. doesn't know what to do with these detainees.
When the subject of Human Rights came up, one of my Codepink sisters who was sitting next to me wrote me a note: "Have you seen the HBO Documentary Ghosts of Abu Ghraib? It is unbelievable, shocking what was done to innocent Iraqis--we really care about human rights!"
My Codepink sister, Liz, orange jump-suited and black-hooded, had managed to seat herself right next to the witness table. She held a sign that said "Close Gitmo Now!" John Bellinger, the Legal Advisor for the State Department was the witness. He was asked a question by one of the committee members and Liz says, sotto voce, "Tell the truth." And later another question from a committee member: "Why are you holding them? They can be detained for the rest of their lives?" and Liz interjects "Shameful!"
Our German film crew was in the hearing, filming Codepink and the proceedings. Someone got a call reminding them of the House Judiciary hearing on the Firings of U.S. Attorneys scheduled to start at noon and everyone headed out for another room on another floor.
Entering this room for a hearing chaired by John Conyers, Codepinkers sat down, mindful to avoid the seats with the"Reserved" signs, and began to write out their own signs on pink cloth. In no time they were approached by a Capitol Hill police officer telling them that they were going to have to leave or they would be arrested. They asked "Why?" and he responded that he couldn't tell them the charge, but there would be no further warning. They were escorted out of the room. I had left the previous hearing early and now went in search of the others to rejoin the group only to find them standing in the halls on either side of a thirty foot 'no-walk zone.'
This is all about "pink profiling" which has become common on the Hill. Now that Codepink is recognized everywhere, they have become targets for frightened politicians who don't want the publicity that Codepink generates and have been refused entry or ejected from public hearings solely on the basis of their political stance. This, to me, seems a violation of our individual civil rights. Each member of Codepink is a citizen activist from one of our fifty states who has taken the time out of her life to pay attention to the goings-on in Congress, the peoples'house. Each one of us represents hundreds, if not thousands, of others who have not be able to make this kind of trip. That we should be refused entry to these proceedings on constantly shifting and ill-defined, nebulous grounds which change each day is of serious concern.
Standing in the halls feeling outraged, I watched and waited. Different Codepinkers attempted to cross the hall, where anyone else not part of Codepink was clearly allowed to walk, and were rebuffed and rethreatened with arrest. Whenever someone Medea knew went by, she called out to them. "Do you see what's happening here?" "Congressman, could I walk across the hall with you?" The film cameras were rolling. I took many pictures with my own camera.
We decided to head up to John Conyers' office and put in a complaint. When we arrived, the office staff were welcoming and friendly. They clearly had an ongoing relationship with Codepink.We waited until we were able to speak to Cynthia Martin, his Legislative Director. She came out with a big, beautiful smile on her face and charmingly calmed our ruffled feathers. She said that she would talk to Mr. Conyers. One of his office staff that I had seen the previous day at the Michael Moore event, walked past in a beautiful pink tie. That was enough to get several Codepinkers pleading with him to allow a picture to be taken. He was posed between Medea and I and cameras clicked.
Moments later we heard noise in the halls and our attention was redirected outside of the office. Liz had stopped in at her own Congressman's office as we passed it in the hall on our way to John Conyers' office. Now she was being threatened by Capitol Hill police. She was clearly upset that they were not allowing her to join the rest of us.
It seems that Liz, who was still wearing her orange jumpsuit from the Guantanamo hearing, had frightened someone in her Congressman's office and the police had been called. Liz claimed that she had merely gone in to request a tour of the Capitol, had not done anything threatening, had not even raised her voice above her normal speaking voice. The police tried to keep Liz apart and vulnerable, but she was soon surrounded by her Codepink sisters who refused to leave until she could go with them.
This was the fifth time in the past week that Liz had been targeted and required to prove her identity. Both Liz and Gael, one of the co-founders of Codepink, have shoulder length blond hair, stand about 5'4" and wear glasses. Gael has a "stay-away" order on Capitol Hill until her hearing is over. Liz is frequently confused with Gael.
Bertha, from NY, became Liz's granny and spoke up to the police asking why they were keeping her granddaughter, what had she done, why were they doing this to her, etc. Half an hour later, after numerous attempts by Liz to call into the office twenty paces away and have them come and talk to her and the police, Liz's story and identity were verified and she was let go. We all started to walk away until we realized that the film crew was now the target of the Capitol police. That was soon sorted out and we all headed to the cafeteria for lunch.
After lunch, we headed to the Senate side of the Hill to go to Lieberman's office. Leslie was with us and still continuing her fast in protest of Lieberman's hawkish remarks about Iran. We were going to make another request for a meeting with the Senator.
On the way to his office, we passed an on-going hearing about the budget and stepped inside. The room was packed. The Senators were discussing an amendment being put forward by Barbara Feinstein to renegotiate the government's contracts with the oil companies for off-shore drilling. The contracts were originally written when oil was $20 a barrel and they were not paying royalties. Oil has also since gone to over $60 a barrel, people are paying record prices at the pump, and the oil companies are making the highest profits in corporate history. The amendment called for a renegotiation of profits so that billions of those oil dollars would go back into the federal budget.
We listened to the discussion and stayed on until the vote was taken. Two Democrats, Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson, voted with the Republicans against the Amendment. We were disgusted!
Our next stop was Lieberman's office where Leslie, one of my roommates at the Codepink House, was checking back to see how her attempt to schedule a meeting with the Senator was going. Leslie had restarted her fasting earlier in the week after Lieberman continued his belligent statements against Iran. We were informed that no decision had been made by the Senator yet and we reminded his staff that Leslie was not eating until he decided to meet with her.
When we stepped outside the office, we decided to take a group picture surrounding his name plaque with Leslie in the center and peace signs prominent. The film crew started shooting as we posed, rearranged ourselves, posed again, getting kinda silly as we went along. Very soon, off to our left, we saw the Capitol Hill police striding purposely toward us three-abreast. They reminded us that we had better move along. We told them we were just taking pictures, but the mood was broken and we set off again.
The next stop was Mary Landrieu's office. We wanted to let her know how disappointed we were in her vote against Diane Feinstein's amendment. We talked with her Chief of Staff for quite a while listening to his reasoning about her vote. He said she had to vote this way because a lot of the Katrina relief money was tied to this bill. There's always some reason, isn't there?
By the time we got back to the Codepink House on Thursday, I was not feeling well. I spent the entire next day in the house, as all around me the action continued, people went off to court for their hearings from previous actions, and others returned to the Hill.
I write about my feeling ill because I want others to know about the care and concern that most of the other women showed toward me. I was offered wonderful advice and a massage by Sylveia, given reiki by Beth, and Laurie went out twice to the drugstore for me. If I couldn't be home in NH with my loving family, this was indeed an okay place to be.
On Saturday I spent the day painting and sewing two banners for Codepink to take to the U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta. I started at 10:00 a.m. and didn't come up out of the basement peace room until after 6:00 p.m.
Saturday evening some of us drove over to Lafayette Park, directly across from the White House, to join an on-going 24-hour peace vigil against torture that had begun at 7:00 a.m. It was the 10th anniversary of the UN Day in Support of Torture Victims and Survivors. Lafayette Park was chosen as the site of this year's vigil to officially launch a campaign to Repeal the Military Commissions Act, which survivors of torture have renamed the Torture Law.
It was a very emotional experience. Along with many others in support of their cause. victims and survivors of torture were bearing witness. Over 150 countries in the world currently practice torture. The United States is one of them.
Amy Goodman did an interview on Monday, June 25, 2007 with Sister Dianna Ortiz on Democracy Now! Sister Dianna Ortiz is the founder of TASCC - the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition - the only organization in the United States made up of survivors of torture. In 1989, she was abducted by security forces while working as a missionary among indigenous people in Guatemala. She was taken to a secret prison in the capital center and brutally tortured. She was burned with cigarettes, raped, beaten and forced to torture a woman who was already near death. Sister Ortiz was the main organizer of this weekend's 24-hour vigil in front of the White House.
Here is the link to this interview: http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/06/25/1421222
Sunday was a day to say goodbye to lots of women who were leaving to return home after their week of training here at the Codepink House. By Sunday evening the house was filled once again with impassioned women from all over the country coming to reclaim their government. I will be here for three more days and then I head to Atlanta for the US Social Forum and an entirely new experience. I don't know how soon I will be able to return to D.C., but I know I will be back again.
Today June 26, 2007, I was present at the Habeas Corpus, Guantanamo Bay Rally and it was a beautiful experience. I was able to listen to Reverend Yearwood, he especially sticks in my mind because he shared such powerful words. He pointed out the fact that he has been to many rallies and he was so optimistic because at the rally today their were people of every race, and that in itself is progress. He also shared words from Martin Luther King Jr. and it was a joyess moment.
Later I attended the hearing about
Also being here has been so far a beautiful experience. I am 17 years old and the younger women in the code Pink house, and I feel like not only have I gained friends but also mothers, comrades, grandmothers, and sisters. This is a wonderful experience.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
With our congress people still funding war and leaving our soldiers to be killed- despite what we-the-people (aka- their bosses) voted for, I felt compelled to dedicate my summer to helping to end the Iraq war. During the school year I am a teacher in St.Louis and also the local coordinator of CODEPINK St.Louis- Women for Peace. I accepted an arts-coordinator/media outreach position with the CODEPINK House in Washington DC, for a couple of months, to help non-violent activists from around the country to creatively exercise their rights, represent their communities (majority) voice-of-peace, and teach (primarily) women useful outreach-tools before they return home. We at the DC-CODEPINK House are encouraged to make goals for the week- benchmarks, if you will, a sort of a timetable which acts as our road map for the week before we leave to go back home to our own states... to ensure each activist who visits the DC-CODEPINK House has an imperative exit strategy before returning home...
One of my benchmarks for June 21st, 2007 was to visit Senator Claire McCaskill's office. Claire had just voted for another $100 billion more funding without a timetable for withdrawal which she claims she wants (...even though she is on record saying she doesn't think the troops should come home). Claire recently returned from a visit to Iraq, proclaiming that money is being “wasted”. When I confronted her about her reckless war funding vote $100 billion spending habit, during her morning public meeting today, she brushed me off and made small talk about the Cardinals and weather instead.
I explained to Claire and the small group of constituents that “my cousin, who has a new baby, is serving in Iraq and I want him to come home to see his daughter; so “after funding more war... what steps is she taking to bring the soldiers home?”. Instead of responding to my question, she redirected it; and spoke of her visit to Iraq, of entering the green-zone, and blah blah blahed until she quickly asked others in the room if they had any other questions. A couple of young students in the room from St.Louis asked, again, about the Iraq war and Claire told them “we had just talked about that,” and she blah blah blahed again while I discreetly corrected her careful sound bytes into the reality of what she was actually saying. For example, when she talked about funding an important..blah blah blah that would help give the troops what they needed- I would interject grounded things like “giving the corporations” what they wanted and “funding more troops” to be killed.
Yet another man from this small group of constituents asked about the war and by this time she seemed thoroughly uncomfortable and clearly flustered with my subtle and righteous corrections (which she ignored and didn't challenge. I had to sit at her neglect; I felt sickened and on the verge of crying– which I didn't want to do, because my message of peace could risk being discounted. She had no acknowledgement of my cousin, his family, nor any of her contradictions I was bringing to light. The gut-quaking wails, I couldn't help, came out of pure realization that she really has no intentions of bringing our soldiers home nor hearing or really listening to her constituents.
She then, quickly maneuvered another distraction, to take a happsy whapsey group photo and began to hustle out of the room. Out of pure desperation at her ridiculousness and cowardice I sang her a song through my tears and distressed emotion called “Stop In The Name of Peace”, sung to the tune of “Stop In The Name of Love”. It went as follows:
Senator I'm aware of how you vote
Each time you reach the floor
I'm watching you talk on TV
Knowing that you're gonna lie to me
But this time before you run to war
Without the nation's support
(think it over) Haven't Missourians been good to you?
(think it over) Haven't Missourian voters been sweet to you?
Stop! In the name of peace
U.S. Out of the Middle East
Stop! In the name of peace
U.S. Out of the Middle East
Think it over
Think it over
My CODEPINK sisters later reflected that Claire had turned her back on us immediately after I had introduced myself and friends as members of CODEPINK. This seemed symbolic to me of her turning her back on the majority of Missourians, who helped her get elected to bring peace, the people, I felt, I was there representing. And also I feel as though she hasn't the strength and backbone she claimed to have to stand up to this administration, like she said she would do during her campaign.
Although Claire broke me down for a minute today, she should understand that her constituents are watching what she is doing. She has not destroyed my hope for peace. She just destroyed the hope for a female congress woman brave enough to balance peace with the over-bloated war, and be a real leader worthy of American women's dreams. She's clearly allowing herself to be a pawn buying Bushes war... well, now, officially in my mind, she bought it and needs to own it now too.
Laurie Meier in Washington DC
CODEPINK St.Louis – Local Coordinator
(please note that this is a personal opinion and does not reflect any position held by CodePink Women for Peace)
At the Take Back America breakfast yesterday morning, I got to see Hillary Clinton close up, in person, for the first time. Although I have not supported her since she began this campaign, to see a woman approaching the podium as one of the leading presidential candidates brought tears to my eyes. Twenty-five years ago, when I was first beginning my feminist journey, I could never have foreseen a woman and a black man as leading candidates in the
Hillary Clinton, of course, spoke of issues that warm the hearts of all progressives. She set up a clear barrier between “us” (Democrat-supporting progressives—is that an oxymoron?) and “them” (the war-mongering, corrupt, corporate-controlled Bush administration). She called for all the issues on the Democratic platform: national health, a living wage, end to the war in Iraq (last on her list, but that may have been because of the expected, protracted support for that topic), affordable education from pre-school through higher ed, a decent wage for the working class—in short, everything that every Democratic candidate supports. She personalized her speech with the story of Lilly Ledbetter, the woman who was paid less than men for 20 years as a supervisor at Firestone, then was told by the Supreme Court that it was too late for her to receive compensation.
One of the non-“bumpersticker” (credit to John Edwards) truths, as I perceive it, that she mentioned was that US people are the “hardest working in the world.” As Dan Savage points out in his book Skipping Towards Gomorrah, US people work hardest of any in the industrial world (more about this distinction later, OK, Medea?). Folks in this country work more hours (and more jobs), take shorter, fewer vacations (minimum mandatory vacations in every other industrialized nation begin at three weeks), and produce more per capita. And where has it gotten us? We’re have the highest addiction, depression, suicide and violence rates of any society in the Western world. We’re over our heads in debt, our houses are being foreclosed on, and our economy is in shambles (a fact that, by the way, seems not to have reached the mainstream media at all. The US dollar is worth less in the world than it has been since the Great Depression. Why is no one worried about this?) I really don’t see why this “hard work” is something to be so proud of, since it doesn’t seem to have made us personally or societally very happy or well-balanced.
At this statement, however, she—and I—were immediately shot down by Medea, who reminded me of the 2/3 of the world we call "developing". In retrospect, it seems a shame to me that Ms Clinton (I will always call her “Ms”— I’d call her Ms Rodham but then no one would know who I was talking about!) didn’t tie in her Lilly Ledbetter story with the story of working women all over the world: Women, who make up 52% of the population and do 2/3 to ¾ of all the work in the world (in the Third World, women rise at 3 or 4 am to begin to carry water for the work they will do all day; in the vast majority of places, men do next to nothing while women do all the planting, caretaking, harvesting, production, slaughtering and processing of food and other goods, as well as “traditional” women’s work of childcare and homemaking); but they own less than 10% of the world’s wealth and less than 1% of the property.
And this, in a nutshell, is why I don’t support Hilary Clinton: Because she has chosen to side with the rich, almost all white, western, and male, power structure. Rather than build a campaign and coalition that reaches out, educates and empowers the majority of this country that is not the rich white male elite, she has joined their ranks. Now, whether or not they will ever accept her as one of their own is a question I have no desire to address. Some say they did Margaret Thatcher, but the way they treated her at the end of her term says otherwise. My point is that I’m not going to support a woman, just because she is a woman, if she isn’t addressing my concerns.
Now, to be fair, I’m sure that Ms Clinton affected President Mr. Clinton’s politics and policies. I argue that Bill Clinton is the best president women ever had, simply because he was the first to put women in visible positions of power—and in such a way that there was no going back. Do you really believe GW Bush’s cabinet and administration would be as diverse as it is if not for Bill Clinton's opening of doors that could never be shut? Sometimes I think I’m being too hard on the Ms, that I expect more of women—well, that’s probably true. I do expect more of women because for the most part, when I look around me, I see women giving, doing, being much more.
Until he said, in response to a possible attack on
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
This morning at the Take Back America conference when Senator Hillary Clinton took the stage CODEPINKers held up pink signs reading "Lead Us Out of Iraq Now!" and pleaded with the senator to bring our troops home now, to be a leader in ending the occupation of Iraq. While Hillary made some great promises about offering universal healthcare and ensuring a preschool education for every American child, and reiterated that she voted no on the last Supplemental spending bill to appropriate funds to the war, without her leadership on actually bringing our troops home with a full and immediate troop withdrawal, it remains unclear where funds would come from for these excellent domestic programs, and how we can move forward as a nation. Hillary's commentary about the Iraq war included a commentary about how the US has liberated Iraq from Saddam, helped hold democratic elections, and installed the Iraqi government. Her commentary seemed to blame Iraq for the ongoing violence, which in turn was met with loud boos from the audience. Hillary walked a careful talk today, but it was not convincing to many in the audience, who feel the only way that trust in Hillary could be restored is through her actions to end the war, not her rhetoric. As an aside, Hillary asserted that the US is the oldest democracy. I seem to remember something about Athens appearing in a school textbook. Hillary also stated that the US has the hardest working population in the world. To me, that kind of hubris does not inspire the kind of patriotism I feel for this country and the global community.
CODEPINK protested at Hillary's talk at the Take Back America conference last year as well. This year our message was a proactive one: Hillary, be a leader and bring our troops home! Take action NOW to end the war!
Nancy Pelosi made some excellent comments about listening to young people in this country, who are agitated, don't believe elected officials will take action, and are fed up with the government. She spoke about meeting with people and having dialogues. I asked her to meet with us in San Francisco, as she has yet to meet with the anti-war movement in district. Because we have not be able to meet with her, we've been camping outside her doorstep! Nancy made some excellent points about green jobs and about the need to bring our troops home, and we would like to believe that she will stick to her word--we know that she, as Speaker of the House, can do more to end the US occupation of Iraq, and that's why we were in the audience today with our pink signs and loud voices for peace, demanding that these elected officials lead us out of Iraq!
Whew! It was a scorcher today but that did not deter the kids from Cesar Chavez Charter School for Public Policy. They showed up as planned with their teachers excited about seeing CODEPINK in action. Our "action tour" began at the Hart building Room 216 where we sat in on the Armed Services Committee hearing on the confirmation of Texan Pete Geren for Secretary of the Army.
Liz had been waiting for us at the entrance to the hearing room (same room where about six weeks ago Midge held up the banner above Alberto Gonzales' head that said "I have nothing to hide but the truth"). There happened to be a table outside the anteroom where we spread out the armbands we had made for the "scholars", as their teacher, Laura Kravis, prefers to call them. The armbands said "ANOTHER STUDENT FOR PEACE". Some of them wore them as armbands others as belts or lanyards. (Leave it to the next generation to see things outside the box!) The two teachers seemed to beam as they both put on their CODEPINK buttons.
It just so happened that the man being nominated for the Secretary of the Army position is a Texan and that both my Texas senators were in the room. Kay Bailey Hutchison testified that Geren is a good man with a history of service to his country as a congressman, etc, etc, and so forth. She was seated next to him at the witness table. I guess this meant he is worthy of confirmation. (Do you feel my pain?)
My other senator, Senator John Cornyn, another Republican Bushite, spoke from his seat at the dais regurgitating what Kay Bailey said. No sooner had he finished his spiel, he rose followed by an aid to exit the room, also in my direction! Yippee! A two-fer, I thought. I did the exact same thing by catching up to Cornyn at the rear door of the hearing room but he had an answer prepared for me, "Have you forgotten about 9/11?" I replied as calmly as I could muster, walking fast to keep up, "Everyone knows, Senator that the hijackers were Saudi and Egyptian NOT Iraqi. Don't try to use that on me. Do you really think all Americans are THAT ignorant?!" He turned away from me out the foyer into the hallway with nothing more to say.
While I had been out of the room, the infamous Senator Joe Lieberman had entered the room. I did not notice him until I had sat down next to Ms. Kravis to see how the kids were doing. Upon realizing that the Senator responsible for insulting the nation of Iran and sending CODEPINKERS shivers up our spines at the thought of more military strikes was in the room I told Ms. Kravis that I needed to make a sign. I moved near Liz and we both proceeded to write on our hot pink paper, DONT IRAQ IRAN in huge bold letters. When Lieberman finally gave me eye contact, I waved my sign at him. He actually gave me a brief smile. (So wierd! I guess he still thinks of us as his CODEPINK friends.)
Soon after, Ms. Kravis indicated that her students wanted to move on to the next hearing. We, Liz, I and Mabel, who had joined us proceeded down the hall to the stairwell connecting us to the Dirkesen building. Mary Tyler Moore and a former NBA basketball player who's name escapes me testified about the need for government assistance for juvenile diabetes. We ran into Carl Levin who, hunched over as he was, still managed to speed walk between hearings.
This room, a huge one, was packed with observers, press and many children wearing t-shirts with the logo of the organization sponsoring the witnesses. We did not stay long due to the students tight schedule and their desire to get into Senator Barack Obama's office.
After returning to the Hart building we took the elevator up to the 7th floor. Coincidentally, the Senator was on TV as we entered room 713. His staff looked on curiously as we led the students and their teachers into the already busy office. Ms Kravis mentioned with pride that she was from Illinois, the state the senator represented.
It appeared that staffers were coming and going. A young African-American man approaching the desk from behind closed doors seemed genuinely interested in the group so after telling him about us, I asked him to introduce himself to the class and share with us what he did for the senator. He explained that he was a summer intern, only 20 years old and that his job was to handle phones and other communications and that he would return to college in August. He smiled and answered a few questions and promised to share the comments that students Reina Guzman and others had for the senator.
Our morning was flying by, so after a quick granola bar gift from Ms. Kravis, we hiked in the heat and glare of the summer sun over to the House side of Capitol Hill. There we arrived a tad bit late to the Hip Hop Caucus press briefing on torture. Reverend Yearwood nodded in approval as we entered and quietly took two rows of seats at the rear of room 2237, (I think!) while the ex-military chaplain implored us to rise up against Jim Crow, Jr. Esq. just as both blacks and whites did in the Civil Rights movement. He then introduced our heroine, Barbara Lee, who after recognizing the various social justice groups represented in the room, reminded us all that in a not too distant past, she lived the struggle of the Civil Rights movement. Both Rev. Yearwood and Congresswoman Lee spoke to upholding the Constitution, the need to restore Habeas Corpus and the closure of Guantanamo. (Ms. Kravis sent around to her students a sheet of paper on which she had written an explanation of the situation in Guantanamo.) During the applause for the Congresswoman, we filed out of the hearing room into the hall. Seconds later, Ms. Lee appeared walking briskly with her aid. Liz greeted her excitedly so that she agreed to pose with the kids. "We love you!" We shouted as she waved back after the picture.
Exuberant with hungry teens in tow, we practically skipped to the cafeteria for lunch and banter before heading home, each group on to it's next appointment, Liz and I with the Dallas Morning News photographer and Cesar Chavez Charter School for Public Policy students with a soldier recently returned from Iraq.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
It's Tuesday morning 7:30, very hot here in D.C. I wanted to connect with everyone and let you know what I've been doing since I arrived on Sunday.
There are about twenty people here at the Codepink house. Well-known activists Medea, Ann Wright, and Reverend Billy are here, as well as numerous lesser-known-nationally but equally-active women from Virginia, D.C., Missouri, New York State, NYC, Pennsylvania, Maine,Texas, California, Washington State, Arizona, Maryland, and NH. People come daily and others leave. All are committed to changing the status quo in this country and the world. I learn so much from them, just from a ten-minute conversation walking through the halls of Congress or waiting in the halls of the Codepink house to use one of the three bathrooms.
Sunday, shortly after I arrived and settled in, we had a workshop given by the Pachamama Alliance.
The Symposium explored the link between three of humanity's most critical concerns: environmental sustainability, social justice and spiritual fulfillment. The material was good and interesting, although most of it was familiar. The presentation was stilted and would have been perfect for viewing by a middle school class. Those of you who teach would find much useful informa
Sunday evening we shared a supper of eggplant parmesan, cooked by the House Mama, Desiree, pasta
Monday morning we had a meeting around the picnic table in the back yard. We all introduced ourselves and talked briefly about our experiences coming to activism and lobbying. This was led and facilitated by Gael Murphy, one of the co-founders of Codepink, who is the Codepink representative to the UFPJ legislative coalition. Then, Liz, one of the resident D.
I had managed to
I left the house with the intention of joining other activists at a noon action against Gonzales in front of the Justice Department. I walked in the heat, with pink umbrella unfurled, for only a few blocks when Rae, the D.C. Local Chapter Coordinator, stopped in a car and asked me if I wanted a lift. F
I arrived a full half hour early. The office staff offered to let Martin know I had arrived early, but he was not able to see me until our appointed time. I did not expect that he would change his schedule for me and was grateful to sit in the air-conditioned office. I was a bit disconcerted by the constant barrage from the TV tuned to Fox news, but I tried to tune it out.
At exactly 1:30, Martin Bayr showed up and escorted me into a large conference room where the two of us s
I asked Martin how the peace movement could help him and the Senator move to a position of bringing the troops home by the end of 2007. Whenever
At one point, Martin said that he was always reading new information about the situation in Iraq and I asked h
A little after 2:00, we shook hands and parted. I felt it was a productive, useful and necessary start to a dialogue that I hope will continue.
As I walked out of the conference room, I was immediately met by a young woman, Emily Brooks, President of the D.C. Federation of College Democrats, who, seeing my Codepink t-shirt, wanted to talk with me about Codepink. She had spent the last year working on the issue of HPV and availability of the vaccine against this virus. She was now turning her focus to war and the pe
I then left the Russell building and with my new cellphone was able to contact the other activists on the
Some of us al
It's 3:00 p.m., we have returned from the Take Back America Conference. There are some film-makers here talking with Des and Medea. Jodie Evans, the third co-founder of Codepink, has just arrived from St. Louis with big suitcases full of costumes and props, as well as new stock for the Codepin
Leslie, one of my roommates, who started a hunger strike last week in protest against Lieberman's aggressive threats against Iran and stopped her strike after 5 days when a meeting was held between her, Medea and some people from the Iranian community and some of Lieberman's staff, has restarted her hunger strike since he continues to threaten. She has rescheduled her flight home, which she was supposed to take tomorrow, so that she can stay until she feels that she has accomplished something. She hopes to stage another event later this week to call more media attention to the issue.
So, let me tell you a little about the Take Back America Conference. We pulled up out back of the Hotel to
We unloaded the car and headed in through the gym and down the halls to the Exhibition Hall where Codep
This one was a particular favorite as other verses included things like "when all our troops, have left Iraq," "when we have peace, in the middle east," "when we build schools, instead of bombs," "when we have healthcare, instead of warfare," "when all the world, has human rights," plus it had such a catchy up-beat tune that the response was fantastic--much smiling and hand clapping. Cameras were clicking away. The media had turned its attention to us. Most people were pleased, but one woman came over, clearly annoyed with us, and asked us to stop. Others asked us to continue, so we moved to a less central locale and placated both groups.
One of the local D.C. TV stations that was broadcasting asked if we would do a segment for them and we were happy to oblige. They interviewed Medea with us in the background. On cue, we sang the Take Back America song. When the interview was over, Medea noticed Bob Borosage walk by, co-founder of the Campaign for America's Future, the sponsor of the Take Back America Conference, called him over and we did a group picture surrounding him with pink. I later learned that Codepink had been thrown out of last year's event.
We soon moved down the hall to a strategic landing where everyone had to pass who was going to go and listen to Barack Obama. We struck up the chorus again and felt much appreciated. When the crowd thinned out, we entered the ballroom and listened to Barack. Some of us, with louder, more theatrical voices, called out little messages when pertinent issues were brought up. The room was filled, the audience was enthusiastic.
As Barack was winding up, we headed back out to the landing and began another rendition of our songs. We kept this up until the halls had thinned out again, re-entered the now-much-less-filled ballroom and listened to John Edwards give his speech.
As Edward's wound up his remarks, we once again positioned ourselves outside the ballroom, sang and handed out reminders of Codepink's own information session to take place Wednesday on "How Can Progressives Bring the Troops Home in 2007?"-- a conversation with co-founders Medea Benjamin, Gael Murphy and Jodie Evans. We then started heading back to the Exhibition Hall as we handed out flyers entitled "Presidential Candidates and Iran: What are they Saying???" which had been prepared earlier by the D.C. staff.
We regrouped, decided to head over to Congress, grab some lunch on the Hill and go to some hearings. But marshalling thirteen or more Codepink activists is much like herding cats. Someone is always stopping to chat, someone else is being asked for an interview. Waiting, I saw a familiar face and walked up to embrace Marcia Moody. I hadn't seen her for at least a week, when we were both in Concord to try to get the Rules Committee of the State Legislature to allow a Resolution on Impeachment to be brought before the House during this year's session. We talked briefly. She said she had heard us singing. I invited her to the Codepink House for the potluck supper Wednesday night.
Soon several of us had gathered with one of our drivers and proceeded to go upstairs in preparation for our ride to the Hill and some much-needed lunch. Awaiting us at the top of the stairs were tables full of free boxed-lunch sandwich wraps--your choice of veggie, chicken, or turkey, with accompanying pickles, carrot and celery sticks, cookies, apples and bottles of water. Famished we all took a box and a bottle and headed for the lobby to sit down and eat. It was delicious and just the right price!
After eating, several of us, myself included, decided to go back to the house. Shortly after we returned, the house filled up with people. The Codepink staff went to the basement peace room for a staff conference. The rest of us fanned out to do our own things.
Tomorrow is another busy day. Some of us are going back for the final day of the Take Back America Conference. We have an important flyer to leave on all the seats before Hillary's speech. Nancy Pelosi is scheduled to talk as well. There are more hearings and actions on the Hill. Tom Hayden is scheduled to visit. We have our weekly potluck supper with guest Tilly Reed, an NGO worker in Afghanistan. I'll write more soon.