Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

My Life is Not More Valuable Than Anyone Else’s Life

March 12, 2012

When I posted photographs of what US taxpayer money funds in its wars on poor people in the Middle East, some of those who received notices of this blog asked to be removed.  I found that telling: telling of how much worse things are than during Viet Nam when the nightly news showed the US every day what it was doing and when people were outraged and took to the streets; when young men burned their draft cards and went to jail.  I know personally a man who spent years as an orderly in a poor Southern hospital because he refused to fight that war as a conscientious objector.  I know others who went to jail.

I know others who got “deferments” and were not drafted, men not unlike Dick Cheney who did not have to fight that war, nor resist it.  Alas, those men are the ones who have made decisions to fight these wars.  They are also some who just don’t want to be bothered with what the US is doing now.  Below is a photograph of what the US is doing now:

Child killed in US war, surrounded by grieving relatives

Here is a link to the article by Christopher Cooper where I saw this photograph.  I share his outrage and his despair at the US.

What are we doing to stop this?  Will we just let this happen? Do we not know that our rights are being obliterated as well as the lives of these people?  Do we really think that we are “safe” from our own government much less from the anger of those whose lives we destroy? Can we not read history and see where this leads?

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Exhibit of Art, Poetry, Stories by Guantanamo Prisoners

January 29, 2012

DONT SUPPRESS OWS

January 26, 2012

We have seen the peaceful OWS protesters beaten viciously, sprayed with toxic chemicals, their possessions thrown into dumpsters and the occupiers throw into jail.  This violent, brutal suppression of persons exercising their constitutionally protected rights to assemble and to dissent cannot go unchallenged if we do not want to see our rights continue to disappear.

Here is a link to a site where you can sign a call for a massive protest and participate in the action being planned.  There is a meeting this evening and the next few Thursdays in NYC at Judson Church at 6:30.  Go if you can.  A date for this action will soon be announced, definitely plan to participate in the event.

For those of you in other cities, sign and pass on this call and begin to organize something where you are.  We cannot let this repression go without a strong response and hope that things will get better with the spring weather.  Unless we let the powers and the world know that we do not approve, things will only get worse.

Ed’s Film of Andy on the Steps of the Supreme Court

January 16, 2012

Since there is precious little coverage of the protest last Wednesday, the 10th anniversary of the opening of the torture camp at Guantanamo, it is especially important for me to share the film Ed Haas made of the event.  Here is a link to remarks by Andy Worthington foremost authority on the prisoners at Guantanamo, from the steps of the Supreme Court Building.

Andy Worthington

See Andy’s new website here.

They Want All Our Money And All The Power

October 27, 2011

As an artist, my job is to show aspects of life on this planet at this time.  Naturally, what things I choose to show are appropriate areas for decision making by my colleagues and me.  Ranting and raving about these subjects in not my role in my work.

This blog, however, is a place for me to make judgments and to formulate opinions.  Readers, be warned about this post.

The relentless procession of images, both visual and verbal, of the current brutal assault by police on peaceful protesters is an outrage about which I choose not to be silent.  It is inhumane, cruel, and illegal.  I believe that there may actually be a case for its being a crime against humanity.

 

Photograph of police attacking unarmed protesters

Description of a scene that occurred on Saturday, October 15th as protesters marched up 6th Avenue to join the massive protest at Times Square from Christopher Ketcham’s article Denunciation and Disruption of TruthDig, October 25, 2011 :

“In a flash, Credico has broken through the scooter barricade, is across the street, dashing among the White Shirts, his face grotesquely twisted, the cigar gripped tight, as if it would scatter all authority, the officers surrounding him, jabbing and pushing at him though he’s done nothing but speak his mind and wave the cigar. He’s demanding the reason for Vincent’s arrest.  Credico is right up in the cops’ faces and they’re knocking him around. ‘Get your fuckin’ hands offa me,’ he’s screaming. ‘Get your fuckin’—’ He disappears in a wall of cop, and I’m figuring he’s a goner, headed to the same van where Vincent was hauled, still smiling that tall smile. ”

I witness now the virtual conflation of dissent with terror by those who have profited from the acts of terrorism in 2001 whose cause is still not clear in order to further terrorize the population of this and other countries.  I am not saying that the government of the US was responsible for the events of September 11, 2001; I am saying that those events are still shrouded in darkness and I don’t know who was responsible.  I am also saying that the military-security-corporate complex and those whom they reward in government have profited enormously by using those attacks as pretext for drastic changes in the US and for enormous profits, directly or indirectly at the expense of the population.

Hand in hand with a vast abrogation of civil liberties, these interests have effected the radical militarization of police forces in the country.  The police response to the constitutionally guaranteed right to dissent and to assemble is now a military one appropriate for an invasion or attack, not for peaceful protest.  Police in riot gear now routinely serve arrest warrants! Citizens are increasingly beaten, tasered, and shot by police.

Peaceful protesters are trampled by horses

leading to this

They are run over by police motorscooters:

And, sprayed with chemicals, beaten and bruised.

Ray McGovern after manhandling by the police

The US has a long history of police brutality and the use of the military to suppress political dissent.  During my lifetime, the use of attack dogs and fire hoses on peaceful civil rights demonstrators,

and the murder by National Guard riflemen of students at Kent State still live in my memory.

Things are different now and worse.  There has been less public outrage and much more complicity by the majority of people in this country.  Terrorism, especially after the attacks on civilians of 2001, has been a good weapon for the corporate powers who want all our money and all the power.

At the time when civil rights activists were attacked, the events were shown widely on national television.  The media reporting of the Kent State Massacre was important in furthering and broadening within the society a greater resistance to the Viet Nam war.  Today, the corporate owned media fail to show the extent of the repression and often frame what coverage there is to make protesters the offenders.

Fortunately, the mass arrests and police violence against completely peaceful protest at Occupy Wall Street are garnering more accurate coverage from corporate media.  In part that is true because of the skillful use of media by the protesters who have established a global internet television presence, who film everything from many angles with their cameras and cell phones which they then distribute via their own network and on sites like youtube and facebook  They chant quite accurately, “The whole world is watching.”

Protesters photographing and filming police

Ironically, by not relying on the corporate media, supplanting them with people’s media, they have forced the corporate media to do a somewhat better job.  There is a larger message here about the power of their experiments, as they call them, in alternative organization and another way of life.

Frankly, I would rather suffer an attack by real enemies, which actually I suspect is not very likely, at least not right now, than the prolonged attack on us currently underway by the New York Police Department and the federal law “enforcement” agencies.

I would dismiss the “theater” aspect of the police violence, were it not for the fact that these cops of farce, the soldiers of the corporate army, regularly turn vicious and beat, run over with motor-scooters, imperil with police horses, spray with dangerous chemicals, and otherwise attack peaceful people.  Let us call things by their right names.  These are not police, but soldiers, equipped and trained for military actions.  These actions are turned on us.  We have become the enemy.

WHEN ARE SOLDIERS USED?  IN WAR.  THIS IS WAR.  WHO IS THE ENEMY? WE ARE.  WHY ARE WE THE ENEMY?  THEY WANT AAAAALLLLL OUR MONEY AND THEY WANT POWER.

Let me also not despair, however.  The recent refusal of the police of Albany to move on Occupy Albany despite orders from somewhere above is encouraging.  Read article here.

And the formation of #OccupyMarines, a group of veterans of the service branches who support the occupation and want to enlist the police to protect the protesters is very inspiring.  The national organization is currently calling for marines in Oakland to show up there and support the occupation which was brutally attacked earlier today.  May many of them hear the call.

People willing to face the brutality are probably our only hope of stopping the militarized brutality of police in this country and the corporate entities that it defends.  Will the people win?  I hope so.  The corporate masters will stop at nothing to get what they want.  Only massive resistance by people can win against that.

Abdel Qadir Al Mudafari

October 20, 2011

Abdel Qadir al-Mudafari, from Yemen, is another of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay about whom contradictory information makes any real understanding of his situation nearly impossible.

A common claim in US military documents at Guantanamo, most probably from another prisoner under torture, was that he was a body guard of Osama Bin Ladin.  A large number of his fellow prisoners are accused of the same thing by unnamed sources.  The sheer number of the claims makes them improbable, in addition to the probability that information about prisoners was exacted from others under torture.

It does appear, according to Andy Worthington, that Abdel Qadr al-Mudafari said he wanted a struggle or jihad and went to Afghanistan rather than Palestine.

Unsubstantiated allegations about him from unknown sources sometimes contradict one another.  He is said to have been a trainer (another of the frequent allegations against many of these men, the sheer number of them casting their accuracy into doubt) at al-Farouq training camp and had been at the “Taliban Supreme Leader’s” compound, against which there are assertions from unknown sources that he never affiliated with the Taliban because he was against them.  He is said to have studied in Yemen with Sheikh Muqbil al-Wadi, who spoke out against bin Laden.  All unsubstantiated allegations may have come from other prisoners under torture and would never stand in any real court proceedings.

Abdel Qadr al-Mudafari himself says that he traveled to teach the Qur’an.

Like all the other prisoners in Guantanamo, Abdel Qadir al-Mudafari has been tortured and imprisoned in conditions that defy US and international law without charge for nearly a decade.  He should be released immediately and indemnified for the atrocities he has endured.

Defending Against Enemies Domestic

October 18, 2011

Below you can watch a powerful clip of the defense by Marine Sargeant Shamar Thomas of the peaceful citizen protesters of Occupy Wall Street.

Sargeant Thomas reminds me of some of the veterans I met at Camp Casey and in the anti-war movement generally.  This kind of warrior defied some of my notions about soldiers.  I came to believe that they would defend “their people” to the death with their bare hands if necessary, though they are very smart and would have exhausted a lot of other options before getting to that desperate stage.  They would not, however, attack anyone unprovoked, they might not attack anyone actually, provoked or not.  They defend.  These women and men have been horrified at the use that the US has made of their service.  Some of them have refused deployment to fight US wars of aggression like Sgt. Mathis Chiroux and Lt. Ehren Watada.  Others have become strong and faithful anti-war activists like Colonel Ann Wright pictured below.

Col. Ann Wright

Sgt. Matthis Chiroux

Lt. Ehren Watada

I am glad to have met people like this who show me that my ideas and stereotypes are often mistaken.  I thank all military personnel in the world who will not attack others and who defend their people from the domestic enemies who threaten them.

DANCING TANGO TO THE MUSIC OF FREEDOM ON TIMES SQUARE WITH THE WALL STREET OCCUPIERS

October 17, 2011

George had missed the dancing on Foley Square and down Broadway on that memorable Wednesday evening, so he was raring to go to the Occupy Wall Street event at Times Square and dance some tango.

For me, it was glorious to be there with thousands of people, the crowd stretching as far as I could see on the square where I have protested before with a handful of people many times.  It was at such a protest I met Jack.

There was, as always with Occupy Wall Street, music.  George can dance tango to anything and likes live music best, so we danced to all the music they played.  As a number of people on stilts moved about among the crowd, occasional groups of people danced in lines weaving in and out, and lots of people stood about cheering on the revolution and enjoying the celebration in the place in this city famous for mass parties, we danced and danced.  People smiled at us and took photographs.  We were interviewed several times.  George told the NPR reporter that he was “dancing to the music of freedom.”  I said how thrilling it is to be there with all these people after years of participating in protests on Times Square with very small groups.

A huge cheer burst forth at the moment when the contingent which had marched all the way from Liberty Plaza in lower Manhattan arrived.  We heard the cheer but could not actually see them, nor did we know why the cheer went up for some while.  It is glorious to be participating in a movement where crowds are so large that we don’t know what is going on in other parts of it.  Strategic division of forces is one of the strengths of the Occupation.  They seldom have everyone in one place, which means that if the worst happens and all the people in one spot were to be arrested, there are others somewhere else.  There had been contingents protesting in different places all over the city, but the major cohort had gone from Liberty Plaza in the morning to Washington Square Park for a huge rally in the heart of NYU and on up 6th Avenue to arrive finally at Times Square where the party had already started.

The massive police presence would be ridiculous if it were not so malevolent.  There was not a moment of violence of any kind on the part of the protesters.  There never has been.  The only violence I have seen when I have been present with the occupation at any time is on the part of the police, who sometimes appear more and more like the keystone cops, falling all over themselves in their numbers.  If they were not so brutal, they would just be ridiculous.  Unfortunately, they can and have turned vicious.

There were arrests, the Global Revolution network thinks about 70 in all for the day, 23 in a bank downtown and the rest pedestrians during the marches.  One foot on a part of the pavement that is not “permitted” by these police can mean being clubbed and thrown to the pavement and hauled off to jail.   The bankers who are paying the police, (click here and scroll down to the entry for 1.05 pm) and who have bought most of the country’s politicians must really be scared to demand this kind of repression.

Dancing on hard pavement in high heeled tango shoes is really challenging  for a woman tango dancer’s feet and legs.

I was close to not being able to stand up any longer when we escaped just before the police closed off the barriers.

When we got home, I was able to ice my feet and apply lots of Tiger Balm, very happy to have been in the only place I wanted to be last night–dancing in celebration of the revolution.

ALL NIGHT AT LIBERTY SQUARE, WATCHING WITH OCCUPY WALL STREET

October 17, 2011

If it had not been so scary, it would have been ridiculous.  The heavy about the middle police officer just a foot away from me on Broadway where I could not fail to notice was wearing a bullet proof vest!  The only people present with guns were the police.  He and a cohort of his fellows had been there for a long time now, sometime after daylight on Friday morning, when my fellow protester James, a musician whose mother had been active in the Civil Rights movement, pointed out to me that the police car that had just pulled up had a trunk full of night sticks which the police were now taking out.  Guns and sticks.  All the better to beat and shoot us with.

It was actually a motor scooter that did the most damage when the policeman riding it drove over the leg of a National Layers Guild legal observer.


He was also beaten with one of the sticks.  If you have not seen some of the footage of that incident, click here.  As so often in this now massive protest, that was many blocks from where I was and I didn’t even know about it till later in the day when I was home and could watch online news.  I think in retrospect that I witnessed the head of the legal observers team informing some of the other observers about the incident.  They were standing not far from me and I caught snatches of what he was saying that made no sense at the time.

National Lawyers Guild Legal Observer

I had been with the occupiers in the late afternoon on Thursday and was moved, often literally in response to requests that I do so, by the occupiers armed with mops and brooms, who were scrubbing and cleaning.

In their typically creative, cheerful, and positive response to the threat of being shut down under the pretext that the owners of the square wanted to clean and the accusations that the occupation was a health hazard (it is not), they were making a huge public event out of cleaning.  I had held up a sign about the cleaning on the northeast corner of the square on Broadway and directed people to please avoid the spot behind me that was being scrubbed at that moment.  Committing to coming back at 6am on Friday to be there for the invasion, I went home shortly after dark.

During the World Can’t Wait national conference call where the occupations all over the country were discussed and people reported about events in Washington the week before, I mentioned that I would be at Liberty Square the next morning and heard for the first time that the call had changed and we were asked to go down at midnight.  It was nearly 11pm.  When I got off the phone, I saw an email from Bonnie saying she was going and suggesting I join her.  I agreed and told her to look for me there.  It is really hard to find people on that crowded plaza, but she did find me and we began one of the greatest adventures of our friendship.

We were interviewed by a young documentary film maker named Chris.  He is 27 years old and has been interested in photography and film since high school.  Just after high school graduation, he was harassed by the FBI for making photographs of a bridge and a body of water somewhere north of New York City.  Not politicized at the time and having no agenda at all but an aesthetic one, he was astounded to be contacted at home by FBI agents and harassed.  Even worse, while flying with his mother to visit his grandfather a few years later, he discovered he was on the “no fly list.”  What kind of country does this to its teenagers?

The sky opened up and poured rain down upon us.  A cheer went up from the occupiers. Someone remarked that he did not believe in any god, but that it appeared the universe was helping clean the plaza.  I had an umbrella which I held over Chris and the camera as he wrestled a plastic raincoat out of his backpack.  We continued to talk for a time in the pouring rain.  I was really glad I had thought to wear boots.  My right side got completely drenched and I remained wet the rest of the night.  Fortunately it was not cold.  Bonnie had on sneakers which began to squeak as she walked.  It helped me to know where she was.

In her generous and thoughtful way, Bonnie had brought food which she delivered to the kitchen area.  Sweeping and mopping continued and one or two of the young people doing that work asked us why we were there and what people were saying.  It was a cheerful and positive group.

The occupiers were not permitted to install portable toilets, but the McDonalds on Broadway in the next block is open all night and allows them to use the facilities there. Bonnie and I had an interesting and disquieting encounter in that restaurant.

By that time, a charming young man named Jay who had been awake for three days had joined us.  Though still coherent, he was understandably in a fatigue induced altered state.  It would be his job to talk to the press in the morning, but for now he seemed to want to be with two calm and supportive old ladies.  Grandmothers can be very soothing.

Bonnie waited in the long line for the rest room and she and Jay got something to drink and sought a place to sit down.  The entire space was filled with occupiers; at three o’clock in the morning in the financial district no one else is awake.  Two young women with a rolling suitcase and hand luggage who had come from Occupy Seattle to connect with the young people here sat next to us.  Like everyone there, we were all wet and tired but calm and cheerful.

Suddenly, the police roiled into the restaurant.  In a few minutes, the young manager accompanied them out.  Jay told us he was going to try to find out what was going on.  He had met the manager before, so he went to speak with him.  Jay reported that the police had been called but not by the manager; someone from above had ordered this.  In minutes, the situation was very tense.  A woman came in and announced in a very loud voice that everyone should buy something.  We were among the first people to choose to leave.  The restaurant, which provided the only restrooms in the vicinity, was closed within minutes and did not open again till 6am.

We went to the other side of Liberty Plaza because I had wanted to get some New York diner coffee instead of McDonalds coffee, and we three sat on a bench with water dripping occasionally on our heads and talked.  Jay said that he was not normally prone to premonitions of this sort but that he had felt evil about all day and that something was definitely up.  Well, of course it was.  The authorities were trying to shut the protest down.  He told us to stay on the sidewalk whatever happened.

Several other occupiers joined us.  One was from Arizona and we shared desert stories a little.  Someone remarked that a large coffee had been a bad idea with the McDonald’s closed.  A young woman went in frantically to ask the people in the place if they had a restroom.  They didn’t.

The drumming had been stopped since 10 pm because city ordinances proscribe music after that time.  The place was not as noisy as during the daytime, but still lively.  We chatted and waited.

There is a construction site nearby so the hard hats were coming along to be ready to get started on the job in a little while.  Some of their union buddies in yellow T-shirts with the union logo arrived to participate in the protest.  I was glad to see the burly construction workers among us.

Eventually, I told Bonnie that I was going to find restrooms.  I went nearly up to Canal Street from west of Church Avenue to Broadway.  Nothing.  At something before 5am, I saw people inside a Starbucks, but the store would not open until 5:30.  I returned to our spot where Bonnie and the boys were still hanging out.  Jay had left us some time before I went on my bathroom explore, we saw him much later when he said things were going well.  He was still upright and able to speak.  His concern had been that he would not be able to string together coherent sentences when talking to the media later.

Things were getting crucial in my case.  If I did not find a restroom soon, I was going to have to go home.  I told Bonnie I had not explored Broadway south of the plaza and would.  Two and a half blocks down, I found a coffee place that had just opened with a clean bathroom!  I returned telling everyone I saw about it.  When I got back to Bonnie, someone else had found a place west of us about two blocks down as well.

I am making a big deal of the bathroom story because it was a big deal.  That order to close the only facilities available was evil.  The pretext of hygiene that had been trumped up was unfounded, but a complete lack of restrooms would certainly result eventually in serious hygiene issues.

Sometime soon after that, the young people began chanting.  “I am not afraid,” was one of the ones that struck me the most.  These people have been beaten and thrown in jail and faced they did not know what, but they are not afraid.

Finally, Bonnie said she was going to cross the street into the plaza, that if they were going to march down Wall Street, she had to go with them.  I had committed to avoiding arrest if I possibly could and told George I would.  I had an important meeting scheduled at 1 pm that had been put off once already; I was committed to making that meeting.  I was very proud of Bonnie and told her she was the bravest woman I know as I hugged her before she went behind the barriers.

I did not leave the area, but posted myself on the other side of Broadway along with a lot of others.  I stayed there, joined eventually by my buddy James the musician, and watched until a little before 10am.  A blogger interviewed me about why I was there, but the notebook in my backpack was sopping wet, nearly paper maché, so I could not write down the web address and can’t remember it.  He was trying to address the issue that the major media do about the lack of focus of the Occupiers.

My response is that the question itself is a reflection of the Wall Street corporate model, which the Occupiers repudiate.  An agenda of specific demands would be working within a system that want to see replaced.  They say that they are experimenting, that is their word, with another model.  They have four hours a day of General Assembly discussions.  Extremely smart and creative, they are discovering how to work differently.

I have been on the streets protesting for a decade, but these efforts have led to nothing like this.  Camp Casey, which was also fixed in one place for a month, drew more response than most of the protest in which I have participated.  Occupy Wall Street owes some of its success in my mind to the fact that it is an occupation, that it has a locus, that it does not end.  Not only at Liberty Square in lower Manhattan but now in many other cities, people are present all the time.  It is very well organized, though not in the way many people in the US now can recognize, and also open for all the world to see, transparent in an age of secrecy.  The young people are very savvy about communications.  They actually have a global communications network in place already (click here to go to it) where they can tell their own story their own way, the best circumvention of the locked down corporate media I have seen.  They are very glad for other organizations to join them, but they are so clear about what they are doing that they will not be distracted from doing it.

The massive response to the mayor’s office and the support of many City Council members probably tipped the scales in the Occupation’s favor.  The “clean up” was postponed.  That decision having been made the some time before midnight, I can’t understand why the police were not called off.  Even if they had to be paid anyway, the excessive police presence would have been repugnant.  With no reason for forcible evacuation, why all the fat police in armored vests?  I doubt there can be a “good” answer to that question.

The occupiers celebrated with marches, one of which unfortunately led to the serious injury of the Legal observer, who was himself arrested, not the police officer who ran him down. Another of these, however, was characteristic of the quixotic good humor of the occupiers.  A contingent with brooms and maps and a big bucket crossed Broadway and cleaned up the plaza across the street.

Occupy Wall Street is the most exciting thing to happen for a very long time.  I support this movement and will continue to do for them what I can when I can.  They give me hope.

Peace Would Be Sweet

November 30, 2006

I ran into an artist friend today selling her work in front of the Metropolitan Museum.  She told me about her Peace Would Be Sweet project and gave me permission to let you all know about it.  We have also added it to the list of websites on the Blogroll on the right.  Click there or on the link below:

http://www.peacewouldbesweet.com