Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Back home

Sigh. We made it back to Minneapolis at 10:30 p.m. on Monday. Ah! The joy of sleeping in my own bed and seeing my cats!

The Demo

We left our hotel in Bethesda around 8 a.m. We had breakfast and got some good coffee, then headed to the Metro. On the Metro, we saw lots of folks with signs and T-shirts that indicated they were going the same way. A woman with a Free Palestine T-shirt offered me her seat (damn, I've reached that age!) and we talked for a while. We got out at Farragut North, had another shot of coffee, then headed to the Ellipse. The authorities had blocked off several streets around the White House, the Executive Office Building and the Treasury Department, so we had to zigzag our way to the event.

The stage on the ellipse for the pre-march rally was fairly small. The press platform blocked some of the view. But the sound was terrific. There was a long banner hanging at the back of the stage that literally rotated between UFPJ and ANSWER. The banner was flipped back and forth depending on which group's speakers had the microphone.

We spent most of the time wandering through the crowd and bumping into people we knew. The buses from Minneapolis got there shortly after I did and I started seeing my "Bring the Troops Home Now" signs made up as sandwich boards. Very nice and very distinctive! The anti-war committee had a banner that had an outline map of Minnesota and the phrase "You betcha Minnesotans say no to war." It drew lots of interested photographers.

We marched with the Minnesota group first, then wandered back to the U.S. Labor Against the War contingent. As we were waiting in gridlock, a friend pointed up to the small group of 50 people or so who were waiting in line to go inside the Washington Monument.

Friend: "Do you know who those people are way up there?"

Us: "No."

Friend: "Those are the people who refuse to march with ANSWER."

Yeah, after all the bruhaha about differences of opinions, it was clear on the ground that the vast majority of people were there to end the war and welcomed people who also supported all kinds of other issues as well.

At one point I found myself amidst a large group of women with green shirts and signs that said "Gennossee County against the war." I asked them where they were from. A woman answered, Flint, Michigan.

"I'm from Michigan, too!" I said. "I was born in Ann Arbor."

She shook her head, held up her hand and said, "Do it the right way!"

My husband groaned as I pointed to the thumb of my own hand. "I'm from here!" I said.

Ah, we Michiganders are just so predictable!

I saw lots of great signs:

One man had a lovely peace sign with a cartoon strawberry and the words, "Just Another Fruit for Peace."

A woman and her young son held up a sign that said, "No Iraqi ever left me on my roof to die."

As far as numbers go, the march was smaller than the choice march in 1986 which was 750,000 or more. The largest crowd I've personally counted was a little over 10,000. My guess is there were about 250,000 people there. The press said "at least" 100,000 and the organizers said 300,000. No question, the turnout was much larger than expected. We should be proud of our work!

The march curved around past the White House. "Billionaires for Bush" were dressed in formal wear and standing across the street from the White House. One woman waved her hand oh so serenely while her partner tipped his yachting cap. Their signs included "Cronyism is competence!" "Photo Ops are Accomplishments!" and, my favorite, "It's a Class War and We're Winning."

By far, the most active and loud participants were various groups of young people who danced and chanted their way through the crowds. They chanted "Move Bush! Get out 'the way! "Get out 'the way, Bush, get out 'the way!" or "Bush! You liar! We'll set your house on fire!"

There was almost no grassroots security visible anywhere along the march. In fact, the only security folks we saw were around the stages. There were tiny groups of counter-protesters along the march. I started to fade toward the end of the march and took a short-cut back, so I missed the planned counter-demonstration. I heard, however, that they only managed a few hundred.

We stayed for only the start of the after-march concert. We heard Cindy Sheehan speak and then Steve Earle sang. Here's where I became intolerant. He seemed like a child, urging the crowd to yell Fuck Bush and complaining about how hard it was to buy cigarettes these days. Oh, boohoo. We gathered up our various flyers and buttons and headed back to the Metro station.

One thing we noticed: almost nobody sold decent buttons. They were either too small, too unclear or just plain messy. Oh, well.

One of the joys of participating in a national demonstration that local activists don't talk about so much is what a joy it is to be at a demo at which somebody else does all the work. Over the past 20 years, we have consistently done media work for every demonstration, which means sending press releases, making phone calls, assisting the media at the events, doing crowd counts, providing informed commenters, doing follow-up calls, etc. There were tons of volunteers on hand and I had done a ton of work to build local participation. The Anti-War Committee members took responsibility for organizing the buses and keeping track of people during the event. On Saturday I had the unusual pleasure of being a participant and enjoying the event with no nagging responsibilities. Definitely an enjoyable experience!

Along the streets and at the rally sites, various groups had set up tables and were selling literature. We agreed that we would not pick up any material that was easily available in Minneapolis (People's Daily World, Workers World, Workers Vanguard, Socialist Action, Justice, Fight Back, etc). There was no shortage of people handing out information.

There is a hell of a lot of political activism out there. Some examples, in the order I pull them from the pile:

ANSWER had a 4-pg. tabloid newspaper with their wonderful graphics.

United For Peace & Justice had an 8-pg. tabloid that included a map of the march route and events.

The World Can't Wait had a nicely done flyer with wide distribution. They are calling for an anti-Bush rally in NYC on November 2.

Solidarity News has a small 12-page newspaper based in Detroit.

911 Truth has a half-sheet flyer demanding a new investigation into September 11.

The International Communist Current had a green flyer with lots of small type.

Troops Out Now had a flyer for the Nationwide Strike against poverty, racism and war on December 1, the anniversary of Rosa Parks' refusal to move to the back of the bus. They also printed a 4-pg tabloid paper with articles connecting the antiwar struggle to other issues.

Workers Democracy had a broadsheet focused on New Orleans.

World Social Forum had a flyer for their next event in Venezuela on January 24-29.

The Internationalist had a 12-page newspaper focussing on New Orleans.

The World Socialist Web Site handed out reprints from their website.

The Indypendent handed out their 4-color 20-pg newspaper from New York City Indymedia.

Socialist Appeal handed out a 16-page letter-size mag produced out of Fargo, N.D.

Campaign to Stop Killer Coke had a letter-size flyer explaining the boycott against Coke -- "The Drink that Represses!".

The Worker had a 4-pg. tabloid newspaper out of Chicago.

In These Times handed out their September 19 edition.

Take the Pledge had flyers and sign-up sheets to get people to cut their personal oil use in half by 2020.

United States Student Association had brochures promoting their training program for students.

Democratic Socialists of America handed out "Building the Next Left" documents and others.

The US/Cuba Labor Exchange handed out information on a December 9-11 conference in Tijuana, Mexico.

Arab Association for Human Rights had fliers about their activities, based in Israel.

The Korea Truth Commission had fliers and a statement on the current state of talks. We met Ye there. We had worked on a committee to bring her to Minneapolis several years ago. It was great to see her again.

National Conference to Reclaim Our Cities had a pamphlet for their conference in Detroit on November 11-13.

International Action Center reprinted articles. I picked up several, one suggesting Sudan is the next target, one comparing storm reaction in the U.S. with China, one on Venezuela.

International Solidarity had an 8-pg. stapled printout of their newspaper.

Voice of Revolution handed out their 24-page mag printed in Chicago.

Pride at Work has a brochure about GBLT rights in the workplace.

Books Not Bombs has a brochure about their work among students since September 11.

Military Free Zone passed out "fuck recruiters in our schools" stickers.

Iraq Freedom Congress handed out a 14-pg analysis of the current situation in Iraq.

Campus Antiwar Network had fliers supporting the "On the Frontlines" congress on October 22-23 in Berkeley, CA. They also handed out a 34-pg tabloid magazine called "A Mind is a Terrible Thing To Waste."

Socialist Worker sold their paper, based out of Chicago.

Anti-Imperialist News Service has a 4-pg. mag out of Chicago.

Working People's Advocate has a broadsheet with an article on New Orleans.

American Friends Service Committee has a 4-pg. document on "Building Hope for Iraq".

People Judge Bush has a printout on "US War Crimes in Iraq Talking Points" and "Shut down Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram and the Maricopa County Jail."

Challenge has a 8-pg. tabloid newspaper they handed out plus a flyer "From Gulf Coast to Persian Gulf: Capitalism Kills."

League of Revolutionaries for a New America had a flyer on "Hurricane Katrina and Its Aftermath" printed in Chicago.

The Spark had a 8-pg. tabloid newspaper out of Baltimore.

Stand Up for Democracy in DC has a pamphlet on their work to bring democracy to the citizens of the District of Columbia.

Visual Commentary handed out postcards promoting their website.

Friday, September 23, 2005

If it's Friday, this must be Indiana....

We left this morning for the demo in Washington, D.C. Made it as far as Indianapolis, which is a little over halfway. Stopped in Rochelle, Illinois, which has a railroad park with a viewing platform to watch the 100 plus trains the cross there every day. We saw three trains in the 20 minutes we were there. Very cool.

Gotta crash now. Another 11 hours of driving tomorrow and then the big event on Saturday. Wish us luck!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

We're not racist assholes; we're classist assholes!"

An interesting article about the town of Gretna, LA, that blocked those attempting to escape from New Orleans from entering their community. The Los Angeles Times site requires free registration and only lasts a couple of weeks, so click soon!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Originally uploaded by Ravenmn.
Go to this site to see how much of your own city would be affected if it matched the effects of flooding in New Orleans.

Found via The Presurfer

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Heard on National Public Radio's "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" today.

Michael Brown's statement to his next boss:

"How in the world could anyone predict that somebody who ordered a hamburger would want fries with that?"

Good one.


I'm tempted to start a counter, a la Nightline's record during the Iran Hostage/Spy Crisis, to record the number of days that must pass before it is deemed civilized to criticize the aid effort for victims of Katrina. I predict it will be about three months and then the accusation that blaming our elected officials is wrong will change to the accusation that Hurricane Katrina is "old news" and we need to move on to other issues.


I wandered into a discussion on a couple of liberal weblogs from people who said they would not attend the September 24 anti-war demonstrations because some of the people working in the national office are socialists who support the overthrow of the U.S. government. All, I can think is, what a bunch of whiners! I have spent years working on important political issues that are run by people with all kinds of absurd beliefs that I find astonishing. Like the incredibly hard-working nuns who believe they are married to Jesus Christ and labor under a tremendously sexist and anti-gay international organization called the Catholic Church. Yeah, it's pretty absurd, but they do good work and they are working for a good cause. So I not only tolerate them, I actually enjoy working with them.

Maybe if these liberals actually talked to those scary commies and socialists who are working their butts off to carry off a national demonstration, they might find that they are actual human beings, not stereotypes to mock.

Having spent 25 years as an activist, I've got to say that there is something odd about each one of us. "Normal" people do not spend their time working on hopeless causes like women's rights, worker's rights or anti-interventionism. "Normal" people do their jobs as best they can and try to keep their loved ones safe and healthy.

Every one of us in odd in some way. It is the odd people who do the grunt work that allow other people to become involved in useful political activity. These people needed to be celebrated, not condemned. At times, I find it impossible to tolerate the ridiculous opinions of liberals. But most of the time, it is worth it.

Ignore the frightened man slinging red-scare nonsense from behind the curtain. Come out on September 24. Allow your voice to join with others, some of whom believe in bizarre things, to express unanimity on this crucial issue for ourselves and for the Iraqi people.

Bring the troops home now. End the war against Iraq. Fund human needs, not war.


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

More analysis

If I had the time or the dedication, I might attempt to provide cogent analysis and insightful commentary on the situation in the Gulf Course in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Fortunately, we live in an interdependent world and people have stepped up to the plate. In the last few days, I've depended on the wonderful websites you see linked at the right side of this page.

One source I'm particularly impressed by is not on my blogroll, yet, but should be. That site is Counterpunch.

Two articles from the last couple of days are real standouts:

In Rat Race of Human Race? State Failure and Human Solidarity, Dan La Botz makes excellent points about the spin given to this particular event:

What do we learn from this experience? For at least the last 25 years we have been told by government, media, the business departments of the universities, and conservative churches that the only social value is competition, that the only mechanism is the market, that the only role for society is to stand aside and let the rat race go on. We have been told that the only motives are selfish motives, the only interests are ego interests. We were told it was all a rat race: business, politics, foreign affairs. We have been told to believe that the biggest, fattest rat will be the winner of the race where in the end rat eats rat.

New Orleans has now shown us the alternative to the rat race that is the human race.

Emphasis added. If you've wondered why the hell the mainstream media all of a sudden focussed on the 0.01% of the New Orleans population who were looting TVs and other luxury goods, keep this concept in mind: what would happen to all the dog-eat-dog, people are evil at base ideologies if we concentrated on the 99.9% of New Orleans citizens who dropped everything to help their fellow citizens.

La Botz continues:

New Orleans's poor black people in their solidarity in this crisis have shown us an alternative to the White House, to the Hill, to Wall Street, to Madison Avenue. They have shown us that within our society, among its working people and its poor lives another potential society with other ideals.

Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes. What an amazing example of the true human spirit we saw again and again as people reached out an helped each other. These people deserve our respect and admiration. Go and read the entire article and pass it on.


As an adjunct to the above article, I believe there is another reason why the mainstream media focussed on looters. It was a great way to justify martial law and to encourage certain rogue tendencies in the military to view New Oreleans as a hostile situation requiring combat readiness from those military men and women who, days late, managed to make it into New Orleans. This is a report entitled Trapped in New Orleans by Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky. Again and again they show how collective citizen action produces mutual benefits for those victimized by the storm and how the military presence repeatedly undermined those efforts.

Without a doubt, this is a class issue. In my childhood there were times when my family resorted to calling the police to try to resolve desparate situations. In every case, the presence of the police made things worse, not better. That is why I cannot join in those who condemn Bush and his administration for not bringing in the military earlier. I am not at all convinced that the military, trained for combat, are capable of providing humanitarian assistance of any kind.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Ingmar Bergman

Your film will be 65% romantic, 32% comedy, 44% complex plot, and a $ 55 million budget.

Your life will be portrayed on film as an intense psychological drama, likely with some actresses screaming at the camera (Persona), or maybe a pleasant chess game between the Grim Reaper and a Crusader (The Seventh Seal). This Swedish director's films are intensely scrutinzed and studied in colleges all over the world to this day. This means that most Americans still don't understand his films! Still alive, he released in the U.S. in 2005 his first film in 23 years (Saraband), and he can still take on one more project to make your film biography. If curious, start with his films Wild Strawberries and Smiles of a Summer Night.

Link: The Director Who Films Your Life Test written by bingomosquito on Ok Cupid

Friday, September 02, 2005

Fuck the lot of them

So much to do and say about New Orleans and the massive destructive of Hurricane Katrina. The very best commentary I have read so far I found via daypop40 in a livejournal:

Cherie Priest says:

And the evacuation was little more than a vague order to get the hell out -- under your own power and at your own expense.

Go. Read the post. She really gets it.

For those people stranded in New Orleans and other cities whose names we do not know yet, this must seem like the end of times. My heart goes out to all of them.