Friday, February 16, 2007
The divisions this administration has wrought in the fires of rabid dispensationalism are deep. We see them every time we have to go past special security where you can see the rabid nature of some of the officers. (And do pardon me as I cannot always tell the difference between those who report to the Sgt at Arms and those who report to the Capitol Police.) This morning at a public appropriations subcommittee hearing in the House with Representative Lowey presiding, the four women from the pink house who arrived to hear Condoleeza Rice’s testimony in HR2359 were initially misdirected upon trying to enter the room, to wait in a line for another hearing down the hall. When we said that that line was for another hearing due to start in a half an hour and that we had come to listen to the SS’s statements and answers, we were immediately confronted by a belligerent storm storm trooper type who began in a very agitated manner to order us into the line for the other hearning no matter what. I began to try to ask a question, “Sir, Sir, May I…..” several times before he finally stopped commanding us and telling us that he was in charge no matter what anyone else had said. Finally I was able to ask, “Sir, which line specifically do you want us in? Are you making one line for all the hearings on this floor and how long will we have to wait until we may be seated. I remained calm… somehow. This guy, Vargas, was someone who wanted to bash skulls. I understand the need to protect our leaders. But the people also need these public servants to protect the people’s rights to assemble and hear the discussions our Representatives have as they fulfill their elected duty to do the people’s business.
There were many, many open seats, but we were forced to sit away from the aisles. Once again our ever peaceful but determined Lori demanded the Secret Service person who was literally on top of her get his keys in his pocket out of her left arm and to just to chill. He barked back that he was just doing his job. She told him to do his job six inches away from her. We had to move back and forth until the secret service felt they’d put enough hoops out.
Back to the business of the hearing. I’m not going to go through all the questions and responses. Condoleeza’s responses were her usual empty non-speak. The Dems asked questions about the funds and about past problems with funds and allocations. Some were fairly hard hitting, some weren’t. Most of the Republicans side-stepped the real reason the sub committee had asked the SS to testify… and spoke in platitudes about AIDs prevention and treatment funding (they didn’t mention the refusal to adequately support family planning measures that also would help to control the spread of AIDs if the country happens to have a different interpretation about a woman’s choice to control her own body and what it has to endure than the fundamentalist dispensationalist uber-conservative purportedly Christian folks in and behind this U.S. administration happen to personally believe.)
How can one woman utter so many sounds that follow the structure of standard communication but transmit no information and convey no meaning? Eventually Lori (a spunky Air Force Veteran) stood in silent protest after a few more minutes I joined her. at the side of the room making sure I was blocking no one’s view nor the aisle. Stand in silent (almost silent anyway) protest. The Chair took no umbrage at our silent statement. Amazing that our silence conveyed more meaning than Condoleeza’s yip yapping. Anyway, before I stood I had been sitting in a “manly position” head thrown back and arms on the backs of the chairs next to mine, so as to make the words hastily written on my t-shirt this morning fully legible.
Anyone paying attention could see that the progressive committee members were glad we were there and that the middle of the roaders took some courage from our presence.
I try to give myself no more pats on the back than I actually need to keep going, but if I didn’t think we were having an impact I wouldn’t go marching around in pink lingerie with oversized jewelry and slogans jotted across my tits. I digress. It was heartening to hear certain questions asked and hear the words, “the American People” and have the speaker look at me when saying the words. I’m an easy tear producer when my country and the American’s people’s honor are mentioned. Call me a patriot or matriot, I really don’t care although I do like the matriotic warm alliterationthat is possible with the term, I was raised to love the ideas behind the words of our formation and initial governing documents. I have a fierce pride, a fierce belief in peace, and a fierce personal love for some of the folks who have enlisted, fought and died because of their belief in this greatness of America, my America. My America is not the land underneath my feet. That is mother earth. My America isn’t and never will be bounded by fences and imaginary borders that people die to cross. My America lives in the heart, it catches in the throats of mothers looking at pictures of the Faces of the Fallen, my America has been violated and her honor impaled by this administration but she is strong, supple, and pissed off and she is coming back.
After the gavel went down for the session end Lori spoke out, "I implore you, as a veteran, use the power of the purse to end this war." My America smiled.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Anyway, that was yesterday, the first thing that happened today as we gathered in the atrium of the Hart Bldg. was to have a female police officer come up to us, as we wished her happy Valentines Day, she responded by saying that there would be no warnings before arrests today because they were short staffed. Huh? Apparently the rights we have and can act upon as well as express are determined by the number of police available to tail us. Most of these cops are okay guys (or gals) but the ever changing “what are we enforcing today” bit gets old. We are threatened with arrest before we have even gathered together to greet those of us who arriving from somewhere other than the Pink House.
We consider ourselves lobbyists – albeit unpaid ones— who are here to get the message of the peace community in the U.S. out to our elected officials. We effectively have no money to buy our way through the closed doors that separate most House and Senate inner sanctums from the waiting/reception rooms. The message we convey has to be transmitted in a memorable way with humor so we do not cry and so as to highlight absurdities and inconsistencies as we speak from our hearts with messages carefully researched and crafted through with both hemispheres of the brain communicating with each other.
Another day, another day of pink for peace-ness, and since it was Valentines Day we had donned our very finest pink clothing and accoutrements and trudged off toward Capitol Hill (Senate side) through slushy, icky snow to give as many Senators as we possibly could a personal “broken heart” valentine conveying our hearts’ conditions as long as this war and ever escalating death counts continue. We also told their Legislative Aids for Iraq, if we were allowed to speak with them, that we wanted them to read and support S121 and S448. When we had delivered that message we then presented the outer office staff with an oral recitation of an original CODEPINK poem.
Violets are blue
And roses are PINK
If you don’t stop funding this war
We will make a big stink.
We made it to lots of the biggies’ offices; I made sure to give my Senator, Kyl of AZ, a Broken Heart Valentine and joined in with Laurie as she conveyed the same message to Lugar Of course other states such as New Mexico, Colorado, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Florida, and California - to name just a few – were also visited.
After finding that every kitchen we might normally eat in in both House and Senate were closed or had gigantonormously long lines we finally managed to grab a bite at the Longworth Cafeteria. Lines were outrageous there too, but we braved them so we could refuel for an afternoon of hearings and gallery monitoring. Although we were stopped by photo op requests a few times. But these requests are so worth it; today we spoke with gentlemen working for Palestinian-Israeli reconciliation that is sensitive to the needs and rights of Palestine and these guys were Jews. Another group was composed of high school senior girls who all wanted to have their pic taken with CODEPINK. I gave out a couple of CODEPINK buttons to young women who promised to wear them with pride. These young women get it. Goddess, it is so good to see young women who are seeing us simply as women exercising our rights and participating. There are no black/white, on/off positions in the real world. Everything is process. We live in an analog world.
After a late lunch as my sisters in peace moved on to attending hearings on Veterans health care, I escaped to the Library of Congress to listen to Amish Hymns recorded by Lomax in the 1930s to get a flavor of the tunes that had been in a part of the world I’m writing some things about. I also ran across some tall stories collected by the WPA from the area where I grew up…. And sure enough I found some very tall tales recorded that were very similar to ones my father teased me with as a child. The one about the “Hoop Snakes” stands out most clearly.
I have to consciously remember to balance the torture and terror awareness and actions carried out to stop the atrocities happening in the world with a bit of humanity. I headed out for the LOC after reading each of the names and really looking at every photo of the Faces of the Fallen that were displayed outside one office. Many Senators and Representatives have put up these displays, but for some reason I was drawn in to one particular set today. It was all I could do to not break down sobbing in the hall. Fortunately a gentleman stopped me as I was exiting the building to talk to me about CODEPINK, the actions to which he’d taken his daughters, and how glad he was that we were here doing this. Turns out he is the Executive Director of the Alliance for Community Media. So we chatted about the importance of community media and how it brings diversity of viewpoints out on to the airwaves that we the people own anyway. We also touched on the valiant struggle Access Tucson has waged as corporatists try to kill it time and again. That was such a highlight of the day. Media. We have to be the media. We’ve forgotten that. The media is a tool of the people. We have to reclaim what is rightly ours. Corporations may have media outlets but we the people are the media and the fourth estate reports to us. Literally. Take ‘em to task and tell them to quit showing infotainment and start giving us real news that matters. If they did that, situations like our illegal and ill-conceived invasion and occupation of Iraq would not have happened.
Power to the Peaceful. Right on.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Two friends attended a showing of The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib at at which Lindsay Graham and Ted Kennedy spoke. Lindsay Graham expressed bone-chilling delight over the methods of torture and the information gained from it, although we know quite well that information gained from torture is notoriously untrustable. He said that the American public supports torture. Then he continued with a twinkle in his eye, "We used a lot of techniques I can't tell you about on the Sheik and it got us great information."
The phrases "lying sack of shit" and "weasle dick" come to mind more and more often. I have no tolerance left for sadistic voyeurism.
I don't want to occupy GG's office but she may leave us no choice. We have to press these politicians to put politics aside and do what the people, our country, and the world want use to do. End the war NOW. Try diplomacy. De-escalate. De-fund the war.
I went to several other Reps offices (all members of the Progressive Caucus who haven't signed on to HR508) and dropped off info about CPC's position on Iraq that mirrors the concerns addressed in HR 508, met with a few Reps' staffers who handle Iraq issues for the various Reps, and got feedback on why they were not supporting HR508.
Then it was time for lunch, a quick bout of trying to get in the Capitol again to watch from the Gallery (wasn't worth it once we got there).
Essential lobbying of CPC (Congressional Progressive Caucus) members who have not yet signed on to HR 508 – a resolution that contains all the elements of the CPC Position on U.S. Policy in Iraq – was the priority of the day.
I decided to start this task with a pleasant group of folks in Representative Raul Grijalva’s office (AZ District 7). Raul signed on to HR 508 on January 17th. So I thought I would quickly pop in and ask one of his staff if they had any suggestion for “working the audience” so to speak. When I stepped out of the elevator on the 4th floor of Longworth and started for the hall Raul’s office is on I stopped and waited so as not to intrude on a photo op Rep Grijalva was giving several young men who had met with him. So I tiptoed around and into his office. As I was requesting time with a staffer, Raul came in from the hall so I said hello, thanked him for his work, and mentioned I was representing CODEPINK Tucson. He smiled and stepped into his office and gestured for me to follow. Come in. Come in.
I hated to take up his time as he is one of the few Representatives that has a true progressive aligned voting record, but I explained I was looking for advise he might have on any wavering or malleable folks in the House per 508. He saw I had a list of CPC contacts that had been assigned to me and he asked to see the paper. He went through and noted several folks that I wouldn’t have to lobby as he would mention their omission in signing on to them directly and that he was sure he could correct what must have just been overlooked by these folks staff. He thanks me for my efforts so I thanked him again, but rather than have this turn into a mutual admiration society we switched to small talk about where the pink house now was as last summer it was two doors down from his. We parted with his telling me to keep their feet to the fire.
It is good to know there are some true public servants remaining in the house. Does my heart good.
Then I had to switch gears as I visited Gabby Giffords (AZ District 8) next. That will be Part 3 of this epistle.
Just another day on Capitol Hill
Election Problems in 2006
Small Group starting out for a day on Capitol Hill together this a.m. -- only four of us: Medea, Barbara (returning from CA), and totally new arrival Joeann from Mill Valley, CA .I am glad I was among them as we walked to the Capitol even though I awoke to lethargy and a bit of sad resignation about the move I will be making to care for my elderly mother. The desire to return to my family in AZ for just another few days with them before I have to leave for Indiana tears at heart. But, there aren’t enough of us doing this – and we have to do everything we possibly can to end this war this year with immediate withdrawal beginning asap. Family versus actions per women’s council is an age old rift in women’s hearts I’m sure – but it is new to me and breaks my heart.
The four of us plus two other women, locals, had a meeting for basic planning for today last evening at the Pink House…. But not that much appeared to be happening legislatively today, so our first stop was for breakfast with the folks at "Elections: Looking Ahead" a panel that was put together by LCCR Common Cause , Center for American Progress, and the Century Foundation that was at the US Capitol building.
Getting in to the Capitol was our first patience and decorum check of the day. As we walked up to enter the House side of the Capitol, a guard (Capitol Police I believe) stopped the four of us and asked a couple general “why are you here” questions. We informed him that we were there for a panel discussion reporting on Election Integrity. He informed us that we needed to wait right there, about 50 ft. from the entrance to the Bldg.; this of course was while he allowed others to enter. After he asked us to stay where we were while he went inside to check something. We complied for about a minute before we decided we would wait at the door, inside, if there was waiting to do. Being profiled because we were wearing pink seemed the obvious illegal reason for our being kept out in the cold. When we were in the building we had to wait for a few more minutes while he checked with someone as to whether to allow us entry. Pink profiling. Grrrr, and this for a simple meeting we’d been invited to by a member of one of the sponsoring organizations. Finally we were “allowed” to enter the building and get some breakfast. Thank heavens there was still coffee left. It would not have been a pretty picture if I’d missed my morning coffee that I was counting on getting at the meeting and a migraine has started due to lack of caffeine because of the improper, and I believe illegal, delay.
We did arrive after the breakfast mingle had commenced, but at least we had a few minutes before the meeting started. Christine from DAWN grinned and greeted we four ladies from CODEPINK as we entered HC 5. DAWN (DC Anti War Network) had partnered with CODEPINK on many occasions. Medea of course knew many of the folks there. We neophytes on the hill just ate and chatted a bit.
The actual presentation began.
Hilary Shelton, Director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau made introductory remarks.
Ralph Neas PFAW addressed Findings from the Election Protection Hotline
Efrain Escobedo National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials reported on Election Day Problems in the Latino Community
Dan Seligson of Electionline.org gave a Review of the 2006 Election.
Kathleen Barr replaced the scheduled Heather Smith as speaker for Young Voter Strategies in a report on Election Day Problems Among Youn Voters
Terry Ao with the Asian Aerican Justice Center reported on the Asian American Vote in 2006
Christina Galindo-Walsh with the National Disability Rights Network spoke on Disability Accessibility Issues.
Melanie Campbell - Coalition for Black Civic Participation – addressed Findings from 1-866-My Vote1 Voter Alert Line
Briefly, the reports of this panel stressed that there is a crisis in elections in this country, that suspicion and cynicism are high and growing on the part of the people, that problems such as missing votes (e.g. 18,000 in FL,) students continuing to be unable to vote where they live in many states, poll worker lack of knowledge on identification requirements (or non-requirements) as well as the lack of knowledge about the election language hotline were all found to exist in significant number or size in the 2006 election. Questions I noted as interesting came from Neas’ answer to a Salon.com staff member’s mention of the likelihood of election legislation by this summer. From Jim Dixon’s comment to the panel that we can either wait until 2010 for the process of election technology over site and approval to take place or we can lower our standards.
I regret to report that I didn’t get to stay for the second panel on Critical Election Reform Issues for the 110th Congress, but I had lobbying to do. So I can’t report on this panel moderated by Tova Wang other than to say that resisting restrictive voter identification laws and proof of citizenship requirements, deterring and punishing voter intimidation and suppression, insuring accessible, accurate, and secure voter registration system and making sure that there is a fair and accurate voter registration system, as well as preventing conflicts of interest in election administration were all covered.
Friday, February 09, 2007
At Iraq Hearing, Protest Shushed But Not Halted
Thursday, February 8, 2007; Page A19
Pink-clad war protesters applauded, chimed in repeatedly and stood for hours in the back row holding up peace signs -- but were only mildly chastised yesterday by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) at a hearing with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.
Before Democrats took charge of Congress, such protesters were usually quickly hustled out of hearing rooms by Capitol police. But yesterday they served almost as a Greek chorus. "This was definitely exceptional," said Toby Blome of San Francisco, wearing a pink hat to represent her group, Code Pink: Women for Peace.
The tone was set early on when Skelton politely asked two standing protesters to "please be seated so the people behind you can see." One of them responded that she was a constituent and then complied. "Thank you very much," Skelton said.
The half-dozen demonstrators then moved to the back row and continued standing, and speaking out.
"Americans want a peace plan! Stop the fighting," one said, interrupting Gates.
Skelton tapped his wooden gavel. "I formally request that those in the audience causing any disruption cease and never . . . resume it," he said. But the warning went unheeded. At least five more times, seeming to realize they were safe from the hovering police, the protesters called out: "It's the truth, sir!" they said about soldiers with combat stress. "You could try a cease-fire," they commented on the Baghdad plan.
When Skelton scolded Gates and other officials for not knowing how much it cost per person to train Iraqi or U.S. soldiers, the protesters clapped. "No disturbance!" he said, tapping his gavel.
As Skelton left the hearing room, Medea Benjamin, a Code Pink founder, came up and shook his hand. "Thank you!" she said.
Asked about his tolerance for the protesters, Skelton's spokeswoman, Lara Battles, said: "It's a public hearing, and members of the public are allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights as long as they don't disrupt the hearing. People appeared to be complying."
-- Ann Scott Tyson
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Solidarity isn't just a buzzword for extreme leftiies. (You know, those folks who are even to the left of me...)
Second Life, a virtual world accessible through downloadable software similar to online multi-player games, is creating a bit of a stir in the trendy world of online life. The Peace & Justice Movement is one of the first communities to use this new world to connect, network, and advance their goals.
The recent March on Washington provided opportunity for the SL Net Roots
community (including CODEPINK SL) to stage a companion virtual march on the Capitol while at least a half a million people physically surrounded the U.S. Capitol with an unplanned route change that took the march around all four sides of the Capitol and not just the three sides that were originally permitted.
Here are just a few of the sites that covered the virtual march.
Avatars hold peace march
Okay, I'm not realy thinking that will happen, but seriously, why do the Dems allow the corporate stooge media to define the conversation. Any discussion of planes should be about planes bringing troops home, why there are aircraft carriers in the Gulf, why are flights to nonexistant gulags taking off from Georgia and South Carolina? Those are plane stories that should be in the news.
Taking command of our language and being highly selective in which dialogs we agree to participate is critical to changing the way people think. Language and thought are so closely tied that we must give careful thought to all our words.
On the train back to D.C. to rejoin our pink occupation forces I read an article in The American Journal of Semiotics 18.1-4 by Henry G. Burger "Slitherites" or "Terrorists"?--Spin Doctoring the Combatants. Semiotic articles are fairly esoteric in most people's world views, but this discussion of variations in naming and shades of meaning is well worth an examination by p.r. folks for the nonprofits working for peace who work with the crafting of meanings.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
McCain and his staff have the power to determine whether they want someone arrested or not for any and all actions in their offices. The decision to arrest folks engaging in free speech was totally up to McCain and his senior staff. Guess who doesn't support free speech.
10 people were arrested in D.C. in McCain's office.
10 Activists were arrested in the launch of the Occupation Project at Sen. McCain's office. Those arrested included CODEPINKers Sandee, Joan, Victoria , Eve and Midge.
In Tucson, only two persons were allowed in McCain's office so most of the action went on outside the building.
The two folks inside (Lee and Gretchen) read a letter in McCain's office as did the folks in D.C. with four demands: a public declaration that the Senator will vote against any further funding for the war in Iraq, introduce legislation to give returning soldiers full healthcare benefits, introduce a Senate Resolution that would serve as a companion bill to HR Resolution 508, and introduce legislation for the appropriation of U.S. funds for reconstruction in Iraq to neutral humanitarian relief organizations that are not connected to the U.S. military presence in Iraq.
Their were also actions in Phoenix and Tempe, including the reading of the names of the dead and the presentation of pairs of children's shoes tagged with the names of Iraqi Children killed in this war to McCain staff.
What a creep!
Monday, February 05, 2007
We can do something about the war. Each and everyone of us can take some small action. Do we know what actions any action will lead to...? Nope. Can't ever know. We'll never know what influence our actions will have either. We all have imperceptable influences on the world around us. Everything in this amazing living world is known only through the negotiaiton of meaning between beings whose perceptions are engaged in the process of life. Every breath we take has consequence. We might as well nudge the influences and consequences toward the light.
It is sort of like raising my daughter -- my husband and I laugh that the trick isn't to establish her pheonomenal talents, it is to engage them in use for good rather than evil and to establish those actions as habitual.
I'm sure Molly Ivans parents could not have known the masses of people the world over who would hail their daughter as marker of light, humor and truth in her path through this dark, unhappy world.
We never know what life has in store for us, all we can do is keep on keepin' on and attempting to do good whenever we see the opportunity.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
The visual image is quite clear. Our purported leaders belong in prison.
There has been lots of discussion about the degree of cooperation we should extend to the Capitol Hill Police. We all believe we should be cooperative and pleasant even when arrested. The amount of heads up given to the police before an action remains up for discussion. These guys have real security with which to concern themselves. At the same time we feel that we are the voice of the people and convey a critical message. Only a couple bad eggs have abused their power and told individuals that they would be given no warning before arrest. We also still encounter officers and guards who tell us that we cannot wear shirts with messages on them. This was settled after their fiasco with Cindy's removal from the State of the Union address in 2006. As Ann says, "We can wear what we damn well like." The courts have already ruled on this.
Project Occupation begins Monday February 5th.
Walk in Their Shoes continues to have great impact on the House members who receive and continue to receive shoes representing the children killed in Iraq. A long term installation will be set up soon in D.C. More info coming. If you have a public spot and would like to host the exhibit, and live in the D.C. region, contact CODEPINK D.C.